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Introducing…my three new pet crested geckos!
Since fall/winter of last year, I’ve been looking into getting another pet. I love my pets so much & I wanted another. I knew I had the time & money to take care of more pets, & the idea of getting another pet really started to appeal to me. The thing was, I didn’t know what kind of pet I wanted.
First I looked into hedgehogs, but I decided they weren’t right for me, at least not at this time. I looked into a lot of types of small rodents like hamsters, rats, gerbils, & mice, but they also weren’t right for me (at least not yet).
Finally, I decided on an axolotl! Axolotls are adorable & they’ve been one of my favorite cool, weird animals for a long time. I heard this one local pet store had a baby one in stock & I really wanted to buy it. Then I learned online that axolotl water has to be cycled, so I held off on buying it so I could start getting the tank ready. Then I got nervous about how precise their water conditions had to be. I didn’t even own a water test kit for my aquarium at the time I found the baby axolotl, & didn’t actually know anything about managing water quality for aquatic pets.
Axolotls are cool & weird
Thanks to axolotls, I did learn a lot about testing the aquarium water in my 10 gallon tank & started researching this, because I had never known how important it was. I had this impression only fancier fish like angel fish required water testing. I started keeping fish as a kid & had always just gone by the logic that you put some fish in a tank with a filter & changed some of the water once a week or so. Managing the water quality in the tank is now something I do & monitor regularly, & I’m really glad I realized what I didn’t know so I could learn about it. Even with this, I was still nervous about axolotls. I was nervous because my house is 70F, but a lot of axolotl websites say that even that’s too warm. Because of those reasons, I still didn’t feel comfortable taking care of a little axolotl baby, so I moved on to something different.
But axolotls opened the door into the herptile world for me. Before I considered getting an axolotl, I hadn’t looked that much into reptiles. Growing up, my parents had always said no to reptile & amphibian pets because they thought heating their enclosures was too expensive. I did some Googling & learned that the average cost of running something 24/7 all year could be summed up in this equation: number of watts x $1.00 = cost per year to run.
So let’s say =you had a 70 watt heater for your reptile & you ran it (at full heat, if I’m not mistaken, & without the use of a reptile thermostat [which is really important to have!]) every hour of every day for a year. Using the rule of thumb that it costs $1.00 per watt per year, it would most likely cost a MAXIMUM of $70 a year for that heating element, or about $5.83 a month. That’s not expensive at all! Granted, many reptiles need more than one heating element, or a higher-wattage one, but it still doesn’t cost as much as I expected it would.
Bearded dragons are cool like dogs & someday I’d like to have one.
I also had this perception that reptile pets were difficult to care for. Obviously the herp world encompasses a HUGE number of species kept as pets. Obviously some of those are more difficult to care for than others. But a lot of common reptiles are reasonably easy, once you understand their basic needs. They do need a different type of care than say, a hamster. A hamster doesn’t have to have a specific humidity, or ambient temperature, or a basking spot that must be monitored. I feel like reptiles are a little bit of a “learning curve” from that. But that doesn’t mean they require much – they’re just different to care for than mammals.
Here’s a summary of what I realized:
- Not all reptiles have to eat live bugs, or at least not all the time. This in itself does not bother me, it was more of the practicality of having to go purchase crickets for it all the time (& that still doesn’t bother me, it was just something I considered).
- It doesn’t cost as much as you’d think to heat their cages.
- Not all reptiles cost a lot to purchase or maintain. You still need to have money put aside in case they get sick & have to go to the vet, but that isn’t necessarily an up-front cost (especially if you buy captive-bred & they don’t have parasites).
- Their cage cleaning requirements can be a lot simpler (or at least, not any more complex) than my guinea pigs.
Armed with this realizations, I set out to figure out what type of reptile I wanted. I thoroughly researched fire-bellied toads, leopard geckos, & crested geckos. I did a good amount of research on corn snakes, ball pythons, other species of geckos, & bearded dragons.
Tortoises really began appealing to me during this process. I’d interacted with some during my epic Florida road trip at places like Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, as well as one at a rescue that had been at a local event. I really did a ton of research. I was going to get a red foot tortoise hatchling. A red foot specifically, because they’re great for Florida weather when they’re big enough to live outside, & a hatchling because I wanted to raise it from a baby. I joined a tortoise forum & asked a TON of questions. I bought most of the supplies I needed for a tortoise. I bought tickets to the Tampa Repticon & started researching breeders.
Only a few weeks before Repticon, I got cold feet. Why? I still hadn’t found a breeder that (a) bred red foots & (b) that I felt cared for them properly. I was nervous because I’d read a LOT about how vital hydration was to hatchlings. I learned that a lot of people believe if the breeder doesn’t soak them often enough from when they hatch to when they’re sold, it increases the risk of hatchling failure syndrome. It can even cause their livers & kidneys to grow deformed, which can create problems down the road. I also knew that hatchlings were difficult to care for, & the last thing I wanted to happen was have a poor baby tortoise die on my hands & never know whether its death was my fault, nature’s, or the breeder’s. Especially with it being my first herp (& a more expensive one at that), I just didn’t think that risk was worth taking at the time.
Not my gecko, but a good picture of a crested gecko.
I thought back on all the research I’d done on crested geckos. I was actually going to get the cresteds before I started getting into tortoises. So I re-researched them again & realized they really were the best option. Here’s some of the things that convinced me:
- Crested geckos are easy to care for. You change out the paper towels in the bottom once a week, mist their cage 1-2 time a day, feed them every other day, & clean the cage with bleach water once a month.
- Crested geckos don’t need a whole lot of heat (75-78 F seemed to be ideal from what I read). They also didn’t need a UV bulb or any special lighting. (Although I do have a UVB bulb that I bought for the tortoise & didn’t end up using!).
- Crested geckos’ humidity can & should vary during the day from 50% or so up to 85% (much easier than the 85% constant humidity a red foot hatchling required).
- Crested geckos eat a complete powdered fruit diet that you mix with water. After they’re eating that regularly, I’ve heard you should give them crickets occasionally.
- Crested geckos themselves were generally cheaper than tortoises, especially pet-quality crested geckos in their natural colors.
- Crested geckos can be handled, especially once they’re adults. They are also super-adorable.
- The geckos themselves were a LOT less fragile than a tortoise hatchling & therefore a way better thing for me as a beginner herp owner to get. Because they’re hardier & require less specific hatchling conditions than tortoise hatchlings, there was also less chance of them getting ill or dying.
- I already had a 10-gallon tank the baby geckos could live in, & a lot of the supplies for the tortoise would also work for the geckos. For example, the terra-cotta trays, reptile plants, & reptile thermostat all could be re-purposed for the geckos.
I went full-speed-ahead with this idea. I bought the supplies, cleaned out the 10-gallon (which I’d gotten for free from by a neighbor’s trash can! [FREE STUFF FTW]), & set it up. I also researched any questions I had about baby crested geckos so I could make sure I had everything they needed & did everything right. I was thinking about getting three geckos, but knew that how many I got could be limited by price if they were more than I expected. I had done plenty of research about keeping more than one crested together. I was aware of the risks & prepared for the very real possibility that sometime they might have to be separated.
I was prepared in every way.
Now, all I had to do was wait for Repticon Day!