Hot Herptiles

These popular herptile species can make up the back bone of a pet specialty retailer’s herp business—all that is required is the right live inventory and the necessary supplies customers will need to be successful.


In the current retail environment, “common” goes hand in hand with popular. The most prevalent species are often readily available to herpers of all experience levels in a variety of outlets ranging from full service chain pet stores to specialty reptile shops.

While some common species are best left to keepers with some level of herp experience, the fact is that most of these herps are readily available because they are hardy, long-lived and easy to care for. Retailers should be well versed on these species and what it takes to care for them, and be able to share this information with customers—particularly new reptile owners.

Beardies For Beginners
Probably the most common reptilian pet in households across the U.S., the Australian bearded dragon fits the bill as perhaps the perfect cold-blooded pet. Attaining reasonable average lengths between 16 and 20 inches means they are easily and safely handled by even young children and require only moderately sized habitats. In fact, bearded dragons are about as “friendly” as a reptile can be.

Retailers selling bearded dragons should be well versed in the basic care and natural history of these animals, as well as the proper use of heating and lighting equipment. There are a variety of housing, heating and lighting options available for retailers to offer customers.

Lovely Leopard Geckos
Second only to the bearded dragon in popularity, the leopard gecko has the added benefit of its smaller size, maxing out at around eight inches. This petite stature allows leopard geckos to be comfortably housed in pairs or trios in 15- to 20-gallon terraria.

Leopard geckos are bred in massive numbers by breeders all over the world, resulting in a huge surge of exciting color and pattern morphs. Albino, patternless and striped are but a few. Looking at the incredible variation makes it easy to see why leopard gecko keepers often become leopard gecko collectors.

Basic enclosure accoutrements such as hides, water bowls, appropriate substrates, and heating equipment should all be on hand for sale to interested parties. As with any reptile species, there is little use in selling them if you opt to not stock all the accessories and feeders expected of returning customers.

Typical Snakes
The family Colubridae (also called “the typical snakes”) encompasses nearly 2000 species found in nearly every corner of the globe. While many are quite rare and never encountered in any pet store, the sheer size of this group of animals means a fair number of them are actually quite common.

Cornsnakes, ratsnakes, kingnakes and gophersnakes are but a few of the common colubrid species regularly offered for sale. All attain reasonable adult sizes ranging from three to six feet in length. All but the largest of individuals can live most of their lives in a standard 20- to 30-gallon terrarium.

Snakes in this group are among the most easily maintained in both the retail setting, as well as the home. Suitable substrates, such as shredded aspen or reptile bark, along with a few adequate hiding spots and a water bowl are all that are needed to keep these snakes happy and healthy.

Delighful Dumpys
Whites tree frogs, also referred to as dumpy tree frogs because of their robust adult stature, are among the most delightful of all amphibians to keep. Specialized lighting is not required since they are nocturnal, but these are tropical animals that appreciate access to a warm area within their enclosure.

Glass terrariums are best, with taller enclosures being preferred by these arboreal frogs. Offer a substrate that maintains moderate humidity, such as reptile bark or coconut husk products for the enclosure floor and a variety of climbing structures. Owners will need a large water bowl for soaking and will need to lightly mist the enclosure daily to keep humidity up.

Pliant Pythons
Ball pythons, so named for their defensive behavior of rolling into a tight “ball,” are by no means newcomers to the herp scene. However, times have changed and the days of difficult-to-acclimate imported animals are long gone. Today, the market is flooded with hardy, domestically produced ball pythons ranging from animals possessing normal, naturally occurring appearance to unique color and pattern morphs worthy of thousands of dollars.

Crafty Cresteds
One of the newest hot herps to hit the pet scene are the crested geckos of New Caledonia. These geckos, once thought extinct, are now as commonplace and popular as any of the other species discussed herein. Crested geckos reach adult sizes similar to that of a leopard gecko and range in color from cream to orange to bright red, with many color and pattern variations available. These geckos are popular for their outgoing and friendly personalities and for being easy to keep.

Jonathan Rheins is an avid herpetoculturist whose interest in all things reptilian began at an early age. He is a manager at LLLReptile & Supply Co. in Escondido, Calif., and, when not fulfilling that position, spends his time working with and writing about a wide variety of exotic reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.

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