For now this is an extra page on the website so I thought I would include here some thoughts for those interested in their first reptile or amphibian pet, followed by some links. There's no science behind these, it's just my personal advice. I know the top ten lists don't go to eleven, so feel free to send me ideas of your own.--Bryan Christy

Reptiles & Amphibians as Pets

Top Ten Best Reptiles or Amphibian Pets for General Hobbyists:

1. Bearded Dragon
2. Corn snake
3. Leopard Gecko
4. Kingsnake
5. Blue-tongue Skink
6. Dumpy White's Tree Frog (Among frogs, these guys are fairly resilient)

Top Ten Worst Reptiles or Amphibians Often Sold to General Hobbyists:

1. Green Iguana (need far more space than most people realize, i.e., their own room, need broad UV light spectrum, vitamins, varied diet)
2. Giant Pythons (Burmese, Reticulated, African Rock pythons) Anacondas & large monitor lizards (Contrary to what I told my mother, these will outgrow the tank you keep them in, and will outgrow your facilities and will outlive your interest)
3. Alligators (amazing as it may seem, these are available at local pet shops)
4. Chameleons (Wild caught chameleons experience nearly 100% mortality their first year. Easily stressed, should not be held, need far more varied diet than many realize)
5. Sulcata Tortoises (These cute, cheap (fifty bucks or less), cookie-sized tortoises grow to the size of a dishwasher and are most inappropriate indoors.)
6. Turtles. The turtle sold with a lagoon bowl and a shaker of dried food is commonly known as the red-eared slider. Beloved by children, the red-eared slider is the pigeon of the pet world. It is a voracious little omnivore which is established all over the world as a result of pets set loose. All turtles and tortoises less than four inches long (i.e., baby turtles) are illegal to sell in the U.S. They have been linked to salmonella in children. Sellers will often try to get around the law by posting a sign saying the turtles are for education or scientific purposes only. It's a cheap ruse and you can use it to your advantage: if you see such a sign, or baby turtles for sale, consider the seller one to avoid)
7. Russian Tortoise (Virtually all Russian tortoises seen in the pet trade are wild caught, with devastating consequences to their native populations, and should be avoided. See, e.g., Bull. Chicago Herp. Soc. 45(1):1-9, 2010, "Since the 1970s well over one million wild-caught adult Russian tortoises have been imported into the U.S. alone...less than 1 or 2 percent are alive today.") ...

8. Anything Wild Caught (When was the last time you saw a box turtle crossing the road? A big reason for the decline is massive, commercial-scale collecting for the pet trade. DBBT: Don't Buy Box Turtles!))
8. Anything you have not researched first

A Note: I endorse responsible keeping of reptiles or amphibians in part because the experience was so critical to the development of my own appreciation for nature, and in part because it is a simple reality that kids just don't have much nature around them anymore that they can reach out and touch. But here's my caveat: If you are a parent, or you have an interest of your own, please take the time to learn about your pet's native environment. Study its role in its ecosystem. Understand why it is shaped the way it is, why its eyes, nose, mouth, teeth, organs are as they are. In a way, reptile and amphibians are like wax poured into their environments. When you pull them out and look at them you can learn a great deal about the world that was around them. Then, work to protect it.

Some additional sites related to reptile trade or The Lizard King Book:

  • Board of Inquiry
  • Caudata.Org
  • CITES Dashboards
  • Field Herp Forum
  • HerpDigest
  • Melissa Kaplan's care site
  • Nat'l Pet Association
  • Nat'l Reptile Breeders' Expo
  • Reptile Channel
  • Strictly Reptiles
  • Tom Crutchfield
  • US Animal Imports Database