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If you have decided to get an exotic animal (anything from a pet snake, lizard or iguana) it is important to know how to properly care for, feed and how to house them. Many of these pets have died horrible deaths due to owner ignorance and neglect.


Always keep in mind the lifespan of your new pet and consider how it will fit into your life - for example snakes can live for many years.


You also need to know if males and females can be kept in the same cage - One male leopard gecko can be kept in the same cage with multiple females, whereas chameleons should be kept on their own - and only be put together for a short time for breeding.


  1. What special requirements do bearded dragons have in captivity?
  2. What is the difference between green iguanas and bearded dragons?
  3. Are green iguanas really green?
  4. What should my iguana's cage look like?
  5. When should you bring your reptile to the vet?
  6. What is brumation?
  7. How should one handle a snake?
  8. What should you consider when buying an exotic pet?


1. What special requirements do bearded dragons have in captivity?

Bearded dragons need a specific diet according to their size and variety, they also need a daily calcium supplement with the food. Being omnivores, they will eat both insects and vegetables. Food needs to be the correct size to prevent choking or injury. Bearded dragons need UV lights in their habitats.

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2. What is the difference between iguanas and bearded dragons?


  • Bearded dragons generally need a little less space. Iguanas grow quickly and get quite large.
  • Iguanas generally do not like dogs, where as bearded dragons can get dog tame.
  • Iguanas are quite territorial and enjoy their own space.
  • Igs are herbivores and beardies have different dietary requirements being omnivorous.
  • Iguanas and bearded dragons prefer different temperatures and humidity levels.
  • Iguanas are more sensitive to stress. Bearded dragons are quite chilled out and will rarely bite.

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3. Are green iguanas really green?

Even though they are called green iguanas, they are not always green. Certain baby iguanas are blue, but may change colour as they get older. Temperature and stress can cause colour change. They also change colour during breeding season. In the weeks before skin shedding, you will also start to see some skin colour changes.

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4. What should my iguana's cage look like?

It is important that your iguana has enough space and the cage needs to be large. There should be climbing and basking areas - an iguana likes to see what is going on around them, so the cage should not be isolated. The correct heating is important. The cage should not be in a drafty area.

It should also not be near an air conditioner. For optimal health, iguanas need UVB light for at least 12 hours per day - sunlight is best but is not always available to a pet iguana. Sunlight through a window is not effective as the glass filters out the essential UV light. Humidity levels shoud be kept between 70-80%. There should also be a hiding spot or private area within the cage or a "den".

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5. When should you bring your reptile to the vet?

The following symptoms require veterinary treatment:

  • Rasping and wheezing - bubbles may be visible at the nostrils.
  • Unresponsive reptile
  • Swollen arms and legs could be a symptom of metabolic bone disease (MBD) - this is when the bones in the body have become weakened due to a lack of calcium in the diet of if the reptile has not had adequate sun basking time.
  • If your herp is not feeding for a long time and it is warm weather, it may be time for a trip to the vet. Consult your vet as "safe" fasting times vary from snake, to lizard to tortoise.
  • Limb or tail injury, toenail damage and burns (from lying against light bulbs or other exposed sources of heat)

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6. What is brumation?

Brumation is an example of dormancy in reptiles and is similar to hibernation. Reptiles may eat less or not at all, but will still drink water.

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7. How should one handle a snake?

  • If the snake is very long, you may need the help of a second person.
  • Your hands should be washed and should not smell of food. Washing your hands also reduces the risk of harmful bacteria or parasites being transferred to your snake.
  • Do not catch your snake off guard and do not make sudden movements.
  • Gently but firmly grab the snake around mid-body, lift it up, and then support it with both hands. Remember that if you feed your snake in its cage, it may be an idea to first get your snake out of the cage with a snake hook, as it may mistake your hands for food.
  • Never grab your snake by its head or by its tail.

Please note this article only applies to non-venomous snakes.

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8.What should you consider when buying an exotic pet?

It is vital to find out as much as possible about the animal’s needs.

Consider :

  • Environment - usually exotics need a carefully controlled environment with specialised heating and lighting, or they may become ill. The environment must allow for natural behaviour, such as burrowing, climbing or basking.
  • Lifespan - will you be able to care for your pet its entire lifespan?
  • How large will the pet grow.
  • Nutrition is key - what to eat and how much.
  • Size of enclosure - this may need to increase as the animal grows. Must  the animal be kept alone or with others?
  • Does the animal’s behaviour fits in with your lifestyle?
  • You will need a specialist vet for the species nearby to treat your pet if they become sick


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