Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
 Issue 2   
February, 2007
The Importance of Cleanliness and Quarantine
In this Issue

It is a popular belief that reptiles and amphibians are "dirty" animals. Although they can and do harbor bacteria (such as Salmonella), captive reptiles and amphibians are as clean and healthy as how much effort is put into keeping the animal and the enclosure sanitary. Making sure your animal's home is clean is one of the most important steps of preventing illness.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

Clean: To rid something of unwanted dirt.
Disinfect: To reduce the number of pathogenic (disease-causing) microorganisms on an object or material, so that they are no longer a hazard.
Disinfectant: A chemical used on inanimate objects (not living things) to destroy microorganisms.
Sterilize: Killing or removal of all microorganisms on an object or material.

Keeping your pet's home clean is the first step towards good health. Your pet's enclosure will get dirty; it is inevitable. Waste and any leftover, dead or spilled food should be removed as soon as it is present in the enclosure. You will either have to spot-clean the substrate (remove the waste and substrate that was in contact with it, this must be done for any particle substrate such as sand or soil), replace the section of substrate that has been soiled (like for paper towels or newspaper), or clean the dirty surface (in the case of a bare enclosure bottom, or indoor/outdoor carpeting). Easy-to-clean (or cheaply replaced) and relatively sterile substrates are best used, such as paper towels, smooth gravel (large enough not to be ingested accidentally by the animal), indoor/outdoor carpeting or sphagnum moss.

Surfaces should be both cleaned of matter, and disinfected with a non-toxic antibacterial cleaner. Antibacterial dish soaps work well, and other cleaners that do not emit harmful fumes are also available (note that all pine-based cleaners are unsuitable for cleaning reptile and amphibian enclosures). Disinfecting the surface is very important, because even if you remove the liquid and solid waste, bacteria (or even parasites carried by the reptile) can still remain.

The above applies to water dishes and cage furniture, as well. Water dishes should be paid special attention, they must be cleaned as immediately as possible after being soiled (some herps prefer to defecate in their water dishes), so that the animal does not end up consuming any of its waste. Spilled water dishes should be dried up immediately, and the area spot-cleaned if the water was soiled.

Aside from daily cleaning, the enclosure and everything in it must be completely cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis. The cage and any non-porous cage furniture (made of plastic or rock) should be cleaned with a water/bleach solution of about 10 to 1, then rinsed completely with hot water and allowed to air dry for at least 24 hours. Cage furniture that cannot be bleached (porous substances will not rinse completely, such as wood, which can be dangerous for your animals) should be cleaned with a non-toxic disinfectant. For amphibians, do not use anything other than mild disinfectants (such as an antibacterial dish soap) and hot water, as the smallest trace amounts of strong cleaners (even ones suitable for reptiles) can seriously harm or kill amphibians because of their sensitive and highly porous skin.

Your own hygiene should also be taken into account. Wash your hands with antibacterial soap before and after handling each of your animals or working in any of their enclosures. You can easily unwillingly transmit microorganisms from cage to cage by not washing your hands. This can become a major threat to any established collection, and your health, as well. Do not clean anything that has come in contact with your animals in a sink or with a cloth that is used by people, especially if these items are used with food preparation. Keep your hands away from your face before washing them, do not eat or drink while working with your herptiles or their cages, and do not use items in common with your pets and yourself.

NOTE: Some of the waterless anti-bacterial gels are well worth it for the time saved and convenience.


Any animal new to your collection should be separated from the rest of your herps for at least 60 days (90 days is better). At least three fecal samples (taken in intervals of at least a week) should be taken to a veterinarian to be tested for infection. Any infection found must be treated completely, and kept in quarantine for at least a year (with tests every few months) before introducing the new animal to the rest of the collection.

The quarantine enclosure should be separated from the rest of your collection (preferably in a separate room, altogether), and should be as simple and sterile as possible. Consider paper towels, newspaper, butcher paper or indoor/outdoor carpeting as substrate, and overturned margarine or plastic food containers as hide boxes.

This enclosure should be monitored very carefully. The animal should be watched for any strange behaviour, ectoparasites (such as mites and ticks), and should be checked by a veterinarian (including the fecal examinations, as mentioned above). Special care should be taken when cleaning this enclosure; it should be cleaned last out of all of your collection to reduce the chance of transmitting infection.

With these precautions, coupled with routine examinations by a qualified reptile veterinarian, you should be able to prevent most disease and illness from infecting your reptiles and amphibians.


Black, J.G. 2002. Microbiology: Principles and Explorations. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
McKeown, S. 1996. "General Husbandry and Management" In: Mader, D.R. (ed.), Reptile Medicine and Surgery. Philadelphia: WB Saunders Company.
Kaplan, M. 2004. "Melissa Kaplan's Herps: Cleaning and Disinfecting." (

Christina has always been interested in animals, but at nine years old discovered reptiles and amphibians to be the most intriguing. For her tenth birthday she received two Gekko
ulikovvski, or golden geckos. Since then, she has moved her way around the reptile and amphibian kingdoms, now owning seven herps.

Christina studies animal health (veterinary) technology at Vanier College and is in the process of writing a detailed book about the care of leopard geckos


The 10 most venomous snakes

Mark Chapple

I was prompted to write this article by a recent spate of snakebites in my area over the last few weeks. There have been 4 people bitten by snakes within a radius of 6 miles from where I live and 9 across the country with one death by a teenage trying to "do a Steve Irwin" and catch a brown snake, one of the world's most venomous snakes on the LD50 scale.

In fact, myth has it that of the ten most venomous snakes in the world, Australia has ten. This site is one that has such a list.

This list of the ten most venomous snakes depends on how you measure it. There are in fact many ways to look at this, from the way that the toxicity is measured to the amount of venom injected, to the type of fangs that the snakes have, whether they be fixed, forward facing in front, "spring loaded" in front or rear fanged.

Rather than go into great detail I thought I would leave it up to some experts that I managed to find, like Brian Fry and Steve Irwin.

Steve Irwin needs no introduction and is well known for his work with reptiles. Steve also has a view that Australia has the ten most venomous and this video goes through Steve's list as he travels around the country. Part 2 and part 3 are also available.

Brian Fry is one of the world's foremost experts on toxicology and was the one of the main researchers responsible for discovering that almost all snakes are venomous and many lizards are as well. While venomous, they simply do not have the toxic value or the ability to inject the venom below the skins surface. But it is why Komodo Dragons are deadly and even your cute Iguana is venomous. For further details on this you can go to this article which also has links to other references.

Brian has an excellent series of articles that discuss some of the issues surrounding this and why it is such a confusing and often misleading subject. He can certainly do it more justice than I can and it does make for interesting reading.

Clearly this is not a simple topic and one that will have the experts debating form many years to some.

As a side issue, I found Dr. Fry's discussion regarding Steve Irwin's death and stingray barb toxicity.

In the News...


Snake bite victim....

Possible snake bite victim who had no idea how venomous the snake was. What would you do?....

NOTE:- Pseudonaja textilis (Eastern brown snake) is the most toxic member of the genera and, at 12 times the toxicity of the Indian cobra Naja naja, it is the second most toxic land snake in Australia. However, due to the greater range, occurrence in urban areas and aggressive temperament, the eastern brown snake is the most dangerous snake in Australia. The venom of the Eastern Brown snake is slow to produce effect, but once symptoms emerge they proceed with terrifying rapidity with death being sudden and unexpected (see above article).

Dangerous and non-venomous.....

The better side of venom.....

The issue of exotics are starting to warm up.....

And getting downright hot in some places.....

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