Best Beginner Reptile

Me and my two bearded dragons.
Me and my two bearded dragons.

PET REPTILES

Reptiles are very popular in today's society. They can be found in thousands upon millions of homes. Different types of people have reptiles as family pets, not just the stereotypical goth or punk kid. Business people, moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas, college students, veterinarians, doctors, teachers, managers, corporate employees, etc. Many people think that only tattoo and pierced "goths" have reptiles as pets. It's just not true. I've researched reptiles for over six years now, and I've had them as pets for over four years now. I'm not the typical "goth;" I won't deny I have several ear piercings and one tattoo. I won't admit that I love piercings and tattoos, but I will admit to sharing the love of reptiles with thousands of other Americans long before I got my second hole in my earlobes.

Many people think reptile think "Ew. I'll never have a scaley creature in my house willingly.' But they're not so bad, but I'm partial. It took my parents two years before allowing me to get a leopard gecko, and then another, and another, and a bearded dragon, and so on till to this day I have 11 leopard geckos, 5 African fat tail geckos, 2 crested geckos, 2 bearded dragons, and 1 ball python, amongst many small. furry animals, and 2 dogs. So, there's my intro, now for the good stuff...

Leopard Gecko. Juvenile.
Leopard Gecko. Juvenile.
Crested Gecko. Juvenile.
Crested Gecko. Juvenile.
African Fat Tail. Adult.
African Fat Tail. Adult.

GECKOS

If you want something on the smaller side, you're best bet is a gecko of some sort. Now which to choose? You've got tokay geckos, day geckos, leaf tails, gargoyles, cresteds, fat tails, and leopard geckos amongst many other gecko species that are kept in captivity. Which to choose??

Crested geckos and gargoyle geckos are by far the easiest of the gecko species that I have encountered. They do not need much extra heat or light sources unless your house is kept below 75F, and can be housed in a 15 gallon tall aquarium. They eat a specially formulated Crested Gecko Diet, that you just add water to. Fruit baby foods can be given to them once or twice a week as a treat, and they eat crickets once or twice a week. But, their main source of food is Crested Gecko Diet, and yes that's exactly what it's called.

Leopard geckos and African fat tail geckos are housed nearly the same with slight variations. Leopard geckos are housed at temperatures between 85-90F, and AFT's are housed between 82-88F. AFTs need slightly more humidity, which can be provided with a humid hide (Tupperware container with a hole cut in it with moist moss, vermiculite, etc. to hold humidity). These geckos can be housed in 10 gallon aquariums, but they really need a 20 gallon long aquarium, which can actually house up to two geckos. Fat tails tend to be prone to eating crickets, whereas leopard geckos will eat crickets, mealworms, butterworms, silkworms, etc. You DO NOT want to mix the two species because they do have different requirements.

These four geckos are the best choice for beginner geckos. They all have docile temperaments. Crested geckos are a little more jumpy, but not considered bitey by a long shot.

Bearded Dragon. Adult.
Bearded Dragon. Adult.

LIZARDS

Of the lizard pets, the best beginner, in my opinion, is a bearded dragon, for the sole reason of their temperaments. Most bearded dragons are very docile and laid back. Mine are. Although, they do get bigger, up to two feet including tail, they are a better beginner lizard than others, such as the chameleon or iguana. Bearded dragons should be housed singly in a minimal of a 40 gallon breeder aquarium with regular bulbs as well as a UV bulb with temperatures near 100F. Babies should be fed a staple insect several times a week, and have a salad mixture offered daily. Adults should be fed a salad mixture daily and staple feeder insect (crickets, superworms, roaches) at least twice a week. Feeder insects should ALWAYS be sized appropriately, no larger than the width between the eyes at the top of the head.

Some bearded dragons can be temperamental, but for the majority of captive bred bearded dragons, they tend to be very docile, and great beginner lizards.

Ball Python. Baby.
Ball Python. Baby.
Ball Python.
Ball Python.

SNAKES

Of the myriad of snakes in the pet trade, the best three beginner snakes include the ball python, kingsnake, and corn snake. Of course, before purchasing a snake, you need to check your state laws for owning snakes. For example, in Georgia, you cannot own corn snakes because they are native. You really aren't supposed to own kingsnakes, but you can get away with a California kingsnake. Just a heads up to check your state laws before purchasing a snake.

Ball pythons are very docile and laid back, more so than the other two snakes I listed. I have a ball python, he has never tried to bite, snap, or show any signs of aggression. Before, during, or after a shed, he is nothing but polite. Hungry, on the hunt, or killing his prey, he's never struck me. I've picked him up while he coiled around a frozen mouse (he took one for the first time in over a year) and placed him in a different tub. Ball pythons can reach 5-7 feet, females being larger than the males. They tend to be very stocky snakes. The only concern with ball pythons are that they are very finicky eaters; they can go up to 6+ months without eating if they choose too.

Both kingsnakes and corn snakes are more finicky than the ball python. They average anywhere from 2-4 feet in length, and stay thinly built. I have seen and held many a calm kingsnake, but I've also seen and been weary of many aggressive ones. The one good thing that I like aboud colubrids, is that they are NOT finicky eaters as compared to the ball pythons. Every colubrid that I've encountered will readily take a thawed mouse.

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Comments 60 comments

animalsare#1 4 years ago

I don't know what pet to get. I am not fond of snakes, and I don't like big things, but I have a huge 72 gallon tank on my hands I am thinking of getting a crested gecko.


chrisnstar profile image

chrisnstar 5 years ago

good advice. Wish we'd read before we adopted the world's grumpiest green iguana. lol


David Hernandez 5 years ago

Ok I will admit I'm a fan of dogs but I also have an interedt reptiles and always wanted a reptilian pet. My parent wouldn't let me have one because my mom is terrified of them. Mainly snakes and lizards. However I would like to. Try owning a reptile. The two that have caught my eye are the bearded dragon and the california king snake. But I'm not sure which would be better for a begging reptile pet owner.


LizardLover 5 years ago

hey i was thinking about getting a chinese water dragon. (not sure if my mom would let me) would they be okay for a beginner? if so, how big should their tank be? what should i feed them? thanks


Alyson Modlin profile image

Alyson Modlin 5 years ago from Burlington, North Carolina

I love my beardy!! He is a goof ball. He is a Lawson's breed, one of the more rare types, and has such an interesting personality. Can't wait to get more lizards. Not a big snake person though...that's my sis!


AWESOME 5 years ago

yes i totally recamend the bearded dragon. extremely esy


THE MIZ 5 years ago

i want a beardie but im not sure if the esy to take care of. Any advice?


DJ 5 years ago

would a 21,6 tall leter work because that is the best i can do with my budget at this moment in time


Katharella profile image

Katharella 5 years ago from Lost in America

::whew:: was glad to see you advised never to defang a snake.. I'm highly against declawing cats, it's just wrong to take away their defense! But I like going out on my back porch and seeing the wild gecko's all over! Um, I think they think they own my back porch :) I know here in the south they have plenty to eat, but I still put a bit of food out for them. Them along with my other outdoors pets are just my outdoors pets :) great hub!


Bryan Beck 5 years ago

I bought my bearded dragon as a very docile baby until he turned about 1 year old. I've spent a lot of time with my bearded dragon and he's the meanest animal I've ever worked with. Ive had dogs, cats, ball pythons, iguana, corn snake, and a red eared slider turtle.


mitch 5 years ago

what would be the best for me? i cant have a snake, the vivarium must be at maximum 2ft?


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

gecko_boy, yes a tile, paper towel, or some kind of solid substrate will be fine, but you want to put the under tank heater underneath the tank, hence UNDER tank.


gecko_boy profile image

gecko_boy 6 years ago from england

(im england!!) so if i put the heat matt inside the tank then put something over it and then the substrate would that work?


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

They are super hard to heat because you can't use appropriate under tank heaters. The only thing that really works are the ceramic heat emitters, but if there isn't an outlet to add the bulb, then there's no real way to properly heat it.


ENGLAND!!!! 6 years ago

i have seen in shops these new wood vivariums and im gonna get one for my corn snake but just how do i heat it properly? thanks


gecko_boy profile image

gecko_boy 6 years ago from england

in england i cant seem to get hold of reptile carpet :S , my local pet store syas if you are going to use any substrate use aspen or cocobark that's it if you cant get hold of tghem then use paper towls or rep carpet


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Doesn't matter. Females can sometimes get a little larger as adults, but in general it all varies. I would not use aspen, but a reptile carpet, tile, or paper towels. Use some kind of substrate that the BD can't ingest.


gecko_boy profile image

gecko_boy 6 years ago from england

does the size matter is it is male or female?


gecko_boy profile image

gecko_boy 6 years ago from england

ok thanks, so does the sex matter size wise?and what is the best substrate you have comeacross that easy to get? aspen?


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Yes, I know who you are.

What door? You can easily use a regular 10 or 20 gallon long with a regular aquarium lid and cage clips, and the snake won't be able to escape.

Girth is the measurement around. It's basically the width around the snake.


gecko_boy profile image

gecko_boy 6 years ago from england

npo my pet store said that they could get through the gap in the door and what's the girth?? by the way im raptile man lol


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Your local pet store has no clue. A baby cornsnake will NOT escape the holes in the mesh lids of a regular tank. That's just stupid. Punching holes will typically create a larger hole than what is in the mess lid of a glass tank.

Pinkies are the smallest that you can go. You'll want the feeder to be no larger than the widest girth of the snake.


reptileman 6 years ago

hi i also wondered what food size food you should give a tiny cornsnake because even the pinkys seem big for them :S


reptileman 6 years ago

hi whit, if im purchasing a viv that's 2 foot sq is that alright? my local pet store says if you just put a baby corn snake into a viv it would escape through the tiny gaps, so they sed to put him into a plastic box and punch holes in it then place him in the viv with hm on for heat. is that right? also would a male be smaller at adult size then the female at adult size? thanks , reptileman


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

That is odd, as typically BPs are very docile and not aggressive at all. I wouldn't recommend a red tail to a beginner solely based on size, but I do agree they can be quite calm.


Amanda 6 years ago

I know that balls are great starter snakes. But I strongly disagree that they are the most docile.

I've NEVER held a ball python that has NOT showed agression.

I own a red tail boa and have raised corns, milks, and kings.

By far, out of all these snakes, the red tail has taken the cake for personality.

Put quite simply, red tails seem to enjoy people and being handled.

Their downfall? Size.


exinco profile image

exinco 6 years ago from Malaysia

i just started to keep tokay recently. so far i have two- both female. now i feed them with coackroaches and seem they love it.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Some reptiles don't need extra heat, unless the enclosure is in a relatively cold location. Depending on the species the heating requirements will vary. As for those the need heat, in a power outage they're generally going to be ok for a few hours or so. I've heard of times when the power has gone out for a few days, and the reptiles will be fine. It all depends on how cool the enclosure gets and what the average temps are that the species needs.


Cameron 6 years ago

I know that reptiles are cold-blooded and need to be kept in a warm environment. I'm thinking about getting a gecko or other reptile, but I want to know what I should do if there is a power-outage. Should I worry about it staying warm? (My power doesn't go out much, but I'm still concerned).


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

It depends on the gecko and the lizard species as to what the difference is. You may find difference in lighting, heating, humidity, diet, and of course enclosure size.


animallaver2 6 years ago

hi! i am getting my 1st reptile(a bearded dragon) tomorrow.I have had like every animal under the sun(from a dwarf hamster and frogs to a horse)and i was wondering what the difference was between geckos and lizards besides size?

thanx!


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Put them in separate enclosures. There could be bullying, food hogging, or plain stress. Plus, if they came from a pet store you have high chances of parasites or other illness.


gecko22 7 years ago

I just bought two leopard geckos about a month ago. One of the geckos is not eating much at all and is getting very skinny. The other gecko seems to be eating fine. Why is this happening and what should I do?


Matt 7 years ago

Thx very informitive i bought an albino californian king snake and its my first reptile so wish me GL


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Tokay geckos are NOT beginner reptiles, and a beginner should not attempt to breed them. You should not house two tokays in the same tank together, so that's a no. They also need height not length. If you stand that 40 gallon on its side, it'd be fine for the one.


kevin 7 years ago

hey, i was wondering if yopu know any thing about tokay geckos.

im planning on getting 2,

i was wondering for a breeding pair of tokays would a 36x18x18 be okay?

for two of them year round.???

L=36

W=18

H=18


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Gotcha... For the most part BPs are pretty docile, but that doesn't mean that you won't ever get bit. It will also depend per individual. Some individual snakes within even a docile species can be aggressive and temperamental.


RJ 7 years ago

lol i know i changed it cuz i didn't feel like typing iwannareptile lol but thanks


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 7 years ago from Georgia Author

iwannareptile/RJ, You should not de-fang a snake (I don't think you even can). In any case NO reputable reptile vet would.


RJ 7 years ago

Hello, do you know if you de-fang a snake if it can still eat mice and stuff, because i don't want to even think about being bit if i ever get a snake.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 7 years ago from Georgia Author

That's not necessarily high for a snake. It's average price for a snake morph that is highly sought after and fairly new to the reptile market. Give it about SEVERAL years and it'll be down to just a few grand. :-) I'm still waiting on the piebalds to go down, as the better quality the snake, the more you're going to pay, and I just can't do 2,000 for a BP right now, although it is in my future plans for goReptiles.


iwannareptile 7 years ago

oh wow, that's high for a snake lol i guess im not getting the leucistic cuz that cost more than both of my parents cars put together haha. i guess ill get a normal morph then, thanks a lot


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 7 years ago from Georgia Author

A leucistic? A good bit of money. Most morphs are going to be at least $200 and up. It's not uncommon to find albinos at $750+, piebalds (mostly white with the green/brown markings) at $1500+, pastel 500+, etc.

I found one breeder who sells the black eye leucistic, and they're priced at $40,000 because they're highly sought after.

For your first BP and first reptile, that's a good chunk of change considering the minimal knowledge that you currently have. I'd say purchase a normal morph and when you have the extra several grand purchase a higher quality morph.


iwannareptile 7 years ago

hey, thank you so much this site was very helpful in choosing the right pet. I'm new with reptiles but i think i may start with a ball python. but do you know about how much the all white ball python with the black eyes would cost?


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 7 years ago from Georgia Author

I wouldn't necessarily pick a blue tongue skink as a beginner reptile.

No, you should not breed a leopard gecko to an AFT. They are from different origins, and it can't be done. A few people have tried, but have failed from my understandings. If you are successful, the offspring will be infertile. Plus, it would be near impossible to determine the proper housing for the gecko since the parents have different housing requirements and are from different locations of the world.


hope 7 years ago

hiya would like to say the blue toungue skink is a good starter herp as well :)

and does anyone no weather or not i would be able 2 cross breed a leopard gecko with a fat tail ?


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 7 years ago from Georgia Author

When candled, they should have a bullseye or appear pink. Just leave them both in the incubator and see how it goes. Just make sure that you have the holes in the deli cup covered, as Hatchrite will dry out quickly if there are any cracks or holes for ventilation. You just need to open the lid once a week. When I used Hatchrite, I only did it every other week or so.


Baby-moji 7 years ago

Help! My leopard gecko laid her eggs but she didn't lay them in the moist lay box i put in there for her...she laid them on the floor of the tank....i found them and put them in the incubator in some hatchrite in a deli cup and the incubator is at 82 degrees.....but when i found them they were both soft and kinda dented....and i heard that that is a bad thing....now one is starting to get harder and is kinda pinkish with a red circle in it and the other is still squishy and yellowish......how can i tell if they are fertile??


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 7 years ago from Georgia Author

You may actually end up with an extra 4-10 depending on if the eggs are fertile and if they all hatch. Make sure that you have the appropriate housing for them all.


baby-moji 7 years ago

Hi, Ive just recently got into reptiles and after a ton of research i purchased my first leopard gecko. I bought her from a small local pet store and she is still doing well and gaining weight. Just a few months ago i bought another female leopard gecko from a breeder. My problem is that soon after that a friend of mine contacted me and said that he had just received 2 leopard geckos from someone who wasn't taking care of them very well and he asked if i would take them because I had the stuff to be able to take care of them....One was a male and one was a female and I separated them right away because I don't have the resources at the moment to breed them but.. the female was already pregnant....I have bought an incubator and what not but im a little worried because i am still fairly new to this..and now instead of 2 leopard geckos I am now trying to look after 4 with 2 on the way!!!! any advice would be helpful


shira profile image

shira 8 years ago from U.S.A

If I will send this hub to my husband he will faint...

but it is a great one. very informative!

Thanks


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia Author

I posted a link for bearded dragon diets on the leopard gecko article that you posted the diet question on. But, here it is again: http://hubpages.com/misc/Bearded-Dragon-Diet...

(Please post bearded dragon questions there or on Bearded dragon Care)


kevin 8 years ago

and also i forgot to ask you is that um.............. with bearded dragons, should i feed different feeder incects???? i am feeding them crikets


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia Author

My bearded dragons? I got one at 6 weeks and one at 8 weeks The first one was around $100; I don't really remember, but I want to say around or slightly over that. The second one was $85 from a breeder which will be cheaper on average than a pet store, all depending on the morph. And, with a breeder, you're just about always guaranteed a healthy reptile.


kevin 8 years ago

if you don't mind me asking how much were they and how old did you get them???


kievin 8 years ago

thanks!!!!!!!!!


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia Author

Bearded dragons need a minimum of a 40 gallon breeder tank. Bearded dragons involve more to properly house and take care of than a leopard gecko. UV light, basking spots, much higher temperatures, and a more complex diet. They are about the same temperament, at least mine are when compared to my leopard geckos. They require more socialization when younger, and can turn rather nasty if not handled regularly when young.


kevin 8 years ago

eventually i will want to get a bearded drgon so are they easy,what size tank do i need, and are they nicer and can they be docil???


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 9 years ago from Georgia Author

Yes. milksnakes are a great beginner reptile. I can't believe I forgot them, as they have similar husbandry and care lof the corn and king snake. King and corn snakes both come in bright colors, of yellows, reds, and oranges.

Leopard geckos, African fat tail, and crested geckos can all lose their tails , but crested geckos do not reginerate a new one. Baby and juvenile geckos are moreprone to dropping their tail than adults, but it's certainly not impossible.


DanielleD profile image

DanielleD 9 years ago from Waverley

I found this site to be very accurate, and a good resource for anyone looking to own a new repile. I'd like to add milknakes to the list of good beguinners. My first snake was a milkey, and the are just like kings and corns, but with georgious coloration. I have heard of colored kings, but in my experience, i've only seen the black and white ones. Something else you might want to mention about leopard geckos to the new herp lover is the risk of tail dropping in hatchlings, and even in stressed adults. A gecko with a droped tail is not easy to care for, as I'm learning now...

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