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Reptile Guide

The Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Reptiles


Keeping any species of reptile requires the owner to research their chosen reptile fully and thoroughly beforehand as each species has very specific needs.  This guide aims to give as much general knowledge on the subject as possible to give you an idea of what to expect and how to prepare before bringing your new pet home.


Probably the most fundamental thing to get right when keeping reptiles as pets is the heating.  Reptiles are all cold blooded creatures with no capacity to regulate their own body temperature, unlike mammals.  The only way a reptile can maintain its own body temperature is by moving from a cool area to a warm area, therefore as owners we need to ensure that we provide this facility within the vivarium.  The required temperature varies between species, therefore before bringing your new pet home you must research this accordingly.  Scot-Petshop carries a wide range of products to suit all types of requirements for heating within the terrarium from heat mats which are perfect for basking reptiles, or heating cables which provide more general heat distribution.  We also stock a vast range of bulbs which are suitable for basking reptiles or those that require UV-B and UV-B as a fundamental part of their care. 

Heating Cable for Terrariums  Moonlight Heat Lamp for Reptiles  ProSun Mixed D3 Tungsten Lamp UV-B Mercury-Tungsten Lamp for Reptiles

Heat Mat

The most common and popular method of providing these different temperatures within the vivarium is probably by using a heat mat.  The mat will provide a limited area within the vivarium where your reptile can go to bask in the heat.  You can buy an inexpensive piece of equipment, known as a mat stat to control the temperature of the heat mat and to avoid heat build up.  Heat mats are not suitable for all breeds of reptiles as they don’t generate enough heat to satisfy the needs of certain species, therefore please ensure that you research what’s required for your chosen reptile beforehand.  Scot-Petshop stock Trixie's Heat Mat which comes in various sizes and levels of performance making it suitable for various sizes of terrarium.  It has an extra long cable which makes it more versatile as it can be placed in, or under the terrarium. 

Heat Mats

Spot Bulb

An alternative way of ensuring that you provide varying levels of heat within the vivarium is by using a spot bulb.  Spot bulbs generally create higher temperatures and are controlled by a dimming thermostat which increases or decreases the power to the bulb in order to regulate the temperature.  These bulbs are ideal for providing a basking spot for your reptile which simulates their natural environment well, as most reptiles would normally bask in the sun in order to heat themselves up.  As a result, the spot bulb is especially suited to lizards who are generally active during the day.  Another point to note is that a red spot bulb can be used at night as most lizards are unable to see the colour red.

In order to protect your reptile from accidentally being burnt, it’s imperative that if you choose to use a spot bulb that you buy a guard to place around the bulb due to the very high temperatures that it generates. 

Scot-Petshop stocks a vast range of bulbs suited to all kinds of terrariums conditions, along with a wide range of lighting accessories such as ceramic sockets which reduce the risk of heat build up within the terrarium and protective cages to prevent your pet from being burnt.  We stock bulbs which emit UV-B and UV-A rays which are vital to the health of some reptiles.  We even have bulbs that simulate the night cycle and can encourage breeding in some reptiles. 

Basking Spot Lamp Broad Spectrum Reflector Spotlight  Heat Spot Pro Halogen Basking Spot-Lamp  Infrared Heat Spot Lamp for ReptilesProtective Cage for Terrarium LampsPro Socket Porcelain Socket for Reptiles

Ceramic Bulbs

Another option would be the ceramic bulb which is especially suited to those who keep their reptiles in their bedroom at night.  Ceramic bulbs radiate infra red light which won’t disturb you as you sleep.   Another thing to bear in mind when choosing your heat source for your reptile is that ceramic bulbs can provide much more intense temperatures when needed as they come in power supplies of up to 150W at Scot-Petshop.  The temperature can be controlled using a dimming thermostat as with the spot bulb. 

However, another option is the Pulse Proportional Thermostat which regulates the temperature in a more basic fashion by switching itself off and on as the temperature rises.  This is a much cheaper option but it’s worth noting that this type of thermostat is not ideally suited to the spot bulb as you would be continually replacing the spot bulb as the filament would burn through extremely quickly.   A guard should also be used with ceramic bulbs to prevent your reptile from being accidentally burnt due to the high temperatures generated by the bulb.

As mentioned before there are so many variations on the requirements for the different species that you should ensure that you fully research the specific requirements for your chosen species. 

Ceramic Infrared Heat Emitter   Protective Cage for Terrarium Lamps


Specialist lighting is required for most species of reptile.  This is especially true of day active lizards as they require vitamin D3 which they synthesise using UVB obtained from strip lighting.  Vitamin D3 is essential to lizards in order to prevent them from developing a debilitating condition known as Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) by enabling them to metabolise the calcium in their diet.  MBD is a very painful condition which causes skeletal deformities or sometimes death, therefore it’s crucial that you ensure that your reptile obtains adequate UVB light to prevent this.

An important point to make is that not all fluorescent lighting emits UVB and you must ensure that you purchase a brand suited to reptiles.   There are many brands available in the UK which can widely vary in price.  A very important point to remember is that even when the bulb is still emitting light, it only emits UVB for a maximum period of 6 months and you must replace the bulb regardless of whether it is still emitting light.  Scot-Petshop stocks a wide variety of UVB emitting bulbs with accessories which will provide the optimum conditions for your pet.  These come in tube form or bulb form and are available in various different wattages. 

In order to ensure that your reptile is obtaining enough UVB light, you should be conscious of where you position the bulb within the vivarium.  Ideally it should be positioned no more than 6 to 10 cm away from your reptile.  However, if this is not possible then you can double the range of the bulb by using a reflector.  Scot-Petshop stocks the Trixie Angle Joint which allows you to gain the optimum positioning of your bulb, and also has the added benefit of it having a ceramic socket to prevent the dangers of heat build up.

These specialist UVB emitting fluorescent bulbs come in varying strengths.  Repti Glos bulbs typically come in 3 types which are 2%, 5% and 10%.  The percentage refers to the amount of UVB radiated, and each is suited to different species of reptile dependant on their natural environment.  For example, 10% bulbs would normally be used with desert species which spend the largest part of their day in direct sunlight.  Nocturnal reptiles such as Leopard Geckos do not require fluorescent lighting since they wouldn’t normally venture out into the sunshine in their natural habitat.  Scot-Petshop also stocks a wide range of UV-B emitting bulbs which have varying levels of UV-B emittance covering most types of reptiles. 

Once again, we would strongly urge you to research your chosen species of reptile to ensure that you purchase the lighting method most suited to their natural habitat.

ProSun Mixed D3 Tungsten Lamp UV-B Mercury-Tungsten Lamp  Sunlight Pro Compact 2.0 Compact Lamp UV Full Spectrum Compact Lamp  Heat Spot Pro Halogen Basking-Spot Lamp  Moonlight Heat Lamp  Reflector Clamp Lamp with Protective Mesh and Pro Thermal Socket Neodymium Basking Spot Lamp Broad Spectrum Reflector Spotlight Angle Joint for Pro Socket Porcelain Bulb Holder for Terrariums


As with the lighting and the heating, it’s essential that you replicate your reptile’s natural habitat as closely as possible by creating adequate humidity levels.  These levels can be monitored regularly by using an inexpensive piece of equipment called a Hygrometer.  As a base line it’s good to know that UK households typically have an average humidity level of 30-50%, therefore if your chosen species requires higher levels of humidity then you will have to regularly spray the tank with a mister to maintain the correct levels.  It’s also important that you ensure that you remove any left over food and any faeces as quickly as possible due to the fact that mould tends to form very quickly in high humidity environments and it also encourages mites.  Scot-Petshop has foggers and misters which re-create the natural environment of your reptiles.  We also stock accessories which allow you to monitor the conditions with ease and to allow intervention at the earliest point before issues arise.

Not getting the humidity levels right for your reptile can have serious health implications. One of the most common one being respiratory problems, therefore it’s imperative to establish the ideal humidity levels for your chosen species.

Fogger XL Ultrasonic Mist Generator  Aerosol Sprayer for Terrariums Digital Thermostat/Hygrostat for Terrariums


The most important factor in choosing the substrate is the required humidity level.  If your reptile requires high humidity levels then some examples of a suitable substrate are: Pine Bark, Sphagnum Moss, Coconut Bedding and Komodo’s Tropical Terrain as they all hold moisture well.  

Reptiles that don’t require high humidity levels will prefer substrates such as Beech Chaff, Bio Grass, Repti Maize and Reptile Carpet.  However, each of these substrates has its advantages and disadvantages attached to it.  

Particle Substrates such as Beech Chips run the risk of being accidentally swallowed by your reptile and can cause some serious health issues within the digestive system and possible internal damage.  Repti Grass is a much safer alternative to particle substrates as it breaks down when wet and would do so if ingested accidentally.  Repti Maize has a similar consistency as Repti Grass but doesn’t break down quite as easily.  The main disadvantage with particle substrates is general housekeeping issues, as it tends to all break down around the water bowl and will need replaced regularly.  This can be avoided by using a substrate which doesn’t come in particle form such as Reptile Carpet.  However, the main disadvantage of a non-particle substrate is that reptiles which instinctively want to dig into the substrate are unable to do so.  There are advantages and disadvantages to using all of the different substrates available, and it’s necessary to weigh up the pros and cons of each based on the type of reptile you have chosen to keep.  Whatever substrate you choose to use, Scot-Petshop stocks a wide variety and can deliver to your door to add convenience.   

Coco Husk Sphagnum Moss Tropical Terrarium Substrate  Pine Bark Moss Substrate

Keeping reptiles can seem like a minefield, and there is much more involved in their care and well being  than there is in looking after your more typical household pet.  In many respects it’s much more challenging and should be considered much more seriously if venturing into the unknown.   

As a beginner we would recommend that you start off with Leopard Geckos, Crested Geckos, Bearded Dragons, Cornsnakes, Kingsnakes and Hermann’s Tortoises as they are all much hardier than their other reptile peers and have a better temperament.  Once you become a bit more experienced in their care you could then progress onto some of the more specialist reptiles.

Good luck!


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