BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
Amphibians & Reptiles as Pets
Berkeley Parents Network >
Advice about Pets >
Amphibians & Reptiles as Pets
Our 5 year-old is very focused on having a reptile as a pet.
He's decided that he wants a bearded dragon lizard. Does anyone
have experience in having one of these as a pet?
My son had a leopard geecko(sp) at around the same age and I
would not recommend a reptile as a pet for a 5 year old. The
fun of having a new pet wore off quickly and it required a lot
of care by Mom. I'm not certain what is fed to a bearded dragon,
but the geecko needed live crickets doused with vitamin powder.
It was more like a shake and bake. So in addition to having a
reptile tank to care for, we had a cricket tank to care for as
well. The crickets needed a supply of water and food, and the
tank needed cleaning periodically. Additionally, reptiles shed
and require assistance (in some cases) around the ''toe'' area.
If skin is not shed completely, it causes a rubber band effect
over time and the animal could lose a digit. Eventually, we sold
back the geecko to the East Bay Vivarium. I would contact them
and speak to any one of the knowledgable employees prior to
doing anything further. They can let you know what to expect in
terms of care and also life expectancy. Good luck.
My daughter has a corn snake. It is simply the easiest pet I've ever
had the pleasure to take care of.
My child had a leopard gecko and several snakes. The main problem, the
only problem, is the food they eat. On a regular basis I had to drive
across town to the Vivarium to get the food (crickets, mice, etc.),
usually in rush hour and usually because it was suddenly brought to
my attention that the "pet" had not eaten in some time and needed food,
and a quick check of said pet confirmed that it seemed to be close to
death by starvation. Or you can raise the food yourself. But just make
sure you are OK with a cage of mice or a box of crickets in addition to
the reptile. Oh yes, and the crickets do get out, and hide in your
house. It's very charming at first, to have a little cricket serenade
as you're going to sleep, but the charm wears off after a few days and
you will never ever find where the cricket is hiding. But they have
a short lifespan.
Bearded Dragons are wonderful, gentle lizards, and are a favorite at
preschools. You will have to feed them live crickets every once in a while,
though. Talk to the people at the Vivarium, on Fifth near Hearst in Berkeley.
If you need a terrarium, I just found two old (not leak-proof) aquariums while
cleaning out my garage. One is quite large. You can have either one if you'd
like to pick it up. letitia
We once went to a reptile birthday party and the handlers said
that bearded dragons were absolutely the best reptile pets for
kids. They will sit on the shoulder while the child reads or
watches tv, etc. They also recommended corn snakes for those
who prefer a snake. They come in many lovely colors.
Our neighbor has some sort of gecko, and it cannot be handled
because the skin is so fragile.
Remember hands must be washed after handling reptiles because
of the possibility of salmonella.
My husband and I have tended bearded dragons and bred them for
years. As others said, bearded dragons make incredible pets for
kids. They are not aggressive, hold still in one's hand, and
have a fascinating vocabularly of sign language to watch.
HOWEVER, THEY HAVE ONE HUGE DRAWBACK. Most of these animals
carry SALMONELLA and can easily transmit it to humans. We
learned this the hard way. My husband was an asymptomatic
carrier (didn't know he'd had a recent bout of salmonella
poisoning contracted from the lizards) and passed salmonella on
to our infant son at 4 months. Our son became seriously ill,
had to be hospitalized for a weekend, and underwent multiple
rounds of antibiotics.
The upshot? If you have these lizards around kids, then you
must institute rigorous precautions. Frequent, hot-water hand
washing, isolation of food dishes and anything that comes into
contact with the lizards are a must. For us, the risk felt too
great and we have gradually phased these wonderful creatures out
of our lives.
Lizard-lover from a distance
What makes a good pet? I vote for snakes. They are, relative to any
mammalian pet, extremely low maintainance, fascinating, beautiful, and
foster an appreciation of creatures wholly unlike we primates, thereby
encouraging an appreciation for all of nature's creations. They are
available in a wide array of sizes, temperments, and habits. And
should you also opt for the rats, well, you'll have no difficulty with
rodent population problems.
Feel free to contact me for more detailed information. I am a reptile
enthusiast and breeder.
We had a parade of reptiles growing up and there are ups and downs to them.
On the upside, many of them can be quite easy to care for. Small snakes can be
great, as can small lizards or newts. I STRONGLY recommend East Bay
Vivarium for reptiles and the like as the staff there are quite knowledgable. As
with any pet, you really need to know what you are doing to adequately care for
reptiles. On the downside, reptiles are lacking in the cute and cuddly factor,
although this can also be an upside. People's entertainingly unwarranted
freak-outs upon seeing you wander casually through the house with a snake
around your neck can satisfy. Snakes on the whole are usually relaxed and
gentle pets who will bite far far less than the average mammal. One thing to
watch out for are "small" snakes that will grow to enormous sizes. Again, the
Vivarium will be clear about what's a small snake and what's a baby Reticulated
Python. Our baby Columbian Boas started out small enough to curl up in your
hand and ended up taller than me. We were prepared for this, of course, but,
also of course, our mother was not.
I remember reading an article a couple of months back that reptiles or
amphibians (I forget which, but I think the former) can carry salmonella
which can harm children (and I suppose adults). This was discovered when
some people became seeking after having even minimal contact with some
animals at a petting zoo. Therefore, if you are thinking of such a pet, I
suggest you have it tested before introducing it to your children. I don't
know exactly how this is done, but at one petting zoo that I went to, I
asked about the salmonella and they told me their pets were tested every 6
months, so it is possible.
My daughter really wanted a pet, which also could not be a cat or dog and
could not be high maintenance (such as having to clean a cage every two
days). We tried goldfish and borrowing animals from the animal library at
the Lindsay Museum, but neither seemed to do the trick. We had visited the
East Bay Vivarium a few times and she was interested in the reptiles. For
her 8th birthday this summer we got her a leopard gecko and she was
thrilled. They are low maintenance. They don't need their cage cleaned
often and you can buy 50 crickets at a time, which currently last for a
week. As far as interaction goes, she holds it and puts it on her shoulder
and she builds obstacle courses and "houses" that it crawls around in when
she takes it out of its cage.
Please don't consider a
gecko for your little girl. As the crew down at the Vivarium on 5th St.
in Berkeley will tell you, they require a heated tank, live crickets
(which have to be bought regularly and then housed and fed themselves!),
and a light touch. ("Well," said one clerk to my then-nine-year-old, "you
might try holding your gecko for five minutes at a time at first, then
work your way up to 20 minutes or so per day.") They're great looking,
but not an appropriate pet for a young child.
Just a note, the little turtles are fun but they're illegal. They're
not suppose to be sold until their shell is atleast 4 inches across (I
think). You can ask the Berkeley Vivarium about it. If you can stand
being in there, the Berkeley Vivarium do have turtles and frogs in
addition to lizards and snakes. You might want to consider those. I've
seen people "walk" their turtle at the Berkeley Marina grass area. They
just bring them there and let them roam on the grass a bit. That seemed
like a lot of fun.
I would definitely NOT recommend acquiring a "little turtle" for your
child for the following reasons: Although cute, turtles, require more
care than what you or I may remember as a child -- those cute little
"dollar" size turtles that were sold in abundance. What many people may
not remember is that many of those turtles did not survive that long; the
reason being not because they had a short life span but because they were
not properly cared for. I was forced to do some research on the proper
care of turtles, both aquatic and land, when I received one as a gift two
years ago. To make a long story short, many species of turtles are either
on, or close to being added to, the endangered species list because too
many are being captured and sold as pets -- most die within a few months
or weeks because they did not receive the specific kind of care they
require to survive. Many pet stores do not fully inform you of what is
involved and make it appear that their turtles are easy to care for; and
then when the animal falls ill and dies, the child/parent is at a loss as
to what happened. I would strongly suggest that you visit or call the
East Bay Vivarium in Berkeley located at 1827-5th St. (510) 841-1400 and
talk with one of their staff familiar with turtle care. Information is
also available on the web -- the California Turtle & Tortoise Club's
website is abundant with information: http://www.tortoise.org
I would not recommend a turtle, as aquatic pets such as turtles can carry
salmonella. I am allergic to fur myself, so I do have lizards and snakes
-- and, I have Bearded Dragons, rather large, gray lizards who are very
friendly and make very good pets. I might recommend one of them!
Regarding frogs and turtles: The Albany Aquarium San Pablo Ave. near
Washington) sometimes has frogs that live in lots of water. The best place
for turtles and probably frogs as well is the Vivarium on Fifth Street near
Hearst. They have all kinds of reptiles and amphibians and very
We got our frogs at The Albany Aquarium on San Pablo in El Cerrito just north of
Potrero...can't remember the name of it. They are little tiny frogs, (more
like a dime than a silver dollar) but they're really cute. We've had these
two for several months...maybe even almost a year.
I would visit the East Bay Vivarium n Berkeley on 5th Street near Hearst.
I worked for the business when I was in college many years ago. You won't
find tiny little red eared turtles because their sale is illegal, too many
kids got salmonella from popping them in their mouths. Young turtles have
to be a certain number of inches across. I can't remember how many though.
They used to sell good aquariums with snug tops and heating equipment,
lights etc. for reptile use. They also sell live food that turtles like:
crickets and goldfish (and for the nonsqueamish, baby mice).
this page was last updated: May 25, 2008
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network