Proper Care

Like all decisions, the decision to acquire a reptile or amphibian should be carefully researched to ensure a good fit. These creatures, collectively called herptiles, have their own special needs to consider.

However, there is a nice variety of reptiles and amphibians to choose from for almost any lifestyle.

Housing Needs

The size of the enclosure depends on the size of the herptile. Cages of various sizes and shapes may be used, or smaller rooms can be turned into a habitat. Smaller herptiles can be housed in terrariums or even aquariums. Follow these guidelines when choosing a herptile home:

  1. Escape proof
  2. Free from drafts
  3. Moisture resistant
  4. Well lit
  5. Not exposed to cold temperatures
  6. Proper size for the particular herptile living in it

Many people prefer terrariums over cage enclosures since terrariums make beautiful accents to the interior décor of a space. Terrariums also showcase the pet herptile and provide an interesting conversation piece. There are several categories of enclosures that correspond with the natural habitat of a herptile:

  • Aquatic - similar to an aquarium but with less water and a screened/vented top
  • Semi-Aquatic - a combination of land elements and water
  • Woodland - similar to semi-aquatic but with less water and more plant material, branches and rocks
  • Desert - similar to a desert environment


The exact equipment and/or supplies for a terrarium depends on the category habitat. Otherwise, all terrariums need appropriate thermal gradient heating, a thermometer to monitor the overall temperature of the terrarium, full spectrum lighting and appropriate floor covering. The vast choices may overwhelm some people, but research and practicality should be the driving force when selecting equipment and supplies for a pet herptile terrarium.

Dietary Requirements

Herptiles are usually either carnivores or herbivores, but a select few are omnivores. The carnivorous diet consists of live or frozen proteins such as rodents, insects, fish, rabbits, eggs and chickens. Many foods for carnivorous herptiles come commercially prepared. Be wary when feeding live rats to snakes, as the rat will bite and severely injure the snake. Herbivores eat different plant materials high in fiber and their food can be purchased commercially or given fresh.

Commercially prepared foods come with the required vitamins and minerals. But if feeding fresh produce or protein, be sure to include a vitamin/mineral supplement. Maintaining full spectrum lighting is crucial for proper absorption of many vitamins and minerals. Feeding schedules vary with each herptile, but on average, amphibian should be fed daily and other herptiles can be fed two or three times per week. Snakes that feed on a rodent diet can be fed once per week.

Enclosure Maintenance

Cages and terrariums should be cleaned once per week. Pet herptiles need fresh water daily water in clean dishes. Food should not be left in the enclosure for extended periods of time. Any object that is put into the enclosure must be cleaned, disinfected, sterilized or sealed to prevent unwanted bacteria and parasites. Do not use potentially hazardous objects that are abrasive or have jagged edges. The enclosure should be inspected every day to monitor the pet herptile’s general condition as well as the enclosure’s structural soundness.

Final Thoughts

Herptiles have qualities and benefits that surpass common household pets. They are odorless, quiet and can be a great choice for those who want a low maintenance and visually appealing pet.

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