How Do I Order Feeder Insects?

How do I order feeder insects for my pet reptile, amphibian or invertebrate?

While pet stores are great places to purchase feeder insects when you’re on a time crunch, it’s very easy to order live insects to feed your herp. Backwater Reptiles sells a variety of feeder insects in larger quantities and at better prices than you’ll find at your local pet store. The only potential catch is waiting a day or two for them to be delivered.

ordering feeder insects online
Did you know that it’s more cost effective and convenient to order your pet’s feeder insects online?

What kind of feeder insects can be ordered online?

Just about any type of insect you would want to feed to your pet lizard, frog, toad, spider, scorpion, et cetera can be purchased online. You can even buy pet insects such as walking sticks and praying mantids, although that’s a completely separate topic.

The most common feeder insects ordered are crickets followed by meal worms/super worms and dubia roaches.

Backwater Reptiles has a large selection of feeder insects available for purchase including the most popular ones mentioned above. However, we also sell horn worms which are juicy and help hydrate reptiles to wax worms, which are fatty and help make sure your pet receives enough calories.

If you wish to see all the available feeder insects that you can order from Backwater Reptiles, feel free to visit our feeder insects for sale page.

feeder crickets
Crickets are the most common feeder insect ordered online. Nearly all insectivorous pets will eagerly consume crickets.

How do I place an order for feeder insects?

Thankfully, it’s very simple to order feeder insects from Backwater Reptiles. It’s as easy as adding them to your cart and checking out.

In fact, it’s very likely that the hardest step of ordering feeder insects is choosing the quantity you want as well as the actual type of insect. We really do have that many to choose from!

If you’re ever concerned about what size of insect to order, there is a general rule of thumb that most herp owners adhere to: the insect should not be bigger than the space between the animal’s eyes.

Not to worry. If you ever have any concerns about what type of feeder insect is right for your pet’s particular dietary needs, our helpful customer service team would be happy to assist you with ordering the insect that is best for your pet. All you have to do is send a quick email to sales@backwaterreptiles.com and someone will get back to you as soon as they are able.

fruit flies as feeder insects
Most pet stores don’t carry fruit flies, so if you have a small pet that needs small food, your best bet is to order online.

Why should I order my feeder insects online?

Of course many people simply run out to their closest pet store and purchase feeder insects in person. We think that this is a fantastic method when you need something to feed your pet in a hurry. But overall, we think ordering them online is a much better option.

First of all, when you purchase online, you get a much better price for your feeder insects. Because we sell them in larger quantities, or in bulk, the pricing is more competitive than your average brick and mortar pet store.

The other reason we encourage online purchasing of feeder insects is convenience. Clicking a button on a screen means that you don’t have to get dressed, buckle the kids in the car and make a trip to the pet store. Your insects will arrive to your doorstep in no time when you order online. It’s such a streamlined process and we think it’s highly efficient in a world where everyone is constantly busy.

mealworms
Mealworms are another very common feeder insect. They do have harder exoskeletons, so we do recommend a varied diet when offering your pet mealworms.

When should I not order feeder insects?

Ordering feeder insects online is not the best option for everyone all the time. Sometimes there are reasons why someone might choose to purchase locally in person rather than through a website.

The main reason we would advise purchasing feeder insects at your local store rather than online is when you simply cannot wait a day or two to feed your pet. If you’ve suddenly run out of crickets and your Bearded Dragon is hungry, we definitely don’t advise ordering online. We recommend that you head to your nearest store and pick up a small supply until your online order arrives to your doorstep.

Another time when it might be wise to purchase a smaller supply from a pet store would be if you are trying a new type of food for your pet. It’s highly unlikely, but there could be the chance you have a picky eater. It could be a smart move to grab a few super worms at your local store rather than ordering in bulk if you are unsure that your pet will eat them.

Finally, it might be easiest and safest to grab feeder insects at your local pet store if you are experiencing extreme cold or hot weather where you live. Sometimes we have to delay shipment of feeder insect orders or have them held at a post office or other shipping facility when the weather is too dangerous for the insects. Dead insects are no good to pets who want to catch and eat their prey.

What happens once I place an order for feeder insects?

After your order has been processed, our insect team packages your bugs up safe and sound with supplies to last them through their journey. This typically means a water source, although some feeder insects do actually come with a built in food source, such as fruit flies and horn worms.

Please be aware that if you order insects at the same time that you order your live animal/pet from us, the feeder insects will be delivered separately from the animal. The time frame for arrival will vary based on the insect you order and the carrier who is delivering it.

BONUS: All feeder insects ship for free!

How should I care for my feeder insects prior to giving them to my pet?

Depending on the type of insect you order, you may or may not have just a tiny bit of maintenance to perform in order to keep the insects that your pet isn’t ready to eat yet healthy.

For instance, our most popular feeder insect ordered is crickets. We often get asked the question of how to care for the remainder of the crickets that the pet will eat throughout the week. With crickets, we recommend housing the extras in a bin or bucket with slick, tall sides. You can put some type of disposable hiding area (i.e. some egg crate pieces or toilet paper rolls) inside the enclosure. You can provide a combo water/food source if you put a piece of potato or carrot inside the tub for the crickets to munch on.

Because crickets are our most popular feeder insect ordered, we’re including a link to an article we wrote on how to care for them. Feel free to check it out if you plan to order a large quantity of crickets.

Some of the insects we sell actually come with everything you need to care for them. Horn worms are packaged in a container with food supplies and so are fruit flies and Dubia roaches.

If you want to know more about Dubia Roaches as feeder insects, Mealworms as feeder insects, hornworms as feeder insects and how to dust feeder insects with vitamin supplements, we’ve written articles on all of those topics!

If you have specific questions about caring for an excess of feeder insects, our customer service team is happy to assist. Please email them at sales@backwaterreptiles.com with any questions.

antilles pink toe tarantula
Even invertebrates such as this Antilles Pink Toe Tarantula eat feeder insects.

Conclusion

It is safe and cost-effective to order feeder insects for your pet reptile, amphibian or invertebrate online. We highly recommend it!

Backwater Reptiles even offers live arrival guarantees on our feeder insects, just as we do with the pets we sell. If you ever encounter any issues, our customer service team is happy to assist.

If you have any specific questions about caring for your feeder insects, feel free to ask in the comments section!

Reptile and Amphibian Awareness Day at the Sacramento Zoo

What is Reptile and Amphibian Awareness Day at the Sacramento Zoo?

The Sacramento Zoo’s Reptile and Amphibian Awareness Day is an event hosted by the zoo and the Greater Sacramento chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers. This event educates the public about herps and encourages people to do their part to help conserve these wonderful creatures.

What reptiles reside at the Sacramento Zoo?

Because Backwater Reptiles is based out of Northern California, the Sacramento Zoo is just a short drive away from us. And wouldn’t you know it, the zoo has a really cool dedicated reptile house where lizards, frogs, snakes, turtles, tortoises, salamanders and even some invertebrates reside.

We could definitely visit the zoo any day of the week, given that it’s so close to us, but it certainly was refreshing to see our favorite critters get some of the spotlight. Not only was there plenty of opportunity to learn about herps at the reptile awareness booth, there were also lots of fun activities to get children involved and excited about our scaly friends.

Our favorite herps within the reptile house were probably the rhinoceros iguana and the prehensile tailed skinks. But the zoo also has a rattlesnake, Western pond turtles, a few crocodilians, tiger salamanders, White’s tree frogs, and ball pythons to name just a few.

reptile and amphibian awareness day
Meet Timbuktu, the Sacramento Zoo’s resident ambassador Uromastyx. Timbuktu was out and about for Reptile and Amphibian Awareness Day and his handler was happy to introduce him to new human friends.

Interview with Jasmine Rosario, a zoo keeper at the Sacramento Zoo and a member of the Greater Sacramento chapter of AAZK

Backwater Reptiles was lucky enough to get the opportunity to meet with Jasmine Rosario, a zoo keeper who works with herps and a member of the Greater Sacramento chapter of AAZK. Rosario discussed everything from her favorite herps to the work that the zoo does in order to help conserve reptile populations.

Keep reading to see what Rosario had to say.

Backwater Reptiles: Do you have any particular animal you work in? Do you specialize in reptiles?

Jasmine Rosario: I do work in the reptile department. I also work in the hoof stock which includes giraffes and wallabies and kangaroos too. I am currently being trained in the carnivore section which includes big cats and otters and other cool animals.

BR: How do you get into a job like yours?

Rosario: It is a very competitive field. There are only so many zoos and therefore only so many zookeepers. You have to have a four year animal science degree background and experience. The way that I started was going through their volunteer program as a keeper aide and then when positions opened up, they saw my potential and let me work in the lower ranking or beginning position which is commissary. In commissary you do diet prepping for all the animals in the zoo and from there they train you in other areas to help out. So that’s my beginning as a zoo keeper.

BR: Where did your personal interest in reptiles start?

Rosario: It actually started when I started working here. Bill Bennett, who is on the board of directors for NCHS got me into it. He took me under his wing and had me doing exhibit projects. He got me involved in NCHS and I ended up adopting three snakes. I have two ball pythons and a corn snake.

BR: What exactly do you do on a day to day basis to care for the animals here?

Rosario: It’s a lot of cleaning exhibits and making sure things are sanitary. There’s a lot of feeding and putting out enrichment to make sure your animals are entertained and kept busy. You have to keep a good eye on them and make sure they’re healthy. That means alerting a vet or vet tech if there are any problems that you notice.

BR: How do you do enrichment for a reptile?

Rosario: It’s pretty difficult. For dart frogs, we have the kid camp do little paper tubes. They cut holes in the tubes and we shove fruit flies in it so the flies burst out. We have sulcata tortoises and we’ll give them balls to roll around with dandelion greens sticking out. Sometimes they’ll get different diet items like pumpkins during the fall. Even just switching around their exhibit can be enrichment enough since they’re in a new environment.

BR: What do you think is the most challenging reptile or amphibian to care for?

Rosario: I think all the amphibians are the hardest. There’s a lot that goes into their care that people don’t think about. Water quality is a big one. You don’t want nitrates or nitrites or ammonia in their water, so you have to constantly test for that. We also won’t put them in tap water. They have a special reverse osmosis system, so they do need special water. Diet is another big factor. With reptiles and amphibians you have to make sure you’re providing a variety of items. UVB lighting is a big factor as well to prevent bone disease. You also have to make sure they get enough calcium and vitamins. It’s a balance.

BR: Do you have a favorite herp that you work with?

Rosario: They’re all pretty cool, but I think I like the common chuckwallas the best because they’re really cool. Our giant garter snake, Cleo, is also really cool. We’re the only institution that has a California giant garter snake. She was injured and brought to us.

giant garter snake
The Sacramento Zoo has a giant garter snake named Cleo.

BR: What is a reptile or amphibian that you wish the Sacramento Zoo could get?

Rosario: A lot of the keepers really want to get in some more crocodilians. A gharial would be cool, but we don’t really have space for that in our reptile house. Some giant snakes would be awesome too, like a reticulated python.

BR: You mentioned you’re involved with the Greater Sacramento chapter of the AAZK. What is the goal of that organization?

Rosario: The AAZK is basically a group that helps to advance zoo keepers in their career, but our chapter here is more of a conservation based effort. It’s welcoming to the public and we have a lot of docents and volunteers that join too, not just our staff and zoo keepers. Our focus is to raise money and do awareness events like this so that people get thinking about some of the animals that need our help out there in the wild. We do a lot of fund raising events too. Later in the year we’ll have a giraffe day and a primate day where we’ll be raising money for organizations that cover those animals. We’ve donated a lot of money to organizations that help out animals.

BR: Is the zoo currently involved in any conservation or breeding efforts?

Rosario: In the past we’ve been involved in the Western pond turtle project. It’s on hold right now because they are doing genetic testing because it turns out that our turtles are from different regions and they want to figure out what turtles are from where. That’s the biggest project we’re involved with as far as reptiles and amphibians are concerned.

BR: What do you think about keeping reptiles as pets?

Rosario: It depends. They’re pretty tough to take care of. You have to create the full environment for them. It’s cool to have them if they have proper husbandry and if they’re bred or not fit to be in the wild. I don’t agree with taking them out of the wild. I would recommend the ones that are most often bred in captivity – ball pythons, corn snakes, leopard geckos, etcetera – as pets. They’re almost domesticated because we breed them so much. Nothing exotic or endangered or crazy where they are plucked out of their environment.

BR: What can you tell me about the activities and events you have going on today for reptile and amphibian awareness day at the zoo?

Rosario: We have a few things at our station including a scavenger hunt that takes place in the reptile house. Kids find the animals in the proper exhibit and there’s a fact sheet where they learn things about the species and they get a t-shirt. We have paper snake chains that represent the lengths of the snakes full-grown in reality. We also have the frog jump where we have three species of frogs’ average jump length and kids can see how they compare to them. There are coloring activities and life cycle matching games. There’s also information on the characteristics of reptiles and amphibians and what makes them different since people always tend to link them together even though they’re totally separate groups. We also have some diet guessing games and some turtle chow guessing games with prizes.

BR: Do you feel that the awareness days at the zoo are successful?

Rosario: Yeah, as long as people are learning a little bit of something, then I think they’re successful.

ball python
Although this is a ball python from Backwater Reptiles, the Sacramento Zoo also has ball pythons.

Conclusion

Fans of reptiles and amphibians are already aware of how cool these creatures are. We love interacting with them, observing them, conserving them and teaching others about them. We don’t need a special day to show our appreciation for reptiles. But at Backwater Reptiles, we’re all about any event or activity that educates about why herps deserve our love and attention, which is why we’re grateful to have had the opportunity to attend Reptile and Amphibian Awareness Day at our local zoo.

We hope you enjoyed our interview with a local herp zoo keeper. It’s not every day that we get to talk to someone as educated and up to date on the proper husbandry and techniques needed to keep our favorite critters healthy. What questions would you have asked the zoo keeper?

Do Gila Monsters Make Good Pets?

Do Gila Monsters make good pets?

Although they are fascinating animals as well as quite beautiful to look at, the truth is that Gila Monsters are not good pets. In addition to being venomous, these lizards are also very secretive and do not enjoy human interaction or being kept in a small enclosure in captivity.

Gila Monsters are not common pets and with good reason. They are actually illegal to own in many states, including California and Nevada. However, just because you can’t keep a Gila Monster as a pet doesn’t mean that they aren’t incredible creatures worth learning more about.

Backwater Reptiles is headquartered in Northern California and as such, we have the opportunity to attend the monthly meetings of the Northern California Herpetological Society. This month’s meeting revolved around the Gila Monster and a recent study of the population that exists within a specific region of Arizona.

gila monster
Although they are amazing creatures, gila monsters should not be kept as pets.

What is the Northern California Herpetological Society?

The NCHS is a non-profit organization that revolves around reptiles and amphibians. They promote conservation, education and rehabilitation of herps and are just as enthusiastic about these wonderful animals as we are.

We were actually lucky enough to pick the brain of NCHS’s program director, Darlene Collisson. She was happy to answer our questions and speak about the NCHS and its goals. Continue reading to see what Collisson had to say.

march nchs meeting
One of the animals that was up for adoption at the March meeting of the NCHS was a ten year old bearded dragon.

Backwater Reptiles: This month’s talk is about Gila Monsters. What are your thoughts on keeping them as pets?

Darlene Collisson: I would not recommend Gila Monsters as pets due to the fact that their bites are venomous and that they live mostly in hiding and underground.

BR: Which herps do you feel make the best pets?

Collisson: There are many reptiles that make great pets. It just depends what you like, your level of experience and your willingness to provide the essential care they require. I don’t believe any can be classified as “easy pets” and the best is your own personal liking and your ability to provide the care it requires. I personally am partial to bearded dragons, corn snakes, kingsnakes, crested geckos, gargoyle geckos, and leopard geckos to name a few. I have a wide assortment of close to 100 reptiles in my little zoo.

BR: What do you think people should know about keeping reptiles and amphibians in captivity?

Collisson: Their care takes time and dedication. They are 100% dependent on you to provide the care they need to survive and thrive. They need to be provided with proper husbandry including diet, proper lighting and keeping their enclosure clean. Veterinary care is crucial and regular check ups are very important. Make sure to know of reptile (exotic) vets in your area before you have an emergency situation. Veterinary care can be costly, so it is very important to have money set aside when the need arises.

BR: What do you think of Northern California’s “reptile scene?” Do we have a
lot of breeders, hobbyists and enthusiasts in our area?

Collisson: We have an excellent reptile scene. I have encountered many knowledgeable breeders and enthusiasts in my years of keeping reptiles. We also have some great reptile stores in the area – GX3 Reptiles and Exotics, Reptile Depot and the Serpentarium to name a few.

BR: 

How does NCHS help rehabilitate herps?

Collisson: NCHS has a group of dedicated volunteers who provide foster care for reptiles that have been relinquished to us. These volunteers make sure that the reptiles are seen by a veterinarian ASAP to get a health check up and medical treatment if necessary. Once the reptile is deemed healthy, it is then placed as “available for adoption” on our website and Facebook page.

BR: What should the average person do if they discover a reptile or amphibian
in need?

Collisson: If discovered in the wild, leave them be and contact a local animal control or state agency. If in captivity, they can contact a local veterinary office or contact NCHS through our Facebook page or through “contact us” on our website.

BR: 

Aside from the monthly meetings, what types of events does NCHS
participate in?

Collisson: Our big event of the year is the Sacramento Reptile Show usually held at the end of September. We also provide education & outreach to several local elementary school events along with other local community events. Were also get requests to come to individual schools/classrooms to share our reptile passion and provide “hands on” experience. We also attend adoption events at Petfood Express in Davis.

BR: How can people help out the NCHS?

Collisson: NCHS is a registered 501(c)(3) organization and relies 100% on donations to support our mission and to provide veterinary treatment for the reptiles in our care. We accept monetary donations or reptile/amphibian supplies. You can make a donation payment on our website or if you have an Amazon account you can link your account to Amazon Smile and select Northern California Herpetological Society as your charity of choice. NCHS then will receive a percentage of your purchases. At this time the amount is 0.5%.

BR: Do you have any final thoughts or comments about this month’s meeting, the NCHS or reptiles/amphibians in general that you wish to share?

Collisson: The Northern California Herpetological Society was established in 1982 and is a non-profit organization devoted to providing reptile and amphibian education, informing the public about conservation, and aiding in rescue and rehabilitation of captive species. NCHS is dedicated to providing information and increasing public knowledge about the proper care and husbandry of reptiles and amphibians in captivity. We strive to achieve this goal through our educational monthly meetings and community outreach events. Monthly meetings are free, open to the public, and hosted for those interested in herpetology!

March Meeting of the Northern California Herpetological Society

The NCHS meets on a monthly basis and each meeting typically features a guest speaker. This month’s meeting featured Victoria Farrar, a PhD grad student in the animal behavior program at UC Davis. Farrar participated in a study at the University of Arizona where she was able to monitor local gila monster populations within a state park.

Farrar’s study captured and kept data on gila monsters in order to determine how the local population was doing. The study’s goal was to determine if gene flow within the population was healthy and ultimately determine whether or not the park was beneficial to the lizards.

Farrar’s work had her getting hands on with gila monsters in the wild. She and her team had to capture the lizards and implant microchips for obtaining data on the animals. Farrar underwent rigorous training with the venomous lizards prior to being given permission to handle the animals.

The end result of the gila monster study was a positive one. It was determined that gene flow and population statistics were both healthy. Overall the state park was indeed beneficial and helpful in conserving and protecting gila monster populations.

corn snake adoption
A large but friendly corn snake was also available to adopt at the March meeting of the NCHS.

One on One Interview with Victoria Farrar

Although we do work with many types of exotic reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates on a daily basis at Backwater Reptiles, we don’t have gila monsters on hand at the facility. So you better believe we were very curious about these cool critters. Luckily for us, Victoria Farrar was kind enough to take time to answer our questions in the form of a on on one interview, which you can read below.

Backwater Reptiles: Where did your interest in herpetology come from?

Victoria Farrar: I grew up in Arizona, and I saw a lot of herps, even in my backyard, mainly fence lizards. Reptiles were just always present in my life. Mmy mom had pet turtles, so I’ve always been around them as pets as well. I love the desert and you see a lot of reptiles out there in the desert and I’ve always just thought they were so special and cool. I heard about Dr. Bonine doing the research with the gila monsters and I thought that was way too cool of an opportunity to pass up. I wanted to get in on that. So I just reached out to him and he happened to have an opening.

BR: Did you keep any reptiles as pets or do you keep any now?

Farrar: I don’t have any now, but I did when I had a wildlife permit back when I was working on this project. I did have a Sonoran Desert Toad as a pet, a big fat, Jabba the Hut kind of guy. But unfortunately, he died. But he was really cute and his name was Al, after the toad’s scientific name Bufo alvarius.

BR: Why did you choose to research gila monsters? What was the goal of the whole project?

Farrar: Gila monsters are really charismatic and people care about them. They show up on tourist post cards and stuff like that. So we wanted to see if protecting national park land from development and building would actually protect wildlife. Would it help conserve them? Would it protect their gene flow and their movements and make their lives better? And gila monsters were a really great place to start because we know that they’re threatened, we know that people care about them and we don’t know much about them at all in reality. So we learned about the animals themselves and we also learned about how the park is helping to protect them.

BR: Did the fact that gila monsters are venomous pose any issues for you or your team?

Farrar: We definitely had to get trained properly. There was a long period in which we weren’t allowed to work alone and we really had to learn how to handle them and show our superiors that we knew how to handle them well. But once we did all that, we learned that they’re not that scary. I think that surprises a lot of people. I’d honestly say that the scariest part of the work I did was being out alone off trail in the desert, especially during monsoon season because it can flood. So the lizards themselves were actually not problematic or scary.

BR: Do you think gila monsters make good pets?

Farrar: People should not keep them as pets. They do not make good pets. It’s actually illegal in California and it’s also illegal in Arizona. I don’t know about Utah and Nevada, but I feel strongly that they should not be a pet.

BR: Any final thoughts or comments you wish to share? Specific things you want people to know about the gila monster?

Farrar: They are super cool! They’re one of the only venomous lizards in the world, so they’re really unique from an evolutionary perspective and even from a general diversity perspective. I think they have a lot to teach us, so it’s worth looking more into the secrets of the gila monster.

gila monster lecture
Victoria Farrar gives a short lecture about her study of gila monsters in Arizona at the March meeting of the NCHS. Photo courtesy of NCHS.

Conclusion:

So what did we take away from the March meeting of the Northern California Herpetological Society?

While gila monsters are very beautiful creatures that are worth learning about, they do not make good pets. Not only are they venomous, but they also don’t really like coming out of hiding to interact with people.

Luckily, although more and more of their native habitat is being encroached upon by humans, the gila monster population within the protected state parks of Arizona is doing well. The animals are able to meet each other, mate and maintain gene flow.

We also had the opportunity to learn a bit more about the NCHS and its goals within the community. We are grateful that Northern California has an organization that promotes health and welfare of our favorite critters.

Finally, if you want to help out or learn more about the Northern California Herpetological Society, you can visit their Facebook page or donate through the organization’s website.

What Are the Largest Pet Tortoises?

What are the largest species of tortoise commonly kept as pets?

The largest species of pet tortoises are Aldabra Tortoises and Sulcata Tortoises. Most other tortoise species kept as pets remain fairly small and are relatively comparable in size including: Star Tortoises, Leopard Tortoises, Greek Tortoises, and Russian Tortoises.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll stick to discussing the main two larger species, the Aldabra and Sulcata Tortoises.

Aldabra Tortoise (Geochelone gigantea)

As its name suggests, the Aldabra Tortoise is found in a very specific area of the world – on the islands of the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles. They are typically dark grey, brown or tan with a tall, domed shell. They also have relatively long necks for a tortoise which helps them when grazing on trees in the wild.

As indicated, Aldabras are one of the largest species of tortoise that are kept as pets. They are second in size only to the giant Galapagos Tortoise, which cannot be kept as a pet, making them the largest species of tortoise you can legally own. The carapace of the Aldabra Tortoise averages about 48 inches long, while the average weight reported varies between 290 to 550 pounds. It’s likely that these number values are so far apart because males and females are considerably different in size and also because there are not too many “sample” animals that have lived long enough in captivity to obtain extremely accurate records.

juvenile aldabra tortoise
Pictured is a juvenile Aldabra Tortoise. She will likely outlive her owner!

Although Aldabra Tortoises make excellent pets with very long life spans, they are somewhat hard to come by, particularly adult specimens. It’s far more likely that you’ll find a breeder offering babies or juveniles for sale as adults take a considerable amount of time to reach their full mature size. Aldabras are actually thought to be one of the longest-lived animals with some being recorded as reaching over 200 years old. This means that if you intend to own an Aldabra, you will own it for life and then you’ll likely have to make arrangements for the tortoise once you pass on!

Because Aldabra Tortoises are not particularly easy to come by, even within the reptile hobbyist world, they tend to come with quite a hefty price tag. However, if you purchase from a reputable breeder or importer, we doubt you’ll regret it since these reptiles have a lot of personality and make highly rewarding pets.

Due to their large size, Aldabra Tortoises require special enclosures…at least once they’re fully grown. We are of the mentality that natural is best, so we always recommend that any larger, hardier species of tortoise be kept outdoors if possible. They do very well in tortoise pens outside as long as the weather is not extreme. A good outdoor enclosure for an Aldabra should have walls that are a little over two feet tall and there should be plenty of room inside for the tortoise to roam. You should also include a tortoise hide space that is sheltered from poor weather and heated in case temperatures drop too low.

But what about young Aldabra Tortoises? Although they can be kept outside, we recommend keeping Aldabras younger than two years old indoors. They are more sensitive to their environment and are vulnerable to predators. They will need the standard tortoise enclosure items of a hide, water dish, proper substrate, UV lights and a heat source. Once they are large enough and/or old enough, you can relocate them to an outdoor pen.

In captivity and in the wild, Aldabra tortoises are primarily herbivores. However, they have been observed eating protein/meat in the wild when the opportunity presents itself. In captivity, you can feed your Aldabra Tortoise typical tortoise fare including tortoise pellets and veggies such as cactus pads, leafy greens and fruits for treats.

Backwater Reptiles does receive Aldabra Tortoises from time to time, however we do not have them listed for sale on our website as they are not in extremely high demand. If you are interested in obtaining a pet Aldabra Tortoise of your own, you can email our customer service team at sales@backwaterreptiles.com for a price quote and availability.

If you wish to learn more about Aldrabra Tortoise care, you can also check out our blog article on this lovely species.

Sulcata Tortoise (Geochelone sulcata)

The Sulcata Tortoise is known by a few other names including African Spurred Tortoise, Spurred Tortoise, and African Spur Thigh Tortoise. Whatever name you might know this species by, one thing is for sure – they are the most commonly bred tortoise species in the world. Sulcata Tortoises are readily captive bred these days in the U.S. This means that babies are typically available year round, which is very different than the Aldabra Tortoise.

Although they are the second largest tortoise species that you can legally keep as a pet, Sulcatas are actually typically quite small when they find their homes. Backwater Reptiles usually sells them as babies. Like Aldabra Tortoises, they also have incredibly long lives. They are estimated to be able to live well beyond seventy years old!

adult sulcata tortoise
Adult Sulcata Tortoises can live in outdoor pens.

Many people are drawn to Sulcatas because they are very easy pets to keep and are relatively low maintenance. However, they also have wide appeal due to their appearance and likeable personalities. Sulcatas are typically light straw-colored or brown with round shells rather than domed ones. They can reach around 200 pounds and approximately 36 inches in length.

Although Sulcatas are burrowers, they still do best housed outdoors in a pen. You will need to make sure your enclosure has walls high enough that your tortoises can’t climb over them. In addition, it’s necessary to extend your walls below ground so that your Sulcatas can’t dig their way out of your yard.

Sulcatas in outdoor enclosures should be at least a few years old. Like any outdoor reptile, they will need an sheltered area to avoid extreme weather such as rain or extreme hot or cold. Ideally, your shelter should also be temperature controlled.

Your Sulcata tortoise will be easy to feed as they usually have hearty appetites. They will enjoy eating vegetation that grows within the perimeter of their outdoor pen, but they will also munch on many of the same foods that an Aldabra Tortoise would. They enjoy commercial tortoise pellets, green leafy veggies, fruit, and juicy vegetables as well. Variety is key when it comes to making sure that your Sulcata is getting a balanced diet.

One of the fun things about owning a Sulcata is that they often behave like dogs. They are friendly and will come running to greet their owner, especially if the owner is bringing them food! While they might be too slow to take on a walk, they are definitely docile and will happily show off their unique personalities.

Backwater Reptiles typically sells baby Sulcata Tortoises year round. We don’t often come by the larger, adult tortoises, however sometimes we do re-home rescues.

If you are interested in learning more about Sulcata Tortoise care, you can also check out our previous blog article on caring for these fun reptiles. We also wrote an article on how to create an outdoor Sulcata Tortoise enclosure.

Conclusion

In our opinion, all tortoises make adorable and entertaining pets. Their vegetarian nature makes them docile creatures that typically enjoy human interaction. They are also highly intelligent, can learn to recognize their owners are and some even behave like dogs!

baby tortoise
Many species of tortoise make excellent pets, even the smaller ones.

We’re also big fans of tortoises because it’s pretty uncomplicated to make outdoor pens or enclosures for them. Any reptile will be happiest when their natural habitat is closely replicated and with tortoises, it’s easy to do this.

The larger species do take a very long time to grow to be their full size, but half the fun is watching them grow and nurturing them along during the journey.

Ultimately, we do encourage all potential pet owners to research prior to making the commitment to any animal. Tortoises, particularly the large Aldabra and Sulcata species, have very long life spans and specific care requirements. We recommend making sure you can care for the animal as a baby through to adulthood since their housing requirements will change as they grow.

 

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.

Anacondas

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.

Conclusion

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.

Conclusion

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.

Conclusion

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.

https://backwaterreptilesblog.com/wrap-reptile-gift/

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

 

Conclusion

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.

https://www.backwaterreptiles.com/gift-cards/backwater-reptiles-gift-card.html

 

 

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.

Conclusion

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.