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You think you want a lizard as a pet?

Before you purchase any reptile, do your research

Different lizard species have varying needs and personalities. Many species have teeth and can bite, and some are susceptible to mites and diseases. Some reptiles need a damp environment while others require a desert habitat.

Find out what your reptile will look like as an adult. Can it become aggressive? How big will it be? Does it like to be handled? Some lizards, such as chameleons, become highly stressed when handled while others, like a bearded dragon, are very personable and responsive to human attention.

A few lizard species can change the color of their skin. They may do this if they are stressed or angry or when trying to blend in with their background. The most frequent reason a reptile changes color is due to heat and cold. Lizards are cold-blooded and, therefore, cannot regulate their body temperatures from within. They must rely on outside sources to be comfortable, and if a lizard is too cold, its skin may become darker to absorb heat. When it is too hot, its skin becomes lighter to reflect heat.

Setting up a terrarium requires a little planning. Make sure it is large enough to accommodate your pet as it grows. The unit should have places to hide and special lighting for basking. Never leave bright lights on at night. A heating plate underneath one section of the terrarium will help keep your reptile warm at night.

Other considerations include:

-Fluorescent/UVB lighting that runs the length of the cage. Reptiles need nutrients provided by the sun. UVB light cannot penetrate glass or plastic so this light source needs to come from the top of the cage.
-The appropriate substrate for your particular species. No bark - if ingested, it can kill your reptile.
-Ceramic heat fixture. This will give your lizard a necessary overhead heat source. These units are hot, however, and can burn through wood and plastic. Avoid touching with your fingers and keep it away from any climbing apparatus in the cage.
-Branches for climbing. Many lizards like to "hang out" and a nice long branch will allow them to control the surrounding temperatures. These may need periodic replacement, as they will be difficult to clean and disinfect.

You can use other cage decorations, such as rocks. Just make sure they cannot be moved or turned over and are easy to clean.
-Heavy water dishes large enough for the lizard to wade through.
-Some lizards require high humidity and a misting system may be in order. Even lizards that are native to desert areas may require a brief misting once a day.
-Appropriate cleaning and disinfecting supplies.

Be sure to consult with the store's expert where you make your purchase. Many excellent references are also available on the Internet. Food requirements will vary and proper diet is critical for a healthy, happy animal.

Remember, when handling any reptile, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap afterward. Salmonella is one bacterium that sometimes lodges on a reptile's skin and in its secretions.

Many reptile species are great fun to own; just make sure you're ready to provide a nice, clean home along with proper food and care that your new pet deserves.



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