How to Pick Up Your Pet Lizard

Wondering how to pick up a lizard? There are countless numbers of animals available in the reptile hobbyist world and many of them can be picked-up and held. Some pet lizards even enjoy human interaction.

However, lizards are not domesticated animals like cats or dogs, and so they can be tricky to handle if you don’t have experience. That’s why we’ll explain our methods for picking up lizards, address some common mistakes made when handling lizards, and offer up helpful tips and tricks we’ve learned throughout our years of experience dealing with all kinds of lizard species.

How to pick up a lizard

There are several methods you can use when picking up lizards and in truth, the best method will vary from animal to animal, species to species, and even person to person! It’s going to take some experience on your part to learn which way works best for your own pet.

how to pick up a lizard
Geckos are more delicate than other species of lizards. Be careful not to restrain them too tightly or you may accidentally injure them. Gentle handling is the key.

The first thing to take into account when picking up and handling any pet lizard is the size of the animal. Larger species such as bearded dragons and Savannah monitors will require a different technique than something as small as a dwarf gecko species.

If you are dealing with a larger species or a species that has a good disposition, such as a leopard gecko, then picking up and handling the lizard is very straight forward. Approach the animal steadily with no jerky or overly speedy movements and simply pick it up. Once the lizard is in your hands, make sure it is supported and that it has a place to crawl if it is moving or wiggling a lot.

If you are working with a smaller species or a more delicate species, such as a day gecko or an anole, we recommend cupping the animal rather than grabbing it outright. You can accomplish this by literally trapping the animal under a cup and sliding a piece of paper or other flat, solid object underneath the cup. Or, alternately, you could form a cup with your hands over top of the lizard and pick it up from there.

Things to avoid when picking up your pet lizard

Possibly the most important thing you want avoid when dealing with your pet lizard is squeezing it or making it feel trapped. If you hold it too tight in order to prevent escape, your lizard will feel very stressed and uncomfortable. If you can’t hold the lizard without feeling like you’re physically restraining it, odds are you’ve got a lizard that isn’t meant to be held.

crocodile skink
This crocodile skink is being supported and has a comfortable perch. Be sure to cradle and not squeeze your pet lizard and you will both be more at ease during the handling process.

Never try to hang onto a lizard by its tail. Many species actually drop their tails as a defense mechanism against predators when they are stressed. While its true that ultimately it won’t harm your lizard in the long run to drop its tail, it’s still a stress to the animal at the time it occurs and many people dislike how their lizard appears cosmetically after losing a tail.

Helpful tips and tricks for handling your pet lizard

  1. Big lizards will need two hands. It’s common sense that you shouldn’t try to pick up a four foot long monitor with just one hand. Bigger lizards need more support and therefore more hands.
  2. Not all lizards should be picked up. Again, keep in mind that lizards are not domesticated animals and they do not all enjoy interacting with people. In fact, many of the smaller, flightier species will get overly stressed out if you handle them because they will think that you are a predator. And some species are so delicate that you can actually injure them if you pick them up incorrectly.
  3. Take some time to get to know your lizard’s personality and read its moods. If you invest in learning about lizard body language, you’ll be able to tell if your pet is in the mood to come out and play or not. This will help avoid unnescessary stress and will also help avoid any unnecessary biting or scratching.

Conclusion

bearded dragon hatchling
Bearded dragons are very interactive lizards that enjoy being held by humans.

Lizards make great pets and there are many species that are hands on and incredibly interactive animals. However, not all species will enjoy being held and it’s up to you as a potential pet owner to do your research and make sure you’re choosing a species that suits your needs.

We hope that this article has given you some insight into how to handle different species of lizards. But if you have any tips or tricks of your own, feel free to share them in the comments!

How to Care for Baby Scorpions

What if your pet scorpions have mated and now you’ve got a bunch of scorpion babies to care for? Or perhaps you recently acquired a gravid mother scorpion who just gave birth? No matter the scenario, you now have scorplings to care for.

You’re probably wondering what to do with all the tiny, delicate babies? How do you care for them? What does such a tiny invertebrate eat? Is it safe to handle them?

In this blog article, we will answer commonly asked questions such as the ones above and discuss in detail how we care for our scorplings.

How to care for baby scorpions

What do I do once my scorpion has given birth?

If you don’t handle your scorpion too frequently, you may not even be aware that your female is gravid, particularly if you’ve only recently acquired her. It’s very possible you might wake up one morning to discover a batch of scorplings riding around on her back.

caring for baby scorpions
Luckily, mother scorpions do most of the work when it comes to caring for newborn scorplings. Here’s one of our Dictator scorpions (Pandinus dictator) with her babies.

If you just have a single female in a small enclosure, don’t move her. The less you disturb her, the better. Disturbances will stress her and could even cause her to eat her babies.

The babies will actually ride around on the mother scorpion’s back for a few weeks until they have undergone their first molt. During this time, the mother will make sure they are fed and cared for, so the best thing you can do to care for the babies is to ensure the mother is well-cared for.

Perhaps the most important aspect of baby scorpion care when the scorplings are still on the mother’s back is making sure that mama scorpion is well-fed. If she feels hungry or doesn’t get enough food, she will eat her children, so we recommend offering her food on a daily basis.

Watch the mother and babies closely for the first few weeks. You will want to remove the babies once they have molted as they will no longer ride around on their mother’s back. Allowing them to remain in the same enclosure as their mother once they are off her back is a bad idea as once more, the mother might see her babies as a food source rather than as her children.

What kind of care set up should I provide for my baby scorpions?

Not surprisingly, baby scorpions have the same care requirements as their adult counterparts. The only real difference in care is that obviously smaller invertebrates eat smaller food. We will go into what to feed your baby scorpion in the next section.

When creating a habitat for your baby scorpions, it is generally acceptable to place them all in a single container until they outgrow it.

baby pandinus dictator
Pictured is a baby Dictator scorpion (Pandinus dictator).

Your scorpion tank should be well-ventilated with a screen lid or lid with holes in it. You should line the bottom of the tank with a substrate such as cocoa fiber, moss, or other similar material.

A UV light is not necessary as scorpions tend to avoid lighted areas. Instead, you should use a heat mat in order to maintain ambient temperatures in the 80s. We don’t recommend using a heat lamp unless you want to mist the enclosure regularly as heat lamps tend to dry out substrates.

Another essential element to a scorpion enclosure is plenty of places to hide. You can use something as simple as used toilet paper or paper towel rolls to fancy logs and pet store hide spaces.

What do I feed my baby scorpions?

Small, fragile  baby scorpions means small prey items. What then, is small enough to feed baby scorpions?

At Backwater Reptiles, once our scorplings are not living on their mother’s back anymore, we feed them pinhead crickets and fruit flies. Both of these are appropriately-sized invertebrates that baby scorpions are quick to consume.

You can place one or two pinhead crickets per scorpion into the enclosure each day. We’ve even heard that squishing the crickets so that the soft insides come out is a useful trick to get baby scorpions to eat, but ours seem to eat living crickets just fine.

In addition to food, baby scorpions should have a water source. You can place a small container that the scorplings can’t drown in inside the cage, however, we think that soaking a cotton ball in water is actually a better way to hydrate your baby scorpions.

When are my baby scorpions old enough to be handled?

Technically, once the babies are off the mother’s back, they can be handled, but we don’t recommend it as they are still very fragile and still very small.

Once their exoskeletons have had time to harden, it should be safe to pick up and handle your baby scorpions. This could take anywhere from a few weeks to a month and a half depending on the species.

dictator scorpion babies
Baby scorpions will cluster on their mother’s back until they have undergone their first molt.

We personally recommend leaving handling to a minimum until the scorplings have darkened up or gotten close to reaching their adult coloration. Once this occurs, their exoskeletons are usually hard enough to protect them properly from any jostling that might unintentionally occur.

Conclusion – baby scorpion care

Overall, caring for baby scorpions is not really that much different than caring for adult scorpions. The main difference is in what size prey items you offer.

And luckily, mother scorpions are actually pretty good at taking care of their babies until they are strong enough to fend for themselves. Nature takes care of the hardest part for you. All you need to do is pick up where mama scorpion leaves off.

If you are interested in starting a scorpion family of your own, Backwater Reptiles has many different species of scorpion for sale.

 

 

How to Care for Your Sunbeam Snake (Xenopeltis unicolor)

If you are unfamiliar with the sunbeam snake (Xenopeltis unicolor), you’re not alone. Because these prismatic snakes have pretty specific care requirements, they’re actually not very popular in the reptile world.

Truth be told, there’s also not a lot of information online explaining how to best care for the sunbeam snake. Therefore, in this blog article, we’ll detail how we care for our sunbeams and hopefully help out anyone thinking about investing in one of these gorgeous animals.

Sunbeam Snake Description

The most striking feature of the sunbeam snake is its unmistakable iridescence. In fact, this brilliant rainbow hue is how this snake got its common name. Other snakes such as the rainbow boa might also be iridescent, but when the sunbeam snake’s scales interact with the sun’s rays, the result is unbelievable. Other snakes just can’t compete!

sunbeam snake care
Sunbeams snakes are known for their iridescent scales.

Aside from shimmering scales, sunbeam snakes are fairly monochromatic. Their dorsal sides are dark, deep brown or even black. Their under bellies are cream-colored or whitish. They have small eyes and pointy heads with little neck demarcation.

Sunbeam Snake Habitat & Housing

The first thing that is important to know when keeping a sunbeam snake is that these reptiles are burrowers. They live in Asian rice paddies in the wild where there is lots of moisture, humidity, and plenty of places to hide. Therefore, sunbeam snakes spend lots of time underground.

Because sunbeams are burrowers, it is of utmost importance that you provide your snake with a substrate that accommodates this behavior as well as retains moisture. Cypress mulch, moss, and loose reptile bark all work well. Be sure that the substrate is damp, but not dripping wet.

sunbeam snake
Sunbeam snakes have specific care requirements. We recommend doing your research and making sure this species is suitable for you before you purchase.

Humidity levels need to stay between 80 to 100% at all times. This might seem a bit high, but keep in mind that rice paddies are nearly always flood lands and sunbeams are used to this type of environment. One of the worst things an owner can do for a sunbeam snake is to allow its home to dry out.

The hot end of your sunbeam snake’s enclosure should stay between 85 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit, while the cooler side should be in between 75 to 80 degrees. We recommend a heating pad to regulate temperature, but you can also use a lamp that doesn’t give off light. Sunbeams aren’t nocturnal or afraid of light, but they do spend most of their time underground, so there is no real need for UV lighting.

Sunbeam Snake Disposition

As we’ve already mentioned, sunbeam snakes are burrowers. They spend most of their time underground and usually only emerge to catch prey and eat. This means they are solitary, secretive animals that appreciate privacy.

Sunbeam snakes are not aggressive, but they don’t really enjoy being handled too frequently. In fact, it rather stresses them out. If you want a hands on pet snake, we don’t recommend that you get a sunbeam. Sunbeam snakes should be handled minimally and left to their own devices when possible.

handling your sunbeam snake
Sunbeams are shy snakes that definitely prefer to be left alone. However, when you have to clean their cage or remove them for any other reason, they are not aggressive and can be handled like any other species of snake.

One thing that you should also be aware of is that sunbeam snakes can excrete a very nasty musk when stressed. So, unless you want to shower, we highly recommend not poking, prodding, holding, or otherwise making your sunbeam feel threatened.

Feeding Your Sunbeam Snake

Many people are surprised at how quickly sunbeam snakes eat. They lunge for prey very speedily, constrict, and swallow it nearly as rapidly.

In the wild, sunbeams are known to consume frogs, shrews, moles, lizards, and other small vertebrates. In captivity, they will strike at anything that disturbs their substrate, so we recommend using tongs and offering them appropriately sized frozen/thawed mice.

Conclusion

Although sunbeam snakes are absolutely stunning animals with brilliantly shiny rainbow scales, we don’t recommend them to everyone. These snakes are best suited to owners who understand that sunbeams enjoy solitude and like being left alone.

Keep in mind that sunbeam snakes have four basic requirements in captivity to stay happy and healthy: solitude, humidity, a place to burrow, and warmth. If you are ready to provide these things to a pet sunbeam snake of your very own, Backwater Reptiles does sell them.

What Do Green Iguanas Eat?

If you’re considering purchasing one of these majestic beasts, you’ve no doubt asked yourself, “What do Green iguanas eat?” Despite their large size at maturity, green iguanas (Iguana iguana) continue to be one of the most popular pet lizards amongst reptile enthusiasts.

Perhaps it’s due to their prehistoric appearance – spikes down their back, dewlaps at their throat, and impressive claws – or maybe it’s because they have such prominent personalities.

If you are considering a pet iguana, one of the most valuable pieces of information you’ll need, aside from housing requirements, is what to feed your pet. In this article, we will discuss in detail what we feed our green iguanas and how you can make sure your iguanas nutritional needs are met.

what do green iguanas eat
Hatchling green iguanas are a bit more insecure than their adult counterparts, but they still make excellent pets.

What do green iguanas eat?

Green iguanas are classified as herbivores, although when it comes down to it, they are opportunistic omnivores and will consume anything they find appetizing. They have been observed in the wild as well as in captivity eating protein in the form of smaller lizards and insects.

In the wild, green iguanas will seek out vegetation such as flowers, leaves, and some fruit. If they happen to chance upon a tasty invertebrate or even small vertebrate like a rodent, they will also consume meat.

In captivity, a green iguana’s diet should consist of approximately 80 to 90% vegetable matter, ten percent or less fruit, and ten percent or less protein.

How do I prepare my iguanas food?

If you wish to forego commercially prepackaged green iguana food, we want to stress that variety is key when it comes to preparing your iguana’s meals.

green iguana juvenile
Young green iguanas will need to eat more frequently than adults.

You will want 45 to 50 percent of the iguana’s nutrients to come from leafy greens. We recommend kale, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, and mustard greens. All of these veggies are high in vitamins and are extremely nutritious to both people and iguanas!

As far as preparation of leafy greens is concerned, we recommend washing the greens thoroughly and then doing a rough chop on them. You want the pieces to be bite sized so the iguana doesn’t choke. Pre-packaged, pre-cut greens are also appropriate and clearly less work than chopping your own.

Approximately 40 percent of your iguana’s diet can subsist of other veggies. We have found that squash, zucchini, green beans, snap/snow peas, carrots, and bell peppers are all appropriate fare.

The same rules apply to preparing non-leafy veggies for consumption. We’ve actually grated many of the veggies to make it quick and simple for the iguana to chow down, although dicing the veggies into bite size pieces is also perfectly acceptable.

Acceptable fruit options include: strawberries, blueberries, grapes, mangos, apples, and bananas. However, please keep in mind that with fruits, as well as with any other veggie, our list and examples is not exhaustive. These are just food items we discovered our iguanas take to quite readily.

As we’ve already mentioned, iguanas can and have been known to consume animal protein. However, we do not recommend that you feed your iguana much meat, if any at all. Perhaps as an occasional treat you could offer some dog food or insects, but we do highly advise sticking to a primarily vegetable-based diet. Too much protein will be very hard on your iguana’s liver.

What feeding schedule should I adhere to?

We feed our juvenile iguanas twice per day as they are growing and need all the vitamins and nutrients they can in order to develop strong bones and heathy scales.

Mature, adult green iguanas really only need to be fed once per day. We prepare a large plate of fresh veggies and a small amount of fruit and allow the iguana to eat until it is full. Iguanas have large appetites, but they are not gluttons and will stop eating when they’re full.

blue axanthic iguana
Pictured is a juvenile blue axanthic iguana. These iguanas have the same dietary requirements as a typical green iguana.

Remove any uneaten food from the iguana’s enclosure as you don’t want to encourage fruit flies or bacteria to grow  inside the cage.

How much water should I provide my iguana?

Like any living creature, green iguanas need a fresh water supply. There are several ways to go about ensuring your iguana is being properly hydrated.

One method is to spray water directly onto your iguana’s meal. This is usually a good method for leafy greens as they will hold the water in their folds and crevices rather than have it remain in the food dish.

Another method that is equally simple and actually kind of a no-brainer is to maintain a fresh water dish within your iguana’s cage. You might not actually see your iguana lapping at the water, but it will drink it when its thirsty.

If you have concerns about whether or not your iguana is drinking enough water, you can actually train it to drink from the water dish. We’ve heard of people placing a treat food into the water dish so that the iguana is forced to ingest water when consuming its tasty tidbit of food.

Conclusion

Because iguanas are herbivores, they make fantastic pets for people who don’t enjoy feeding their pet other living creatures such as insects, feeder fish, or even mice.

Green iguanas are also highly trainable and friendly when you work with them, so we think that as long as you’re committed to keeping a lizard that can grow to be six feet long from nose to tail, they make excellent and rewarding pets.

If you are ready for a pet green iguana of your own, Backwater Reptiles does sell them. We hope we’ve been able to effectively explain what iguanas eat in captivity.

 

Oddest Pet Frogs

At Backwater Reptiles, we love reptiles and amphibians of all shapes and sizes, regardless of whether or not most people would label them as cute. In fact, some of our favorites are the oddballs!

In this article, we’re going to list our favorite odd-looking pet frogs. Although these frogs are not for everyone, each of them is certainly unique.

The Oddest Pet Frogs

Budgett’s Frog (Lepidobatrachus laevis)

This jelly-like frog is also known as the hippo frog and the Freddy Krueger frog. We’re not quite sure where the hippo moniker arises from, but this frog is nicknamed after the infamous horror villain because its long fingers are reminiscent of his knife hands. This frog also packs quite an attitude and is known to be aggressive and mean. It opens its wide mouth as big as possible and emits what is best described as a scream in an effort to scare off threats.

oddest pet frogs
As you can see from this photo, Budgett’s frogs very closely resemble blobs of jelly, making it one of the more odd pet frogs.

In addition to this interesting defense mechanism, Budgett’s frogs are memorable because they are just so strange-looking. Besides having bodies built like blobs, they have tiny protuberant eyes on top of their heads. And because they rarely leave the water, they can appear somewhat soggy to boot.

But we want to stress that even though Budgett’s frogs are unusual, both in appearance and in behavior, they still make rewarding and fascinating pets.

If you are interested in caring for a Budgett’s frog of your own, Backwater Reptiles does sell them. And we even wrote an entire blog article dedicated to their care.

Mozambique Rain Frog (Breviceps mossambicus)

We’re huge fans of the Mozambique rain frog because it is such a comical amphibian. Not only is this an adorably silly-looking frog, it also has some charming behaviors that many people find extremely endearing, albeit weird.

Rain frogs are known as “grumpy frogs” and have several variations of memes circulating around the internet to comment on their squashed, flat, surly little faces. Besides their squashed faces, rain frogs possess somewhat balloon-ish bodies with pigeon-toed feet. They’re almost reminiscent of froggy bulldogs.

mozambique rain frog
Mozambique rain frogs have balloon-like bodies and pigeon-toed feet. We think this makes them look like little bulldog frogs.

Oh, and did we mention that rain frogs squeak rather than croak like a typical frog? Some people say that the rain frog’s call sounds like a kitten’s cry or a tiny squeal. No matter what you think it sounds like, most people agree that the noise is simply adorable.

Because rain frogs are relatively new to the reptile and amphibian pet world, we actually wrote an entire article dedicated to their care.

And if you’re wondering where you can get a pet Mozambique rain frog of your own, Backwater Reptiles can definitely help you out.

Surinam Giant Toad (Pipa pipa)

Everything about the Suriname toad is odd. This toad (which is actually a frog) looks weird, it behaves weird, and it even reproduces weird! We think that they make awesome pets simply because you’ll have so many curious factoids about them to tell to your friends and family.

The first thing you’ll notice when you see a Suriname toad is that it is a flat frog. And we do mean that quite literally. It has a triangular, flat head and its body is also very pancake-like.This is an adaptation to allow the frog to appear like leaf litter or wooden detritus on the bottom of the bodies of water where it resides. It also helps the frog to be stream-lined.

Even if you never get your pet Surinam toad to reproduce, you should be aware that these frogs produce their babies in a very unconventional manner.  After an elaborate mating ritual, the eggs stick to the female’s back and sink into a honeycomb shaped “nest” in her skin. The eggs will stay there on her back in the protective honeycomb until fully formed froglets emerge! Suriname toads don’t go through a tadpole phase.

If you want a pet Suriname toad to call your own, be sure to check out our blog article detailing how to care for them.

pipa pipa
Suriname toads are flat like pancakes. Nobody can deny that these are some strange-looking frogs!

Conclusion

We hope that this article shows you that just because a frog is kind of bizarre-looking, that doesn’t make it a bad pet. In our opinion, being odd just makes these frogs that much more lovable. We hope that you agree, and that you’ve enjoyed perusing our list of the oddest pet frogs in the world!

Fire Bellied Toad Care (Bombina orientalis)

Wondering how to care for your Fire-bellied toad? Although they are commonly called “toads,” they are in fact, frogs. They make excellent pets, particularly for first time amphibian owners and we highly recommend them to herpers of all ages and experience levels.

If you’re wondering how to care for this colorful frog, simply read on as we’ve devoted this article to discussing their care requirements in captivity.

Fire Bellied Toad Care Sheet

Fire Belled Toad Description

The fire bellied toad, which should probably actually be named the “fire bellied frog” gets its common name from its hard to miss red belly speckled with black spots. This red tummy is meant as a warning to potential predators that the frog is toxic and shouldn’t be eaten, although this toxin is so mild that humans don’t have a reaction to it. The frog’s back is also a very bright colored green covered with black splotches and spots. Fire bellied toads are quite striking little amphibians.

fire bellied toad care
Fire bellied toads have green dorsal sides with black spots and bright red undersides with black spots. We’ll describe in detail how to care for this species.

Fire bellies are small frogs which makes them ideal for pet owners who have limited space. A mature frog will usually get to be between one and two inches long. They have average life spans of anywhere from seven to fifteen years in captivity.

Unlike many frog species, fire bellies are diurnal and therefore awake and active during the day. This means that as a pet owner, you actually get to see your frog go about its every day activities. It’s especially nice to not have to wait for the sun to go down to hear your frog’s calls or to watch it eat.

Fire Bellied Toad Habitat

As we’ve already mentioned, fire bellied toads are actually frogs and therefore require a more aquatic habitat. A typical enclosure for a fire belly should actually be half aquatic. Most owners will set up a tank that has water in half with a slope of substrate that terminates in a solid ground area. This is because fire bellied toads are extremely happy when they can float in water with their back legs and toes just barely touching something solid underneath.

These small frogs don’t require a lot of space to be happy. You can comfortably house up to three fire bellies in a ten gallon aquarium and up to six in a twenty gallon tank.

fire bellied toad
This photo shows off the red and black underside of the fire bellied toad.

It’s not necessary to provide a basking area for fire bellied toads. However, you will want to maintain a reasonable ambient temperature. During the day, the tank should be kept at 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and at night, the tank can drop to 60 to 68 degrees. You should monitor the temperature with a heat gun, which is a tool that every reptile or amphibian owner needs to keep handy.

Fire Bellied Toad Feeding

Despite their small size, fire bellied toads have rather fierce appetites. They are ambush predators and will lunge at any sign of movement that involves an item they think will fit in their mouth.

Fire bellied toads will readily consume virtually any insect. At Backwater Reptiles, our frogs are offered a staple diet of vitamin dusted crickets combined with aquatic worms. We supplement with small larvae and even cut up earth worms. Fire bellied toads will see virtually any invertebrate as food so long as they detect movement.

Fire Bellied Toad Temperament

Even though their red bellies scream “toxic” to potential predators, owners of fire bellied toads need not be concerned. The toxin produced by the frog is not harmful to people. So as long as you wash your hands after touching the frog and don’t put your fingers in your mouth after handling, the frog’s toxin is harmless.

Fire bellied toads are not at all aggressive towards people. However, we should say that being held is not one of their favorite activities. They won’t object much to being held aside from a little bit of squirming, but it’s best for all parties involved if you mostly allow your frog to be seen and not touched.

bombina orientalis
Fire bellied toads make awesome pets for beginning herp hobbyists and experienced reptile parents alike.

Conclusion

We’ve seen experienced herp hobbyists dismiss fire bellied toads as “common” pets simply because they are so widely available.If this species was rare, it would be one of the most sought-after amphibians in the world.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our Fire bellied toad care sheet. We think that these cute little frogs are excellent pets for beginners and experts alike. Ready for a fire bellied toad of your own? Backwater Reptiles has got you covered!

 

Most Popular Poisonous or Venomous Pets

Not everyone is intimidated or afraid of keeping a venomous or poisonous exotic pet. In fact, many people feel exactly the opposite. They love showing off their scorpions, spiders, and other critters to friends and family alike.

In this article, we’ll list the most popular venomous or poisonous pets sold at Backwater Reptiles.

Most Popular Poisonous or Venomous Pets

Mexican Redknee Tarantula (Brachypelma smithi)

Mexican redknee tarantulas are a very docile and calm species of spider, which makes them very popular pets. If you want a pet spider that you can interact with safely, our recommendation would be a Mexican redknee.

As far as temperament is concerned, Mexican redknees would much rather run away from you than be aggressive towards you. In most cases, you’d be hard-pressed to get one to bite you and inject you with venom. This spider’s preferred defense mechanism is actually to brush its irritating urticating hairs on you. However, we’d like to mention that even if a redknee did happen to bite you, its venom is not fatal and it’s been said that the pain it causes is equivalent to a bee or wasp sting.

most popular poisonous/venomous pets
Mexican redknee tarantulas are known for the docile temperaments and orange legs, although they are venomous.

Mexican redknee tarantulas are excellent pets for first time spider owners. They eat crickets, meal worms, roaches, and other insects and it’s always fascinating to watch them undergo the molting process. They are especially great animals to keep in kids’ classrooms, although we don’t necessarily recommend the children handle the spider without supervision.

If you are ready to become a parent to a Mexican redknee tarantula, Backwater Reptiles has got you covered!

Asian Forest Scorpion (Heterometrus longimanus)

Asian forest scorpions are fairly large scorpions with stocky builds, black or very dark brown bodies, and somewhat defensive personalities. They will grow to be approximately four to five inches in length and can live up to seven years in captivity.

Although they are not as large as their cousin the Emperor scorpion, Asian forest scorpions do look very similar and many people often confuse the two species.

asian forest scorpion
It is certainly possible to hold your Asian forest scorpion when you do so with care and proper technique.

As far as temperament is concerned, if you want a docile invertebrate, an Asian forest scorpion might not be the best choice for you. These scorpions are not known for being overly aggressive, but at the same time, they are not hesitant to sting if provoked.

Asian forest scorpions are not known to be especially toxic to people if you do happen to be stung, but their sting is certainly painful. We recommend handling your scorpion only if you are experienced at reading their behavior and are confident in your capabilities as a scorpion wrangler.

Backwater Reptiles has baby Asian forest scorpions and full-grown scorpions for sale at very affordable prices.

Strawberry Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates pumilio)

We’ve put the Strawberry dart frog on our list, however in truth, we have to say that this species of dart frog, and all species of dart frog for that matter, are actually not poisonous when kept in captivity.

In the wild, poison dart frog are able to ingest insects and other food sources that allow them to produce their special namesake toxin. They secrete this toxin through their skin and it protects them from predators. However, because captive dart frogs are fed a speciality diet of gut-loaded insects, they are unable to produce this toxin.

strawberry poison dart frog
Strawberry poison dart frogs are known for their red and blue/black two-tone color combo. However, poison dart frogs are actually available in many different color schemes.

This means that although poison dart frogs might seem intimidating to people who don’t know better, in reality, they are just really colorful little frogs who make great pets. We’re huge fans of them because their habitats don’t take up a lot of space!

If you are interested in a tiny, boldly colored pet frog, we recommend purchasing a strawberry dart frog. There are also many other colors of poison dart frogs on the market that have the same care requirements.

Conclusion – Most Popular Poisonous or Venomous Pets

Although each of the animals on this list is technically venomous or poisonous, we think they are also misunderstood.

With proper care and proper technique, even stinging invertebrates like scorpions can be picked up and handled. Just make sure that you are aware of the dangers associated with this practice and also be aware that it can cause the animal stress if you do it incorrectly.

What’s the Difference Between Turtles & Tortoises?

Have you ever wondered, “What’s the difference between turtles and tortoises?” If so, you’re not alone. Many people confuse turtles and tortoises because these two types of reptiles are very similar in overall physical appearance.

However, when it comes down to it, turtles and tortoises are very different animals and have very different care requirements when kept as pets.

In this article, we’ll delve into the similarities and differences between turtles and tortoises. In our opinion, both make excellent pets, but you’ll want to know if a turtle or tortoise is better suited to your needs before you adopt one.

turtles vs tortoises
This hatchling common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) is a turtle species that spends nearly all of its time in the water.

What’s the Difference Between Turtles and Tortoises?

Physical Traits

Upon first glance, turtles and tortoises appear very much the same, mainly because they both have hard shells that allow their body to retreat inside of it. However, when you examine both reptiles closer, you’ll see that their physical characteristics are actually slightly different to reflect their different life styles.

The shells of tortoises tend to be dome-shaped and weigh a fair amount. The shape helps to ward off potential predators. On the other hand, turtle shells are usually flat, smooth, and overall fairly light-weight in proportion to the animal. This is to keep the animal stream-lined for an aquatic or semi-aquatic life style.

A tortoise’s legs are chunky, sturdy and stay bent at the “knee” area to promote walking on land. Conversely, turtles’ legs tend to come straight out from underneath their bodies to support swimming and a more aquatic life style.

peninsula cooter turtle
This Peninsula Cooter (Pseudemys peninsularis) turtle has a flat shell, webbed feet, and claws which suit it to an aquatic life style.

Turtles also have claws or toe nails on their webbed feet, which tortoises tend to lack. And if a tortoise does have toe nails, the nails themselves are worn down and not sharp due to the fact that they spend a lot of time walking on dry land. Some turtles have even adapted to have flippers instead of feet. This is generally only true if the turtle species in question is truly aquatic (i.e. a sea turtle).

Habitat

We’ve already hinted at what is probably the biggest different between turtles and tortoises – their habitats. Turtles tend to live fully aquatic or semi-aquatic lives, whereas tortoises live on land.

While there are some turtles that prefer life on land such as box turtles and there are also some turtles that live in the water nearly 100 percent of the time, such as sea turtles, most turtles will split their time between both land and water.

sri lankan star tortoise hatchling
This Sri Lankan Star Tortoise hatchling (Geochelone elegans) has a dome-shaped shell to protect it from predators on land.

When you create a turtle habitat in captivity, you need to do your research and make sure that you are setting up the proper habitat to support your turtle’s life style. Some need a dry home with a water dish, whereas others will need a tank filled with water with a platform to emerge from the water to bask. It really does depend entirely on the species you choose to keep as a pet.

Turtles vs. Tortoises: Diet and Food

Most tortoises are vegetarian herbivores, but turtles can be carnivores or omnivores. Just like with habitat requirements, dietary requirements vary from turtle species to turtle species because they consume a wide variety of food.

Pet tortoises need to have leafy greens and veggies as their main diet. We give ours kale, collard greens, spinach, and root veggies like carrots. Occasional fruit can be given as treats too. And we should mention that commercial tortoise pellets are also a great option if you worry about your tortoise receiving a fully balanced diet.

adult ornate box turtle
This is an adult Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata). Although it is a turtle, it is a species that is primarily terrestrial.

Feeding a pet turtle is actually really easy. Aquatic turtles tend to like turtle pellets. We supplement pellets with crickets, roaches, and meal worms too. And it’s wise to leave some vegetable matter in the enclosure too so that your turtle has access to it if it chooses.

Reproduction

Both turtles and tortoises lay eggs. Both species dig a hole, lay their eggs, and then cover the eggs. The eggs will incubate for a time and then the hatchlings will dig their way out of the dirt or sand.

The main difference between turtle and tortoise reproduction is in incubation times, which vary from species to species, and in upbringing methods. Turtle hatchlings are essentially on their own from the time they emerge from the egg. Tortoise hatchlings, on the other hand, have some degree of protection from their mother. Some tortoise species will guard their nest, while others simply stick around and babysit the hatchlings for some time.

Conclusion

Ultimately, turtles and tortoises are very similar in build and physical appearance and we would recommend either reptile to anyone interested in a  relatively low maintenance pet.

If you are debating between a pet tortoise or a pet turtle, we recommend going with a tortoise if you want a land-dwelling animal and a turtle if you want to provide an aquatic habitat.

Leopard Lizard Care (Gambelia wislizenii)

Although they might have similar names, leopard lizards are very different from their popular cousin, the leopard gecko. Leopard geckos are very well-known and have very good reputations within the reptile hobbyist world, but we think leopard lizards deserve love too.

In this blog article, we will describe how we care for our leopard lizards and why we think they make good pets.

Leopard Lizard Care

Leopard Lizard Description

Although their coloration varies by location, leopard lizards get their name from the detailed spotted pattern on their backs and tails which resembles that of a leopard. Their dorsal side will be a shade or brown, grey, or tan and the spots will be a dark brown and can also be paired with bar patterns as well. A leopard lizard’s belly will be cream-colored or light beige/tan.

Leopard lizards are somewhat flat animals with long, powerful limbs and long fingers and toes to match. Even their tails are long. In fact, it’s usually true that the tail of a leopard lizard is longer than the length of its head and body combined.

leopard lizard care
Leopard lizards have very long tails, long limbs, and pronounced spots on their backs.

Not taking into consideration the length of the tail, leopard lizards are moderately-sized. Males will be around five inches long from snout to vent. Females will be slightly larger and usually be around seven inches long snout to vent when fully grown

Leopard Lizard Habitat

Leopard lizards are desert-dwelling creatures native to North America and some areas of Mexico. They prefer landscapes that are flat, sandy, and filled with shrubby plant cover. This means that to keep a leopard lizard happy in captivity, you will need to replicate a desert environment.

Even though leopard lizards are not considered large lizards, they are active foragers, rather than ambush predators, which means that they will require a relatively large enclosure. A single, full grown lizard should have a cage that is a minimum of three feet  long, two feet wide, and 28 inches tall.

Because they are energetic, diurnal lizards capable of jumping quite high, we do recommend that your enclosure have a secure screen lid. They are strong and if they have the will to escape and your cage top is not firmly in place, your leopard lizard will get out.

Fun fact: male leopard lizards are not territorial or cannibalistic, so provided all the lizards are of a comparable size, you can actually keep several animals together in the same enclosure. Males shouldn’t fight over females provided there is ample room for them all to exist comfortably.

As far as lighting is concerned, because leopard lizards are diurnal, they need to be provided with a day/night cycle. You should have a full-spectrum UV light on during the day and turn it off at night.

leopard lizard
Leopard lizards are active animals and will require a fairly large cage.

A heat lamp will also be required in order to maintain desert basking temperatures. Ambient temperature should be at least 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The hotter basking area should be around 100 degrees.

Because your leopard lizard’s cage will be on the warm side, be sure to provide some hiding and crawl spaces. In the wild, leopard lizards will hide out when the weather is too extreme and they also use these hiding areas for security purposes to stay away from predators.

Leopard Lizard Feeding

Leopard lizards are powerful and adept hunters. A fair portion of their diet in the wild consists of smaller vertebrates including small lizards. This is why we mentioned that all lizards kept together in captivity must be of comparable size.

Although they mainly subsist on small vertebrates in the wild, in captivity, leopard lizards should be fed mostly insects. Too many feeder lizards, feeder mice, or other types of vertebrate food items will cause health issues. Be sure that you provide a variety of gut-loaded insects such as crickets, meal worms, wax worms, and reptiworms. When it comes to captive diets, variety is key to keeping your leopard lizard healthy.

Leopard Lizard Temperament

Because they have powerful jaws for such a small lizard, we recommend keeping the handling of your leopard lizard to a minimum. Leopard lizards are not overtly aggressive, but they are certainly not afraid to bite if they feel threatened.

Gambelia wislizenii
Leopard lizards are carnivores that seek out prey actively.

Without proper handling on a consistent basis from a young age, leopard lizards are skittish, shy animals. Therefore, we recommend that unless you are willing to work with the animal from the time it is a hatchling, that you leave it to its own devices for the most part.

Conclusion

Leopard lizards don’t have particularly stringent or difficult care requirements, but they are avid carnivores with active temperaments. We recommend them for herp enthusiasts with the room to house them and the time to devote to working with them.

If you are ready to take on a pet leopard lizard of your own. Backwater Reptiles can definitely help you out!

Creating a Chameleon Habitat

If you’re wondering how to create a chameleon habitat for your new pet, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve bred and hatched thousands of chameleons, including over 20 different species. We’ve got expert advice for you as you journey into the fascinating world of these amazing reptiles.

Many people think they’d like a pet chameleon, but they don’t understand how sensitive these lizards are to their environment. Chameleons are actually not the best pet reptiles for beginning herp hobbyists simply because they have very specific husbandry requirements, so it’s important to do your research, which you obviously are if you’re reading this article!

Because one of the most commonly asked questions we get at Backwater Reptiles is how to set up a proper enclosure for a pet chameleon, we are dedicating this blog article to just that topic.

creating a chameleon habitat
Chameleons can be finicky animals, depending upon the species. We recommend you do your research before purchasing one of these amazing lizards so that you can create the right habitat.

Creating a Chameleon Habitat

What type of cage should I get for my chameleon?

Creating a chameleon habitat generally begins with selecting the proper enclosure. There is only one type of commercially produced cage that we recommend for the vast majority of pet chameleons and that’s a cage that has mesh or screen walls.

This means that you should generally avoid enclosures with glass or plastic walls to house most species of chameleon, with the exception of pygmy chameleons and a few others, which have an entirely different set of care requirements altogether.

screen cage for chameleon
This is a very good cage for a small chameleon. Notice that it has screen walls to encourage proper ventilation.

The reason a screen cage is required is that it allows air to flow freely in and out of the cage and aids in maintaining proper humidity and temperature. Glass or plastic walled cages encourage stagnant air which can lead to respiratory problems.

For young chameleons and smaller species, a cage that is 16″ x 16″ x 20″ is an acceptable size. Adults and larger species should have a cage that is approximately 18″ x 18″ x 36″ or  24″ x 24″ x 48″. The bigger the better, but you don’t have to go overboard.

There are very few species that require something larger and we actually wrote an entire article about those specific types of chameleons that you can read here.

What type of accessories are safe to put in my chameleon’s enclosure?

Most chameleons are arboreal (with very few exceptions) and very awkward and clumsy on flat surfaces, so you should put lots of climbing accessories into its cage. We recommend some plants (live or fake will both suffice) and some branches or vines. Exo Terra twistable vines are our favorite.

If you choose to put living plants inside your chameleon’s enclosure, please make sure that the plants you use are non-toxic and safe for consumption by both the chameleon and any insects you feed it.

Here are some commonly used live plants that are safe to place inside your chameleon’s cage: Ficus benajamina, Gardenia, Pothos, Mulberry, Schefflera arboricola, and Yucca. Our favorite live plant for our own chameleon habitats are Scheffleras–they hold water droplets well (as opposed to a Ficus), and have more sturdy branches (again, as opposed to a Ficus).

quadricornis chameleon (Trioceros quadricornis)
With proper husbandry, chameleons can make very rewarding pets. Here’s a young Four-horned chameleon, otherwise known as a “Quad” due to it’s scientific name: Trioceros quadricornis.

Unless you purchase your live plant from a boutique nursery, chances are it will be potted in commercial soil containing some pesticides. We always re-pot our plants in organic soil free from chemicals and rinse the plant in soapy water to wash any residue from the leaves.

Although chameleons rarely nibble on plant matter (although we have had Veiled chameleons eat leaves), the insects that are in their cage do. And what is in the tummies of the insects is by proxy in the tummy of the chameleon, so you want to be sure the plant contains no chemicals or pesticides.

We also want to mention that you don’t need to provide a water dish for your pet chameleon. They actually don’t recognize water dishes as sources of hydration and are also very rarely down on the bottom of their cage, so it is unnecessary.

Your chameleon will drink water from the leaves in its enclosure, so you just need to be sure to have a good drip system in place. We’ll go into more detail on that momentarily.

What type of lighting will my chameleon’s habitat require?

You’ll want two types of lighting in your chameleon’s habitat – a heat/basking light and a good quality UVB light. We prefer halogen flood bulbs for basking, generally in the 75w range. Avoid infra-red bulbs, and never use spot bulbs as the beam is too small and intense. A flood bulb spreads the light and heat much more effectively.

Some say that chameleons don’t require a source of heat, but we disagree, and our results have been impressive. We provide our chams with options and allow the lizard to choose–and you’d be amazed how often our’s will bask–even montane species (from the mountains).

Our favorite ultraviolet (UVB) bulb is a Reptisun 5.0. You can purchase these in Compact Fluorescent or regular fluorescent variations. We’ve exclusively used this type of bulb very successfully in our breeding programs.

Make sure that the plants within the chameleon’s enclosure are arranged so that your chameleon can get to within 4-6 inches of the UVB bulb. Any closer and you risk your chameleon getting burned accidentally, and any farther away and the UVB rays dissipate in quality and become nearly useless.

I tend to place the UVB lighting across the middle of the top, and the basking bulb in a corner, so that the other side of the habitat is cooler. This allows your chameleon to thermoregulate–a fancy word for letting it choose the temperature it wants.

How do I maintain the proper temperature and humidity levels?

For the most part, unless you live somewhere with extreme climates, room temperature should be a fine ambient temperature for your chameleon’s habitat.

Anywhere in the 70’s is usually ideal. However, you definitely want to make sure that the heat light you have set up on top of the cage creates a warmer area that stays around 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

We recommend purchasing a reptile temperature gun to make sure you are achieving proper heat levels within the basking area. This tool is pretty much required for any reptile owner.

chameleon care kit
Backwater Reptiles does in fact sell complete chameleon care kits. You can purchase them at the bottom of any chameleon for sale page.

As far as humidity is concerned, you’ll want to mist the enclosure daily. This can be achieved by manually spraying inside the enclosure once or twice each day. Or if you are not home most of the time, you can also buy a simple drip system that provides a steady source of dripping water into the cage.

Some people even splurge for a pricier automatic cage mister. These machines can be put on timers and you won’t even have to think about needing to mist your chameleon’s cage. Everything will be done automatically which is very convenient.

The best lower cost method is with the Exo Terra Monsoon, which is good for a few cages (4-6 or so). If you’ll have more than 4-6 chameleon habitats set up, you’ll probably want to splurge and purchase a heavier duty misting system such as Mist King, which can take care of 20+ enclosures with a single unit.

The result you’re looking for is droplets for the chameleon to lap-up, and increased humidity with the chameleon’s habitat. Persistent dehydration is one of the top causes of chameleon losses in captivity.

Conclusion – Creating a Chameleon Habitat

As you can see from this article, chameleons have very specific cage requirements. They need specific temperatures, regular misting and/or a source of dripping water, and we recommend two types of lights above their cage.

We think chameleons make extremely rewarding pets, but we also want all of our customers to be informed about what exactly it takes to make such a wonderful lizard happy and healthy in captivity.

If you’re interested in taking a foray into the world of chameleon keeping, and we hope that you are, please visit our website where we have the largest selection of chameleons in the world, along with all the required supplies we’ve mentioned in this care article.