What Are the Largest Pet Snakes?

What are the largest snake species you can legally keep as a pet?

Although the laws vary from state to state, in general the largest species of snake that you can legally own as a pet are: Anacondas, Reticulated Pythons, and Burmese Pythons. Each of these large snakes can make great pets, provided you have the resources to take care of them.


There are two species of anaconda that are kept as pets in the U.S. – the Green Anaconda (Eunectes murinus) and the Yellow Anaconda (Eunectes notaeus). Both hail from South America, however the Green Anaconda does grow to be larger than the Yellow Anaconda.

Both species of anaconda are constrictors and therefore nonvenomous. Due to their enormous size, they are ambush predators. Green anacondas are sluggish and slow-moving on land and therefore prefer to lie in wait in the water with their nose exposed above water. When prey passes nearby or stops to get a drink, the anaconda will strike and begin constricting.

baby green anaconda
Baby Green Anacondas are cute, but they grow very fast. They also require a semi-aquatic habitat.

Because they spend so much time in the water, anacondas usually eat aquatic food. When they are smaller, they’ll eat fish, birds, small mammals and amphibians. As they grow larger, they’ve been known to eat tapirs, deer, capybara, and caiman.

Anacondas have seen a surge in popularity as pets in recent years due largely in part to their appearance in pop culture movies. While the computer generated anacondas of the big screen might seem like scary or monstrous man eaters, in reality, they’re just reptiles who happen to grow to be massive.

As previously mentioned, Yellow Anacondas are smaller than Green Anacondas. Greens can be up to seventeen feet long and weigh over 200 pounds! That’s a whole lot of snake! On the other hand, Yellows max out at around eleven to twelve feet long.

While Backwater Reptiles does sell both Yellow Anacondas and Green Anacondas, we advise that only highly experienced reptile keepers own them for several reasons. Not only do they grow to massive sizes, but they require specialized aquatic habitats. When they are adults, they also need large food items. And finally, we want to stress that neither species of anaconda is known for being particularly docile or even-tempered. Babies can be quite snippy and adults are unpredictable at best.

Reticulated Pythons

For a while, it was illegal to ship or transport Reticulated Pythons across state lines. The ban has since been lifted and Retics (as they are known among reptile enthusiasts) are as popular as ever. It should be noted however, that it is still illegal to ship them to specific states.

While anacondas might be the heaviest and thickest of the snake species commonly kept as pets, Retics are the longest. Maxing out at twenty-three feet long, these pythons are monsters!

reticulated python
Reticulated Pythons are known to be the longest snake species.

Reticulated Pythons are popular with reptile and snake hobbyists because of their gorgeous markings. These snakes got their common name from the unique diamond and lace-like pattern that adorns their scales. Even the snake’s scientific name, Python reticulatus, means “net-like.”

Reticulated Pythons, like their anaconda cousins, are known to be excellent swimmers. However, in captivity they are not as aquatic, although they should still be provided with an area to soak and submerge themselves in water.

Retics are one of the few species of large snake that are known to be “man eaters.” We do want to make it clear that if a captive Retic is well-fed and cared for properly, there should be absolutely no need for a snake to view its owner as food or prey.

Backwater Reptiles does sell Reticulated Pythons, however they are a bit tough to come by, even after the ban has lifted. They come with quite a hefty price tag and again, just like with anacondas, we recommend them for experienced herp owners. They are not beginner snakes.

Burmese Pythons

Burmese Pythons (Python bivittatus) were made very famous when a certain well-known pop star by the name of Britney Spears wore one around her neck during a performance. We’re not claiming that she made them famous first, but she most certainly did bring awareness to the species and perhaps even helped cure some people’s fear of snakes.

burmese python
Britney Spears popularized Burmese Pythons and gave this species a place in pop culture.

Of all the large snake species discussed in this article, we’d say that Burmese Pythons are probably the most docile. Most of the other snakes are not known to have particularly docile dispositions, but Burmese Pythons actually are known to be good companion snakes, even at a very large size.

The average length of a wild Burmese Python is about sixteen and half feet, but in captivity, specimens have been recorded to be twenty-three feet long. In general, females are heavier than males and they can weight upwards of 200 pounds! They can also live longer than twenty years.

Sadly, Burmese Pythons are considered an invasive species in Florida in the Everglades. They are known to eat local mammals and compete with alligators, a species that is native to Florida, for food and resources.

Backwater Reptiles does have Burmese Pythons for sale, but it is illegal to ship them to specific states, so be sure and check with your local Fish and Wildlife Department prior to ordering.


We adore large snake species and we think they can most certainly make excellent pets for people who are experienced, have plenty of space to house them, and are prepared to handle such a massive animal.

Anacondas, Burmese Pythons, and Reticulated Pythons are all amazing snakes and each has its own set of care requirements and personality type. If you are interested in a large pet snake, we cannot stress enough that we recommend doing research and making sure that you can provide a large enough enclosure. These snakes are forever pets, no matter how big they get and they can have long life expectancies. Be prepared to care for your large snake for at least twenty years if not much longer.


What is the Difference Between Leucistic and Albino?

What is the difference between leucistic and albino?

Many people wrongly assume that if they see an all-white version of an animal that it is an albino. However, leucistic animals are also often completely white. Although there are genetic differences that cause each trait, the main visual difference between the two conditions is the color of the eyes of the animal.

leucistic ball python
Pictured is a baby leucistic Ball Python.

What does it mean if an animal is leucistic?

Leucism is a word that describes an animal whose skin, scales, or feathers are white, blotchy, or pale in coloration. This physical characteristic is due to a partial loss of multiple types of pigment which leaves the animal white or pale-looking.

Leucism can affect the entire animal’s body surface or only parts. This means that the animal might have some normal-looking coloration while other parts of it are white or lacking of color. Interestingly enough, there is even a special term for partial leucism. It’s known as “piebald” or “pied.” In the reptile world, this is an especially popular morph in Ball Pythons.

It should be noted that the eyes of leucistic animals appear normal. If you encounter an all white or extremely pale animal with red eyes, it is actually an albino. Read on to learn more about the traits of albinism.

What is albinism?

Although the skin and body of albino animals looks very similar to that of leucistic animals, albinism is genetically very different from leucism. While leucistic animals lack several different types of pigment, albino animals specifically lack melanin.

albino bullfrog
This is an albino bullfrog. It is not completely white, but it is very pale and lacking color. Also take note of its red eyes.

Melanin is a pigment responsible for making skin, hair and the iris of the eye dark. Therefore an animal that is albino and lacks melanin would have no dark tones to its features. This is why albino animals have red eyes unlike their leucistic counterparts.

Because their eyes are red and lacking pigment, many albino animals are sensitive to light. In mammals, this means avoiding sunlight and trying not to get sunburned. In reptiles, this means that they will likely avoid bright lights and hide during the day. This does not mean that they should not be provided with the same UV spectrum lighting that their normal brethren would have.

How can I tell if an animal is leucistic or albino?

First of all, it’s highly unlikely that you will stumble across either kind of animal in the wild. Both genetic mutations don’t particularly benefit reptiles in the wild, therefore encountering them in the wild is rare.

So, odds are that if you find a leucistic or albino reptile in captivity, it will be properly identified for you by a breeder and therefore you won’t have to work too hard to figure it out.

albino hognose snake
This baby Western Hognose Snake is an albino. This can be easily determined by looking at the red color of the snake’s eyes.

But, for the sake of argument, if you did happen to come across a reptile or amphibian that you thought was either leucistic or albino, there is one way that makes it very easy to distinguish between the two. Albino animals have red eyes, whereas leucistic animals do not. So, check the animal’s eyes and you should have your answer – it’s as simple as that.


Leucism and albinism are very similar genetic mutations that cause reptiles and amphibians to appear pale in color or completely devoid of color altogether.

Typically, these mutations are specially bred because reptile and amphibian enthusiasts enjoy the coloration. It’s rare to come across either mutation in the wild.

And lastly, if you are ever trying to determine whether or not you are looking at a leucistic or albino animal, we recommend checking their eyes. Red means that animal is an albino and any other color indicates leucism.

leucistic python
This leucistic Ball Python has blue eyes, distinguishing it from its albino cousins.


What is Reptile Brumation?

What is reptile brumation?

In a nutshell, brumation in reptiles is very similar to hibernation in mammals. Because reptiles are ectothermic and rely on external sources to regulate body temperature, when the weather gets too cold for comfort, they go into a state of reduced activity in order to survive.

Although we hope most reptile owners maintain good temperatures for their pets year round, since it is the time of year when the weather is cold outside, this article will discuss brumation in detail.

In this article, we will address the following questions and how they pertain to the husbandry of our cold-blooded friends:

Do reptiles hibernate?
How long does brumation last?
Should I allow my pet to go into a state of brumation?
What should I do if my pet reptile happens to enter into a state of brumation?

reptile brumation
Some species of reptile, such as Box Turtles, are naturally more inclined to brumate.

Do reptiles hibernate?

Scientifically speaking, hibernation and the very specific behaviors that come along with it only occur in mammals. However, a similar physiological process occurs in reptiles when the weather becomes too cold for them to survive normally and they enter into a state of dormancy.

Most of us know that reptiles are ectothermic, AKA cold-blooded, and therefore cannot maintain a constant body temperature without the help of external sources. This is why you see reptiles basking in the sun in the wild or sitting under a heat lamp in captivity. Their body temperature is dependent upon their surroundings and they absorb the heat accordingly.

When brumation occurs, reptiles will find a safe space to hunker down for the duration of the cold spell. This safe space is referred to as a hibernaculum and is usually a burrow, rock crevice, cave, or beneath leaf litter, although some species can brumate under water.

Brumation is a very strange survival tactic built into reptilian brains the world over. Even reptiles in tropical climates where the weather typically never gets too cold can go into states of drastically reduced activity where they slow down, eat less, and stay in hiding more.

Another way to think of brumation is as a state of suspended animation. We’d compare it to entering into hyper sleep like in a science fiction film, although it’s certainly not as extreme as that. But biological processes including feeding and defecating do cease and the reptile would appear to be in a deep sleep should you ever get the chance to witness an animal who is brumating.

How long does brumation last?

Because brumation is a survival tactic, the duration is largely dependent upon the animal’s immediate surroundings and environment. Colder environments for longer durations means a longer period of brumation.

juvenile iguana
Even reptiles that live in tropical climates can enter into a state of decreased activity during the cooler period of the year.

For the most part, reptiles will brumate during the cold season of the year. In the U.S., this means that brumation occurs during the winter, although this “rule” varies from place to place.

We’d say that at its longest, brumation lasts several months, although this is not a strict rule. Again, brumation time will vary based on the reptile’s environment.

turtle brumation
Aquatic turtles that live in outdoor ponds will typically brumate during the winter.

Should I allow my pet to go into a state of brumation?

In captivity, there is truthfully not much reason for a reptile to enter a state of brumation since we monitor the temperature of their enclosures very closely. Technically speaking, because our beloved pets have heat lamps, basking areas and temperature controlled environments within our homes, your pet reptile should have no need to brumate.

There is one reason some owners decide to create conditions suitable for brumation and that is breeding. Although it’s not true for all species, in general, cold weather triggers the production of sperm in males and prepares females for ovulation once the weather warms up in spring. This means that some breeders will induce brumation with the intent of prompting their reptiles to breed. They are mimicking seasonal triggers in hopes of replicating seasons in the wild and ultimately encouraging a period of breeding.

Breeding in reptiles is not an exact science and some maintain that brumation is not necessary at all. Others feel that a slight drop in temperature for a period of time is enough to give reptiles the seasonal cue that it’s time to breed.

True brumation is also risky to the animal if done improperly. In the wild, many reptiles do not awake from brumation. In captivity, although brumation would be very closely monitored, there are still health risks for the animal.

Ultimately, at Backwater Reptiles, we do not induce brumation in order to get our animals to breed. Our temperatures are kept warm and we allow our animals to do what comes naturally to them. Whether or not you wish to induce brumation for any reason is up to each individual owner or breeder.

What should I do if my pet reptile happens to enter a state of brumation?

We’d like to mention that most pet reptiles kept in enclosures with controlled temperature and lighting should not enter into a state of brumation unless their owner changes their set up.

What can happen in most homes is a natural and subtle change in environmental cues that reptiles can sense. Even in cages with regulated heat and light periods, often times reptiles’ metabolisms will slow down during the cold season of the year. They won’t stop eating or eliminating waste entirely, but it’s not uncommon for them to slow down. Owners will likely notice their pet being more sluggish, eating less, and hiding more. This is all normal behavior and is not considered to be brumation.

If you have a species that is more prone to brumate on its own such as a box turtle, you may need to prepare a proper hibernaculum to keep the animal safe and secure. You will need to closely monitor temperature to make sure it doesn’t drop below bearable levels. Your pet won’t be eating, but you will need to make sure the animal stays hydrated.


Although reptiles do not hibernate, they can enter a state of brumation, which is essentially the reptilian version of hibernation. In the wild, it’s a behavior that helps reptiles survive cold spells.

Because reptiles that are kept as pets in captivity have enclosures with closely monitored temperatures and humidity levels, they typically do not brumate. These animals simply do not encounter environmental conditions that trigger them to enter into a state of brumation.

Although it’s still up for debate whether or not the risks outweigh the benefits, some reptile breeders do induce brumation or at least decrease the temperatures in their animals’ environment. It’s ultimately up to individual owners and breeders whether or not they feel brumation is beneficial for their animal.


Purchasing a Live Animal as a Gift for the Holidays

Giving the gift of a reptile is a sure way to make anyone’s holiday cheerful and definitely one they will always remember. However unlike that blanket you wish to give, you cannot wrap a reptile and leave it under the tree until Christmas Day. How do you make this special moment happen perfectly? We have a few tips on how to purchase or order a Live Animal during the hectic season, before December 25th. Or you can scroll down to the bottom of this article and see how you can get away with giving a live animal in just 1 Step.


If you wish to know how to wrap a Reptile like a present specifically, please refer to our other article linked below.


The Jacksons Family loves the holidays!


1. Preparation


With animals, you can never prepare too much. Depending on the species that you want, be sure you have all the necessities required for that animal from the enclosure, basking spot, UVB light, food, decorations, etc. Some species will require more supplies than others however it’s extremely important you have all of it before ordering, as reptiles need it to survive and keep healthy. Please be keeping in mind that if you order a baby/juvenile animal, it will grow. For example, a baby Iguana will reach up to 6 feet and will need at least a 12x6x6 foot cage once it’s an adult. Also be sure that this live animal can be responsibly taken care of for the rest of its life.

Reptiles Magazine is a great, reliable source to check out what you need or how to care for the species you wish to acquire. You can even print out a care sheet from their website and include it so that the lucky one receiving this gift will know how to care for the animal as well.

You can email us at anytime however at sales@backwaterreptiles.com if you have any further questions on care, behavior, etc. We are always happy to help our customers with their research.



2. Order Early


Now that you have all the animal supplies, it is time to order the animal itself for that special someone. We always recommend ordering earlier than later when it comes to Live Animals especially.

Firstly, during this season, there are many other people also ordering Live Animals like you. Therefore animal stock will be constantly changing depending on the species of course. Some animals are more rare than others and can be sold out very quickly within hours. We unfortunately cannot physically hold animals so please keep this in mind when placing your order.

Secondly, ordering early ensures that we can help right away after arrival on getting your animal adjusted to its new home if need be. Live Animals are unpredictable and we recommend giving them plenty of time to get adjusted into their new home.



3. Safe Arrival


Of course we want the animal to arrive to you as safely as possible. Because we are in the colder season, we always recommend to customers with temperatures below 40F (day & night temps), that they have their package held at a local facility for customer pickup. We do send a reminder email to have your package held at a local facility prior to shipping and how to do it. Our Team is great at packing the animals during the colder months by adding heat packs inside the insulated overnight shipping box.

Rest assured, every animal is only shipped via overnight mail for his or her safety. Having the package held at a local facility greatly reduces the amount of hours that the package is exposed to outside temperatures by being in a temperature-regulated facility and not on a delivery truck. *Be sure to choose a main Hub or Ship Center when selecting a facility for pickup as not all facilities can hold live animals.

We always recommend that customers take the time to pickup the package at a facility, as it’s easier on the animal and worth it for you.


Frog or Chameleon species should always be taken with a bit more precaution during the colder season due to their more sensitive nature.



4. Hiding


You have all your supplies and picked up your animal at the facility a week prior to Christmas. Now where can you hide your well thought out gift?

Of course if your living under the same roof as the person your giving the animal too, it can be quite tricky especially if they are younger kids. One of the best places to hide these critters is in the closet. Whether you have a walk in or sliding door closet, it is best to make a bit of temporary room to store the animal since it’s a quiet, secure, and private. We of course mean to store the animal within its enclosure with all of its requirements such as a basking spot, UVB, etc. and not in a box. The animal should be opened immediately upon delivery from the shipping box and placed in its enclosure. *Do not leave or wrap an animal in the shipping box for Christmas.* Yes, we did just have to mention this.

Animals such as small Frogs or Tarantulas will generally have smaller enclosures and/or with heat pads and therefore can be hidden easier. Just be sure that wherever your creative hide is, that the animal is easily accessible to feed, water, etc. and also is in an open enough area to breathe. You never want to hide an animal where there is not a lot of airflow. Also be sure that you are taking fire safety precautions by not allowing the lights to touch anything flammable.

Although ordering the animal early to hide it for a few days can be a hassle, it is definitely worth it. The animal will be nice and adjusted to its new home by the time it is given.


gift wrapping a reptile



Well there you have it! These are just a few key tips on how to give a reptile this holiday season however if there are any other questions, please do not hesitate to ask us. Please order responsibly.



Want to skip steps 2-4?

Another way to gift a reptile is just to do Step #1: Preparation and then order a Gift Card from our website. This way you can wrap the supplies anyway you like with a Gift Card inside for the receiver to order their new critter whenever they want. Gift Cards are shipped via standard mail. Link below.




Last Days to Order (2018)

Also, the very last day to order an animal from our website is December 20th, Thursday for an arrival on Friday. Feeders are shipped via USPS 2-3 day mail and should be ordered before the 18th for arrival before Christmas. We will not be shipping Monday the 24th. We also will not be in office from the 22nd to the 26th if you email us within that time frame therefore please order early!

What Are the Best Pet Omnivorous Reptiles?

What are the best omnivorous pet reptiles?

In our opinion, the best omnivorous pet reptiles are Blue Tongue Skinks, Green Iguanas, Box Turtles, and Bearded Dragons. In addition to veggies and fruit such as leafy greens, carrots, squash, berries, and bananas, these reptiles commonly consume protein items as well. Typically they eat diets that are a mixture of insects or other meat coupled with plant matter.

Most types of reptiles are primarily either carnivores or vegetarians. But, there are a few species that are omnivores that eat both plants and protein (i.e. meat). Some people prefer one over the other, however we think omnivores are the most versatile. You can go to the store and buy them insect dinners or you can pull your leftover salad greens and other veggies out of the fridge to feed them. In our opinion, this variety and choice of meals makes them ideal pets.

In this article, we’ll discuss the top reptiles that are commonly kept as pets that thrive on omnivorous diets.

Our Top Picks for Best Omnivorous Pet Reptiles

Blue Tongue Skink 

We adore Blue Tongue Skinks at Backwater Reptiles. Their long, think bodies and tiny little arms get to us every time! And they are extremely popular pets to boot. It seems that as quickly as we receive them, they are on their way out the door to their new forever homes.

They are very interactive as well, which is likely a big reason people love them so much. While some can be a bit “hissy,” most are very even-tempered, especially if you get them as a baby.

best omnivorous pet reptiles
Baby Blue Tongue Skinks will eat more protein than adults since they are growing quickly. But all Blueys should be offered vegetables and fruit as well as protein.

There is a bit of debate as to how much protein should be included in a Blue Tongue Skink’s diet. Some owners feel that up to fifty percent should be meat-based products, while others feed their skink primarily a vegetarian diet and supplement with protein once per week or so.

At Backwater Reptiles, we are of the mindset that variety is the most important element in a Blue Tongue’s diet. We feed mostly vegetation and fruit and supplement with vitamins and proteins as needed.

Good sources of protein for Blue Tongue Skinks include: canned super premium cat or dog food, canned insects, mealworms and super worms, hard boiled eggs, cooked lean turkey or beef, and occasionally a thawed pinky mouse. When it comes to giving your lizard anything that comes in a can, we highly recommend reading the label to be sure that there are not any odd seasonings or preservatives that could potentially be harmful to your pet.

When it comes to vegetables, Blue Tongue Skinks are pretty laid back and will typically eat whatever you give them. Good choices include: leafy greens such as collard, kale, and mustard greens, squash, carrots, dandelions, brussel sprouts and peas.

Because fruit is so high in water and natural sugars, it should be fed sparingly. We recommend no more than fifteen percent of your skink’s diet  consist of fruit. Good types of fruit to offer your skink as a treat include: mango, raspberries, strawberries, papaya, cantaloupe, and blueberries.

There are a few menu items that we advise steering clear of. Make sure that if you use canned pet food of any kind that there is no added sodium. No citrus fruits (orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, etc) and avocados are also big no-nos. Iceberg lettuce is also not recommended as it holds little to no nutritional value.

A final word of advice when it comes to Blue Tongue Skink diet – make sure it’s varied so that your skink gets as many different vitamins and minerals as possible. Babies will require more protein to grow than their adult counterparts, so you should also be feeding babies a higher percentage of protein.

Green Iguana

The great thing about Green Iguanas is that they are extremely flexible when it comes to diet. They’ll gladly eat everything from commercially prepared iguana chow to fresh veggies purchased at the supermarket. This means their nutritional requirements are very easily met and they’re also fun at mealtime.

One thing we constantly recommend to iguana owners when it comes to diet is variety. The more varied your iguana’s diet is, the more likely he or she is to be adequately supplied with the appropriate nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

In addition to pre-made iguana food from the pet store, we recommend feeding your iguana mostly vegetables with a small amount of fruit for treats. Protein should be given, but sparingly. In the wild, iguanas are opportunists and will eat animals that are smaller than them that fit in their mouth, however the majority of their diet is still plant-based. So while most pet iggies will gladly eat things such as cooked chicken, canned pet food, and even thawed rodents, we don’t recommend making protein the majority of their calories as it can cause kidney issues and eventually, renal failure.

blue iguana baby
Although we discussed Green Iguanas, this Axanthic Blue Iguana is the same species but with a different coloration. They have the same dietary requirements and care requirements.

Vegetables that are good for iguanas to eat include: collard greens, turnip and dandelion greens, squash, green beans, and kale. There are many other options that are equally nutritious as well. A word of advice – steer clear of iceberg lettuce! Not only is mostly water, it contains very little value nutritionally and will likely leave your iguana feeling hungry and malnourished.

Too much fruit in a Green Iguana’s diet can cause diarrhea, so only about ten percent of what goes into your iguana’s tummy should be fruit. Fruit should be viewed as a treat.

While most fruit is acceptable to feed your iguana, ones that are commonly chosen include: strawberries, blueberries, mango, banana, and small pieces of apple. It’s best to avoid citrus fruits.

Now that you have an idea of the iguana’s diet, we do want to mention that as common as Green Iguanas are as pets, we advise that any potential owner do research and prepare to care for the animal for its entire lifespan of 15 to 20 years. Keep in mind that baby iguanas are a very manageable size, but they grow fast! Mature iggies can be four to five feet long and will therefore need a very large enclosure to thrive. Please make sure that you are willing and able to accommodate the animal’s needs as an adult prior to purchasing it as a baby.

Box Turtles

Box Turtle babies and adults have different dietary needs. Babies will need a lot more protein in order to grow up strong and healthy, whereas adults require only about forty percent meat in their diet. Keep in mind that this ratio varies between Box Turtle species and is not a hard and fast rule. It’s more of a guideline that can be altered based on the specific needs of your particular turtle.

Baby Box Turtles eat protein in the form of insects such as small crickets, roaches, and various worms. The protein in the diet of an adult Box Turtle is much the same, although the size of the insects will be larger. They sometimes also eat canned dog or cat food provided that it has no added sodium or preservatives. We recommend inspecting the label carefully prior to offering any kind of commercial pet food not specifically designed for turtles.

Appropriate veggies for Box Turtles include dark leafy greens, carrots, squash, green beans, and cactus pads. Fruit such as berries and other soft, manageable fruit is also a nice treat, but make sure to give it in moderation to avoid inadvertently giving your turtle loose stool. Again, avoid iceberg lettuce since it’s not nutritious.

There are also many types of pre-made, commercial turtle foods and pellets on the market. These are typically easily purchased from any pet store and can be used in addition to a varied, fresh diet of both protein and veggies.

Although Box Turtles are relatively low maintenance and make great pets for children and families, we do want to make sure that potential owners are aware that they need full-spectrum UV lighting, which means UVB light is necessary. We also recommend regular vitamin dusting of their food to allow for proper utilization of the vitamins and to make sure that their shells, nails, and limbs are able to stay healthy.

Bearded Dragons

Bearded Dragons are hands down one of the most popular pet reptiles out there. While we believe this is mainly because they have such stellar personalities and are pretty simple to care for, it’s likely also due to the fact that they have an omnivorous diet.

Like all the other omnivorous reptiles on this list, Beardies commonly consume insects such as crickets, Dubia roaches, and meal worms on a regular basis. They are most definitely not known to be picky eaters and if it squirms, they’ll likely try to eat it!

While Beardies do eat vegetation, we’ve found that it’s more common that they want to fill up on protein and eat veggies secondarily. Sounds like how a lot of children tend to eat!

baby bearded dragons
Baby Bearded Dragons are pretty much always hungry and will eat many different types of insects and veggies.

At Backwater Reptiles, we chop up dark leafy greens, squash, grapes, green beans and other nutritionally dense veggies into small pieces and leave them in a dish in the Beardie’s enclosure on a daily basis. Any uneaten veggies are removed that evening or the following morning.

Because Bearded Dragons can get overweight if you allow them, we monitor them closely when we feed them insects. Usually, we toss a few insects into the cage at a time and allow the Beardie to catch and eat them for a period of about fifteen minutes each day. We also dust the insects with vitamins prior to putting them in the cage.

When it comes to Bearded Dragon health, we would like to mention that if you do line your Beardie’s cage with sand as a substrate that you should probably feed them in a different location. This is because scurrying insects that are being snatched up off of sand could easily bring sand along with them into the Bearded Dragon’s digestive system. If your Beardie eats enough sand over any given period of time, it could become impacted and require a trip to the vet.


Diet is a huge factor to take into consideration when choosing a pet reptile. If you choose a carnivore, insects or rodents will need to purchased on a regular basis and if you choose an herbivore, veggies and fruit will need to be readily available in your refrigerator. Omnivores, such as the ones discussed in this article, are great because they allow for feeding versatility.

Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to own an omnivorous reptile is up to you, but we think that these particular omnivores have a lot to offer and would recommend them as pets for herp enthusiasts experienced and new to the hobby.

Captive Bred or Wild Caught? Which is Better?

Reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates that are kept as pets or display animals are actually not considered domestic animals. Cats and dogs have been bred for generations to select for specific traits that make them more appealing as companion animals to human beings, but the same is most certainly not true for our scaley friends.

Did you know that many species of reptile, amphibian, and invertebrate are actually caught in their native homes and then brought into captivity to be our pets? While this is most certainly  not the case for all exotic pets, it is a truth that not everyone is aware of.

In this article, we will discuss wild caught versus captive bred animals and what that ultimately means for us as pet owners.

captive bred baby bearded dragons
Many species such as Bearded Dragons, Corn Snakes, and Leopard Geckos breed easily in captivity.

Which Should I Choose? A Captive Bred Animal or a Wild Caught One?

Benefits of Captive Breeding

Many people prefer captive bred reptiles because they tend to have cleaner bills of health overall. Because they were born into sanitary conditions with parents who were likely well cared for, the babies are usually very sturdy and hardy. Their parents were fed well, their enclosures were cleaned regularly, and they were also free of parasites encountered in the wild. This means that these benefits will be passed on to the offspring.

It’s also true that babies who are used to captive conditions will continue to thrive in them. It’s much easier to train a baby snake that was born in captivity to accept frozen/thawed mice than to capture a snake from the wild and teach it to accept non-living prey. In other words, captive bred babies are typically proven, non-picky feeders.

Another benefit to adopting a captive bred animal is that it is likely to be more tame. Although we’ve already mentioned that reptiles and exotic pets in general are not considered domestic and therefore can’t be labelled as truly “tame,” they can most certainly be more accustomed to people, being handled, and the every day normal operations that come with being someone’s pet. In other words, we’ve found that captive bred animals are usually more docile and have better temperaments than their wild caught counter parts.

Captive breeding programs also allow for an immense variety of markings and colorations within a single species. This is why the number of morphs of Leopard Geckos and Corn Snakes is seemingly endless, although there are certainly quite a few other species with just as many morphs and morph combination possibilities. While this might seem superficial, many reptile collectors and hobbyists enjoy the color and pattern diversity.

Finally, many owners choose captive bred animals  because they can raise their pet from infancy. This enables them to know their pet’s age more accurately and also to enjoy the animal for the duration of its entire life. With wild caught animals, this is simply not possible since most are captured as juveniles or adults.

gravid chameleon
Panther Chameleons reproduce well in captivity. Pictured is a gravid female. They turn a pronounced peach or orange color once they are carrying eggs.

Downsides of Captive Breeding

One possible downside of captive breeding is the potential for the animals to be “mass produced,” so to speak. We’ve never personally witnessed this on a first hand basis (thankfully!), but since it does happen with designer dogs and cats, there is a chance that it could happen with our scaley friends as well.

We hope that all breeders who have success treat their animals with respect and dignity and not simply as a business venture. They are living creatures after all.

Sadly, with any breeding project, there is also a risk of inbreeding and birth defects. Again, this is rare occurrence and it would take several generations for the effects to show, but it could happen.

The best way to avoid these two potential pitfalls is simply to research where your pet is coming from. We recommend buying from a reputable breeder who has plenty of experience or else viewing the animal in person prior to purchasing.

albino hognose snake baby
Captive breeding efforts allow for different morphs within a single species. Pictured is an albino Western Hognose Snake.

Benefits of Keeping Wild Caught Animals

Although it might seem unethical to some to capture animals from the wild, the truth is that many of the less common species that are available to keep as pets are not always available through captive breeding programs. What this means is that if someone wants a rare species of reptile or amphibian, it will likely only be available as wild caught and will probably come with a higher price point as well.

You might be wondering, well, why can’t some species be captive bred? Sometimes the species has very specific requirements for breeding and reproducing that only the most elaborate habitats can replicate. Other times, we might not have enough information on a given species’ reproductive habits in order to successfully breed them in captivity on a larger scale.

Another benefit to keeping wild caught animals is that it allows breeders to focus on conservation efforts. For instance, Parson’s Chameleons are a highly regulated species to import into the U.S. However, Backwater Reptiles actually had several clutches of both baby Yellow-Lipped and Orange-Eye Parson’s Chameleons born in captivity in the last two years and we were able to avoid importing wild-caught animals with potential health issues such as malnourishment or internal parasites.

baby yellow lip parsons chameleon
Pictured is one of the captive bred baby Yellow Lipped Parson’s Chameleons that was born at the Backwater Reptiles facility.

Downsides of Keeping Wild Caught Animals

Probably the most obvious downside to keeping a wild caught reptile as a pet is the possibility that the animal might not be as healthy as a captive bred one. Rarer species that are typically wild caught can have internal parasites and other bacterially-borne illnesses. While these can be treated with Panacure or antibiotics, it often requires a quarantine period and special precautions must be taken in order to ensure that the animal does not spread illness to any other animals an owner might have in their home. Let’s face it – most herp owners don’t have just one pet reptile!

Another side effect of the wild caught pet trade is the possibility that it could unintentionally promote the capture of species that are strictly regulated for import or capture. While Backwater Reptiles steers clear of illegally captured animals, there are reports in the news of animals being confiscated at airports and even being stolen from nature preserves simply to be sold on the black market. This is obviously not an issue with captive bred animals.

Finally, many herp owners prefer captive bred pets over wild caught ones because they know the exact age and health conditions of their animal. This is just not possible if an animal has been wild caught. While this might not seem significant at first glance, for owners who want to keep their pet for the full duration of its life (from hatchling to mature adult), it can make all the difference.

captive bred crested gecko
Crested Geckos like the one pictured are another species that are readily able to reproduce in captivity.

What Did We Learn?

Ultimately, it is all a matter of personal judgment whether you are most comfortable purchasing a captive bred or wild caught pet.

We understand that certain species such as Ball Pythons, Leopard Geckos, Corn Snakes, and Bearded Dragons breed readily in captivity and are hardly ever sold as wild-caught animals anymore. On the other hand, many experienced herp enthusiasts are after more exotic species that don’t reproduce as readily in captivity. Therefore, a wild caught specimen is likely the only option and therefore the best one.

We aren’t intending to make the choice for you — we simply want to present you with the pros and cons of each option and allow you to make the decision that suits your needs best.

Do Leopard Geckos Need UV Light?

Do Leopard Geckos Need UV Lighting?

Reptiles are pretty much little solar powered creatures. Did you know that many species even require full spectrum ultraviolet lighting in order to thrive in captivity? However, this is not the case for all species as different animals have different health requirements.

Leopard Geckos, one of the most popular lizards kept as pets, actually do not require special UV lighting in order to be healthy! That makes one less thing that owners need to worry about.

In this short and simple blog article, we’ll answer the following questions:

-What exactly is UV light?
-Why do some pet reptiles need it to be healthy?
-Why don’t Leopard Geckos need UV light?
-Where can I find more information on caring for my own pet Leopard Gecko?

do leopard geckos need uvb lighting
Do Leopard Geckos require UVB lighting in captivity? Read this article to find out!

Commonly Asked Questions About Leopard Geckos and UV Lighting

What exactly is UV light? Why do some pet reptiles need it to be healthy?

The sun’s natural rays are composed of several different types. The types that are particularly important to reptilian health are UVA and UVB rays. Rather than launch into a scientific explanation of the many different types, we are just going to focus on UVA and UVB rays. Some reptiles need both types while some only need one type.

UVA rays are visible light rays, meaning that they can be seen and sensed. These rays are important to reptilian vision. In fact, some species of reptile can even see in more color variety than humans can! This is essential when it comes to detecting prey or finding a mate in the wild.

UVA lighting is also very important in helping reptiles set their internal clocks. Whether or not light is present helps them regulate their temperature, know when to sleep or be awake, go through breeding and shedding cycles, and even know what season of the year it is.

UVB rays are important to many reptiles because they stimulate reptiles’ immune systems and promote healthy bone growth. UVB rays help reptiles synthesize vitamin D3 which in turn makes sure that their bones do not grow warped due to being too soft. This is particularly important to developing jawbones and limbs.

There are many types of UV lights available when it comes to fulfilling your reptile’s needs. There are UVA lamps, UVB lights, and full-spectrum lights as well. What type of bulb(s) you will need for your pet reptile will vary based on the species. We recommend that you do your research thoroughly prior to purchasing any reptile so that you can be sure you are fulfilling its needs.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, it’s impossible to exactly duplicate the composition of the sun’s rays when creating a reptile’s habitat. We have to do our best to mimic and provide supplementation when necessary. The exception to this is if you create an outdoor home for your herp. Then, of course your pet will be getting natural sunlight!

super giant albino leopard gecko
Even albino Leopard Geckos which are known for light sensitivity will not be harmed if you choose to add a UVB light to their set up.

Why don’t Leopard Geckos need UV light?

Leopard Geckos are now known to be crepuscular rather than strictly nocturnal. This means that they are able to monitor and regulate the amount of time spent in sunlight and therefore their exposure to UVB rays in the wild. They are very sensitive to night and day cycles and should be provided with a light that simulates natural day and night hours regardless of what exact type of rays it emits. We recommend investing in a timer that you can schedule according to the season – more “daylight” hours in summer time and fewer in winter time.

If leopard geckos don’t need much or any UVB, how do they synthesize vitamin D3 in captivity and maintain healthy bones, skin, and immune systems? Well, many owners use a vitamin D3 supplement on their gecko’s food specifically to avoid any issues that could occur from lack of vitamin D3 such as metabolic bone disease.

If you are concerned about your gecko getting enough vitamin D3, you can always invest in a full-spectrum or UVB bulb just to cover all of your bases. However, if you go this route, we do recommend that you make sure there are plenty of places within the enclosure for your pet Leopard Gecko to hide. This will ensure that it does not feel overly stressed by the lighting and that it can always decompress if it so chooses. Remember, reptiles are all about self-regulating their temperature and body needs, so the more options you can provide, the better.

Bottom line: many breeders do not use a special UVB bulb and their animals thrive with D3 supplementation. While it is not a strict necessity to provide UVB lighting, we’re finding that many owners are now preferring to provide it simply due to the amount of debate surrounding the subject.

Where can I find more information on caring for my own pet Leopard Gecko?

There is so much information out there on caring for Leopard Geckos! In fact, it’s almost overwhelming. A simple Google search will provide tons of care sheets, tips, recommendations, and forums for discussing the husbandry requirements of these amazing little lizards.

What is our personal recommendation on where to find a reliable care sheet? We advise that you check out our Leopard Gecko care sheet that is written based upon our years of experience breeding and housing these adorable creatures.

adult leopard gecko
Ultimately, it is a personal choice whether you choose to use UVB lighting or supplements to fulfill your Leopard Gecko’s needs.


So, what did we learn?

Essentially, there is much debate surrounding the topic of whether or not Leopard Geckos do better in captivity if you provide them with special UVB lighting.

We have found that they do not require it to thrive, however we recommend that reptile owners make the choice on their own whether they prefer to provide supplemented vitamin D3 or a specific light where the gecko can bask.

Ultimately, what’s most important is that you keep a close eye on your gecko and watch for any signs of poor health including lack of interest in food and water, lethargy, or odd mobility habits. If you notice any of these signs, we’d advise trying out some changes in your gecko’s habitat, including the method through which your gecko absorbs vitamin D3.

Most Popular Pet Scorpions

What are the most popular pet scorpions?

Are you in the market for a pet scorpion but you’re unsure what species would be the best fit for you and your family? The good news is Backwater Reptiles is here to help! We ship all kinds of scorpions all over the world to everyone ranging from people who want to keep them as personal pets to zoos and universities that place them into collections or exhibits for educational purposes.

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the number of choices on the market at pet stores and breeders, then this is the blog article for you. In this article, we’ll discuss our top four most popular scorpions and how to best care for them. Luckily, no matter which scorpion you ultimately choose, they’re all really low maintenance pets with simple care requirements.

So, without further ado, we give you……

Backwater Reptiles’ most popular scorpions

scorpion cage set up
A scorpion cage is a relatively simple enclosure to set up. These invertebrates don’t require much to thrive, which is part of the reason why they make such great pets.

Emperor Scorpion (Pandinus imperator)

Emperor Scorpions are probably our top-selling scorpion species at Backwater Reptiles. However, due to supply and demand, we do not always have them available so we often recommend their close cousins, the Dictator Scorpion or the Asian Forest Scorpion, when we run out.

This species of scorpion is one of the largest in the world and maxes out at around six to eight inches in length. They are also quite heavy-bodied with stocky, thick torsos and limbs and broad pincher claws. They are a very dark brown or black in coloration and the tips of their extremities can be a bit lighter in tone.

The average life span for such a large invertebrate species when kept in captivity is typically ten years, give or take. We advise that potential scorpion owners keep that in mind when purchasing.

Despite their large size, Emperor Scorpions actually don’t need a whole lot of space to thrive. A ten gallon tank will suffice for a full-grown adult or two, although if you plan to keep more together communally, we do recommend a bigger enclosure to prevent competition for resources and mates.

Unlike pet reptiles, scorpions do not like UV rays, therefore a UV lamp is not only not necessary, but impractical as well. On the other hand, a heat mat should be kept under the tank where it can provide a warm place for the scorpion to retire to. Ambient cage temperatures should be in the eighties during the day with only a slight drop in temperature at night time since Emperors are a tropical species.

Although we mentioned that Emperor Scorpions do not need UV lighting, they are a species that glow under a black light. This is a really neat trick that children will love to see, so we recommend investing in a black light if you plan to make your scorpion a family or class room pet.

Make sure that your Emperor Scorpion’s tank has an appropriate substrate. This is a species that can burrow, although they do not always exhibit this behavior. They are shy creatures though, so in addition to the substrate a few hide spots are essential additions to your scorpion’s enclosure.

Like all scorpions, Emperors are carnivores. In captivity, they thrive on a diet of crickets, roaches, mealworms, and occasional wax worm treats. A single adult scorpion should be eating three to four insects per week, typically offered individually at night time when the scorpion will be most active.

One of the main reasons that Emperor Scorpions make such popular pets is that they are one of the more docile species of scorpion. They are very hesitant to sting and their venom is considered mild to those without allergies. However, despite their “cheery” dispositions, we do recommend that the inexperienced handle scorpions with gloves and exercise extreme caution. Learn to read your scorpion’s body language when it’s being handled before exposing yourself or anyone else’s open skin to the animal.

If you are interested in purchasing your very own Emperor Scorpion, Backwater Reptiles has them for sale here.

Asian Forest Scorpion (Heterometrus longimanus)

Asian Forest Scorpions are extremely similar in appearance to Emperor Scorpions. In fact, to the inexperienced, the two are nearly indistinguishable until maturity at which point Emperors surpass Asian Forest Scorpions in terms of size.

As mentioned, Asian Forest Scorpions are very similar in appearance to Emperor Scorpions. They have very dark brown or black exoskeletons with lighter tips of their extremities. They are also stocky and thick-bodied. However, Asian Forest Scorpions rarely surpass five to six inches in length.

scorpion under black light
Nearly all species of scorpion glow under black light. Check out this photo of an Asian Forest Scorpion underneath a black light!

This species is probably one of the easiest kinds of scorpions to care for and they also breed easily in captivity. This means that you can acquire a gravid female of your own and watch her abdomen swell with babies and then care for those babies once they’re born! Or, alternatively, it is also fun to do breeding projects of your own once you are proficient in the care of the adults.

One thing that many people enjoy about Asian Forest Scorpions is their appetite. These scorpions rarely refuse a meal and certainly enjoy mealtime! Like all scorpions, they eat appropriately-sized insects.

Did you know that if you feed them well and make sure that all the scorpions are of a similar size, you can actually house Asian Forest Scorpions communally? They are semi-social and will typically get along fine provided they have enough space and are not competing for resources.

If you are interested in obtaining a pet Asian Forest Scorpion of your own, you can purchase a baby, adult, or even gravid/pregnant female from Backwater Reptiles here.

Desert Hairy Scorpion (Hadrurus arizonensis)

The Desert Hairy Scorpion is known for being the largest scorpion species native to North America. It gets its common name from the fact that it is typically found in desert climates and also because of the many sensitive hairs that adorn its exoskeleton and help it detect vibration in order to locate prey or avoid larger predatory animals.

Unlike the other scorpions on this list, the Desert Hairy has a pale yellow or straw-colored exoskeleton with dark brown to black accents on its back and head. It is also lankier and leaner than its darker-bodied brethren with thinner appendages and pinchers.

We’d like all potential Desert Hairy Scorpion owners to know that this species can actually be a bit more aggressive than the others on this list. In fact, they are typically more timid and flighty and are overall a bit more unpredictable as far as temperament is concerned. Although this scorpion’s sting is not highly venomous, it can be painful, therefore we recommend that only those with intermediate to expert levels of experience handling scorpions and other venomous invertebrates take on a Desert Hairy Scorpion. These are best kept as a display pet, not an interactive one.

In the wild, Desert Hairy Scorpions are known for eating locusts and other smaller species of scorpion. In captivity, they will do well eating crickets and other appropriately sized insects. Typically they should be fed a few times per week as adults and daily as babies. Aside from being fed and making sure they have a small source of water, they should require relatively little maintenance.

Desert Hairy Scorpions are aggressive towards one another and territorial. This means that unfortunately, unless you are attempting to breed, they should be housed individually. Humidity levels in their enclosure should be around 55 percent and the temperature should stay between 75 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you are ready for the responsibility, Backwater Reptiles has lovely Desert Hairy Scorpions for sale here.

Dictator Scorpion (Pandinus dictator)

The Dictator Scorpion is famous for being quite possibly the largest scorpion species on the planet! They can reach lengths of eight inches and beyond!

Dictators are very closely related to Emperor Scorpions and very much resemble them in terms of appearance. Both species are hefty-bodied with large pinchers and limbs and are sturdy and solid overall in appearance. The main difference between these two species is that Dictators surpass Emperors in terms of size.

Unfortunately, even though we have ongoing efforts to breed this species of scorpion, they are still considered a rarity in the scorpion enthusiast world. They are quite hard to come by! So, although it’s true that many people might not own a pet Dictator Scorpion, we have included them on our most popular pet scorpions list because they sell out as quickly as we obtain them. We never manage to keep these beauties in stock for very long and we feel this makes them one of our top species.

pandinus dictator baby
This baby Dictator Scorpion will grow into the largest species of scorpion in the world!

Dictator Scorpions have very similar care requirements to Emperor Scorpions with a few exceptions. In fact, we’ve actually written an entire separate blog article dedicated to the husbandry of this rare species, which you can read here.

If you are interested in obtaining one of these lovely, large scorpions for your own collection, Backwater Reptiles does have them for sale here.


We hope you enjoyed reading about our most popular selection of pet scorpions. We think there is something unique, fascinating, and worthwhile about each and every scorpion species, however the ones in this article are the ones that people seem to gravitate towards.

We highly recommend doing your research and making sure that a pet scorpion is right for you and/or your family prior to purchasing. While they are striking, scorpions can live anywhere from five to ten plus years depending on the species! So, while most (if not all) species are incredibly low maintenance pets, they will stick around for quite a long time.

Just in case you want to check out how the scorpions at the Backwater Reptiles facility are kept happy and healthy, feel free to watch the video below. In it, we go into detail about what should be included in a typical scorpion cage set up.

What’s your favorite species of scorpion? Tell us in the comments!

Common Pet Reptile Illnesses

Dealing with illness in your pet reptile

Unfortunately, sometimes part of owning a pet of any type, whether it’s a scaly companion or a furry friend, can be dealing with illness. Just like human beings, our pets can become sick or exhibit symptoms of the onset of an illness and it’s not always anyone’s fault.

Luckily for reptile owners, veterinary medicine is still evolving to accommodate more and more reptilian patients. This means that should your pet become seriously ill, a professional diagnosis and treatment are not too hard to come by.

While the Backwater Reptiles team  has no veterinary training, we do handle reptiles on a daily basis and we have been working with them, handling them, feeding them, and yes, even treating their illnesses for many years. In fact, many of the Backwater Reptiles staff have been keeping pet reptiles since childhood.

In this article, we’ve combined the knowledge of our staff in order to address and discuss some of the most common reptile ailments that a reptile owner might encounter. Again, please bear in mind that any treatments or recommendations listed in this article are suggestions and should not take the place of the diagnosis and/or treatment from a licensed veterinarian or herpetologist.

common reptile illnesses
A very good way to avoid illness in your pet reptile is to keep its enclosure clean. This is especially important in aquatic or semi-aquatic species such as turtles.

What are the most common reptile illnesses and ailments in captivity?

Mouth Rot

Mouth rot is a very common ailment that is also known as oral inflammation and infectious stomatitis. This is a condition that you can clearly see and often times diagnose at home that affects snakes, lizards, turtles, and even tortoises.

Mouth rot occurs when a reptile’s immune system is unable to maintain the natural balance of bacteria that normally occur within its mouth. This can be caused by any number of factors but usually always involves a catalyst that stresses the reptile and its immune system to the point of being unable to function properly. Examples of such situations could be: improper temperature or humidity fluctuations or gradients within the animal’s enclosure, improper or poor diet, or oral injuries caused by snout rub against the cage walls or other surface, injury to the mouth by live prey, or even chewing on substrate/bedding.

The main symptom of mouth rot includes red, swollen, or otherwise irritated oral tissue. However, if left untreated, the inflamed mouth tissue can become black and necrotic or even start leaking pus. Another prominent symptom is a loss of appetite for obvious reasons.

Treatment for mouth rot varies, but if you catch it early, you can generally correct it without too much fuss. You can treat at home for minor symptoms by putting antibiotic ointments on the affected area and making necessary adjustments in your reptile’s enclosure that caused the infection in the first place.

For more severe cases, you will likely need to get a vet involved and have the mouth rinsed and treated with antiseptic liquid and further treated with ointment. Surgery might even be necessary in particularly bad cases.

Prognosis with mouth rot varies and is best viewed on a case by case basis.


It is known as acariasis when a reptile becomes infected with the external parasites known as mites. While there are numerous species of mite that your reptile might encounter, they are all tiny invertebrate parasites that suck blood.

The symptoms of mites not be all that obvious to you at first if the infestation is a small one. You’ll probably most certainly see the mites first thing though. They tend to look like little black or red specks that hang out around your pet’s eyes or scale crevices.

Mites in and of themselves aren’t too dangerous or threatening to your pet’s health if treated promptly. The main cause for concern should be where and how your reptile got the mites since it’s very easy for them to spread from species to species, particularly if you house all your reptiles in a shared space or room.

reptile mites
Not all reptile mites appear as the ones in this stock photo. Different mites attack different species. Please be aware that this is not a photo of an animal from the Backwater Reptiles facility. It is simply a photo used to help demonstrate what mites can look like and where they might congregate.

While poor husbandry can be the cause of a mite infestation, that is not always the case. Many animals that are imported (i.e. wild caught and not captive bred) are bound to have a few mites as this is a very common occurrence in the wild. The problem occurs when the mites migrate to other reptiles in your home or when the animal becomes confined to its captive enclosure and the mites have a smaller space to multiply. It is at this point that your reptile might develop second hand symptoms from the mites such as a compromised immune system or dehydration.

Mites can be treated first and foremost with isolation or quarantine. The first thing you will want to do as a responsible reptile owner is to separate the infected animal from any others you might have in your home.

Next you will want to clean the infected animal’s enclosure thoroughly by tossing out substrate, soaking/washing all cage accessories in a hot soapy water mixture, and wiping down the interior of the cage.

You will treat your animal with a veterinarian approved mite solution. While there are over the counter solutions sold in many pet stores, we highly recommend checking with your local vet to make sure that the treatment you are choosing is both safe and effective. Never use flea, mite, or tick sprays made for mammals without your vet’s express consent as these often contain ingredients that are more harmful to the reptile than to the mites.

Luckily, if treated accordingly, mites are a fairly common ailment that can be cured with some effort.

Metabolic Bone Disease 

Metabolic bone disease is a serious issue in reptiles that is characterized by an improper balance of calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin D. It primarily affects reptiles that are insectivores and is typically not seen in snakes since most species eat rodents which provide complete and adequate nutrition.

Symptoms of metabolic bone disease, or MBD as it is commonly known amongst herp enthusiasts, include: limping, bowed limbs, hard lumps along the legs, spinal column, or jaw, softening and unusual flexibility of the lower jaw, difficulty raising the body off the ground, and a marked decrease in appetite. If calcium levels fall too low, extreme lethargy, tremors, and depression can result in death.

The most common cause of MBD is an imbalanced diet. We highly recommend that all reptile owners check to see what vitamins their pet requires in captivity and that insects are dusted accordingly.

MBD in turtles, tortoises, and some lizard species can also be caused by inadequate exposure to UVB rays. Many types of reptiles need UVB light in order to properly metabolize calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin D, so make sure that your UV light bulbs are changed at least every six months and that your pet has adequate time and space to bask in these rays daily. Many reptile owners will also take their pets outside to get natural UVB rays from the sun.

The good news is that if MBD is caught right away and treated immediately, it can usually be corrected. If the disease is allowed to progress too far without treatment however, sadly, often times the ailing animal is unable to pull through.

rescued red iguana
A proper diet is essential to your pet reptile’s health. Not all species eat the same foods and with many species, such as Green Iguanas, variety is key. This rescued Red Iguana is getting some exercise outside her enclosure along with some tasty treats.


Obesity is much the same monster in reptiles as it is in humans. Typically, it most commonly affects amphibians. However, there are certain reptile species with hefty appetites that are predisposed to obesity.

Species of reptile that are more commonly treated for obesity include: Blue Tongue Skinks, Bearded Dragons, certain species of monitor lizard, and Tegus.

As you might have guessed, the primary cause of obesity in reptiles is overfeeding. Many reptiles are so eager to eat that they don’t stop when their tummies are full. This obviously results in an overweight animal.

The treatment for obesity is fairly simple once the problem is recognized. Usually, all it takes is some portioned meals and maybe some exercise if you have a species of reptile that can be taken out of the cage for some activity.

Respiratory Infections

The main respiratory infection that is commonly seen in captivity is pneumonia. This disease and most other respiratory issues that a reptile could potentially battle are caused by a bacterial infection.

Depending in the illness or bacterial infection in question, your reptile could potentially exhibit any number of symptoms. The most common symptoms of respiratory infection are: difficulty breathing which can sometimes be hard to notice at first, keeping the mouth held open while breathing, unusual wheezes, crackles, or other sounds while breathing, and any kind of discharge from the mouth and/or nose that could appear clear, white, brown, or even green in color. Symptoms as the illness progresses might include lethargy, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

Although this is not always the case, typically respiratory infections in reptiles are caused by unsanitary conditions in the reptile’s environment. Occasionally, they can be caused by an environment that is too moist and does not maintain proper temperature gradients.

Because the exact cause of respiratory infections can be difficult to diagnose, we do recommend seeking professional veterinary help should you notice that your pet reptile is exhibiting unusual symptoms and/or having difficulty breathing. Your vet will be able to properly diagnose your pet’s illness and issue antibiotic treatment accordingly.

toffee hognose snake
In order to keep your pet reptile healthy and illness-free, we highly recommend making sure that your reptile’s enclosure contains the proper substrate and accessories. A clean cage suited to the needs of your specific pet is one of the best ways to avoid illness.


While we sincerely hope that you never have to deal with a sick pet reptile, it can happen. Our goal with this post is to help identify and perhaps trouble shoot potential issues you might encounter.

Please keep in mind that while Backwater Reptiles has helped rehabilitate sick animals that have been brought to us as rescues, we do not always recommend home treatment. Veterinary care is always the safest option when you notice any symptoms of illness in your pet.

Green Anoles as First Time Pet Lizards

Anyone who takes up a hobby or learns a new activity has to begin somewhere, right? Where might that “somewhere” be for reptile enthusiasts and collectors? For many of us, including a good number of the Backwater Reptiles team, the jumping off point was the common Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis).

We often recommend Green Anoles to parents who are looking for a simple pet with relatively easy care requirements. They are excellent pet lizards for young children.

In this article, we’ll touch upon many of the reasons why we feel that Green Anoles are such excellent starter reptiles. We’ll also dive into their care requirements so that anyone interested in owning their first Green Anole will know what to expect.

green anole beginner reptile
Green Anoles are excellent starter reptiles. We highly recommend them for beginners and young children looking to take care of their first pet reptile.

Why Green Anoles?

Because Green Anoles are so common, they are often overlooked by many reptile enthusiasts. However, Green Anoles are vibrant little lizards with bright green coloration. Males also have dewlaps that are pinkish in color, making them aesthetically pleasing pets. We’re also quite fond of their long, skinny body shape and large, triangular heads.

As we’ve already established, it’s not hard to come by Green Anoles. They are sold at virtually all large retail pet stores as well as small, independently owned pet stores. It’s also pretty much unheard of for a Green Anole to carry a price tag that is more than ten dollars.

We also feel comfortable recommending Green Anoles to first time reptile owners because of their small size. Mature male Green Anoles typically don’t get longer than eight inches and females usually max out around five or six inches long. Half of that length is the lizard’s tail, so these are most certainly pets that stay a manageable size.

Manageable size means manageable cage size as well. Green Anoles don’t need a forty gallon tank to call home. Enclosures of a modest size are the way to go when keeping a single anole – just be sure that your anole also has all the other requirements for staying healthy. Don’t worry if you’re note sure what that entails. We’ll discuss caring for your Green Anole in the next section of this article.

Green Anoles are a species with pretty simple care requirements, however many of those care requirements will hold true for other species of reptile as well. This means that first time Green Anole owners can learn the basics of what reptiles need in captivity simply by caring for their first tiny pet lizard. We’re also of the opinion that it’s a great way for kids to learn about the responsibilities of pet ownership, even if their pet is not a typical furry companion.

anolis carolinensis
Green Anoles stay relatively small at maturity. Adults will typically be between five to eight inches in length.

Caring for Your Pet Green Anole

Green Anole Size and Life Span

We’ve already established that Green Anoles stay small and don’t get longer than eight inches, tail included. However, we did not touch upon their life span in captivity.

With proper husbandry and care, Green Anoles tend to live anywhere between three to six years. While this might not seem like very long, in the wild, they rarely live beyond three years old due to predators and other factors.

Feeding and Watering Your Green Anole

Like many species of lizard, Green Anoles are insectivores, which means that they eat invertebrates. In captivity, they thrive on a diet of vitamin dusted crickets, roaches, and soft-bodied worms such as wax worms.

The best method to ensure that your Green Anole is properly hydrated is to mist the enclosure daily so that water droplets accumulate on leaves and cage decor. In the wild, anoles will lap water that collects on leaves and plants, so replicating this behavior is your safest bet.

Many Green Anole owners also provide a water dish for their pet. While it is not unheard of for anoles to drink water from a dish, there is no guarantee that any particular anole will do so, which is why we recommend making sure there is moisture collecting on the leaves in your anole’s cage.

Another word of advice when it comes to having a water dish in your anole’s cage: Make sure that the dish is shallow enough that if your anole unintentionally climbs in, it can escape with no issues. A water dish that is too steep could result in accidental drowning. You can also place a stick or other object in the water dish that allows the anole to climb out if it finds itself going for an accidental swim.

pet green anole
Some anoles can be skittish. We recommend handling them with care and making sure that you do not grip your anole too hard.

Habitat Requirements for a Green Anole

Green Anoles are arboreal lizards, therefore terrariums that provide more vertical space as opposed to horizontal space are highly encouraged. This will also make it easier to put plants and vines (real or fake) inside the tank for your anole to climb on.

As with many tropical lizard species, ventilation is very important when it comes to housing. We recommend an enclosure that has at least one screen wall. This should help maintain proper humidity and moisture levels without allowing fungus or mold to grow.

Plants, vines, and other vertical cage furniture is extremely important to the health of a Green Anole. Since they are arboreal and spend most of their time in trees in the wild, it is a necessity that your anole has places to hide and conceal itself. It is highly unlikely that your anole will get much use out of a hide space placed on the bottom of the cage.

For a single Green Anole or a breeding pair, we recommend a twenty gallon tank. This size typically provides enough room to accommodate the activity level of both lizards and will also allow for the proper temperature gradient needed in the cage.

Green Anoles are lizards that bask a lot and require full-spectrum UV light for eight hours a day. It is acceptable to turn the light off at night to mimic natural nighttime/daytime cycles.

Ambient cage temperature should be around eighty degrees Fahrenheit or so. The basking area should be around eighty-five to ninety degrees. The cool side of the enclosure should remain in the mid 60s/70s. Humidity levels should be approximately sixty to seventy percent.

The best type of substrate to put in your Green Anole’s cage is something that holds moisture but will not remain super wet. We recommend coconut husk or organic potting soil.

Handling Your Green Anole

While Green Anoles might not be the most friendly lizard, they can be handled. We do recommend that children be closely supervised when interacting with a pet anole as it can be stressful to the lizard to be gripped too tightly or petted too much.

Green Anoles are not aggressive, although you might see males bob their heads and show their throat pouches in territorial displays. This is a species of lizard that rarely bites. An anole would much rather run from you than fight you.

If you do want to have an interactive pet Green Anole, we recommend allowing the lizard to climb and perch on your hand rather than holding it captive. This will ensure that the anole does not feel threatened or stressed and will also give you the opportunity to better view how pretty your pet anole is.

Avoid rough handling or grabbing the anole too tightly in a single hand. While they are tough lizards, they will lose their tails if they feel too endangered or stressed. The key to handling a pet Green Anole is to be gentle. Make slow movements and remain calm so that your anole will feel at ease.

If you find that your anole is particularly skittish, we recommend holding it inside the cage so that just in case it runs, jumps, or hops off your hand, it will land in a safe place. Nobody (lizard or human!) wants to have to chase or be chased around the house after an accidental handling mishap. Once your anole is accustomed to your presence inside the cage, it will become safer to hold it outside the cage.

green anole
Green Anoles are long, lean lizards with triangular-shaped heads.


Many of us have stories from our younger days of getting our first Green Anole from the pet store and joyfully creating an enclosure for the little lizard.

Share your first Green Anole story in the comments! We’d love to hear your tales of these great little starter reptiles.

If you are considering a Green Anole as a starter reptile for yourself or a family member, Backwater Reptiles does have them for sale. And as with all of our animals, we offer live arrival and seven day guarantee within our guarantee terms.