Small Reptile Basics

A 10 to 20 gallon fish tank is a good starter cage for most small reptiles although the cage size may need to be increased as the reptile reaches its adult size. It is recommended that adult reptiles be housed separately to prevent fighting. Cage design depends on the type of lizard (arboreal vs. land-dwelling). Humidity requirements also vary based on species and many species require a humidity box inside their enclosure. Research the specific requirements for your species of reptile and adjust accordingly. All cages should have a warm and a cool side with a hide box or rock on the warm side. Substrate should be paper towels, newspaper, or a paper pulp bedding such as Carefresh.

Reptiles are cold blooded and regulate their temperature through their environment. Proper heat and lighting is important to keep your reptile healthy. Provide a basking spot on one end of the cage with an incandescent bulb. You should also provide an ultraviolet fluorescent (UVB) bulb over the cage. Temperatures should reach 92 to 95 F on the warm side and 70 to 75 F on the cool side. Night heat is also important if the temperatures get too low in the cage. Always measure temperature at the bottom of the cage and at the basking site where the reptile actually sits.

In general, small reptiles should be fed crickets as the majority of their diet, but they can also be fed waxworms or mealworm larvae in small amounts. Juveniles should be fed daily and the insects should be dusted at each feeding with a calcium/vitamin D supplement and with a multivitamin once a week. Adults should be fed every two to four days and the insects should be dusted with a calcium/Vitamin D supplement at each feeding and every other week with a multivitamin. Fresh water should be offered daily in a large dish. Soaking your reptile in shallow, warm water for 15 to 20 minutes several times weekly can improve hydration and help with shedding.