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Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
Vol 2, Issue 11    
August, 2006
A Guide to Buying Lizards (Part 2)
In this Issue

by Bert Langerwerf of AgamaInternational

The ins and outs of the reptilian pet trade

Here are some signs to look for and signs to watch out for when buying a lizard in a pet shop.


  • There are only a few lizards in a terrarium
  • There is ONLY one species to a terrarium
  • The animals look alert and have their eyes open
  • There are even scientific names
  • There are care sheets for every species sold
  • Every animal has a clean and full water dish
  • Animals (except temperate animals such as corn snakes and gartner snakes) have heat lamps or heat pads
  • Hiding places are provided to keep the animals from stressing
  • They may have adults as store pets so you can see what you are going to be getting yourself into.


  • The seller tells you that the care is "The same as in iguanas", or "the same as in bearded dragons" (or any other lizard). That is almost always not true, and by saying this they are trying to avoid spending time explaining with you. Often enough, they simply do not know the correct care and are trying to dodge the issue
  • Lizards are crowded into few enclosures
  • Dead or sick lizards are still in the enclosures with other lizards. Dead animals should always be promptly removed, and responsible stores will quarantine any sick animals (usually in a back room) and refuse to sell them
  • People that do not tell the truth to you. One easy way to check this is to point at a lizard that is always wild caught ( like an adult Mali Uromastyx, a butterfly agama, a red headed agama, a baby green waterdragon, etc) and ask: Is that captive bred or wild caught? When they say captive bred, then they are lying. Expect more lies to follow
  • Mislabeling: One example of typical mislabeling is small Ermeias lizards, which have eyed dots on the sides. They are often labeled as Jeweled Lacers, which is not true. Columbian tegus are often labeled as argentine tegus, probably because argentine tegus cost more. As you may not be familiar with what every lizard looks like, if you see a lizard that you are interested in, go home and look it up on the internet. If the pictures do not match the name, you should look elsewhere to purchase a reptile (be careful, however, as sometimes animals will have multiple common names, or the same common name is used for more than one species)
  • Different kinds of lizards in one terrarium
  • If you sniff at the corner where the garbage cans are, it smells like dead animals
  • Feces and urates are not promptly removed and cleaned
  • There are no sources of heat like heat lamps or heating pads. (this is not a problem for temperate animals like corn snakes and garter snakes.)
  • There is no water dish, or the water dish is dried out
  • While poor lighting is not always an indication of mistreatment or poor quality, it often is used in an attempt to keep you from noticing problems

While, as stated above, it is best to get your lizard directly from a breeder, specialized reptile pet stores are often good. These will be easy to tell, as they will feature their reptiles proudly and prominently, and often in their name. These specialized pet shops often have captive bred animals and you will find there a bigger variety of lizards. However, there are still bad specialized pet stores, so you should still be careful and look for the indications mentioned above.

Article reproduced with permission. Bert Langerwerf breeds and sells a wide variety of animals including Australian Eastern Water Dragons, Tegus, Bearded Dragons, Shinisaurus crocodilurus, Uromastyx. Berts website is:


Care and Breeding Australia's Diamond Python (Part 3)

by Stan Chiras


Light cycling, or photoperiod, is a major emphasis of many diamond breeders. For the most part, the theory is of little use. Early failures with diamonds lead many herpers to believe they had special light-quality requirements. Actually, what they need are light periods that follow our four seasons, with short days of winter and long summer days.

Special lights they do not need, although there's nothing wrong with using them. I use Vitalites or plant grow lights to help keep my cage plants thriving, but no cage light at all works just fine. Ambient light cycled to our North American seasonal day-night fluctuations are all the diamond python needs. It is highly unlikely that they absorb any ultraviolet radiation from the sun, as keepers sometimes hypothesize.

Surely, though, in the wild they do need to get heat from the sun, a commodity that can easily be supplied in captivity through various artificial heat sources.Give a diamond a hot basking source and you'll have one happy snake. Keep its cage hot and you will do the poor animal a disservice. Like most herps, it's best to provide a temperature gradient in the cage, where the animal can select its own, preferred temperatures. That's why I like long, tall cages. It's easy to provide a hot basking site, with places for the snake to retreat to hold its warmth (like a cozy hide box, well insulated with bedding) or a spot where the snake can go to cool off if it so desires. Generally they prefer to simply coil tightly to retain their warmth close to the level achieved while basking.


So much for temperature and light. Humidity and feeding are all that's left, so let's tackle humidity first. Diamonds don't come from particularly humid environs, but nevertheless keeping most pythons on the dry side can be hard on their respiratory systems. Living in Colorado, where the air is pretty dry, I've resorted to keeping live plants with wet pots and retaining pans in the cages, to provide the snakes with a wet spot if they so desire.

Often I find my diamonds wound through pothos plants, enough evidence for me to think they like it. For most parts of the country, where humidity levels are naturally higher, this isn't a major concern. But remember: It's awful easy to apply artificial heat sources to a cage and end up making the internal cage environment a little too dry. Just adding a water bowl isn't necessarily the best way to humidify a cage or hydrate the snake. A nice wet spot oftentimes is just what the doctor ordered. Wet bedding increases the surface area many times over, and hence increases the humidity (evaporation) enough to benefit the animals.

A cat litter pan, filled with mulch or shavings kept very damp, works wonders. Occasionally, you'll find the snake burrowing through the wet medium. Sometimes they'll even bury themselves in it. If that's what they want, within limits, then that's fine with this keeper. For the most part, though, if the cage humidity is sufficient (40 to 70 percent), diamonds won't seek higher humidity sources.


Overfeeding diamonds is one of my pet peeves. As noted earlier, overfeeding leads to health complications-not might lead to health complications-it leads to health complications (like dead snakes through the many risks of obesity). Rapid growth is not something diamond pythons experience in the wild, and in captivity, with a general reduction in exercise, it turns into a health detriment.

Diamonds take four to five years to reach maturity. Sure, it can be done in two, but you'll most likely have a pin headed snake with an obscenely obese, unhealthy body. It will have poor bone density, over taxed internal organs and a very limited potential for breeding or a long lifespan.In the urgent rush to quickly reproduce this serpent, usually to gain eagerly sought revenues (the wrong reason to keep any snake, if you ask me) many a snake keeper has rushed their diamond python to an early grave. Once again, you can do it with tri colors and some pythons, like Burmese, but you can't do it with the highly specialized, temperate diamond python.

I'm currently raising some retics for a calico/albino/supertiger project and can't get over the almost supersonic growth rate of these animals. They grow in six months to sizes a diamond couldn't attain in three years! And they do it comfortably, with nothing but healthy, proportional development. So remember, diamond pythons are a horse of a different color when it comes to growth rates.

If your goal is to make a lot of money in a hurry, work with another animal. Diamonds are not your snake. But if you want to enjoy these fantastic snakes for what they are-beautiful serpents-and you're willing to take time and grow them slowly, then diamonds are a wonderful addition to any collection. They're active, alert, and quite friendly animals that will often grace you with the sight of themselves perched on the branches of their cages, instead of always hiding out of sight. That alone makes me love this snake above most others.

Reprinted with permission of Stan Charis

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In the News
Tell Us What You Think!

If you have a story about one of your critters, funny or serious, found a great web site, found a great article or would like to contribute in any way, please contact me. I'm friendly, don't bite and would welcome your contributions.

And of course, if you have any suggestions for upcoming issues that you'd like to share with us, please send those too!

These could include:
- Great herp web-sites
- A fantastic herp article you know of that should be shared
- Why you pet reptile is fantastic
- A great idea you had
- Funny things that happened
- Dumb**s things that happened
- Images you'd like to share
- Care sheets for your herp

Remember - there are lots of people who would love to hear your stories. Just e-mail me at: Reptile-Cage-Plans


Tell Us What You Think!!

Thanks to those who have given me feedback. I always want to
know of your achievements, good and bad.

There has been some updates to the rock wall construction for
booklet your reptile cage to include an alternative finish
that dries hard, does not crack and looks even more like a
rock wall.

I am currently finalising a book on making glass vivariums
and how to decorate them to look like a desert vivarium.

The digrammatic plans are complete for an arboreal display
cage with side doors and a large glass front. The
construction, imaging and documentation of the cages now
needs to be undertaken.

Thank you to those people who continue to give me feedback
and help others in their endeavours. You know who you are
so well done!!

I have a few ideas for some other additions to the book and
perhaps some other publications but I would love your input.

These could include:

  • Great herp web-sites
  • Why you pet reptile is fantastic
  • Funny things that happened
  • Dumb**s things that happened (like the one in this issue)
  • Images you'd like to share.

Remember - there are lots of people who would love to hear your stories. Just e-mail me at: Reptile-Cage-Plans

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