General Care sheets
These are general care sheets and are intended as guidelines only as each species of snake and lizard have different requirements and different levels of care. If you require a care sheet for a specific animal please email us.
Care Sheet for Snakes
A reptile has the same temperature as its surroundings; it simply moves to a warmer area to heat up and a colder spot to cool down. Most have an "optimum" body temperature that can be maintained within a few degrees and that generally lies between 80 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Most tropical species prefer the top half of that range, and most temperate zone snakes like the bottom half. A temperature gradient in the cage lets the snake decide how warm it wants to be. A thermometer can be the herper's best friend because a snake won't eat if it's more than a few degrees below optimum temperature.Snakes have a day-night temperature cycle in the wild. Some studies indicate that if a reptile is constantly held at optimum temperature for weeks, it suffers heat stress. Males also have the sperm killed. It is probably best for a snake to spend the night at a temperature 5 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit below its daytime activity temperature.
Cages should be of adequate size, easy to keep clean, adequately ventilated, and escape proof. Aquariums with pegboard tops make good cages. Plastic shoe boxes and storage boxes also make good cages after enough air holes have been cut in them. Plastic cages up to four feet long are available commercially from Neodesha Plastics, Neodesha, KS. Big cages can be made of wood and pegboard, but not wire mesh or screen because a snake can rub its nose raw on wire.Most snakes do not need much space. Suggested minimum cage sizes are 1/2 square foot of floor space per foot of snake for those up to six feet in length and 3/4 square foot of floor space for those six to nine feet long. Increase the suggested minimum cage sizes 25% for each additional snake. Cages must be kept clean because snakes can develop Dirty Cage Syndrome when droppings build up. Cages should be cleaned every week or two with a detergent and a disinfectant like 5% sodium hypochlorite bleach [Chlorox (tm) for example] diluted as given on the label for woodwork. Coal tar and phenol products, like Ly-sol (tm) and Pine-sol (tm), are toxic. Do not use them. Some kind of floor covering makes cleaning easier. Paper (including newspaper), outdoor carpet, and pea gravel are good. Shredded aspen, a fibrous wood product, is also good for medium and large snakes. Sand, soil, sawdust, and kitty litter are not good. Sand and soil don't dry well, and a wet cage encourages skin diseases. Dust from sawdust or kitty litter can give a snake incurable pneumonia. Cedar chips may be toxic. Most snakes do very well in a simple cage. All require a water bowl and some sort of hiding place. Hatchlings will coil up in the crevices in a loosely wadded piece of newspaper. A closed cardboard cereal box with a hole in a corner works for larger snakes. If the box is too big for the snake, fill it with loosely wadded newspaper. Tree snakes need a branch. Rocks, plants, and other furnishings are strictly optional.It is best to keep one snake in each cage, particularly if it's a snake eater like a kingsnake. But if snakes must be caged together, snakes of the same species are more likely to get along than snakes of different species.
All snakes are carnivorous. They never eat lettuce, carrots, bread, and similar items. The diet varies from species to species; check a reference book for each one. Individuals also show preferences. Whenever possible, the snake's natural food should be offered. Most adult snakes should be fed every week or ten days, and younger, growing snakes should eat more often. A snake can go for weeks without food if necessary, but it does better on a medium sized meal once a week than a huge meal every three weeks. Hungry mice have eaten captive snakes, so a live rat or mouse shouldn't stay in the cage more than an hour if uneaten. However, snakes don't require live prey. Many snakes don't care whether the food is alive or dead, and some will only accept dead food. Frozen food can be used after it is thoroughly thawed. If your snake won't eat, it may be too cool (see TEMPERATURE). Or it may want its food inside a hiding box for seclusion. It may want something different, like my Burmese python that loved pigeons and hated rats or my corn snake that loved pinky rats but wouldn't take a mouse. If a live adult mouse frightens your snake, try a freshly killed one or a live pinky. Cutting open the belly of a dead mouse produces a blood smell and a wet area that help to stimulate feeding. If nothing works, try to find an experienced herper for help. Force feeding is traumatic and is strictly a last resort.
Every one to three months a snake sheds its skin. The eye is cloudy for a few days, then clears, and the skin is shed a few days later. Shedding takes only a few minutes, once the old skin is rubbed loose at the lips. Most snakes refuse food during this period. Sometimes not all of the skin is shed. This seldom happens if the humidity is kept at the proper level of 40 to 70 percent. Daily spraying with water after the eyes clear helps to prevent problems. If some of the skin remains unshed, the snake should be soaked in a container half full of water at 70 to 85 degrees F for an hour or so. Then the old skin can be gently peeled off.
PARASITES AND DISEASE
Snakes can suffer from many ailments - mites and ticks on the skin, worms in the gut, and protozoa, bacteria, or viruses attacking the mouth, skin, and internal organs. Even cancer has been found. New specimens should be quarantined for at least two weeks, and possibly as much as three months, so that they can be checked for parasites and disease. If the owner is not equipped to treat any diseases that occur, the snake should be taken to a veterinarian who is experienced in treating reptiles. Ticks are arthropods an eighth of an inch long or more that suck blood and carry disease. They can be gently pulled off with forceps and dropped in a vial of alcohol. Try to avoid leaving the tick's head in the snake's skin because a minor infection results. Mites are pinhead-sized, blood sucking arthropods closely related to ticks. The common snake mite almost always arrives on a snake from a pet store or other infested location. They are seldom found on freshly caught snakes. Putting a two inch square piece of a Shell No-Pest Strip or equivalent (active ingredient = 2,2-dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate) in the snake cage over night kills the mites. Put the Strip in a cardboard or plastic container with holes in it. The insecticide can come out, but the snake can't touch the Strip. Don't give water at this time. Afterwards, clean the cage well. This treatment should be enough if the mite-carrying snake has just arrived. If the mites aren't detected immediately, they spread. The treatment may have to be repeated once a week for a month to catch them all. Worm parasites are often present in the gut where most do little harm. They are detected by fecal examinations and killed with commercial wormers.
Records of origin, feeding, shedding, and breeding should be kept. These keep track of feeding schedules and enhance a collection's value
Care sheet for Lizards
It would take to long to list the requirements for each individual species of lizard, so below is just a general guideline. If you require a care sheet for a specific animal please email us
If you are new to lizards, start with one of the easier species to care for and/or handle. Leopard geckos are a popular starter and for good reason: they are small, easy to handle, and don't require huge terrariums or special UVA/UVB lighting. Bearded dragons are included on this list because they are quite easy to handle, but you will need to invest a fair amount in setting up a large terrarium and providing lighting. Even anoles, another inexpensive and commonly found lizard, require expensive lighting. All of the following are suitable for beginners, but only if you are willing to invest in the proper equipment.
Leopard Gecko Bearded Dragon BlueTonguedSkink Green Anole
Other lizards are a bit more challenging, whether it be setting up the proper environment, ease handling, the size of space you will need to care for them, or a combination of these or other factors. In this category, iguanas are the most poorly misunderstood. They can be excellent pets but require a good deal more space and care than a lot of owners expect. Here are some of the more challenging species you might consider once you have a bit of experience
Iguanas Chameleons Argentinian Black and White Tegu - these are generally docile but require large housing. Savannah Monitors (Bosc) - as far as monitors go, this is the most manageable.
Feed insects that are as long as the width of your lizard's head. Offer food to hatchlings little and often, as much as they want, up to three times per day. If insufficiently fed, those in groups tendency to bite each have a other's toes and tails. Uneaten crickets distress and irritate lizards and need to be removed after a reasonable period. Crickets also eat lizard faeces, which can lead to re-infection with internal parasites. It is best practice to feed only what will be eaten quickly and then to remove any surplus.
Housing for Leopard Geckos: A 15-20 gallon tank is large enough for 2-3 leopard geckos, but there should only be one male per tank (and only keep males and females together if prepared to deal with offspring!). Half logs provide hiding and climbing space, as can commercial reptile caves and simple cardboard boxes. A damp hide box can help with shedding (a plastic container with a hole in the lid, with moist soil or moss inside).
Housing for Bearded Dragons For a single bearded dragon a bare minimum of a 40 gallon tank will be necessary, but bigger is definitely better (55 gallon or larger is better). A secure screen top cover will also be necessary.
Housing for Savannah Monitors (Bosc)Need a very large and secure enclosure. Juveniles can start out in a large tank (e.g. 55 gallon) but will grow quickly so new owners might want to start with an adult sized custom enclosure. The adult enclosure should be at least twice as long as the monitor and as wide as the the monitor's length, so a minimum of 8 feet by 4 feet wide should be planned. It should be as tall as is practical (reduces the chances of climbing out). Solid sides are recommended to allow maintenance of high temperatures, and no screens (will be quickly shredded). The enclosure must be solidly constructed, or Savannahs will find a way to break out! Alternatively, some owners dedicate a room (suitably monitor-proofed) to their Savannah