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Ten Things You Should Know About Pet Lizards
If you want to get your first pet lizard, congratulations. Lizards are, in my opinion, the most amazing, fascinating and beautiful creatures on Earth. Part of their appeal is their incredible variety; There are more species of lizard than any mammal or amphibian, and they range from the three-legged fish to the 200-pound Komodo dragon. Some are colored with somber tans and ochre, and the another rival the most ostentatious of butterflies with gaudy green, red, and yellow markings. Some float on fragile wings, some run across water, some can stand up to dogs. With my sincere apologies to Samuel Johnson, my opinion is that “when a lizard kills a man, his life dies”!
That said, here are ten valuable guidelines to help you and your lizard get off to a good start, and stay on a safe and happy path. I speak with some experience, having kept lizards since 1961, and continued to spend more than 30 years as a herpetologist. These tips are a starting point, but they cover ten important points!
1) Start by getting a lizard that is easy to care for! Many lizards are demanding in captivity, and should be left to experienced keepers. Among the best beginner lizards are Australian bearded dragons and blue-collared lizards, which grow to a total length of nearly 13-inches. They are not stressed when well cared for, are generally cheerful, and eat a wide variety of food, from fruits, vegetables and flowers to insects, cold dog food and small rodents. Savanna monitors are also good for beginners, but take a young specimen and scale it up to an adult; Newly imported adults can be aggressive, but captive bred/raised specimens are the best animals for beginner breeders.
2) Avoid getting species that people think of as “pets” but are very difficult to keep well. Among the species to avoid: iguanas, Nile monitors, chameleons, and small species that grow to only 3 – 8 inches in length.
3) Read up on your lizard, because there is no excuse for doing a poor job as your caretaker. For books, you can contact Bibliomania! at http://www.herplit.com, one of the largest reptile book dealers in the world. Then subscribe to one of the magazines published for reptile watchers, which include REPTILES (www.reptilechannel.com/rmrc_portal.aspx), REPTILIA (www.reptilia.net/html_english/inter-print2.html), REPTILES AUSTRALIA (www.reptilesaustralia) .com.au/), and Britain publishes REPTILE CARE (www.reptilecareuk.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10&Itemid=11).
4) Remember that lizards and snakes are very related groups of animals, but lizards require very different care. Unlike snakes that may only need food once a week or month, lizards often need to eat every day, and sometimes more than once a day. But do not leave food or garbage in the terrarium, because it can be contaminated with germs and make your lizard sick.
5) Do not grab or hold a lizard by the tail. Although the bearded dragon’s tail, blue tongue skin, or savanna eye will not break, it is not comforting to the lizard. Use it to hold the lizard by placing your hand under its belly and supporting its weight from below.
6) Don’t use your lizard to scare anyone! However, some people are afraid of wild animals, and such fear has led to the creation of many laws and regulations that make it illegal to have wild animals in some places. just difficult. It’s best for the lizards – and the rest of us keepers – if you use your lizard to help other people as they really are amazing!
7) Do not release unwanted pets into the wild. Most pets come from other continents and will not last long where you live. It is also possible, especially in a place like Florida, that a released pet will do well and, if many such pets are released, find a colony of exotic animals. This is not good for local wildlife and really upsets conservationists and Fish and Wildlife officials.
8) All diurnal (active during the day) lizards need some ultraviolet light in their lives. But UV light doesn’t penetrate glass, so it doesn’t help to put a terrarium near a window. In addition to heat (all lizards need a temperature of at least 78 degrees F, much more), you’ll need a good full UV light. These are now manufactured to fit in either a screw-in socket or a standard fluorescent tube socket. For a sample of the best products check out Zoo Med’s website at http://www.zoomed.com.
9) Always make sure your lizard has access to fresh, clean water! Some lizards only take dew drops from leaves, but these species are not among the beginner species. Even desert lizards – and that includes all the beginner species I’ve listed – can and will drink from a dish, and even enjoy being tired if the dish is large enough. Wetting also makes skin shedding easier for your lizards.
10) Don’t touch your lizard. If you are getting two lizards to start with, make them both the same type, preferably one of each sex, the same size, and place them in a large enough terrarium. Most lizards become stressed and may refuse to eat. They are also more likely to catch a disease. If you can’t give enough space, don’t get the lizard. First.
Bonus Tip 1) The second best starting lizard is the Leopard gecko, a delicate and very popular nocturnal species that has been buried in many color morphs (it’s something like the normal guardian lizard of the guppy!). Unlike the other primate species I mentioned, leopard geckos are small (up to about 6 inches), have soft, delicate skin, and have tails that break easily. Yes, they grow back, but as hard rods that are not as good as the original. They also require more handling than larger starter units. They don’t need UV light, but they still need a warm terrarium (70 – 78 degrees at night, 78 -95 degrees during the day), sandy soil, and places where they can hide. Feed them live insects, especially crickets, young roaches, and wax worms.
Bonus Tip 2) Do not use heat shields to keep diurnal lizards warm! The lizards, in fact, are not “sent” to know that their stomachs are actually cooking, and they can stay on the rock until it is injured or dead! Leopard geckos, however, will do well with a heat shield or two.
Other things you should know include washing your hands thoroughly after handling your lizards, don’t disturb or upset the animals, and make sure you keep the terrarium clean.
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