The Hippo


May 31, 2020








A bearded dragon at Dave’s Dragons in Manchester. Courtesy photo.

Extraordinarily exotic
How to care for your unique pets


 Tank pets

Walk into Dave’s Dragons in Manchester and you’ll find all kinds of exotic tank pets, like bearded dragons, chameleons, geckos, climbing lizards, snakes, spiders, frogs and toads. But before you buy one, you should probably know what you’re getting into.
“These animals have very critical needs and they’re very specific,” owner David Yao said. 
Mimicking a reptile’s natural habitat is key, he said, so owners should think more about mandatory living standards than pampering. 
“It’s very important to match their life in the wild. You need to focus on lighting,” Yao said. “They bask in sunlight so they need heat. They need full spectrum lighting, UVB lighting, which helps metabolize calcium.”
Once you have lighting, Yao said, you can start adding plastic plants to the tank to make it look as natural as possible. 
“You want more surface area for the tank rather than height,” Yao said.
Some habitats can be more desert-like and some can have more of a rainforest feel, depending on the animal. Automatic misters and humidifiers can help create realistic environments. 
Snakes will need a water basin to soak in. Depending on the snake species, Julia Guidoboni of Zoo Creatures said, snake habitats can vary from large tanks to really small ones, but she agreed that they don’t need a lot of pampering. 
“As long as it’s functional, the snake isn’t going to care whether you put in a sunken ship or a cardboard box,” Guidoboni said. 
Tarantulas are one of the easiest pets to own, Yao said, as they don’t need any pampering at all. 
“Tarantulas are mostly to look at, though it depends on the species,” Yao said. 
In their tanks, you can have real plants rather than fake plants since they don’t tend to move around like other tank reptiles and they won’t crush the plant. 
Reptiles aren’t very active and mostly enjoy hiding inside their tanks. In his shop, Yao sells a Repti-Hammock with suction cups to stick to the tank where reptiles can sit in and bask in the light. 
However, some tank animals, such as frogs, need a little extra vertical space so they can climb up things like vines. 
“In general, the biggest treat they can have is things to climb on or hide in,” Yao said. 
Aside from a reptile’s regular diet, vitamin supplements are sometimes recommended.
Michael Strozza of Zoo Creatures said that you can feed certain reptiles wax worms.
“[Wax worms] are sort of like the equivalent of a human eating a cheeseburger. It’s really good and fatty,” he said.
Rabbits, rats and more
Kayla McDonough of Zoo Creatures said small animals like rabbits, gerbils, chinchillas and hamsters must live in a tank or cage with shavings on the bottom and maybe even an extra level tank so they can climb around. 
Rabbits can sometimes live outside of cages in a house if you can manage to train them to use a litter box.  
Strozza said little rodents like rats and mice are really hyper animals, so their tanks need to have a running wheel for them to exercise on, and tubes for them to run through. 
Wood blocks can make your furry friends happy too.
“Their teeth never stop growing, so wood blocks are good for them to chew on,” McDonough said. 
As far as special treats go, for rats and mice Strozza said the possibilities can be endless. They can eat things like chocolate and yogurt. 
“Pretty much anything that is a treat for us can be a treat for them too,” Strozza said. 
Birds need warmth, says Abbey Hess of Zoo Creatures, so the most important aspect of owning a bird is to make sure that the temperature in your house is warm, almost always around 70 degrees, she said. Making sure they have room to stretch is crucial too.
“Their cage size should always be twice the span of their wing size, if not bigger,” Hess said. 
Birds can often feel cooped up in their cages, said Hess, so exterior play is great.
“Some people have entire bird rooms, but having a play stand or a hanging playground for the birds is essential for outside activity,” she said. 
Hess said you can pamper birds with treats like fresh fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds.  
As seen in the February 27, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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