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The Worst Reptiles for Beginning Hobbyists

by Petra Spiess

This article appeared in the June 1997 issue of Reptile Hobbyist Magazine


Burmese, Reticulated, and African Rock Pythons.

All of these species are very cute as hatchlings, but quickly grow HUGE not matter what size of enclosure they are kept in. Although Burmese pythons often can become very tame, this is seldom true for the other two species, reticulated and African Rock pythons. A large, aggressive snake is not much fun to maintain for the beginner. Unfortunately, these species are so prolific, there are many captive born hatchlings for sale on the market. Subsequently, the price is relatively low for a hatchling, and this often tempts beginning keepers into a purchase they should avoid. The reticulated and African rock python are often imported, to both their and the purchasers detriment. Imported specimens are often emaciated, dehydrated, tick and mite infected, and sick, which creates a whole host of problems for the purchaser. Adults of these species require room sized enclosures, and can be expensive to feed and maintain.


Green Iguanas

Green iguanas are by far the most common reptile pet on the market. This is unfortunate as this species is not suitable for the beginner for several reasons. Iguanas are large lizards, adults can easily exceed 5 feet. Iguanas require very large enclosures to fare well, and most homes cannot provide for this necessity. There is no aquarium on the commercial market that is large enough to house an adult iguana. Although some iguanas can become tame, many never do, and some animals may even be aggressive, especially males. Iguanas have specific dietary and environmental requirements in captivity that cannot be met by children of any age, so they do not make good children's pets. This species is one of the cheapest on the market today, do not let this fool you, iguanas are difficult, demanding, and expensive captives.


Box Turtles

Box turtles have been sold for many years as a "easy to maintain" or "ideal children's reptile pet". Neither of these two statements are true. The majority of people who wish to purchase box turtles want to maintain them inside year-round. This presents several difficulties. Box turtles require a lot of room to fare well, even one box turtle cannot be housed in an enclosure any smaller than a 30 gallon breeder aquarium. Almost all box turtles are wild-caught adult animals that are heavily parasitized. As with the green iguana, box turtles require very specific dietary and environmental conditions, which make this species less than ideal for the beginner. If the purchaser researches all the captive needs of box turtles, and can find a captive born animal to purchase, box turtles make excellent captives. Unfortunately, this seldom occurs, and box turtles die by the thousands due to ignorance.

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