Tony’s Top 5 Reptile Care Tips.

For the past twenty years reptiles have been the fastest growing sector of the UK pet industry.  Whilst retailers may be familiar with the care and husbandry of more traditional pets, you may be surprised to hear that caring for reptiles is not as tricky as you first thought.  Tony Jones gives us his Top 5 Reptile Care Tips to help keep your herps in tip top condition.

1.    Water Bowls.
Providing clean water is an obvious part of caring for any animal and this is especially true for reptiles.  Clean water should be offered daily and soiled bowls should be replaced and disinfected on sight.  Many reptile diseases and infections are commonly transferred through shared water bowls so always disinfect bowls before using them for with another animal.

A weekly disinfection routine is recommended and most large collections have enough bowls to cover a “one to wash, one for water” rotation process. Your reptile wholesaler will be able to recommend a selection of suitable disinfection products.  It is common to see lime-scale rings around the inside of bowls where the local water supply is hard.  Whilst this is not considered to be problematic in itself it can indicate that the in house disinfection protocol is less than regular.

Drowned crickets can be a problem in vivariums housing insectivorous species so be sure to provide some type of escape ladder in the water bowl.  Filter wool or floating lollipop sticks do the job wonderfully and some manufacturers even offer aesthetically pleasing options that can be stocked and sold to discerning customers.

2.    Overcrowding.
Most reptiles and particularly wild caught specimens carry parasitic load.  In the wild and in ideal captive conditions these parasites are kept under control by the animals immune system but overcrowding can create an imbalance.  Overcrowding will not only cause a parasitic concentration, but the inherent stress will damage the reptiles’ immune systems too.  Parasites can then overwhelm the host causing illness and probable mortality.

It is advisable to house as few animals in each vivarium as possible with one to each viv being the ideal.  If you do need to house several animals together then providing plenty of hides will enable animals to retreat from stressful encounters with their cage mates.  Provide shelters across the entire temperature gradient in the enclosure to ensure the animals do not need to make a choice between their security and temperature needs.

3.    Escapes.
Escapes can be a death sentence for reptiles.  The microclimate inside their vivarium will differ greatly from the environment outside and so great care must be taken to prevent escapes.  One of the first things I was ever taught about reptiles is that “If they can, then they probably will” and I have lost count of the number of reptile pets I have met that are named Houdini.

The most common means of escape is the fault of the keeper.  Failure to secure the door of the vivarium is by far the most common cause of escapes and is entirely avoidable.  Another similar problem occurs when either the inhabitant or an unwitting observer manages to accidentally open the enclosure unnoticed.  Again, this can be easily avoided by fitting some kind of latch or locking mechanism.

Unsuitable enclosures are another common means of escape.  Ventilation holes and mesh should be fine enough to deter even the smallest captive and should be regularly checked to ensure it is still securely fitted.  Escapes between badly fitted sliding glass doors are another popular modus operandi for escapees so be sure that you fit the correct thickness of glass into the correct width runner.  Even then it is not unknown for slender snakes to flatten themselves enough to creep between the sheets of glass.  Garter and ribbon snakes are notoriously good at breaching the perimeter in this way and many keepers fill the gap with plastic runners or foam beading.

4.    Overheating.
Temperature is the most obvious factor in the care of reptiles but many are surprised to learn that excess heat is far more dangerous than excess cold. Reptiles can withstand cold conditions for quite considerable periods of time but excess heat can kill in minutes.  Uncontrolled heat sources in confined spaces can quickly cause a problem and so it is recommended that every vivarium is thermostatically controlled.

Summer temperatures can also cause problems if vivariums are exposed to direct sunlight.  A thermostat can only control the heat source within the enclosure and cannot cool a vivarium that is overheated by the sun.   Providing shelters or burrowing opportunities can be a great help and these should always be provided but keepers should take care to position their vivariums away from direct sunlight.  It is not unknown for keepers to be caught unawares when the temperature rises by just a few degrees in the spring and so regular monitoring is highly advisable at this time of year.

5.    Gut loading
Invertebrate live foods such as crickets, locusts and mealworms must be gut loaded to ensure their nutritional quality.  The exoskeletons of these live foods are of little dietary value and so it important to ensure that the digestive system is packed with goodness.

Live foods are fed a high nutrient diet prior to being dispatched from the breeder, but after just a few days on your shelf the bugs will have excreted the contents of their digestive systems, leaving the empty exoskeleton shell.  Gut loading formula foods for all bugs is available from your wholesaler and it is vitally important to feed your bugs before you feed your reptiles.  Although your insectivorous reptile stock would likely be sold before any problems arose from poor nutrition, gut loading is nevertheless a point of good practice, if not only to promote the necessary products to your customers.

It is also advisable to remove or kill any uneaten live-food left in vivariums at the end of each day as these bugs will likely have digested and excreted their gut loaded quality.  If left overnight these bugs will feast on the only moist substance available to them, ensuring they become gut loaded with reptile faeces.


1030 Words.    Published Pet Product Marketing 2009


~ by Tony's Desk on May 25, 2009.

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