By Jonathan Rheins
ZOO MED CAN O’ PRODUCTS
By Jonathan Rheins
ZOO MED CAN O’ PRODUCTS
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.
By Kevin Scott
NATURAL HISTORY AND NOMENCLATURE
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.
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. 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.
CARE IN CAPTIVITY
A 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.
A 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 www.pachydactylus.com is another good information source that is available in English.
 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).
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.
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.
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.
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 quart, 8 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 . 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.
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.
By Jonathan Rheins
MEET THE DRAGON
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.
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.
A well-designed habitat suitable for a pair or trio of Mountaini Horned Lizards
FURNISHINGS & DÉCOR
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.
HEATING & LIGHTING
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.
“Mowgli” – a captive-hatched Mountain Horned Lizard, surveys his domain.
WATER & HUMIDITY
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!
By Scott Wesley
Allen Repashy is an author, breeder and owner of Repashy Superfoods. Superfoods are revolutionizing the way we feed not only many species of reptiles – but fish too!
1. What specific reptile got you hooked on the hobby, and is it still something you work with or breed today?
In the beginning, it was all about what I could catch in the canyon on the way home between my grade school and my house. My favorite was definitely our Coastal Horned Lizard. As far as exotics, the lizard that started it all for me was the Frilled Dragon. I was lucky enough to be the first person in North America to breed them in captivity in the late 80’s… I can’t say that I am still keeping them. The thing I enjoy most is working with species that have been challenging to keep. I enjoy “figuring out” difficult species and the challenge to reproduce them….. then moving on to something new.
2. I have heard that you are a Brazilian Jujitsu expert. Did you ever have aspirations for a career in the UFC back in the day and do you have a favorite UFC fighter today?
For me, BJJ was something I discovered when I was watching the very first UFC fight on PPV. I thought it was amazing that a guy my size (Royce Gracie) could take on all comers and defeat most of them without even throwing a punch. That was 1993. It took me ten more years to actually get in a gym and start myself at the age of 40. I don’t like getting punched in the face, so I doubt I would have has aspirations of a career in the UFC. LOL. I do have the privilege of getting to train with guys at our gym, who DO have careers in the UFC, and being able to contribute to the careers of these guys through grappling, or just being a life coach, is quite rewarding in itself. It keeps me feeling young, which is my main goal these days.
3. What gave you the idea to feed people to fish? (aka the Repashy Soilent Green diet…). I mean – it is people, right? Can you also explain what this diet actually is, and why it is so cool?
Yeah, I do like to get people’s attention and have a bit of fun with my formula names. “Soilent Green” is a product in my new line of fish foods…. I actually kept and bred fish before reptiles, and now I have come full circle, and regained my passion for fish again. What’s unique about this formula is that it forms a gel that can be fed in blocks, or poured over various surfaces like rock or wood, to provide a natural grazing surface for species that naturally pick rocks or scrape for algae. There are a couple great videos o youtube that give a better idea.
4. What are some of the cooler animals you are working with / breeding right now?
For the last 10 years or more, I have been exclusively focusing on Rhacodactylus. My second passion has been the development of the Superfoods range. My keeping goals right now, are not focused so much on breeding, but developing and testing diets. I have a whole range of Gel Based Reptile diets that I am currently testing. The first two products in the range (Meat Pie and Savory Stew) have been released, but I have some great things on the way for Omnivores and Herbivores. I am working with various species of Skinks, Tortoises, and even Uromastyx and dwarf Monitors right now. I am raising specimens exclusively on these new formulas and plan to breed them over multiple generations to prove the concept of the products.
5. Your gecko diet is certainly your most popular product. What are some of the benefits in the recent changes made to it, and what gave you the idea in the first place to develop an all in one diet for Rhacodactylus and other species?
The development of the diet came out of my desire to reduce, or eliminate the need for insects in my growing breeding colony of Rhacodactlus. I am allergic to Crickets, so that was my first thought, but then I realized that it would reduce costs, maintenance, increase sanitation, and allow the geckos to be marketed to consumers who didn’t want to buy crickets. The thought of selling the foods, was never even in the back of my mind until years later. My first thoughts about marketing the food, was that it would help sell the geckos….. now, 15 years later, my thinking has evolved from sell a gecko and make 25 bucks, to.. give the gecko away, because it will eat food for 25 years!
6. You come up with some ridiculous and funny names for your products (SuperPig, Soilent Green, SuperFly, etc). Is there a method to your madness?
I have always had a quite twisted sense of humor and enjoy plays on words. I use these crazy names, simply because I can! This is my company, and I am having fun with it. I don’t have to answer to anyone. I believe that if you come up with a funny name, that people will not easily forget it, and if it is funny enough, they will tell their friends about it……. I want a name that will easily pop into someone’s head when they decide to go shopping.
7. You work closely with Philippe deVosjoli working with some very cool reptiles, amphibians, crabs, crayfish and others. How did this partnership come about?
Bob Mailloux, who I was partners with for many years in Sandfire Dragon Ranch, introduced me to Philippe. I was already familiar with his books and of course the awesome Vivarium magazine he was publishing back then. He was, and always will be, the Godfather of modern herpetology He has been a huge inspiration to me over the years, and our friendship has become an inseparable bond. The fact that we has such similar interests, eventually brought us together in business.
8. If you had to choose a completely different career – what would you be doing?
My second passion to reptiles, is plants. I actually have a plant tissue culture lab where we clone and propagate rare succulents. It could be a real business if I had the time for it, and maybe sometimes I will. I always wanted to breed tropical fish, but that isn’t a very far reach from reptiles. To be honest, I am totally excited about the food and supplement business because there is so much room for improvement and the introduction of new specialized products. It really is rewarding to be able to contribute to improved long term success with rare species.
9. How is your Baja racing career working out for you?
Haven’t raced in the Desert for quite a few years now, it just got too expensive, and takes huge timecommitment. Last month, I did go down to Baja and pre-ran the Baja 500 course the week before the race. The course gets marked weeks before the race so you can drive it and take notes before the race. We decided to just split it into a three day adventure and it was a blast.
Last year, I bought a Polaris RZR, which keeps me having fun in the desert on a low budget. A few friends and I who also have RZR’s are planning on pre-running the upcoming Baja 1000 course all the way to La Paz at the end of the year.
10. If you could choose one thing to change about the reptile hobby – what would that be and why?
Coming from the point of view of someone who has been active for 30 years in the hobby, I would have to say that the diversity of interest in the hobby has gone to nearly zero. The hobby was a whole lot more interesting in my opinion, when people were excited about keeping a lot of different species, and not about keeping a bunch of different morphs of the same species. If you go to a reptile expo now days and take out the ball pythons, leopard geckos, bearded dragons, and even crested geckos, the place will be almost empty.
There are so many interesting species that are no longer available because someone decided to “invest” in a ball python or a leopard gecko instead. Back in the day, making money with your collection was a secondary goal to just keeping, learning, and enjoying it. Now days, I think the majority of people who seriously get involved in the hobby, are looking at it business venture. Exports are closing down left and right, and if we don’t breed more species, there won’t be a hobby left at all, just commercial breeders and a short list of species.
Our biggest threat to the hobby is the loss of species diversity, and of course, the threat to be regulated out of existence by all the new legislation.