Okay, so you want to buy a herp. Well, theres a few things you need to know before you rush into things. Just sit back and enjoy the reading!
-Iggy the Iguana
Step 1: ResearchEdit
So, out of the blue, you want a herp. Now what do you do? Stay calm, you don't have to immediately get in your car and rush to the nearest pet store. What you have to do is simple. Go online and look up good, suitable reptiles for you. If you're a first time novice, you should get a very beginner herp, such as a Green Anole. If you're an experienced and responsible herper, you could get some more intermediate animals, such as a chameleon or day gecko. If you are an expert professor that has a doctorate in Herpetology, you could get anything from a Tuatara to a Komodo Dragon. So as you can see, there is a great variety of experience levels. Once you have your species, you can start researching it. You can use a variety of different resources, like online care sheets (just check out the Reptile Care category on this website), library books or Reptiles Magazine. You can also get great advice by asking a pet shop employee, or buying a good book about the specific species in which you are interested.
Once you have a resource, you need to look up the following topics:
- Housing or Habitat
After you establish these three fundamentals, read through each subject. Then you should write down or print off what you read in the form of a spread sheet, graph or some other kind of organized fashion. Using a Green Anole as an example, let me show you what it looks like:
Scientific Name: Anolis Carolinensis (It is good to know the scientific name in case you go to a professional breeder)
Common Name: Green Anole (Good for regular pet stores)
Habitat: Woodland or Tropical (So that you know what habitat to set up)
Cage Size: 10-20 Gallons (To establish how big of a vivarium they need)
Living Status: Arboreal (So that you know what dimensions to get your cage. Ex: Arboreals need tall cages, Terrestrial need long cages)
Diet: Crickets, Mealworms (So that you know what to feed it)
Water Needs: Spray on walls (So that you know how to quench it)
Now, before doing anything, there's another way to find out about your herp.
So you want to get a herp, but you also can't quite figure out what kind of herp you want. This is when you take a different look at the way you pick your herp. Now, look up different environments, such as Tropical, Woodland, Semi- Aquatic, Swamp, Desert or any other region. After figuring out what kind of environment you want, you can look at what animals and plants live in that region. After that, look at what level of experience each animal is. This will narrow the choice down. Then, pick whichever one best suits your needs. After you've decided on this, do everything from the previous chapter about researching. Another good resource are books that talk about setting up vivariums. These can help meet the needs of the environment that you are planning on creating. Look in the Vivariums and Vivarium Designs for ideas on creating your vivarium.
Step 2: Setting up the VivariumEdit
Now that you have your herp picked out, it's time to go to the pet store. No, not to buy a herp, but to get your Vivarium. You need one that will fit your animals' needs. You don't want to end up purchasing a vivarium that is too small, tall, short or long for whatever you need. Remember this: No enclosure is ever too big. In fact, the bigger the Vivarium, the less stress for your animal. When buying the terrarium, you also need to kepp in mind what kind of habitat you are making. Is your environment semi-aquatic? If so, you will usually need a waterproof bottom. Keep in mind what kind of enclosure you want. Vivariums are usually made of acrylic or glass with good ventilation (perfect for many kinds of herps), while terrariums are usaully plastic with adequate quality ventilation, and aquariums are made of glass with a waterproof feature. Also remember this: the brand counts. Don't go with a cheap old plastic terrarium if a nice, hinged door, wire space Exo-Terra Acrylic Enclosure is on sale.
Now, you will be looking for substrate. The substrate is basically the layer of material that covers the floor of the vivarium. This will also depend on the environment that you picked. You want to choose wisely on the substrate you use; go to Accesories for more info. Once you have picked your substrate, figure out how much you need. For 10 gallon terrariums, you only need a small bag, while in huge 40 gallon terrariums you may need 2 large bags. Do your research on substrate. Some common garden materials can be toxic to your herp. If you are going to get a certain kind of substrate, stick with the stuff made for herps. They are always processed and tested for harmful materials making them the safest choice for your herp.
Obviously, you need some kind of watering tool. There are many varieties of these, ranging from simple spray bottles to small waterfalls. One thing to keep in mind is that some organisms absorb water differently than the others. For example, frogs don't drink water, they absorb it through there skin, while arboreal lizards lap water drops off of plants, while some herps will drink water out of a dish. Also think about humidity. If your herp needs high humidity or simply enjoys rain, get an automatic misting system. If you are building a naturalistic vivarium, then maybe you want a water fall. Also think about what kind of herp it is. Turtles need water to swim in, while some monitors will soak in big pans of water.
Now think about the other features that your herp may want or need. This can be basic stuff; sticks or vines for arboreal species, hide spaces for terrestrial species and that kind of junk. But whats really fun is making your vivarium as close to their natural enviroment as you humanly can. I'm talking the awesome stuff: waterfalls, live plants, cork backgrounds, pebbles, leaf litter, tumbleweeds or anything natural that your great creative mind can think of. Some times you may regret having to mend to all the plants, clean the waterfall's filter and wipe all the algea from the tank but trust me, if you got the money, it's worth it. Oh, and don't forget a light and thermometers and all that stuff.
Setting it all upEdit
Before you have all this stuff rounded up, you should try to design a vivarium or look on here for ideas. It's okay if you rush into it and then make it up as you go along; trust me, i've done it a million times. If you choose to use a design, then follow it to the letter. That means exact amount of substrate, exact water volume, exact everything. If you don't, things can go terribly wrong. I once over-flooded a waterfall and the result was massive flloding of the tank. I almost lost a green tree frog to it too.
Getting Your HerpEdit
Now that everything is setup, it's time for the great moment of triumph. The time when you say to the world "I'm Ready!". The time to get in your car and go to the pet shop. When you get there, immediantly go to the cage hosting your desired pet and closely observe them. Look for signs of a healthy herp: bright eyes, active behavior, and whatever signs to look for in that specific herp. Call over an assitant and let him know which one(s) you want. He will scoop them out, put them into some kind of containment unit (bag, plastic box with holes, etc.) and give them to you. Now hurry up! Get back home and release them into their beautiful new domain. You can now observe them whenever you like. Then, if you didn't already, get some food! Look at their food requirements and get whatever they need. Do this and give them water in whatever fashion required and they are sure to live a long, happy life.