Common Snapping Turtle vs. Florida Snapping Turtle

We get asked lots of questions at Backwater Reptiles ranging from how to care for specific animals to behavioral information queries. Name a question – odds are we’ve probably been asked before!

In this article, we’ll set out to answer a question we get asked occasionally:

What’s the difference between the common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) and the Florida snapping turtle (Chelydra s. osceola)?

And because the answer to this question is actually very straight forward and simple, we’ll follow up the answer with some care tips and tricks for snapping turtles.

Common Snapping Turtle vs. Florida Snapping Turtle
Here is a side by side depiction of a common snapping turtle (top) and a Florida snapping turtle (bottom).

Common Snapping Turtle vs. Florida Snapping Turtle

Florida snappers and common snappers are extremely similar in appearance. We’d even go so far as to say that it would take an experienced reptile enthusiast to be able to distinguish between the two.

But there are two main characteristics that mark these species as different from one another – the location where each animal can be found in the wild and their physical appearances.

First of all, the common snapping turtle can be found all across North America in any slow-moving or brackish water environment. The Florida snapper on the other hand, is only found in peninsular Florida.

However, it should be noted that just because a snapper is found in the state of Florida, that does not automatically make it a Florida snapping turtle. That’s where knowing the physical differences between the two species comes in handy.

Truth be told, there are not a whole lot of physical differences between Florida snappers and common snappers and those few differences are not that marked or noticeable.

Both species of snapping turtle have soft spikes on their necks and heads that are known as tubercles. Common snappers have rounded tubercles, whereas the tubercles on Florida snappers are pointed.

The second physical difference between the two species of snapper is coloration. Florida snappers tend to be a warm, light brown in color when they are young. Common snapping turtles, on the other hand, are usually a dark grey or black.

As far as habits and behavior are concerned, both turtles are identical. This means that they have the same care requirements in captivity. Continue reading if you want to find out how we care for our snapping turtles at Backwater Reptiles.

common snapping turtle
Pictured is a common snapping turtle. They are found all across the U.S. in slow-moving or brackish bodies of water.

Snapping Turtle Behavior

Young snapping turtles are relatively docile, but as they mature, they definitely live up to their common name and are known to deliver quite a powerful bite.

Snapping turtles are aquatic reptiles and reside in bodies of water. They can usually be found resting along the bottom of rivers, lakes, and ponds burrowed into the dirt, debris, and silt along the bottom.

Juveniles are more active than adults and will sometimes forage for food, but adults tend to stay in once place and ambush prey as it stumbles across their path.

Although they do live most of their lives in water, snappers can be found on land at times. In Florida, they are commonly seen crossing roads in order to reach new bodies of water.

As far as behavior is concerned, there is noting to mention in the Common snapping turtle vs. Florida snapping turtle conversation, as they are virtually identical in this area.

Snapping Turtle Care

When keeping a snapping turtle as a pet, you will require an aquatic enclosure. It’s not necessary to have a tank filled to the brim with water. A shallow layer that fully allows the turtle to submerge will suffice.

We always place plenty of hiding spaces in the tank as this allows the turtle to feel secure. Logs, hollowed out rocks, and even items purchased from pet store are all great hides.

Even though snappers are not particularly avid baskers, we do always put some sort of platform in the water that enables the turtle to climb out and bask if it desires. This also means that we have a full spectrum UV light on during the day time.

Florida snapping turtle
This baby Florida snapping turtle is lighter in color than a common snapper.

Snappers are voracious eaters and are therefore not difficult to feed. They are true omnivores as well as opportunistic feeders in the wild, so this makes it easy to provide a healthy diet in captivity.

We feed ours everything from feeder fish to worms. You can also try vegetation. The best method is to place a little bit of fresh vegetable matter in the tank daily or even every other day, and remove it if it is uneaten.

Regarding the Common snapping turtle vs. Florida snapping turtle conversation, there is no difference in care between the two species.

Conclusion: Common snapping turtle vs. Florida snapping turtle

Although there are not too many differences between Florida snapping turtles and common snapping turtles, they both make good pets for experienced herpers who can handle their ornery dispositions.

If you are ready to adopt a snapping turtle of your own, Backwater Reptiles has got you covered!

 

 

The Smallest Pet Snakes

What are the smallest pet snakes? Most people imagine enormous constrictor snakes when they think of a pet snake. While it’s true that enormous snakes do make fulfilling pets, due to their large size, they are quite care intensive and require a large environment to call home.

The aim of this blog article is to showcase the smallest species of snakes sold at Backwater Reptiles. Small snakes deserve loving homes too and many people are surprised to learn how little space they actually do require to be healthy and happy.

The Smallest Pet Snakes List

Bimini Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus)

There are many species of blind snakes, but they all have one thing in common – they are tiny! In fact, blind snakes are so minuscule that they are very often mistaken for earth worms.

In addition to resembling earth worms in physical appearance, blind snakes also behave very similarly to worms. They are burrowers and are most common found in moist soil. They’ve even been known to live in garden flower pots, which is how they received their other common name – Flowerpot Snake.

the smallest pet snakes
As you can see from this photo, blind snakes very closely resemble earth worms in appearance and size. Definitely one of the smallest pet snakes.

The Bimini Blind Snake, which is one of the more common blind snake species, has very minimal care requirements. All a tiny blind snake needs for a home is a medium-sized glass jar with moist soil and a hiding place or two.

We’ve actually written a detailed care article on the Bimini blind snake that discusses everything from what these itty bitty reptiles like to eat to how to set up a habitat.

Ringneck Snake (Diadphis sp.)

Ringneck snakes are not all that much larger than some blind snakes, although you can definitely tell that a ringneck snake is not a worm.

Ringnecks are black with a bright orange collar or necklace around their neck, hence their common name.

ringneck snake
Ringneck snakes are distinguished by their orange or yellow band around their necks.

Many people assume that ringnecks are baby snakes, but the truth is that full grown, mature snakes still only grow to be approximately fifteen inches long. They also won’t usually get thicker than a pencil in diameter.

In the wild, ringnecks consume everything from worms to small invertebrates. In captivity, we recommend feeding them night crawlers, but some people have reported success giving them crickets.

Western Hognose Snake (Heterodon nasicus)

Many people are drawn to hognose snakes because they have cute upturned noses used for shoveling sand when they burrow. They can vary highly in terms of color and markings, but they are all very stout-bodied. They’re also known to resemble rattlesnakes to the untrained eye, although herp hobbyists know better.

As far as size is concerned, hognose snakes are quite a bit larger than blind snakes and ringneck snakes, but they’re still considered small pet snakes. They can grow to two to three feet long and have very long life spans for such small critters. With proper care and husbandry, hognose snakes can live to twenty years or longer!

western hognose snake
Hognose snakes are recognizable by their upturned, pig-like noses.

A snake the size of a Western hognose should be given a tank that is around twenty gallons. Unless you have a particularly large specimen, you can usually even house a breeding pair together as well.

Because hognoses are burrowers by nature, we recommend providing a sandy substrate to allow for this behavior.

Ball Python (Python regius)

Not only are ball pythons very reasonably sized as far as snakes are concerned (often considered a small pet snake), but they are also extremely mild-mannered with pleasant dispositions. This is what makes them quite possibly the most popular pet snake on the planet.

Ball pythons breed readily in captivity, which means that they are available in a multitude of morphs. You can get a ball python that is pure white and everything in between as far as markings and coloration are concerned.

ball python
Ball pythons are the most well-known pet snake on this list, as well as the largest.

Ball pythons are also the largest snake species on this list, although we’d still say that they are “small” for a pet snake. Males are typically smaller than females, reaching lengths between two to three feet long. Females will be anywhere from three to five feet long.

Conclusion – The Smallest Pet Snakes

If you’re in the market for a small pet snake and you have limited room in your home for a cage or vivarium, then we think any of the snakes on this list would be a good fit you. All of them attain reasonable sizes and are known for placid demeanors and even-tempered personalities.

 

Bimini Blind Snake Care (Ramphotyphlops braminus)

Although Bimini Blind Snakes and their other blind snake relatives are not the most interactive or involved pet reptiles, they are most certainly interesting and somewhat uncommon in the pet world.

Relatively little is known about these tiny snakes, but this blog article will discuss how we care for them at Backwater Reptiles.

Bimini Blind Snake Description

If you weren’t paying close attention, you could easily mistake any of the species of small blind snakes for earthworms. In fact, the main feature that distinguishes blind snakes from worms is that blind snakes do not have segmented bodies. They are reptiles and therefore possess scales instead of segments.

bimini blind snake care
As you can see, blind snakes very closely resemble earth worms. However, they aren’t segmented and if you look closely, you will see that they have scales.

Blind snakes are approximately the same size as a night crawler worm and can be anywhere from two and a half to six inches in length when full grown. They can be several different colors including shiny, silvery grey, purple, or dull charcoal.

You’ll have to look very closely at a blind snake to determine which end is the head and which is the tail as both ends look very similar. The head does however have tiny eyes which are protected underneath translucent scales. These protective scales are actually what renders the snake blind, allowing it to only sense light intensity but not form images.

Fun fact: blind snakes are parthenogenetic and do not reproduce sexually. All known species collected have been female and all offpsring produced are identical females.

Blind snakes are also very similar to worms as far as temperament is concerned. They are not fast snakes that strike or bite. Their main defense mechanism is to burrow, hide, or run away. Ultimately, this means that keeping a pet blind snake will be a lot like keeping a pet earth worm. Your blind snake will not be very interactive and would prefer to be left alone, but you can hold it if you desire.

Bimini Blind Snake Care

Because blind snakes are not commonly kept as pets, their care regiments and requirements vary from keeper to keeper. We’ve found that the methods listed below work best for us.

blind snake
Here a blind snake is shown next to a Sharpie marker to illustrate scale.

Blind snakes have a tendency to hide or burrow and we always provide a moist substrate such as organic potting soil to facilitate this behavior. If you want to see your blind snake emerge from hiding, we do recommend placing something such as a “tented” moist paper towel or another similar light, small hiding place above ground.

The size of the blind snake’s enclosure will vary based on the size of the snake. But in most cases, even a ten gallon tank is not necessary. The smaller snakes will be just fine in a large glass jar.

Blind snakes are tropical, so we do provide a temperature gradient by heating one side of the enclosure with a heat bulb. The temperature should be anywhere from 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Because blind snakes do tend to hide, we’ve never really worried about exposure to UV rays, but if you do happen to notice your blind snake emerging from underground a lot, it might be wise to provide a UV light for basking purposes. We’ve heard that some actually do enjoy basking – it varies from subspecies to subspecies.

Bimini Blind Snake Feeding

We bet you’re wondering what on earth such a small snake could eat. Obviously the normal snake diet of mice isn’t appropriate.

In the wild, blind snakes eat mostly small invertebrates such as termites, ants, small beetles, small worms, and larva. They’ve also been known to consume caterpillar feces while living in garden flowerpots.

In captivity, we recommend feeding your blind snake termites or ants as these are the most commonly available feeder insects of an appropriate size. However, if you have access to a garden with aphids and other small insects and larvae, you can actually harvest your own food.

bimini blind snake
You can handle your blind snake if you choose because they are not aggressive at all.

Conclusion

Because Bimini blind snakes are indeed very similar to earth worms, many people might not think twice about keeping one as a pet. And while it is certainly true that they’re small, unobtrusive, and maybe even somewhat boring, they can still make rewarding pets.

Blind snakes don’t require a lot to stay happy. They are extremely low maintenance and we think they make great starter pets for kids.

Most Popular Pet Desert Lizards

Lizards make great pets, but there are so many species to choose from that it can be hard to know which type is best for you.

At Backwater Reptiles, we’re of the opinion that desert dwelling lizards generally have the simplest care requirements. What’s more, most species that come from similar habitats have essentially the same husbandry needs.

In this blog article, we’ll discuss our list of the most popular pet desert lizards.

Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius)

The leopard gecko likes to make appearances on just about all of our “list” blogs. That’s because it’s seriously one of the best pet lizards out there no matter what list category it’s in!

Although it is a desert lizard, it’s so simple to care for a leopard gecko that you don’t even necessarily need to provide a desert, sandy substrate to line your leopard gecko’s cage. We do recommend something a bit fancier if aesthetics are important to you when creating a habitat, but just know that leopard geckos can and will do just fine with paper towels as a substrate. Just be sure to provide hiding places.

most popular pet desert lizards
Pictured is a normal-sized, mature leopard gecko and a “jumbo” leopard gecko. Both have the same care requirements, but clearly the jumbo is larger.

The main reason we’ve placed the leopard gecko at the top of this list is because it is such a versatile lizard when it comes to appearances. Due to captive breeding efforts, leopard geckos are available in a seemingly endless variety of morphs! They can be red in color, extremely large (i.e. jumbo), or even pure white. People love being able to show off their leopard gecko’s unique patterns and we don’t blame them.

Desert Collared Lizard (Crotaphytis bicinctores)

Desert collared lizards are so named because they have crisp white and black bands around their neck that make them appear to be wearing a necklace or collar.

desert collared lizard
Can you see the black and white bands on this desert collared lizard’s neck that are responsible for giving the lizard its common name?

People enjoy keeping desert collared lizards as pets because they tend to be curious and inquisitive by nature. This means they’re not overly shy or too skittish.

Collared Lizards will require high temperatures to stay healthy and basking lights to provide them with access to the full UV spectrum. We recommend investing in a good thermometer to monitor cage temperature along with some heating pads and UV clip lights.

Desert Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos

It can be somewhat tricky to keep a desert horned lizard, so we recommend them for herp hobbyists that have a moderate level of experience keeping lizards.

Because they eat mainly ants in the wild, you will either need to procure ants to feed your desert horned lizard, or purchase a supplement that gives them the formic acid required to keep them healthy.

desert horned lizard
Desert Horned Lizards are actually pretty friendly in general and don’t mind being held.

Horned lizards have relatively laid back personalities, which makes them fairly popular pets. For the most part, they aren’t stressed out by being handled, which means they can be fairly interactive pets once they’ve become acclimated to you.

Zebra Tailed Lizard (Callisaurus draconoides)

People love zebra tailed lizards because they have some pretty unique behaviors. These long-limbed and long-tailed lizards are known for running on their back legs to evade predators. They also perform elaborate “dances” when the sand they sit on gets too hot. They will raise two legs while keeping the other two on the ground and alternate so that they avoid overheating.

One thing to keep in mind if you want a pet zebra tailed lizard is that because they are very active, you should give them a relatively large enclosure, even though the lizards themselves don’t get too large. Adults should get a 55 gallon tank with a wire top so that they have space to scuttle about and get exercise.

sebra tailed lizard
Zebra tailed lizards have distinct stripes on their tails.

In addition to boldly striped tails and colorful underbellies, you’ll notice that zebra tailed lizards also have cute turned up “shovel” noses. They use these noses and their long limbs to burrow into sand at night to stay warm or hide from predators.

Conclusion – Most popular pet desert lizards

Because the main care requirement for a desert dwelling lizard is heat, warmth, and UV exposure, we feel that they are one of the easiest types of lizards to maintain in captivity.

Pet leopard geckos, pet desert horned lizards, pet zebra tailed lizards, and pet desert collared lizards are all rewarding choices if you’re in the market for a desert dwelling species.

Elephant Trunk Snake Care (Acrochordus javanicus)

The Elephant Trunk Snake (Acrochordus javanicus) is quite a bizarre species of snake that has very specific care requirements. Because they have such a unique and comical appearance (more on that later), elephant trunk snakes could be viewed as novelty pets, but in this blog article, we’ll explain why we feel these snakes are best suited for experienced reptile keepers. Let’s get into some detail on Elephant trunk snake care below.

Elephant Trunk Snake Description

We’ve already hinted at it, but the physical appearance of the elephant trunk snake is definitely unique. If we had to choose a single word to describe this species, we’d call it “soggy.”

We think it’s also fair to say that this snake’s common name offers a very apt interpretation of its appearance as it does closely resemble the trunk of an elephant, both in texture and in shape.

elephant trunk snake care
As you can see from this photo, the elephant trunk snake appears quite soggy with loose skin, almost reminiscent of a Green anaconda. Their care is specialized.

Elephant trunk snakes are various shades of brown and some have spots, stripes, or a combination of both. Their bellies are generally a lighter tone closer to an ivory, cream, or pale yellow. They have loose-fitting skin that suits their aquatic lifestyle and allows them fluid movement within the water. The scales of the snake are rough, projectiles that are often described as “warty.”

Males of this species are smaller than the females at maturity. Neither gender usually exceeds eight feet in length, making them a moderately-sized animal to keep as a pet. They tend to live between twelve and twenty years in captivity.

Elephant Trunk Snake Habitat

Elephant trunk snakes are one of the few species of pet snakes that are truly aquatic. This means that as an owner, you’ll need to provide an aquarium rather than a vivarium to keep this species happy and healthy. This is one area of their care that is extremely unique.

A mature animal will require a tank that holds at least 40 gallons, but anything larger is also fine. We don’t recommend housing multiple snakes together, but a breeding male and female pair can be allowed to cohabitate.

Elephant trunk snakes are known for being escape artists, so be sure that your tank has a secure fitting lid on top. We also weigh our lids down with either a hardback book or two on each side or a rock or hefty paperweight.

Water in the tank should be warm. We recommend maintaining a temperature in the low eighties, although allowing the water to cool to room temperature at night shouldn’t be an issue.

Make sure to provide plenty of hiding places within your tank as this species is an ambush predator and also can be somewhat shy. Another necessity is an elevated, out of water platform such as floating cork bark. Although they live aquatic lives, these snakes do enjoy basking and will emerge from water to do so.

Elephant Trunk Snake Feeding Habits

One of the most important facets of Elephant trunk snake care is their feeding habits and preferences. Most terrestrial snakes that people keep as pets eat mice or rats. The elephant trunk snake has a completely different diet because it eats aquatic prey.

elephant trunk snake
Elephant trunk snakes et aquatic animals such as fish and frogs.

The elephant trunk snakes at Backwater Reptiles are offered feeder fish. Many owners allow a small feeder fish population to exist within the tank, while others place only one or two fish at a time in the tank.

In the wild, elephant trunk snakes eat frogs as well, however many pet stores don’t carry feeder frogs, and we don’t think its a necessity to include frogs in your snake’s diet unless you are so inclined.

Elephant Trunk Snake Temperament

Elephant trunk snakes are extremely mellow and non-aggressive towards people. However, we must mention that although you can remove the snake from water, handling should be limited to removing the snake for cleaning of its tank or other such necessities.

No discussion on Elephant snake care would be complete without mentioning the aspect of handling these special reptiles.

Due to the way it is built, the elephant trunk snake is not meant to be picked up and held. It will be detrimental to the animal’s health if you attempt to hold it or interact with it in the same manner that you would a traditional boa, python, or corn snake.

The bottom line is, although elephant trunk snakes might be friendly to people, DO NOT pick them up or handle them on a regular basis. Just like you wouldn’t hold a pet fish because it is bad for the animal’s health, you shouldn’t hold your pet elephant trunk snake.

Conclusion – Elephant trunk snake care

Because they are not interactive pets and because they require a completely different set up and care requirements than traditional pet reptiles, we recommend elephant trunk snakes for experienced herp owners only. Their aquatic care and preferred diet makes them unique reptiles.

 

Trickiest Pet Lizards

Many lizards are relatively low maintenance and thrive in captivity with minimal care. However, there are many that have finicky temperaments, need more space, or have specialized diets that are not so effortless to keep in captivity, even though they can make equally rewarding companions.

The following list describes our top picks for the lizards that we feel are best suited to be kept by hobbyists with plenty of experience. In other words, these animals can be tricky to care for.

Flying Dragon (Draco volans)

The flying dragon is an agamid lizard that gets its name from its ability to open up membranes attached to the side of its body that allow it to glide from tree to tree in its natural habitat.

trickiest pet lizards
Pictured is a flying dragon with its wings folded against its body.

Flying dragons are dark brown with even darker accent markings and appear remarkably ordinary when their wings are not in use. The dragon’s wings are kept folded tightly against its body when it is not gliding, which gives the lizard a long, slender appearance. When extended, the wings have bright yellow and black markings which is what attracts many owners to them in the first place.

Due to their inclination to glide, you will need to provide a very large enclosure for such a relatively small lizard. We also recommend that the enclosure’s walls be constructed of screen material both to cultivate the proper humidity levels and also so that the dragon doesn’t glide into a hard surface and injure itself accidentally.

In addition to requiring a large, semi-specialized enclosure, flying dragons can also take time to acclimate to captive diets. In the wild, they eat mostly termites and ants, so you will need to spend some time training your dragon to consume prey items outside of its usual fare such as crickets, roaches, and other invertebrates.

If you’re prepared to own your own flying dragon, Backwater Reptiles sells these unique lizards and also has a blog article written up that details how best to care for them.

Flying Gecko (Ptychozoon kuhli)

Like the flying dragon, flying geckos are another species of lizard that can glide from tree to tree in the wild. However, flying geckos are much larger and heftier than flying dragons and don’t possess wings to help them glide. Instead, these geckos have specially designed tails, thick webbing between their toes, and membranes extending from their sides.

Housing a flying gecko is also different than housing a flying dragon. Because geckos are more likely to injure themselves by gliding in a confined space, most owners actually restrict them to a small space so that they don’t have room to fly.

flying gecko adult
This photo shows the serrated nature of the flying gecko’s tail. You can also see the thick webbing of the gecko’s toes.

Flying geckos are also not known for their stellar personalities. While they’re not necessarily outwardly aggressive, they certainly don’t enjoy being handled too frequently and would much rather hide than interact with you. Flying geckos are pets that are ultimately best kept for display purposes rather than for their social skills.

Interested in a flying gecko of your own? Backwater Reptiles has got you covered.

Parson’s Chameleon (Calumma parsonii)

Like many chameleon species, Parson’s chameleons can have a tough time acclimating to captivity. And because these chameleons are so rare, they come with a very steep price point, which is very risky if you don’t feel confident in your capabilities to care for the animal.

Parson’s are the heftiest chameleons both in terms of weight and physical body size. This means that they will require a very large mesh enclosure with just the precise amount of humidity, plenty of misting, and lots of invertebrates to feed such a considerable lizard.

adult parsons chameleon
Parson’s chameleons grip very hard, so we recommend protection if you wish to handle yours.

Although you can handle your Parson’s chameleon, we only recommend it for experienced herp enthusiasts. Due to their immense size, the grip of a Parson’s is actually quite strong and very tenacious. If a Parson’s grabs you and doesn’t feel like moving along, you’ll have quite a tough time getting it to relinquish its hold. In other words, many owners of Parson’s chameleons will wear gloves when handling large, mature animals.

Parson’s are not aggressive like some other smaller chameleon species, but they are rather shy. They’d prefer to hide from you. But that doesn’t mean that they’re incapable of biting. Approach your Parson’s with caution and be careful if it begins to hiss or express discomfort towards you.

If you are ready to commit to a hefty Parson’s chameleon, they can certainly make very prized pets. These are very hard to come by, but Backwater Reptiles has a few for sale.

Conclusion

While all three of the lizards listed above are not commonly kept in captivity due to tricky care requirements and/or temperaments, they can be very cherished pets.

We highly recommend that these lizards be kept only by people who have had a few years of experience keeping other reptiles.

Creating an Outdoor Sulcata Tortoise Pen

If you’re looking at creating an outdoor Sulcata tortoise pen, you’ve come the the right place! We have years of experience with these magnificent creatures and have experienced tremendous success keeping them in captivity.

Sulcata tortoises (Geochelone sulcata), aka African Spurred Tortoises, are excellent pets for many reasons. They live incredibly long lives, are very easy to care for, eat a plant-based diet, and enjoy human interaction.

Many people start out with a hatchling sulcata tortoise, but eventually that baby tortoise will mature into a large animal that can weigh anywhere from fifty to 200 pounds! When caring for a reptile that large, it’s important to make sure that it has a space big enough to call home, and for most people, this means keeping the tortoise outdoors in their backyard.

Luckily, sulcatas thrive in outdoor environments, provided that the temperatures don’t fluctuate too high or too low. In fact, if you visit almost any zoo, you’ll see that the sulcata tortoise exhibit houses the animals outdoors in the open because that’s just the best habitat for these docile reptiles.

building a sulcata tortoise pen
Adult sulcata tortoises thrive in outdoor environments.

How to know if your sulcata is ready to live outside

We feel we should specify that not all sulcatas can or should be kept outdoors. Babies need to be kept inside in an area safe from predators like birds, dogs, and cats. It’s also wise to keep young tortoises indoors because they are more sensitive to temperature fluctuations and illnesses. Plus an indoor tortoise’s diet can be very closely monitored so you can be sure that your growing hatchling is receiving the proper nutrients and consuming the proper amount of food.

If your tortoise meets these requirements, then it is more than likely safe to move it outdoors:
-Its shell should be at least a foot long, six to eight inches wide, and four to six inches tall.
-Your tortoise is too large for a 100 gallon tank.
-Your tortoise eats and defecates regularly and burrows normally.
-Your tortoise seems healthy and has no abnormal behaviors that would indicate issues with its well-being.

Building your sulcata’s enclosure

So, you have determined that your sulcata is suited for outdoor living. But keeping a tortoise outdoors is not as simple as releasing it in your backyard. What should you do next?

adult sulcata tortoise
Sulcatas are grazers and will gladly eat the natural vegetation in your yard, so make sure all the plants are edible.

First of all, you’ll need to set up a designated area and make sure that your enclosure is safe. Depending on the size of your backyard and the size of your tortoise, you might need to put up fencing to make sure the tortoise can’t wander too far away.

We highly recommend setting up a pen within your backyard, even if your yard happens to already be fenced in. This is helpful because as your tortoise grows, you can expand its pen to accommodate its need for more space. Once your tortoise is very large, you can allow it to freely roam your backyard.

Just like any reptile habitat, an outdoor pen will need to include the things your tortoise needs to stay healthy. This includes a water dish or soaking facility, plenty of vegetation to graze on (both naturally occurring in your backyard and prepared meals), and any hide spaces and/or decorations you wish to include. Just keep in mind when adding objects to a sulcata enclosure that these tortoises can actually climb. Therefore, you want to avoid incorporating items that are tall enough to allow the tortoise to escape its pen by climbing on them. Tortoises can also fall off these tall items and land on their backs, which is very dangerous if you are not around to put the animal right side up.

If you plan on keeping your sulcata outdoors year round (which we only recommend if you happen to live in a climate with temperatures that don’t drop below the high 60s),  it will be necessary to provide a safe place for the tortoise to retire to if the weather gets too cold, rainy, or hot. Many sulcata owners build custom huts or houses with heat lights on timers so that the tortoise can always find a warm space to hide out if need be.

Geochelone sulcata
Sulcatas are burrowers, so be sure to have a brick, cement, or wood foundation below your fence to prevent them from digging out of their enclosure.

It’s also very important to be aware that sulcatas are burrowers. This means your fence must be tall and extend under the ground as well. Many sulcata owners will lay a foundation of cement bricks or wooden barriers under their fence to prevent the tortoise from burrowing out of the intended border of the enclosure.

Because sulcata tortoises are grazers by nature, be aware that an outdoor tortoise can and probably will eat any plants it can find in its area. We highly recommend checking that the plants in your yard are acceptable fare for a tortoise as you don’t want your tortoise to accidentally ingest anything toxic.

Conclusion – Sulcata tortoise pens

Outdoor sulcata tortoises can be great pets. They’re extremely docile animals that enjoy human interaction, so backyard life is perfect for them.

If you are ready to raise your own sulcata tortoise, Backwater Reptiles has them for sale, and we’re always here to offer advice if you’re building an outdoor pen for your’s.

 

Most Popular Pet Turtles

Turtles are very popular house pets. Not only are they cute, but they’re easy to care for, very robust, gentle around children, and can also be very interactive lifelong companions. We highly recommend turtles for people who are new to keeping reptiles.

So, if you’re in the market for a simple pet, read on to find out our top picks for the best pet turtles.

Red Eared Slider (Trachemys s. elegans)

If you want a pet turtle with an aquatic habitat, our first recommendation would be a red eared slider. These turtles are very common pets and tend to thrive in captivity. They’re also almost always captive bred nationwide, which limits the risk of parasites.

most popular pet turtles
Red Eared sliders (Trachemys elegans) are some of the most popular pet turtles worldwide, and for good reason.

Red eared sliders get their common name from the red marking on the sides of their head. Aside from having red “ears,” sliders also tend to scoot themselves right into the water when they sense any kind of danger in the wild, hence the “slider” portion of their name.

We feed our hatchlings commercially prepared turtle pellets, although we do supplement with live insects from time to time. Red eared sliders are omnivores and eat decaying animal and plant matter in the wild, so they are very accepting of many types of food in captivity.

Adult red eared sliders will grow to be approximately twelve inches long and can live for around twenty years if cared for properly. Due to their size, we do recommend at least a ten gallon tank for hatchlings.

As they grow, the turtles will require about ten gallons of water for every inch of shell. So, for instance, a turtle that is five inches long should be housed in a tank that is at least fifty gallons in size.

If you’re ready to get a red eared slider of your own, Backwater Reptiles sells captive bred Red ears, as well as their awesome cousins, the Yellow-bellied sliders (Trachemys scripta).

Painted Turtles (Chrysemys sp.)

Painted turtles are another fantastic species of aquatic turtle, however they only reach approximately six to eight inches long at maturity, which makes them very manageable in size.

Painted turtles are a bit harder to come by in captivity, although they are by no means rare. You just won’t tend to find them available in most large-scale, chain pet stores. Many people like the colorful red or yellow borders around the seams of the turtle’s inner carapace.

eastern painted turtle
This shy Eastern Painted Turtle might be able to hide his face from the camera, but he can’t hide the beautiful red coloration on his shell.

There are three main species of Painted turtle, including Eastern, Western, and Southern. All three look quite similar, with minor physical differences.

Painted turtles have very similar care requirements to the red eared slider, however they are slightly more carnivorous. Commercial turtle pellets can serve as a staple food, but painted turtles will thoroughly enjoy feeder fish, aquatic worms, aquatic shrimp, and traditional crickets when on land.

The key to keeping a painted turtle happy and healthy is offering a variety of foods in the form of both animal protein and vegetation.

Unlike the red eared slider, Painted turtles are less skittish and not as inclined to bolt into the water around people. This means they are more interactive pet turtles, although we still can’t guarantee that your turtle will enjoy being picked up, handled, and/or coddled.

Want a Painted Turtle of your own? Backwater Reptiles has got you covered!

Peninsula Cooter (Pseudemys peninsularis)

Like the Painted Turtle and Red Eared Slider, the Peninsula Cooter is an aquatic turtle that will require an aquatic enclosure. They thrive in both indoor or outdoor setups and many people even enjoy having them in turtle ponds in their backyard. However, we do recommend that smaller cooters be kept indoors until they reach a reasonable size.

There are many species of cooter turtles and identifying and classifying them into subspecies and categories can be confusing. However, the Peninsula Cooter is a subspecies of pond slider and they tend to live in areas with slower moving currents of water.

pet peninsula cooter
Peninsula cooters aren’t as shy or flighty as red eared sliders but do have very similar care requirements.

Peninsula cooters can grow quite large for an aquatic turtle. Females will be considerably larger than full-grown males and can be up to thirteen inches long at maturity.

Feeding your cooter shouldn’t be hard. They are not known for being picky eaters and their omnivorous diet means they’ll pretty much enjoy anything you give them. At Backwater Reptiles, we give turtle pellets for simplicity and supplement with protein every few days such as crickets, night crawlers, or roaches. We also make sure that a small amount of leafy greens are available, even if the turtles don’t always eat it.

Backwater Reptiles has healthy Peninsula Cooter Turtles for sale.

Hybrid Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene sp.)

We highly recommend Eastern box turtles for reptile enthusiasts of all ages and levels of experience. These are very low maintenance turtles with long life spans and very docile dispositions.

Box turtles don’t require an aquatic habitat like all the other turtles on this list. They can even be kept outdoors in small contained areas provided that the temperatures in your area are not too extreme.

Here at Backwater Reptiles, we keep our Box turtles in a lush outdoor pen where they eat, sleep, and breed!

hybrid eastern box turtle
Box turtles are great outdoor pets.

Juvenile Eastern box turtles tend to be more carnivorous than adults, but no matter what the age of the turtle, a varied diet of both plant and protein should be offered. For adults, we tend to give leafy green veggies and some insect such as night crawlers and crickets.

Eastern Box turtles are easily hybridized in captivity which results in some really interesting shell colorations and markings.

Backwater Reptiles has hybrid Eastern box turtles for sale.

Conclusion – Best pet turtles

Whether you desire an aquatic turtle or a land-based turtle, we think that any of the turtles on this list would make a great addition to your family.

They are all relatively low maintenance reptiles and the only real care concern with these popular pet turtle species is making sure you have enough room for the larger adult species.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our article on the best pet turtles and if you have any follow-up questions, please send us an e-mail.

 

Red Tail Green Rat Snake Care (Gonysoma oxycephala)

Are you in the market for a colorful, mid-size snake with a reasonable temperament? Then we think a red tail green rat snake might be for you.

red tail green rat snake care
Red tail green rat snakes are sleek and limber snakes.

As its name suggests, the red tail green rat snake sometimes has a red tail. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes the tail only has a slight hint of a red tint to it and sometimes it’s not even red at all. The body of the snake itself is usually a brilliant green color, but variation exists and some snakes are grey, silver, or brown.

Green rat snakes will grow to be anywhere from sixty to seventy inches long and are considered mid-size snakes by reptile hobbyists, even though they are actually the largest species of rat snake. Because they are arboreal, their bodies are very limber and strong to enable them to navigate tree branches.

Red Tail Green Rat Snake Housing

An enclosure that is at least 36 inches long and 30 inches tall is recommended for a single green tree rat snake. Because they are semi-arboreal, a green tree rat snake’s home will require things to climb on such as wooden branches and either real or fake foliage.

As far as flooring is concerned, we recommend a traditional snake substrate such as aspen shavings or coconut fiber. A good substrate for a green rat snake is something that holds moisture but doesn’t remain too wet. Just like any other snake species, you’ll want to be sure that there is adequate moisture inside the snake’s home, but also avoid keeping things too wet as this could foster respiratory infections. Choosing a good substrate is the first step to respiratory health.

green rat snake
As this photo shows, the red tail green rat snake does not always have a bright red tail.

Cage décor for red tail green rat snakes need not be elaborate, although there are two things that you want to be sure not to exclude. The first item is a large water dish. Humidity is important when keeping reptiles of all species and water dishes help to maintain proper moisture levels. We also want to recommend that some type of ground-level hide be placed in the cage, even if your snake does spend a lot of time climbing. Replaceable toilet paper rolls, bark hide spaces from pet stores, and even homemade hideouts are all acceptable options.

The temperature in your green tail rat snake’s enclosure should stay in the range of 77 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use reptile heat tape, heating pads, or lamps to maintain this temperature. It’s also wise to invest in a thermometer so you can monitor this closely and make sure it doesn’t fluctuate too much.

Red Tail Green Rat Snake Feeding

Although red tail green rat snakes eat lots of small animals in the wild, they will take to eating frozen/thawed mice pretty quickly, even if your pet snake happens to not be a captive bred animal. It might take some training, but green rat snakes will readily accept pre-killed food. We recommend feeding around every seven to ten days for adults and bi-weekly for hatchlings.

red tail green rat snake
Red tail green rat snakes are arboreal, so be sure to provide them with a habitat that accommodates this behavior.

Red Tail Green Rat Snake Temperament

While red tail green rat snakes are not known for being particularly docile, they are also not known for being on the defensive or aggressive side. We’ve found that if you handle your green rat snake regularly and teach it to associate time outside the cage being handled with good things, it will take to human interaction quite well.

handling your green rat snake
Be calm and confident when handling your red tail green rat snake and it will respond to you well.

As far as handling is concerned, the only word of advice we have when it comes to picking up your green rat snake is to be wary when you first remove it from its cage. Like many snake species, it’s not uncommon for a green rat snake to be a bit nervous and fidgety, which can translate to a bad experience for both owner and animal if caution is not exercised. Just be calm and confident with your snake and it will cooperate with you.

Conclusion

Red tail green rat snakes make exceptional and rewarding pets. We recommend them for hobbyists with moderate levels of experience due to their habitat requirements and somewhat flighty nature.

Think you’re ready to purchase a red tail green rat snake of your own? Backwater Reptiles has got you covered!

Calote Lizard Care

If you’ve never heard of a calote lizard, you’re not alone. These lizards are known by a few other different monikers. The most common secondary name for the calote is Oriental Garden Lizard, but the lizards in the calote family are also known as tree dragons and even “bloodsuckers.” We’re kind of puzzled by that last one since calote lizards certainly aren’t vampiric at all.

calote lizard care
This Oriental garden lizard (Calotes versicolor) has very red tones to its scales. We’ll detail their care in this article.

Caring for Calote Lizards

As its common name suggests, the Oriental garden lizard has a wide range across Asia. It can be found in Southwest Asia to Sri Lanka as well as from South China into Sumatra. It is a hardy little lizard that acclimates to its habitat rapidly, meaning that it is definitely not an endangered or threatened species and can be found commonly in its home range.

Calotes are mid-size lizards with decent life spans in captivity. They range in size from sixteen to twenty inches long and can live for up to ten years. Males are larger than females and often have pronounced crests running along their backs. People are often attracted to calotes, particularly Calotes versicolor because of the bright colors these lizards display. The versicolor in particular can be red, purple, green, brown, blue and any combination of those colors mixed together.

Calotes are arboreal lizards and spend a lot of time in trees. This means that in captivity, your calote will need a cage or enclosure with plenty of room to explore and stretch its legs. We highly recommend a home with lots of foliage (either natural or artificial is fine) or other cage furniture to facilitate climbing.

calote lizard
Calotes versicolor can be shades of red, brown, blue, and green.

Multiple calotes can be kept in the same enclosure provided you give them enough room. Just be sure that all the lizards are of similar size so that no cannibalism occurs unintentionally. Males will become territorial as they mature, so it’s also unwise to keep two males in the same enclosure, but multiple females shouldn’t be an issue.

Because they are diurnal lizards, calotes of all species will require UV lighting and a heat source. Make sure you are using a full spectrum bulb as UVA and UVB rays are required for calotes to synthesize vitamin D3. Ambient cage temperature on the hot side of the cage should be around eighty degrees or hotter because calotes are tropical lizards. Temperatures that are too cold will slow down their metabolisms and could even cause digestive issues.

Depending on the species of calote lizard, you should feed it a diet of invertebrates and vegetable matter. Calotes will eat mostly crickets as far as insects are concerned, but they are also known for accepting wax worms and meal worms from tongs or fingers. If your calote enjoys vegetables, feel free to give it leafy greens and fruit. However, be sure to remove any uneaten food at the end of each day to avoid spoilage and the potential for bacteria to aggregate in the food dish.

Calotes might not drink water from a dish, but it is important that a dish with clean water always be available. We recommend one that is large enough for the lizard to sit in and have a soak if it desires. As we previously mentioned, calotes are tropical lizards and require humidity to stay healthy, so a water dish is a great way to make sure this occurs.

In order to ensure your calote receives proper nutrition, we recommend dusting your feeder insects with calcium at each feeding. A multivitamin dusting can be done less frequently. We advise once per week.

male calote lizard
This is a very colorful male Oriental garden lizard. Notice its spiked crest.

As far as personality goes, calotes are not aggressive, but they can be flighty. Initially, when you take them out of their cage, they will be skittish, but as you handle them more and more, they will grow accustomed to you. It also doesn’t hurt to offer food when you take them out so that handling time becomes a pleasant experience for them.

If you think you’re ready for a tropical pet calote, Backwater Reptiles sells these colorful lizards. They’re fairly easy to care for and we do recommend them for people who are fairly new to keeping lizards.