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Everything You Need To Know About Reptile Pet Care

Tout ce que vous avez besoin de savoir sur les reptiles domestiques

Reptiles make fantastic companions. They’re unique, interesting and come in a range of different species and sizes. However, reptile pet care isn’t exactly easy. Reptiles are delicate creatures that need special attention to keep them happy and healthy. If you already own a reptile, or you’re interested in keeping one as a pet, read on for everything you need to know about caring for these fascinating creatures. 

Do Your Research 

The first step in providing the best care for your reptile companion is to ensure you understand the unique needs of your pet. Each species of reptile requires specific types of food and a special environment to keep it healthy and content. 

 If you are looking for a new pet, consider which type of reptile will best suit you and your family. Consider that snakes, for example, need to stretch out fully and can grow to over 150cm. Some reptiles have long lives. Iguanas, for example, can live up to 20 years. Be sure you know what you’re getting in to before bringing a new pet into your home. 

 Online magazines can be a wonderful source of information, but don’t forget that more traditional options like your local library also have excellent resources. 

Reptile Enclosures 

Carefully consider how much space your reptile will need. All animals, even slow-moving reptiles, need adequate room to move around in. 

Younger animals that are not yet fully grown may be intimidated by large cages. If you are purchasing a baby lizard, be aware you may need to invest in more than one habitat over the course of its lifetime. 

As a rule of thumb, habitats should be at least 1.5-2 times bigger than your pet in length, and just as deep.  

Optimal Heat And Lighting For Reptiles 

Once you have an enclosure picked out, you’ll need to think about how to make your pet feel at home. For reptiles to thrive, they need the temperature and lighting to mimic their natural environment. 

Heat is important because reptiles are cold-blooded. They don’t create heat internally, but source it from their surroundings. If the temperature is too cold, they can’t move or digest their food properly. Invest in good quality heat lamps that will keep the enclosure at just the right temperature, and a good thermometer to check it frequently. Check your reptile guide or book to find out what temperature range is ideal.

Lighting is another important consideration. Some species of reptiles need specific amounts of UVA and UVB light in order to thrive. The UVB spectrum is particularly important since some reptiles won’t produce enough vitamin D or absorb calcium from their diets without it. This can lead to illness and even death. Snakes and nocturnal lizards don’t have special light requirements, but other reptiles, such as turtles, do. 


If your reptile hails from a tropical environment, you will also need to consider humidity, since these reptiles need moisture to flourish. 

Similar to temperature, each reptile needs to live in an environment with a specific range of humidity. Check your reptile guide for that information. You will also need a hygrometer to measure the moisture levels in your pet’s enclosure accurately.

There are many ways of keeping humidity optimal for tropical reptiles. Adding a water bowl to the enclosure, misting the habitat manually, and investing in a humidifier are all good options.  


Once you understand what kind of environment your reptile will need, you can start thinking about preparing the habitat itself. Substrate is a material made of soil, wood, or even tiles, placed on the bottom of the habitat. There are a variety of substrates you can choose, depending on your reptile’s unique needs.

Topsoil blends are a good option for most reptiles. However, it’s best to check your reptile guide to find out what is best for your pet.

Be sure to avoid walnut shells, sawdust, and rocks or gravel. Newspaper substrate is not recommended for tropical reptiles.


Finally, you’ll also want to decorate the environment so your pet feels at home. Depending on your reptile’s natural habitat, you may want to consider a variety of plants, moss, or water.

Many reptiles also need a place to hide so they can feel safe and comfortable. For these reptiles, it can be important to place one hiding spot closer to a heat source, and another in a cooler area of the enclosure. This gives your pet more choices for optimal comfort.


In order to keep your pet healthy and happy, and reduce the risk of disease, be sure to clean the enclosure regularly.

The frequency you clean the enclosure depends on the substrate and your reptile’s habits. Aspen, for example, shouldn’t get too wet and must be spot-cleaned regularly. Herbivores like turtles may leave excess leaves or peels after a meal that could rot if left too long.

If you purchase your substrate from a store, read the directions for cleaning instructions, and check a pet-care guide for information specific to your pet. Cleaning the enclosure once per week is a good general rule for most reptiles.


Each type of reptile has a specialized diet. Some eat live animals like mice, while others are herbivores. Be sure to educate yourself on your pet’s optimal diet and follow it. Giving your pet the wrong type of food, feeding insects to herbivores, for example, can lead to severe illness.

Many reptiles require good levels of calcium in order to function properly. If this is the case for your pet, you may need to provide a calcium supplement.

If your pet eats live food like insects or rodents, you will also need to plan your pet’s meals carefully. Some snake owners, for example, keep and breed mice for a constant and easy source of nutrition. If you choose to do this, you will need a cage and food for mice as well.

If your pet eats insects, you may also want to invest in a cage for them in order to gut-load the insects your reptile eats. Gut-loading involves keeping live insects for up to 24 hours before feeding them to your pet, and feeding the insects with nutritious food, often with added calcium. Some insects can be dangerous for reptiles.

There are also special considerations for herbivores. Research which vegetables are best, and be aware of foods that can cause problems. Some vegetables, for example, are goitrogenic. If eaten in large quantities, they can cause thyroid problems. These include broccoli and cabbages. Too many oxalic foods can cause calcium deficiency. Examples of oxalic foods are Swiss chard, spinach, and blueberries.

Other foods can be toxic. Citric foods can upset reptile stomachs, while some vegetables such as avocados can be downright dangerous. Your reptile guide is an important resource to ensure you are providing optimal nutrition.


Reptiles make fantastic pets. They bring excitement and adventure into your home, and they’re a fascinating way to learn about the world around you. Reptiles are also a great way to get your kids interested in animals, nature, and science. However, reptile pet care is a different and more complicated affair than pet care for other creatures. It’s important to carefully research your pet to ensure you understand the care it needs.

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