Reptile Husbandry

Please consult with Dr. Beasley or Dr. Nolan for species specific pet guides for more precise husbandry information, i.e. temperature, enclosure size, humidity level, lighting requirements, proper diet, frequency of feeding, etc. The information below is to be used as a general guideline.

Substrate (for most non-aquatic reptiles): When considering what type of substrate to use consider something that can be easily cleaned or replaced, cannot be eaten, is not abrasive, and is non-toxic. Sand (including Calci-Sand) and most bark substrates are not recommended as the animal may consume it while eating and could lead to impaction/constipation. Wood shavings may have been treated with chemicals that can be toxic or irritating to your reptile. Do not use cat litter or crushed corn cobs shavings as substrate as it removes necessary moisture and humidity from your reptile and could cause impaction if consumed. The best substrates for many species are reptile carpet, paper (paper towel or brown craft paper), or newspaper.

Temperature: Reptiles adjust their body temperature and metabolic rate (activity, feeding, digestion, etc.) based on their environmental temperature. You should always provide your reptile with a range of temperatures inside their enclosure so they can move from the warmer to the cooler temperatures, and vice versa, as needed. Heat rocks are not recommended as they can burn your animals. Ensure your tank heater (i.e. overhead light, ceramic heater) is appropriate for the size of your enclosure. Different reptiles have a preferred temperature range in which they should be kept at, as a general guideline:

  • Lizards 85 - 95 oF
  • Snakes 75 - 90 oF
  • Turtles 75 - 85 oF
  • Tortoises 80 - 85 oF
  • Crocodilians 90 - 95 oF

Humidity: Reptiles come from many different types of environment ranging from desert to tropical areas therefore the level of humidity required varies considerably. Depending on the species you have humidity can be obtained by bowl of water, misting or dripper system. All reptiles, even desert species, require some level of humidity in their enclosure.

Sanitation: Your pet’s enclosure should be kept clean. Any feces, urine, or uneaten food should be removed daily as poor sanitation can lead to illness due to bacteria, fungus, parasites, etc. The substrate used also greatly depends on the species being kept. Drinking water should be replaced daily.

Cage Objects: Branches, rocks, trees, hammocks provide enrichment to your pet reptile and should be secured within your pet’s enclosure to avoid injury. Items should be cleaned if become soiled with feces.

UV Sunlight: Most reptiles benefit from unfiltered sunlight, even for brief periods, when outside temperature and conditions allow. They should not be left outside unattended and should be provided with shaded area to avoid overheating. UV sunlight is a source of vitamin D3 for your reptile which is needed to absorb calcium from their diet. Lack of vitamin D3 can be a cause of metabolic bone disease. If natural sunlight is not possible, an ultraviolet light should be provided for most lizards that are active in the daytime.

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