Inside the Reptile Industry with Loren Leigh

Inside the reptile industry

So as another National Reptile Breeders Expo, NRBE, in Daytona Beach passes it is something I use as a bench mark of the year to come.  It is a chance to see the state of our hobby, where we are at on our legal efforts, what’s hot and what’s not, and how the hobby is functioning as whole.  One thing I can say for sure – Ball Pythons are still hot, and the morphs are amazing.  The amount of floor space taken by Ball Python breeders was at an all time high and they did not disappoint, the color and patterns produced today are amazing.  The show did not stop at just Ball Pythons, though: frogs, lizards, turtles and tortoises were also well represented.

But one thing that I am always in awe of is the auction that takes place and people’s participation.  This year was a record for the auction (Proceeds going to USARK) in which almost $50,000 was made.  This auction is very important financial tool for the reptile industry and it is just awesome to see our hobby step up to the plate and first donate but also take part in bidding and spending the much needed money for the USARK legal fight.  So I wanted to personally take a second and thank every person that took part and every vendor that donated.  Your donation (big or small) to this event will translate into huge things in the years coming forward.

The NRBE, if you have not been, is always a great social event and always proves to be a good time.  Anytime you have 1000’s of die hard reptile folks descending down on a beach front hotel in Florida good times are to be had.  The show, the turtle and frog talks, auction, everything there is a good time to be had.  We at LLLReptile did our part in some good times, had a great show and really enjoyed getting to hang out with fellow herpers.  It was nice to see familiar faces and friends and to meet new ones as well.  Hope to see everyone at show soon in your local cities (We will be there I am sure) and if you make to NRBE 2013 stop by and see us.

Frilled Dragons in the Captive Environment

Frilled Header

By Jennifer Greene

Frilled Dragons in the Captive Environment

Few reptiles are as prehistoric looking and exotic as Frilled Dragons.  These fascinating reptiles have captured the interest of many a reptile keeper, and are typically associated with their main country of origin, Australia.  They are found in New Guinea as well, although the dragons that come from New Guinea are often significantly smaller than their Australian counterparts.  Frilled Dragons, while not overly difficult to care for, are still fairly uncommon in US collections.  It is my hope that by putting more information out there about their care and behavior, it can help the curious keeper make that step into keeping one of these fantastic creatures.  One of the key aspects of caring for a Frilled Dragon is also understanding their natural history to a certain extent.  It is important to consider whether you have an Australian Frilled Dragon or a New Guinea Frilled Dragon.  Australian Frilled Dragons are always captive bred, as Australia does not export, and they can reach up to 3 feet in length, making them quite large!  They prefer, and should be offered, somewhat hotter and brighter conditions than I will be recommending for their cousins, the New Guinea Frilled Dragon.  While both are considered the same species, Frilleds from New Guinea are going to mature much smaller (between 18 and 24”), and have slightly different needs than their cousins from the hotter and dryer Australian mainland.

The Natural History of the New Guinea Frilled Dragon

The island of New Guinea is divided in half between two countries – the eastern half of the island, closest to Australia, is the country of Papua New Guinea, while the western half (informally referred to as West Papua) belongs to Indonesia.

West Papua is split into two provinces, Papua and the province of West Papua.  In the past, the region has gone by several names, including (but not limited to) Papua, New Guinea, Irian Jaya, and these names combined with modern names as well as regional names have served to make it exceptionally confusing to understand where exactly some reptiles come from.  In the case of the Frilled Dragon, they are commonly farmed on the Indonesian half of the island (West Papua), where they are fairly common and easy to breed due to their high prevalence in the area.  This means if you did not purchase your baby frilled directly from a breeder in the US, they were likely hatched in their country of origin and sent over to the US.

New Guinea Map

With the knowledge of where your baby frilled comes from comes the ability to determine what your frilled truly needs.  A Frilled Dragon from the island of New Guinea is accustomed to a tropical rainforest, heavy rainfall, and dense foliage blocking a majority of sunlight.  Frilleds spend a majority of their time up in trees, seeking out food, shelter, and thermoregulating.   The island of New Guinea is one of the most biodiverse in the world, with hundreds of species found in the island, and new ones discovered regularly.  As one could imagine, this implies that in the wild, Frilled Dragons have access to an extremely wide variety of prey items, which in addition to insects also includes small mammals and other reptiles that they can overpower.

Applying Natural History to Captive Husbandry

With our knowledge of the habitat Frilled Dragons originate from, we can draw some conclusions on how best to set them up.  With their access to large expanses of forest and jungle, they will require a large cage.  At the minimum, I recommend raising babies in either V222 Vision Cages (ideal for holding humidity) or in large front opening terrariums, like the ones manufactured by ExoTerra.  These cages will provide your babies with enough space to move around in for the first few months to the first year of their life, after which they will require an even larger cage.  A small adult could be housed in the largest size ExoTerra glass enclosure, which is 36” tall by 36” wide, and only 18” deep.  Of the commercially manufactured cages available, Penn Plax offers a large size at 47” x 20” x 35” that would be ideal for up to two small adult Frilled Dragons.   If you wish to truly spoil your dragons, consider having a custom cage built that is even larger, which will be a must if you plan on housing more than one or two together.  Space for your Frilled Dragons is vital for their well-being.  Once they have become established in your care, they are extremely active animals that leap from perch to perch, and will readily dive into available water sources.  Providing them with adequate space allows them the room to exercise as well – another aspect of care that can be extremely beneficial to their overall health.

Baby Frilled

When it comes to furnishing your large cage, look for large branches that will fill the cage.  Consider using silicone or magnetic ledges to attach perches and branches higher up in the cage.   In my experience with Frilleds, they greatly prefer very large cork rounds throughout their cage to climb on and hide behind.  Your frilled will climb up the rounds, often hiding behind them to escape prying eyes and (they think) avoid detection.  Large pieces of grapewood are also excellent additions to cage décor, allowing your dragons to climb up them and access higher points within the cage.  Large and broad pieces of wood work best for adult dragons, as they prefer to climb and hide on perches and branches that are about as wide as their body.  Sitting on wider perches means that they can more comfortably bask as needed, and flatten out to hide when they feel it is necessary.  In many instances, you do not need to clutter the cage with dozens of wood pieces – one or two large cork rounds and an extra large piece of wood that takes up space between them can be all they really need for basic furniture.  To avoid the concern of feeder insects, dirt, and debri getting lodged in the gaps of common wood products, consider using bamboo roots instead.

Once you have your basic large pieces of wood placed in the cage, add two or three (depending on cage size) additional, smaller perches and hiding places for them.  I prefer to use silicone to attach cork flats to the larger wood pieces in larger, permanent cages, or in cages you want to adjust more frequently, magnetic ledges are extremely useful.  You can also utilize magnetic vines to create “bridges” between wood pieces, by wrapping smaller branches in vines and using the magnetic bases to attach them.  Hatchling to small juvenile sized Frilled Dragons can use just the magnetic vines to climb on, but larger frilleds will not be supported by the vines alone.  I highly recommend using artificial vines and plants to add foliage to the cage, which will help your Frilled Dragon feel more secure and safe within the cage.  There is a wide variety of available foliage options out there, and you should not be afraid to try numerous types of décor to see what you and your frilleds like best.   Remember that your frilled comes from a dense jungle, and decorate accordingly!  Not only with the foliage help your dragon feel secure, but when you mist the cage, water will settle on all the leaves and branches within the cage, doubling the available surface area for water to evaporate from.  With all the water on all those surfaces within the cage, the evaporated moisture will go into the air and greatly increase humidity – making maintenance much easier!

When it comes to lighting your Frilled Dragons enclosure, this is one of the more interesting aspects of their care, and can be more complicated than other diurnal species.  Because in the wild, the New Guinea variety typically inhabit densely forested areas with much of the sunlight filtered out by tree leaves and branches.  In extremely large (as in custom built enclosures), the use of a mercury vapor bulb could be considered, as the frilleds will have the option to escape the intense UVB and heat emitted by the bulbs.  For these large enclosures, I would suggest offering a second area for basking and UVB absorption, with a lower wattage plain basking bulb and a traditional tube fluorescent bulb nearby.  For the majority of keepers, simply using an incandescent basking bulb and a fluorescent tube for UVB will be enough for their frilleds to thrive.  A 5.0 fluorescent bulb should be enough UVB for your dragons, even in extremely tall cages.  As needed, Frilled Dragons will climb up to the top of the enclosure and bask not just under the heat lights, but under their UVB bulbs as well.

Zoo Med Products

Frilled Dragons are one of the most interesting reptiles I have had the fortune to work with in that they are a diurnal species that seeks out increased temperatures to bask in, but will actively avoid intense UVB exposure.  When housed outdoors in climates with more intense periods of heat and sunlight, they often fail to thrive, and spend a majority of their time hiding and refusing to eat.  Indoors, when basking options are limited to bulbs with intense UVB output, a similar result can occur.  While frilled dragons housed under mercury vapor bulbs often do just fine, when compared to frilleds housed under fluorescent tubes and basking bulbs, they are often not quite as fat or as large at the same age.  Unfortunately, very little scientific data is available regarding this phenomenon, as New Guinea Frilled Dragons are not as extensively studied as their Australian counterparts, and any further information on this topic would be welcomed.

From personal communication with other Frilled Dragon keepers, their need for UVB is so relatively low that one keeper houses his primarily indoors with no UVB at all, just a simple 150 watt incandescent basking bulb on a 4 foot tall cage.  However, this keeper does take his Frilleds outdoors during spring and winter months for natural sunlight – it could be theorized they get enough naturally occurring D3 during these times that combined with vitamin supplements in the diet, they do not need UVB provided full time.   Please note that I do NOT recommend that the keeper just beginning to keep Frilled Dragons tries this – at the very least, provide your frilled dragons with compact fluorescent bulbs over at least one portion of the cage.   More experienced keepers with older Frilled Dragons may consider the implications of seasonal outdoor housing during certain times of the year combined with no indoor UVB, but again, the beginner or intermediate keeper should continue to use some sort of indoor UVB option.

Frilled Dragon

I provide my Frilleds with a wide range of temperatures to choose from, which is an option afforded by having an extremely large cage to house them in.  Their warmest basking zone is about 100 degrees, and the warm top side of the cage is typically 90 degrees.  They will spend a few hours each morning basking directly under their heat lights, and then often spend the rest of the day alternating between the cooler areas under their UVB bulbs (about 75 to 80 degrees) and the various warm areas within the cage.  At night, they can take temperature drops down to the low 70s, and can tolerate very occasional drops down to the high 60s.  I would not recommend letting your Frilled Dragons routinely experience night time drops to the 60s, but if a bulb blows out or you experience an unexpectedly cold night, they can tolerate it briefly.  They come from a part of the world that does not experience significant differences in seasons, and this should be considered when setting up their captive conditions.

For example, here in Southern California my ambient household temperatures range about 10 degrees between summer (80 degrees) and winter (70 degrees).  Due to this, I utilize two sets of lights, one with low wattages for summer, and one with higher wattages for winter.  In addition to winter lights, the use of ceramic heat emittersradiant heat panels, and heat pads are all acceptable methods of increasing ambient temperatures within your frilled’s cage to suitable levels.  New Guinea Frilled Dragons do not experience the same seasonal hardships that the Australian kinds do, and as such should not be exposed to extreme high or low temperatures.

In addition, while humidity is important for your Frilled Dragon, excessive attention should not be given to a precise number on a dial.  Instead, watch your animals.  Again, for my animals at home, I do not monitor a precise or specific humidity percent.  Instead, I mist them heavily in the morning using a pressure spray bottle, mist them again a bit at night, and utilize damp sphagnum moss spread throughout the cage so that they can seek out higher humidity microclimates within their cage if they so desire.  A misting routine of twice daily, once in the morning and once at night, mimics the natural spikes in humidity that occur in the wild around dawn and dusk, and helps keep the sphagnum moss within the cage damp.  Once or twice a week, if your Frilled Dragons are accustomed to handling and are comfortable with you, consider taking them out and giving them a lukewarm shower in the tub for 15 minutes or so.   These occasional soaks will help ensure that they stay hydrated if you are concerned about humidity levels, and also mimic to a small extent the periods of rainfall they would be exposed to in the wild.  Pay attention to your animals – if their skin is smooth, they shed easily, they are bright eyed, active, and healthy, then what you are doing for humidity is working.  If they start to get a wrinkled appearance, or become listless and develop crusty eyes, increase how often you mist them or consider getting a timed misting system.

Feeding Your Frillie

Feeding Frilled Dragons is fortunately rather straight forward.  When their cage conditions are ideal, they are voracious little beasts, readily consuming anything small enough to fit in their mouth.  Large crickets,mealwormssuperwormswaxworms, silkworms, hornworms, reptiworms , any of these can be used to feed your dragon.  As mentioned earlier, in the wild Frilled Dragons have access to an extremely wide range of food options, and in captivity the effort should be made to offer them as wide a variety as you are able to get ahold of.

I highly recommend establishing a captive roach colony, with my preferred species being dubia roaches due to the fact that they do not climb smooth surfaces or fly.  Any species of roach is relished, so order and maintain those that you are comfortable with.  In addition to insects, the occasional offering of rat and mice pinkies make for excellent nutritional boosts for your frilleds.  Large adults will eat mice as large as small hoppers (3 to 4 week olds), and my largest adult male has even managed to catch and consume loose house geckos within his cage.  If you (inadvertently, in my case) find that your frilleds have consumed other lizards, I recommend having a vet perform a fecal on them every few months to ensure they are not picking up parasites from their lizard prey items.

Frilled eating

The only hitch that you may experience with the feeding of your Frilled Dragons is that if they are overfed, or stressed, they will often stop eating.  This bout of non-feeding can go on for several weeks, and is not in and of itself a cause for concern.  Check your cage, make sure that they are within acceptable temperatures

The Frilled Dragon as a Pet

In my experience maintaining Frilled Dragons, I have found them to be extremely rewarding, fascinating lizards.  Once established, they seem to recognize their keepers, and can be downright comical at times.  They are extremely alert to their surroundings, and when set up appropriately, do well in areas with high foot traffic that provide them with activity to watch and survey.  New Guinea Frilled Dragons are personable, smaller Frilled Dragons that accept handling well and make fantastic pets.  Farmed babies that have been raised in captivity are often indistinguishable from captive bred babies, and often will sit calmly on their keeper’s shoulder, watching the world from their human perch.  Frilled Dragons are arguably one of the most dinosaur-like of the midsized lizards that make great pets, and I highly recommend them for the keeper looking for something new and awesome to keep as an interactive pet.

Getting to Know the Bibrons Gecko

Bibrons Gecko Article

By Kevin Scott


The Bibron’s Gecko, Pachydactulus bibronii (formerly Chondrodactylus), was first described by naturalist Andrew Smith, and named after the French zoologist Gabriel Bibron. There is some debate between the identity and range of P. bibronii and P. turneri, which are very similar in appearance, particularly with imported specimens. Both species are typically found on cliffs, in rocky crevasses, steppes and savannahs. However, the new revision of P. bibronii states that it is restricted to South Africa while P. turneri also ranges into Angola, Zimbabwe and in southern regions of Namibia and Tanzania. Imported specimens that are referred to as Bibron’s geckos are likely P. turneri, since neither are currently coming out of South Africa. The following information is for the Bibron’s gecko, but is generally true for both species, and identification of imported species will be left to the reader.

Bibrons Gecko 1


With an adult length of 6-9 inches (15-22 cm), the Bibron’s Gecko is a medium to large, stocky-bodied gecko of the family Gekkonidae.  The head is broad with large, yellow, grey or brown eyes that have vertical pupils and lack eyelids. The background dorsal color is a brown- to olive-gray, with black and white tubercle scales covering the head and back, creating a rough texture. Dark bands extend the length of the body and along the tail[1]. Despite the lack of flashy colors, I find this a modest but quite attractive species. A life span of ten years can be expected.


This species is incredibly hardy and fairly common in captivity, but not extremely popular amongst hobbyists, perhaps due to their flighty nature and capability to deliver a relatively hefty bite. Males are usually aggressive toward one another, so no more than one male should be housed per cage. Females can also be aggressive toward each other, although to a lesser extent, so it is recommended to keep this species in pairs or alone. This species does not exhibit clear sexual dimorphism (e.g. femoral pores), although males have a broader head and thicker tail base because of hemipenes. Although the Bibron’s gecko is mainly arboreal, it will not hesitate to come to the ground to feed.


terrarium measuring 45 x 45 x 60 cm is sufficient for an adult pair. Multiple hiding crevasses should be offered, and some great options include cork bark flats, shale flats and other flat stackable stones. When assembling cage décor, think of a cliff like habitat with tight but accessible hiding spots.

As a rule, the more hiding spots available the more secure the gecko will feel, and, in turn, the more it will be out and visible. This species will sometimes take advantage of terrestrial hiding places.  Take care to ensure that individual pieces cannot shift and pin the gecko in a space where it cannot get out. Quartz sand is an acceptable substrate, although I prefer a mixture of sand and coconut for sanitary reasons, and also to help maintain humidity between misting. A terrarium planted with live plants is an appealing option, both for aesthetic and practical reasons. Pothos ivy, Sansevieria and smaller species of Phylodendron are hardy choices with broad leaves that can tolerate the geckos’ climbing upon them.

bibrons 2

basking lamp is sufficient for lighting, and ultraviolet lights are not necessary. An ambient temperature of 79-86° F (26-30° C) and night time temperature of 64-72° F (18-22° C) should be aimed for. Basking temperatures immediately under the light can reach 35-40° C. During the summer the diurnal photoperiod should be 12-14 hours, and during the winter the photoperiod can be reduced to 6 hours for about a month – these changes can be achieved either with a timer or manually, although the former is usually the more convenient option. Although this is a natural annual cycle for the gecko, it is optional in captivity, but suggested if breeding is a goal. Ambient humidity of 40-50% can usually be achieved by light to heavy misting three times a week, depending on the natural humidity in your region. The terrarium can be allowed to dry out between misting.


Bibron’s Geckos have a voracious appetite and will eagerly feed upon crickets, grasshoppers, mealworms and waxworms, and almost any other appropriately sized live food item. Canned food items (insects) can be fed as well, although I personally have never seen the Bibron’s gecko eat pre-killed prey. Calcium and vitamin supplements are not typically necessary, but it is recommended that feeder insects are gut loaded with calcium and other nutrients prior to feeding. The Bibron’s gecko hydrates primarily by licking water droplets from surfaces. Water is usually not taken from a dish, although a water dish should be offered. This ensures that water is available should it be needed, while simultaneously contributing to humidity.


If courtship is successful, the female will lay one or two eggs three to four weeks thereafter and up to sixtimes per year. The eggs can be removed and placed into an incubator for a better success rate. Incubation temperatures of 81-86° F and humidity of 60% is sufficient, and eggs typically hatch after about two months of incubation under these conditions. Although it is not necessary, a nighttime incubation temperature drop to 68° has been witnessed to produce stronger young. Hatchlings are usually about five centimeters in length.


This article is only intended as a brief overview of the species in an attempt to increase its popularity. For further reading, the book Dickfingergeckos (Thick-toed Geckos) by Mirko Barts is a valuable, readily available, and inexpensive information source, although as far as I know it is only available in German. This book also covers other related species. The website is another good information source that is available in English.

[1] For more detailed physiological description see Field Guide to the Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa, by Bill Branch (page 267 in the 1998 edition).

The Basking Spot: Orchid Bark, Cypress Mulch, and Coconut Husk Beddings

The Basking Spot

By Jennifer Greene

Orchid Bark, Cypress Mulch, and Coconut Husk Beddings

This month’s featured product is actually several similar substrates, the various kinds of bedding that you can use to help maintain a specific look or humidity within your tank.  Exactly which substrate you use is a matter of personal choice, so don’t be afraid to try each type to find which you like best for your situation.

What It Is

The three most commonly available types of bedding that can be utilized for tropical tanks and/or maintaining humidity are Orchid Bark (aka Reptile Bark), Cypress Mulch, and Coconut Husk (both fine particle and chunky types).  Each one has a somewhat different texture and look to it, and again, which you like best is entirely your preference.

Orchid bark is so called because orchid growers use a very similar sized bark for growing and maintaining their orchid plants.  Typically, orchid bark comes from Fir trees, a type of bark that usually breaks down much slower than other types of tree bark.   This is perfect for maintaining a humid environment in your cages, as even with moisture being added to the bark on a regular basis it takes several weeks, if not months, for the bark to start breaking down as a result.

Orchid Bark

Cypress Mulch is usually the leftover milling from when cypress trees are cut for other purposes.  It is a light weight bedding, and due to the way it loosely packs within the cage, it can be ideal for reptile species that enjoy burrowing.   It absorbs large amounts of water and readily allows for it to evaporate, which means that you regularly need to add more water to it.  However, this increased rate of evaporation translates to higher ambient humidity within the cage without necessarily having soggy bedding.

cypress mulch

Coconut husk beddings are exactly what their name says – bedding made from the husk of coconuts!  Coconut husk can come in large, or coarse, chunks, all the way down to very finely ground husk that resembles soil.  Initially, coconut husk substrates are very dusty, but they hold the most water out of all 3 types that I am discussing.   Coconut husk bedding can absorb large amounts of water without breaking down, making it ideal as a substrate for frogs and other species that require extremely high constant humidity.


Which One Do I Use?

When deciding on which one to use, consider what animal you are using it for, and what needs you have for the bedding.  Orchid bark is the least expensive type of substrate, which is ideal when you need to add bedding to a large cage, or if you expect to change the substrate often, such as when caring for large snakes and monitor lizards.  Cypress mulch is ideal for animals that require high humidity, but can develop skin problems if they sit in bedding that is too damp.  Cypress mulch is the most versatile type of bedding, being suitable for a wide range of situations depending on just how much water you regularly add to it.  Fine grade Coconut Husk is perfect for most frog species, especially the kinds that burrow, as well as ideal for mixing into either Cypress Mulch or Orchid bark to increase the amount of moisture you can add to them.  Coarse grade Coconut Husk works similarly to cypress mulch, but holds significantly more water.

Which type of substrate works best for your situation is something only you can decide.  Don’t be afraid to try every type of bedding before deciding on which one you like best, and also consider mixing the substrates together!  You can add fine grade Coconut Husk to any of the other types to increase moisture without oversaturating the bark beddings, or add in an area of bark to your primarily coconut husk substrate cages to allow your animals the choice to get out of the damper bedding if they choose.

mixed substrate

How Is It Packaged?

It can be quite confusing to go to the bedding section and try to decide which bag of bedding to get.  Orchid bark and Cypress Mulch come in LLL packed bags, in 4 quart8 quart, and 16 quart sizes.  Not sure which size to get?  4 quarts fill a 10 gallon cage with a ½” layer of bedding, 8 quarts fills a 20 gallon (30” x 12” footprint), and 16 quarts can fill a cage as large as 48” x 16” with a ½” layer of bedding.  Buy a larger bag than you strictly need to have leftover bedding to add as you clean, or order exactly as much as you need.

Coconut husk beddings come either in loose bags for both fine grade and coarse grade, or there are several brands that offer the fine grade bedding in a compressed form.  The compressed bricks of coconut husk bedding require moisture to decompress and expand, meaning that some planning is needed to have bedding available to clean your cages, but it is often much less expensive to make it from the compressed form.


None of the substrates discussed in this article are high priced or difficult to find, so try each one, mix and match, experiment with each to find what you like.  Each time you need to replace your substrate, pick up something new, and give them a chance! Any of these substrates can help make your life easier when maintaining a specific level of humidity within your cage, whether it is close to 100% or just slightly above your household humidity level.

Bark Scorpions (Centruroides)

Bark Scorpions

By Dean Gramcko

Bark scorpions are a unique and fascinating group of scorpions indigenous to the Americas that are ideally suited to captive care in the vivarium. In America, the term Bark scorpion commonly denotes members of the genus Centruroides, a genus of Buthidae with between 70 and 80 species (different authorities disagree on certain species status). The genus Centuroides is an American taxon spanning the United States, Mexico, and Central America with established populations in South America and the West Indies, and smaller introduced populations in Africa.

The species of this genus are non-burrowing and hide among leaf litter, under stones or wood, among dead or living vegetation, or in the folds of plants or tree bark. Many species find their way into human habitations in their native areas. They are light bodied and agile,0 and able to climb vertical surfaces or cling upside down to rough surfaces as they walk.  A number of Centruroides species have very potent venom. Due to their defensive nature and frequent encounters with humans some Centruroides species are responsible for numerous deaths or dangerous envenomations in their native countries. C. exilicauda, C. sculpturatus, C. limpidus, C. noxius, and  C. suffusus all possess venom documented as having caused humans deaths, other species within the genus may possess medically significant venom. Many species within the genus possess venom capable of inflicting strong pain, but are not considered to have particularly toxic venom. Any species of Centruroides must be kept in an escape proof cage. A tight fitting lid is a must for any enclosure, as small gaps between lids and enclosures can provide perfect opportunities for escape. Some keepers apply a band of petrolium jelly around the upper lip of  the cage to help prevent young or small specimens from escaping.

Bark scorpions, like many Buthids, have a relatively short life cycle when compared to many other species. Specimens of C. guanensis may reach maturity in as little as 6 months, (most groups of scorpions take at least 1 to 2 years to mature, some species take much longer). They, as a group, are generally short lived with reported lifespans of between 1 year (C. insulanus) and over 4 years (C. gracilis). Most species within the genus Centuroides do not have established longevity records, but with maturation taking up to 3 or 4 years in C. vittatus, it is not unlikely that some specimens within the genus might live 6 years or more.

Bark scorpions are well suited to life in a vivarium. They are small in size (many measure less than 3” in length) and are one of few types of scorpions that can be housed communally with minimal chances of cannibalism. They are active hunters and as they do not burrow they are an ideal species to observe in the evenings. Most Centruroides species kept in captivity have proven to be prolific, and usually if males and females are housed together under proper conditions for long enough they will produce offspring. Bark scorpions are iteroparous and may give birth to between 1 and 4 clutches after a single mating, 2 probably being about average.

Bark Scorpion Tank

3 commonly available species are:

Centruroides sculpturatus: commonly called the Arizona Bark Scorpion, C. sculpturatus is generally considered to have the most potent venom of any U.S. scorpion, and while deaths are rare, it is the only U.S. scorpion that is well documented as having caused deaths not related to allergic reactions. It was formerly considered to be the same species as C. exilicauda, a Mexican species of bark scorpion now considered to be a separate species.

Centruroides vittatus: commonly called the Texas Bark Scorpion or Striped Bark Scorpion,  this is a distinctively marked species that is frequently available and common in the U.S.

Centruroides gracilis: This scorpion likely hails from Central America originally but has well established populations in Florida in the United States as well as Islands in the Caribbean. It is among the largest bark scorpions with adults measuring from between 4 and 6 inches.

Most species of bark scorpions kept in captivity do well under relatively similar conditions with varying temperature and humidity depending on species. Most specimens will thrive in a terrarium when given stacks of cork bark or stones to hide under. Care should be taken to ensure that cage furnishings will not shift and crush any scorpions. Live plants such as bromeliads or non-spiny succulents can improve the look of the enclosure (any plant used should be identified and researched to ensure it doesn’t present a threat to the scorpion), and provide hiding places for the scorpions. Water should be provided to any species at all times in a dish shallow enough to ensure scorpions do not become trapped and drown. Adding gravel to smooth bottomed dishes can help to guard against drowning. Most bark scorpion do well under similar temperature ranges (75 – 87 Fahrenheit). Most species do not require high humidity levels. Misting the enclosure lightly once weekly or bi-weekly depending on species is recommended.

Baby bark scorpions can be housed either in the larger enclosure with the adults, (though adult scorpions may sometimes cannibalize the young) or separated and raised up in small deli cups. The author prefers individual deli cups as it allows more precise control of temperature and humidity and eliminates any chance of predation from larger cagemates. Juvenile bark  scorpions development is measured most commonly with the term “instar” (referring to the stage of development present between two molts).

A newborn scorpion is termed “1st instar”. Upon completion of it’s 1st molt it is considered “2nd instar”.  The precise number of molts preceding adulthood varies between species and sometimes between genders of the same species. Generally bark scorpions seem to mature at around their 6th or 7th molt which for most Centruroides species occurs within 1 or 2 years (though some species may take much longer).

Their semi-arboreal nature, ability to live communally, and their readiness to reproduce in captivity make this group of scorpions fascinating to keep and an ideal candidate for observation in a vivarium. While the lifespan of individual scorpions are relatively short, these communal scorpions can be set up in large breeding colonies that will bring satisfaction to their keeper for years.


Francke, O.F.  & Jones, S.K., 1982. The Life History of Centruroides Gracilis (Scorpiones, Buthidae). The Journal of Arachnology, Vol. 10, pp. 223 – 239.

Polis, G. & Sissom, W.D., 1990. Life History. In G. Polis (Ed.), Biology of Scorpions (pp. 161 – 223). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Rein, J.O. & Teruel, R., 2012. The Scorpion Files. Retrieved from

Sissom, W. D., 1980. Life Histories of Two North American Scorpions: Centruroides vittatus (Say) (Buthidae) and Vaejovis bilineatus Pockock (Vaejovidae). Masters dissertation. Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX.

Stahnke, H.L., 1971. Some Observations of the Genus Centruroides Marx (Buthidae, Scorpionida) and C. Sculpturatus Ewing. Entomological News, Vol. 82, pp. 281 – 307.

Stahnke, H.L. & Calos, M., 1977. A Key to the Species of the Genus Centruroides Marx (Scorpionida: Buthidae). Entomological News, Vol. 88,  pp. 111 -120.

Getting to Know the Tomato Frog

Tomato Frog Article Header

By Kevin Scott


The tomato frog is native to Madagascar (and East Africa), with Dyscophus antongili being found in the north and Dyscophus guineti inhabiting the south. The latter is the species more commonly found in captivity, probably due to the fact that the former is a member of the CITES I index.

When viewing an adult tomato frog, it is blatantly obvious how it got its name. A large, round, orange/red frog, the tomato frog is a nocturnal, terrestrial, rainforest species.  The head is short and wide, and harbors a mouth full of teeth – an aspect not common to amphibians. The eyes sit high on the head and bear thick eye lids.

tomato frog

Fully mature males usually reach a total length of just under three inches, while females will be just under five.

The largest females will attain a mass of 250g, although 170 is closer to average for the species. Males will be sexually mature at 9-12 months of age, while females can take up to two years. A life expectancy of five years is not unreasonable.

Reproduction will not be covered here, but it can be noted that during mating, the male will sit in shallow water and call. Females can lay up to 1,500 eggs, up to three times annually.

Toxic Secretions

When threatened, the Tomato Frog puffs up its body and extends its legs to make itself appear larger than it really is. When further agitated, this frog will secrete a thick white substance that contains toxins and irritants to keep potential predators at bay.  This substance is not considered to be dangerous to humans, but it can cause swelling when skin contact is made.

While some authors recommend using gloves while handling, I have never found the need. Everyone has different reactions to organic toxins, so care should be used if you are not sure how you will react. Frequent handling is not recommended for any amphibian, due to their sensitive skin, and it is generally recommended to wash one’s hands with water before handling.

tomato frog


Being a short, stocky ground dweller, the Tomato Frog naturally feeds on worms, snails, burrowing insects, and the occasional small frog or rodent. In captivity, earthworms, mealworms, superworms, waxworms, tomato worms, crickets and the occasional pinky mouse are good candidates for a fairly well rounded diet. After night has fallen, this frog will creep out of its burrow to feed upon its prey items – young ones can be offered food nightly, and adults can be fed either every night or every other night. Because the frog’s metabolism depends heavily upon the temperature of its surroundings, so does the frequency of extent of its feedings, which can be cut back during winter months.


A terrarium of 36 x 18 x 18 inches should be used to house adults, and a male/female pair or a male and two females can be safely housed together.

This species will spend much of its time on the ground, so choosing a good substrate is very important. A mixture of coco fibersand (quartz is best), and vermiculite is a mixture that I like, with a ratio of 2:1:1 or 2:2:1, respectively. Over years of being in the hobby, most people will experiment with various substrates for various applications and begin to develop a favorite. I like this particular mixture because of its ability to hold moisture for long periods of time, keep bacterial and fungal levels down, and hold its structure for burrowing species. This bedding can be covered with a layer of either New Zealand or green sphagnum moss, to create a suitable environment for the tomato frog. A bedding layer of four inches is recommended.

When taking a first glance at the tomato frog one would not expect it to be an arboreal species, but it can actually climb surprisingly well. While it is certainly not an arboreal species, a few thick branches or pieces of rock can be provided to allow this behavior.

Many keepers and zoos in Europe recommend keeping a portion of the terrarium dedicated to a water feature, with a gravel slope rising out of the water, upon which the bedding layer rests, to prevent soppy substrate. If this option is circumvented, then a large water dish is recommended, with water being changed daily. Water should be kept in the mid to high 70’s, Fahrenheit.

Photoperiod and Climate

A photoperiod of 12 to 14 hours is recommended for the summer, and 8 to 10 hours is sufficient during the winter. Daytime temperatures should range from 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, with a night time drop of about ten degrees Fahrenheit.

Humidity levels should remain high, around 80%, for most of the year. If breeding is a goal, then a four month dry period is recommended during the winter, with humidity levels dropping to 50% and bedding moisture being reduced slightly.

Closing Thoughts

As with many animals stemming from Madagascar, the tomato frog is outwardly intriguing.  Although young frogs don’t display much color, they quickly grow into vibrant adults.

Raising Grassland Species of Tortoises

Grassland Tortoises

By Jennifer Greene

With the advances in tortoise husbandry over the last few decades, more and more captive bred baby tortoises of numerous species are becoming more readily available.  Having captive bred baby tortoises to start with as pets is typically much easier than trying to acclimate wild caught specimens; however, a new problem arises with the care of baby tortoises as compared to their sub adult/ adult wild-caught counterparts.  This problem is the raising of baby tortoises in a way that results in adult animals that exhibit the same level of health in terms of weight, shell condition, and longevity that their wild counterparts experience.  Initially, many keepers could not keep baby tortoises alive, with many babies dying while being kept in the same conditions that adults were thriving in.  Some keepers were able to raise babies, but they developed minor to severe shell deformities, known as “pyramiding”, or the babies they raised experienced significantly shortened lifespans, living only 10 to 20 years compared to the often 100 year life span of wild tortoises.   This article aims to cover some of the more recent advances in neonate and young tortoise husbandry, with the goal of helping keepers better raise their tortoises to healthy and long lasting adulthood.

Baby Sulcata Tortoise

One aspect of raising baby tortoises that is often overlooked initially is the natural history of where the particular species is from, and the conditions in that climate at the time the eggs usually hatch.  This is important to note, as certain species inhabit extremely different microclimates as hatchlings compared to their adult counterparts.  One such example is the Sulcata Tortoise, or African Spur Thigh Tortoise.  Adults graze the grasslands of the savannah, often going for prolonged periods without water and tolerating extreme heat.  Neonates kept in similar conditions with little access to water and extreme heat end up with high mortality rates and stunted or deformed animals.  Similarly, neonate Greek Tortoises from the extreme north of their range typically hatch later in the season, and often spend a significant amount of time (up to several months) hidden in their incubation burrows, absorbing their yolk before going straight into their first hibernation season. (Kuzmin, 98)

With this in mind, be sure to thoroughly do your research before bringing home a baby tortoise.  There are some general guidelines that can apply to many species within an ecological niche, but beginners are advised to look for a reputable specialist in their preferred species, or to purchase appropriate books geared towards the species they aim to keep.   For species adapted to the grassland climate, including but not limited to Greek Tortoises (Testudo graeca), Russian Tortoises (Testudo horsfieldii, or Agrionemys horsfieldii in Russian literature), Sulcata Tortoises (Geochelone sulcata), and Marginated Tortoises (Testudo marginata), there are some general guidelines that can be used when raising hatchling tortoises.  A cage large enough to allow the babies to explore and forage is highly recommended; I typically prefer cages with a 24” x 24” footprint as a good starter size for young tortoises.

A cage this size allows enough floor space to provide the various microclimates within the enclosure that will ensure your baby tortoise thrives.  This size cage also allows for a wide range of temperatures, ideal for your baby tortoise to select the exact conditions within the cage it needs.  It is possible to use a smaller cage, or one that is narrower, but it will require more work to adjust the lighting and heating elements on behalf of the tortoise.  This size cage can be achieved with a glass terrarium (covering one or more sides is recommended, so as to prevent your tortoise from constantly attempting to go through the glass), tortoise table, or custom enclosure.  Similar floor space in the form of a 36” x 12” cage is also an option, but do keep in mind as an entirely terrestrial animal your tortoise will appreciate having as much floor space as possible.  In addition to traditional glass tanks, there are also various custom cages andtubs available that are specially designed for tortoises.  Choose what works best for you!

When it comes to lighting your baby tortoise, which bulbs you use and what wattages are used depends on your cage size and setup.  Tortoises, being diurnal reptiles, require not only heat but UVB as well.  There are two methods for providing this for your tortoise, either through a combination of basking lights andfluorescent bulbs, or with the use of a mercury vapor bulb.   Which you use depends on your tortoises, and size of cage.  In a larger cage, either 24” x 24” or 36” x 12” or bigger, you can use a mercury vapor bulb.  Mercury vapor bulbs, commonly abbreviated as MVBs, greatly simplify your lighting situation in addition to providing large amounts of visible light, UVB, and heat.  These types of bulbs are ideal for desert and grassland species of tortoises, but because they do emit so much heat, keep in mind you will need to monitor humidity more closely.  In smaller cages, or if you want to use a lower wattage bulb (mercury vapor bulbs do not come in wattages below 100), you will need to use a basking bulb in conjunction with a fluorescent tube light to provide heat, light, and UVB.  A benefit of using this method of lighting is that you can plug your basking light into a thermostat or rheostat, and more accurately control temperature that way.

Russian Tortoise

One aspect of keeping that has changed significantly over the last few years as compared to early attempts at raising tortoises is the level of humidity recommended for maintaining hatchlings.  Some breeders maintain babies of all grassland species with higher humidity continuously while they are young, while others prefer a regimen of regular soaking.  Alternatively, you can maintain a humid hide within the cage, which allows your baby tortoise to seek out an area of significantly higher humidity when it desires.  This area of increased humidity can be provided by the addition of damp New Zealand Sphagnum moss, or adding moistenedcoconut fiber to a section of the cage.  The addition of compressed coconut to the usual bedding (typicallybark or chipped aspen in most cases) also offers your baby tortoise the option to dig, and excavate its own hiding place.  It has been noted among some keepers that babies raised with the option of seeking out increased humidity often have smoother shells in better condition, which is something to consider when creating your tortoise setup.

Depending on which publication you consult, soaking regimens should consist of soaking your tortoise as often as twice a week (Leopard-, Vetter, 104) to only two to six times per month (Hermann’s, Vetter, 159).  Careful observation of your own tortoise(s) and their growth rates and overall health will help you determine just how often to soak your own tortoise.  Regularly misting the cage in the morning to create a morning spike in humidity should also be considered beneficial for young tortoises; a similar spike in humidity occurs in the wild during the morning, and this will help the cage from becoming completely bone dry from the use of heat lights.  Moisture is important for Mediterranean species of tortoises, such as the Hermann’s tortoises.  “Keeping the juveniles in conditions that are too dry results in a malformed growth of the shell even if they are properly supplied with vitamins and minerals.” (Hermann’s, Vetter, 157)  This observation applies to the African species as well, “keeping juveniles in an inappropriately dry environment causes an increasingly humped appearance of the carapace.” (Leopard-, Vetter, 109)  With this in mind, while your grassland tortoise does not need to be kept at tropical levels of humidity, do pay some attention to maintaining a level of humidity between 60 and 75% a majority of the time.

Sulcata on tortoise ramp bowl

Tortoise Ramp Bowls are a great way to provide an “easy access” water source

The feeding and supplementation of tortoises is often a controversial topic among keepers, with each breeder and keeper having their own ideas and methods about nearly every aspect of the topic.  Diet and supplementation of tortoises is such a large, diverse topic that a book should be dedicated to fully cover it, so I will only touch on key points here.  The first and foremost point is that supplementation should be included in your tortoise’s diet in some way, period.  The method of supplementation differs based on tortoise size and species.  One recommended method of providing calcium and added vitamins is not to dust the food directly, but instead offer calcium in the form of calcium blockscuttlebones, mussel grit, whetstones (for birds), or crushed eggshells.  The thought behind this is that dusting the food itself “forces” calcium on the tortoises in quantities they may not experience in the wild, and as yet it is still unknown what the correct dosage of calcium really is. (Leopard-, Vetter, 95)

If you do dust the food, be sure to dust lightly with a mix of calcium and vitamins recommended for vegetarian reptiles.  A light sprinkle, such as a fraction of a teaspoon, is more than enough for hatchling tortoises.  It is important not to skip supplementation entirely – while yes, over supplementation can adversely affect your tortoise’s health, not supplementing at all is equally as risky.

It is important to keep in mind when feeding grassland species of tortoises that in the wild, they roam vast distances eating plant matter that is rather low in nutrition content.  This means they eat lots of food, but get little from it – when raised in captivity with the rich diet most keepers provide for their tortoises, babies often grow unnaturally fast.  With this rapid growth comes “an increased susceptibility to diseases” (Hermann’s, Vetter, 159), and as a result excessively rapid growth should be avoided.  This can be done by reducing the amount of fresh, leafy green produce provided and instead offer hay and grasses.   For the larger species of grassland tortoises, such as Sulcatas and Leopard Tortoises, it is recommended that “Green feed should never be offered fresh or even wet.  It is always best to leave it to wilt slightly.” (Leopard-, Vetter 105)  This is the condition that baby tortoises would find their food most often in the wild, and should be replicated to a certain extent with captive babies.  The addition of pelleted food to the diets is also an option, withZooMed and Mazuri both offering excellent diets designed specifically for grassland species of tortoises. If your babies are stubborn, and refuse to eat their dried food or hay, a little tough love will often fix the problem.  You can also mix dried food and hay in with fresh and wet food, which will help make it more appealing.  Once your baby is accustomed to eating hay, offering it becomes much easier.   In addition to offering hay as a food item, consider liberally covering up to half of the cage with loose grass hay.  For smaller species of grassland tortoises, such as the Hermann’s, Greek, or Russian tortoises, this mimics the kind of leaf litter and dead grass they would normally be hiding under and foraging through in the wild.  The added security of being able to burrow under hay will help ensure your baby tortoise thrives in your care.

tortoises eating

Lastly, consider housing your baby tortoises at least part of the time outdoors.  On warm, sunny days between 75 and 90 degrees, keeping your babies outdoors to experience some natural sunlight can be extremely beneficial.  It is mandatory that they have the option to escape from the sun, and any good commercially madeTortoise PlayPen or similar item will provide a hiding spot with its design.  Due to their delicate nature, baby tortoises should not be left outdoors completely unsupervised.  Make sure someone is always home to keep an eye on the tortoise(s) when they are outdoors, not only to make sure they do not get too hot or too cold, but to prevent predation and theft.

Being familiar with your particular species of tortoise will help you determine appropriate weather conditions; wild Sulcatas for example never hibernate or experience the same level of cool weather that Russian tortoises do.  As such, they cannot tolerate the same cooler temperatures that Russian tortoises do.  Always carefully monitor your tortoises when they are outdoors.

In closing, there have been huge advances in the captive husbandry of neonate tortoises, making it considerably easier for even the novice keeper to raise a pet tortoise up from a hatchling.  As long as research is done to prepare for your preferred species, and the correct conditions are provided, a baby tortoise is no more or less difficult to care for than any other reptile species.  Buy a book, join a tortoise club, participate with specialized online forums, educate yourself on your tortoise before bringing it home.  And of course – when you do get it home, enjoy it!

Works Cited

Sergius L. Kuzmin The Turtles of Russia and Other Ex-SovietRepublics.  Frankfurt am Main: Chimaira 2002

Holger Vetter Hermann’s Tortoise, Boettger’s and Dalmation Tortoises Frankfurt am Main: Chimaira 2006

Holger Vetter Leopard – and African Spurred Tortoise Frankfurt am Main: Chimaira 2005

10 Questions with Gary Bagnall

10 Questions with Gary Bagnall

By Scott Wesley

Gary Bagnall is the owner and founder of Zoo Med Laboratories and has a wide range of interests which we will dive into this month!

1. You got started in the reptile business at the ripe age of 19 in 1977. What are the major differences you see in today’s reptile culture versus in the 1980’s?

****When I started importing reptiles in the late 1970’s we did not have a huge domestic source of captive raised animals. In fact, approximately 80% were wild caught with maybe 20% or less obtained from captive breeders. Today the opposite is true with fewer direct live reptile importers and a huge amount of captive bredreptiles on the market.

2. One of the things we commonly say and hear is – you can’t have captive bred without wild caught. Having started Cal Zoo back in the 80’s – do you still see the same importance and need in the importation of wild caught reptiles to support and help further the reptile hobby today?

****Absolutely! People who raise the “captive raised” flag as the be-all end-all of reptiles you should own are short sighted. 1.) Where do you think your original animals came from. 2.) You need “wild” stock to add back to the captive gene pool or you eventually get recessive traits like what are currently showing up in some captive bearded dragons and leopard geckos, and last, 3.) Without wild imports we eliminate the chance to get new species which really drives this hobby.

3. I have seen some of the historic fish tanks you collect. Is this still a hobby of yours, and what is your favorite / most prized one?

****I started working in pet shops at the age of 11 (Russo’s Wonderful World of Pets, Fashion Island, Ca.) so my love of pet keeping runs deep. I collect everything that has to do with historic pet keeping including antique aquariums and terrariums. My favorite is probably my 900 gallon Matson Aquarium made of bronze with metal frogs, salamanders, and various fish in “relief” over the metal casting. This aquarium originally sat at the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco from about the 1920’s through 1960’s.

4. You have traveled the world looking for reptiles. Can you recall what the coolest or most uniquereptile you ever saw / found in the wild was and where?

****I traveled to Western Samoa and met the king of Samoa to get permits to export Pacific Island Boas and Coconut Crabs (worlds largest hermit crab). It was amazing getting to know the Samoan people and their culture which is extremely friendly. We kept a days’ worth of collected coconut crabs in a wooden outhouse and they chewed through the door by morning and escaped! (they eat coconuts in the wild.) I also traveled to Egypt and brought back the first Uromastyx aegyptia plus was the company that brought in the first 4 albino boa constrictors into the U.S. I miss all the travel but if you want to keep your wife happy you have to give it up at some point.

5. You have always been passionate about reptile laws. Do you feel like we are now on the right track with USARK and will eventually see a more fair representation at the state and federal level?

****This is a big question. I think USARK is the best ammunition we currently have against fighting major anti-reptile keeping laws but people need to understand that politics is complicated and it is not always “what is right for the animal” but sometimes an unfair economic or political factor will come in play. Andrew Wyatt (USARK President) understands Washington (D.C.) and the current lobbyist hired by USARK is the best one I have ever met. The best way to win against these unfair laws is to have a strong representative for thereptile industry in Washington (USARK) and the power of the internet. Washington and the animal rights people are afraid of public opinion in huge numbers via the internet so don’t forget you have a voice, but make sure it is a unified one through the USARK channel. Also, register in your town as an “animal stakeholder” and request that any city laws being proposed on animals/pet keeping that you are notified.

6. Many out there in the reptile world start the business out of their garage (just like we did at LLLReptile). What made you take the leap from your garage to forming Cal Zoo, and eventually Zoo Med?

****I think I’m a little ADD (can’t sit still) and my love of animals just naturally turned into a business that grew. There is a saying in business that you are either going down or up but flat is not possible. I have never had a down year in my 35 years of owning my own business, thanks to a bunch of very talented people I surround myself with.

7. Was Zoo Med the first company to produce and distribute a calcium for reptiles?  How did you come across that product?

****Zoo Med was the first company to manufacture a reptile vitamin (Reptivite) which was originally developed for the San Diego Zoo. I was good friends with the person who developed the product and sold it through Cal Zoo originally. Our proudest accomplishment though was our invention of the first UVB lamp forreptiles in 1993 which was a game changer in how reptiles are kept in captivity.

8. Was there ever a reptile that came in back in the day that was maybe overlooked or undervalued at the time – but now is something special (i.e a piebald, leucistic or anery something or other)?

****In my Cal Zoo days we imported thousands of ball pythons, boas, all kinds of reptiles and amphibians. We occasionally had shops come by and pick out a strange color morph of snake or lizard but we never thought anything about this because we were too busy running the business. A livestock business is an 80 hour a week business and I always said you can import or breed reptiles but you can’t do both. It amazes me how a new industry grew that did not exist 15 years ago from unusual color or patterns (or both) of many species of snakes. So did one great color morph get away? I’m sure of it!

9. Possibly the best product to ever come out of Zoo Med is the Repti Sun 5.0 Bulb. This bulb revolutionized the industry, and is STILL the industry standard today when it comes to UV bulbs. What goes into the research and development, and is the 5.0 bulb the same today as it was 19 years ago when it was released?

****We brought my nephew Shane Bagnall on board about 8 years ago and he is a biologist/engineer who formally worked at the prestigious Salk Institute in San Diego. Shane has worked with some of the best UV engineers in the world plus Shane brought control of the actual phosphors we use to make many of these lamps “in-house”. The Reptisun 5.0 was originally made in the United States but we moved the production to Germany about 15 years ago because the manufacturing equipment was better there, hence a better lamp. We truly believe in quality and this is why we make the majority of our UVB lamps in Germany or Japan. Our compact fluorescent UVB lamps are the only ones we make in China but we source and blend the phosphors in Japan which no other company does. The problem with UVB lamps is there is no good, better, best on the pet shop shelf, there is only “works” or doesn’t work, so don’t be fooled by the inexpensive Chinese made brands.

10. If you could choose one thing to change about the reptile hobby – what would that be and why?

****The best thing that could happen to the reptile hobby is the end of the endangered species act and roll this outdated piece of legislation into C.I.T.E.S. where it belongs. A good example is our government is currently considering adding the spotted, wood and blandings turtles to the endangered species act. What this means is that everyone who owns these turtles currently will no longer be able to sell them out of state or export them. If instead they went from appendix 2 CITES to appendix 1 then the captive offspring from your animals would be legal to sell anywhere you chose. We need a USFWS that stops looking at all reptilebreeders as criminals and starts encouraging trade based on captive breeding which helps to prevent smuggling in the end!

Entomological Etymology – Correction


By Kevin Scott

In the last issue of The Reptile Times, the spiders belonging to the genus Poecilotheria were erroneously referred to as ornamental baboon spiders. Baboon spiders belong to Harpactirinae, a subfamily of Theraphosidae(tarantulas) from Africa. This subfamily was first set up by Reginald Pocock in 1897 to include species in the genera Ceratogyrus and Pterinochilus [1].  The accepted common name for the Poecilotheria genus is simply “ornamental spiders,” excluding the word ‘baboon.’ The scientific names used in the last issue were correct as of the date published.correction


In the world of invertebrates, it is particularly important to use correct nomenclature in order to avoid uncertainty with respect to a species’ identity. Stanley and Marguerite Schultz claim that the nomenclature of tarantulas “can euphemistically be described as confused,” in their book The Tarantula Keeper’s Guide. Much of the confusion stems from misidentification during importation as well as the misuse and misspelling of names. I generally prefer to use the scientific names of spiders to avoid confusion, but even so, there can be some uncertainty in terms of the most common revision of classification.


One problem with common names is that they are often descriptive, and could in principle apply to several species. For example, Nhandu coloratovillosum is commonly referred to as the Brazilian black and white tarantula. Acanthoscurria geniculata is also a tarantula from Brazil that has black and white coloration, but the common name for this one is Brazilian giant white knee. Furthermore, although these two species are far from identical in appearance, to someone with little or no knowledge about tarantulas, they can appear similar to one another, especially as spiderlings.FINAL NOTES

In all fields of science, nothing is 100% exact, and taxonomy is good example of this [2]. Scientists often argue about the classification about species and whole genera are taken apart and reassembled based on new information all the time. Advances in genetic analysis allow us to take a closer look at the relationship between life forms, often with surprising results. Because we live in a world where things are constantly changing, where ranges of inhabitance overlap, and where interspecies breeding can occur, the field of taxonomy will probably continue to change indefinitely. In addition, even within a species differences in physiology can be seen. With a conscious effort to use correct nomenclature we can all remove a portion of the error, at least where science and hobby overlap.

[1] For more information on baboon spider taxonomy and descriptions, see

[2] For more information see Robson, G. C. (1928). The Species Problem: an Introduction to the Study of Evolutionary Divergence in Natural Populations. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd.

Mountain Horned Lizards: An Introduction to Acanthosauria in the Terrarium

Mountain Horned Lizards

By Jonathan Rheins


Mountain Horned lizards (Accanthosaura sp.), or Mountain Horned dragons, as they are sometimes referred, are moderately sized tropical lizards belonging to the family Agamidae.    They have an extensive range throughout much of South-East Asia, the Malay Peninsula, and adjacent island chains.  Locally abundant, these lizards are common in the pet trade, and make for incredibly fascinating and entertaining terrarium subjects.

All mountain horned lizards are of the genus Accanthosaura.  Species accounts vary from one publication to another, but it is safe to assume that as many as 10 described species exist within the genus.  Despite such a taxonomically diverse family tree, only a handful of species are ever encountered in the U.S pet trade. The most common is A. capra, with the occasional A. crucigera making its way into the hands of American hobbyists.

The vast majority of Mountain Horned lizards are collected in Asia and shipped to various markets throughout the world.  However, A. capra have proven to be quite prolific in captivity, and private breeding efforts have increased the number of domestically produced dragons available.


All species of Accanthosaura are highly arboreal in nature, spending much of their time high in the dense canopies of both primary and secondary rainforests within their range.  They are almost always encountered near permanent sources of running water.

Accanthosaura capra, the most often encountered species, seldom attain sizes of more than 12”, total length.  Their arboreal nature dictates that the tail length is often equal or greater to snout-to-vent (SVL) length.  While little is known about the longevity of wild individuals, captive born and raised animals can be expected to live in excess of 8 years, with 5-10 years being a reasonable goal.

Mountain Horned lizards typically perch motionless in the treetops, waiting for various invertebrate and vertebrate prey to cross their paths.  Insects make up much of the diet in the wild, with earthworms being a favorite food, both in nature and in the terrarium.  Some wild individuals have been reported to stalk and prey upon fish from overhanging perches.

When startled, these lizards will remain motionless until the threat has passed.  If they continue to feel threatened, they will dash to the forest floor (or bottom of the terrarium) as a last resort to evade the perpetrator.  As terrarium subjects, this behavior correlates to a very mild-mannered, easy to work with species.

Mountain Horned Lizards

“Accanthosauria capra”


There are many suitable enclosure types for Mountain Horned lizards.  The most important aspects to consider are enclosure height and the ability of the enclosure to maintain adequate heat and humidity within.

All-glass terrariums with sliding screen lids work well, although the front-opening terrariums manufactured by Zoo Med and Exo Terra may be preferable.  Front access tends to reduce stress of the inhabitants, while making feeding and maintenance less difficult.   Molded plastic enclosures with sliding glass fronts (such as those made by Vision Products shown below) are simply the best at keeping heat and humidity at optimum levels.

Although not terribly active, size should still be a consideration when selecting a Mountain Horned lizard enclosure.  A single adult should be allotted space equal to that of a standard 20-gallon “tall” terrarium, or front opening enclosure measuring 18x18x18”.   If multiple animals are to be housed together, terrarium size should be increased.

Care should be taken to avoid housing multiple mature males together.  They can become territorial overtime, which can lead to stress, lack of appetite, and occasional physical altercations.  Male-female pairs are communal, as are harem-type groups consisting of one male and multiple females.

Vision Cage

A well-designed habitat suitable for a pair or trio of Mountaini Horned Lizards


Designing any reptile habitat should be fun and exciting.  It is our opportunity to be creative and recreate a small piece of nature in our own homes. Mountain Horned lizards are not terribly picky about their surroundings, so long as multiple horizontal and vertical perches are provided.

Large pieces of grape wood, mopani wood, and vines should make up the bulk of the climbing structures within the terrarium.  These most closely mimic the natural habitat of these lizards.  Additionally, a multitude of both live and synthetic plants should be included, creating a dense, “canopy” feel in the enclosure.

The substrate used should be one that both promotes humidity and inhibits the growth of molds and fungus.  Coconut husk beddings and cypress mulch are among the best for this type of application.  Both products are available in a variety of forms and graded sizes, and both are excellent for maintaining the high levels of humidity required by these animals.

The use of planted vivaria has proven a highly successful and aesthetically pleasing means of keeping Mountain Horned lizards.  The inclusion of multiple live plants, mosses, and a significant drainage layer produce high levels of humidity as well as an environment that is as close to nature as a lizard can get!


Creative “living vivaria” are suitable for Mountain Horned Lizards of all sizes

In addition to being quite beautiful to look at, living vivaria are also much easier to maintain than standard bedding-and-water bowl setups.  When properly constructed and maintained, this type of habitat can go months, even years, without a total overhaul and cleaning.  Furthermore, a nicely put-together vivarium can easily rival any tropical fish tank as a stunning living room center piece.


Compared to other tropical herps, Mountain Horned lizards seem to be less tolerant of extreme heat.  Because they are found at high elevations, and often near bodies of water, they may simply be better adapted to cooler, more humid environments.

Ambient air temperature within the Mountain Horned lizard terrarium should be between 75 and 85 degrees, with 80 degrees being an ideal temperature.  Under tank heat pads, infrared bulbs, and ceramic heat emitters are all excellent choices for maintaining a comfortable background temperature for these animals.

A basking bulb or spot light should be positioned over a section of the enclosure to produce a basking spot of approximately 90 degrees.  This should be the absolute hottest part of the enclosure, and should not be allowed to climb much above that temperature.  A series of analog or digital thermometers within the enclosures will prove an invaluable resource when keeping this, or any species of herp.

A moderate drop in temperature at night is acceptable, and is easily achieved by shutting off the basking bulb, while leaving all other heaters as-is.  Temperatures dipping into the low 70’s or high 60’s should be considered a minimum nocturnal temperature.

In addition to being kept warm, Mountain Horned lizards also require full spectrum lighting if expected to thrive long-term.  Full spectrum lighting, specifically light in the UVB wavelength, is produced naturally by the sun.  As reptile keepers, we must rely on specially designed bulbs to mimic the sunlight.  Linear fluorescent bulbs, as well as compact fluorescent bulbs work well in this capacity.  UVB lights should be on during the same time as any light-emitting basking bulbs.  10-12 hours of daylight is recommended for these lizards year round.

Mountain Horned Lizards

“Mowgli” – a captive-hatched Mountain Horned Lizard, surveys his domain.


Proper hydration is paramount to the successful maintenance of Mountain Horned lizards.  Like many other arboreal herps, these lizards prefer to drink water directly off of leaves and other foliage, rather than seeking a pool of standing water.  That said, a large water bowl should be provided for soaking, and also for producing added humidity within the enclosure.

In addition to a water dish, mountain horned lizard terraria should be misted heavily 2-3 times daily to ensure high levels of humidity (60-80%) as well as ample drinking water.  Automated misting systems, waterfalls, and foggers all work well if manually spraying each enclosure becomes too tedious or timeconsuming. These alternate methods of providing moisture can be extra helpful if you live in an excessively hot or dry climate.


Mountain Horned lizards are not difficult to feed in captivity.  They readily accept all manner of commercially produced crickets, mealworms, superworms, and cockroaches.  Like true chameleons, these lizards have been known to become “bored” when provided a monotonous diet.

To avoid this issue, provide these lizards with the widest variety of foods possible.  In addition to insect prey, many Mountain Horned lizards will relish the occasional pinky (newborn) mouse, handful of earthworms, or even minnows and goldfish!

All food items should be “gut-loaded,” that is fed a highly nutritious diet prior to being offered as food themselves.  This maximizes the nutritional value of each individual food item, which helps to offset the relatively limited diet made available to most terrarium lizards.

In addition to variety and gut-loading, all food items offered to Mountain Horned lizards should be lightly dusted with an appropriate calcium and vitamin supplement. A high quality calcium powder with added vitamin D3 should be used at every feeding for young and growing lizards, or those suspected of carrying eggs.  This will ensure proper bone growth and skeletal integrity.

In addition to calcium, a reptile multi-vitamin should be used as well, about once a week for animals of all ages.  These products ensure that the animals are receiving all of the necessary fat and water-soluble vitamins they would normally encounter in their wild prey.


Mountain Horned lizards are in a class of their own when it comes to prehistoric-looking, yet readily available saurian companions.  They are just different enough looking to catch even the seasoned herper off guard, but easily obtained and cared for.  Their gentle disposition, range of colors, and inexpensive price make them one of the best choices for lizard keepers of all levels of experience.

When properly acclimated and housed, these lizards will no doubt provide endless hours of enjoyment and entertainment, whether it’s your first lizard, or your 50th!