Lizards

There are many different kinds of lizards. Their needs are very specific.

Erica Mede, CVT

Natural History

Also known at the Carolina anole, the American anole, the Red Throated anole, and the American Chameleon, this lizard has become popular pet in the United States .  Native to the south east United States , this diurnal lizard is commonly found scurrying across the ground and climbing garden walls, plants, and lattice work (no higher than 15 inches high typically).  Most of the anoles found in the pet trade are still wild caught but captive breeding has been done successfully.

Description

Although Green anoles are not chameleons, they are frequently called chameleons due to their ability to change from green to brown rapidly especially under stress.  These 8 inch lizards are more of a visual pet rather than a handle-able one.  Their small stature, visually appealing green coloration, and relatively short life span of 2-4 years makes anoles an ideal pet for many apartment residents.  Male anoles are generally a bit larger and display their characteristic ruby red dewlap (a flap of skin that extends primarily during mating season under the throat).  This species is capable of autonomy (“tail dropping”) when frightened to distract potential predators.

Enclosure

Green anoles are easily maintained in 10-gallon glass aquariums or other enclosures of a similar size.  Screen tops are a must for this species to ensure adequate ventilation.  Two anoles can be kept in a 10-gallon enclosure so long as both anoles are female or one is male.  Two males will fight and stress each other out.  A 20-gallon tank can comfortably house 3-4 anoles.

Full screen enclosures created for chameleons is an excellent option for this species.   The larger the enclosure the better with a 2’x2’x2’ screen enclosure being ideal for companion Green anoles.  Other options for enclosures include sweater box style containers that can be modified for ventilation, heating, and lighting.  These reptiles are not truly arboreal.  Anoles are predominantly terrestrial with an excellent climbing ability which should be taken into consideration during enclosure selection.


Cage Accessories

A naturalistic terrarium can be created for the Green anole using live potted plants such as Sansevierias, orchids, and bromeliads which stay relatively small.  Fake plants can be used safely and give the same effect as natural plants but do not create humid environment.  Potted plants should always be herbicide and insecticide free in case of accidental ingestion of the plant or soil by the reptile.  Plants are not only aesthetically pleasing to owners but offers enrichment and security for the anoles in the enclosure.  It is ideal to supply as much shrubbery and foliage as possible.

Hides in the forms of rocks caves (not heat caves), small cork logs, and other creative locations should be placed in at least two locations in the enclosure.  Preferably, one hide area should be provided on the warm end and one on the cooler end to promote thermoregulation with minimal stress on the animal.

Branches, bark, and some small rocks can be should be added to the enclosure for climbing and basking purposes.  Anoles are naturally found running along stone fences and climbing small wooden branches of bushes in the garden.  Green anoles enjoy basking in the sun making it a necessity for there to be a branch closer to the basking light for normal behavior.
A water dish is invaluable to increasing the humidity in the Green anoles enclosure.  Ideally, the water dish should be shallow enough for the lizard to walk in without submerging itself but deep enough that the water comes up to their shoulders for soaking.  It is recommended to remove the water dish if live crickets are being fed as they tend to gravitate towards the water and drown.  Most anoles will not eat deceased prey.

Temperature

Day time temperatures are typically maintained at 77-86 degree Fahrenheit with a basking spot of 90-95 degrees.  The basking spot should be situated ideally with a rock over the under tank heater or heat cable and directly underneath the basking light.  A branch high enough to rest under the basking spot is appropriate too as long as the reptile has no contact with the lamp itself.  Care must be taken to prevent burns from basking lights by elevating the lamp itself off the cage screen.  If necessary, a fine wire mesh cage can be created around the lamp area to prevent accidental burns.  When using under tank heaters or heat cable to increase the ambient temperature of the enclosure care must be that the animal never contacts the heating element itself or the glass/wire/plastic directly over it.  A thermostatically controlled device should always be used.  A layer of substrate must be provided over the enclosure floor to prevent burns.

At night, the temperatures can drop as low as 70 degrees Fahrenheit but are best maintained between 70 and 75 degrees.  If the ambient temperature in the room the reptile is in drops below 70 degrees it is recommended to utilize the under tank heaters, heat cable, or a ceramic heat emitter (does not give off visible light).

Two thermometers should be utilized to ensure that the proper temperatures are being maintained.  The cool end of the enclosure should have the thermometer an inch above the substrate.  The thermometer on the warmer end of the enclosure should be at the level of the basking site.

Humidity

The humidity in the Green anole enclosure should be kept at 60-70%.  A water dish is an excellent way to keep the humidity up especially when it is placed over an under tank heater.  Misting 2-3 times a day can keep the humidity up as well but saran wrap may be needed on a quarter to half the screen lid (if used) to maintain the humidity.  Like wise, a full screen enclosure may require saran wrap on one or two sides to prevent excessive drying of the enclosure.  A drip system or misting system is excellent for maintaining humidity and allow the anole to drink droplets.  Some may learn to use a water dish but offering water droplets on leaves is a great choice.

Lighting

All reptiles benefit from some level of UVB lighting.  The best is natural sunlight but most captive reptiles rely on specialized UVB emitting bulbs.  Green anoles benefit from a 5.0 UVB bulb that can be found at most local pet stores selling reptile supplies.  The UVB light should be on 12 hours a day during the day light portion of the light cycle.

Substrate

Green anoles are primarily terrestrial but they do not burrow or dig.  An excellent substrate to use for an anole enclosure would be indoor/outdoor or reptile carpet which is more aesthetically pleasing than newspaper and easier to clean than paper towel.  All are excellent choices are although for a hygienic cage set-up.  Plants can be potted in top soil only to avoid accidental ingestion of toxic materials.

Feeding

The Green anole is a true insectivore enjoying small roaches (such as Dubias), small silk worms, small meal worms, small crickets, and small red worms (“red wrigglers”).  A rule of thumb for feeding anoles is the food item offered should always be live and only half the size of the anoles head.  Hatchling and young anoles should be offered 2-3 food items once a day and adults should be offered 2-3 food items every other day.   Feeder insects should be appropriately gut loaded by offering them dark leafy greens such as kale or endive and carrots (for added vitamin A) 24-48 hours before feeding to the anole.  This method of gut loading helps keep the prey items alive longer.  Always remove uneaten food after an hour.  A powdered vitamin supplement containing calcium should be used to powder the insects 3 times weekly.  A multivitamin powder should be used once weekly in the same fashion.

Sources and Suggested Reading

The Guide to Owning a Green Anole, Ray Hunziker
Lizards (Barron’s Complete Pet Owner’s Manual, Harald Jes
Lizard Care from A to Z, Richard Bartlett

If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

Erica Mede, CVT
Photos and edited by Susan Horton, DVM

There are 20 different species of bearded dragons in Australia but only three of those species are commonly found in the pet industry.  The Inland or Central Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps) is the most common lizard kept and recommended for keeping in the pet industry due to its gentle disposition and relatively friendly manner when being handled.  The Bearded Dragon (Pogona barbata) and Lawson’s Dragon (Pogona henrylawsoni) are also found in the pet industry but in much smaller numbers.  For the purpose of this hand out however, bearded dragon or “beardie” will stand for the Inland or Central Bearded Dragon.

Natural History

Beardies are found throughout the semi-desert regions of Central and Southern Australia along forest edges too.  In Australia , they are frequently found basking on tree stumps, fences, railings, and any other object that juts out of the ground.

Description

Bearded dragons are well muscled, broad headed, flat bodied lizards.  Their signature “beard” is under the chin and consists of small spikes that jut out when the throat is inflated.  The head is spined as well as the sides of the abdomen.  Some breeders sell Leather Backs which are genetically designed to have a softer feel by eliminating some of the spikes.  Juveniles lack a beard.  The tail is half the length of the lizard and incapable of autotomy (a defense mechanism found in some lizards also known as “dropping the tail”).  The bearded dragon has become quite popular in the breeding industry for morphs (different variations of color not created in the wild).  The most common morphs are Red/Gold, Sandfire, Sandfire Pastel, and Gold Headlight Iris.  These lizards have an average life span of 5-9 years although 12 years is no longer uncommon.

Feeding

Adult bearded dragons are omnivorous while hatchlings and juveniles are more insectivorous.  Hatchling up to two months old should be fed two to three times a day a mixture of insects and healthy greens.  Several feedings is especially advantageous when there are several dragons housed together.  Proper growth is achieved through several small meals with smaller prey items versus one large meal with a large prey item.  Adults, however, can be fed a salad of greens such as romaine lettuce, escarole, Swiss chard, mustard greens, and turnip greens with a small amount of other vegetables and fruits such as carrots, peas, strawberries, blueberries, melon, and squash once a day.  Edible flowers such as squash blossoms are also okay to offer and generally relished.  Insects such as crickets, meal worms, and feeder roaches (such as dubias) are excellent protein sources and should be offered every other day to every three days depending on your lizards’ body condition (thin, normal, or obese) and your vet’s recommendation.

Gut loading feeder insects with healthy calcium rich greens such as kale and Swiss chard is required for a positive calcium to phosphorous ratio (this prevents and corrects metabolic bone disease).  Feeder insects must be dusted with a calcium supplement (one without phosphorous) 3-4 times a week and a multi-vitamin once a week.  Some owners feed small pinkie mice to their larger adults.  It is recommended to limit the pinkie feedings to an occasional treat or once every two week feeding due to the higher fat content.  The most important rule to remember when it comes to insect and rodent prey is that the feeder can not be longer than the distance between the dragon’s eyes!  This helps prevent dangerous impaction and digestion issues including choking.

Enclosure

Hatchlings grow fast but can be maintained well in a 10 gallon aquarium at a young age while growing into adults that can be housed in aquariums as large as 75 or 120 gallons!  The smallest cage for a singly housed adult is a 30 gallon breeder although larger is preferred.  Multiple lizards housed together require more room to allow for escape from each other.  Custom enclosures for adults made of wood or melamine should be 72” long, 16 inches wide and 17 inches high according to some sources.  Ventilation is important regardless of the size of the enclosure. It is recommended that aquariums have 3 sides covered to prevent escape attempts and allow for a feeling of security.

During the warmer months, beardies can be housed outside in an outdoor set-up created with wood and wire mesh.  There are several blue print plans available on the internet for these enclosures.  Please, do not take the aquarium outside!  This can cause lethal hyperthermia especially in direct sun light.  Frequent supervision is required ensure the health of your beardie.  These enclosures must be protected from large amounts of rainfall and predators.  The optimal positioning allows for some shade to be available as well.

Substrate

It is never recommended to keep bearded dragons on a sand substrate even the calcium sand sold in pet stores.  Life threatening impactions are frequently caused by accidental ingestion of particulate bedding including sand, coconut fiber substrate, and crushed walnut bedding.  A better substrate that is easier to clean is indoor/outdoor carpet, potting soil (requires weekly changing), and butcher paper.  The substrate should be spot cleaned daily and changed as needed or after 7 days, whichever comes first.

Temperature and Humidity

The temperature for bearded dragons during the day should be around 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit  and drops to 75 degrees Fahrenheit at night.  The basking site should be around 88-95 F.  Two thermometers should be used in the cage.  One placed at the level of the basking site and the other on the cool end of the tank an inch above the substrate.  It is highly recommended to regulate the temperature using a thermostat.  The primary heat source should be an over head basking light or ceramic heat emitter.  Secondary heat if needed ideally comes from under tank heaters under half the tank.  Do not use electrical heating rocks due to the extremely likely chance the bearded dragon will develop thermal burns.

The humidity in the cage should be maintained between 40 and 60%.  This can be achieved by placing a water dish in the enclosure, preferably one the lizard can soak in, and daily misting.  A hygrometer is highly recommended.

UVB

UVB lights are necessary for the proper growth and maintenance of bearded dragons.  The ultraviolet B radiation stimulates the synthesis of calcium.  The best source of UVB is the sun but only when the animal is outside and directly in the sun light.  Never place the cage by a window.  The UVB light is filtered out through glass and the chance of over heating the enclosure is extremely high.  The recommended bulb for a hatchling and sub-adult is a Repti Sun 10.0 and a Repti Sun 5.0 for adults.  The bulb must be changed yearly as the strength of the UVB will deteriorate with time despite the bulb giving off visible light.  Placement of the bulb should be overhead and no more than 10 inches away from the basking site.  The light cycle for bearded dragons should be 12 hours of light with 12 hours of darkness.  Mercury vapor bulbs work well, too.

Cage Accessories

​Dried wood branches are appreciated by most bearded dragons as the species is a modest climber.  A large rock under the basking light makes a wonderful basking site.  Live plants such as aloe and palms can be added to the enclosure.  Artificial plants are easily disinfected and make appropriate accessories.  Most beardies will utilize a half log hiding area.  Custom and creative hides can be made as well.

Grouping

Although we at Chicago Exotics recommend single housing we understand that group housing is a popular option among reptile keepers.  Males are typically very territorial and fighting comes to a head during breeding season.  It has been noted that a submissive male can be housed with a dominant male but it is still best to separate them.  Dominance displays include inflation of the throat (also a defensive move) and head bobbing. Displays of submission are seen as arm waving which as males become older disappears but is retained in females throughout their life.

Females, once they establish a hierarchy seem to live with each other without incident as long as there are multiple feeding stations and enough room.  Bearded dragons can also be housed along or in a group of several females to one male.  The hierarchy is often very clear with bearded dragons as the dominant lizard will bask higher than the others as well as eat first.  It is always recommended to have multiple feeding stations if more than one beardie is housed together.

Sexing

Bearded dragons can reach sexual maturity by 6 months of age and as late as 12 months.  Males have large femoral (under side of the thigh) pores and a thicker tail base.  Females have small or non-existent femoral pores and a slender smoothly tapered tail.  As the lizards mature, males will develop broader heads as well.

Reproduction

Breeding is triggered by an increase in the temperature generally in late winter and early spring and lasts around four months.  Females indicate receptivity by laying flat on the ground and raising their tails.  The male will hold the female by biting her neck and using his tail to push their cloacas together.  Copulation is not long.  Bearded dragons are capable of laying several clutches (as many as 5!) in one four month season with around 20 eggs a clutch!  Females will become restless and aimlessly wander the cage digging at random and go off food right before eggs are laid.  A nesting box of moist sand helps stimulate laying of the eggs.  Females will lay eggs regardless of fertilization but most females reabsorb unfertilized follicles.  Fertile eggs if incubated properly at 84 degrees Fahrenheit will hatch around 55-75 days.  Eggs must be removed from the enclosure and kept moist and protected. Call Chicago Exotics and ask for Erica if you have questions about incubating eggs.

Grooming and Handling

Bearded dragons will learn to tolerate routine handling.  When handled on a daily basis, they seem to become more relaxed as time goes on, and cleaning the enclosure is simplified when the animal is docile.  Bearded dragon skin is very rough, so light gloves and long sleeves should be worn to protect against mild scratches.   Their toenails also become needle-sharp, and should be trimmed every few weeks.  Finally, because all reptiles are potentially infected with Salmonella bacteria, which can be transmitted from reptiles to humans, routine cleanliness and hygiene are essential.

Sources and Resources to Utilize

Lizards Volume 1, Manfred Rogner
Keeping and Breeding Lizards, Chris Mattison
Reptile Medicine and Surgery, Doug Mader
Manual of Exotic Pet Practice, Mark Mitchell and Thomas N.Tully Jr.
The Bearded Dragon Manual, Philippe de Vosjoli
Bearded Dragons:  A Complete Guide to Pogona Vitticeps, Philip Purser
King Snake Forum www.kingsnake.com

If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

Deanne Strat, DVM
​Photos and edited by Susan Horton, DVM

Common Species
Pygmy blue tongue skink (T. adelaidensis)
Indonesian blue tongue skink (T. gigas gigas)- gray or gray brown with irregular narrow bands of dark brown across the back
Central blue tongue skink (T. multifasciata)
Blotched blue tongue skink (T. nigrolutea)- black with yellowish, irregularly spotted and striped pattern
Western blue tongue skink (T. occipitalis)- compact with short tail ; reddish brown with light crossbanding
Shingleback blue tongue skink (T. rugosa)
Eastern blue tongue skink (T. scincoides scinoides)
Northern blue tongue skink (T. scincoides intermedia)
Tanimbar blue tongue skink (T. scincoides chimaerea)

Natural History
Most often found in Australia , Tasmania , Papua New Guinea , Indonesia . They are terrestrial and depending on subspecies they may be found in open woodlands, margins of forests and fields or semi-deserts.

Special Characteristics
They are a stocky reptile with small legs and delicate toes. They have broad, blunt triangular heads with a blue tongue. They are ovoviviparous, which means they produce live young.

Longevity
Up to 30 years in captivity

Size
12-24 inches; 280-510 grams

Behavior
Diurnal, in the wild they spend their day foraging and basking. They are docile and are easy to handle in captivity. If threatened they will puff up and hiss loudly.

Handling
Wash your hands before and after handling. Be sure to support their long body when picking them up so they don’t get nervous.  Do not pick them up by their tail as they can drop their tail, though it can regrow.

Captive Cage Requirements

Lighting
Ultraviolet B is required to maintain healthy skinks.   The best source of UVB is the sun, but this is difficult to provide in captivity since glass filters out UVB light. Instead, a special fluorescent light bulb can be purchased from a reptile shop.  This bulb must be placed no more than 12 inches from the basking site (with no glass or plastic between), and should be on a timer to provide about 14 hours of daylight and 10 hours of darkness. It must be replaced every 6-12 months, because even thought the visible light is emitted, the UVB fades.  Light bulbs with a screw–in attachment end (even those sold as “full spectrum” bulbs) provide heat, but not UVB.

Temperature
The daytime temperature of the tank should be between 75-85° F with a basking spot of 90-105° F.  A heat lamp should be placed over one end of the tank, providing a temperature gradient with one side of the tank warmer than the other.  Select the wattage of the bulb to provide the proper temperature within the tank. Under tank heaters are useful to gently raise the overall temperature of the tank, but should be used with a thermostat or rheostat to accommodate changing ambient temperatures.  Also be cautious as skinks like to burrow and so there is increased risk of thermal burns if there is no barrier between the glass and heating pad. At night the temperature should drop to 70-75° F.  When room temperatures are below 68° F at night, use an under tank heater or a red (infrared) bulb.  Obviously, at least two thermometers must be in use to monitor these temperatures, and care must be taken to prevent burns to the lizard.  Heating elements can be dangerous if not used properly, and a smoke alarm is recommended.

Humidity
Good ventilation is essential, and a hide box with slightly damp substrate (sphagnum moss, loosely piled damp towel) is good for promoting healthy skin shedding.  Low humidity will cause improper shedding (dysecdysis), which can cause toe damage.

Water
Provide a water dish that is large enough for the whole skink to soak its body.  Lizards often defecate in their water, so it must be replaced daily and the dish disinfected at least once a week.

Enclosure
Adults require at least a 40-55 gal tank, but the longer and wider the better. Substrate can be reptile carpet or towels but they like to burrow so soft woods such as aspen (no pine or cedar) bedding, cypress mulch or recycled newspaper products (Yesterdays Newstm or Carefresh tm) can be used. Be sure that it is not an abrasive substrate for burrowing as it can cause irritation to the skin.
They enjoy exploration, so provide enrichment by offering low braches and logs for them to climb. They also prefer snug hiding areas so be sure to include a half-log or rock cave.

They can be placed outdoors in warmer weather as long as they have access to sunlight, shade and dry areas. They can and will dig so the enclosure should include a fence 50cm below ground.

Feeding
Blue tongue skinks are omnivorous. Their diet should consist of 60% plant material and 40% animal matter. Examples of plant matter include mixed vegetables (i.e. beans, squash, carrots, parsnips), thinly sliced greens (i.e. collards, dandelion, escarole). Berries and fruits (blueberries, cherries, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, pears, banana) should also be provided.

Hatchlings can be started on mealworms, small crickets and pinkie mice. As they grow increase the size of the prey to earth worms, fuzzies and snails. Juveniles are generally fed daily to every other day and adults can be fed once to twice weekly.

Supplements
Food should be dusted with a calcium supplement, without phosphorus. A weekly supplement with a multi-vitamin should be used monthly.

Common illnesses
Parasites, dysecdysis (especially toes), respiratory infections, thiamin deficiency (frozen diet), Metabolic Bone Disease

Sources
Kaplan, Melissa. Herp care Collection, Blue Tongue Skinks. 2009.
Exotics DVM, Vol 8 Issue 6. 2007.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

Erica Mede, CVT
Photos and edited by Susan Horton, DVM
Select Photos by Melissa Borden

Description

Cresties live around 10-20 years and reach an average length of 7-9 inches long making them a small lizard ideal for apartment living. Crested geckos are excellent climbers due to the lamellae on their toes and the tip of their tail.  Lamellae are hair like structures which allows the crestie to “adhere” to nearly any surface including hand of a keeper.  Cresteds do not have a fully prehensile tail like a chameleon but they are capable of autonomy (“tail dropping”) much like a leopard gecko, however, there is no regrowth of lost tails.  The most regrowth noted on crested gecko tails is a small point affectionately known as a “duck butt” by some keepers.  When this species was originally discovered in 1866 it was thought that crested geckos did not have long tails since nearly all the adults in the wild have lost their tails.   Like all reptiles, crested geckos have a Jacobson’s organ on the roof of their mouth which accounts for the gecko’s natural behavior of licking the terrain.  Crested geckos have an excellent sense of taste which can be frustrating to owners trying to convert their pets to a different diet.

Feeding

Hatchlings should be fed the powdered diet/baby food/fruit puree every other day and appropriately sized insects once a week.  Adults are fed powdered diet/baby food/fruit puree two times a week and insects two times a week.  Some breeders feed their crested geckos daily alternating between powdered diets/baby food/fruit puree and insects.  The number of insects offered depends on the amount of insects the crested can eat in 10 minutes.  It is never recommended to leave insects, especially crickets, unattended in the enclosure of crested geckos, especially hatchlings, as they can inflict serious injury to cresties.  When it comes to fruit puree, baby food, and powdered diets do not expect to see a clean plate.  These guys will lap it up as they are hungry but do not always finish a full portion.  Learn how much the gecko will eat by offering a serving and adjusting the amount based on what is left over or if it is all consumed.

Geckos in general are eager hunters of insects especially crickets and roaches such as Dubias.  If it moves, crested will enjoy it!  Meal worms can be used but are rather high in fat whereas prey items like roaches or silkworms are higher in protein.  Insects, especially cockroaches and crickets should be gut loaded prior to feeding out.  Offering these prey items healthy calcium rich greens such as kale and Swiss chard is required for a positive calcium to phosphorous ratio (this prevents and corrects metabolic bone disease).

Powdered diets are commonly sold in pet stores, at reptile shows, and a number are available online.  A very popular powdered diet and possibly one of the most balanced diets used by many keepers and breeders is simply called Repashy Crested Gecko Diet and comes in a silver pouch.  Powdered diets are mixed with small amounts of water and offered on a plate for ingestion.  Some geckos are raised on powdered diets and happily eat the meal whereas those raised on baby food previously can be rather finicky about the change.  There are several flavors available for the Repashy diet to help even the pickiest eater convert over.

It is not highly recommended to feed baby food and/or fruit puree as a staple of the crested geckos diet due to the high sugar concentration and unbalanced vitamin and minerals.  Peach, guava, banana, and papaya fruit puree or baby food can be offered on a small plate or shallow dish.  Never let this food sit longer than 4-6 hours to prevent bacterial growth on the food.  Some keepers have been known to mix meat baby food and fruit baby food together to add protein to the meal at a ratio of 1 part meat to 3 parts fruit baby food,

Fruit puree, baby food, and or insects must be dusted with a calcium supplement (one without phosphorous) 3-4 times a week and a multi-vitamin once a week unless a powdered diet is being used. Powdered diets tend to be rich in different vitamins and do not require further supplementation.  A finely ground powdered supplement is best as it adheres to insects the best.

Enclosure

One of the reasons crested geckos are gaining such popularity is due to their enclosure size.  Hatchlings under four months old can be housed happily in a 10–gallon aquarium.   A single adult gecko can be maintained easily in a 15-gallon or 20-gallon aquarium or a similar size enclosure.  A 15-gallon aquarium is a great size for a breeding pair.  Sweater boxes (transparent plastic storage boxes) with ventilation holes drilled through the size are an excellent substitute for aquariums.  Full screen cages are perfect for the necessary ventilation and are relatively light weight and easy to put together.  When setting up an enclosure, height is the most critical feature rather than width or depth.  Glass aquariums are easily turned on their ends to create a taller enclosure.  Similarly, a keeper is looking to create their own cage a single adult can be housed in a constructed 12” long, 12” wide, and 18” high enclosure.  A pair or trio can be housed in an 18” long, 18” wide, and 24” high enclosure.  Single lizards can be kept but this species seems to fare better when kept in pairs or trios two.  Make sure that they are all female or one male and the rest female.  Males are extremely territorial and cages that are close to each other should have cardboard or wrapping paper between them to prevent stressful situations.  Also, the cresties must be the same size as one another to prevent cannibalism.

There is much debate amongst keepers and veterinary personnel whether nocturnal creatures like the crested gecko require a UVB bulb.  Many breeders successfully keep and breed their geckos without the use of a UVB bulb.  It is believed that despite their nocturnal habits, cresties in nature would be exposed to some form of filtered UVB from the sun during their resting period.  In the wild, crested geckos are also active just before night when there is still sunlight, albeit fading sunlight.  The use of a ReptiSun  5.0 UVB bulb could be beneficial and is recommended by Chicago Exotics veterinarians.  When positioned over head, no harm will come from the use of a low level UVB bulb in a crested gecko’s enclosure as these creatures do occasionally suffer from metabolic bone disease which is primarily caused by the lack of calcium circulating in the body.  Never leave the enclosure near a window.  UVB is filtered out through glass and plastic and the heat from the window can prove deadly to crested geckos.

Temperature and Humidity

During the day the temperature in the enclosure should be between 72 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  Temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit can stress the body of crested geckos and lead to overheating and eventual death.  In most cases, supplemental heating is not needed unless the ambient temperature falls below 72 degrees.  Cresties are nocturnal and most do not bask but there have been breeders who mention their gravid females basking.  However, offering a warmer end of the cage by utilizing a under tank heating pad attached to the outside of one of the enclosure walls or a ceramic heat emitter can be beneficial.

Ceramic heat emitters are lightless heating devices which can become incredibly heated if not monitored properly.  Always make sure that the geckos do not have direct access to heating devices to prevent accidental thermal burns.  Regardless of the heating devise used, a thermostat must be utilized to ensure that the temperatures do not over heat the crested gecko.  Thermostats are effective in not only maintaining proper husbandry but also may decrease electrical use as well.  Generally, it is easier to maintain room temperature and forgo supplemental heat unless necessary due to room changes.  It is highly recommended to use two thermometers in the enclosure.  If a supplemental heating device is used then one thermometer should be near it while the other one is near the floor of the enclosure.  A thermometer can be placed at the higher end of the cage and the other at the lower end of the cage if there is no supplemental heating devices used.

The humidity levels in the enclosure of crested geckos are ideally maintained at 50% during the day and increased to 80% at night as it would in nature.  This level of humidity can be achieved using a reptile fogger, humidifier, or even frequent misting of the cage.  When misting the cage take care to mist the leaves, the walls (if solid), and the gecko itself as they will lap the dew drops of their skin as well as any surface it collects on.  A hygrometer is an instrument similar in design to a thermometer but it measures humidity levels instead of temperatures.  The use of this instrument will help monitor the cage and some can be used in conjunction with reptile misters to ensure the humidity is always appropriate.  If the humidity is too low, crested geckos will exhibits shedding problems and even dehydration.

Cage Accessories

Hiding places are necessary for crested geckos to feel secure.  Hidings spots, or “hides”, serve as an escape from perceived threats as well as offer a place for the gecko to sleep during the night that simulates their natural sleep spots of hollowed out trees.  PVC pipes and paper towel rolls make excellent and inexpensive hides for cresties.  A great product to use in an enclosure for hides is cork bark which comes in a half log or flat shape.  Cork bark is very resistant to rot making it ideal in a high humidity environment that crested geckos inhabit.  Branches for climbing can be drift wood and have a hollow in them also for sleeping quarters.

Plants whether fake or real are essential for crested geckos to feel secure and offer enrichment as well.  Real plants should be non-toxic and potted. It is possible to set up a vivarium with the plants growing from the substrate but it makes cleaning much more difficult. Natural vivariums have the benefit of being beautiful and enriching for the crested gecko.   A drainage layer is necessary and is generally made of gravel.  Natural plants help keep the humidity higher naturally whereas fake plants are much easier to clean if they are soiled and require no special care at all.  Birds nest fern, staghorn fern, and dwarf tree fern are commonly used live plants in natural enclosures.  Fake plants can be purchased from pet stores, craft stores, and even the local dollar store.  With a little ingenuity and creativity keepers can create beautiful fake vivariums.

A dish of clean water should be offered daily.  Some crested geckos will readily drink form dishes while others will lap the dew off of leaves and enclosure walls.  A shallow water dish will also help to increase the humidity in the enclosure.  It is very important that the dish be shallow!  These are not lizards that swim.

Sexing

The older a crested gecko is, the easier it is to definitely determine the sex of the gecko.  Males develop a large bulge under the vent on the tail.  This bulge is called a hemipenal bulge.  Generally, the earliest most people can sex crested geckos is six months of age although some breeders can sex with fair certainty as early as four or five months old.  The hemipenal bulge of males is usually wider than the tail base.

Reproduction

​Copulation occurs at night generally.  The male will subdue the female by holding her neck in his mouth and may bite hard enough to leave marks.  These marks are generally minor and removed with the next shedding cycle.  Females lay two eggs every three weeks during breeding.

A plastic lidded container with an access hole and several ventilation holes is ideal for nest boxes and allows the crested gecko to feel secure during egg laying.  Vermiculite or sphagnum moss is used as substrates in the nesting boxes to promote nest digging and decrease stress on the female by offering a natural feeling medium.  The vermiculite should be medium grade and mixed one part water to two parts vermiculite by weight.  Properly mixed substrate will clump when squeezed together without water dripping out of it.  This should be a few inches deep to allow digging.  If sphagnum moss is preferred, the moss should be soaked in water until completely saturated and excess removed by squeezing. Lightly pack this substrate a few inches deep.  Incubation is between 75 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit for 60-120 days.  It is recommended to transfer the eggs, being incredibly careful not to alter the eggs position, to a Gladware or Ziploc container with vermiculite and holes drilled in the top for ventilation.

Grooming and Handling

Crested geckos new to a collection typically require a few days to acclimate before handling is attempted.  This acclimation period also helps to preserve the tail which may be dropped during handling if the gecko perceives itself to be in danger.  Generally, crested geckos will tolerate handling for around 15-20 minutes a day when they are fully acclimated.

Like most geckos, crested geckos do not require any form of grooming although occasional help with a particularly difficult shed may be needed but not often.

Resources and Suggested Reading

Crested Geckos: A Complete Guide to Rhacodactylus, Adam Black 
Crested Gecko in Captivity, Robbie Hamper
Geckos: A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual, RD Bartlett, Patricia Bartlett
Geckos of Australia, Friedrich Henkel
Lizards Volume 1, Manfred Rogner
Keeping and Breeding Lizards, Chris Mattison
Manual of Exotic Pet Practice, Mark Mitchell and Thomas N.Tully Jr.
Windy City Reptile Group  www.windycityreptile.com

​If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

Erica Mede, CVT

Crocodile monitors, also called Croc monitors, Salvadori’s monitors, and Papua monitors are large carnivorous lizards native to the island of New Guinea .  Their preferred habitats are the mangrove swamps and coastal rainforests. These monitors can be difficult to tame down due to most individuals in the pet trade having been wild caught, however, they will begin to recognize daily rituals such as feeding, cleaning, etc.  This top predator of the rain forest is diurnal and arboreal despite its large size of 6-10 feet.   Monitors are incapable of autotomy (“tail drop”).  In the wild, this species is listed as CITES Appendix 2.  Croc monitors typically live 10-15 years in captivity with excellent care.

An interesting note to remember about this species is that the gums are subject to bleeding.  There is still great debate whether this is a fear response, from teeth erupting, or from the aggressive manner in which they attack and devour prey.  Croc monitors enjoy swimming and lounging in water.  In New Guinea they were thought to be evil spirits that climbed trees, walked upright (typically when checking their surroundings), breathed fire, and devoured men.  However, they were also believed to give warning if crocodiles were near which is why they earned the name Crocodile monitor.  These monitors relish swimming and have been known to sleep underwater much to the dismay of many first time keepers.

Feeding and Diet

In the wild, Crocodile monitors are carnivores, consuming small mammals, eggs, insects, carrion, birds, reptiles, and fish. These aggressive eaters will consume nearly anything placed in front of them.  However, variety and balance are key to a healthy monitor.  In captivity, most monitors are fed birds (such as quail and chicken), rodents (rats and mice), occasional fish, rabbits, shelled hard boiled eggs, and Mazuri Carnivore diet.  Young monitors can be offered crickets, dubia roaches, giant mealworms, and earthworms.

Hatchlings should be fed every day to every other day.   Crocodile monitors under 2 years old should still be fed 3-4 times a week until they reach sexual maturity and roughly adult size.  Adults should be fed 1-2 times a week depending on their body condition (obese monitors should eat less often than under weight monitors).  Pieces of cooked chicken can be offered as a treat for enrichment as well as training in some individuals.  Obesity is a common problem in Croc monitors and food should be fed as meals when adulthood is reached rather than constant supply.

There are various methods and recipes for feeding monitors and commercial diets are an easy option for most keepers.  A primary diet of Mazuri Carnivore for adults is recommended with the addition of Mazuri Insectivore diet when feeding young monitors.  Lean ground turkey is a welcome addition to any monitor diet as long as it is not the bulk of the diet.  All Croc monitors should have their meals dusted with a calcium supplement and a multi-vitamin supplement should be used once to twice a week.

Enclosure

These lizards are arboreal although they relish swimming and tend to sleep on the ground or underwater.  Hatchlings can be easily housed in a 40 gallon aquarium or enclosure of a similar size although they will quickly require larger accommodations.  As monitors grow they will need a larger (keeping in mind floor space is important) or a custom enclosure.  Once your Croc monitor hits 1-2 years old it is recommended to create a custom enclosure that is at the very least, a 75 gallon aquarium.  It is highly recommended to offer an enclosure that is roughly 4-6 feet long, 4-6 feet wide, and 6 feet tall.  Adults will require much larger living spaces with particular care given to vertical special requirements.  A section or full room is recommended for particularly large individuals. Crocodile monitors require space to roam, climb, and sprawl out.  Make sure that all enclosures are sturdy and escape proof.  A locking door is recommended especially for wild caught or aggressive adults.

Substrate

There are numerous substrates to offer monitors in their enclosure ranging from complicated naturalistic set-ups to simplistic newspaper.  Newspaper, although unattractive to look at, is easily cleaned out and monitors genuinely seem to appreciate hiding under the layers of paper.  Butcher paper can be used as a uniform color alternative.  Entire enclosures can be covered in top soil but it is hard to clean out effectively and tends to accumulate missed feces as well as offer feeder insects escapes from hungry monitors.  If top soil is desired for housing, it is recommended in a section of the enclosure or in a dig box.  Dig boxes are particularly helpful for gravid females and also to maintain humidity.

If particulate substrate is desired, aspen and orchid bark are safe alternatives with some owners finding a happy medium with a mixture of orchid bark and topsoil.  In this author’s humble opinion, the most enrichment can be achieved by covering the bottom of an enclosure with indoor/outdoor carpet and offering a top soil covered section of the cage (preferably with a lip to keep the soil from covering the rest of the cage).  This not only offers multiple substrates to walk on but also offers the keeper ease of cleaning especially if a cement mixing tub or similar is used for the dig spot.  All substrates should be changed at least every 2 weeks completely and spot cleaned daily.  Croc monitors housed on particulate bedding or soil should be fed in a dish or a separate bin especially if live feeder insects are used.

Lighting

UVB lighting is typically not required for the care of monitors especially those fed whole prey diets.  However, improper diet can lead to calcium deficiencies and the addition of an ultraviolet B radiation bulb such as a ReptiSun 5.0 is recommended.  Although not necessary, it is recommended to offer exposure to ReptiSun 2.0 or 5.0 during day light hours.

Heating

Crocodile monitors can happily be housed in ambient temperatures ranging from 80°F on the cooler end of the enclosure and 90°F on the warmer end of the enclosure.  These sun loving lizards enjoy basking and large spot lights help create and ideal basking spot of 95°F and 100°F.  Ambient temperatures can easily be maintained utilizing under tank heaters, heat cable (only on the outside of the enclosure), heat tape, heat bulbs, ceramic heat emitters, and heat emitting panels.  At night, the enclosure should never fall below 75°F.

All heat sources should ideally be kept on a thermostat that allows for proper gradients while offering piece of mind to owners as well.  A thermometer should be placed ideally one inch above the substrate on the cooler end of the enclosure.  Another thermometer should be placed once inch above the substrate on the warmer end of the enclosure and the one last thermometer at the basking site.

Humidity

Coming from the rainforests of New Guinea , these lizards should be maintained at 70-90% relative humidity.  This can easily be monitored using a hygrometer.  Humidity can be maintained with large water bowls, pools or bins, misting systems, foggers, humidifiers in large enclosures, and spraying the enclosure 2-3 times a day.  Moist topsoil, if offered, will also help preserve the humidity.  These monitors require a large amount of water that they can both swim and submerge themselves fully.  Pools and ponds are required for larger adults and provide enrichment as well as humidity.

Enrichment

Finding ways to keep monitors entertained and active is as simple as wrapping earthworms or a piece of fish in a lettuce leaf or as complicated as modifying wiffle balls (large ones that can’t be swallowed) to hold roaches or meat chunks to move around. Creativity is essential for excellent monitor keeping.  Tree trunks, tree branches, and root stocks make excellent obstacles, hides, and climbing surfaces.  These lizards require large amount of climbing surfaces with the addition of shelves and some keepers even modify craft store lattice work for climbing.   Make sure that all climbing surfaces are more horizontally angled.  Dig boxes are essential for working out extra energy and allowing for natural behaviors.  Large soaking basins, kid pool or large rubber maid offers enrichment and another way to exercise Crocodile monitors.  Hide boxes are also a requirement, especially those that do not have anything to burrow into or hide under.  Although a hide box is offering a place to retreat, this is a form of enrichment as well.  The addition of straw and hay in the enclosure allows the Crocodile monitor to experience new smells and sensations as they walk and dig through it.

Sources and Recommended Readings

Lizards Volume 2, Manfred Rogner
General Care and Maintenance of Popular Monitors, Michael Balsai
Reptile Medicine and Surgery 2nd Edition, Doug Mader
Monitors, Tegus, and Related Lizards, Patricia Bartlett

If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

Erica Mede, CVT

Natural History

Frilled dragons are a grayish colored lizard from the savanna woodland areas, and occasionally the tropical and temperate forests of Australia and New Guinea.  The ones from the Australian blood line are larger but the New Guinea descendants are much more common.  The Australians will have distinct white cheeks. While the New Guinea variety reach 18-24 inches, Australian dragons can grow up to 3 feet!  With a longevity of 12-15 years these Frill-necked lizards, or Frilled lizards as some call them, are becoming increasingly popular.  The iconic frill around the neck normally lies folded against the head and neck.  When fully extended, the long spines of cartilage connected to the jaw bone are used as an impressive threat display.

Enclosure

Hatchlings and juveniles grow fast but can be maintained in a 20 to 55 gallon aquarium.   Adults can be housed in aquariums as large as 75 or 120 gallons!  The smallest cage for a singly housed adult is a 40 gallon breeder although larger is preferred and often required.  Custom enclosures for adults made of wood or melamine should be 4 feet high, 3 feet long, and 2 feet deep to accommodate these arboreal lizards according to some sources.  Ventilation is important regardless of the size of the enclosure.  It is recommended that aquariums have 3 sides covered to prevent escape attempts and allow for a feeling of security.

During the warmer months, Frilled lizards can be housed outside in an outdoor set-up created with wood and wire mesh. There are several blue print plans available on the internet for these enclosures.  Please, do not take the aquarium outside!  This can cause lethal hyperthermia especially in direct sun light.  Frequent supervision is required!  These enclosures must be protected from large amounts of rainfall and predators.  The optimal positioning allows for some shade to be available as well.

Substrate

​It is never recommended to keep Frilled dragons on a sand substrate even the calcium sand sold in pet stores.  Life threatening impactions are frequently caused by accidental ingestion of particulate bedding including sand, coconut fiber substrate, and crushed walnut bedding.  A better substrate that is easier to clean is indoor/outdoor carpet, potting soil (requires weekly changing), and butcher paper.  The substrate should be spot cleaned daily and changed as needed or after 7 days, whichever comes first.

Temperature

The temperature for these dragons during the day should be around 84-90 °F and drops to 72°F at night.  The basking site should be around 95-100°F.  Two thermometers should be used in the cage.  One placed at the level of the basking site and the other on the cool end of the tank an inch above the substrate.  It is highly recommended to regulate the temperature using a thermostat. The primary heat source should be an overhead basking light or ceramic heat emitter.  Secondary heat if needed ideally comes from under tank heaters under half the tank.  Do not use electrical heating rocks due to the extremely likely chance the bearded dragon will develop thermal burns.

Humidity

The humidity in the cage should be maintained between 55 and 65%.  This can be achieved by placing a water dish in the enclosure, preferably one the lizard can soak in, and daily misting.  A hygrometer is highly recommended.

Lighting

UVB lights are necessary for the proper growth and maintenance of bearded dragons.  The ultraviolet B radiation stimulates the synthesis of calcium.  The best source of UVB is the sun but only when the animal is outside and directly in the sun light.  Never place the cage by a window.  The UVB light is filtered out through glass and the chance of over-heating the enclosure is extremely high.  The recommended bulb for a hatchling and sub-adult is a Repti Sun 10.0 and a Repti Sun 5.0 for adults.  The bulb must be changed yearly as the strength of the UVB will deteriorate with time despite the bulb giving off visible light.  Placement of the bulb should be overhead and no more than 10 inches away from the basking site.  The light cycle for Frilled dragons should be 14 hours of light with 10 hours of darkness.

Cage Accessories

Dried wood branches are appreciated as this species is an avid climber.  A large rock under the basking light makes a wonderful basking site.  Live plants such as aloe and palms can be added to the enclosure.  Artificial plants are easily disinfected and make appropriate accessories.  Most lizards will utilize a half log hiding area.  Custom and creative hides can be made as well.

Feeding

Adult dragons are insectivores with some omnivorous habits while hatchlings and juveniles are nearly fully insectivorous. Hatchlings up to two months old should be fed two to three times a day a mixture of insects and healthy greens.  Proper growth is achieved through several small meals with smaller prey items versus one large meal with a large prey item.  Adults, however, can be fed a salad of greens such as romaine lettuce, escarole, Swiss chard, mustard greens, and turnip greens with a small amount of other vegetables and fruits such as carrots, peas, strawberries, blueberries, melon, and squash once a day.  Edible flowers such as squash blossoms are also okay to offer and generally relished.  Insects such as crickets, meal worms, horn worms, silk worms, small pinkies (once or twice a month), and feeder roaches (such as dubias) are excellent protein sources and should be offered every other day to every three days depending on the lizards’ body condition (thin, normal, or obese).

Gut loading feeder insects with healthy calcium rich greens such as kale and Swiss chard is required for a positive calcium to phosphorous ratio (this prevents and corrects metabolic bone disease).  Feeder insects must be dusted with a calcium supplement (one without phosphorous) 3-4 times a week and a multi-vitamin once a week.  Some owners feed small pinkie mice to their larger adults.  It is recommended to limit the pinkie feedings to an occasional treat or once every two week feeding due to the higher fat content.  The most important rule to remember when it comes to insect and rodent prey is that the feeder cannot be longer than the distance between the dragon’s eyes!  This helps prevent dangerous impaction and digestion issues including choking.

​If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

Susan Horton, DVM

Green iguanas are very popular pets. They are perhaps one of the most misunderstood and poorly kept of all reptile pets. They can reach considerable size. Recorded weights and lengths of adult male iguanas have been as much as 20 pounds and 7 feet respectively. Certainly not every iguana will become such a giant. But when considering an iguana’s environmental needs, such size factors should be taken into account. They also have specific temperature, humidity, lighting, and dietary needs. These topics will be covered in this handout. At the end of this handout, a list of informative green iguana books is provided.

With daily handling, iguana (also called, “iggies”) hatchling and juveniles can be transformed from flighty creatures into calm pets.  However, the power of this species should never be underestimated once adulthood is reached!  These lizards are relatively large in maturity and can cause severe injury if not properly handled and respected with their tails, nails, and bites.  Iggies, although well tempered, are given up frequently due to their size, habitat requirements, and their temperament.  This is at least a 10 year commitment and a hefty financial investment as well.
Reptile rescues and local zoos are constantly asked to accept relinquished iguanas and most no longer accept these animals.  Please, consider adopting an adult or juvenile from a reptile rescue.

Natural History

This New World species of lizard is found primarily in Mexico down to Brazil and has been introduced toHawaii and South Florida where they are now considered nuisance animals.  This species has also been introduced to the Lesser Antilles region where it competes directly with the population of native iguanas.  Despite the iguana’s ability to thrive and reproduce in introduced areas, this species is declining in native habitats due to habitat destruction, their use as leather and food, and the pet trade.

This is a long lived species averaging about 10-16 years with some living up to 25 years.  In captivity, they can thrive and grow from a hatchling to a large adult in 3-5 years.  It is well known now that this species requires optimal ultra violet radiation B (UVB) exposure as well as high quality diets.

Environment/Cages

Keep in mind your cute little hatchling iguana will someday be much bigger. You may start with a small 20-gallon aquarium now, but one day you will need a custom cage or room dedicated to his reptilian needs. Surfaces of your chosen enclosure should be smooth. Iguanas will rub their scales off their noses and hurt their feet if their enclosure is made of wire. Wood may be used so long as it has been sealed with exterior polyurethane varnish (such as marine varnish or similar). Allow the coating to cure for several days and air it out well before inhabiting it. Molded plastic and acrylic cages work well until the iguana out grows them. Iguanas should never be kept loose in the house. There are to many dangers this way, such as animal attacks, accidental injuries, and chilling.

Your iguana will need branches to climb on. Chose branches of appropriate diameter and strength to support his weight. Branches from outside can bring in pests. I suggest either baking at 320 for 20 minutes or drying out over the outdoor gas grill for 30 minutes. Keep branch away from flames (for the obvious reasons). Choose hard wood always. Pine and cedar will smoke heavily when baked! I usually use maple or oak.

Security is especially important for small iguanas. For these little guys I suggest covering half the exterior of the cage with paper or towels to provide a safe refuge from perceived predators (i.e. you, the dog, the cat, etc). Eventually you can remove this covering, once the little guy has acclimated to his new surroundings (6 months or so). Silk plants may look nice in the cage, but most iguanas will eventually try to eat them. They can be placed outside the cage instead.

Bedding

I recommend newspaper or outdoor carpet. Newspaper should be changed often. If you choose outdoor carpeting, have several pieces. This way you can be sanitizing one and still have another to place in the cage. I do not recommend any particulate bedding, (corncob, wood chips, wood shavings, etc.). It is swallowed easily by iguanas. Intestinal blockage will lead to death if not addressed quickly. Particle bedding also hides a mess well. The moisture from spilled water, feces and urine build up in particulate bedding and will promote bacterial infections in your iguana.  Reproductive females will require a dig box to stimulate egg laying and prevent behavioral retention.  Dig boxes are designated areas or enclosed sections of top soil that can go as much as 2 feet deep!

Temperature

An iguana can not digest properly or have a competent immune system with out the ideal heat. He is an ectotherm, which means he is the same temperature as his surroundings. The preferred optimum temperature zone (POTZ) temperature for green iguanas is 85°F to 95°F. The ideal nighttime temperature is 80°F-85°F. A gradient within the enclosure is ideal. This way the iguana can heat up and cool down as his body requires. Maintaining temperature is difficult. Most enclosures require a heating mat applied outside the cage with a thermostat to maintain nighttime temperatures. For basking, a reflector with appropriate wattage bulb will do. A branch should be provided under the bulb. For iguana rooms, a space heater can be used. Build a protective barrier around it so the iguana can’t get burned. Protect your iguana from burns by using a thermometer to figure out the high and low temperature areas of your cage before you place him in it. Never allow the iguana to touch the heat mat or bulb directly. Severe burns will occur. Hot rocks are not appropriate. Your iguana is a basker, meaning he gets his heat form basking in the sun. The hot rock will not heat the enclosure and will promote burns and dehydration for your iguana. Do not place a glass enclosure in direct sunlight. It will overheat and cook your lizard. Lights should go off at night. I use timers on my lights.

Humidity and water

Iguanas should be provided with a large water bowl. I recommend a large lasagna pan or cat litter box. It must be cleaned daily. Iguanas generally use their water bowl as a toilet, thus requiring frequent changes. Humidity is difficult to maintain in most iguana enclosures. Daily misting will help. Soaking in the bathtub weekly is also a good idea. The tub should have warm water to iguana shoulder level. Allow him to soak for about 20 minutes. Never soak a weak or debilitated iguana without complete supervision. The enclosure should never have condensation on the walls. This means you need more ventilation or your cage is too wet. Skin infections often occur when the enclosure is excessively moist. A hygrometer will read the ambient humidity. Iguanas need 65-75% at least. Coming from the rainforests of South America , these lizards should ideally be maintained at 80-95% relative humidity.  Humidity can be maintained with large water bowls or bins, misting systems, foggers, humidifiers in large enclosures, and spraying the enclosure 2-3 times a day.

Ultraviolet Radiation B

This is a one of the key elements in keeping a healthy iguana.  Reptiles produce vitamin D in their skin through exposure to UVB radiation.  Vitamin D is important in calcium metabolism.  UVB wavelength measures 290-320 nm. When purchasing a UVB source, check to make sure it provides this wavelength.  There are several fluorescent bulbs to choose from.  Repti-sun fluorescent bulbs or mercury vapor bulbs produce adequate UVB.  The mercury vapor bulbs produce heat as well as UVB.  They are very intense and penetrate 2 to 3 feet into an enclosure and up to 12 feet with increased wattage. The amount of UVB will be diminished or blocked if it passes through glass or plastic.  I recommend placing it on screen material.  The iguana should be no more than 12 inches from the fluorescent bulb.  Exposure time should be 8 to 10 hours daily.  Fluorescent bulbs need to be replaced every 6 to 9 months because the UVB production stops about then.  I date my bulbs with a permanent marker to keep track of replacement times.

Nutrition

This is another key to keeping healthy iguanas.  What you feed your iguana will determine its lifespan.  Proper nutrition from the start will ensure healthy bones and kidneys.  All food materials should be adequately washed, chopped and mixed.  Young iguanas need their food finely chopped.  They may be fed twice daily.  As they age, feeding frequency decreases to once a day, then every other day for adults (3 feet and longer).  Ingredients for sub-adult meals should include items from these categories:

  1. Calcium rich vegetables: 40-50% of diet, 2 or more items per feeding-turnip greens, mustard greens, beet greens, kale, collards, bok choy, Swiss chard, dandelions, parsley, romaine, spinach, and escarole.  Spinach must not be over used as it binds iodine and calcium.
  2. Other vegetables: 30-40% of diet, a variety weekly.  Frozen mixed vegetables, squash, zucchini, sweet potato, bell pepper, broccoli, peas, beans, okra, carrot, and pumpkin.
  3. Grain/fiber: up to 20% of diet.  Boiled rice, boiled pasta, whole grain breads and cereals.
  4. Fruit: contain mostly fructose and fiber.  It dilutes more valuable nutrients in other food items, so minimize its use.  Figs, papaya, melon, apple, peaches, plums, strawberries, tomatoes, banana (with skin), grapes, kiwi.
  5. Legumes: more important for young iguanas, up to 5% total diet. Boiled lentils, navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans.

Adult Iguanas are primarily fed the calcium rich veggies with small amounts from the rest of the list periodically. Senior Iguanas are primarily calcium rich greens.

Vitamin supplementation is most important in to growing iguana.  A multivitamin supplement should be used twice weekly.   Examples include Reptivite (Zoo-Med), Reptical (Tetra), Nekton, and human Centrum.  A straight calcium supplement should be used 4 to 5 times weekly.  This supplement should contain no phosphorus and does not need vitamin D.  Iguanas seem to be unable to absorb vitamin D well from their diets.

* Older iguanas (adults) require a multivitamin once to twice monthly.  Calcium may be given once weekly.

It is an old industry practice to feed iguanas, especially very young ones, animal or insect proteins to meet the dietary protein requirement.  The belief was that if an iguana would eat the food then it must not be inappropriate.  This information is outdated and has proven to be exceedingly harmful in many cases to this species.  Yes, in the wild an iguana may happen upon a few insects on their plants or ingest some carrion but this is not the norm and is not done on a scheduled basis.  Do not feed iguanas insects, dog food, cat food, or animal protein as this can lead to very serious and costly health issues in the future as well as death if uncorrected.

Sanitation

Cage cleaning should include thorough scrubbing and disinfecting. For washing, use non-toxic soaps such as dish soap. Rinse well. For disinfection, dilute bleach (1:10), chlorhexadine, or roccal (Upjohn, Kalamazoo). These must be rinsed very well. Allow cage to air out well before iguana is returned. Daily removal of food is important.

Enrichment

Finding ways to keep green iguanas entertained and active is as simple as rolling grapes across the floor or as complicated as modifying wiffle balls to hold fruit for them to move around.  Creativity is essential for excellent iguana keeping.  Tree trunks, tree branches, and root stocks make excellent obstacles, hides, and climbing surfaces.  Make sure that there is a variety of climbing surfaces with some being more horizontal and others being more vertically oriented as this species is known for being agile climbers but enjoy ledges to rest on.    Large soaking basins or every other day soaks in a kid pool or large rubber maid offers enrichment and another way to exercise iguanas.  Hide boxes are also a requirement for young iguanas to feel secure in their enclosures.  Although it is offering a place to retreat, this is a form of enrichment as well.  The addition of clean untreated fall leaves, flowers, and other novel natural items offers an easy source of enrichment as well.

References

Green Iguana Society  www.greeniguanasociety.org
Iguana Iguana: Guide for Succesful Captive Care, Frederic L. Frye
Green Iguana: The Ultimate Owner’s Manual, James W. Hatfield III
Iguanas in Your Home, R. M. Smith
The Green Iguana Manual, De Vosjoli, P. Lakeside, Ca, Advanced Vivarium Systems, 1992
Iguanas for Dummies, M. Kaplan. IDG Books

If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.​

Erica Mede, CVT
Photos by Susan Horton, DVM as marked

Jackson ’s chameleons have become increasingly popular pets due to their beautiful green coloration and the males three horn like appendages on the face.  Typically, chameleons are an observation only pet and typically tolerate handling poorly.  Jackson ’s chameleons are frequently given up due to their extensive husbandry requirements.  These lizards can be a hefty financial investment and an investment of time as well.

Natural History

Jackson ’s chameleons are found primarily in Kenya where they are protected from collection andTanzania in limited areas.  Introduction into Hawaii has resulted in an invasive species of lizard that is thriving much like the Veiled chameleons.  Jackson ’s, like most chameleons, rarely venture on to the forest floor where their specially designed feet and body shape hinder any version of fast locomotion.

Description

​Jackson ’s chameleons can reach 14 inches in length with the males being larger than the females. Color changing is a form of communication that relays invaluable information to the owner (and other chameleons) regarding sexual readiness, health, and environmental factors.  Chameleons have amazing adaptations especially concerning the eyes which pivot on turrets and can look in two different directions at once!  The tongue of theJackson ’s chameleon is roughly two and a half times the length of the body during full extension to secure food. Care must be taken with feeding though.  If a chameleon were to extend its tongue and hit a glass or plastic wall rather than the insect it could potentially sprain or severely injure the tongue.  These serious injuries could potentially be permanent disabilities for your pet and require hand feeding for the rest of their life.   The tail is prehensile and acts as a fifth leg for the lizard offering stabilization and a more secure hold on branches.  The feet have toes that are bundled together thus offering a very strong and secure grip when coupled with the sharp nails.

Sexing

Females are smaller in size and rarely have horns except when they are very small.  As they mature, males will grow prominent horns.

Enclosures

Chameleons in general are notorious for being intolerant towards other chameleons, including their own species.  Males will stress themselves to the point of illness if in constant visual contact of another male.  When a chameleon meets another chameleon the threat displays (the amazingly bright patterns) light up their bodies and fighting will begin shortly after.  Glass aquariums are avoided with chameleons, males in particular, due to the reflection causing some lizards to perceive another male.  If an aquarium must be used for very young or sick individuals, cover three sides and the top of the cage with a towel or newspaper to keep the reflections at bay.

An adult chameleon needs space to roam and an enclosure with screen sides is best.  The minimum recommended cage is 24 inches long by 24 inches wide and 36 inches tall to allow for a full range of vertical movements.  As with all animals, safety is important.  An enclosure with a locking mechanism is strongly recommended.

Cage Accessories

​Branches should be of varying shapes, lengths, and wood.  Cotton rope avian perches are not a good branching system for your chameleon as their long toe nails start to fray and unravel pieces of the rope.  If a piece of that string gets around your chameleons toes a constriction can occur and the toes could potentially be lost. Place the branches in such a way that the chameleon has access to the greatest amount of climbing opportunities. Slightly springy wooden perches should be used to allow the feet to stretch and rest a bit on a softer surface.  For this purpose, reptile vine products are an excellent idea.  Live non-toxic plants such as pathos and fichus can be used for enrichment in the enclosure and to provide nice young branches for your Panther chameleon to climb around.  Foliage is a must for your chameleon to feel secure and should be added.  The foliage, whether fake or real, will provide excellent coverage but also a water drip system as most chameleons will not drink from standing water.

Temperature

Normally in the wild, chameleons, like most reptiles, bask in the sun to warm up and retreat to a cooler, shady area to escape high temperatures.  A basking light can be provided using a reptile heat lamp, spot light or ceramic heat emitter.  The basking spot will be around 85-90 F but care should be taken to make sure your pet can not access the bulb or the lamp.  The ambient temperature (air temperature) should range between the 55-85 F during the day making these animals one of the best chameleons to keep in captivity.  A photoperiod of 10-12 hours is essential for normal behavior.  A chameleon with the lights constantly on can become overly stressed and possibly fall ill.

Lighting

Along with heat lamps and regular day lights, a UVB light (ultra-violet B) should be supplied.  These bulbs give off UVB rays which help the chameleon to synthesize vitamin D into D3.  This is the active form of vitamin D which is necessary for calcium metabolism.  Without these bulbs your chameleon may succumb to abnormal behaviors, metabolic bone disease, fractured legs, etc.  One bulb will make a world of difference to your pet!  Juveniles need a stronger amount of UVB than adults in theory.  Healthy adults, especially ones allowed 1-2 hours of natural unfiltered (no glass or plastic between sun light and your chameleon) sun light can be maintained with a 5.0 UVB such as Repti-Sun.  Juveniles and ill or debilitated chameleons will require a 10.0 UVB bulb.  Regardless of bulb strength, all UVB bulbs must be replaced every 6 months.  Even though the bulb still emits light it may not be emitting the proper amount of UVB.

Substrate

Substrate for chameleon cages is easily maintained if newspaper, butcher paper, or indoor/outdoor carpet.  If particulate substrate is used there is a risk that the chameleon will accidentally ingest the substrate along with the prey item.  Solid substrate also affords easier visualization of the chameleons’ feces and urate output.

Humidity

The humidity in the enclosure should be 75-100% since Jackson ’s chameleons receive most of their body fluids from breathing in humid air.  Hatchlings should have access to water droplets twice a day if not more. Adults can be misted several times a day taking care to leave droplets on the leaves of foliage.  Hand misters work well enough but a fog or mist system is preferred.  There are many products geared towards humidifying chameleon enclosures including drip systems to help provide water at all times.  Remember to clean your humidifiers and/or drip systems weekly to prevent the build-up of bacteria and molds.  Soaking your chameleon one to two times a week for 10 minutes a piece helps with hydration and reduces the risk of kidney diseases caused by chronic dehydration.

Handling

With Jackson ’s chameleons it is best to approach with deliberate slow movements.  Position one hand under the front half of the body and carefully unwind the tail with the other hand.  Chameleons do not have the autonomy ability (ability to self amputate the tail) and if the tail is injured or broken it will not regenerate.  Push your fingers under the front feet and once the chameleon is grasping your fingers lift up.  Never pull your chameleon off a branch or your hand forcefully!

Feeding

Jackson ’s chameleons eat invertebrates (crickets, mealworms, etc) in the wild.  As with all reptiles, variety is key to a balanced diet and a healthy animal.  Offer high-quality crickets, earth worms, meal worms, and even cockroaches such as the Madagascar Hissing cockroach.  All insects, except earth worms, must be “gut loaded” (fed a high calcium diet to negate the naturally high phosphorous level in insects).  Gut loading is simple enough.  Offer the live prey high calcium greens (collard, mustard, endive) and vitamin A rich vegetables (carrots, squash) for 24 prior to feeding your pet.  Gut loading can also be accomplished with enriched chicken feed or cricket diets created for the purpose of gut loading.

The offering of prey can be daunting to some owners.  Most people do not want their lizards food wandering their home because it escaped the enclosure.  Offering the prey items in a plastic cup or container helps significantly.  The tongue of the chameleon is long enough to reach in and grasp the insect without as many escaped insects.  This will also allow for easier food consumption monitoring.  It should be noted that chameleons are prone to over eating and will do so whenever the opportunity presents itself.  Most chameleons will eat every day with larger ones able to eat every other day.

Hatchlings and juveniles are typically fed pinhead crickets.  These are harder to keep confined and escapes are likely.  However, a small plastic container may help but the hatchlings may be less inclined to use the feeding station.  Close monitoring of consumption in the cage is thus essential.

A calcium supplement free of phosphorous should be dusted on the prey items three to four times a week and a multi-vitamin once a week.

​Sources and Suggested Reading

Reptiles Magazine
The Chameleon Handbook, Francois LeBerre (2000)
Chameleons: Their Care and Breeding, Linda J. Davison  (1997)
Care and Breeding of Chameleons, Philippe de Vosjoli and Gary Ferguson (1995)
Masters of Disguise:  A Natural History of Chameleons, James Martin (1992)

If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

Erica Mede, CVT
Photos by Melissa Borden where noted
Photos/Health by Susan Horton, DVM

Natural History

Also known as Leos, the Leopard gecko, has become a popular pet in the United States due to their docile temperament and relative ease of care. Native to the southern portion of Asia (mainly Afghanistan, parts of India, parts of Iran, and Pakistan), this crepuscular lizard is commonly found scurrying across the ground. They are active at night or during the twilight hours, but will occasionally bask in sunlight. The rocky, dry grasslands skirting the desert regions are home to this species. Despite a partially desert existence, Leopard geckos do brumate naturally in the wild during the cold season when temperatures hover in the 50’s. Most of the Leopard geckos found in the pet trade are captive bred and even come in fun colors and patterns called “morphs”.

Description

As hatchlings, these lizards measure only 2-3 inches long and reach an adult length of 8-11 inches. Their small stature, visually appealing yellow and white coloration with black spots (normally, although young geckos may be more striped), and life span of 10-20 years makes Leopard geckos an ideal pet for many apartment residents. The skin on the back has a bumpy texture from the nose to the tail tip whereas the abdomen is surprisingly smooth and nearly transparent. This species is capable of autotomy (“tail dropping”) when frightened to distract potential predators. “Dropped” tails will grow back although the pattern may not match exactly and it will not have the bumpy texture.

Special Characteristics

Longevity
In captivity, leopard geckos have been known to live over 20 years with proper care. They become sexually mature between 16-24 months, but may not be ready to breed until their third year.

Temperament
Leopard geckos make wonderful pets.  The are generally very docile, and can learn to accept handling.  They rarely bite, and tend to move slowly once acclimated to their surroundings.  They tend to hide during daylight hours.

​Anatomy
Leopard geckos have eyelids that can blink.  They have toenails, and cannot climb glass.

Captive Cage Requirements

Lighting

Ultraviolet B is required to maintain healthy leopard geckos.   The best source of  UVB is the sun, but special bulbs, (fluorescent such as Reptisun 5.0) can be purchased from a reptile shop.  The fluorescent bulb must be placed no more than 12 inches from the basking site, and should be on a timer to provide about 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.  It must be replaced every 6-9 months, because even though the visible light is emitted, the UVB fades.  Light bulbs with a screw –in attachment end (even those sold as “full spectrum” bulbs) provide heat, but not UVB.  The exception is the mercury vapor bulb.  It emits UVA and UVB radiation and heat.  These bulbs are to intense for gecko habitats. There is significant debate over whether Leopard geckos require UVB for maintaining health but it is recommended by Chicago Exotics to help prevent issues with egg laying and prevent secondary nutritional hyperparathyroidism (also known as metabolic bone disease).

Enclosure

Leopard geckos are easily maintained in 15-20 gallon glass aquariums or other enclosures of a similar size. Two geckos can be kept in a 15-gallon enclosure so long as both are female or one is male. Two males will fight and stress each other out. A 20-gallon tank can comfortably house 3 geckos. A ratio of 2 – 3 females to one male is prefered.
Other options for enclosures include sweater box style containers that can be modified for ventilation, heating, and lighting. Some breeders and owners of larger collections will keep their geckos in rack systems that can be purchased or fabricated. Leopard geckos are predominantly terrestrial with a weak climbing ability which should be taken into consideration during enclosure selection.
Cage Accessories

A naturalistic terrarium can be created for Leopard geckos using live potted plants such as Sansevierias, grasses, and bromeliads which stay relatively small. Fake plants can be used safely and give the same effect as natural plants. Potted plants should always be herbicide and insecticide free in case of accidental ingestion of the plant or soil by the reptile. Plants are not only aesthetically pleasing to owners but offers enrichment and security for the geckos in the enclosure. It is ideal to supply as much shrubbery and foliage as possible.Hides in the forms of rocks caves (not heat caves), small cork logs, and other creative hides should be placed in at least two locations in the enclosure. Preferably, one hide area should be provided on the warm end and one on the cooler end to promote thermoregulation with minimal stress on the animal.

Branches, bark, and some small rocks should be added to the enclosure for enrichment and basking purposes. Geckos are naturally found running along rocky terrain with tufts of grass. Leopard geckos are a crepuscular species and will enjoy basking at times.WaterProvide a water dish that is large enough for the whole gecko to soak its body.  Lizards often defecate in their water, so it must be replaced daily and the dish disinfected at least once a week. Periodically, fresh, warm water soaking is recommended to aid in shedding as pictured below.  The water should be shallow and never leave your lizard alone while soaking. ​​
Humidity

The humidity in the Leopard gecko enclosure should be kept at 30-40% with a humid hide box offered during shedding to prevent issues. Misting once or twice a day can keep the humidity level and provide necessary hydration along with the water dish. Some may learn to drink from a water dish while others will lick droplets off their skin and enclosure furnishings.

Temperature

Two thermometers should be utilized to ensure that the proper temperatures are being maintained. The cool end of the enclosure should have the thermometer an inch above the substrate. The thermometer on the warmer end of the enclosure should be at the level of the basking site. A thermostat will also prevent accidental burns as well as provide a stable temperature.

Day time temperatures are typically maintained at 78-85°F with a basking spot of 86-90°F. The basking spot should be situated ideally with a rock over the under tank heater or heat cable and directly underneath the basking light. When using under tank heaters or heat cable to increase the ambient temperature of the enclosure care must be taken that the animal never contacts the heating element itself or the glass/wire/plastic directly over it. A thermostat must be used on all under tank heat sources and a layer of substrate must be provided over the enclosure floor to prevent burns.

At night, the temperatures can drop as low as 70°F but are best maintained between 72 and 75°F. If the ambient temperature in the room the reptile is in drops below 70°F, it is recommended to utilize the under tank heaters, heat cable, or a ceramic heat emitter (which does not give off visible light).

Substrate

Leopard geckos are primarily terrestrial but they do not burrow or dig. The bottom of the enclosure should be covered with something safe and easy to clean. An excellent substrate to use for a gecko enclosure would be indoor/outdoor or reptile carpet or felt which are more aesthetically pleasing than newspaper and easier to clean than paper towel. All are excellent choices for a hygienic cage set-up. Plants can be potted in top soil only to avoid accidental ingestion of toxic materials. If a more naturalistic enclosure is desired, research should be done on the animals true natural environment. This species does not live on loose sand alone. Sand should be avoided to prevent accidental ingestion and life threatening impaction as well as ocular issues. Calcium based sand at the pet stores are not a safe product for Leopard geckos. Since geckos will eat bedding made of small particles, do not use them. Never use sand, wood chips, mulch or gravel. Although many sources claim that sand is a safe substrate, it has been found impacted within the stomach and intestines of leopard geckos after death.

Pictured below is a prime example of why we don’t recommend sand. Dehydration, retained sheds, conjunctivitis, sand impaction, all due to this sand. This poor fellow was adopted by one of our technicians and nursed back to health!

Feeding

 

The Leopard gecko is a true insectivore enjoying small roaches (such as Dubias), small silk worms, small meal worms, small crickets, and small red worms (“red wrigglers”). A rule of thumb for feeding geckos is the food item offered should always be live and only half the size of the geckos head. Hatchling and young geckos should be offered 2-3 food items once a day and adults should be offered roughly what they can eat in a 10 minute period every other day.

Leopard geckos are entertaining to watch when they feed as they will stalk their prey in the enclosure, swish their tail, then strike very much like a leopard would. Feeder insects should be appropriately gut loaded by offering them dark leafy greens such as kale or endive and carrots (for added vitamin A) 24-48 hours before feeding to the Leo. This method of gut loading helps keep the prey items alive longer. Always remove uneaten food after an hour.

Please, do not leave a dish of calcium powder in their enclosure. This can be dangerous as over doses are possible. If there is a concern that not enough calcium is being offered, a UVB light should be utilized.

Supplements

Juvenile leopard geckos require calcium with D3 supplementation three times a week, and a high quality reptile multivitamin once a week.  These should be dusted on insects just before offering to the lizard.  Non-breeding adult leopard geckos will do well with weekly calcium and twice monthly multivitamin supplementation.

Grooming and Handling

Although best thought of as display specimens, leopard geckos will learn to tolerate routine handling once they reach 6-8 months of age.  When handled regularly, they will begin to move more slowly and will not struggle.  Leopard gecko skin is very delicate, so care must be taken to prevent injuring the animal.  Finally, because all reptiles all are potentially infected with Salmonella bacteria, which can be transmitted from reptiles to humans, routine cleanliness and hygiene are essential.

Health

Young leopard geckos can suffer from Secondary nutritional hyperparathyroidism (MBD). They will have rubbery jaws and limbs. This problem is related to improper diet and lighting. Retained toe sheds is also a common problem. This retained skin must be gently removed before it cuts off circulation to the toe tips. Parasites of the intestinal tract can be a big problem. If your gecko has diarrhea, it needs to be checked for internal parasites. Most of these can be treated with medication. The exception is cryptosporidium. Cryptosporidium is a type of protozoan parasite that has become very common in many leopard gecko colonies. There is no effective treatment for it. Geckos usually are found with skinny tails and diarrhea. Occasionally, the may vomit. Never mix new geckos into established colonies until they have been checked out and in quarantine for at least 6 months.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

What You  Need to Know About Nile Monitors

They look like dragons and behave like any other large carnivore. They’re imported indiscriminately, with thousands sold each year. They grow quickly from charmer to liability, and outgrow any habitat smaller than a room. They are Nile monitors (Varanus niloticus).

Alert and intelligent, Nile monitors’ place in herpetoculture should be at the pinnacle, in the capable hands of experienced, responsible and dedicated keepers. Large monitors, however, continue to be popular in the pet trade as highly affordable juveniles. Most  Nile-owning people are unprepared for what lies ahead. You will need to know the basics of care and what to expect from adults.

A cute baby Nile monitor in the pet shop tank is deceptive, for prospective owners cannot conceive of its incredibly rapid growth. For example, a leopard gecko will increase its hatching weight 20-30 times (approximately 3.5 g to 100.0 g). Nile monitors, in contrast, will grow 200-300 times birth weight (30 g to 10,000 g).

Size is emphasized here because it is the single most important issue for owners of Nile monitors. Other large monitors offered in the trade, e.g., ornate (V. ornatus, formerly V. niloticus ornatus), Asian water (V. salvator), white-throat (V. albigularis) and crocodile monitors (V. salvadori, present similar problems in husbandry. In the guidelines that follow, every aspect of husbandry addresses the large size of Nile monitors.

Housing Recommendations

Hatchlings can start off in tanks 3’ long with secure screen tops. After 6 months they need enclosures of at least 4’ x 2’. Adults (2-3 years old) require an enclosure the size of a small room, at least 12’ x 4’ for monitors under 48 inches in length and at least 15’ x 5’ for specimens exceeding 48”.

Juvenile monitors should be provided with shelters in which they can curl their entire body. Adults should be offered plastic doghouses or the top half of large dog carriers. Many monitors use their shelter for sleep. Others will spend the night on tree branches or in their water container. Flat rocks are required for nail wear. If rocks are placed alongside the water container, nails will wear as the lizards enter and exit the water.

Substrate

To accommodate high levels of activity and digging, the best substrates are mixes of peat moss-based potting soil, ground fir bark and sand, with some coarser material such as a fine grade ground limestone to help wear nails. This substrate allows the digits to remain in a normal position rather than twist to the side, as found in large monitors kept on solid flooring. (Note: Dr. Horton prefers paper, carpet, or recycled newspaper).

Digging may release a brown dust that will cover everything in the room. Newspaper can be used with young animals, especially prior to worming, but is unsightly and fails to provide a proper texture for adults.

Temperature and Light

Extra light and heat are required for monitors of all ages. Lights should be on 12-14 hours a day.

The temperature measured right under the basking site should be 88-92° F. For thermoregulation, part of the habitat should be 5-10°F cooler. As for most amphibious monitors, the Nile ’s activity temperature is relatively low, about 90° F. For juveniles, overhead spotlights are sufficient. For monitors over 30” in length, one needs combinations of large reptile heat pads and at least 2 spotlights, or 1 spotlight and 1 infrared ceramic incandescent heat bulb over one or more basking sites. These can be controlled by rheostats or thermostats.

Monitors benefit from exposure to a UV-B source (e.g., ZooMed® 5.0 fluorescent bulbs) when young, and for larger animals, mercury vapor reptile UV-B bulbs. Alternatively, an area can be provided where Nile monitors can bask in unfiltered sunlight (through a welded wire screen-covered window or in an outdoor plastic-coated welded wire cage during the summer).

Diet

Diets for juveniles can be 4-week-old crickets gut loaded with a multivitamin/ calcium/ vitamin D3 supplement. Nile monitors should be fed crickets daily and offered a pinkie mouse weekly.

For older juveniles, king mealworms can substitute for crickets, and larger mice can be offered. However, unlike broad-snouted monitors, the narrow-snouted Nile monitor can feed only on relatively small vertebrates (with body width less than 2/3 the width of the monitor’s head). Monitors over 3 feet long will continue to enjoy king mealworms but the bulk of their diet is best filled by a carnivore diet meat mix or mice.

Various zoos use a diet of lean ground turkey supplemented with calcium carbonate and a complement of vitamins and minerals. The turkey is either cooked or frozen for about a month to reduce risks of Salmonella transmission. Commercial meat-based carnivore diets can also be fed. Nile monitors should be fed every 1-2 days. Niles are almost always hungry and fare best if fed measured portions once daily, although babies can be offered as much as they will eat per feeding. For adults, I feed an amount roughly equal to the volume of the monitor’s head every 2 days. Excess food can lead to obesity in adults.

Water

Accessible water tubs large enough for complete immersion are required. For small individuals, reptile water dishes, dog bowls and plastic storage containers suffice. For adults, plastic cement mixing tubs or plastic kiddie pools are required. Nile monitors kept singly usually defecate in their water container. If kept in groups (one male and one or more females), mating attempts by males will often cause the females to defecate on the ground as a defense.

Sexing

Sexing is difficult in juveniles. Males may evert their hemipenes during handling or defecation. Males generally grow larger, with a proportionately more elongated head. Growth rates of females slow significantly during sexual maturity while males continue to grow rapidly for another 2 years at least.

Behavior

Females raised since hatching may be tame when kept in larger front-opening cages. They are generally less active than males. In contrast, males generally display a much higher level of responsiveness and curiosity, but tame less readily.

If kept in cages that are too small, Nile monitors usually display behavior of being cornered, manifested by frantic flight attempts and, when these fail, holding ground and tail-whipping.

​If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

Dr. Rob Coke, DVM

Captive Care and Breeding

​Old World Chameleons have long fascinated mankind with their independently rotating eyes, their lightning fast tongues, and their psychedelic color changes. Over the past few decades, chameleons have been kept as a temporary pet — living from a month to a couple of years. Within the last five years, an increase in information regarding proper nutrition, environmental conditions, and breeding has led to longer life spans with individuals even over ten years old. The next five years should bring even greater successes in the areas of husbandry and breeding.

Panther Chameleon (Chamaeleo pardalis)
The Panther, or jungle, chameleon originates from the northern part of Madagascar . They are the most colorful of the chameleons sporting an array of colors from green to blue to red. They thrive in warm, humid climates with a moderate seasonal fluctuation in temperature. In the wild, they live in scrub forests (up to 10′ tall) and on the edge of larger forests. These chameleons are one of the species that are repopulating the areas where the rain forest has been destroyed. They are fiercely territorial, especially during breeding season. Their vibrant colors and hardiness are contributing to the increase in sales and captive ownership.

Veiled Chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus)
The veiled chameleon originates from the Yemen coast of Saudi Arabia . This environment is a mixture of extremes ranging the arid desert to the temperate mountains. Veiled’s are generally a hearty species because they can tolerate either extreme; however, they do best somewhere in between. Amongst themselves, veiled’s are one of the most aggressive species; but towards humans, they are one of the most docile species. These are the hardiest of the chameleon species and make terrific pets.

Jackson ‘s Chameleon (Chamaeleo jacksonii xantholophus)
The male Jackson ‘s chameleon has three ominous looking horns protruding from his forehead. This variety of chameleon originates in Kenya , Africa . The jackson chameleon was recently introduced to Hawaii , USA and supports a thriving population. They are a true montane species coming from mountainous areas that have temperate days and cool nights. Therefore, they must not get too hot or too dry (i.e. > 60% daytime humidity and > 80% nighttime humidity).

General Care

Environment

Chameleons tend to be territorial and prefer to be caged individually. They need to be housed in large enclosures with trees, branches or vines and should not be able to be see each other when caged apart. The presence of another chameleon in the same cage or sight of another chameleon in another cage may cause extreme stress and predispose them to illness.

An ideal cage size for an adult male is 2’L x 2’W x 4’H – they can tolerate a smaller enclosure, but will thrive in larger cages (an adult does well in a cage 1.5’L x 1.5’W x 3’H). The ideal cage covering is a vinyl-coated, metal mesh. Un-coated wire welded mesh may be used as an alternative. Hardware cloth is too rough and may cause injury to the chameleons feet. Aluminum window screening is not recommended due to the possibility of trapping and removing claws. The wire mesh needs to be ½” x ½ ” or ½” x 1″. The large mesh provides good ventilation, protection, and a visible barrier. The cage should be set so that the top of the cage sits about six feet off the ground thereby allowing the chameleon to perch above eye level – providing a sense of security and reducing stress.

The best cage interior should attempt to mimic the chameleon’s natural environment. The inclusion of several plants and twigs provides hiding places and makes the chameleon feel safe and secure. Potted plants that can be safely used include: Ficus, Schefflera, Bougainvillaea, and Hibiscus. Other decorative plants may include ivy, pothos, or ferns. Plastic plants may also be used to facilitate cleaning and hygiene but may not appeal to aesthetics. Branches add to the cage environment and provide strong support for the larger chameleons. The branches should be of varying size to mimic the natural environment and prevent foot damage/strain. The overall cage design should provide a natural flow to allow basking/shade sites, and water/food access. The most important thing to remember is to avoid any potentially toxic plants or trees.

Lighting

Since chameleons are found in several types of habitats, a proper cage should make use of different lighting schemes. A fluorescent light can be used as a basis of overall lighting in the cage. The bulbs should be of a wide-spectrum, day-light type such as: Vita-Lite, ESU Daylight, or ZooMed Repti-Sun 5-0. Remember that the basking light you have placed (see below) also emits light. The best source of light is the sun. It is recommended that chameleons be allowed access to unfiltered sunlight for an hour or two a week (weather permitting). This provides natural levels of UV radiation allowing sufficient UV light exposure (as with the fluorescent bulbs) to convert dietary vitamin D3 to its active form to allow the proper absorption of calcium.

Water

Chameleons must have access to a water source. In the wild chameleons will drink morning dew drops or raindrops that collect on leafy surfaces. The best way to provide this natural means of a water source is to mist/spray the cage plants two to four times each day. Humidity can affect a chameleons hydration status. Humidity levels should be around 40-60% for Panthers, higher for Jackson’s, and lower for Veiled’s. The presence of live plants will aid in maintaining this level. Humidity can be enhanced with the assistance of a cool-mist humidifier or a timed misting system (a greenhouse or a manufactured type).

Other sources of water that have been used include the following: A dripping water source can be made out of a plastic cup with a pinhole in the bottom, a medical I.V. bag filled with spring water set to a slow drip, or one of the commercial water drippers. Another water source, though not very effective, is a dish with an air stone set to bubble the water to attract the chameleons attention. The BEST water source is still routine misting/spraying three to four times a day. With any of the water sources, the best way to make sure the chameleon is getting enough water is through visual signs of drinking or physically watering the chameleon with a pipette or spraying water into their mouth on the tongue.

Temperature

Chameleons come from various environments. Generally, the tolerated ambient temperatures range from 70 to 85 degrees for Panthers and Veiled’s and 60 to 78 for Jackson ‘s (NEVER maintain Jackson ‘s above 82-84 degrees for long periods of time). Chameleons prefer a temperature drop of about 10 degrees at night. They also like to bask in the mornings to raise their body temperature. A spot light should be placed above the cage to allow basking during the day for Panthers and Veiled’s. The wattage of the bulb needs to be low enough to allow only a 5 to 10 degree rise in ambient temperature at the closest basking sight. A low wattage bulb will help to prevent thermal burns, which can occur if a chameleon gets too close to a bulb emitting too much heat. When placing chameleons outside for sunning, the temperature needs to monitored to prevent them from getting too cold or too hot. A shade cloth or towel can be placed over one end to allow the chameleon to hide from the sun when it gets too hot. Alternatively, the cage can be set underneath the shade of a tree to allow a mix of sunlight and shading. The best way to monitor the temperature is an indoor/outdoor thermometer with a remote sensor probe. The main unit can be placed on the side of the cage and the probe can be move around inside the cage to measure all of the various temperatures to determine if they are in the proper range.

Food

In the wild, the chameleon is an omnivore. They sit on tree limbs waiting for their next meal to walk by. They will visually stalk or even climb after their prey. The eyes, which rotate independently 360 degrees, fixate forward on potential prey. When prey is spotted they coat their tongue with a sticky saliva, they open their mouth with their tongue protruding slightly. The end of the tongue is a bundled, accordion folded muscle surrounding a modified hyoid bone. When released the tongue, roughly the length of the chameleons body, shoots out, sticks to, and essentially grabs the prey. The tongue then retracts pulling the prey into the chameleons mouth.

Chameleons eat a varied diet consisting of flies, crickets, grasshoppers, butterflies, silkworms, roaches, arachnids, waxworms, stick insects, mealworms, etc. The largest species also can eat small mammals, small birds, and other lizards. In captivity, this meal pattern is impractical. A staple diet of crickets (Acheta) can be supplemented with a secondary food source of mealworms (Zoophobias). To prevent “food burnout” a treat type feeding of silkworms, grasshoppers, butterflies, etc. or pinkie mice can be very beneficial from once or twice every week to every other week. If you elect to feed your chameleon insects gathered from the wild or the backyard, remember not to collect them in areas where chemicals and/or insecticides have been used because the residues may be passed along and harm the hungry chameleon. If possible insects should be gut-loaded prior to being fed to the chameleon. This is accomplished by feeding the insects a combination diet of rolled oats, ground legumes, corn meal, fresh greens, carrots, and sweet potatoes. An alternative insect food source can be grain mixes obtained from a feed store or co-op but make sure that they are FREE from any added medications or chemicals. Additionally a calcium source – such as Rep-Cal, alfalfa pellets, greens, or calcium carbonate — can be added to the cricket cage to provide higher ingested calcium levels. The insects can be “dusted” with vitamin and calcium supplements such as Mineral-I, Rep-Cal, or Repti-Vite, but this should be used only once or twice a week for adult males and two to three times a week for adult females. Additional supplementing is recommended for juveniles (3-4x per week). A multi-vitamin should be fed once weekly for juveniles and twice monthly for adults.

Chameleons can be hand fed individual insects or the insects can be placed in an opaque container (make sure the container is kept clean and that it’s not so tall that the chameleon is unable to reach the insect at the bottom of the container). We recommend that adult chameleons be feed 3-4x per week. The veiled chameleons, especially adult males, are unique in that they may supplement their water intake from eating plant material and may often accept a small dish of leafy greens and vegetables (the same for an adult iguana).

Handling

​The act of handling chameleons will not kill them. Some chameleons do become stressed when handled. If they are sick with some other disease, then handling may stress them beyond their physical capacity. Those chameleons should be handled as little as possible. Most chameleons can be handled with no problem. Some of the wild caught chameleons are not used to being handled and may resist handling. With these chameleons, handle only as necessary at first, gradually increasing the frequency and duration to accustom them to handling. Most captive bred chameleons can be handled without any problems, though some captive bred chameleons may resist being handled at the beginning.

Reproduction

In general, chameleons will readily breed in captivity. Close observation is required to determine when the female is ready to be breed. When ready, the female will often attain a very light coloration or in the veiled chameleon blue patches along her sides. The female should be introduced into the male chameleons cage to allow him to have territorial as well as sexual dominance. In the presence of a male, the female may act hostile but will immediately back down and walk away enticing the male to follow her. He will chase after and pin her down during copulation which can last from 10 to 45 minutes and may be repeated over the course of several days. If she is not ready, the female will turn black and hiss and attempt to bite the male. At this point, remove the female and try again the next day if she still shows receptive colors.

Panther and Veiled Chameleons

The panther and veiled chameleons are oviparous (egg layers). They reach sexual maturity after 6 months of age (veiled females can reach sexual maturity as early as 4 months). After copulation, the female will adopt a darkened pattern throughout her gestation period (1 to 3 months). One month into her gestation a large container of moist potting soil needs to be placed in the cage for her to lay her eggs. The soil level needs to be 6″ to 8″ deep and moist enough for her to create tunnels that do not collapse, yet not so moist that the eggs will suffocate once laid. A week or two before laying, she will increase in weight, decrease her appetite, and start to dig tunnels in the soil. An alternative method for laying eggs consist of placing the gravid female in a bucket (such as a standard five gallon bucket) with an overhead light source and a few inches of sand or potting soil. After laying, she will be noticeably thin and lethargic. Check the soil carefully for eggs. These eggs should be removed to another container filled with moistened vermiculite for incubation. The panther eggs can be kept at 77 degrees for the first couple of months then raised to 80-82 degrees until hatching which could take 6 to 9 more months. The veiled eggs can be incubated at a constant 80-82 degrees for about six months. Another method of incubation of panther and veiled eggs consist of placing them in a dark closet where the temperatures range from the low 70’s to the low 80’s. This method may lengthen the incubation time but may provide a higher hatch rate.

Jackson ‘s Chameleon

The Jackson ‘s chameleon is ovoviviparous which means that the female will internally incubate her eggs and give birth to live young. After copulation, the female will take a darkened pattern throughout her gestation period of 4 to 6 months. A week or two before laying, she will markedly increase in weight and decrease her appetite. At 2 to 3 months into her gestation, the female should be moved to a cage that has a smaller screen mesh (preferably 1/8″ square) to prevent the escape of the tiny babies after birth. Because the female jackson chameleon internally incubates her eggs, she may be prone to stress and disease. Careful observation throughout her gestation should uncover any problems.

Neonatal Care

The small neonates are about an 1 to 1½” long. They need to be housed in an environment that is temperate, 77 degrees, with little variation. They also require a higher humidity (greater than 60%) which can be maintained by periodic misting with water. They can be housed individually or in small groups of 6 to 10. Generally, cages can consist of glass or plastic enclosures with screen tops and adequate lighting. The cage can be modestly decorated with climbing branches, a potted plant such as a Pothos ivy or Ficus spp, and no substrate on the bottom. At two to three months of age they should to be separated into individual cages.

The difficulty with neonates lies with feeding. They must be supplied with a constant source of food for the first couple months of life. They can be fed small 1/8″ to ¼” crickets, wingless Drosophila fruit flies, or ¼” baby meal worms. The size of the food can increase with age (generally the length of food roughly equals the width of the youngsters head).

Health

With the increase in popularity and importation of chameleons, many different diseases are frequently being encountered. Before a chameleon even becomes sick, a good veterinarian who deals with reptiles (one who sees and treats chameleons frequently is a bonus) should be located in your area. Signs that a chameleon might be sick include: sunken eyes (dehydration), not eating for days, listlessness or weakness, rapid weight loss, abnormal swellings, regurgitation, very watery feces, etc. Some chameleons may be predisposed to metabolic bone disease (calcium deficiency) due to improper husbandry or inbreeding, trauma due to intraspecies aggression, stomatitis (mouth rot) due to improper husbandry, parasites when not properly dewormed, egg-binding (dystocia) due to not providing a proper laying spot, and foot/claw damage due to rough coated or too small of screen. The best way to tell if your chameleon is not well is to get to know its habits and appearance. If a substantial change occurs in either there is a good chance something is amiss.

References

Here is a short list of further sources that will provide more detailed information.

  1. Abate, Ardi and Ken Kalisch. Chameleon Information Network: Newsletters #10, 11 and 14. San Diego , CA. (email: chamnet1@aol.com)
  2. Chameleon Care with Sticky Tongue Farms. Videocassette. Prod. Steve and Linda Davison. Sticky Tongue Farms, 1995.
  3. Care and Breeding of Panther, Jackson ‘s, Veiled, and Parson’s Chameleons. Philippe de Vosjoli and Gary Ferguson, ed. Santee , CA : Advanced Vivarium Systems, 1995. 128pp.
  4. de Vosjoli, Philippe. The General Care and Maintenance of True Chameleons: Part I Husbandry. Lakeside , CA : Advanced Vivarium Systems, 1990. 36pp.
  5. de Vosjoli, Philippe. True Chameleons: Part II, Notes on Popular Species, Diseases, and Disorders. Lakeside , CA : Advanced Vivarium Systems, 1990. 29pp.
  6. Glaw, Frank and Miguel Vence. A Fieldguide to the Amphibians and Reptiles ofMadagascar . 1st ed. Leverkusen , Germany : Moos-Druck, 1992.
  7. Le Berre, Francois. The New Chameleon Handbook. Hauppaulage , NY : Barrons, 1995.
  8. Martin, James. Masters of Disguise: A Natural History of Chameleons. New York : Facts on File, 1992. 176pp.
  9. Schmidt, W. et. Al. Chameleons: Volume I – Species. Neptune City , NJ : TFH, 1994.
  10. Schmidt, W. et. Al. Chameleons: Volume II – Care and Breeding. Neptune City , NJ:TFH, 1994.

​If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

Erica Mede, CVT
Photos and editing by Susan Horton, DVM

Panther chameleons have become increasingly popular pets due to their wide range of beautiful colors.  Typically, chameleons are an observation only pet and typically tolerate handling poorly.  Panthers have been described as rather aggressive and truly prefer to be left to their own devices.  Panther chameleons are frequently given up due to their extensive husbandry requirements.  These lizards can be a hefty financial investment and an investment of time as well.

Reptile rescues and local zoos are constantly asked to accept relinquished chameleons and most no longer accept these animals.  Please, if you are considering this kind of pet, think long and hard on their requirements and consider adopting an adult or juvenile from a reptile rescue or purchase one from a distinguished breeder.

Natural History

Panther chameleons are found primarily on the northern and eastern coast of Madagascar where it’s hot and humid. This species is still very abundant in the wild today.  Panthers, like most chameleons, rarely venture on to the forest floor where their specially designed feet and body shape hinder any version of fast locomotion.  This is one of the hardiest chameleon species available.

Description

​Panther chameleons can reach 15 inches in length with the males being larger than the females.  Color changing is a form of communication that relays invaluable information to the owner (and other chameleons) regarding sexual readiness, health, and in the case of Panther chameleons, depends on their original geographic location.  Chameleons have amazing adaptations especially concerning the eyes which pivot on turrets and can look in two different directions at once!  The tongue of the Panther chameleon is roughly two and a half times the length of the body during full extension to secure food.  Care must be taken with feeding though.  If a chameleon were to extend its tongue and hit a glass or plastic wall rather than the insect it could potentially sprain or severely injure the tongue.  These serious injuries could potentially be permanent disabilities for your pet and require hand feeding for the rest of their life.   The tail is prehensile and acts as a fifth leg for the lizard offering stabilization and a more secure hold on branches.  The feet have toes that are bundled together thus offering a very strong and secure grip when coupled with the sharp nails.

Sexing

Females are born with a pink and dark brown color pattern. (Pictured right)  Males are born with more than two colors ranging from white, brown, yellow, to blue spots on the cheeks.  (Pictured above)

Enclosures

Chameleons in general are notorious for being intolerant towards other chameleons, including their own species and Panther chameleons are extremely aggressive towards others.  Males will stress themselves to the point of illness if in constant visual contact of another male.  When a chameleon meets another chameleon the threat displays (the amazingly bright patterns) light up their bodies and fighting will begin shortly after.  Glass aquariums are avoided with chameleons, males in particular, due to the reflection causing some lizards to perceive another male.  If an aquarium must be used for very young or sick individuals, cover three sides and the top of the cage with a towel or newspaper to keep the reflections at bay.

An adult chameleon needs space to roam and an enclosure with screen sides is best.  The minimum recommended cage is 24 inches long by 24 inches wide and 36 inches tall to allow for a full range of vertical movements.  As with all animals, safety is important.  An enclosure with a locking mechanism is strongly recommended.

Cage Accessories

Branches should be of varying shapes, lengths, and wood.  Cotton rope avian perches are not a good branching system for your chameleon as their long toe nails start to fray and unravel pieces of the rope.  If a piece of that string gets around your chameleons toes a constriction can occur and the toes could potentially be lost.  Place the branches in such a way that the chameleon has access to the greatest amount of climbing opportunities.  Slightly springy wooden perches should be used to allow the feet to stretch and rest a bit on a softer surface.  For this purpose, reptile vine products are an excellent idea.  Live non-toxic plants such as pathos and fichus can be used for enrichment in the enclosure and to provide nice young branches for your Panther chameleon to climb around.  Foliage is a must for your chameleon to feel secure and should be added.  The foliage, whether fake or real, will provide excellent coverage but also a water drip system as most chameleons will not drink from standing water.

Temperature

Normally in the wild, chameleons, like most reptiles, bask in the sun to warm up and retreat to a cooler, shady area to escape high temperatures.  A basking light can be provided using a reptile heat lamp, spot light or ceramic heat emitter.  The basking spot will be around 85-90 F but care should be taken to make sure your pet can not access the bulb or the lamp.  The ambient temperature (air temperature) should range between the 77-81 F during the day and decrease to the mid-70’s at night.  A photoperiod of 10-12 hours is essential for normal behavior.  A chameleon with the lights constantly on can become overly stressed and possibly fall ill.

Along with heat lamps and regular day lights, a UVB (ultra-violet B) should be supplied.  These bulbs give off UVB rays which help the chameleon to synthesize vitamin D into vitamin D3.   Vitamin D3 is necessary to properly metabolize calcium.  Without these bulbs your chameleon may succumb to abnormal behaviors, metabolic bone disease, fractured legs, etc.  One bulb will make a world of difference to your pet!  Juveniles need a stronger amount of UVB than adults in theory.  Healthy adults, especially ones allowed 1-2 hours of natural unfiltered (no glass or plastic between sun light and your chameleon) sun light can be maintained with a 5.0 UVB such as Repti-Sun.  Juveniles and ill or debilitated chameleons will require a 10.0 UVB bulb.  Regardless of bulb strength, all UVB bulbs must be replaced every 6 months.  Even though the bulb still emits light it may not be emitting the proper amount of UVB.

Substrate

Substrate for chameleon cages is easily maintained if newspaper, butcher paper, or indoor/outdoor carpet.  If particulate substrate is used there is a risk that the chameleon will accidentally ingest the substrate along with the prey item. Solid substrate also affords easier visualization of the chameleons’ feces and urate output.

Humidity

The humidity in the enclosure should be 90-100% since Panther chameleons receive most of their body fluids from breathing in humid air.  Hatchlings should have access to water droplets twice a day if not more.  Adults can be misted several times a day taking care to leave droplets on the leaves of foliage.  Hand misters work well enough but a fog or mist system is preferred.  There are many products geared towards humidifying chameleon enclosures including drip systems to help provide water at all times.  Remember to clean your humidifiers and/or drip systems weekly to prevent the build-up of bacteria and molds. Soaking your chameleon one to two times a week for 10 minutes a piece helps with hydration and reduces the risk of kidney diseases caused by chronic dehydration.

Handling

With Panther chameleons it is best to approach with deliberate slow movements.  Position one hand under the front half of the body and carefully unwind the tail with the other hand.  Chameleons do not have the autonomy ability (ability to self amputate the tail) and if the tail is injured or broken it will not regenerate.  Push your fingers under the front feet and once the chameleon is grasping your fingers lift up.  Never pull your chameleon off a branch or your hand forcefully!  Also, when handling Panther chameleons watch that your fingers are mistaken as a moving food item as they have a painful bite.

Feeding

Panther chameleons eat invertebrates (crickets, mealworms, etc.), snails, their own young, and anything that doesn’t run away fast enough but will fit in their mouth in the wild.  As with all reptiles, variety is key to a balanced diet and a healthy animal.  Offer high-quality crickets, earth worms, meal worms, and even cockroaches such as the Madagascar Hissing cockroach. All insects, except earth worms, must be “gut loaded” (fed a high calcium diet to negate the naturally high phosphorous level in insects).  Gut loading is simple enough.  Offer the live prey high calcium greens (collard, mustard, endive) and vitamin A rich vegetables (carrots, squash) for 24 prior to feeding your pet.  Gut loading can also be accomplished with enriched chicken feed or cricket diets created for the purpose of gut loading.

The offering of prey can be daunting to some owners.  Most people do not want their lizards food wandering their home because it escaped the enclosure.  Offering the prey items in a plastic cup or container helps significantly.  The tongue of the chameleon is long enough to reach in and grasp the insect without as many escaped insects.  This will also allow for easier food consumption monitoring.  It should be noted that chameleons are prone to over eating and will do so whenever the opportunity presents itself.  Most chameleons will eat every day with larger ones able to eat every other day.

Hatchlings and juveniles are typically fed pinhead crickets.  These are harder to keep confined and escapes are likely. However, a small plastic container may help but the hatchlings may be less inclined to use the feeding station.  Close monitoring of consumption in the cage is thus essential.

A calcium supplement free of phosphorous should be dusted on the prey items three to four times a week and a multi-vitamin once a week.

Sources and Suggested Reading

Reptiles Magazine
The Chameleon Handbook, Francois LeBerre (2000)
Chameleons: Their Care and Breeding, Linda J. Davison  (1997)
Care and Breeding of Chameleons, Philippe de Vosjoli and Gary Ferguson (1995)
Masters of Disguise:  A Natural History of Chameleons, James Martin (1992)

​​If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

Erica Mede, CVT

Natural History

Also known as Tribbies, Orange-Eyed Crocodile skinks, or the Red-Eyed Busch Crocodile skink this lizard has become increasingly popular pet in the United States since 1994 when it debuted in the pet trade.  Native to the tropical forests of New Guinea and Indonesia, this crepuscular lizard is commonly found scurrying across the ground and climbing branches, plants, and lattice work.

These 8-10 inch lizards are more of a visual pet rather than a one that can be handled often.  Crocodile skinks will vocalize when in distress which is meant to alarm the captor (sometimes resulting in a startled drop reflex on the handler’s part) and may even play dead.   Juveniles are more likely to play dead that the adults.  This species of skink is also adept at “tail dropping” (autonomy) when startled.  Their small stature, unique appearance, and relatively short life span of 8-10 years make skinks an ideal pet for many apartment residents.  Juveniles are generally a dark brown with a white dorsal (back) stripe.  Adults however are solid dark reddish brown with bright orange around the eyes giving them a striking appearance.

Enclosure

Red-Eyed Crocodile skinks are easily maintained in 10-gallon or 20-gallon glass aquarium or other enclosures of a similar size.  Screen tops are a must for this species to ensure adequate ventilation.  Two skinks can be kept in a 10-gallon enclosure so long as both skinks are female or one is male.  Two males will fight and stress each other out.  A 20-gallon tank can comfortably house 3-4 lizards.  The larger the enclosure the better! Other options for enclosures include sweater box style containers that can be modified for ventilation, heating, and lighting.  These reptiles are not truly arboreal.  These skinks are predominantly terrestrial with an excellent climbing ability which should be taken into consideration during enclosure selection.

Cage Accessories

A naturalistic terrarium can be created for the using live potted plants such as Sansevierias, orchids, and bromeliads which stay relatively small.  Fake plants can be used safely and give the same effect as natural plants but do not create humid environment.  Potted plants should always be herbicide and insecticide free in case of accidental ingestion of the plant or soil by the reptile.  Plants are not only visually pleasing to owners but offers enrichment and security for the skinks in the enclosure.  It is ideal to supply as much shrubbery and foliage as possible.

Hides in the forms of rocks caves (not heat caves), small cork logs, and other creative locations should be placed in at least two locations in the enclosure. Preferably, one hide area should be provided on the warm end and one on the cooler end to promote thermoregulation with minimal stress on the animal.

Branches, bark, and some small rocks can be should be added to the enclosure for climbing and basking purposes.  These skinks enjoy basking in the sun making it a necessity for there to be a branch closer to the basking light for normal behavior.

​A water dish is invaluable to increasing the humidity in a Crocodile skink enclosure.  Ideally, the water dish should be shallow enough for the lizard to walk in without submerging itself but deep enough that the water comes up to their shoulders for soaking.  It is recommended to remove the water dish if live crickets are being fed as they tend to gravitate towards the water and drown.  Most skinks will not eat deceased prey.

Temperature

Two thermometers should be utilized to ensure that the proper temperatures are being maintained.  The cool end of the enclosure should have the thermometer an inch above the substrate.  The thermometer on the warmer end of the enclosure should be at the level of the basking site.

Day time temperatures are typically maintained at 75-78°F Fahrenheit with a basking spot of 80-82°F.  This is not a high heat species.  The basking spot should be situated ideally with a rock over the under tank heater or heat cable and directly underneath the basking light.  A branch high enough to rest under the basking spot is appropriate too as long as the reptile has no contact with the lamp itself.  Care must be taken to prevent burns from basking lights by elevating the lamp itself off the cage screen.

If necessary, a fine wire mesh cage can be created around the lamp area to prevent accidental burns.  When using under tank heaters or heat cable to increase the ambient temperature of the enclosure care must be that the animal never contacts the heating element itself or the glass/wire/plastic directly over it.  A layer of substrate must be provided over the enclosure floor to prevent burns.

At night, the temperatures can drop as low as 68°F degrees Fahrenheit but are best maintained between 70°F and 72°F degrees.  If the ambient temperature in the room the reptile is in drops below 68°F it is recommended to utilize the under tank heaters, heat cable, or a ceramic heat emitter (does not give off visible light).

Humidity

​The humidity in the skink’s enclosure should be kept at 70-90%.  A water dish is an excellent way to keep the humidity up especially when it is placed over an under tank heater.  Misting 2-3 times a day can keep the humidity up but saran wrap may be needed to cover half the screen lid (if used) to maintain the humidity.  Like wise, a full screen enclosure may require saran wrap on one or two sides to prevent excessive drying of the enclosure.  A drip system or misting system is excellent for maintaining humidity and allow the skink to drink droplets.  Some may learn to use a water dish but offering water droplets on leaves is a great choice.

Lighting

All reptiles benefit from some level of UVB lighting.  The best is natural sunlight but most captive reptiles rely on specialized UVB emitting bulbs.  Crocodile skinks benefit from a 5.0 UVB bulb that can be found at most local pet stores selling reptile supplies. The UVB light should be on 12 hours a day during the day light portion of the light cycle.

Substrate

Crocodile skinks are primarily terrestrial but they do not burrow or dig.  An excellent substrate to use for an enclosure would be indoor/outdoor or reptile carpet which is more visually pleasing than newspaper and easier to clean than paper towel.  All are excellent choices are although for a hygienic cage set-up.  Plants can be potted in top soil only to avoid accidental ingestion of toxic materials.  Naturalistic vivariums can be created but are beyond the scope of this care sheet.

Feeding

​The Crocodile skink is a true insectivore, relishing small roaches (such as Dubias), small silk worms, small meal worms, small crickets, and small red worms (“red wrigglers”).  A rule of thumb for feeding crocodile skinks is the food item offered should always be live and only half the size of the skink’s head.  Hatchling and young lizards should be offered 2-3 food items once a day and adults should be offered 2-3 food items every other day.   Feeder insects should be appropriately gut loaded by offering them dark leafy greens such as kale or endive and carrots (for added vitamin A) 24-48 hours before feeding to the skink.  This method of gut loading helps keep the prey items alive longer.  Always remove uneaten food after an hour.

​​​If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

Erica Mede, CVT

Description

Savannah monitors, also called Bosc monitors, are large carnivorous lizards that resemble tegus more than typical monitors.  When handled regularly, these large bodied, stocky lizards can become quite docile and even enjoy the physical interaction in some cases.  The necks of Savys are slightly longer than those of tegus and much thicker than those of other monitor species. Savannah monitors have a broader rounder snout with forked tongues that are deeply grooved. Generally, they are a light tawny to light brown coloration.

Monitors are incapable of autonomy (“tail drop”).  Most Savannahs reach a size of 3-4 feet from snout to tail tip and live around 8-12 years although some have lived longer

Natural History

Savys are found throughout northern Africa .  These large, terrestrial lizards inhabit the dry, grasslands (savannahs) but frequently burrow to escape the heat of the day and for security. Savannah monitors enjoy swimming and lounging in water

Substrate

There are numerous substrates to offer monitors in their enclosure ranging from complicated naturalistic set-ups to simplistic newspaper. Newspaper, although unattractive to look at, is easily cleaned out and savannahs genuinely seem to appreciate hiding under the layers of paper. Butcher paper can be used as a uniform color alternative. Since Savannahs enjoy burrowing and will spend most of their time hidden under the substrate if allowed, they seem to benefit from the addition of dig boxes. Dig boxes are designated areas or enclosed sections of top soil that can go as much as 2 feet deep! These boxes allow the savanah to fulfill natural desires to dig as well as offer another form of enrichment. Entire enclosures can be covered in top soil but it is hard to clean out effectively and tends to accumulate missed feces as well as offer feeder insects escapes from hungry monitors.

​If particulate substrate is desired, aspen and orchid bark are safe alternatives with some owners finding a happy medium with a mixture of orchid bark and topsoil. In this author’s humble opinion, the most enrichment can be achieved by covering the bottom of an enclosure with indoor/outdoor carpet and offering a top soil covered section of the cage (preferably with a lip to keep the soil from covering the rest of the cage). This not only offers multiple substrates to walk on but also offers the keeper ease of cleaning especially if a cement mixing tub or similar is used for the dig spot. All substrates should be changed at least every 2 weeks completely and spot cleaned daily. Savannah monitors housed on particulate bedding or soil should be fed in a dish or a separate bin especially if live feeder insects are used.

Lighting

UVB lighting is typically not required for the care of monitors especially those fed whole prey diets. However, improper diet can lead to calcium deficiencies and the addition of an ultraviolet B radiation bulb such as a ReptiSun 5.0 is recommended. Although not necessary, it is recommended to offer exposure to ReptiSun 2.0 or 5.0 during day light hours.

Heating

Savannah monitors can happily be housed in ambient temperatures ranging from 80°F on the cooler end of the enclosure and 85°F on the warmer end of the enclosure. Ambient temperatures can easily be maintained utilizing under tank heaters, heat cable (only on the outside of the enclosure), heat tape, heat bulbs, ceramic heat emitters, and heat emitting panels. The basking site should be maintained between 95°F and 100°F ideally. At night, the enclosure should never fall below 75°F.

All heat sources should ideally be kept on a thermostat that allows for proper gradients while offering piece of mind to owners as well. A thermometer should be placed ideally one inch above the substrate on the cooler end of the enclosure. Another thermometer should be placed once inch above the substrate on the warmer end of the enclosure and the one last thermometer at the basking site.

Humidity

Coming from the savannahs of Northern Africa , these lizards should be maintained at 50-60% relative humidity. This can easily be monitored using a hygrometer. Humidity can be maintained with large water bowls or bins, misting systems, foggers, humidifiers in large enclosures, and spraying the enclosure 2-3 times a day. Moist topsoil, if offered, will also help preserve the humidity.

Enrichment

Finding ways to keep monitors entertained and active is as simple as wrapping earthworms or a piece of fish in a lettuce leaf or as complicated as modifying wiffle balls to hold roaches or meat chunks to move around. Creativity is essential for excellent monitor keeping. Tree trunks, tree branches, and root stocks make excellent obstacles, hides, and climbing surfaces. Make sure that all climbing surfaces are more horizontally angled as they are not necessarily agile climbers especially as they get older. Dig boxes are essential for working out extra energy and allowing for natural behaviors. Large soaking basins or twice weekly soaks in a kid pool or large rubber maid offers enrichment and another way to exercise Savannahs. Hide boxes are also a requirement, especially those that do not have anything to burrow into or hide under. Although a hide box is offering a place to retreat, this is a form of enrichment as well. The addition of straw and hay in the enclosure allows the Savannah monitor to experience new smells and sensations as they walk and dig through it.

Sources and Recommended Readings

Lizards Volume 2, Manfred Rogner
General Care and Maintenance of Popular Monitors, Michael Balsai
Reptile Medicine and Surgery 2nd Edition, Doug Mader
Monitors, Tegus, and Related Lizards, Patricia Bartlett

​If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

​Erica Mede, CVT

Description

Tegus are potentially the most intelligent reptile and exhibit this intelligence by attempting clever escape routes. When handled regularly, these large bodied, stocky lizards can become quite docile and even enjoy physical interaction.  Although tegus appear similar to monitor lizards there are a few key differences.  The necks of tegus are generally shorter and much thicker.  Tegus have a tapering snout with forked tongues that aren’t as deeply grooved as a monitor.

Unlike monitors, tegus are capable of tail autonomy (“tail dropping”)!  This should be taken into consideration when dealing with flighty sub-adults and any new wild caught individual.  Males are generally larger than females and exhibit large jowls, although, some females have smaller versions of jowls if they are on the slightly obese side.  Most tegus reach a size of 4-5 feet from snout to tail tip and live around 10-15 years (some have reached 20!) with maturity around 3 years old.

Natural History

Tegus are found throughout South America (depending on the species).  These large lizards inhabit the rainforests, savannahs, and grasslands (flat lands) and can be found near human residents as well.  Frequently, tegus can be found in clearings in forests.

Feeding and Diet

In the wild, adult tegus are omnivores consuming animal protein, insects, and fruits.  Vegetables can always be offered but tegus typically prefer to avoid greens and some even have trouble digesting them.  In captivity, there have been many discussions on what works best as a diet for these lizards and historically, many have been kept on pure whole prey diets.  These aggressive eaters will consume nearly anything placed in front of them and truly are primarily meat eaters.  However, variety and balance are key to keeping a healthy tegu.  Hatchlings and juveniles are primarily insectivores in the wild but in captivity can be taught to eat other foods as well.

Hatchlings should be fed every day with a strong focus on gut loaded insects.  Crickets, dubia roaches, giant meal worms, and earth worms should make up the bulk of the diet.  Pinkie mice can be offered once a week but it is recommended to wait until the hatchling tegus are a bit larger and older.  Small amounts of boiled or cooked eggs and small amounts of fish can be offered as well to round out the meal and offer variety.  Fruits can be offered along with the insects or pinkies and are encouraged for enrichment.

Tegus under 3 years old should still be fed every other day until they reach sexual maturity and roughly adult size.  Whole prey such as mice “hoppers” and “fuzzies” make excellent feeders for smaller tegus whereas the larger ones can be fed various adult mice sizes.  Cooked or boiled eggs, fish pieces, earth worms, roaches, giant or super meal worms, and other insects should be added to the diet.  Again, fresh fruits should be offered.

Adults should be fed every 2-3 days depending on their body condition (obese tegus will eat less often than under weight tegus).  The bulk of an adult tegu’s diet should consist of rodents, small rats, and the occasional baby chick.  Insects, eggs, and fish should all be offered as well.  Pieces of cooked chicken can be offered as a treat for enrichment as well as training in some individuals.  Fresh fruits should be offered in moderation to prevent excessive weight gain from high sugar concentrations.

There are various methods and recipes for feeding tegus and commercial diets are an easy option for most keepers.  A primary diet of Mazuri Carnivore is recommended with the addition of Mazuri Tortoise diet.  Some have had great success with the addition of moistened Purina Trout Chow.  Lean ground turkey is a welcome addition to any tegu diet as long as it is not the bulk of the diet.  Tomatoes and bananas should be fed in moderation or avoided in general as these tend to cause gastrointestinal upset in captive tegus.  All tegus should have their meals dusted with a calcium supplement and a multi-vitamin supplement used once to twice a week.  An interesting note is the Red tegus have been known to eat a larger amount of fruit than their other counterparts.

Enclosure

These lizards are typically ground dwellers although they can climb low level branches. Tegus are burrowers by nature and are excellent swimmers as well! A soak in a large bin or tub twice a week will give your tegu plenty of exercise and naturalistic enrichment. Hatchlings can be easily housed in a 20 gallon aquarium or enclosure of a similar size although they will quickly require larger accommodations. As tegus grow they will need a 40 gallon tank or larger (keeping in mind floor space is important) or a custom enclosure. Once your tegu hits 1-2 years old it is recommended to create a custom enclosure that is 6-8 feet long, 3-4 feet deep, and 3 feet high at least. Tegus require space to roam and sprawl out! Make sure that all enclosures are sturdy and escape proof. A locking door is recommended especially for wild caught or aggressive adults especially.

Substrate

There are numerous substrates to offer tegus in their enclosure ranging from complicated naturalistic set-ups to simplistic newspaper. Newspaper, although unattractive to look at, is easily cleaned out and tegus genuinely seem to appreciate hiding under the layers of paper. Butcher paper can be used as a uniform color alternative. Since tegus enjoy burrowing and will spend most of their time hidden under the substrate if allowed, seem to benefit from the addition of dig boxes. Dig boxes are designated areas or enclosed sections of top soil that can go as much as 2 feet deep! These boxes allow the tegu to fulfill natural desires to dig as well as offer another form of enrichment. Entire enclosures can be covered in top soil but it is hard to clean out effectively and tends to accumulate missed feces as well as offer feeder insects escapes from hungry tegus.

If particulate substrate is desired, aspen is a safe alternative. In this author’s humble opinion, the most enrichment can be achieved by covering the bottom of an enclosure with indoor/outdoor carpet and offering a top soil covered section of the cage (preferably with a lip to keep the soil from covering the rest of the cage). This not only offers multiple substrates to walk on but also offers the keeper ease of cleaning especially if a cement mixing tub or similar is used for the dig spot. All substrates should be changed at least every 2 weeks completely and spot cleaned daily. Tegus housed on particulate bedding or soil should be fed in a dish or a separate bin especially if live feeder insects are used.

Lighting

UVB lighting is typically not required for the care of tegus especially those fed whole prey diets. However, improper diet can lead to calcium deficiencies and the addition of an ultraviolet B radiation bulb such as a ReptiSun 5.0 is recommended. It is recommended to offer tegus exposure to ReptiSun 5.0 during day light hours.

Heating

Tegus can happily be housed in ambient temperatures ranging from 73°F on the cooler end of the enclosure and 85°F on the warmer end of the enclosure.  Ambient temperatures can easily be maintained utilizing under tank heaters, heat cable (only on the outside of the enclosure), heat tape, heat bulbs, ceramic heat emitters, and heat emitting panels.  The basking site should be maintained between 95°F and 100°F ideally.  At night, the enclosure should never fall below 72°F.  Be warned, hibernation can occur below 65°F.

All heat sources should ideally be kept on a thermostat that allows for proper gradients while offering piece of mind to owners as well.  A thermometer should be placed ideally one inch above the substrate on the cooler end of the enclosure.  Another thermometer should be placed once inch above the substrate on the warmer end of the enclosure and the one last thermometer at the basking site.

Humidity

Coming from the rainforests of South America , these lizards should be maintained at 70-80% relative humidity.  This can easily be monitored using a hygrometer.  Humidity can be maintained with large water bowls or bins, misting systems, foggers, humidifiers in large enclosures, and spraying the enclosure 2-3 times a day.  Moist topsoil, if offered, will also help preserve the humidity.

Enrichment

Finding ways to keep tegus entertained and active is as simple as wrapping earthworms or a piece of fish in a lettuce leaf or as complicated as modifying wiffle balls to hold roaches or fruit for them to move around.  Creativity is essential for excellent tegu keeping.  Tree trunks, tree branches, and root stocks make excellent obstacles, hides, and climbing surfaces for tegus.  Make sure that all climbing surfaces are more horizontally angled as they are not necessarily agile climbers especially as they get older.  Dig boxes are essential for working out extra energy and allowing for natural behaviors.  Large soaking basins or twice weekly soaks in a kid pool or large rubber maid offers enrichment and another way to exercise tegus.  Hide boxes are also a requirement for tegus, especially those that do not have anything to burrow into or hide under.  Although it is offering a place to retreat, this is a form of enrichment as well.  The addition of straw and hay in the enclosure allows the tegus to experience new smells and sensations as they walk and dig through it.

Sources and Recommended Readings

Lizards Volume 2, Manfred Rogner
General Care and Maintenance of Popular Monitors, Michael Balsai
Reptile Medicine and Surgery 2nd Edition, Doug Mader
Monitors, Tegus, and Related Lizards, Patricia Bartlett
Giant Lizards, Robert Sprackland

​​​If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

Erica Mede, CVT

Description

These medium sized lizards reach lengths of 2-3 feet from snout to tail tip with males being on the longer side.  Their whip like tail offers both balance and defense (tail whipping) similar to the Green iguanas.  Chinese water dragon hatchlings are commonly mistaken for Green iguana hatchlings.   Both hatchlings average around the same size of 5-6 inches long and sharing similar characteristics.  The throat of juveniles and adults are yellow, orange, or a pinkish color that iguanas do not have.  A dark stripe extending from the corner of the eye to the ear is also another species marker.  Adults, once mature, generally have a dark green to bright mint green color with a pale green or white underside.   Males, generally have a prominent nuchal crest and mid-saggital crest (along the back).  In captivity, water dragons have been known to live 10-20 years

Natural History

These dragons are found throughout south east Asia ( Thailand , China , Vietnam , and Cambodia ) during the daylight hours.  Generally, this specie is found on the branches of trees or tall bushes or swimming through the water.  They are proficient in both climbing and swimming.

Sexing

Males are generally longer and have a prominent mid-saggital crest.  The head of a male is also larger with well larger jowls and larger femoral pores.  Your veterinarian or an experienced reptile keeper can gently probe to determine gender as early as 18 months.  These dragons will typically breed around 2 years old or once they reach 2 feet in length.

Feeding        

Hatchlings and juveniles should be fed on a daily basis whereas adults can be fed every 2-3 days to prevent obesity.  Chinese water dragons are primarily an insectivore specie but should be offered vegetation and whole prey as well.  Ideally, the diet of a pet water dragon should consist of 40% insects, 20% earthworms (high in natural calcium), 20% whole prey (baby mice or fish), 10% finely shredded dark leafy greens.  Many owners feel more comfortable feeding insects and earthworms.  If it is a problem to feed whole prey or the dragon is a hatchling, it is appropriate to supplement with more earth worms.  Whole prey fish include smelt, guppies, and minnows but no goldfish.  It is acceptable to use frozen fish that is defrosted thoroughly and cut into appropriate sizes. Insects that can be offered to water dragons include gut loaded crickets, meal worms (not a staple), horn worms (occasionally), earthworms, dubia roaches (these are the softer bodied of the roach family), locust, and silk worms (excellent feeders).

Enclosure

Chinese water dragons are arboreal and semi-aquatic so the length and height of the cage are vastly important!  Many owners who have large adults or multiple adults will create or purchase custom screen enclosures.  Ideally, an adult enclosure should be 4-6 feet long, 2-3 feet high, and 4-6 feet deep.  All ages require a third of the enclosure to be aquatic, whether this is through ingenuity of creating a naturalistic enclosure with a pond or adding a large container where the lizard can soak and swim.  Younger water dragons can be kept in glass aquariums but it is strongly recommended to cover 3 of the 4 sides to prevent constant escape attempts which can lead to nose deformities, inappettence, and generalized facial trauma.  Juveniles will need at least a 40 gallon sized aquarium or similar sized enclosure (Rubbermaid type containers with opaque walls work phenomenally for juveniles especially to decrease stress) and adults will need an enclosure at least the size of a 70 gallon aquarium.

Temperature and Humidity

This species should have an ambient temperature around 84-88F.  A basking site of 90-95F should be offered and maintained under a branch that the lizard can climb up to reach but never come into contact with a hot metal surface.
Ambient tank temperatures can be maintained utilizing under tank heaters, heat cable (never in the enclosure), heat tape, radiating heat panels, heat bulbs, and ceramic heat emitters (these emit no light however).

Basking site temperatures can be maintained utilizing radiating heat panels, basking bulbs and ceramic heat emitters.  All heating devices should be regulated by a thermostat. Temperatures can be monitored with 2-3 thermometers.  One thermometer should be placed an inch above the substrate on the cooler end of the cage, one an inch above the substrate on the warmer side of the cage, and one at the level the basking site.  The water should be kept on the cooler side of the enclosure and does not require supplemental heating.

Humidity for Chinese water dragons should be around 70-80% but never above 85%.  Humidity can be maintained with the large aquatic portion of the cage, waterfalls, frequent misting, mister systems, and foggers.  A hygrometer is essential to monitor and keep track of the humidity.

Substrate

The enclosure can be as simple or as complex as an owners imagination.  Ceramic tile and vinyl tile are ideal bottoms for the enclosure of adults due to their easy cleaning appeal.   Naturalistic enclosures can have soil but it is only recommended to use top soil that has no fertilizer or added insecticides.  Soil also needs to be spot cleaned daily and changed weekly to prevent bacterial and fungal growth.  Other suitable substrates that are easy to clean especially for new and hatchling animals is indoor/outdoor carpet, alfalfa pellets, paper towel, and news/butcher paper.  Spot cleaning (removal of feces, urates, old food, etc) should be performed on a daily basis.  A thorough cleaning of the cage should be done at least every 2-3 weeks for optimal health.

Lighting

All reptiles benefit from some level of UVB lighting.  The best is natural sunlight but most captive reptiles rely on specialized UVB emitting bulbs.  Chinese water dragons benefit from a 5.0 UVB bulb as adults and most hatchlings and juveniles thrive under a 10.0 UVB bulb.  The higher UVB output is beneficial for the lizards during their faster growth stages.  The UVB light should be on 12 hours a day during the day light portion of the light cycle.

Enrichment

A large water container is essential!  Items such as water falls and bubblers help keep the water from becoming stagnant and adds enrichment to the enclosure.  Sturdy branches and plants (both fake and real) are necessary for climbing.  Foliage adds hiding spots and offers a sense of security.  Rocks, hides of various materials, and other naturalistic looking materials can be added to the enclosure and should be changed or at least moved throughout the cage once a week to stimulate their minds.  Some water dragons may appreciate “bug boxes” where they can manipulate a box to coax prey out.  Creative enrichment is key to a healthy reptile!

Resources and Recommended Reading

The General Care and Maintenance of Green Water Dragons, Sailfin Lizards, and Basilisks, Philippe de Vosjoli
Water Dragons, John Coborn
Anoles, Basilisks, and Water Dragons, R.D Bartlett and Patricia P. Bartlett
Reptiles Magazine
Tricia’s Chinese Water Dragon, Reptile and Amphibian Care Page – www.triciaswaterdragon.com

If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

​Erica Mede, CVT
Photos by Susan Horton, DVM

Description

Uromastyx are also called Dab lizards, Spiny Tailed lizards, Uros, and Agamids.  These medium sized herbivores are quickly gaining popularity in the pet trade due to their unique appearance and interesting diet.  There are 13 different species of Uromastyx, but only six species are currently kept.  Uromastyx aegypticus (Egyptian uromastyx) and U. ornatus (Ornate uromastyx) are two of the most commonly kept in the United States .
Egyptian uromastyx are the largest of the species reaching 25-30 inches in length from the tip of the head to the tip of the tail.  This species has a light to dark brown coloration.  Ornate uromastyx reach an average size of 10-18 inches with various browns, yellows, orange, green or blue coloration.  All of species have a bulky body and a characteristic triangular shaped head.  The iconic spiny tail has between 10 and 30 rows of spiked scales on top of the tail.  This lizard is not capable of “dropping” its tail.  These lizards generally live for 15-20 years and reach adult size by four years old.

Natural History

Uros are found through out the arid regions of north western India down to the Sahara in Africa .  They are naturally occurring in rocky outcrops and burrow several feet below the surface during the hottest portions of the day to decrease body temperature as well as increase humidity.  This is a diurnal species of lizard that is best kept in an environment that simulates the hot, arid, and bright environment they would naturally be found in.

Feeding and Diet

Uros are strict herbivores.  There is always debate in the reptile community whether or not to offer a few insects every now and then but there has been no proven benefit to this practice.  In the wild, these animals relish vegetation and ingestion of insects is accidental.  Dark leafy greens such as dandelion greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, spring mix, etc, should be offered once a day.  Shredded yellow, orange, and red vegetables can be added as well.  Uromastyx are unique in their preference for small seeds such as millet and lentils.  Lentils are easily sprouted using a damp wash cloth.  Dry lentils can be offered as well and are generally eaten with equal enthusiasm.
Some owners opt to feed a pellet based diet in addition to the dark leafy greens.  Excellent choices to feed are Mazuri tortoise, grass land tortoise pellet, and iguana pellet.  Pellet diets should not be the bulk of the diet and should be offered 1-2 times a week.  All Uros should have their meals dusted with a calcium supplement and a multi-vitamin supplement used once to twice a week.
This species does not drink large amounts of water.  Greens should be offered after soaking or heavy misting with water to ensure proper hydration.

Enclosure

These lizards are terrestrial although they can climb low level branches.  Uromastyx are diggers by nature and if given the chance will dig several feet down.  This species is extremely active and will require large amounts of floor space.  Hatchlings can be easily housed in a 20 gallon aquarium or enclosure of a similar size although they will quickly require larger accommodations.  As Uros grow they will need a 40 gallon breeder tank or larger (keeping in mind floor space is important) or a custom enclosure.  It is recommended to create a custom enclosure, especially for the Egyptian uromastyx that offers more space for these larger lizards and can handle the high heat.  It is highly recommended to offer an enclosure that is roughly 5-6 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 2 feet tall for adults.  Uromastyx require space to roam and sprawl out.  Make sure that all enclosures are sturdy and escape proof.  Enclosures will also need to withstand intense heat as well.  Various levels created using rocks and branches will help the lizard utilize all potential space and provide enrichment.

Substrate

There are numerous substrates to offer in enclosures ranging from complicated naturalistic set-ups to simplistic newspaper.  Newspaper, although unattractive to look at, is easily cleaned out and Uros genuinely seem to appreciate hiding under the layers of paper.  Butcher paper can be used as a uniform color alternative.  Since Uros enjoy burrowing and will spend most of their time hidden under the substrate if allowed, they seem to benefit from the addition of dig boxes.  Dig boxes are designated areas or enclosed sections of top soil that can go as much as 2 feet deep!  These boxes allow the Uromastyx to fulfill natural desires to dig as well as offer another form of enrichment.  The dig box should be on the cooler end.
If particulate substrate is desired, millet is best.  This allows for digging, ease of cleaning, and is edible. However, if the lizard focuses on eating only the millet and not its regular diet, a change in substrate will need to be made.

Water

Dr. Horton does prefer to have a small dish of water available at all times.  This is particularly important for young uros, breeding females, and compromised or sick individuals.  A shallow soaking dish should be provided. Post egg deposition females will drink gratuitously once they have laid their egg clutches.  Healthy uromastyx will get most of the water they need from their diet.

Lighting

UVB lighting is required not only to prevent calcium deficiencies but to simulate the bright natural habitat of these lizards.  Exposure to one or two ReptiSun 10.0 bulbs is recommended for 12-14 hours a day.  At night, there should be no visible lights on.

Heating

All heat sources should ideally be kept on a thermostat that allows for proper gradients while offering piece of mind to owners as well.  A thermometer should be placed ideally one inch above the substrate on the cooler end of the enclosure.  Another thermometer should be placed once inch above the substrate on the warmer end of the enclosure and the one last thermometer at the basking site.

Uromastyx can happily be housed in ambient temperatures ranging from 80°F to 100°F.  A range of temperatures should be provided to these lizards.  Ambient temperatures can easily be maintained utilizing under tank heaters, heat cable (only on the outside of the enclosure), heat tape, heat bulbs, ceramic heat emitters, and heat emitting panels.  The basking site should be maintained between 105°F and 110°F ideally.  At night, the enclosure should never fall below 65°F.

Humidity

Too much humidity can kill this species.  It is important to maintain humidity at 10-35% with a humid burrow box that reaches 40-45%.

Enrichment

Creativity is essential for excellent Uro keeping.  Tree trunks, tree branches, and root stocks make excellent obstacles, hides, rocks, and climbing surfaces.  Make sure that all climbing surfaces are more horizontally angled as they are not necessarily agile climbers especially as they get older.  Dig boxes are essential for working out extra energy and allowing for natural behaviors.  Although a hide box is offering a place to retreat, this is a form of enrichment as well.  A hide box should be offered on the cooler side of the enclosure and can be a simple opaque container that is larger than the lizard with a tunnel of PVC or corrugated drain pipe leading to the entrance of the box.  To create the entrance of the box simply cut a hole large enough for the lizard to enter into on the side that will be facing the tube or piping.

Health

Your new uromastyx should be checked for parasites before being introduced to your existing colony and in general for it’s own well being.  This is done simply by checking a fresh fecal with your veterinarian.

Your lizard should appear plump and well muscled.  If you can see ribs or bones of the pelvis, this is cause for alarm.  A complete physical should be performed by a reptile veterinarian.  Female lizards will slow down or quit eating just before egg deposition.

Retained shed skin on the toes or the tail can also be signs of ill health.  These should be gently removed after warm water soaking.  If the skin seems compromised in any way, consult your reptile vet.

​If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

Erica Mede, CVT
Photos and editing by Susan Horton, DVM

Veiled chameleons have become increasingly popular pets due to their jewel coloration and popularity in movies. Typically, chameleons are an observation only pet and tolerate handling poorly, though some individuals when raised from a young age are accepting of more frequent handling.  Veiled chameleons are frequently given up due to their extensive husbandry requirements.

Natural History

Veiled chameleons are found primarily in the grasslands and plateau of Yemen.  This species is still abundant in the wild and are considered invasive in Hawaii after individuals escaped homes of owners.  Veileds, like most chameleons, rarely venture on to the forest floor where their specially designed feet and body shape hinder any version of fast locomotion.  This is one of the hardiest chameleon species available.

Description

Veiled chameleons typically range between 10-17 inches with the males being larger than the females.  Color changing is a form of communication that relays invaluable information to the owner (and other chameleons) regarding sexual readiness, health, and the environment.  Chameleons have amazing adaptations especially concerning the eyes which pivot on turrets and can look in two different directions at once!  The tongue of the Veiled is roughly two and a half times the length of the body during full extension to secure food.  Care must be taken with feeding though.  If a chameleon were to extend its tongue and hit a glass or plastic wall rather than the insect it could potentially sprain or severely injure the tongue.  These serious injuries could potentially be permanent disabilities for your pet and require hand feeding for the rest of their life.   The tail is prehensile and acts as a fifth leg for the lizard offering stabilization and a more secure hold on branches.  The feet have toes that are bundled together thus offering a very strong and secure grip when coupled with the sharp nails.

Sexing

Males possess a tarsal spur on the rear feet.  Tarsal spurs are small fleshy triangles found on what would typically be considered the ankle.  The casque, the appendage found on the top of both the male and the females’ heads is larger in males.  Males are brighter colored, typically displaying bright greens and yellows.  Females are usually green with little to no pattern being displayed.  Males are also typically larger in size than females in general.

Grouping

​Chameleons in general are notorious for being intolerant towards other chameleons, including their own species. Males will stress themselves to the point of illness if in constant visual contact of another male.  When a chameleon meets another chameleon, threat displays (the amazingly bright patterns) light up their bodies and fighting will begin shortly after. Glass aquariums are avoided with chameleons, males in particular, due to the reflection causing some lizards to perceive another male.  If an aquarium must be used for very young or sick individuals, cover three sides and the top of the cage with a towel or newspaper to keep the reflections at bay.

Enclosure

An adult chameleon needs space to roam and an enclosure with screen sides is best.  The minimum recommended cage is 24 inches long by 24 inches wide and 36 inches tall to allow for a full range of vertical movements.  As with all animals, safety is important.  An enclosure with a locking mechanism is strongly recommended.

Enclosure Accessories

​Branches should be of varying shapes, lengths, and wood.  Cotton rope avian perches are not a good branching system for your chameleon as their long toe nails start to fray and unravel pieces of the rope.  If a piece of that string gets around your chameleons toes, a constriction can occur and the toes could potentially be lost.  Place the branches in such a way that the chameleon has access to the greatest amount of climbing opportunities.  Slightly springy wooden perches should be used to allow the feet to stretch and rest a bit on a softer surface.  For this purpose, reptile vine products are an excellent idea.  Live non-toxic plants such as pathos and ficus can be used for enrichment in the enclosure and to provide nice young branches for your Veiled to climb around.  Foliage is a must for chameleons to feel secure, and should be added to all enclosures.  The foliage, whether artifical or real, will not only provide excellent coverage, but also a water drip system as most chameleons will not drink from standing water.

Temperature

​Normally in the wild, chameleons, like most reptiles, bask in the sun to warm up and retreat to a cooler, shady area to escape high temperatures.  A basking light can be provided using a reptile heat lamp, spot light or ceramic heat emitter.  The basking spot will be around 90-95 F but care should be taken to make sure your pet can not access the bulb or the lamp.  The ambient temperature (air temperature) should range between the mid 70’s and mid 80’s during the day and decrease to the mid-70’s at night.  A photoperiod of 10-12 hours is essential for normal behavior.  A chameleon with the lights constantly on can become overly stressed and possibly fall ill.

UVB Lighting

Along with heat lamps and regular day lights, a UVB (ultra-violet) should be supplied.  These bulbs give off UVB rays which help the chameleon to synthesize vitamin D into vitamin D3.  Vitamin D3 is necessary to properly metabolize calcium.  Without these bulbs your chameleon may succumb to abnormal behaviors, metabolic bone disease (MBD), fractured legs, etc.  One bulb will make a world of difference to your pet!  Pictured above are some examples of MBD in chameleons.  Fractures occur at the joints of the limbs first.

Juveniles need a stronger amount of UVB than adults in theory.  Healthy adults, especially ones allowed 1-2 hours of natural unfiltered (no glass or plastic between sun light and your chameleon) sun light can be maintained with a 5.0 UVB such as Repti-Sun.  Juveniles and ill or debilitated chameleons will require a 10.0 UVB bulb.  Regardless of bulb strength, all UVB bulbs must be replaced every 6 months.  Even though the bulb still emits light it may not be emitting the proper amount of UVB.

Substrate

​Substrate for chameleon cages is easily maintained if newspaper, butcher paper, or indoor/outdoor carpet.  If particulate substrate is used there is a risk that the chameleon will accidentally ingest the substrate along with the prey item.  Solid substrate also affords easier visualization of the chameleons’ feces and urate output.

Humidity

​The humidity in the enclosure should be 80-90% since Veileds receive most of their body fluids from breathing in humid air.  Hatchlings should have access to water droplets twice a day if not more.  Adults can be misted several times a day taking care to leave droplets on the leaves of foliage.  Hand misters work well enough but a fog or mist system is preferred.  There are many products geared towards humidifying chameleon enclosures including drip systems to help provide water at all times.  Remember to clean your humidifiers and/or drip systems weekly to prevent the build-up of bacteria and molds.  Soaking your chameleon one to two times a week for 10 minutes a piece helps with hydration and reduces the risk of kidney diseases caused by chronic dehydration.  Pictured above is a chameleon with severe eye infections.  This often is a result of contaminated water sources and/or insufficient humidity.  Pictured below is a chameleon with gout.  Gout is the end product of kidney disease and appears as raised lumps under the skin.  This has been associated with inappropriate humidity (too low) among other causes.

Handling

It is best to approach Veiled chameleons with deliberate slow movements.  Position one hand under the front half of the body and carefully unwind the tail with the other hand.  Chameleons do not have the autonomy ability (ability to self amputate the tail) and if the tail is injured or broken it will not regenerate.  Push your fingers under the front feet and once the chameleon is grasping your fingers lift up.  Never pull your chameleon off a branch or your hand forcefully!

Feeding

Veileds eat vegetation and invertebrates (crickets, mealworms, etc.) in the wild.  As with all reptiles, variety is key to a balanced diet and a healthy animal.  Some chameleons may eat dark leafy green vegetables two to three times a week in a dish or hanging from the side with a clip.  Leafy greens to consider are mustard and collard greens as well as romaine lettuce and green leaf lettuce.

The invertebrate portion of the diet should consist of high-quality crickets, earth worms (may need to be cut up), meal worms, silk worms and even cockroaches such as the Madagascar Hissing cockroach.  All insects, except earth worms, must be “gut loaded” (fed a high calcium diet to negate the naturally high phosphorous level in insects).  Gut loading is simple enough.  Offer the live prey high calcium greens (collard, mustard, endive) and vitamin A rich vegetables (carrots, squash) for 24 prior to feeding your pet.  Gut loading can also be accomplished with enriched chicken feed or cricket diets created for the purpose of gut loading although it is generally recommended to offer a fresh diet.

Offering the prey items in a plastic cup or container is considered the best feeding method.  Container feeding allows visualization of prey consumed and helps decrease the number of invertebrate escapes.  The tongue of the chameleon is long enough to reach in and grasp the insect without as many escaped insects.  This will also allow for easier food consumption monitoring.  It should be noted that chameleons are prone to over eating and will do so whenever the opportunity presents itself.  Most chameleons will eat every day with larger ones able to eat every other day.

Hatchlings and juveniles are typically fed pinhead crickets.  These are harder to keep confined and escapes are likely.  Small plastic container may help but the hatchlings may be less inclined to use the feeding station.  Close monitoring of consumption in the cage is essential.

A calcium supplement free of phosphorous should be dusted on the prey items three to four times a week and a multi-vitamin once a week.

Sources and Suggested Reading

Reptiles Magazine
The Chameleon Handbook, Francois LeBerre (2000)
Chameleons: Their Care and Breeding, Linda J. Davison  (1997)
Care and Breeding of Chameleons, Philippe de Vosjoli and Gary Ferguson (1995)
Masters of Disguise:  A Natural History of Chameleons, James Martin (1992)

​​​​If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

Other

Paul Gibbons, DVM  ABVP Avian and Reptile

One of the most important aspects of reptile care is temperature maintenance. Although reptiles are commonly thought to be “cold blooded”, a study of iguanas in the South American rain forest found that daily body temperatures often exceed 100 degrees. These lizards climb trees to bask in the heat of the sun and warm their bodies.  Every reptile species, however, encounters a unique temperature gradient in nature. For proper health in captivity, that gradient must be artificially simulated. Start by learning the specific needs of a species by purchasing books from the pet store, searching the Internet, or consulting with a reptile professional.  Then, get at least two accurate thermometers to measure your environmental temperature gradient.  Finally, set up a system that supplies the proper heat for your conditions.

Many options are now available to provide heat for reptiles. No single device is perfect, and I recommend different ones in different situations. Use one of the thermometers to monitor the coolest part of the enclosure. A primary heat source should heat the whole enclosure to the lower end of the species preferred range. Then, if needed, a secondary heat source may be used to raise the temperature of the basking spot.   Use thermostats to regulate each heating source.

Primary heating devices include heat tape, under-the-tank mats, incandescent bulbs, ceramic heat emitters, flood lamps, and space heaters. These heat sources can be dangerous if used incorrectly, and the manufacturer’s recommendations must be followed. For example, light bulbs larger than 60 watts require a porcelain based fixture.   Similarly, under-tank-heaters cannot be placed inside the tank, or they will cause severe burns.  For extremely large enclosures such as closets, rooms, and greenhouses, radiant or forced air space heaters may be needed.  If the heater uses gas, it is essential to monitor carbon monoxide levels. Rock heaters (“hot rocks” or “sizzle stones”) are not appropriate for use inside reptile enclosures.  These devices do not adequately heat the air around them, and frequently inflict severe burns in the animals they were keeping warm.

Heating the entire enclosure may be difficult unless the whole room is warm enough.  Often, a heat source is rated by how many degrees it can heat the enclosure above ambient temperature.  The primary heat source must respond to changes that occur in the home with varying seasons.  A change in the wattage of a bulb, use of a rheostat, or incorporation of a thermostat may be necessary to maintain the low end of a reptile’s safe range.

A secondary heat source might be needed to provide the upper end of the temperature gradient. The basking site provides heat necessary to activate digestive enzymes and stimulate the immune system. Most herpetoculturists use some type of overhead system, imitating the sun.  Use the second thermometer at this site to ensure adequate and safe temperatures.

Timers are useful to regulate the secondary heat source. If an incandescent bulb that emits bright light is used, the timer allows shutoff for darkness.  A basking spot may not be necessary at night for some species, since in the wild, temperatures can drop dramatically after sundown.  However, if secondary heat is still needed during darkness, a blue, red, or ceramic bulb may be used.

Every setup is different, so the devices used to provide heat will vary according to the size of the enclosure, the species of animal, and the ambient room temperature. Be prepared to fine-tune your system as the seasons change. Constant monitoring is needed to ensure that the heat sources are providing your reptile with its preferred optimum temperature gradient.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

Listed below are some nutritious foods for you to incorporate into your family member’s diet.  Nutrition plays a major role in the health and longevity of any animal.  Keep in mind that moderation and variety are the keys to offering a complete, well-balanced diet. Some tortoises also require a large amount of timothy hay daily.

Vegetable/Fruit        Calcium            Vitamin A

Broccoli Leaves            Excellent            Excellent
Collard Greens             Excellent            Excellent
Kale                            Excellent            Excellent
Mustard greens            Excellent            Excellent
Swiss chard                 Excellent            Excellent
​Turnip Greens              Excellent            Excellent

Beet greens                 Good                 Excellent
Dandelion greens         Good                 Excellent
Endive                         Good                 Good
Escarole                      Good                 Good

Apricot                        Poor                  Good
Carrot                         Poor                  Good
Cilantro                       Poor                  Good
Cress                          Poor                  Good
Mache                         Poor                  Good
Mango                        Poor                   Good
Papaya                        Poor                  Good
Parsley                        Poor                  Good
Pumpkin                      Poor                  Good
Red Pepper                 Poor                   Good
Yam                            Poor                  Good

Boston                        Poor                  Fair
Romaine                     Poor                  Fair

​If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

Home care for green iguanas and other reptiles with secondary nutritional hyperparathyroidism

Initially I wrote this send home sheet for Green Iguanas since they were the ones I most often saw with this problem. Of course many more species are effected by this disease.  It is purely a disease of inadequate husbandry. This disease syndrome affects any reptile but most especially those reptiles with a very fast growth rate including but not limited to:  Sulcata tortoises, Leopard Tortoises, Bearded Dragons, Leopard Geckos, Chameleons, frogs, Thai Water Dragons, and of course Green Iguanas.

Your reptile has been diagnosed with a metabolic condition that took many months to develop.  It is critically deficient in calcium and/or vitamin D 3.    Young reptiles have a tremendous need for calcium as they grow.  When calcium is not available to them, they start to remove calcium from their own bones. This causes them to become soft and rubbery.  They fracture easily.  Muscle also needs calcium to function properly.  A calcium deficient reptile will tremor, have difficulty eating, walking, defecating, and urinating.  Diet, as well as environment both have contributed to creating this disease state.

​The recovery process may take months.  Many pets recover completely.  Some are left with permanent deformities or nervous deficits.  Some will die.  During the recovery process, your reptile will need you to help feed it and nurse it back to health.  Some reptiles take weeks before they start to gain weight and eat well on their own.  Their recovery hinges on providing the correct environment and nutrition.  This handout will help you through the critical stages of recovery.

Medications

Calcium supplementation

  • Calcium Glubionate – I will prescribe this after your reptile has been examined.
  • Pick out a powdered commercial calcium supplement that is phosphorus free.  Use this on the days you are not using the multivitamin supplement below.
  • Multivitamin supplement:
  • A powdered supplement should be added depended on your reptile’s current needs.  We will decide this after the exam.

Other

  • Decided at the exam.

Feeding

Hand feeding-choices for syringe feeding

  1. We use tube feeding formulas developed by Lafeber’s and others.  The amount will be decided at the exam.
  2. Powder one part rabbit pellets (run it dry through the blender) or use critical care by oxbow and three parts pedialyte.  Freeze in ice cube tray and serve thawed with a syringe.  This will work with herbivores.

Soaking

Soak your reptile in warm water for 20 minutes once to twice daily.  The water should not be above its shoulders.  If it is very weak, you will need to monitor it the whole time or hold up its head to make sure it does not drown.

Environment

Remove all climbing materials.  Your reptile is delicate in this condition and will fracture from falls.

Provide a UVB source such as the fluorescent Reptisun or mercury vapor bulb (even for geckos, though lower intensity needed).  There can be no glass or plastic between the light and the reptile.  The reptile should be no more than 12 inches away from the light, but no closer than 2 inches.  On sunny, warm days (80°F +), the reptile can bask outside.  Do not put it outside in an aquarium-it will cook.  Allow access to water and shade.  Provide predator protection.  They are fast when they warm up, be careful!

Proper temperature gradient in the cage is important. Follow the recommended temperature gradient for the species you keep.  For Green Iguanas, there should be a hot spot that reaches 95°F – 100°F.  The low-end temperature of the cage should be 80°F.  Do Not Use a Hot Rock for any species!!!!  Spot light bulbs coupled with under the tank heating systems work well.  A thermostat is recommended.  You should have multiple thermometers to measure your temperature gradient.

The reptile should be kept alone during recovery.  Undo stress from larger cage mates will hinder its recovery and/or continued health.

There should be a hiding place.  Sometimes covering up half the enclosure helps the reptile to feel more secure. Often times, small reptiles respond to us as if we were predators.  Until it gets used to you, give it security.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to provide helpful service to you and your pet.  Please follow through with you pet’s rechecks as they are important in its recovery.

​If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.

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