Suitable Pets

Corn Snakes

These beautiful and gentle snakes are the most popular type among pet snake keepers. They are available in many attractive colours and patterns. These varieties have been made available through many generations of captive breeding.

Corn snakes are one of the easiest snakes to care for properly. They are usually excellent feeders, and will often prey upon pre-killed rodents in captivity.

The one thing to watch out for: corn snakes are escape artists! A secure cage is the most important tool for keeping corn snakes healthy and happy.

Caging: An enclosure about 80 cm long will suffice for adult corn snakes. Aquariums are suitable for these animals. A secure, well-ventilated lid is important.

Heating and lighting: A heat pad placed at one end of the enclosure will allow for the snake to thermoregulate properly. An average temperature of 25°C is suitable for these snakes.

Feeding: Corn snakes are rodent feeders. They should be fed pre-killed mice or rats approximately once a week.

Miscellaneous: A shelter or “hide box” is an essential part of the cage interior. Corn snakes require this to feel secure.

Kingsnakes and Milk Snakes

There are eight species of kingsnakes and milk snakes, and many more subspecies. This offers the pet keeper a wide variety to choose from. Most of the common pet species are similar in size and temperament to corn snakes, but others require more advanced care. These snakes eat rodents, but will also feed on other snakes. It is very important to house kingsnakes or milk snakes on their own.

Caging: An enclosure about 80 cm long will suffice for adults. Aquariums are suitable for these animals. A secure, well-ventilated lid is important.

Heating and lighting: A heat pad placed at one end of the enclosure will allow for the snake to thermoregulate properly. An average temperature of 25°C is suitable for these snakes.

Feeding: Kingsnakes and milk snakes are mostly rodent feeders in captivity but they have been known to eat birds, lizards, frogs and other snakes, including venomous species. They should be fed pre-killed mice or rats approximately once a week.

Miscellaneous: A shelter or “hide box” is important for these snakes. They must be housed singly!

Ball Pythons

Ball pythons are a very docile species that rarely exceed 1.5 m in length. As with all pets, captive-bred specimens are superior to wild-caught individuals, but in ball pythons it is even more important. Wild-caught animals are notoriously difficult to feed, and usually have many parasites, which often results in death.

Captive-bred ball pythons can also be difficult feeders, but this should not cause fatalities if other husbandry conditions are properly applied. This native west African species is a true constrictor, and can make a fascinating pet.

Caging: These are not highly active snakes so cage sizes can be relatively small.

Heating and Lighting: Ball pythons require higher temperatures of around 30°C that do not normally fall more than 5 degrees. Heat pads under one end of an enclosure would be a good heat source for these snakes.

Feeding: Although these pythons are rodent feeders they can be very picky, preferring one specific type. Gerbils are often a favourite. They will often stop eating for months at a time.

Miscellaneous: A water bowl is required that is large enough for the snake to completely submerge.

Leopard Geckos

Leopard geckos are one of the easiest lizards to obtain and care for. They are now available in many different colour and pattern variations. These geckos are small ground dwellers, whose housing requirements are not extreme. They are very delicate, so handling should be done in a careful and controlled manner.

They are insectivorous (eat insects), so it is important to find a food supply for the animal before it is brought home. Many pet stores carry supplies of suitable insects such as crickets and mealworms.

Caging: Juveniles may be housed in 40 cm to 50 cm long enclosures, adults in 50 cm to 60 cm long enclosures. Glass aquariums are suitable, but floor area is more important than height, as they are terrestrial lizards.

Heating and lighting: These lizards are nocturnal, and do not require a basking light. They do require part of the enclosure to be 30°C to 35°C while another part of the enclosure should only be 20°C to 25°C. Heat pads are effective for this.

Feeding: Young geckos should be fed four or five times a week, while adults require food only three or four times a week. A variety of insects supplemented with calcium is considered a proper leopard gecko diet.

Miscellaneous: Dark places to hide during daylight hours should be provided.

Bearded Dragons

These tough-skinned animals are very tolerant of handling, making them suitable for a younger pet owner. Unfortunately their care requirements are a little more complex. They are easily bred in captivity, so obtaining a captive-bred baby is easy. These active animals require a good amount of room to roam. High temperatures and proper lighting are essential for the health of this desert species.

Bearded Dragons need a varied diet consisting of plant and animal material.

Caging: An adult bearded dragon should be housed in a tank at least 1.2 m long.

Heating and lighting: This type of lizard requires full-spectrum lighting for proper health. A basking light will be well used. A temperature gradient in the cage should be provided: around 21°C on the cool side, up to 40°C on the hot side.

Feeding: Baby bearded dragons should be fed daily a mixture of small insects and chopped greens. Adults can be fed larger insects and greens every other day. Calcium supplementation should be added to the diet.

Miscellaneous: Although clean water should always be provided, lightly misting these animals twice a day is recommended.

Blue-tongued Skinks

A beautiful, smooth-scaled lizard that is wonderful to handle. Unfortunately these animals are not bred as widely in captivity and are more expensive to purchase.

Blue-tongued skinks are very docile, medium-sized lizards with striking blue tongues, which they use to investigate their environment. Since these are larger lizards, they do require a medium to large enclosure. They are a terrestrial species, and love to burrow into the provided substrate. They require a mixed diet, consisting of both meat and plant material. A very rewarding species to keep.

Caging: These fair-sized lizards can be housed in an enclosure 1 m to 1.5 m long, depending upon the depth.

Heating and lighting: Full-spectrum lighting should be supplied for these lizards. A temperature gradient should exist between a hot side (around 35°C) and a cooler side (around 25°C).

Feeding: Young skinks should be fed four times per week; adults need to be fed only once or twice. Their diet should be as varied as possible, consisting of fruit, vegetables and insects.

Miscellaneous: These lizards are terrestrial and should be provided with a substrate suitable for burrowing into.

Unsuitable Pets

Now that you’ve met some suitable pets, read about some reptiles that make unsuitable pets, such as green iguanas, large monitors, large constrictors (such as anacondas and giant pythons), red-eared sliders, crocodilians and venomous reptiles.