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Before you acquire a reptile

You and a reptile would be a perfect match if you...

Reptiles can be fascinating animals to care for and observe. The majority need access to both heated basking areas and full spectrum UV lights. Nutritional and caging requirements vary greatly, as do individual temperaments. Many reptiles require live food, and many can also carry salmonella (a bacterium), so it is very important to wash your hands well after handling reptiles. Here are some things to think about when considering a reptile as a pet:


  • Most require live prey - crickets, mealworms, mice, etc.
  • Most require full spectrum lighting and basking areas.
  • It is important to read up on the natural history of the species you are considering, because they can have widely different caging needs. Some require sandy areas whereas others do better in moist, mossy enlosures.
  • Lizards range from docile and calm to quick and aggressive, so do your research.


  • Require a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Can grow quite large - up to 6 feet in length.
  • Adult males can be very aggressive.
  • Require large housing areas with climbing branches and basking areas.
  • Require full spectrum lighting and basking areas.
  • Can carry salmonella.

Turtles & Tortoises

  • Must not be a native species and must be at least four inches across in diameter (check your local laws).
  • Often carry salmonella.
  • Require full spectrum lighting and basking areas.
  • Can be very long-lived - some tortoises live up to 100 years.
  • Tortoises (land turtles) require plenty of fresh foods and vegetables as part of their diet.
  • Water turtles often eat live prey, and must have very well filtered swimming areas and areas where they can bask and completely dry off.
  • A minimum 20 gallon aquarium is needed for a small turtle - the larger area, the better.
  • Turtles often go into a semi-hibernation or torpor state in the winter.


  • Many eat live prey items - rats, mice, fish, etc.
  • Need very secure housing - are escape artists.
  • Need a hide box and water bowl large enough for them to get into completely.
  • Must be of a non-native species (check your local laws).


City of Bloomington, IN
Last updated: Sept 13, 2009's quote of the day
"Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want."
-Joseph Wood Krutch

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