Lifestyle

Reptiles for a pet | All about pets

Dogs and cats may be the most popular pets, but reptiles have their share of admirers as well. Reptiles can make great pets, and they may be ideal for children or novice pet owners.

Unlike cats or dogs, many reptiles need a very specific environment to thrive. That includes some sort of UV light, a warming stone and particularly hot conditions. Reptiles and amphibians are cold-blooded animals, meaning their body temperatures fluctuate based on the conditions of their environment. They will require an external heating source to stay comfortable.

Certain reptiles may be better for beginners than others. Here is a look at some popular reptilian pets and what is necessary to care for them.

• Bearded dragon: This animal hails from Australia and may grow up to two feet in length, most of which is in the tail. These lizards will need an appropriate housing structure, which should be a 55-gallon tank for the average-sized single male dragon. They require special light bulbs to absorb vitamins. Dragons are omnivorous, so you will have to provide both plant and animal food sources. Even though they come from arid conditions, spray the tank with water each day to provide them with a water source, as they will not drink from a bowl. Dragons are hardy and can endure even if some mistakes in care are made early on.

• Green anole: Also known as the American chameleon, green anoles are another popular starter pet. Anoles are inexpensive, which makes them a great choice for first-time reptile owners. Anoles can be easy to care for if you meet the right requirements. They need a high-humidity environment and daily misting. These reptiles also like to climb, so you will need to prepare the cage accordingly with a tight-fitting lid and a structure they can scale. While a male and female and even two females can be kept together, never put two males together, as they will fight and likely kill each other.

• Gecko: The leopard gecko can be a great lizard for beginners. Thanks to its small size and modest needs, a gecko does not need a large tank to live in. Geckos are also tolerant to handling and can grow accustomed to frequent touching. Keep in mind that geckos are nocturnal, which means they are most active in the evening. Invest in a special reptile light designed for viewing in the dark so that you do not interfere with the animal’s sleep-wake cycle. Also, try not to stress or frighten the leopard gecko. It has the ability to drop its tail if feeling threatened, which can put unnecessary stress on the animal.

• Newt: Newts are almost exclusively aquatic or require high-humidity levels. You will need a tank with an area of sloped land for eating and sleeping. Another area should be filled with water for immersion. Newts are generally a pet that should be observed rather than handled, as they have sensitive membranes or toxic skin. Colorful newts can be enjoyable to watch and require little care besides water changes and feeding.

Reptiles can make interesting and relatively maintenance-free pets. People looking for ideal starter pets may want to skip the furry in favor of the scaly.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Jul 23 edition online now. Browse the archives.