At least in part, the best beginner reptiles are decided by “what you want from a reptile.” Based on the size of the animal and the enclosure required, the animal’s diet, and if they need specialist lighting, this guide provides a “wide strokes” description of the species that are recommended for someone who has never had a reptile before.
Here are the coolest reptile pets for you!
A leopard gecko or African fat-tailed gecko might be the right option for you if you’re looking for a small, easy-to-keep insectivorous lizard that doesn’t need a wide enclosure or special UVB lighting. When treated kindly and allowed to climb on your hands, both species are around the same size – 6 to 9 inches from nose to tail. They’re most involved at dusk and nighttime, so they’re ideal for people who only have time after school or work to clean cages and handle/feed lizards.
A crested or gargoyle gecko is another choice if you’re looking for a small, easy-to-keep omnivorous/frugivorous lizard that can be handled and doesn’t need a lot of insect protein (although I still suggest at least SOME insects for them, if for no other reason than “it’s good exercise for them to chase a cricket every now and then”).
These guys, like the leopard geckos above, are crepuscular and don’t need UVB lighting, but they do benefit from it if it’s available. They can be fed mashed fresh fruits such as mango, papaya, banana, other tropical fruits, and powdered semi-complete diets mixed with water and fed as a paste.
A bearded dragon is an excellent choice if you have more room and want a medium-sized omnivorous lizard that will be busy during the day and is likely to be involved in engaging with you. Since they are day-active desert lizards that need strong UVB lighting and a warm basking area, they need a larger enclosure (recommended one is 4′ x 2′ x 2′ as a minimum).
They are also more electricity-intensive than nocturnal, smaller animals. They do, however, seem to communicate often with their keepers, are involved in what is going on around them, and are generally easy to manage.
If you can afford a bearded dragon but don’t want to feed insects to your lizard, a medium-sized herbivorous lizard like the Ornate Uromastyx can be a great pet if you keep their diet in mind – seeds and leafy greens, in particular. To stay safe, they need a very high basking temperature as well as good UVB lighting. Make sure you’re searching for a captive-bred one, as wild-caught animals may have parasite loads that need treatment from a veterinarian.
Most big lizards, measuring 2 feet nose to tail tip and up, are unlikely to be suitable for anyone who has never kept a reptile as a home. The cage sizes needed and the costs of heating, lighting, and feeding can be prohibitive, and big lizards, even tame lizards, have big claws, big teeth, and big tails of which can cause accidental injuries.
Argentine tegu, which is a large omnivorous lizard, lives mostly on land. They need a cage the size of a single bed (if not larger – bigger is often better), UVB lighting, plenty of substrates to dig in, a wide basking area (usually two or three lamps are needed to provide a basking area large enough for a 3.5′ to 5′ lizard), and it must be escape-proof.
If you’re searching for a snake, make certain of the following:
Snakes that make excellent pet snakes would kill rodents. A snake is definitely not a suitable pet for you if you can’t handle feeding it a defrosted mouse or rodent.
Corn snakes, to be precise. The hardy little beasts, which come in a rainbow of captive-bred colors and patterns, rarely grow longer than 5′. Don’t bite if they’re treated properly, and if they do, it’s like being scraped by angry Velcro.
Everglades, Texas, Black, Grey, and Yellow Rat snakes are some of the other North American Rat snakes. While some older reptile books may list these as aggressive, they almost always refer to wild-caught animals plucked from the bushes.
If you’re afraid of being bitten, recommend avoiding King and milk snakes; they can be food-oriented, but they’re also very interactive and interesting pets. milk snakes come in a variety of bright colors (black, red, yellow, orange, and white), while king snakes have bold speckling, banding, or striped patterns.
If you’re not easily frightened, the genus Pituophis is a lot of fun – bull snakes, pine snakes, and gopher snakes are all beautiful snakes that are typically easy to feed and very hardy – but they can be a little vocal.
Look into the Beauty Snakes if you want a big, beautiful, slender-bodied snake. Taiwanese beauties, like their close cousin, the Vietnamese blue beauty, have striking markings but can grow very tall.
The bottom line
Reptiles can be the most incredible pets for you and friendly creatures for your love. All you need to do is have them loved and make sure you choose an animal that goes well with your habits and the habitat you live in!