Popular Species of Exotic Pet
Here is a quick reference list of exotic pet species in relation to their suitability for the experience level of the keeper. More information about the care requirements can be found on the Care Sheet page, or feel free to ask a question about any species of interest to you on the Forum.
Beginner Species - suitable for people who have never kept an exotic pet before.
Corn Snakes (Pantherophis Guttatus Guttatus) are arguably the easiest species of snake to take care of. Readily available in the pet trade they grow to a manageable size, have few feeding or health problems and have great temperaments. They also come in a range of morphs and are an attractive vivarium occupant.
Leopard Geckos (Eublepharis macularius) are a small sized, nocturnal gecko that is suitable for beginners. A range of morphs are available. They do not require any specialist lighting and their diet is made up of live food that is readily available from reptile specialist shops.
King & Milk Snakes (Lampropeltis Genus). There are a great number of species within the Lampropeltis genus with the majority requiring straight forward care. King & Milk snakes are usually vibrant colours and many are very striking in appearance. King snakes are tameable, but some species may have a reputation for being feisty.
Bearded Dragons (Pogona vitticeps), may not the simplest lizard to take care of as they require a varied diet and UVB lighting, but Bearded Dragons are hardy, active during the day and responsive to their owners, so make great pets.
Royal Python (Python Regius) is more of a beginner/intermediate snake, because although they grow to a manageable size and have good temperaments, they are notorious for being problem feeders. A beginner is advised to research extensively before purchasing a Royal Python.
Blue-Tongue Skinks (Tiliqua nigrolutea) are a heavily built lizard with a bright blue tongue and interesting habits. They are omnivorous, meaning the will eat both insects and plant matter and have good natures. Their calm disposition makes them an ideal choice for anyone wanting a larger beginner lizard that does not grow too big and is not hard to care for.
Chilean Rose Tarantulas (Grammostola rosea) are thought to be tarantula that is most suited for a beginner, because they have generally docile and can be housed in a relatively small enclosure for those who have limited space.
Crested Geckos (Rhacodactylus ciliates) are an active species of gecko that are suitable for a beginner because they do not need high temperatures (24- 25°C is ideal). This may mean that your Crested Gecko’s vivarium is only heated during the winter months, if the room temperature in your home is sufficient. They can be handled, although may be a little skittish, so care should be taken whilst doing so. Attractive and simple to keep they are becoming increasingly popular within the pet trade.
Land Hermit Crabs (Coenobtia clypeatus) are small in size and interesting to keep because of their unusual habits. The keeping of Hermit Crabs has grown in popularity recently and special equipment and new shells have become common in reptile shops and online, so can be easily purchased for your pet.
White’s Tree Frogs (Litoria caerulea) are a species of tree frog that is common amongst amphibian keepers. They are an insectivorous, nocturnal species that can be kept in groups of similar sized individuals and they make a great first starter amphibian.
Garter snakes (Thamnophis Genus) make great first snake pets because they are small and hardy and active by day (diurnal). They can be brightly coloured and are usually good feeders.
Crocodile Skinks (Tribolonotus gracilis) are omnivorous, small sized lizards that have derived their name from their crocodilian like appearance. They are a docile, shy and occasionally skittish skink that can be handled as long as you do so gently and confidently. They are a good starter lizard because temperatures do not need to be high (around 25-27°C is fine), but humidity needs to be monitored, so research is essential for new keepers.
Indian Stick Insects (Carausius morosus) do not take up much time to keep and require no heat, so a simple set-up is adequate. They are docile and can be handled and bred easily.
Rosy Boas (Lichanura trivirgata) are an ideal starter boa as they are attractive, small sized, reluctant to bite and have simple care needs. They also tolerate handling very well.
Common Musk Turtles (Sternotherus odoratus) are suitable for beginners because they grow to a small size (approximately 5-6 inches) and can be fed on a commercial pellet food. They are called Musk Turtles because they emit a nasty smell from their musk glands when frightened. The main difficulty in keeping this species is that they are aquatic, so require regular water changes with de-chlorinated water.
Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) have basic care needs and can be kept without any specialist equipment. A basic tank with fertilizer-free soil as a substrate, a cuttlefish bone and plenty of fresh vegetables are all that is required to keep these GALS happy, but they are prolific breeders, so steps need to be taken to control reproduction otherwise it is easy to become over-run.
Brown Anoles (Anolis sagrei) are a beginner’s reptile because they are a small species and only require a small enclosure. They are inexpensive and feed well on small insects. They do require full-spectrum UVB lighting though, so getting the correct set up is important.
Emperor Scorpions (Pandinus imperator) are not too venomous and are suitably docile for a beginner in Scorpion keeping. Their sting can be likened to that of a bee sting and rarely needs medical attention. Not suitable for regular handling, but interesting to keep and they can be kept in groups.
Intermediate Species - for keepers with some previous experience with Reptiles and Exotics.
Veiled Chameleons (Chamaeleo calyptratus) are the easiest species of Chameleon to keep, but require a varied diet and a specialised enclosure for appropriate ventilation. They are interesting lizards, who are suitable for enthusiasts with some prior experience with reptiles.
Common Boa Constrictors (Boa constrictor imperator) are usually docile and great feeders, but grow considerably large and heavy-bodied, so are not recommended for anyone who is not used to handling snakes. As adults they require a large vivarium and suitable prey items can include adult rats and small rabbits, so feeding costs should be considered before purchase.
Rainbow Boas (Epicrates cenchria) are medium sized, semi-arboreal boas that are more slender than some other boa species, so not too hard to handle. They are also very attractive with a rainbow sheen to their already brightly coloured bodies. The only downside is that they require high humidity, which might be difficult maintain for a beginner in snake keeping. Popular sub-species include the Columbian Rainbow Boa and the Brazilian Rainbow Boa, both of which are readily available in the pet trade.
Mediterranean Tortoises (Testudo genus) including Hermanns, Spur-thighed and Marginated Tortoises are an intermediate species because they require a varied and highly nutritional diet that is not easily sourced to remain healthy. They need large indoor and outdoor enclosures and a lot of consideration is required for UVB lighting and sufficient heat. They are a time consuming reptile and should only be considered by keepers who are willing to put in the extra effort.
Jungle Carpet Pythons (Morelia Spilota Cheynei) are slender, medium-sized pythons that have become popular because of their attractive black and yellow patterning that can only be described as stunning. They average at around 6ft in length, so are manageable in size, but are not suitable for beginners because of their snappy behaviors, particularly as juveniles. Most Jungle Carpet Pythons do tame down well with appropriate handling, but patience and confidence are required.
Poison Dart/Poison Arrow Frogs (Dendrobates) are for people with intermediate experience because despite the frogs needing straight-forward care, they require tiny food items that usually need to be cultivated by the keeper. Dart frogs in captivity are not poisonous and are popular because of their intriguing breeding behaviour and the beauty of their set ups, which should be heavily planted.
Kenyan Sand Boas (Eryx colubrinus loveridgei) are a small species of boa that only usually reaches about 2ft, but they can be nippy, so not suited to a beginner. They are a quite inactive species that likes to burrow, so a sandy, desert set up with low humidity is required.
Tokay Geckos (Gekko gecko) are really attractive and make interesting pets, but they are definitely a ‘for show’ pet as they have aggressive natures and do not appreciate being handled. They are an arboreal and sometimes noisy species of gecko, which can be fed on easily purchased insects and the occasional pinkie mouse.
Horsefield Tortoises (Testudo Horsefieldii) are a popular choice because they are one of the easiest species of tortoise available and they do not require CITES paperwork. Despite this they need varied diets, an indoor and outdoor enclosure, UVB lighting and can live many years, so are not a reptile to purchase without adequate research beforehand.
Chinese Water Dragons (Physignathus cocincinus) are semi-arboreal and semi-aquatic, so an appropriate set up is required to meet these needs. They also require high temperatures, high humidity and a large enclosure as adults can reach 2-3ft in length. On the plus side they are a docile species that can be easily fed on both gut-loaded insects and suitable plant matter.
Western Hognose snakes (Heteroden nasicus) are a popular pet because they are easy to care for, make interesting pets and only require a small vivarium. Despite this they are classed in the intermediate section because they can be fussy feeders, particularly as hatchlings, and are mildly venomous. Hognose snakes are reluctant to bite and are rear fanged, but the potential for envenomation should be considered greatly before purchasing, especially if a member of the family is susceptible to allergies.
Desert Iguanas (Dipsosaurus dorsalis) have nice personalities, but need dry conditions, high temperatures and bright UVB lighting. Some keepers are attracted to desert iguanas because they are herbivorous and feed mainly on plants, but this may be too advanced for beginners, because providing a diet that is both varied and nutritionally high requires a lot of effort.
Blood pythons (Python Brongersmai) are a heavy-bodied, but short-tailed, stumpy looking snakes that have a reputation for being very feisty. This makes them only suitable for keepers with prior experience, because despite being snappy as hatchlings, captive-bred blood pythons can be calmed down with perseverance. They also need their diet to be monitored as they have a big appetite and can become obese if food intake is not controlled.
Jungle Nymphs (Heteropteryx dilatata) are large stick insects that have sharp spines along their bodies and hind legs. They require straightforward care, but it is important to ensure that temperatures and humidity are high and that there is good ventilation within the enclosure. A constant supply of bramble or another suitable food source is also necessary.
Advanced Species - for experienced keepers.
Green Tree Pythons (Morelia viridis) may require straight forward care in snake keeping terms, but can be very nippy so not suited to the average keeper. They are very attractive and always on show by preferring to position themselves on branches rather than hide away.
Dumerils Boas (Acrantophis dumerili) are not demanding care wise and do not tend to show aggression, but due to their large size (6-7ft in length and quite heavy-bodied) they do not suit people without previous experience with large constrictors. They are also subject to CITES paperwork and chipping, so require some responsibility from the owner in regards to these legalities.
Argentine Black and White Tegus (Tupinambis meriane) are the largest of the Tegu species and generally make docile pets. The downside is that they can grow up to 4ft, so require a very large enclosure of at least 8ft or more in length. They are handleable if tamed from a young age, intelligent and very attractive, but should not be taken on lightly by anyone without appropriate experience.
Yellow Anacondas (Eunectes notaeus) are a heavy-bodied, large snake that can be aggressive and is near on impossible to handle alone. Adults can grow up to 12ft in length and are usually too heavy for the average person to lift. They also require an aquatic set up, which is difficult to maintain due to the large size that is needed to house a Yellow Anaconda.
Savannah Monitor Lizards (Varanus exanthematicus) grow to around 4-5ft in length, so a very large enclosure is required. They are also quite an aggressive species, so not recommended for anyone but the most devoted keeper. Savannah Monitors have sharp claws, so can easily damage their enclosure and are difficult to handle unless tamed from a young age.
Burmese Pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) have good temperaments and are unlikely to show aggression towards a keeper, yet it is still important to note that they are extremely large and powerful snakes, so the potential to harm a human should not be underestimated. They require large prey items as food, so the cost of feeding is substantial, as are the set up costs.
Alligator Snapping Turtles (Macrochelys temminckii) are a large freshwater turtle that is known for it’s bad temper and potential to give a nasty bite with it’s powerful jaws. Although it’s fierce reputation may be some what exaggerated, they still require sufficient experience to keep in captivity because of their large size. They are also difficult and expensive to house as they require large aquatic enclosures or a small pond.
Indian Ornamental Tree Spiders (Poecilotheria regalis) are attractive arachnids with care that is not disimilar or more complex than other pet tarantulas, but these spiders can be more aggressive and their bite is more serious with severe pain being a common reaction to the potent venom. This species should be considered a display only tarantula.
Emerald Tree Boas (Corallus caninus) spend the majority of their time coiled around branches and are a stunning species of snake in terms of appearance. They are a nocturnal boa suitable for experienced keepers only, because of their aggressive tendencies and need for high humidity.
Green Iguanas (Iguana iguana) are quite demanding care wise and have delicate dispositions. Space is an issue with this species (that can reach up to 6ft in length) and a large enclosure is essential. Dietary requirements are also important to maintain for this herbivorous lizard. Research is essential for anyone considering purchasing a Green Iguana.
Reticulated Pythons (Python reticulates) are thought to be the longest snake in the world and are scarily sometimes seen in the pet trade. They have the potential to reach up to 20ft in length and are thought to be unpredictable temperament wise, so are not recommended for anyone except the most knowledgeable snake keepers. This can not be stressed enough, as accidental death and serious injury are potential risks from keeping this large and powerful species.
DWA (Dangerous Wild Animals) Species.
Some species of exotic pet are controlled by a DWA license. This is only given to experienced keepers, who have proven that they have enough knowledge and the strict measures in place to keep a dangerous species without any risks to the general public.
DWA Species include venomous snakes and lizards (Vipers, Cobras, Gila Monsters), dangerous inverts (Widow Spiders and Buthid Scorpions) and crocodilians (Alligators, Crocodiles, Caimens and Gharials). Because all these creatures have the potential to be life threatening, TheReptilian.co.uk does not recommend them to be kept as ‘pets’ and should not be even considered by anyone except the most experienced and suitably trained keepers.