Reptiles are becoming more and more popular as pets with snakes and lizards being the most common. They're relatively easy to look after, rarely smell and are quiet. To ensure your reptile lives a happy and healthy life, great love and care is needed.
As lizards and snakes are a protected animal in Australia, licenses are required so seek your state’s legal requirements.
Feeding Your Reptile
Reptiles are are relatively cheap to feed. Lizards need to be provided with nutritional food to grow healthy and to help avoid any health problems.
Most pet snakes eat dead rats or mice which can be bought frozen. Choose a rat or mice the same size as the middle of your snake. Snakes will eat their meal whole, and can range from just one rat or mouse to a few. It’s a good idea to have at least 6 on hand at any one time. Frozen quail and rabbits are also available from our Pets Domain stores to feed a larger snake. If your snake doesn’t eat their meal within 10-15min, remove the food from the vivariums.
Most lizards are omnivores so need different types of food in their diet. Your lizard should be fed fruit or vegetables, and either crickets, snails or cockroaches. For more advice on feeding your lizard, ask one of our friendly Pets Domain Staff.
Fresh water should always be provided for your reptile and will need to be changed at least twice a week.
Domestic reptiles live in vivariums, and are available in various sizes. When choosing a vivarium for your reptile, choose a size that you have space for, and make sure it is escape and draft proof. The vivarium should be heat and moisture resistant too.
It’s required to fit your vivarium with heating and lighting. Lizards and snakes require heat in order for them to digest their food and to stay active. Have a thermal gradient throughout the vivarium, for example, one end to be warm and the other cold. This can be achieved with either under tank heaters, ceramic heaters, or basking bulbs. A good idea is to place a thermometer at either end of the vivarium to keep an eye on the temperatures.
Your reptile will love to camouflage itself, so ornaments like plants, rocks, trees, and branches will allow your reptile to feel at home. Provide sheltered areas within the vivarium for a sense of security for your reptile.
When it comes to flooring, reptile carpets are a good, clean option. Shredded bark and sand look visually pleasing also.
Vivariums will require cleaning once a week, and any water or food bowls cleaned daily. Reptiles are susceptible to parasites and microorganisms within their space, so cleaning is vital.
Reptiles will shed their skin regularly in order to grow. Make sure old skins are removed from the vivarium, and check closely on the feet of lizards for any bits of old skin that hasn’t fallen off and remove it.
Some lizards are more aggressive than others and will bite more frequently. Before handling a lizard, make sure you understand your lizard’s behaviour and breed. The majority of pet lizards are small and won’t cause any harm when biting, but wearing gloves is always a good idea, especially if the lizard tends to bite often.
Never pick up a lizard by it’s tail as it causes discomfort. Some breeds of lizard’s tail will fall off but will eventually grow back, however not as long.
For smaller lizards (20cm or smaller), use one hand and grasp it over the body, using your index finger and thumb to restrain the neck.
Medium lizards (20-50cm), should be picked up with one hand grasping the top back section where the front legs are and the other hand grasping the back where the hips are.
For larger lizards (longer than 50cm), use one hand to grasp around the neck, and the other on the stomach, then bring the lizard close to your body with your elbow restraining the back legs and tail. Be careful with large lizards as they can cause deep bites and scratches. Two people may be required.
When it comes to handling a snake, it is important that you understand your snake’s behaviour and breed. Some snakes can be dangerous, aggressive in nature, and venomous. However, common pet snakes like the Carpet Python are not aggressive and non-venomous.
Once your snake has settled into their new home, doesn’t react to movement outside of the enclosure, and has digested all of their food (no bulge in it’s belly), you can try and pick it up. Snake hooks are ideal, even for non-venomous snakes. Pick up your snake by using a snake hook around the middle of it’s body. Hold your snake in the middle third section of it's body, with your palms on it’s belly. Never hold a snake by it’s head or tail, unless instructed by a vet. Make sure you’re relaxed, and move slowly. Any sudden movements might trigger your snake to reflex and bite.
If your snake attempts to bite, or excessively struggles while you’re holding it, return your snake to the enclosure.
Spotting health problems with a reptile is much harder than a more conventional pet. You’d need to keep a very close eye on your reptile, maintain a highly nutritional diet, and ensure the vivarium is kept clean.
Reptiles can pass diseases onto their keepers like bacterial infections, so make sure your hands are always washed before and after handling, cleaning or feeding.
All reptiles should be checked for parasites by a reptile vet annually. When introducing another snake or lizard, make sure it has been quarantined. Never mix snakes and lizards in the same vivarium.
Metabolic Bone Disease is very common and unfortunately quite serious in Lizards. This can result from not enough calcium in the diet or insufficient exposure to ultraviolet light.
Pliable bones, distorted tail, weakness and difficulty in lifting itself up, and tremors or seizures are all signs of Metabolic Bone Disease. If you notice any of these signs, take your lizard to the reptile vet.
For more information, download our care sheets: