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Not everyone is a huge fan of the “conventional” pet choices we have today. Dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, birds… they don’t exactly appeal to everyone! It truly comes as no surprise that a lot of people look for other options for pets that they can take care of. Others, for example, are huge fans of reptiles. But, what exactly are the best reptile pets to own? Are they snakes? Frogs? Lizards? What exactly makes a reptile a good pet?
If you are looking for a new pet but you aren’t sure what exactly you want, don’t worry. Today, we’ll be talking all about reptiles and which are some of the best reptile pets to own. Once we’ve got all of that figured out, we’ll be discussing their care, needs, and costs as well. Basically, we will be discussing everything you need to know to get started on this journey to owning a reptile! Without further ado, let’s get started!
Why Choose A Reptile?
There are many reasons why reptiles make great pets.
For example, they make excellent pets for those who want an animal that is relatively easier to take care of, at least in comparison to higher maintenance animals (such as dogs or cats). Reptiles are also hypoallergenic, which means they are great for people who struggle with allergies. One thing that we can say reptiles are is misunderstood – they aren’t really half as dangerous or scary as most people might think (depending on the species and type of animal of course).
Reptiles all have varying requirements in terms of their care and needs. Because of this, it is important to choose a pet that has requirements that fit your life and your lifestyle well.
The Best Reptile Pets to Own
Today we are going to talk about the absolute best reptile pets to own.
We should preface this whole thing by saying that one of the biggest things you need to keep in mind is that we chose these particular reptiles because they truly stood out. That doesn’t mean that you won’t be spending some cash for the initial outlay of buying the pet itself and then its housing + care. Additionally, some of these reptiles can be very difficult to maintain, and require a lot of time, attention, money, and commitment. Some are easier to maintain more than others. However, the reptiles on this list are all unique in each of their own special ways.
Chinese Water Dragon
One of the best reptile pets to own is the lovely Chinese Water Dragon. This lizard is chock full of spunk and personality! These lizards require a lot of time, attention, and money. They need a habitat that’s large enough. When we say large, we mean LARGE. These lizards will need a cage that is at least 5 to 6 foot wide, roughly 2 to 3 foot deep, and additionally, about five or 6 foot tall. Generally, people really want to get iguanas (one of the more popular types of reptiles kept as pets), but the truth is that iguanas take up a lot of space. Not to mention, they can also be rather aggressive too! Even though these lizards will still need a very large enclosure, if they are well-maintained and taken care of, they will have a wonderful personality, won’t be too aggressive, and will be much more manageable in terms of size than an iguana.
To get started with owning a water dragon, you need to remember a few things about their care. These lizards, which can live anywhere from 10-15 years (with some living over 20!), enjoy being handled. As a matter of fact, you should regularly handle them so that they do not grow aggressive. Water dragons grow up to 3 feet long when they are adults. Huge, right? Still, they are smaller than iguanas.
Water Dragon Diet
These reptiles eat insects such as waxworms, crickets, mealworms, roaches, and earthworms. They also eat small goldfish (the common type), and pinkie mice (often frozen, sometimes thawed). However, you also need to feed them some leafy (and dark) greens, as well as fruit. Greens and fruit should fit about 10-15% of their diet. There is much to learn about the diet and feeding of water dragons, but we will save all of that for another article.
Water Dragon Housing
Remember that these reptiles can grow pretty big, and they reach their full adult size in about 1-2 years. As a result, you will need to prepare to get a bigger habitat as they grow. For an adult water dragon, you need a minimum 40 gallon tank – and plenty of space to put it in! You will want to put a lot of branches and places to hide for the water dragon. Also, mist the habitat daily to keep the humidity around sixty to eighty percent.
You’ll need a mulch-type substrate like repti-bark or even coconut fiber. Keep the habitat around 70 degrees F to 100 degrees F using either a ceramic heater or a light bulb (incandescent, of course). You must keep the habitat full spectrum lit at least ten to twelve hours daily, ensuring that UVB rays are also provided. The incandescent light bulb can only be used in their basking area during daylight hours – you will need either a nocturnal bulb or a ceramic heater all around.
Of course, you must remember to keep males separately, and if you own more than one species of reptile, never put them together! If you’ve never cared for reptile before, yet still want a Chinese Water Dragon, don’t even think about getting more than one to start.
These lizards require immense amounts of dedication, time, effort, and care. In fact, even though these lizards can be some of the best reptiles out there, they require proper care from an experienced reptile owner, above all else.
We don’t recommend these lizards for anyone who is not already familiar with reptiles.
Who doesn’t love turtles and tortoises?
These creatures are honestly adorable, too. A Russian tortoise in particular makes a great choice, which is why we have included it in this list of the best reptile pets to own. These tortoises interact with humans, which is awesome. They do live about fifty years, though, so if you aren’t ready for such a commitment… maybe choose a different pet. These tortoises get most of their water and moisture from the food that they eat.
Russian tortoises are great for people who don’t have a lot of space for pets, since they are relatively small. They are also more active and feistier than some species of tortoises. They also weather various temperature extremes, especially when they burrow.
These reptiles can reach a max of eight to ten inches long as adults, with females being slightly larger when fully grown.
Russian Tortoise Diet
These tortoises survive on lean diets that are high in fiber. They’re very enthusiastic when they eat, and as a result, they can wreak a lot of havoc on your outdoor plants if you let them. Feeding them is simple, just give them veggies and leafy greens. Offer variety, and remember that these reptiles can seriously eat. Russian tortoises don’t need a lot of water to survive, and you don’t even need to really put a water bowl in with them in their habitat. You can simply soak them in shallow water outside of their enclosure 1-2x a week for about 15-30 minutes each time, and this is enough to keep them hydrated.
Russian Tortoise Habitat
If you want to keep a Russian tortoise as a pet, ideally you will want to keep them in:
- A warmer climate
- An outdoor habitat/enclosure
One to two adult tortoises will comfortably fit in a 2ft by 4ft enclosure, with the pens/walls being at least 6-12 inches underground. This prevents the reptiles from burrowing underneath and escaping. The walls of the pen should be at least 12 inches high above the ground, meaning you will want a pen a minimum of 18-24 inches tall.
These tortoises like to burrow, so put large rocks underneath the soil (at least in the corners or edges of the enclosure) and also against any feature objects. Build your tortoise an underground hiding box to allow them to take shelter if the weather gets too extreme. You can establish a shaded and grassy area with some water to allow them to cool off.
If you don’t feel like getting a tortoise or a lizard, you can always consider a snake. It’s true, generally not everyone is interested in snakes because they have a scary reputation. However, there are a lot of snakes that are basically harmless. One of them is the ball python, another reptile that we added to our list of best reptile pets to own. These pythons come in a lot of different colors and variations. They can also live up to 30 years!
The fact is, ball pythons (aka royal pythons) are generally considered to be extremely easy and low maintenance. Because of this, it could be a pet that’s perfect – even for beginners. This nonvenomous snake is a constrictor, and is normally docile. Their small size makes them ideal to keep at home, even if you don’t have a lot of space. Ball pythons can grow up to five feet in length, and they are carnivores.
Ball Python Diet
Royal pythons are carnivores, and as a result, you need to prepare frozen rodents for them to eat. You can thaw them or warm them (but never in a microwave!). Make sure you also thaw them away from where you would normally prepare your own food. Ensure that you take care not to contaminate your own kitchen with these rodents. Disinfect carefully! You can also choose to give your pet a live rodent, but never without supervision because sometimes these rodents can fatally inure your snake! There is much more to learn about how to feed ball pythons, but we’ll save that for another article.
Ball Python Habitat
Your ball python will hit its adult size in about three years in ideal conditions. If you start with a baby python, you need at least a 20 L tank size. For an adult, you want 30-40 gallons at least. Provide aspen shavings as the substrate, or something mulch-type like reptile bark and coconut fiber. You can also choose sphagnum moss (dampened).
You need to provide a hiding place big enough for your snake. Include a branch or some decoration for them to climb on. Keep their humidity around forty to sixty percent (but keep it higher if they are shedding). As for temp, keep it around 78F to 95F. Also, give 8-12hrs of light every day. For night time, ensure you use infrared or nocturnal lights.
Don’t keep ball pythons with other species of snakes!
One more lizard that we would say is a great addition to this list of best reptile pets to own is the bearded dragon. These cuties are bigger compared to geckos, but they are smaller compared to iguanas. As a result, they come in a pretty great size (2 ft average as an adult) that is perfect for all pet owners, no matter how much experience you have. This is one aspect that make bearded dragons so great. They are absolute great beginner pets, and can serve as a wonderful learning experience for anyone who is interested in lizards. Bearded dragons are omnivores, eating a combination of veggies and insects. Just like us humans, bearded dragons are diurnal so they are active and awake in the day time, and sleep at night.
Bearded Dragon Diet
These reptiles, as we have mentioned, are omnivores. They can live up to 10-15 years if taken care of properly, so you want to ensure you are giving them high quality food. These omnivores aren’t picky, so give them mealworms or crickets (or any other “feed” insect) but dust them with vitamins and minerals, as well as calcium. You can also give your beardie some veggies like zucchini, romaine lettuce (finely chopped), carrots, and more. Leafy greens in general are also great choices. Fruit such as mangoes, bananas, and kiwis work well too.
Just remember to always give nutritious options and dust them with powdered vitamins and minerals. Iceberg lettuce isn’t a good choice because it is not very nutritious.
If you want to not worry about your pet’s food, there are also products that you can buy that are specifically designed for keeping your beardie well fed with proper nutrition.
Bearded Dragon Habitat
You will want a 75 gallon tank to keep one, maybe two adult bearded dragons comfortably. Use screening to make sure they do not escape, but still get adequate ventilation. If the weather is warm, you can keep your beardie outdoors (just ensure you provide sunny areas and shaded areas too – plus a place to take shelter if it rains). Dragons like climbing, so offer them branches and objects to get up on.
You want a basking area in their enclosure that is around 100F, heated, using a spotlight for example. Don’t keep the entire habitat hot, make sure the rest of the habitat aside from the basking area is around 80F. You must also provide UVB full spectrum lights throughout the entire habitat. This is important!
Not only are bearded dragons great beginner lizards, but they are also wonderful lizards in general. Many do not have issues with their owners, and many owners are very happy with their beardies. If you’re looking for a lizard that isn’t too difficult to care for, is relatively cheap in comparison to other lizards, and has a totally unique personality, then bearded dragons are an excellent option. These lizards are also great with kids and do not pose much harm at all to them.
Definitely consider a bearded dragon as a excellent choice for beginner lizards for kids.
Red Eared Slider
Another addition to the list of best reptile pets to own is the red eared slider – a turtle, that is. This particular reptile is an aquatic turtle, meaning you will probably need more in terms of housing and care. Nevertheless, it’s still one of those pets that are easier to take care of in comparison to a lot of other reptiles. You will, however, need to make a significant financial investment at the beginning in order to get started. Nevertheless, it still won’t cost you nearly as much as dogs and cats.
Red Eared Slider Diet
This aquatic turtle’s diet tends to vary as they get older, because their tastes also change with maturity. As these reptiles get older, they become more herbivorous. Still, no matter what age the turtle is, you must give them a great variety of food – both plant-based and animal-based. You can choose to give your pet turtle pellets that are sold commercially, but only use them as a base. You should still complement and supplement this diet with actual food items.
You must avoid overfeeding your pet, in order to prevent various problems such as health issues. You should also feed your turtle outside of their aquarium so that you can avoid huge messes and health risks.
Red Eared Slider Habitat
The Red Eared Slider is small at first, and as a result, you can start with a smaller tank. However, as these turtles begin to mature, you will want a tank that can hold 100+ gallons of well-maintained and cleaned H2O. You can get creative with unique housing for your pet, using plastic liners for ponds (pre-formed). You can even choose to house your turtle outside/outdoors for some parts of the year. One thing, however, that you truly must be careful with is ensuring that the water quality is always maintained. Additionally, make sure you provide some UVB lights for them.
We’ve put together this great list of the best reptile pets to own so that you can hopefully find a pet that will be a perfect fit for you.
Of course, these pets are only a few of the many that you could choose to keep as a wonderful new addition to your family. If none of these reptiles strike your fancy, you can choose to do some research and see what other ones are possible to be kept as pets! Regardless of which animal you choose, just remember to take good care of them, so that they can live healthy and happy lives.
If you’re looking for some other reptile pet choices that are great specifically for kids, you can read more about that here.
Good luck with your quest on finding the best pet for you!