Nine Favorite Reptiles That Are Great For First-Time Pets

First-time reptile keepers are often overwhelmed by the number of different pets available, especially if they forgo their local box stores and consider buying from breeders or online sources. Many keepers want to start with a species that they fell in love with at a reptile zoo, aquarium, or science museum. While these animals are wonderful to watch, some are harder to keep than others (and some can be hard to find) so new keepers should do a lot of research before settling on one. Keep reading to see what first-time reptiles we recommend.

Top 10 List – First-Time Reptiles

1. Ball Python

Ball Pythons can make good pets for beginners as they are usually gentle and rarely bite. They don’t get stressed as easily as other snakes and can enjoy being handled. They do have specific humidity requirements that can be difficult to maintain in some homes. If they do not get the humidity they need, they can have trouble shedding. Ball pythons can also be pickier eaters compared to some other snake and lizard species, but since snakes can go a while without food, this can usually be sorted out with time and proper handling. If you enjoy more unique animals and coloring, consider an albino ball python.

You can check out our care sheet for ball pythons to learn all the care requirements needed to care for one.

2. Rosy Boa

Rosy boas can be one of the best snakes for beginning keepers. These snakes remain small, usually under 3 feet, and are generally calm and allow handling. They only need moderate humidity, and while they need a basking area with a heat lamp, their tank temperature can drop lower than some other species. They aren’t picky about their food and prefer a tank with a desert habitat such as gravel substrate, branches, and rocky hides.

3. Bearded Dragon

Bearded dragons are good beginner pets but there are some things to keep in mind: First, bearded dragons grow larger than many lizards and need more room. Once your pet is an adult, you will need at least a 40 or 55-gallon tank, and even larger is better. You will also need to feed your pet a combination of fresh vegetables, fruits, and insects. Bearded dragons also need a UV lamp and a heat lamp to bask beneath. These reptiles are larger and sturdier than many others, making them an ideal pet for children and teens who want to be able to hand their animal (with supervision, of course).

To learn how to care for them, check out our care sheet for bearded dragons.

4. Leopard Gecko

Leopard geckos are good pets because they are more accepting of handling and are easy to care for. They prefer a medium humidity level compared with some species and don’t need a special substrate. They do have sensitive feet, so they often do better with smoother floorings as opposed to rough wood chips. Leopard geckos eat insects and prefer live prey, such as crickets or cockroaches, so keep that in mind when considering them as a pet. 

Our leopard gecko care sheet.

5. Corn Snake

Corn snakes can be a good first snake as they remain smaller than many other options and are not usually picky eaters. They do require very warm tanks, which should not drop below 75° at any point. They also need a medium to high humidity and often soil their water so it must be changed daily.

Our corn snake care sheet.

6. Crested Gecko

A crested gecko can make a good pet because they are entertaining and active and relatively easy to care for. They can eat powdered food rather than only eating fresh food like many reptiles, which makes them easier to care for. They do like supplemental insects when available, but don’t require this every day. These reptiles like climbing and prefer vertical tanks with lots of branches and leaves, but they are not as tolerant of handling and if they are too stressed, they will lose their tails which do not grow back.

Our crested gecko care sheet.

7. Green Anole

Green anoles are native to the Southeastern United States and prefer a climate similar to that location-humid and warm. They need a basking area with a UV lamp, a warm area with a heat lamp, and a substrate. These lizards can become familiar with handling but must be handled with care because they are so small. Green anoles live much shorter lives than most reptiles on this list.

8. Red-Eared Sliders

Red-eared sliders can make good first pets because they are hearty and long-lived, as well as fun to watch, but they do have difficult and expensive housing requirements. While these turtles look small and adorable at the pet store, they can grow over 10 inches long and need huge aquatic tanks with basking areas out of the water. Adult turtles need enough area to swim freely and should have water that is at least twice as deep as the turtle is long. They also need UV lights and heat lamps to bask under. These set-ups are relatively easy to manage when the turtle is young, but as they grow they can become cumbersome and expensive to house.

Our red-eared slider care sheet.

9. King Snake

King snakes are good for beginners because they are active, which makes them entertaining compared with more nocturnal or shy species, and they are easy to feed, rarely rejecting frozen food. King snakes grow larger than some of the other species commonly available, however, and you will need to be prepared to have a large area to keep them in. They are also strong and can push their tank lid off if it’s not very secure.

Written by Larry Jaeger. Although he has written on many subjects, he is an avid reptile enthusiast who grew up dreaming of being a herpetologist – inspired by Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin!

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