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Keeping Reptiles, Amphibians & other exotic pets

Keeping reptiles, amphibians and other exotic pets has become increasingly popular in recent years. There is now more information available in books and on the internet to help with keeping these animals healthy, and you should make an effort to learn about the requirements of any animal you intend to keep. Our staff here at Wharf will also be able to help you with this.

The requirements of different animals vary somewhat, but there are certain common factors you should consider. These include housing, heating, lighting, décor and feeding.

The housing used must be of a suitable type and size for the animals you wish to keep. Vivariums are usually glass, plastic, wooden, or mesh-screen type. The type used will be largely influenced by whether the animals require an aquatic, semi-aquatic, moist or completely dry environment.

In addition, check the adult size of the animal you wish to buy, and ensure that the vivarium you purchase will be large enough. Terrestrial species require plenty of floor space, while arboreal (tree-dwelling) species benefit from taller homes.

Many of these animals are from tropical or sub-tropical environments, and require additional heating to keep their bodies at the correct temperature. Reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates are poikilothermic or “cold blooded” animals that cannot regulate their own body temperature by internal means like mammals. In captivity, they must therefore be provided with a suitable heat source to allow them to thermoregulate. This could mean a heat mat, basking bulb or conventional aquarium heater in the case of aquatic turtles.

Some reptiles (particularly certain lizards and tortoises and turtles) require exposure to sunlight to remain in good health. Therefore, when housed indoors they need full-spectrum lighting with a specific UV (ultraviolet) content. UVA promotes normal activity, and UVB is important to stimulate the synthesis of vitamin D3 in the skin, required for calcium metabolism.

Appropriate décor should be provided, including the substrate/base layer, hides, etc. Some reptiles may ingest substrate as they feed, so it must be of an appropriate safe type for the animal. The humidity required will also influence the substrate. Animals requiring dry environments may require substrates such as sand or aspen, whereas animals from moist environments may benefit from orchid bark, cypress mulch or moss substrate, which holds moisture well.

Hides or caves will help an animal to feel secure, and you should consider adding other decor such as rocks, wood and articial or live plants appropriate to the animal, in order to enrich the environment and provide a stimulating habitat.

Providing the right diet is essential to maintaining good health. This may include vegetables, dry foods, frozen foods, live foods and supplements. Make sure you understand the type of diet that you will need to provide for the animal before purchase.

This guide is just a quick summary of the key points you should consider when purchasing reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates - it's important to research the specific requirements of any species you are considering keeping.



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