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Keeping pet reptiles (Part II)

This article continues this previous article on Keeping Pet Reptiles.

Humidity: Humidity in a reptile’s enclosure is important at all times. It can influence  appetite and shedding. Each species has its own level but most are like the tropical species  and prefer a humidity level between 65-90%. To humidify your terrarium,  vivarium or reptiles’ habitat and maintaining the correct level of humidity in the reptiles’   enclosure can be achieved by some simple arrangements within the pets’ home.

For snakes or large lizards a good and effective source of humidity can be created by  using a tub or a shallow ground pond that has a large surface area. Humidity in a  terrarium or vivarium can be created by having a full container of water placed upon the  roof. This reservoir of water will be used to create a large amount of humidity for the  reptiles’ enclosure. Pierce the bottom of the container with a very small hole and direct  the water drops onto your selected area within the terrarium, vivarium and reptile  enclosures. The flow of the water droplets should not create any large wet spots on the  reptile enclosure’s floor. Position on the floor of the reptiles’ habitat, terrarium or  vivarium a suitable escape or hide container filled with any natural water-retaining  material. Allow the retaining material to evaporate dry of moisture and then add more water. This will create humidity within a small area that your pet can retreat into.

VENTILATION: Vents that allow exchange of air over time without creating a wind  tunnel are recommended. Reptiles have fairly low metabolic rates so as long as the air is   replaced over time they seem to cope quite well. Also, the doors themselves let air in so   they inadvertently become part of the ventilation system.

TERRARIUMS: Can be designed to your individual taste and be made of all sorts of  different materials such as acrylic, glass, wood, aluminum etc. (acrylics have better solar light transmittance than glass).

The decor is very important – use branches, abrasives to promote shedding, shelters, waterfalls, streams, mirrors, dolls (to prevent aggression and self-mutilation), insects or moving objects to avoid boredom. Snakes like to be in a group, iguanas like tactile contact  at night, auditory stimuli as well as hygiene and cleanliness. For your pet to adjust to its  new environment it is advisable to create their terrarium as closely to their natural  habitat as possible.

BASE: Preferred materials are newspaper, artificial grass, peat, compost, bark or gravel  and stones of a size that cannot be swallowed.

DIET/NUTRITION: Variations in temperature play a key role in the metabolism of reptiles. This is a result of their ectothermic nature and their dependency on  environmental temperatures. A reptile’s metabolic rate determines the amount of food that it requires to live and move about. It is this dependency on environmental temperatures rather than an internal metabolism that creates a problem for most owners of captive reptiles. If a captive reptile is kept at sub-optimal temperatures and fed too much it may cause anorexia due to the reptile’s lack of activity caused by the cooler temperatures and lowered metabolic rate, which cause improper digestion while being maintained on a constant diet. The same is also true for reptiles that are kept under conditions that are too warm and are  under fed. These reptiles will continue to increase in movement as their metabolic rate  increases and continue to burn energy faster than it is being supplied. Illness, reproduction and growth may also equally effect metabolism.

The frequency of feeding depends greatly on the metabolic rate, as mentioned earlier. Active species, like garter snakes, will require more frequent feedings than will less active species, like boa  constrictors. The nutritional qualities of the foods being offered will also play a role in the required frequency of feeding. For example: Garter snakes and Racers may be fed once weekly, larger Lizards like the Gila monster and the Savannah monitor should be fed once or twice a week, whereas some species of Aquatic Turtles, while they may present the  appearance of a slow metabolic rate, actually have a higher rate and require feeding on a daily basis. There are four basic food preferences among the countless species of reptiles.  A carnivorous diet consists of meats, an insectivorous diet consists of insects, a  herbivorous diet consists of plant matter and an omnivorous diet may consist of a  combination of the other three groups. While each species has its own unique dietary  requirements, its preference for specific food items is largely based on its natural  geographic location and the types of food items that are readily available in that location. These four basic diets may be broken down into two separate groups. Those, which  consist of animal proteins and those that consist of plant proteins. In general, herbivores  must have 80% of vegetable + fruit (60-80% salad vegetables and 10-15% fruit, 10% or  once a week animal protein which can be dog food and another 10% of rabbit feed  (alfalfa), plus three times a week additional vitamin supplements.

This article was published in Costa Blanca News.