Tortoise Food Growing Kit

Tortoise food growing kits to grow you own fresh tortoise food. These excellent little kits will give fresh tortoise food all through the growing season (April to September).

Included in the kit is enough edible weed seeds for 4 sowings (more than enough for a years tortoise food), two seed trays to enable cycling of the tortoise food and a propagator top, more than enough compost for four sowings and full instructions.So everything you need to grow nutritious, edible weeds for your tortoise. Simply sow both trays and grow the food. Place one tray in with the tortoise and when it has cropped that one down, replace it with the other one and place the cropped one back in the light to regrow. These grow well in a sunny position indoors or out. Just keep well watered.

The commonest tortoises kept in the UK have similar nutritional requirements. The general feeding information here holds for Horsfield’s, Hermann’s, Mediterranean spur thighed and marginated tortoises. All need a diet that is low in protein and sugars and high in fibre and calcium.

tortoise food

Hermann’s tortoise

 

In the wild the available tortoise food changes over time. In the spring, when they come out of hibernation there is lush growth of fresh shoots. As the year progresses, especially in the more arid parts of their range, the vegetation gets tough as the heat increases and the climate gets dryer and in some parts of the range the tortoises will aestivate through the heat of summer (hide away and become in active). When the rains come again in Autumn, fresh growth occurs and the tortoises feed up ready to hibernate over winter. It is at this time of year they will also eat fallen fruit, so only for a short period do they eat high sugar food. Wild tortoises will selectively feed on a mixture of lush growth and higher fibre coarse growth to maintain a balance of low protein and high fibre in their diet. Wild tortoise food also tends to grow on underlying rock that is high in calcium and they will even eat small pieces of rock from the soil to supplement that taken up by the plants.

A captive tortoise’s diet should represent that of its wild counterpart and the tortoise food growing kit provides part of that varied diet.

tortoise food

To order tortoise food growing kits visit our website or call us on 01452 501882.

Pet Shop Gloucester tips on general snake handling

Pet Shop Gloucester tips. Just a brief post on 5 top tips on handling NON VENOMOUS snakes from your favourite Gloucester pet shop.

  • If your snake has just fed, DON’T HANDLE IT. Handling a snake after it has just fed can be at best unpleasant and at worst dangerous. Snakes swallow their food whole and rely on strong stomach acids to break it down. Whilst this happens relatively quickly, for the first 24 – 48 hours the snake has a large, hard object in a small, confined space. In the wild they would lay up during this period and allow the acids to do their work. Handling causes the snake to move around and this puts pressure on its stomach (or in the case of inexperienced handlers they may actually squeeze the area). This action can make the snake regurgitate the meal (if it hasn’t already as a threat response), bringing up the very strong stomach acid with it, which can cause damage. Even worse, if the snake doesn’t regurgitate and the meal is still undigested other internal organs can be damaged by the pressure, if handled roughly (or dropped). Then of course there is the risk to you. Even a docile snake may strike when it has just been fed or is digesting its meal. It knows you shouldn’t be picking it up even if you don’t.
  • pet shop gloucester reptile boarding

    One Of Our Reptile Boarders Being Fed

For more advice on feeding snakes come and see us in our pet shop Gloucester.

  • If your snake is shedding, DON’T HANDLE IT. It’s not so much that it dangerous for the snake (although it may lead to incomplete shedding) but with its eyes clouded over it can’t see. Would you be in good mood if you suddenly had one of your senses taken away? The snake still has other, very accurate senses, so it can and will tag you.

For more advice on problem shedding come and see us in our pet shop Gloucester.

  • So assuming your snake is not shedding and has not been fed within the last 48 hours the most important things is to BE CONFIDENT. Most people who keep snakes will tell you the snake can sense it if you’re nervous. I don’t think they have any ability to sense nerves in you at all, however they can pick up on your body language. If you go in with a hesitant hand, that’s shaking or moving in then pulling back etc. the poor old snake doesn’t know what is going on. When they are unsure of a situation they naturally get defensive and may well strike. I can and have, on several occasions, demonstrated this in the shop where I can simulate a nervous owner and get even a cornsnake to strike or conversely, be confident with a rather nippy kingsnake and not get tagged. In fact someone once brought such a kingsnake into the shop, complete with viv. (as they couldn’t get the snake out, it was so aggressive). The snake was hissing and striking at the glass. I opened the viv. picked the snake straight up and it was quite calm. The owner then hesitantly took the snake off me and promptly got bitten on the neck. Which takes us to the next point.

For more advice or demonstrations on snake handling come and see us in our pet shop Gloucester.

  • Keep the snake away from your face. If a snake does bite it should only be able, at worst, to get your hand. If it gets anywhere else, guess what? That was your fault. Staring up close into the face of a snake is a bad idea. Snakes are carnivores, their senses for the most part are binocular and forward facing in order to judge direction, distance and to strike accurately. This means they are particularly sensitive to anything immediately in front of them that moves. If you wave your hand about in front of your snakes head, or worse your nose (especially if it’s as big as mine) you are much more likely to get tagged. Also all reptiles can carry salmonella. Letting a snake touch your face near your mouth (i.e. kissing it!!) is really a bad idea.

For more advice on being bitten by snakes (especially if the snake won’t let go !!) call us at our pet shop Gloucester.

  • Wash your hands afterwards. As stated, snakes can carry salmonella. This bacterium is quite likely to be found on the snakes skin. They poop in the viv and move around – it will transfer bacteria onto its skin. You will be letting the snake run through your hands, you will touch it near its cloaca (vent) where the poop comes out so you will get bacteria on your hands. If you don’t wash your hands immediately you will be transferring bacteria everywhere you touch. Salmonella is a dangerous infection, potentially fatal in infants, the elderly and immune suppressed individuals. If you are fit and healthy you will survive but you will never want to get it again. I have had the disease. It is unpleasant, debilitating, incredibly painful and will take some time to recover from. All you have to do to avoid getting it, or giving it to your family, is wash your hands, preferably with an anti bacterial hand wash. We sell them, so you have no excuse. Also some snakes carry diseases that can be passed onto other snakes, the one that springs to mind is IBD (inclusion body disease) that can infect boids (pythons and boas). It is highly contagious and always fatal to the snake. Always disinfect when moving from one boid viv. to another or any other enclosure for that matter. Cross contamination by the owner is the commonest vector for the spread of mites, for example. An alcohol hand wash will kill any eggs on your skin (it dehydrates them) as well as any bacteria and the mechanical action also helps lift dirt that is harbouring other pathogens.

For more advice on reptile hygiene contact us at our pet shop Gloucester 

I hope these tips are of use. If you have any more questions or need more advanced help with anything just get in touch with our pet shop Gloucester and we will try to help.

Fire Salamander Care Sheet

Fire salamander is a name given to a group of related species of salamander of the genus Salamandra from across Europe (excluding the fringes such as Britain and Ireland) and North Africa round to the Levant. The fire salamander is a terrestrial amphibian that only really goes to water to breed, spending most of its relatively long adult life rooting around in damp leaf litter looking for prey. They rarely come out during the day (unless it has recently rained or they are breeding) and actively avoid higher temperatures by burrowing into the litter or under logs if it gets too warm. In warmer climates they become inactive during hot months and in cooler climates they do the same in colder months.

fire salamander

The fire salamander lays eggs (timing dependant on species and location) directly in to water that hatch immediately as they are deposited into the larval form, which is completely aquatic although the stage at which the larvae emerge at varies widely (some species emerge as the adult “metamorph”). Normally larvae are about an inch long and metamorphose into the adult form when they have roughly doubled in size. The adult fire salamander reaches between 5 and 12 inches in size.

Most species of fire salamander inhabit lowland forests and woodland although some species prefer higher forests and some are alpine. There are also some species of fire salamander that can inhabit quite arid regions such as the Levant.

The fire salamander has quite a large territory for such a relatively small animal and males will defend this territory during breeding season so as large an enclosure as possible is best to allow natural behaviour.

Housing

The fires salamander actively hunts its prey through the forest floor litter. A large enclosure will allow this behaviour in captivity. A minimum of 45cmx45cm for the smaller species is OK but larger is better. Glass enclosures work best due to the high humidity but wood (melamine) could be used if very well sealed (the surface as well as the edges). The fire salamander hides away during the day so lots of hiding places (logs, cork bark etc.) will be appreciated.

Substrate

The fire salamander is generally a forest animal and a substrate to mimic this works best. We use a mixture of coir, bark chips, leaf litter and moss to create a varied forest floor effect. Others use more utilitarian set ups, particularly some breeders and if the animals are breeding then hey ho, who am I to argue. I just prefer a natural looking set up for display. A completely natural set up with drainage media, bio active substrate, detrivores in the soil to dispose of waste and plants to use the nutrients produced would also work very well although I find I end up focussing more attention (and expense) trying to look after the plants than the fire salamander!

Heating

The fire salamander does not like temperatures much above 20C. Some alpine species in particular will not tolerate higher temperatures and must be kept below this. All species should be kept no higher than the low 20s with a night time drop of up to 10C. So in a modern, well insulated house it is unlikely that extra heating is going to be necessary. If you have a particularly cold house (for instance a wife that has the heating off and the window open when it’s minus 4C outside) then a small heat mat may be necessary but if this is the case a thermostat is an essential.

Lighting

The fire salamander is nocturnal. Specialist lighting is not required. A day night cycle is beneficial but in a glass vivarium natural light will provide this. Of course in a display vivarium lighting can make all the difference to the look and modern LED lighting works well here. Units that switch between white daytime lighting and blue night time lighting work well and look good. Of course if you go for a bioactive set up with real plants then you will need lighting to stimulate plant growth.

Feeding

The fire salamander actively hunts and eats invertebrates such as worms, insects, spiders etc. The key is variety. Offer a range of foods including crickets. calci worms, wax worms, meal worms etc. Gut loading the live food is always a good idea but supplement powders should not be necessary if the diet is varied. A diet of just crickets for example is bad idea and supplement powders would then be necessary. Regular misting of the enclosure to maintain humidity (they require high humidity, especially in the substrate but not “wet”) will also provide all the free water the fire salamander needs. A water dish is only necessary for breeding. If you put one in at any other time they are unlikely to use it.

For smaller or newly metamorphosed adult fire salamander smaller prey items will be more appropriate, such as fruit fly, smaller calci worms, white worms etc. For a larval fire salamander a range of aquatic foods are available such as daphnia, bloodworm, white worm etc. Most are available live or frozen.

So the fire salamander makes a fairly easy to care for, low cost animal to keep. However as with all animals remember you are taking on responsibility for its care for the rest of its life which in the case of some species of fire salamander can be up to 30 years in captivity.

Iguana Care Sheet

Iguana. The very first thing to consider when buying an iguana is its adult size. The commonest species, Iguana iguana gets very large. Females around 5 feet, males 6 to 7. Even though a lot of this is tail they are still a large and bulky lizard. Eventually they are going to need a very large enclosure (small room size) so don’t get one if you can’t accommodate this amount of space. If you are sure you can then read on.

red iguana

The next thing is longevity. 12 to 15 years is the norm, 20 years is possible in captivity. So the room you have decided to set aside for the iguana when it reaches adult size needs to remain a “spare room” for that length of time. One of the commonest things we hear is “Do you want my” boa, python, monitor lizard, even bearded dragon. “We’ve a baby on the way and we need the room now”. Things change, who knows what they are going to be doing five years from now, let alone 20. You need to factor your responsibility to your animal into your plans. If you have the space and a contingency if things should change then read on.

An adult iguana is a large animal with powerful jaws, claws and a long tail, which it can use as a very effective whip in defence. Regular short periods of handling when young, so the iguana gains confidence in its owner, will stop it getting truly aggressive but you need to be confident in yourself in handling a large animal. If you have never owned a lizard before (they are very fast as well, especially as youngsters) then think about getting something a little easier first to gain experience. OK, you’re confident you have the space, can accommodate the iguana in any changes that may occur and are sure you can handle such a large beast, what do you have to do to look after it?

Firstly source your iguana. Get a captive bred one. They are generally more docile, do better in captivity, don’t come with a full load of parasites and you will not be contributing to environmental damage. If you buy one on line or on social media from someone who just needs to “get rid” then how confident are you going to be that such an unwanted iguana has been properly looked after. Of course this is true of any animal, not just an iguana. I have seen corn snakes that have been kept in shoe boxes under the bed and just chucked a mouse every few weeks when the “owner” has remembered, bearded dragons with MBD because the UVB lamp has never been changed since they got the lizard, so called breeders who don’t even have the necessary equipment for the babies so just try to sell them off as quickly as possible so they don’t have to get any and so on and so on. Make sure you are using a reliable source, that has a premises you can visit and see the iguana as they are being kept and have the knowledge and experience to give you the advice you need and importantly, with a written  iguana livestock policy. If the seller cannot give you the information you require, don’t buy from them as they cannot have been looking after the iguana properly themselves and you could be buying a problem. If there is a problem, how likely is it you can return the iguana? We want to see you too. We don’t sell our animals on line as we feel we have a responsibility to the iguana not to be selling it to someone who cannot look after it. Buy from someone who knows and who cares.

Housing

As already discussed your are going to need a very large enclosure (up to 12’x6’x6′ for a large adult male iguana) eventually. However a baby iguana is going to look lost in such an enclosure and there are other reasons for starting out in a somewhat smaller vivarium. Firstly it is supposed that a baby iguana can sometimes find it difficult to find the food and water in a large enclosure. Certainly not the ones we have had! Also you wonder how the wild ones get on outside. I think that is maybe truer for animals that have to hunt insects. That said, why take a risk when there are other reasons to start smaller. Catching a nervous baby iguana is not easy in a large space. I am getting on now and bending down is not as easy as it once was. I had to try to catch an iguana in the shop that escaped whilst a customer was viewing it the other day and could only do it once I had in cornered in a smaller space. Much easier to catch an iguana in a smaller vivarium. Also catching them will be quicker and therefore less stressful to the iguana. You are trying to get it used to being handled and not to see you as a threat. Much better they get used to you opening the viv’ and just quickly picking them up than chasing them round a room first.

Heating

The iguana comes from tropical and sub tropical America (mainly central and south). They like it warm and humid. A basking area hot spot of up to 48C dropping to 25 and the coldest end. Heating is best achieved with lamps although some background heating may be required in a larger enclosure. Importantly there must be a temperature gradient with areas for the iguana to sit in so it can move around the enclosure to regulate its body temperature. They do better with heat coming from above. A heat mat on the floor can result in thermal blocking with any larger animal so if using a mat for overnight temperature in a smaller vivarium, have it mounted on the end wall, off the floor so the iguana cannot lay on top of it and overheat. A UVA  basking light for daytime heat and an infra red lamp or ceramic heat emitter for night time heat is ideal, although you do need to ensure the iguana cannot touch the lamp and burn. In the adult enclosure more than one lamp or heat source will be necessary. Only one may heat the animals head but it is 6 feet long so the body would not get any benefit. In other words increase the size of the basking area as the iguana grows. Keeping any animal at such high temperatures is almost impossible without some way of controlling the temperature. Ambient temperature is going to change. A heat source that achieves 45C on a cold winters night is going to be considerably hotter on a hot summers day so a thermostat is essential. Overheating will kill an iguana much quicker than it being kept too cool.

Lighting

An iguana is a diurnal lizards. They are active during the day (they have an organ under the skin on the top of their heads often called a third or parietal eye that detects light and some movement). An iguana will also require UVB lighting. This is not the light provided by the basking spot lamp (unless you use a combined heat and UVB lamp). Normal basking lamps DO NOT provided UVB light although some do provide UVA. UVB is essential for allowing the iguana to manufacture vitamin D3 in its skin. Vitamin D3 is used in the metabolism of calcium from the diet. Without a good source of UVB the iguana cannot get calcium from their food and their bodies will then start to scavenge it from the only source left which is the bones. This leads to metabolic bone disease (MBD) and can be fatal. It is even more likely in a growing iguana as the calcium demand is higher. Of course in the wild they are in full sunlight and you cannot get a better UV source than that (so taking your iguana into the garden on a hot summers day is a good thing – do make sure you don’t have toxic ornamental plants though).

One thing often overlooked is that UVB bulbs and tubes, whilst they may carry on working as a light source, stop giving out UVB after a while (depending on which type). After 6 moths UVB tubes start to deteriorate and after a year are not producing any appreciable UVB light at all. You will need to change tubes at around 9 months usage, so make sure you record when you last changed the lamp. Also UV does not travel very far from the source. Having a lamp on the top of a 6 foot high enclosure and expecting the UVB to reach an iguana on the ground is beyond wishful thinking. You will need to provide a basking area close (around 12 inches) to the UVB lamp to ensure the iguana is getting enough to manufacture vitamin D3. This is OK as iguanas are mostly arboreal and so will spend most of their time on strategically placed branches and ledges.

 

Substrate and decor

Substrate choice is always a subject that creates debate (or in a lot of cases out and out slanging matches). I have my own personal preferences and my own reasons for that choice and you may have yours. As I don’t know your choices and reasons I will give mine instead. Certainly for a smaller enclosure I prefer bark chips (also known as orchid bark). I like it as it looks natural and also as it can help maintain the humidity of the vivarium by retaining some moisture. There is a perceived risk of an iguana accidentally ingesting it and subsequent impaction but I have never known this and by using a large food bowl and disposing of uneaten, spilt food this can be avoided. Sometime I have mixed it with coir (coco fibres) to make it go further and sometimes added a layer of dead leaves or moss for an even more natural look, particularly when going the whole hog and setting up a naturalistic environment complete with detrivores to clean up the poop and waste food. However that’s a subject on its own so I won’t cover it further here. In a large adult iguana enclosure this can get expensive and lots of people use just newspaper. Normally I am not a fan as I don’t like the look of it and the animals cannot get a grip on the surface. However with iguanas they are not going spend enough time out of the branches for that to be a problem. I still don’t like the look though. Some people use straw or alfalfa pellets. Again not my favourite. There is little risk if ingested as, after all, it is just food. However any water spilt on it turns it to mush and it can then smell. Of course you don’t have to use anything in a large enclosure, just have a surface that is easy to wipe clean but do keep it clean!

As already stated, an iguana needs branches and ledges to climb around on (hence the need for height in their enclosure). Artificial greenery (personally, I prefer silk plants to plastic) works well and looks good. If you are going to use real plants make sure they are not toxic as the iguana will at least try to eat them. Any thing purchased from a garden centre will have been sprayed with pesticide and may also have pesticide in the soil of the pot. Go organic. Whichever you choose, the more the merrier. A young iguana especially will appreciate the hiding spots.

Food

The iguana is a vegetarian, completely. Yes in the wild they are bound to eat the odd insect or slug that is on their food but only by accident. Feeding animal protein in any amount will lead to renal problems as the kidneys are overloaded.

90% of the diet needs to be green fibrous food such as rocket, lettuces, kale, dandelions etc. The other 10% can be made up of squashes, cucumber, grated carrot etc. and small amounts of fruit (ours love a bit of mango). Go easy on the fruit though, as too much can upset the stomach which is not good for the iguana and you are the one that has to clear up the resultant mess. There are also commercially prepared iguana packaged foods available. Whilst I would not advocate feeding these exclusively to an iguana, they make a good “cupboard staple” for those times when, for whatever reason, you just can’t get out to get some fresh food. Our iguana likes tortoise pellets now and then and since these contain calcium and vitamin supplements they make a good occasional treat.

Supplementation of the food with calcium powder and occasionally vitamin powder will ensure a healthy iguana throughout its life.

Whilst small, chop the food up quite finely. They don’t really chew as such and will swallow lumps whole, so keeping the pieces small will only help. Always feed good quality food fresh. Remove any uneaten food before it goes nasty and it is an artificially hot environment, it will go nasty quickly.

Always provide fresh water daily. A bowl large enough for a youngster to get into is good. Regular misting will also help maintain humidity (which helps when shedding skin) and ensure youngsters are getting water to drink. You can adjust humidity further by moving the water bowl. At the cool end there will be less evaporation than in the hot end.

red iguana

With proper care and handling IGUANAS do make good pets. They do seem to get to recognise and interact with their owners and each has its own unique character. Unless you are very experienced though (and if you are you probably wouldn’t be bothering to read this) avoid getting an adult. If it hasn’t been properly looked after it is likely to be aggressive and such a powerful animal is going to do some damage. Always see and handle any animal first, before committing to buy. Above all appreciate you are taking over responsibility for the animal when you buy it and all that entails. If you are not sure you have the space, time and finances don’t.

 

The Angell Pets Team

Angell Pets staff changes

Angell Pets has some of the most highly qualified and experienced staff of any pet shop. The wide range of experience has been gained over many years from a variety of sources. However you cannot gain the experience we have from remaining in the shop all the time.

George has already gained experience with a range of animals from around the world, having visited China, Thailand, Africa, the Seychelles and Assumption Island and most of Europe. On Sunday he sets off again on a new adventure to New Zealand to work in conservation over there. This follows on from the work he was involved with in 2013/2014 for the Seychelles Island Federation on avian conservation. So with George leaving us for at least a year we have had to have a shift round of staff.

Billie has just completed her business A levels and has now joined us full time on a nationally recognised Level 3 animal care and management apprenticeship scheme. She will be taking over many of the duties of her brother in helping to manage the shop. With Billie in the shop during the week alongside Kim I should now be able to focus on other areas of the business such as marketing, after sales support and other important stuff like writing more care sheets, boarding and deliveries.

Albert has agreed to take over Billies previous duties on Saturdays and Henry continues with his existing hours during the week and on Sundays. Both Henry and Albert are just about to start their A levels.

So despite George jetting off again we will be able to continue as usual, offering all the services we currently offer, such as boarding, free local delivery, nail clipping, qualified advice and one of the widest ranges of pet products in Gloucestershire (and some of the best prices too!).

The Angell Pets Team

 

Uromastyx Care Sheet

Uromastyx lizards make great reptiles to keep, especially for those who do not want to feed livefood. These, often colourful, lizards are in a way the vegetarian equivalent of a bearded dragon (they belong to the same family), a similar size (some are smaller and one is larger) with similar heat and light requirements (a bit hotter though) and are almost as interactive (although some individuals can be a little shy).

There are a number of different species (out of 18 in total plus sub species) of Uromastyx generally available. These all have similar environmental (check for your species on specific measurements) and food requirements.

uromastyx

North African Uromastyx (Uromastyx acanthinura nigriventris)

The natural range of the various species of uromastyx is north of the equator from north Africa round into the Indian sub continent. With the variety of sizes there is also a variety of maxium ages, with the Egyptian uromastyx generaly being the largest and longest lived. 15 years is a good average age for any uromastyx although 30 years has been reported for a captive specimen.

Housing

Uromastyx need it hot and dry. Due to the high basking heat levels you will need a larger vivarium that for similar sized bearded dragon. This is not because the uromastyx needs more space as such (although I am sure it will appreciate it) but due to the need to maintain a sufficient temperature gradient for you uromastyx to effectivley thermo regulate. In a small viv. with such a high temperature basking area you will inevitably be raising the temperature across the whole viv. and your “cool end” will not be cool enough. We would recommend from 3′ to 6′, depending on species and size of the uromastyx. Personally I would recommend a wooden viv. that will keep the heat in, with a good quality thermostat to prevent overheating. Trying to keep the temperature up in a glass viv. that looses heat readilly could cost a bit in electric and the life cost of any pet should always be taken into consideration before getting one to avoid having to pass it onto a “resue center” when it becomes too expensive to maintain.

Heating

High daytime temperatures are very important to a uromastyx. They are a diurnal lizard (active during the day) and spend nightimes in a burrow away from predators. Night time temperatures can fall quite low, 18C (in a normal house you could switch all heating off at night or have a small heat mat if your house is consistently cold at night). Day time temperatures are kept high. Ambient temperature needs to be around 38C at the hot end and around 26C at the cool end with a basking spot temperature of 48 to 60C. In trying to keep a temperature this high it is essential to have correctly sized heat equipement and a good quality thermostat to prevent overheating your uromastyx. With all uromastyx the brightness of the lighting is also important so using bright incandescent or halogen lamps for the basking area heat is best.

Lighting

As said, bright daytime lighting is essential for a uromastyx. Not only does it stimulate feeding behaviour is also brings out the best colours. Generally the uromastyx colours only really show when they have heated up in bright light. UVB is also critical to the continued good health of the uromastyx. WIthout adequate levels of UVB they cannot absorb calcium from their diet and will get seriously ill. In fact on a really hot day (30C plus) a uromastyx will love basking in a secure area outside. You cannot get a better UV source than the sun! In the vivarium use either a minimum of a 10% UVB fluorescent tube (which will need to be changed at least every 9 months) or a combined heat and UVB mercury vapour or metal hallide basking lamp (these cannot be regulated by a thermostat so size correctly).

Decor

It is a good idea to ensure there are multiple levels (use rocks or ledges) so not only can the uromastyx find a wider variation in temperatures but also so it can bask nearer to the UVB source (not too close if using a combined heat and UV source, it must not be able to touch it). UV light does not travel very far from the light source and the strength of the UVB rays deteriorates rapidly with distance. A deep substrate will provide burrowing media but hides placed around the viv. are a good supplement/alternative. Make sure any rocks cannot fall and crush your uromastyx and that hides are placed throughout the enclosure so the uromastyx can lay up at night and get out of the high temperatures during the day in a temperature needed at that point.

Substrate

A deep substrate that can hold itself together and provide a burrowing medium is a good idea. We tend to use Lucky Reptile desert bedding as it can hold a bit of humidity at lower levels, so best replicates the wild environment. It also looks the part! I would avoid pure silica sand (play sand) as there is a higher risk of impaction and I don’t like calci sand myself for the same reason. Others do use these substrates and claim to have had no problems but I would rather avoid the risk. You can also use more utilitarian substrates but they do not have the structure to form burrows or localised humidity.

Feeding

In the wild, Uromastyx eat vegetable matter. In extremis they will eat insects but this is only done when vegetable matter is unavailable (drought conditions) and no alternative is available. The animal protein is thought to cause harm to the internal organs (especially the kidneys). In captivity vegetable matter is obviously always available so insects should not be given. A variety is best for your uromastyx. Green leaves such as rocket, unsprayed dandelion etc. are good for uromastyx. Avoid brassicas – cabbages etc. as these contain oxylates that bind up dietary calcium, making it unavailable to the uromastyx metabolism. Squashes, carrots etc (finely chopped or grated) can also be given and proprietary brands of herbivore food (usually sold for iguanas, tortoises etc.) make a good store room standby. Dusting food with a little calcium powder daily is a good idea but restrict vitamin powders to weekly as it is possible to overdose vitamins. If you are giving plenty of variation of fresh foods to your uromastyx additional vitamins will not be necessary more that once a week. If feeding a balanced, fresh diet a uromastyx will rarely drink water (some highland and coastal species may). You may wish to present a water dish once a week but do not leave it in the vivarium for too long (an hour is adequate) as with the high heat levels it will quickly evaporate and raise the humidity. This is harmless in the short term but leaving a water bowl in the vivarium all the time can be detrimental to the health of the lizard (consistently high humidity will make it susceptible to respiratory infection). I don’t bother with a water bowl.

All the Uromastyx we have had have been docile. I have never been bitten or even tail whipped by one although anything with a jaw could bite I suppose. Consequently they make great “pets” although they should not be kept out of the vivarium for too long ( a couple of hours is fine) as they do need the high temperature and UV levels.

The Angell Pets Team

Get the right advice BEFORE you buy a pet.

We have recently had an influx of requests for advice on animal care from people who have bought animals from other shops, on line, from Facebook sellers, Gumtree, from a woman down the road etc. We understand why people bring these problems to us, they trust us, but there is a limit to what we can do.

Whilst we do not mind giving advice to any pet owner, it does become a bit gauling after a while. These animals were not bought from us but we are being asked to provide the after sales service normally afforded to our own customers.

If a seller is unable or unwilling to give you, their customer, the proper advice just do not buy from them. If they cannot tell you the best care plan for your pet then they cannot have been looking after it properly themselves. You may think you are getting a pet “cheap” but you are probably just buying a large vet bill. Also you are going to have one hell of a job taking a problem animal back to this type of seller.

I have been keeping and breeding a wide range of animals for over 40 years. I have built up a lifetimes experience and have expended a lot of time and money getting some high level qualifications. This knowledge and that of the rest of our staff is freely given to our customers at the point of sale and for years afterward. It is a bit much to ask me to provide the same level of service to other peoples’ customers for free.

So if you need help with an animal please, by all means ask us but be prepared to be asked, where you bought it, why you haven’t been given any advice from the seller (and if the answer is “because they didn’t know” – then why did you buy it!) and be aware that the final response may well be – take it back to where you bought it. There are only so many hours in a day and we need that time to support our own customers so you may have to wait until we have served everyone else before we can help you with a problem you have just bought yourself on Facebook.

Before buying any animal you need to understand that you are taking on full responsibility for its welfare so get the information first and above all buy responsibly from professionals with the experience and qualifications to provide after sales support. Check the credentials of the seller, ask to see any qualifications.

A bit of a rant, I know but it is very saddening seeing the condition of some of the animals brought into us (snakes with mites, rabbits with untreated injuries and diseases, ferrets with behaviour problems, lizards with life threatening conditions, incorectly sexed animals, the list goes on) and also listening to some of the rubbish people have been told about how to care for them. These are living creatures not second hand gagets, if you are unsure at all, don’t buy.

The Angell Pets Team

 

Ackie Monitors (Varanus acanthurus) Care Sheet

Ackie monitors (or spiny tailed monitors) make a good first monitor lizard or a step up from the more commonly kept agamid lizards such as bearded dragons.

Akie monitor (spiny tailed monitor) Varanus acanthurus

Like bearded dragons, Ackies are from the dryer regions of Australia and need similar (but not the same) conditions. They get a little larger (well longer at least) and so will need a large enclosure. They should also be quite active, making a larger enclosure essential.

Due to their relatively small size (for monitors) and generally good temperment, Ackies make a good starter monitor but are attractive enough to appeal to more experienced keepers too.

Enclosure

Akies get to around 2 feet in length (males slightly larger). They are a very active lizard and like to burrow in the substrate. This, coupled to the fact that they like it very hot in the basking area (50-60 degrees centigrade) means that they need a large vivarium. Large enough that a good temperature gradient can be maintained (50 degrees hot end 20-25 degrees “cold” end) and that the substrate can be deep enough to remain moist under the surface.

As large an enclosure as possible is desirable but a minimum of 4’x2’x2′. Some people recommend larger to ensure the correct depth of substrate but by using stones to form a retaining wall you can acheive the necessary depth in a vivarium of this size.

Make sure that when being assembled the edges of the vivarium are well sealed. The idea is to have moist soil in the viv and if care is not taken to seal all the edges and joins the vivarium will not last long. Better still use glass, although these are more expensive. Plastic will work well, I just don’t like them myself.

Ackies will make their own burrows but then they are not accessible. Providing a hide will encourage it to stay where you can find it. Providing plenty of hides throughout the enclosure will give the lizard a choice of where to hide when maintaing body temperature so the more the merrier.

A large water bowl is good idea.  Placed correctly, overfilling the bowl can help keep the lower levels of substrate moist and the Ackie will certainly relish going in the bowl. Ours burrow under the bowl, which is at the cooler end of the viv. I assume this creates a cooler hide and ours move between this and their “favourite” rock hide during the day

Heating

Ackies like it HOT. My preferred way to create a very hot basking area is with a combination of ceramic heat emmitter (on all the time) and basking lamp (on during the day). In very large vivs you can use a combined heat and UV lamp. These are not dimmable but if the viv is big enough and the lamp sized correctly, as they like it so hot, you can get away with it. You will still need another form of heat for overnight when the lamp is off. If in any doubt, go for a combinination of heat emmiter and basking lamp with a pulse proportional stat on the emmitter. This will give you control day and night.

Lighting

Ackies need high intensity UV. If you have a large viv. and have gone for a combined heat and UV basking lamp then job done. If not, you will need as large a wattage 10% or 12% UVB tube as you can fit in the viv. Fitting a reflector to the tube will greatly increase the amount of UV recieved by the lizard. UVB is essential for calcium metabolism (manufacture of vitamin D3 in the skin) so is not an “optional” requirement.

UVB tubes stop giving out noticeable levels of UV after around 9 months (the combined heat and UV lamps a little longer), so ensure you budget to replace these. Unless you have an expensive UV monitor you will not notice the difference but your lizard will and if the tube is not replaced will eventually get metabolic bone disease and probably die a painful death. If you cannot afford the replacement tubes, don’t get an Ackie.

Basking lamps and UVB lamps should be switched off overnight to give a good day/night cycle. Leaving lighting on all night can stress diurnal animals (and is a waste of electricity and will speed up the replacement of your UVB lamps!). Also, by having a dark rest period they tend to be more acitve during the limited (around 12 hours) daylight hours.

Substrate

Ackies like to dig. They will dig hunting for food, they will dig out burrows to rest in, they will dig to lay eggs, sometimes they will just dig! Therefor the substrate needs to be as deep as you can make it. As already alluded to, you can make a retaining wall with rocks to create an area with deeper substrate. In the wild they like to move around rocky outcrops and drop into gaps when threatened so putting in plenty of areas to climb and hide is a good idea. They will dig out a burrow to hide in and this needs to be at a higher humidity than the surrounding air. To maintain this, regular dampening or misting of the substrate is required to stop it drying out. If it is too shallow, not only will it not support a burrow, it will dry out too quickly. That said the word is damp, not wet!

A good soil, sand mix works well. I like to use desert bedding. It has a good structure that retains moisture at lower levels and can suport burrows without collapse. Other types of soil are also suitable. Mixing in some coir helps moisture retention but I don’t like Ackies on pure coir (has to be too wet to support a burrow)

Feeding

Like other monitors, Ackies are carnivores. The bulk of their diet should be insects but they will take pinkes and fuzzies etc. (although weaned rodents contain more calcium and less fat), as well as a little egg and turkey (I don’t bother with turkey myself) . Don’t use dog and cat food – some people do but it is never a good idea.  Ackies store fat in the base of their tails. Feeding to much meat (i.e. food they don’t have to actively hunt) can lead to obesity, although they are nowhere near as prone to this as say, a Bosc Monitor. Better to encourage them to run around hunting by feeding live insects. I use gut loaded cockroaches in the main but vary this as much as possible. We sell livefood so I always have a wide range avaiable so I am a bit spoilt for choice. Dust the food with calcium a few times a week(every day when young) and vitamin powder once a week. Gut loading the insects prior to feeding is the best way to ensure a balanced diet.

Breeding

I am not going to go into detail about breeding. Female Ackies are cyclical breeders. They build up fat stores in their tails and when a certain level is reached and conditions are right, they start to produce eggs. When ready they produce a pheramone that stimulates the male into mating behaviour. Fertilzed eggs are then laid in a burrow. As with most lizards, if the eggs are removed to an incubator for hatching they must not be turned and must be kept in their original orientation or the embryo will die.

Should I get one?

Ackies are great lizards to keep. Most will become quite tame (our male is very tame, the female less so, although she can be handled). They do need large enclosures and the right equipment, regularly maintained. They are probably not for someone who has never owned a reptile before but make a good step up from the usual beaded dragons and leopard geckos etc. Remember they are quite long lived, 15 – 20 years so if considering these fascinating little monitor lizards you need to understand the comittment you are undertaking before buying. They are quite hardy if kept under the right conditions but it is always wise to find out where your nearest specialist reptile vet is located before you need to use one. Normal vets will not have a clue with most reptiles.

The Angell Pets Team

Chile rose tarantula care sheet.

Chilean rose tarantula: (Grammostola rosea, Grammostola porterii)

Chilean rose taratulas are a medium sized tarantula (body 7.5cm, leg span 15cm) from southern Peru and northern Chile, on the edges of the Atacama dessert. This docile spider ranges in colour from grey, through pink to a vibrant copper red. Females are thought to live from about 20 to 40 years. As with most tarantulas, males live shorter lives, sometimes due to their expiring a few months after maturation, often through becoming a post coital snack for the female. Males have smaller bodies and longer legs. Females remain pretty much in or around their burrows throughout their lives, whereas males roam around when adult, looking for a female. Although a burrowing spider in the wild, captive Chilean rose tarantulas rarely construct viable burrows, although they do appreciate somewhere dark to hide. In captivity they feed almost entirely on crickets and other insects (from which they derive most of their water) although larger spiders will eat the occasional small mouse.

Chile rose tarantula

Adult Chilean roses require an arid environment. They appear to despise damp substrate and should never be misted. However very young spiderlings do require some humidity. Their substrate must be regularly dampened or they will quickly desiccate and die. This is thought to be due to the exoskeleton taking time to “toughen” and become waterproof. As they age the substrate can be allowed to become progressively dryer. As they grow a suitably sized water bowl can be introduced. Too big and the young spider will fall in and drown. Adults, whilst liking it dry, do require a water dish for occasional drinking.

Chilean rose tarantulas are probably one of the easiest tarantulas to handle because they are fairly slow moving and rarely bite, giving plenty of warning first. If they do bite it is usually a dry bite (no venom injected) and in the extremely rare cases where venom has been injected it has proved to be the equivalent of a bee sting.

HOWEVER people can be allergic to bee stings and you would not know if you were allergic to a spider bite until after you had been bitten. And who wants those big fangs stuck in them anyway? As with most new world tarantulas the biggest risk is from urticating setae (the hairs). These either brush off the spider when handled or are rubbed off on cage appointments or by the spider itself. They penetrate the skin causing irritation, which can be quite severe in rare cases. Getting these hairs in the eyes requires hospital treatment. So NEVER rub your eyes after handling a tarantula or anything it has been in contact with and as with all animals ALWAYS wash your hands after handling.

The biggest risk when handling any tarantula is to the spider itself. Any fall of more than a couple of inches is potentially fatal. They are delicate creatures and can rupture internally and externally. A lost limb may well heal and eventually regrow but a ruptured body, whilst sometimes treatable, is more often fatal. Even a regrown limb can cause the spider problems with later moults. All in all it is best NOT to handle tarantulas, you don’t get any irritation or bites and they stay alive.

The Chile rose is probably the hardiest species in the hobby as well. The environment they come from is dry, very hot during periods of the day and very cold during periods of the night. The can tolerate quite wide ranging temperatures in the short term. Generally the normal household temperatures in the UK are sufficient for a Chile rose and no additional heating is required. Obviously if you keep the spider in an unheated room throughout the winter a heat mat would be required.

For spiderlings we use coir as a substrate. It can retain some moisture for raised humidity and is light weight so will not bury delicate spiderlings. For larger individuals and adults I prefer to use a more natural looking substrate, something like Lucky Reptile red clay sand bedding or desert Bedding and construct a more natural looking terrarium. That is only my preference however, you may prefer something a bit more utilitarian and that’s fine. The only thing I would point out is that if the substrate is too damp the spider will spend all of its time on the side of the enclosure to keep of it.

For hides you can use whatever you like from broken plant pots to fancy resin hides, it’s up to you, the spider just wants a dark hole to hide in. I would avoid anything too heavy and unstable though, you don’t want it to crush the spider if the enclosure gets knocked.

Chile rose tarantulas are notorious for stopping feeding as adults. They are reputed to have not fed for up to two years, although the longest I have experienced is just over 6 months. This can worry less experienced owners a bit. If you have an adult female and she looks in good condition I wouldn’t worry if she stops feeding for a while. If you have a youngster and it stops feeding it is probably getting ready to moult.

We feed all our spiders weekly. If the following week there are stiil insects in the pot we remove them and stop feeding. Generally the spider will moult within two weeks. With larger spiders you can see the new skin growing through exposed areas of the old skin (it goes darker), however this is not obvious on smaller spiderlings and keeping track of the feeding habits is a must. Do not leave crickets in with the spider whilst it is moulting. Often the spider will delay the moult in the presence of crickets etc. and when it finally does begin the process the crickets have an easily accessible meal whilst it is incapacitated. Following a moult the spider will remain soft and vulnerable for quite a while, so don’t feed for at least a week.

As with all our animals our Chilean rose tarantulas are captive bred, normally in this country and are not taken from the wild population. There are lots of reasons for this but the two most important to us are wild animals are likely to have parasites and/or infections and we have no control over how they are harvested. It could have been done responsibly, a controlled amount of individuals taken from an area that is then left to recover before more are taken or as is often the case, a businessman could have paid locals peanuts to collect as many as possible in a short period of time leading to the critical reduction in numbers of a species in a locality that may never recover. Always buy captive bred animals, they are generally more expensive but worth it.

Balkan Green Lizard Care Sheet

Balkan green lizards (Lacerta trilineata) are part of a group of related species ranging across Europe and western Asia. The eastern lizards of this grouping are slightly larger than their western cousins and a bit bolder too. This aside, care is very similar for all species. Balkans have a reputation of being less damp tolerant than some of the other species such as Lacerta viridis.

balkan green lizard

Housing

We would not recommend keeping more than one of these lizards in an enclosure. Males will fight and females, whilst more tolerant, may do so as well unless the enclosure is quite large. Keeping a male and female together outside of breeding may also risk injury or stress to the smaller female as well, if she cannot get away from him.They have been kept together succesfully in a suitably large enclosures by experienced breeders but why take the risk? This care sheet is aimed at the beginner/intermediate keeper and does not cover keeping large breeding colonies which require very large enclosures (up to 20m2 in some cases. Green lizards can be kept outside through the summer but I am not covering that here. Needless to say cage security is a big issue with keeping them outside).

We would recommend a wooden (or glass) vivarium of around 30″ – 36″ x 18″ x 18″. You can use a smaller 15″ cross section but I just find that restricts the view and reduces the lay out a bit. I do like naturalistic, display vivs so tend toward larger vivs for display purposes.

Substrate

A variety of substrates can be used. Some people have used sand – I don’t. The risk of impaction is higher and whilst easier to seive I find it will smell dirty, quicker than other substrates. Beech chips are fine but I find them a bit utilitarian for my taste. Orchid bark chips work well (if you are worried about swallowing of bark pieces then use a coarser grade). There are several newer products coming along all the time that work really well. I like Pro Reps Tortoise life substrate for these lizards. I place some at one end of the viv and blend into orchid bark for the other two thirds, banking this up over a piece of cork bark which acts as a hide and as structure for the layout. Damp moss under the hide will produce a more humid microclimate that helps with shedding. The additional depth of orchid bark acts as an anchor for upright fake plants (Exo Terra and Komodo’s Boston Ferns for example). A few well placed rocks (I use Red Jasper) improve the look further and help keep everything in place. the Torrtoise Life encourages natural digging behaviour. You could use something like Tortoise Life (a clean, pathogen free “soil” type substrate) across the whole viv. Green lizards like to dig and burrow so make sure it has some depth to it (5cm is OK).

Lighting

Green lizards are diurnal so require UVB lighting. A 5- 6% tube or compact UVB lamp will be sufficient to ensure production of vitamin D3 and so uptake of calcium from the diet. This will avoid metabolic bone disease and some other nasties that these li\zards would otherwise be prone to.

They will also benefit from a basking spot lamp. We use one that produces some UVA light as this helps promote a natural circadian rhythm. Don’t have one that is too powerful for the size of your vivarium and ensure that the lizard cannot come into contact with the lamp (a guard may be necessary to ensure this). Incadescent lamps produce a lot of heat as well as light so (especially in a wooden vivarium that helps keep heat in) a method of ensuring that the lamp does not overheat the viv is essential. This normally means a dimming thermostat.

Heating

In addition to a basking spot lamp we use a heat mat to provide background and overnight heat although in a hot summer this can be switched off. The basking spot (on during the day) should not exceed 40C at the hottest point (a rock directly under the lamp would be good) and the cool end of the viv wants to be around  20C during most of the year. The lizards will benefit from a lowering of temperature during the winter however. If you are looking to breed this is essential to stimulate breeding behaviour in the spring. when the temperature increases again. Overnight the temperature will drop with the basking lamp switched off. This is not only acceptable but desirable to reproduce natural conditions. Around 20C at the hottest point overnight would be good. Maintaining a gradient across the viv to allow thermo regulation during the day is the key.

A thermometer is an essential piece of kit. A basic dial type is sufficient. I don’t use these. Not because they don’t work, they do but because I have a lot of vivs and that’s a lot of thermometers, I prefer to use an infra red “point and press” thermometer. More expensive if you only have one viv but cheaper if you have lots. Much more accurate too as you can take surface temperature readings at any point across the temperature gradient (hot side to cool side). If you don’t have one of these then two dial termometers, one at each end will do. Just remember that the temperature on the back wall of your viv will be less than that directly under the basking lamp so a reading of 30C is sufficient. Adjust whatever thermostat you are using to the reading you get from your thermometer and don’t worry too much about what the termostat setting says, worry about what temperature you are actually acheiving.

If using a heat mat I would, in this case, place it on the wall of the viv rather than the bottom. The substrate will be too deep and will insulate the heat mat, possibly to the point of creating a dangerously hot spot if a fault develops in the mat. If you wish to use a ceramic heat emitter instead of heat mats that would be fine but again make sure the lizard cannot touch it – they get very hot to touch.

Feeding

Green lizards are insectivores. We use a wide variety of cultivated insects. Crickets form the mainstay. They are very active and encourage natural hunting behaviour. We vary these with locusts, some morio and mealworms and occasional waxworms and fruit beetle grubs (the smallest ones we can find). Dust the insects with calcium and occasionally with vitamin powder containing D3 (We do this once a week) . Since we feed our insects throughout the week to keep them alive on our shelves for our customers, ours are gut loaded anyway so we do not have to worry about that. Just remember, whatever you feed your insects you are feeding to your lizard in the insect’s gut so you can supplement your lizard’s diet that way.

Do not use insects captured from the garden. They could carry parasites or diseases, could have been feeding on a neighbours plants that have been sprayed with something etc. I know people do it and do not have problems. However my response to this is my mother in law smokes 20 cigarettes a day and is in her eighties and in good health, However I wouldn’t recommend it to your children. Enough said.

A water dish is obviously essential. Occasionally a lizard will use it to bathe in as well as to drink. Make sure the water is changed regularly as in the warm environment bacteria will grow very quickly and these lizards do occasionally use the water bowl as a toilet!

Handling

Green lizards are fast and can be defensive. Handling is not always easy. If you lack confidence then use a glove until you gain some. It is harder to hold the lizard with a glove on but easier to catch it in the first place so I wouild recommend removing the glove once caught. Holding the lizard across its shoulders with the first two fingers and under its chest with the thumb means is cannot get away and cannot bite. Always grab the lizard near its head when catching it and NEVER grab its tail. Like a lot of lizards (although no where near all) they display caudal autonomy – the ability to “drop” the tail. This is a defence against predators. Whilst the predator (or you) are stood looking at the still wriggling tail the lizard has hot footed it to safety. Whilst in green lizards the tail does grow back it never grows back looking as good as the original and losing its tail in this way is stressful to the lizard and to you!

Disease

Green lizards can all suffer from an highly infectious disease called viral papillomata which can appear as a black growth on the skin or in the mouth. It is always fatal, although it can take years to develop. This is really a disease of wild populations and a lizard obtained from disease free captive stock will not get this condition unless intorduced to diseased individuals. My first reptiles were a pair of European Green lizards (Lacerta viridis). I obtained them seperately. The second one had the disease and subsequently both died of it. This was however, “Ahem,” over 40 years ago  so both would have been wild caught individuals and these days, thanks to improvements in care, restrictons in capturing and moving wild animals and excellent breeders any you find for sale are likely to be disease and parasite free, captive bred lizards.

 

Cleaning

Spot clean daily – take out any poop you can see with a bit of tissue. If you do this daily and are thourough, you should only have to replace the substrate every three months or so. If you do not do this regualry then the vivarium will start to smell quite quickly and the substrate will need replacing more regularly.

After removing the substrate disinfect the vivarium with a good quality reptile disifectant. As we have a wide variety of animals (reptiles, mammals, birds) we are currently using F10 as it is safe for everything we stock (obviously not fish!!!) but there are others avaiable. Do not use household disinfectants. Many contain toxic phenols (the distinctive TCP smell you get in some famous household disinfectants).

As already mentioned, clean the water bowl regularly (daily is best but at least every two days). This should be disinfected each time as this is likely to prove the dirtiest part of the set up (everything will collect there, lizard poop, drowned crickets, bits of shed skin, bacterial scum etc).

It shouldn’t really need saying but I will say it anyway – always wash your hands after handling your lizard or anything inside the vivarium. Reptiles can carry E.coli and salmonella bacteria and you really do not want a dose of salmonella. In the weak it can be fatal but even in healthy individuals it is embarrasingly unpleasant, incredibly painful and debilitaiting. Don’t take risks, get some anti bacterial hand cleaner.

 

The Angell Pets Team