Buying & equipment
Reptiles are fascinating but demanding animals. Their behaviour, living environment, breeding and other aspects are particularly varied and often appear highly exotic. Keeping reptiles is therefore a specialist hobby – for people with a real understanding of what makes animals tick.
Tips for buying a reptile
Many reptile keepers gained their first experience of these animals at exhibitions or when visiting a friend or acquaintance. Such contacts are an invaluable source of help if you decide to start keeping your own favourite reptile.
Healthy reptiles can be purchased from a responsible breeder or well stocked pet shop. You can obtain the addresses of breeders from a vet, reptile association, online or your local pet shop. Animal shelters and private rescue centres are another option: in addition to dogs, cats and guinea pigs, they often have reptiles in need of a new home.
One of the most popular carnivorous reptiles is the red-eared terrapin. An experienced owner can provide you with useful tips on topics such as keeping these reptiles indoors and outdoors. One particularly attractive approach is to keep terrapins outside in a garden pond over summer and bring them inside during the winter months.
Signs of a healthy reptile:
- Behaviour typical of its species (you will need to read up on the species in advance)
- Undamaged skin, scales, shell
- Eyes and nose that are free of discharge and mucous
- Clear eyes
- A clean behind
Checklist for initial equipment
To feel happy and remain healthy, reptiles need food that meets their dietary requirements and a range of different accessories:
- A large home for your reptile, e.g. a terrarium or outdoor enclosure
- Accessories suitable for your reptile, e.g. tunnels, grottos, food bowls, drinking bowls
- A suitable substrate
- Carrier for when visiting the vet
- Main food for daily nutritional requirements
- Technical equipment to provide the required living conditions for your pet, e.g. heater, UV lamp.
Living conditions, care and hygiene
Alongside providing the right diet, creating the right living conditions for your reptile is one of the key requirements for ensuring a long and healthy life. It is particularly important to provide a sufficiently large home with conditions (temperature, humidity etc.) that mirror those found in nature.
Reptiles generally retain their natural behaviour when kept in captivity. They will therefore clean and care for themselves. To ensure that your pet's skin, scales or shell remain healthy, however, you must provide a diet rich in all essential nutrients and maintain the right living conditions (UV light, temperature). It is therefore important to check the values for these conditions on a regular basis to identify any potential problems.
Reptile cage and hygiene
Remove leftover food and bodily waste on a daily basis. If you do not, these could provide a breeding ground for germs and attract insects. Depending on the type of cage, you will need to clean it thoroughly about once each week. This will usually involve changing the substrate or cleaning the accessories. Do not use strong household detergents. You do not need to change water in an aquarium or paludarium on a regular basis.
The perfect diet
Carnivorous reptiles are meat eaters and are therefore perfectly adapted to consuming high-quality protein. The group of carnivorous reptiles includes terrapins and the many species of snake. Although most of these animals will also eat the occasional berry or leaf in the wild, this tends to be an exception to their usual diet.
Vita Terra® Reptile Mixed is a main food with a high protein content that meets the basic dietary requirements of many carnivorous reptiles. Depending on the species, you will need to supplement this with fresh and/or live food. There are however many reptiles, such as the majority of snakes, that require a diet consisting entirely of fresh or live food.
- Provide quantities and portions suitable for your particular species
- Always serve food at room temperature
- Remove perishable leftovers after feeding
- Wash out bowls after each meal
- Provide fresh water at all times
Behaviour & familiarisation
New members of your family
It is best to use a secure pet carrier when collecting your new housemates from the breeder or pet shop. Take care to avoid any large temperature fluctuations while in transit.
Once your new pets have arrived home and have been placed in the cage you set up in advance, you should leave them alone for a while to get used to their new surroundings in peace. Depending on the species, behaviour and individual character of your new pets, you will need to wait one or several days before carefully starting to initiate contact. The animals will soon forget their shyness when offered tasty "bribes" in the form of a mealworm or other suitable treat.
Trachemys scripta elegans
The carapace (top shell) is oval and flattened; as a rule, the plastron (bottom shell) is slightly concave (curving inward) in the male and slightly convex (curving outward) in the female. The carapace is mostly green while the plastron is mostly yellow with dark, paired, irregular markings. Red-eared terrapins get their name from the distinctive red patch of skin around their ears. Size: up to 36 cm, weight: up to 4 kg.
The red-eared terrapin (called the red-eared slider in the United States) originates from the USA and Mexico, where it inhabits ponds, small lakes and quiet stretches of river.
It is possible to keep several red-eared terrapins because they tolerate one another well and will even often huddle together in the best sun spots. They do not tend to live in groups in the wild, however, and can often be quite aggressive – especially when food is involved.
In its natural habitat, this terrapin mostly eats fish, crustaceans and insect larvae. When kept as a pet, it requires a special food for carnivorous reptiles, supplemented with fresh food. Although essentially a carnivore (meat eater), it does eat a small amount of plant material.
The size that an adult red-eared terrapin can reach has often been underestimated in the past. These animals grow quickly, so it is important to choose a sufficiently large tank from the outset!