Petstock logo
HomeRight caret
BlogRight caret
Article Featured Image
March 2023

Reptile Care


Basic Reptile Care You Need To Know

There are a lot of benefits to having a reptile as a pet! They can exist quite happily in apartments and small houses, they’re relatively inexpensive to keep (though their set-up costs are comparatively high), they don’t smell, they don’t require frequent socialisation from you – the list goes on! Reptiles are, however, pets with specific care and housing requirements and they require a sophisticated set up prior to you bringing one home. Make sure you’ve got everything you need!

Reptile Care Essentials Checklist

✓ Terrarium

✓ Cage décor

✓ Plants

✓ Heat device

✓ Incandescent or fluorescent lighting

✓ Reptile substrate (sand, carpet etc.)

✓ Species-specific food

✓ Thermometer

✓ Thermostat

✓ Reptile-friendly disinfectant

✓ Water & food bowls

✓ Care book specific to your reptile

Caring for Reptiles

While reptiles don’t require the socialisation and 1:1 time that dogs and cats do, they do have day-to-day care requirements. This is what your care routine will look like if you choose to have a pet reptile.

Reptile Food and Water Requirements

Unlike a lot of household pets, reptiles don’t require daily feeding. How much feeding they do require will vary reptile to reptile. Adult snakes typically eat weekly or fortnightly – though some snakes will need to be fed more than this (such as smaller species, juvenile snakes, and female snakes in breeding season).

Hot Tip

Your Reptile will need access to fresh, clean drinking water always. Make sure you replenish their water daily.

On average, lizards are more active and have a higher metabolic rate and will need to be fed every second day or so. Other factors come into play such as the specific species, the age of the reptile, and how active they are – so it’s important to consult specific care sheets for advice on how to care for your pet.

However, each reptile will be one of three types:

Herbivore (pant eaters!)

  • They need large quantities of food, and plenty of variety.
  • Commercially prepared diets are available for some reptiles; otherwise feed fresh food with vitamin and mineral supplements.
  • Parsley, dandelion leaves, lettuce, cress, and fresh fruit are a few great options.

Carnivore (meat eaters!)

  • Carnivorous reptiles will eat less regularly.
  • Most snakes fit into this category - they love rats, mice, and pinkies (baby mice).
  • Lizards often eat insects and invertebrates.
  • Crickets and mealworms are a great food source for lizards, although mealworms should be fed sparingly as they are high in fat.

Omnivore (both eaters!)

  • Omnivore reptiles will source their food from a mix of meats and plants.
Hot Tip

Along with providing your reptile with a diverse diet made up of multiple plant and/or protein sources, it’s also a good idea to supplement their diet with additional calcium, vitamins, and minerals.

Reptile Terrariums

Reptiles require enclosures, which are called terrariums. In general, they should be well ventilated, escape proof and have appropriate lighting. Terrariums can be tall and narrow to accommodate tree-dwelling reptiles (like dragons and monitors) or low and wide to accommodate ground-dwelling reptiles (most lizards and snakes fall into this category).

In most cases, the bigger the better! Reptiles require space to roam and explore and will get bored if their enclosure is too small – so get the largest terrarium you have space for that fits your budget.

Setting Up Your Reptile Terrarium

Covering the floor of your terrarium is important and there are a variety of coverings to choose from. While sand and shredded bark are options and provide a great visual appearance, special reptile carpet is another alternative. It is also important to provide your reptile with the security of hides and shelters and opportunities to camouflage themselves. Standard décor items may include rocks, basking limbs, plants, and logs.

How to Set Up a Reptile Terrarium

Read our step-by-step guide here!

Read More

Reptile Heating Requirements

Your terrarium will need a thermal gradient (warmer at one end and cooler at the other) to allow your reptile to regulate their temperature. Several ways of heating your enclosure include basking bulbs, ceramic heaters, and heat mats. A thermometer should also be placed in the terrarium (preferably two, one at each end) and a thermostat is also important to help regulate temperatures.

It’s important to check the temperature in your terrarium daily – the number one health concern for reptiles are overheated terrariums so prevent this by keeping your terrarium’s temperature in check.

Reptile Lighting Requirements

Reptiles require lighting to simulate a day and night cycle. This can be provided in two ways:
A full spectrum incandescent lamp provides both heat and light and is best used as a basking bulb hanging above the enclosure at one end.A full spectrum fluorescent UVA/UVB tube lamp provides a sunlight replacement for those reptiles that need it. This lamp usually does not provide enough heat without a separate heating source.

Hot Tip

Hot rocks should not be used as they can burn your reptile. Natural, unfiltered sunlight is the best type of full-spectrum lighting.

Reptile Health Care

Unlike dogs and cats, reptiles don’t require vaccinations – though they do need annual health check-ups with the vet to ensure they’re well-nourished and a healthy weight as well as free from diseases and parasites.

In most cases, health issues in reptiles can be traced back to incorrect terrarium conditions – such as excessive heating or poor humidity – so make sure you set up and maintain your terrarium correctly. Read more on this here.

Other considerations for reptile health care revolve around their shedding cycle – ensure that your reptile has access to large, moderately abrasive rocks or a substitute rough surface that they can rub themselves against to help shed their skin. Before shedding, snakes lose their appetite, and their colour may fade and become translucent. At this time, the humidity should be raised to aid in the shedding process and decrease the risk of dead skin remaining behind. This can be done by misting the terrarium daily.

An initial sign of illness in reptiles is a loss of appetite – so it’s a good idea to take your reptile to the vet for a check over if they’re refusing food.

Reptile Cleaning Requirements

Snakes and lizards are very susceptible to microorganisms and parasites when kept in captivity. Anytime you introduce new cage décor (such as logs, rocks, or sand) it should be sterilised with bleach or a slow heating oven at 120 - 150 degrees to prevent the introduction of parasites into the enclosure.

If you’re introducing branches into your terrarium, paint the ends of them with varnish to prevent parasite outbreaks.

Daily cleaning of water and bowls is also important, and they should be disinfected monthly to prevent bacteria growth. The terrarium itself should be cleaned once week and poo should be removed as soon as possible. You also need to change your reptile’s substrate (terrarium flooring) regularly – a minimum of every three months for loose substrates and whenever they’ve become contaminated for solid substrates.

It is important to use reptile specific cleaning products when cleaning (not regular household cleaners as these can contain toxic chemicals which will harm your reptile). Rinse thoroughly with fresh water after disinfecting anything in your reptile’s terrarium.

Profile Image

Download Reptile

Care Guide

Download Reptile Care Guide

Download Reptile Smarts: Your Reptile Care Guide

Download PDF

FAQs On Reptile Care

How much should I handle my reptile?

How much you should handle your reptile depends on the specific species – some can be handled regularly without issue, while others shouldn’t be handled at all for both your safety and theirs. Head into your local PETstock and chat to our friendly team to get a better idea of what reptile will be suitable for you.

Do I need a permit for a pet reptile?

You need a permit to keep most reptiles as pets in Australia. The specific requirements for this differ from state to state, so make sure you research your individual state requirements and obtain a license prior to adopting a reptile.

It is also illegal to capture a wild reptile and keep it as a pet in Australia, so make sure you release any little guys that find their way into your home and get your reptile from a reputable breeder.

What are the basic needs of a reptile?

Reptiles require a terrarium enclosure, which must be correctly fitted out with a thermometer, thermostat, and hydrometer. Their terrarium also needs appropriate heating and lighting sources – as well as décor that allows them to hide from view. They require their water to be topped up and changed daily, and they need to be fed regularly – though not every day. You will need to clean your reptile’s terrarium weekly and take your reptile to annual vet visits to ensure they’re healthy. If you’re unsure of anything, be sure to check out your local PETstock where our friendly team would be happy to help!


Various sizes available