Research, Research, Research!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012
This is perhaps more of an opinion blog than a strictly educational one, but nonetheless, I believe it should at least inspire some people to take learning about anything into their own hands.

It's important to understand why we do what we do as far as reptile husbandry. But don't just read one source, read as many as you can and form your own best-educated decision. So research books, websites, blogs, forums and speak to experts to make sure you're getting the right information. Never just what someone at a pet store wants you to think so they can sell you more unnecessary supplies. 
I just recently graduated from a Florida university with a degree and a minor in biological sciences, and I have a combined 15 years of experience working with exotic and domestic animals in vet clinics, wildlife centers, rehabilitation centers, and zoos both in the United States as well as around the world. I have been keeping and breeding animals all my life, but more seriously in the last 6 years or so. I mention all of this because I also want to say that up until a very short while I also worked part time at a local pet store that specializes in exotic pets, working for their reptile department.

I used to spend my weekends and some weekdays talking to customers, both in person and over the phone, about their current pets, what supplies they needed, which ones they didn't, and recommending how to care for a new pet reptile if they chose to take one home. Because of my education and background with these animals, it became apparent to most customers that they could trust my recommendations. I would tell them which supplies they needed for a new pet, which ones were a waste of money, and why each one mattered so they could understand why they needed what they were getting. Often, previous customers would purposely come back during my work hours to talk to me, specifically.

Now, on the flip side of this was one of my co-workers. He had previously made his money working as a used car salesman, and was hired at the store in an hour of need for his experience in selling, but this man had never owned more than a single snake that he had inherited from a friend. He did not understand any of the supplements, did not know there was a difference between UVA or UVB, did not care to send an animal home with a 150w basking bulb that would eventually cook it, his bottom line was just to sell. Once I started working there I found myself correcting his fatally incorrect information continuously, such as not giving chameleons calcium with vitamin D3 in it every day, as he was recommending, or not putting several males of a species together because they would eventually fight each other to the death. Frankly, he was possibly one of the worst qualified people I have ever come across working in anything related to animals. But he was good at faking confidence in his information, so he sounded believable.

I say all this to underline the importance of knowing where your information comes from. Do not trust just one opinion, do your own research and look into multiple sources of information to form the most thorough opinion you can!

Imagine being a customer that has no previous knowledge of how to care for a gecko and you end up speaking to one of us. If it were me, having kept geckos before, I would be capable of giving you accurate information to keep a gecko successfully for years. But if it were him, you may leave with poor information, inappropriate supplies, and not know any better because he seemed competent.

This is often the case with 90% of all pet stores across the nation, who hire people who are hard working or good at sales but have little or no knowledge about the animals they are selling. Every so often you are lucky to find someone who keeps/breeds animals personally and can help, or you run across a person who is in college learning about the animals they sell (like another coworker who was a marine biology student selling fish, and was because of it super competent and reliable). But most of the time they are simply people who were hired to fill a position, regardless of whether they have experience or not.

So when you approach the subject of looking into a new pet, or want to learn more about how to care for a pet you already have, research research research!

Never look at just one source (even this blog), look at lots of different blogs, websites, books, and forums. Read all the different opinions you can, research the ones that confuse you, and use a little common sense to determine which opinions you can trust and which ones are incorrect. Because there are many ways of keeping these animals successfully, and not all of them may work for you and your situation. So read, research, and read some more. Talk to breeders, find experts at reptile shows, and email professionals in the hobby. But do not rely on a single source to give you the most complete and accurate information.

So don't get stuck caring for a pet the way a salesman wants you to think you have to, do your own research and save yourself money, effort, and heartache.


  1. hi I was just wondering if you could give me some advice or information on what may be wrong with my vieled chameleon. Hes almost 2 years and I keep him in a Repti Breeze XL enclosure. His humidity is kept between 70-75, gets misted twice a day, with a dripper I put in. I usually powder calcium on the crickets twice a week and feed him about 6 crickets every day. His uvb light is Repti Glo 5.0 UVB 26W and a heat lamp. Yesterday I noticed his back legs dangling from the branch not having much function in them, this morning I found him on the ground trying to climb the branches but his back legs/half of his body was lifeless, his anus looked enlarged and infected. Hes still wanting to eat and tries to climb with his front end, I researched and they say it could be constipation pinching a nerve or MBD. I know recently the heating lamp has been more active then the UVB light so maybe that could cause disfunction of the bowels causing constipation. I placed him in warm water to help moisturize his skin and relieve stress on his body, I also rubbed his anus with oil lubricating it so he could poo. He did once. Im not sure what to do without taking him to the vet, Its hard to find a reptile vet around here but I know it would prbly be a matter of a shot to diagnose the infection, disease but Do you have anything you could tell me to help my chameleon Tron, I love him!

    1. Hi, I'd be happy to help if I can. It sounds like a prolapse, possibly intestinal, which means that the last section of his colon is exposed out his vent. If this is the case he will need a vet to push it all back in and probably put in one stitch to keep it in place again. Meanwhile, I would use lubricant (like a KY Jelly) to keep the area moist, as you don't want it to dry out. It's hard to say why chameleons prolapse, a lot of times it has nothing to do with your care.

      I have a couple questions though, to see if maybe I can help you more. Are you positive Tron is male? How old is the UVB light? What type of calcium is Tron getting (plain calcium, calcium with D3, etc.)?

      Definitely try to find a reptile vet, but if you want we can keep talking by email so you can send me photos if you want. Photos would definitely help. Or if you are a member of you can make a thread about him on there and I will find it, since I'm a moderator. My email is and I'm Olimpia on the forums.

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