Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book Review: The New Encyclopedia of Snakes

Snakes often get a bad rap from the mainstream public, but we herpers know the truth. They are fascinating and fun creatures. So what if Voldemort has one as a pet. It doesn't make them evil! If you want to learn more about snakes then i recommend you buy "The New Encyclopedia of Snakes" by Chris Mattison. It has plenty of good information but it is not overwhelming- an easy read for anyone. It has beautiful photographs, and every few pages there are colored boxes filled with interesting facts. You Will be an expert on snakes after reading this must have reference book for the novice herpetologist.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Price Comparison: Pet Shop vs. Reptile Expo

If you need a reason to by your animals at a reptile expo, or exotic pets expo look at these numbers.

Green treefrog: petshop- $12.99
reptile expo- 2 for $7

Ball Python: petshop- $89.99
reptile expo- $25

Bearded Dragon: petshop- $89.99
reptile expo- $75

Green Anole: petshop- $12.99
reptile expo- 2 for $7

Leopard Gecko: petshop- $45.99
reptile expo- $25

Firebelly Toad: petshop- $9.99
reptile expo- $5

Sulcatta Tortoise: petshop- $199.99
reptile fair- $125

Red Eared Slider: petshop- $14.99
reptile expo- up for adoption with a $5 donation

These are actual numbers from a local petshop and the New York Metro Reptile Expo. I believe they speak for themselves.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Species Profile: American Alligator

The American Alligator (Alligator Mississippiensis)is a spectacular reptile. They are very well adapted to their environment and belong to group of reptiles (crocodilians) that have lived nearly unchanged for 150 million yrs, surviving the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous. Males can reach lengths anywhere from 10-15ft while females are a still impressive 9ft. They can weigh upwards of 1000lbs and live 35 to 50 yrs. This mighty animal was once near extinction but thanks to human help it is thriving in its native habitat (the wetlands of the American Southeast, mainly Florida and Louisiana) with a wild population of over 1 million. Alligator farms help protect the wild population from hunting by growing "gators" their skins and meat (which is quite tasty if I do say so myself- just like chicken!). They are opportunistic feeders eating anything they can catch, and can stay submerged for quite a while looking like a log so I wouldn't advise swimming in just any deep south waterway you come across. As adults they may be top predators but as hatchlings they can be food for birds, raccoons and other animals. They have a very interesting method of sex determination. Mothers lay eggs in mounds of basically compost. If the temperature is 86 degrees F or less you get females, and if it is 93 degrees f or more you get males. This leads to a sex ratio of 5 females to 1 male (not to bad!). You might believe American Alligators will abandon their young, but this is not true. The mother guards the nest ferociously, and when they hatch she carries the young to the water where she usually protects them for about 1 yr. The pictures above are some I took in florida. One shows an alligator in the water. Ther other shows a mother gaurding her nest.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New York Metro Reptile Expo

The next New York Metro Reptile Expo will be on november 28, 2010 from 10am to 4pm at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY. Admission is $10 for adults, $4for kids 7-12, and free for kids under 7.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What Are Red Efts?

September: The month of the Red Efts! It seems these little critters are everywhere in the forests of the northeastern US this time of year. They are the immature form of the Eastern newt which you may remember from an earlier post. I just recently took a hike in my campus nature preserve and saw so many I stopped counting after 30. You see, this time of year they are making there way down to bodies of water too live as semi-aquatic adult newts (as efts they are terrestrial). these guys range in color from brownish to bright red (their color marks them as toxic to predators). They can be kept as pets as you would any other salamander for 2 to 3 yrs and then must be cared for like newts. Go out and explore your local woods and see if you find any.

Friday, July 9, 2010

New York Metro Reptile Expo

The New York Metro Reptile Expo will be held Sunday, July 11, at the Westchester County Center. Vendors from all over will be selling exotic pets and supplies.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

How to Care for Newt Larvae

One summer I had 3 eastern newts in a ten gallon tank. I came in one morning to make my usual observation. To my surprise I see the leaves of a plant curled up and in them little newt eggs. Caring for the eggs and larvae that summer was a fun and interesting experience. Here is some info on how to care for newt larvae.

Housing: use clean, dechlorinated water. With larvae keep the tank as bare as possible. A few plants wont hurt. No heat or filters are necessary. As with anything, don't crowd them.

Feeding: They wont eat as soon as they hatch. They will feed off their yolk sacks for a little while. Feed them daphnia and/or brine shrimp after this for a few weeks. Then when they are larger move on to blood worms and black worms.

Metamorphosis: When they are larger and their gills begin to shrink lower the water level and add rocks or sticks for them to crawl out on

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Beginner Reptiles and Amphibians

I will often go into a pet shop and see a wide range of herps- mixed together, in poor shape, and advertised as easy to take care for, or good for beginners- This is often far from the truth. There are many great beginner herps, but don't use size and price as a guide. Pet shops often sell babies of animals that will get much larger and are not good for beginners. They will also have some animals very cheap simply because they are easy and cheap to acquire, but not necessarily easy and cheap to take care of. Always do your research before getting an exotic pet, and if you are a beginner (i.e.-first ever herp) please pick from the list of beginner species bellow.

-green tree frog
-barking tree frog
-fire salamander
-tiger salamander
-Marble salamander
-fire belly toad
-American toad
-eastern newt
-Fire belly newt
-African clawed frog
-African dwarf frog

-leopard gecko
-corn snake
-ball python (captive breed)
-bearded dragon (not cheap, but if you get all you need easy to take care of)
-Tokay gecko (can be quite agressive)
-milk snake
-rat snake
-horsfields tortoise

Beginners please avoid anything which name ends in monitor, poison dart frogs and mantellas, large tortoises (unless you absolutely have the space), iguanas, chameleons (green anoles are sometimes called chameleons-don't be confused- they aren't), Common boas, and reticulated pythons.

If you are looking for a great book on reptiles, checkout the book in the link below.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Hiking and Turtles

I went for a short hike this past Sunday at my local nature center. It was pretty dry, and cloudy so I didn't see much. I did see a couple of turtles sitting on some logs in the pond. I also went inside the manor house to see how the animals I used to take care of were doing. Glad to say they are doing great. Most are twice the size I remember them being. Above are some pictures of the turtles I saw.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Vivarium Construction

1) Attach cork background to tank wall with aquarium sealant.
2) Add drainage medium. I used featherlite (a glass composite). you may also use clay pellets or gravel.
3) Cover the drainage medium with a barrier that will keep the substrate out of it. I use sphagnum moss (lightly moistened and pressed down).
4) Add the substrate of your choice. (you may add a little activated charcoal beneath it to absorb smells)
5) Add wood and/or rocks and other stable things
6) Add plants
7) Add accents like moss, leaves, water dishes, etc.

You can buy live plants for your own vivarium by using the link below.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Beginner Naturalistic Vivarium Supplies and Cost

This is a list of supplies one would need for a basic 10 gallon tropical vivarium. This is by no means the definitive list. Some things can be removed like the the cork background, and other things added like a thermometer, humidity gauge, or water fall. Also the price I listed is a rough estimate that will be different depending on where you buy the supplies or how much of each you buy. This is still a good guide for the beginning hobbyist.

Ten gallon tank
screen top
Tank hood with light
wood for wet habitats (cypress, cork, ghostwood)
Cork background
water dish
Substrate (like the mix I give in an earlier post)
sphagnum moss
A drainage medium (featherlite or clay pellets)
live moss
under tank heater
silicone sealant
activated charcoal (some don't use it, but it removes off smell:it doesn't last long though)

Cost: $184

Friday, May 14, 2010

Reptile No Nos: Plants to Avoid Feeding Reptiles

The following list of plants will not kill you reptiles if you give it to them once in a while, but they will significantly harm their health if they make up a large part of the diet.

The Oxalates (cause calcium deficiency)
-beet green

The Goitrogens (Cause iodine deficiency=thyroid problems)
-brussel sprouts
-bok choy

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Summer Vivarium Project

This summer I plan on constructing a few different vivariums just for fun. Perhaps a few tropical ones, a desert one, a paludarium, etc. I'll keep you posted on the construction and what-not. The above pictures are not mine, but a little inspiration from the web.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Why You Should Use Naturalistic Vivariums

There are few things nicer to look at than a naturalistic animal setup- whether its a saltwater reef tank, a riverside paludarium, a dense jungle scene, or an arid dessert-scape complete with succulents. There are also few things better for the well being of your pet besides a balanced and varied diet. Naturalistic vivariums reduce stress on the animal and you since they don't have to be cleaned as often (though the initial cost may put a little stress on your wallet).

 A properly planned naturalistic vivarium can last for years with minimal maintenance. They can be as simple as some pothos and cork bark to as complex as false bottoms and waterfalls. don't get me wrong "sterile" setups (those with newspaper or paper towels) have there place in the hobby too: for raising juveniles and people who have large amounts of herps with little room. One must always make the effort, though, to provide his/her pets with a setup that reflects its natural environment whenever possible.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New York Metro Reptile Expo

The next New York Metro Reptile Expo will be Sunday, April 18th. It will be held from 10am-4pm at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY. More than 200 vendors will be there. Adult admission is $10.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Big Ben

This is the story of How I caught Big Ben. He is my Southern toad, that I haave had for nearly 13 years. No names will be used.

Every summer when I was little (below the age of 11) my family would take a vacation to Virginia Beach. It's not that nice of a beach but when you are cheap it will do. We would often go around the 4th of july so we could sit on the balcony and watch the fireworks over the ocean. It was always a beautiful time. The summer of my 8th year we visited my second cousin and her family. They lived near the beach. It was fun to be with my cousins for a time, but it soon got boring. To pass the time I went outside to see what creatures I could find. My cousin followed (to my dismay).

When we came to the front yard we saw another kid across the street. My cousin introduced me to him, and he wondered what I was doing. I proceeded to explain my interest in nature and that I was just looking around for something interesting. He offered to take me to a pond near his house, so we went. As I looked around the water I saw no movement. The pond looked dead. Then to my surprise I saw him jump. He caught a small frog and placed it in a jar. I looked at it and jealosy overcame me. I wanted to catch something, but there was nothing else, so we walked back to my cousin's house where the subject of bicycles came up.

I couldn't ride a bicycle and so he offered to teach me, but I would have no part of it. I would not let the one who out-frogged me show his superiority once more by teaching me, no I wouldn't. Besides it was getting dark and I wasn't going to learn to ride a bike in the dark. I left and went inside for dinner- mmmm ribs, if my memory serves me correctly. After dinner, still unsatisfied that I had caught nothing that day, I went outside and started looking around for some nocturnal specimens. I started rummaging around some old wooden boards when I saw something move. I jumped back. At first I thought it was a rat. I don't know why, but then I noticed that the shadowy creature hopped. I grapped at the dark figure and felt bumps- A toad! I had caught one other toad in my life at this point, and it was nowhere near as big as this one.

I ran inside hands covered with toad pee. My mother screamed, my father said "what the hell is that", My cousin said "oooo your gonna get warts". I placed the toad into my critter keeper and looked at him with pride. I had caugh something! I went outside and saw the kid across the street. I showed him my find and smuggly remarked "Mine's bigger than yours". He said he didn't care, and he probably didn't, and neither did I really. I was just glad I caught something. When we left my cousins I bought the toad with me. I hid his cage under my coat since I was worried about the hotel we were staying at's "no pet policy". On the trip back home to NY, the toad that would one day be called Big Ben road in the back seat with me. If you had told me then that 12 1/2 yrs later I would still have this toad I would have called you crazy and said "silly you, toads don't live that long!" Well they can.

When I left for college I gave all my pets away. all except Ben. For this reason I call him the Alpha and Omega. Of my initial group of pets he was the first, and the last.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Late but Interesting!

Biologists find proof of first confirmed species of monogamous frog

ScienceDaily (2010-03-12) -- Amphibians may be a love 'em and leave 'em class, but one frog species defies the norm, scientists have found. Biologists have discovered in Peru the first confirmed species of monogamous amphibian, Ranitomeya imitator, better known as the mimic poison frog -- a finding that provides groundbreaking insight into the ecological factors that influence mating behavior. ... > read full article

Saturday, March 13, 2010

How to Care for Tadpoles

tadpole care
We all remember as little kids the awe we felt at the power of nature, when we first learned that frogs came from fish-like tadpoles. My grandfather recalls not believing it until he was a grown man and actully saw the mtamorphosis with his own eyes over the course of a few months. I've raised many tadpoles in my day. I consider it a right of passage for an kid who claims to be interested in science. Upon raising my first tadpole my mother was so proud that her son had given her "a grandbaby" even if it was a frog. I almost raise at least two every summer and promptly release them where they were caught.

Raising tadpoles is a fun and rewarding experience, that's not just for kids. And since Spring is just around the corner and soon the ponds will be full of these little critters I thought it appropriate to write a little on thier care.

 First use clean dechloriated water in thier tank. pond water is good if you can get it regularly, bottled water is fine, and tap water will do as long as you use the dechlorinator drops from the pet shop.

Secondly, please do not crowd them: it is stressful, they'll nibble each othes tails, and it will make clean up to hard. 2 two or 3 tadpoles in a medium sized critter keeper.

Third, keep the water clean. Take out half the water and replace it every other day. Do a full change once every week or week and a half. You dont have to remove the tads when doing a partial change, only on a full change- think aquariums.

 Fourth, lets talk food. Most tadpoles you will have will be herbivorous or omnivorous. Some species are carnivorous (ie:Mexican spadefoot toad, or pacman frog), but I doubt you have then in your local pond. Feed your tadpoles frozen thawed spinach (no butter please), algae, algae pellets (like spirulina), fishfood, and you may try prepared tadpole food. Variety is the key to health in all diets.

Lastly, remember that when your tads front and back legs come out (back is always first) lower the water level, stop feeding them, and give them something they can climb onto when they start breathing air (this will occur before the tail is fully gone.

This is simply an overview that does not guarantee success. It is important to research your species. If you do not know the species then following this guide will at least put you on the right track to proper care. (and as far as temperature goes a rule of thumb is: the warmer the water, the faster the tadpole will change but room temperature is fine for most species, as overheating is possible).

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Global Warming Didn't Do It?

This is an interesting article on the causes of the extinction of a tropical toad species from Science Daily. It shows that understanding the current extinction crisis is not going to be cut and dry. There are many variables as with anything in science.:
Link to Article

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How to Care for Eastern Newts

Eastern Newts make wonderful and interesting pets. Many people are probably familiar with their juvenile form, the red eft, but don't realize that they are the same animal. They are native to the Eastern US, and I often see them and their efts on my summer hikes. They like water and so the tank should have 2 or more inches for them. A filter is also necassary unless you wan't to do frequent water changes. They are docile and agree in groups so 3 or 4 individuals can live in a 10 gal tank. For mine I used gravel as a substrate, with drift wood, and live aquatic plants for decoration. They eat worms (chop them if big) and other invertebrates. Some individuals will accept pelletized food but I'm not a fan of it for more than supplementation. They do not require external heating. As they do breed in captivity, I will be discussing how to raise newt larvae in a later post, maybe closer to Spring.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Book Review: Turtles: The Animal Answer Guide

I grew up loving turtles. The 1st pet I ever had was a box turtle my parents got me. I kept him in a cage next to my bed. I was young and didn't know a quarter of what I know about reptiles and amphibians now. The turtle died after 6 months. Boy was I surprised years later when I learned they could live 100 years! I really don't think children under the age of ten should be given the responsibility of caring for herps (this new found wisdom is too late to save that first turtle of mine,though). Years later in high school I took A job working as a volunteer at a nature center. There I worked with many turtles and tortoise (over 10 different species, and more than 2 of each species). I learned a lot of valuable knowledge there. The other day I was walking through Barnes and Noble and I saw a book called Turtles: The Animal Answer Guide, by Whit Gibbons and Judy Greene. Usually I stay away from books that are so general and that seem to be playing the part of the "complete difinitive book" on a subject if I want real information, bu this book impressed me. It consists of many different questions people may have about turtles organized in to categories, and then provides answers to these questions. Not a very original setup but it is an essential book if you want to learn abot turtles. Gibbons and Greene blend natural history with captive care (though the book is definitely not a caresheet. They answer hundreds of questions. It is not for the seasoned herper, but definitely the type of book you should buy when you first enter the hobby. Now for a funny Story. There isa sction in the book on what to do if you see a turtle in the road. They say it is perfectly fine to move it off the road. This made me laugh, not because I'm some weirdo who finds turtles in the road funny, but because of what happended to me on a past trip to Virginia. I was a warm morning in Louisa County. Me, in the backseat, my mother dozing off in the passenger seat and my father driving. We were making our way to visit grandma, when all at once I spotted something in the road ahead. From my previous experience, as mentioned earlier, I immediately was able to identify the object as a box turtle. I had never seen on in the wild before and was a little to exited. I screamed "stop! we gott get him of te road". My day begrudgingly said alright. I opened the door and place my left foot on the pavement. just as I did my father got the bright idea to pull up closer to the waiting reptile. He proceeding to run the back tire onto my foot. I screamed in pain, my mother turned around and I thought oh Sh*t it's broken! He quickly backed up and I pulled my foot in to the car. My mother in rage hit my dad on the shoulder, as he ran around to check on me. He asked me how I felt and I said "go get the turtle off the road". He said "how" and I said "just throw it in the woods", big mistake because my genius father picked up the turtle and literally threw it through the air in to the woods. To make a long story short i got an x-ray and it wasn't broken, I limped the rest of the trip, My mom remained angry at my father told me "next time we drive by the turtle". For my sake and the turtles sake he's right.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Speak up

Hello everyone. If you like what you see please become a follower and don't forget to leave comments. I'd love to hear from you. Also if you don't like what you see please leave suggestions. Your comments and critiques are welcome.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

How to Care for Crickets

gut loading crickets
Crickets are the number one food we herpers feed our pets. They are nutritious, easy to handle, and readily available. They are even considered good luck by the Chinese. Now how many of you buy your crickets everytime its your animal's feeding day? This is time consuming, buying 10 crickets here and there. Instead I recommend you buy 60 or more and keep them in a tank for when you need them. They are not hard to keep alive, and by caring for them you are "gut-loading" them with nutritious food, thus making them better for your animals.

Simply select a suitable glass or plastic tank like a spare 10 gal or a critter keeper. You may add paper towel tubes or egg cartons for them to crawl on (The paper towel tubes are also great for moving them). For protein you can provide them with store bought cricket food like flukers or oatmeal. Give them grated carrot and peices of green leaf lettuce for moisture, as well as some additional vegetables and fruit pieces if desired. I also like to give mine moistened paper towels for water. Change the wet food every other day. Crickets like warmth but if you keep them too warm they might grow too fast. Use the crickets as necessary.

And please don't forget to dust them once a week with calcium powder at you animals feeding time. If your animals are juveniles dust their crickets more often.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Should I Buy a Pet Green Iguana?

green iguana
Warning: If you are thinking about buying a baby iguana in the petshop please ask yourself this: Will I be able to take care of it when it is 5ft or more long?. A freind of mine gave me his juvenile iguana because he was getting too big for his cage. I kept it for a summer and it began getting to big for the cage I had! I promptly gave him to a gentleman who had been keeping large reptile for many years. Iguanas are nice pets, and I truly enjoyed iggy (not the most creative name, I know) but they are not for everyone. If you want a lizard try a leopard gecko or if you wan something larger, a bearded dragon. Both are easy to care for.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vivarium Substrate Recipe: Great for Poison Dart Frogs

vivarium substrate
vivarium substrate
Today I was looking at the terrarium I keep in my room. I've been caring for it for 5years, and I thought "wow the plants are growing beautifully". Then I thought that I should share my substrate ratio so here it is:

3 parts coco-fiber (those bricks they sell)
2 parts tree fern fiber
1 part crushed leafs like oak
1 part compost
1 part peat moss

I sprinkle some top soil from out of the woods on top of this once its in the tank to "seed" it with beneficial organisms like springtails.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Green Tree Frogs Make Great Pets

green tree frog
Green Tree Frogs make great beginner pets. They are enjoyable to watch and easy to take care of. Green tree frog come from the southern united states and grow to about 2 in in length. They can change there color and are usually brown or green. Like all amphibians they love crickets, and tree frogs in general relish moths. Mine would grab moths out of mid-air. you can catch moths from a porch ligh or grow your own by letting wax worms mature. Green tree fogs ae fully nocturnal. The ideal daytime temp. for them is in the low to mid 70s, dropping slighly lower at night. They are aboreal and like alot of plants and sticks to climb on. Pothos works perfectly. It was a plant I used in most of my tanks. I got two green tree frogs at the same time. The smaller one died of a cloacal prolapse, and the other one I had for 5 yrs.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fire Salamander Basic Care

fire salamander
Fire Salamanders are native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa and make great beginner amphibians. They may be striped or spotted. Like most colorful amphibians their markings serve as a warning to predators that they are poisonous (don't worry about touching them. Just don't put them in your mouth). They are terrestrial and like moist substrate with plenty of places to hide, and a shallow water bowl . For mine I used eco-earth and cork bark. A 5 or 10 gallon tank is perfect for an adult. They love worms and insects. Fire salamanders can become quite tame. Mine would often eat out of my hand. They do not need added heat, and are mostly nocturnal so no added light either. The above pic is of my fire salamander. I had him 5 years before giving him away.

New York Metro Reptile Expo

Just so everyone knows the New York Metro Reptile Expo is Sunday, Jan 25th at the Westchester county center. I usually try to go bu can't mak this one. They have them numerous times during the year and they are always alot of fun.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pet Shops!

Disclaimer: This will be somewhat of a rant. Everytime i go into a petshop I make sure to see how their reptile section looks, and honestly I'm usually dissappointed. Numerous species crammed into he same cage, improper substrate, to dry, too wet, wrong food, sick and dying specimens next to healthy ones, etc. I could write volumes on the list of grievances. Perhaps there logic is that the anmals wont be their long so why bother caring for them properly, or maybe its money, or just plain stupidity! Whatever the reason it's sick. Many of these animals can live decades, but aren't likely to survive 6 month from the petshop. I ask everyone who is searching for one of these exotic pets to either get he shipment when it first comes into the petshop, or better yet buy them at a reptile expo!. The private and small time breeders at these shows are knowledgeable and their animals are likely to be healthy (and getting a healthy animal is half the battle).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Herper Introduction

Hello everyone. You can call me BAM. I'm a lover of science and nature. For years I have been interested in vivarium design and the care of reptiles and amphibians. They are truly wonderful creatures. My collection included newts, salamanders, lizard, toads, tree frogs, and many other creatures over the yrs. One southern toad I had for 13 years (amazing right?). This blog will be about anything and everything in the herpetological hobby. Enjoy!