Thinking about getting a reptile for yourself or a loved one but worried about the care or possible feeding of bugs and live food? No worries, there is a reptile species for everyone. This is my pick for what I consider to be easy reptile pets. By easy I mean that their needs are minimal compared to more extreme exotics and most don’t require live food. Please remember that all reptiles need special care and attention daily to live healthy long lives. So for my pick I looked at things such as the diet needed, the type of lighting and heating requirements and illness/malnutrition seen in my practice. My husband and I have owned all of these so I can speak from experience about their care and needs.
1. Crested geckos
These are wonderful little lizards that do not require any additional heat and a simple fluorescent light will suffice. They do not get very large (about hand sized) and can become tame. Please note though that they will drop (and not regrow) their tail when stressed. The typical diet is a commercial crestie diet that has the consistency of baby food and many people keep them on only this diet with a small dish of water in the cage. We have found that they grow better and faster with supplemental bugs (crickets) as a regular part of their diet. The caging needs are simple with a space of 1ft x 2ft high for adults, some climbing branches and plants (real or fake) for hiding. The bedding should be kept moist and the cage should be misted daily. The following is a good source for crestie info and supplies – Pangea
2. Uromastyx Lizards
Not all lizards need bugs and some don’t even need water! Yes it’s true, consider these small lizards tortoises without the shell as their care is very similar. Uros come in a large variety of colors and as adults they are bright and beautiful animals that will become very hand tame. They do require a high heat and a low moisture environment with full spectrum uvb (10.0 bulb) and a basking spot of 120 F (yes hot- not a typo). Their diet consists of only greens and we feed an assortment of spring greens daily. We keep ours on bird seed (millet) and have found this to be safe and easy to clean. The will eat some of the seeds and weekly we offer ground up lentils (place in coffee grinder). They don’t need, and shouldn’t have a water dish, in their cage as all their water is derived from their greens. At least weekly, they need a multivitamin and calcium supplement added to their greens. For more information and some beautiful photos of Uros check out Deer Fern Farms
Tortoises come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors but in general all are herbivores (they eat only greens) and should be feed a diet of leafy greens daily and even grass hay as adults. Favorite treats include small amounts of fruits and I’ve found that my desert tortoises love hibiscus flowers and leaves over all else. Tortoises will become very tame with their owners and live very long lives. In the desert Southwest of AZ many are kept as outdoor yard pets but this should be done with caution as we frequently see them attached by dogs and when young they can be susceptible to birds. Also if kept in an outdoor enclosure care must be ensured that they cannot dig out as many have dug out of their yards and gone for a stroll. If kept indoors they require supplemental heating and full spectrum UVB light 10.0 bulbs or mercury vapor. For specific needs please research your particular species. Some suggestions for pets include desert tortoises (available for adoption), as well as Russian and Greek tortoises commonly sold in pet stores. These guys don’t get too big and become nice pets. Sulcatas or African Spurred Tortoises are another popular pet but please realize that while they start out smaller then your hand they quickly grow to 90 lbs or more so ensure adequate housing for the adult size as many are re-homed once they reach this size due to lack of space. See tortoisecare for more info and Wildside pets is worth a visit for AZ locals.
4. Snakes – yes snakes!
Snakes are actually the easiest reptile pet to care for. They do not need and should not be fed live food and only need a frozen thawed mouse about weekly (will vary with age and size of snake). Snakes do not require supplemental light and many will not need extra heating (see requirements for your species).
Our recommendation for snake pets include:
- Ball pythons – they do not get very large and come in a wide variety of colors and patterns
- Boas – Several types are available but the red-tail is the most common. Many color morphs are available in the pet trade. These are typically quiet and gentle snakes but will get big.
- Kingsnakes – beautiful snakes that are shiny and colorful but can be reclusive
- Corn and Milk Snakes – smaller snakes that can become very tame and are available in many colors and patterns