General Reptile information

** The following information has been compiled from
(the veterinary information network) and from zoological education network**

Vital statistics:

Green Iguanas
Body Length: 5-6 ft
Body Weight: 15-18 lbs
Age of sexual maturity: 2-4 yrs
Maximum life span: 25 yrs
Average captive life span: 7yrs

Bearded Dragons
Body Length: 20-24 inches
Body Weight: 250 grams
Length at sexual maturity: 12-16 inches
Average life span: 10 yrs

Leopard Geckos
Body Length: 7-10 inches
Body Weight: 45-60 grams
Age of sexual maturity: 10 months
Average life span: 10-25 yrs

Ball Pythons
Body Length: 36-48 inches
Body Weight: varies with length and age
Age of sexual maturity: 3-5 yrs
Maximum life span: 50 yrs
Average captive life span: 20-30 yrs
Box Turtles
Body Length: 4-8 inches
Body Weight: 200-600 grams
Age of sexual maturity:
    Males 4-6 yrs
    Females 5-7 yrs
Maximum life span: 48 yrs
Captive life span: under 20 yrs

Painted Turtles
Body Length: 3-10 inches
Body Weight: 56 grams
Age of sexual maturity:
    Males 3-5 yrs
    Females 6-10 yrs
Maximum life span: 35-40 yrs
Captive life span: 30 yrs

Russian Tortoise
Body Length:
    Females 8-10 inches
    Males 6-8 inches
Body Weight: 10 kilograms
Length at sexual maturity:
    Females 6 inches
    Males: 5 inches
Captive life span: 50 yrs

Reptile Nutrition

Reptile diets vary from species to species; some are carnivores, omnivores and herbivores.

Carnivore diet

Most carnivorous reptiles are nocturnal which means they feed at night, so it is best to offer an appropriate sized prey item at night. Stunned or prekilled prey is preferred so as to not injure your pet. Appropriate prey items for your carnivorous pet can range from small pinky mice to large rats, to rabbits for some large snakes.

Omnivore diet

A lot of turtles and lizards are omnivores in nature which means they eat both meat and plant materials. It is best to offer fresh prey and plant material during the day while your pet is awake. For pets like painted turtles small fish in their water is an appropriate meal. While for a pet like a bearded dragon a few crickets in their cage is an appropriate meal to mix with their vegetation.

Herbivore diet

The other group of reptiles are herbivores which mean they eat only plant materials. There are commercial herbivore pellets on the market that have the proper supplements added to them, but is always good to offer a mix of pesticide free fresh fruit and vegetables. Most reptiles need a more calcium rich diet so mixes of calcium rich greens are important.

Appropriate Greens

Romaine lettuce
Red and Green leaf lettuce
Turnip greens
Mustard greens
Spring Mix (mixed salad greens)
Cabbage (on occasion)
Turnip greens
Mustard greens
Beet greens
Bok Choy
Swiss chard

Other Good Choices

Mulberry leaves
Hen and Chicks
Chrysanthemum flowers
Frozen mix vegetables
Sweet potato
Bell pepper
Rose petals

**Make sure all foods are pesticide and herbicide free**

How to pick the correct housing

Reptiles normally need smaller enclosures then other animals of similar size. The enclosure must be large enough for the animal to move around and to permit thermoregulation, feed, drink, bask, and sleep. The following dimensions are provided by Melissa Kaplan @ which is a very good source for reptile information.

These dimensions are based on a single animal being kept in the enclosure. The size should be increased by one-half for each additional animal being housed together, with a little more for territorial species. Additional room also needs to be added for a naturalistic habitat; include 30-40% of the floor space for free movement, feeding, and defecating.

Dimension Snout-Tail Length
Minimum length(side to side) 2-3 x
Minimum depth (front to back) 1-1.5 x
Minimum Height
Terrestrial/Fossorial 1-1.5 x
Arboreal/Scansorial 1.5-2 x
Dimension Total Length
Minimum length (side to side) of total length
Minimum depth (front to back) 1/3 of total length
Minimum Height
Terrestrial/Fossorial of total length
Arboreal/Scansorial 1 x total length, max 6-8 ft
Aquatic and Semi-Aquatic Turtles
Dimension Carapace Length
Minimum length (side to side) 4-5 x
Minimum depth (front to back) 2-3 x
Minimum height 1.5-2 x total length plus 8-12" to prevent escapes
Terrestrial Turtles and Tortoises
Dimension Carapace Length
Minimum length (side to side) 5 x
Minimum depth (front to back) 3 x
Minimum height 1.5-2 x to prevent escapes

How to pick proper substrates

It is important to pick a substrate that is appropriate for your pet and either substrate that is non-absorbable or mimics their natural environment.

Playground Sand

If bought new, it is clean, medium-sized, round grain with some variation in size and color. This is good all-purpose sand, and a good conductor of heat, suitable for larger desert species. Food should be offered on platters to cut down on ingestion of sand.

Pea Gravel

It is important to wash gravel prior to use to remove dust. Pea gravel is a good heat conductor, generally used as a bottom layer on the cage to provide a proper drainage layer when live plants and top soil are used.

Butcher paper

Plain butcher paper may be used to line the bottom of the enclosures. It is not very absorbent but is free of inks that may be harmful to reptiles, also easily available for purchase at restaurant supply stores.


Cypress mulch is normally easily available. Can be used alone or mixed with soil to lighten it. It cannot be cleaned so it has to be removed and replaced with fresh mulch when soiled.

Unprinted Newspaper

Unprinted sheets can be bought at moving supply stores. It is relatively absorbent when several sheets are used. If using an absorbent paper as your reptile's substrate it is important to change it whenever wet so bacteria or fungus cannot grow in it.

Paper towels

Easily available and inexpensive, paper towels make and very good substrate for reptiles with injuries on their abdomen or in quarantine. Again this is a very absorbent material and needs to be changed more regularly.


Aspen and pine shavings are good to use for snakes and fossorial lizards. The shavings cannot be cleaned so they have to be removed and replaced when ever soiled. At least once monthly the entire enclosure should be cleaned and all shavings should be replaced.

Spanish moss

This can be collected from the wild or purchased in most garden stores. It should be baked (at 250 F for 1 hours) prior to use or frozen for at least one month to kill the chiggers that reside in it. Moss is suitable for use in small portions to provide microclimates' or burrable pockets for fossorial reptiles.

Astroturf®/ Artificial grass

Artificial grass is easily found at hardware stores in different grades. The least expensive is generally the best to use, it is flexible making it easier to clean and disinfect. It is important to fold the ragged edges under or sew the seams so your pet is not able to ingest the fibers. When the piece starts fraying it is time to replace it.

Reptile carpeting

These are fibrous, absorbent pads that come in common tank sizes. They wick the moisture away from the surface. Can be disinfected easily, it is recommended to have a few pieces on hand so when you are cleaning one you have another to go back in the cage. Never put a wet or damn carpet into your pets' enclosure.

Not recommended substrate

Fine beach sand, Silica sand, Lava rock, Polished stone, Bark, Newspaper, Alfalfa pellets, Cat litter, Clay litter, Corn cob litter, Lizard/Reptile litters, Paper litter, Walnut shell litter, Outdoor soil, Peat moss/ potting soil, Indoor/ Outdoor carpeting, Household/ Industrial carpeting, Linoleum tiles.

Proper cleaning and disinfecting

Your reptile's cage should be cleaned of any fecal debris as soon as possible to prevent the proliferation of bacteria and diseases. Prior to disinfecting your pets' enclosure you should remove all debris. Clean with hot soapy water and a scrub brush rinse the enclosure thoroughly. If you are using an absorbent substrate a full change should be done while cleaning your pet's enclosure. A full enclosure cleaning should be done at least once weekly to prevent any debris build up. Disinfecting your pets' enclosure should be done at least once monthly. To do a full disinfecting of your pets' enclosure is to remove all organic material that is present. There are pet marketed disinfects on the market that work well, just make sure you are using a true disinfectant and not just a cleaner. White wine vinegar is a good household disinfectant that is safe to use in your pets' enclosure and also works well to "descale" your pets' water bowl. A diluted mix of house hold bleach (add cup bleach per gallon of water) can also be used but make sure with any disinfectant that the enclosure is rinsed well and no chemical smell is left behind. Remember our pets are more sensitive to smells then we are and if you can smell anything then it is not rinsed enough for your pet safety.


Proper lighting and heating

For every species of reptile the heating and lighting requirements are different so please make sure to get specific guidelines for your pets' specific needs. The proper lighting for your pet is just as important as proper temperature.

Incandescent Bulbs

A regular household incandescent bulb can be used for daytime lighting. The higher the wattage the hotter the tank will be. Make sure you use the proper wattage for the fixture you are using.

Reptile Basking Lights

Lights marketed as "Reptile basking lights" are also good to use as daytime lighting- they are normally more expensive than regular incandescent bulbs. These lights do not produce any ultraviolet B wavelengths even if they are tinted.

Spotlights/ Silvered Reflector Lights

These lights are good to create a "hot spot" in the tank. The non-ligh t emitting film on the back and sides of the bulb prevent heat from being emitted from other parts of the bulb and concentrates the light to the front to have more direct light and heart.

Ceramic Heating Elements

Ceramic heating elements are good non-light emitting ceramic units. These tend to get hotter than other bulbs and since they do not emit any light are good for night lighting.

Reptile Heating Pads

These heating pads are not easily moved once "stuck" to the tank, so make sure to pick the proper location for the heating pad the first time. These heating pads have also been known to cause "hot spots" in the tank that can burn your pet if you are not checking the temperature of the tank after installation.

UVA (Ultraviolet A) & UVB (Ultraviolet B)

These lights are made specifically for reptile enclosures and are the only lights that safely provide both UVA and UVB waves. UVA waves are important for diurnal reptiles by making their perception of their captive environment accurate to their wild habitat. UVB waves are important for your reptile because the body converts UVB into vitamin D3, and the proper levels of vitamin D3 help with the absorption of calcium preventing metabolic bone disease.

** Please remember this handout is just a guideline; all species of reptiles have individual specific needs. Please do research prior to purchasing any pet, and ask us about that pet' specific needs**