Monday, December 20, 2010

A Great Introduction To Lizards By John From Reptile Apartment

Uh Oh, I think I need a Bigger Box!

An overview of Lizard Ownership

Lizards come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors in today’s herpetoculture market. Chameleons, geckos, and agamid lizards are among the more common lizards sold in today’s pet stores and most reptile shows. There are other lizards available as well such as the Monitor Lizards which have several species being represented in the market. Usually these are a larger reptile which most people who are considering a new lizard pet stay away from due to their adult size.

For whatever reason, people often buy the all too familiar Green Iguana iguana as a first time lizard. As with any baby reptile they look cute when they are that small. So do human children but that doesn’t mean everyone should start having one. Reptile babies grow just as the human ones do. As the lizard grows, they will of course need a larger enclosure. Think of it this way would you keep a 17 year old child in a bassinette? Obviously not, lizards are the same way.

Not all lizards are created equal

If you are considering a new reptile pet and want something with legs instead of a snake I would recommend against the following lizards due to size requirements and handling issues which may arise. Chameleons, Monitors, and Iguanas are not a first time lizard owner’s best choice. Chameleons are not a good choice as they have a multitude of requirements that most people have not researched prior to purchasing one. They are also considered by most to be a hands off pet. A little piece of trivia here on Chameleons, the reason the ‘color up’ is that they’re stressed.

Savannah Monitors Varanus exanthematicus are one of the more common monitor species often sold. Savannah Monitors Varanus exanthematicus can get up to 4’ in total length. With the general rule of lizard keeping being that the enclosure should be 2 to 3 times the length of the lizard we can see this lizard requires an 8-12’ long enclosure! Now this of course doesn’t take into account all of the equipment that goes a long with it.

An adult Green Iguana Iguana iguana will potentially reach 5-6’ in total length with the above measurements given we can see that a 15’-18’ enclosure would be needed. Again this doesn’t take into account the lighting and heating elements that are required to keep the lizard healthy. The three lizards mentioned above all require UVB lighting as well as heating elements which will heat the enclosure to the proper temperatures. It is also imperative that the lizards are not able to come into direct contact with the lighting elements etc.

Research and Information

Just reading this article doesn’t mean you’re ready to own one though. There are a multitude of places to get information on the particular lizard that you wish to keep. However, with that being said we also must understand that some sources are not as qualified as others.

Think of it like this. The internet is available to anyone with a computer to release any information they want without necessarily being edited or questioned by anyone. I wouldn’t rely on the internet as my only source of information. I recommend that if you find a lizard or any animal that you want to keep you immediately buy some magazines on the subject. Back issues are available on just about any website and they will have covered the particular species in at least one issue I am sure.

Next buy a few books on the species. Not one or two, buy three books all by different authors on the particular lizard you want to keep. The reason you buy books is that these have been edited by professionals and written by professionals in their respective fields. I know of no publisher that will allow someone to write a book on a subject that cannot display an expertise in the field that they are writing about. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about self published eBooks either. That is unless the author has a proven track record of publishing through a publisher or at least a few articles in a magazine.

Good First Time Lizards

The top three lizards I would recommend for the new lizard are listed below.

Leopard Geckos Eublepharis macualrius are the number one lizard pet for kids. They are gentle, take to handling well, and are relatively not hard to maintain. Today they also come in a multitude of colors and even sizes to match just about anyone’s tastes.

Bearded Dragons Pogona is another lizard which is highly recommended for first time lizard keepers as they too are very personable. The Beardies as they are known in the industry do get significantly larger than the above mentioned Leopard Gecko Eublepharis macularius reaching anywhere from 18-24” in total length. Beardies also come in a wide variety of color morphs as well from blood red to albino and everything in between.

Blue Tongued Skinks Tiliqua  are another on the list which are regarded as anotherfirst time lizard which is relatively easy in maintenance and care. Blue Tongue Skinks Tiliqua sp require about a 55 gallon enclosure and can become a very personable pet and fairly low in their maintenance requirements. They average around less than two feet in length. Both the Bearded Dragon Pogona sp. and the Blue Tongue Skink Tiliqua require UV lighting and eat a variety of insects and vegetable matter. The Blue Tongue Skink Tiliqua don’t as of yet come in a wide variety of color morphs but different species do have different colors and patterns.

Which Lizard is for you?

No matter which you finally choose you should thoroughly investigate the species of your choice and ask yourself a few questions prior to buying a new lizard pet.

How much room do you have for an enclosure?
How much time can you dedicate to caring and interacting with your new pet?
Are you able to provide the needed elements to keep your lizard healthy?

Answering the above questions and doing your fair share of research will lead to many years of happiness for both you and your new pet lizard. Most lizards live in captivity up to ten years with proper care and maintenance so please understand this is a long term commitment.

*, with photos by Austin P Taylor

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