Reptiles and Husbandry

Reptiles as Pets

Reptiles as Pets

Reptiles can be really fun pets. They are ectothermic or “cold-blooded”. This means that, unlike mammals and birds, they can’t create their own body heat. Because of this, their care can be a bit more complicated than “warm-blooded” or endothermic animals. When reptiles get too cold, their whole body slows down. This includes all of their bodily functions - so if they are too cold, they can’t digest their food! As a result, reptiles have to be kept at very specific temperatures (which is usually higher than room temperature)! Reptile enclosures usually use a heat gradient, where one side is warm and one side is cooler. This gives the reptile the ability to choose what temperature it wants to be. Reptile enclosures can be heated through a number of ways including an under-tank heat mat or an overhead lamp! Humidity levels, or the amount of water in the air, are also important in order to make sure these pets are comfortable. For example, if humidity levels are too low, reptiles might not be able to shed their skin! Reptiles can be a reservoir for a type of bacteria called Salmonella, which can make humans very sick. It’s generally best to assume that all reptiles are carrying Salmonella. So, after handling reptiles or touching their environment, always wash your hands. There is a huge variety of care needed by reptile species. So, if you choose to keep one as a pet, its important that you learn as much as you can about your specific species! 

Lizards (Taûkethan)

Bearded Dragon

Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons come from deserts and dry woodlands in Australia. They are diurnal, meaning they are awake and active during the day. Because they come from a hot climate, bearded dragons need a heat lamp they can bask under. Bearded dragons get fairly large (1-2 feet long) and need more space than some smaller lizard species. Beardies are known for their friendly personalities and their big appetites! They are omnivorous and in captivity, they eat mostly vegetables and live bugs!

Eyelash Crested Gecko

Eyelash Crested Gecko

These little guys come from rain forests of New Caledonia, which is a series of islands in the South Pacific. They have very special microscopic hairs on their feet that allow them to stick to vertical surfaces. They are nocturnal and omnivorous. In the wild, they eat mostly fruit and insects. For pet Crested Geckos, you can buy special food powder that you mix with water and turn into a paste for them! Eyelash Crested Geckos are arboreal, meaning they spend most of their time living up in trees. When handling a Crestie, you have to watch out for their characteristic “leap of faith”. In the wild, if they jump off of a branch, they are likely to just land on another one. But when they are in our homes and not a dense rainforest, sometimes there is nothing for them to land on and they can fall and hurt themselves. Although Crested Geckos can drop their tails, it will not grow back!

Leopard Gecko

Leopard Gecko

Leopard Geckos are very common pets for first-time reptile owners! They come from deserts in Asia. They are insectivores, meaning they eat insects almost exclusively! In Canada, live crickets and worms are a popular choice for feeding Leopard Geckos. Fun fact! Their large tails are used to store fat and if they are very very stressed, they can lose their whole tail! Fortunately, if they do drop their tail, it can grow back!

Snakes (Tarhmûthethen)

Corn Snake

Corn Snakes

Corn Snakes are native to North America. While they can get fairly long, about 3 to 4 feet, they aren’t nearly as robust as some other similarly sized species. They are fairly active snakes, especially when being handled. They are very popular pets because they don’t get too big and they are fairly easy to keep happy!

Ball Python

Ball Python

Ball Pythons, sometimes called Royal Pythons, comes from central and west Africa. They are fairly robust snakes and tend to get around 4 feet long. They are known for being extremely docile and easy to handle! They can be very picky eaters unfortunately, which can sometimes make them difficult pets to own. Although wild Ball Pythons are brown and black, in captivity they come in many different colours or morphs.

Red Tail Boa

Red Tailed Boa

Red Tailed Boas, sometimes called Boa Constrictors or Common Boas, come from tropical regions of the Americas. Red Tailed Boas can get very large - up to 10 feet long! They are known for being docile and curious creatures. It can be hard to house Red Tailed Boas because of their size. But if someone is willing to give them a big enough enclosure, they can be great pets!

Tortoises (Kiya mînî en ûbin) & Turtles (Kiya)

Tortoises and turtles both belong to a group of animals known as Chelonians. Chelonians are known for their unique shells! The main difference between tortoises and turtles is that tortoises live on land and turtles live in the water. Hover over the images below to learn more about tortoises and turtles.



Husbandry Activity

We have a very important task for you. The lead veterinarian (Wodeja Nîkte wîchakiyetha) of Canada has found a new creature that was found in a pile of rubble that looks like a spaceship. The creature has six legs and requires someone to figure out how to house and feed it. As the veterinarian of the Alien Zoo, you have been called! Your task is to design an enclosure, including enrichment to meet the needs of this new animal and design a diet for it. Your research team has been hard at work and found out this information for you.

Your research team has found out the following information for you.

  • Height 4 inches (10 cm), length 8 inches (20 cm)

  • Walks on 6 legs- top speed of 20 km/hr

  • Presence of toe beans on every foot and enjoys belly rubs 

  • Ectotherm required temperature gradient (hot area 36°C, ambient 26°C )

  • Spends most of time hiding in holes  

  • 4 chamber stomach presents, and continously consuming food and chewing cud  

  • Crepuscular and prey animal 

  • Highly intelligent- equivalent to 6th grade child

  • Absorbs water through skin and likes to soak  

Things to Consider


Food (Wonâpche)

There are many different types of feeding styles. There are herbivores which have a plant based diet. Carnivores only eat meat, and omnivores have both meat and plants in their diet. Meal frequency is also something to consider. Snakes eat once every couple weeks while a cow must be continuously eating or else it could develop bloat and get very sick.

Habitat (En ûbi ze)


Habitat is the type of natural environment where an organism would live. Habitat includes not only where they live but where they can find food, shelter, and heat (if required). Animals have evolved for specific environments and it is ideal when animals are kept in captivity that you mimic their environment as closely as possible. For a silly example, you would never keep a fish out of water.



Enrichment is a way of improving the environment and behavioral care of confined animals that best fits their behavioral needs. Enrichment can include food, habitat, or sensory enrichment. This can be something as simple as solving a puzzle to get food or something much more complex like using an iPad.

How to design an enclosure?

Work your way through the check list below to help you design the perfect habitat. Draw your habitat out and write down all your ideas so that you don't forget anything.


What would be the best type of food for this new species? Are they a monogastric animal like the dog? A ruminant like the cow? A hindgut fermentor like the horse? Does this new animal need to be eating all the time or just a couple times a day? 

Think about what each of these species eat and how often and make a plan for this new alien animal. 


What would be the best type of habitat or enclosure for this new species? Does it require anything to hide under? Does it need lots of light? Does it need grass to munch on all day? Does it need trees to climb on? Does it need a heat source?

Think about what each of these species needs in its environment make a plan for this new alien animal. 


What kind of enrichment do you think this new species needs? 

Think about what each of these species needs in its environment so that it is stimulated and make a plan for this new alien animal.