Tails Blog

Keeping Bearded Dragons

Steve Coppell - Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Beaded Dragon, it's not everybody's idea of the ideal  pet. But what a spectacular addition to any household. 

These fascinating creatures are cold blooded, so they need to regulate their body temperature. They do this moving about their habitat to find a balance in the temperature available to them.  Dragons can be trained from a young age to become use to being handled, and love to sit on their keepers knees, arms torso, basically anywhere that offers body warmth they can absorb.

Two species of Bearded Dragon are often kept as pets. The Eastern Bearded Dragon and the Central or Inland Bearded Dragon. They both originate from Australia.Their name offers clues about where they might be found in their natural habitat.

If your serious about taking on one of these for a pet, consider their housing needs. Glass tanks work well. The size of the terrarium needs to be big enough to allow for  growth and development in later years, and dragons need to be able move to and from their source of heat as it is required. 

There are three important light features your dragon requires for it's on going health and well being. Dragons like to laze about in the sun like the rest of us do, but they do it because the suns rays provide UVA, UVC and UVB. 
UVA is the visible light range, and is responsible for feeding and normal active behaviour. UVB can't be seen but it is important for synthesis of vitamin D3, which helps process calcium and prevents metabolic bone disease.
Purchase a purpose designed bulb that offers light with high UVB output! Your garden variety light bulb just doesn't do it for your pet dragon. Use one of these and health issues will quickly become apparent. Also take care to replace that bulb as the manufacturer requires because as time goes on the UV levels the bulb emits reduces.
How much light does my Dragon need? 
As a rule turn the light on when you get up in the morning  and off again at night when you go to bed.


Optimum temperature in your dragons terrarium ranges between 35 and 40 degrees Celsius. Set up your heat source at one end of the habitat and your dragon will move to and from it as required. 
You can use Infrared Bulbs or Ceramic Heat Emitters to heat the habitat. You must use a probe thermostat with either of these to regulate the heat and avoid overheating the terrarium or your dragon. Also the heat source needs to be housed inside a mesh cage to prevent serious burns to you or your pet if it gets to close.

Inside your terrarium

Place a basking rock close to the heat source. Dragons like to climb so it' s a good idea to provide a branch for them to climb. You can purchase ledges that stick to the side of your glass enclosure using strong magnets. Also plastic plants that stand up to the test of time and hungry Bearded Dragons. 

Make enough fresh vegetable salad for three days. Toss Reptile Calcium Powder sparingly through the salad and spray Liquid vitamin for Reptiles. These are great supplements to consider using, and keep it in a sealed container in the fridge. Provide fresh water and fresh vegetable salad in the morning (throw out the leftovers). 
During the day you can leave a dish with freeze dried crickets or Flukers Bearded Dragon Diet and in the evenings feed gourmet foods and put any live food inside the enclosure for them to hunt.

Keeping Frogs for pets in New Zealand

Steve Coppell - Sunday, October 10, 2010

While frogs are cool animals, keeping one is a serious long term commitment. You cant just let it go when your child leaves home or you get sick of catching flies.
What many people don't realise is that frogs live longer than most cats or dogs. Golden bell frogs have been known to live for twenty years.

Responsible frog keeping
Handle your frog as little as possible, as frogs absorb chemicals through their skin. Wear gloves or clean and moisten your hands if you do need to pick up a frog.
Ensure your frog has a suitable vivarium to live in. A large glass tank (600 x 300 x 300) with a ventilated lid is ideal. It should be equipped with rocks, plants and untreated bark so your frog can climb, hide and bask in the sun.
The pond in your vivarium should be chlorine free, and if the water is not filter, it should be changed at least once a week. Position a branch or rock to help your frog leave and enter the water.
Frogs need sunlight, but don't put the tank in direct sunlight or you could overheat your frog.
You will need a regular supply of live flies, mosquitoes, worms, crickets and cicadas. You can either trap your own or they can be bought. Frogs are healthiest on a varied diet.

Returning species from captivity back to the wild

So what is the big deal about releasing them in the local stream? While it is ok to take tadpoles and introduced frogs from the wild to keep as pets, the problem comes with returning them back to the wild. Releasing them actually poses a threat to New Zealand's rare native frogs. This is because there is no way of knowing if your frog or tadpole is infected with diseases such as the deadly amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd)
Chytrid fungus  attacks the frogs skin, causing it to lose the ability to regulate minerals such as potassium and sodium. An infected frog will subsequently die of heart failure or secondary skin conditions. So, if your adding to an existing population, your frog might have a disease such as chytrid and you could be spreading it. It might be a special strain from another area. You introduced that strain and it mixes with the one already in the area and the disease becomes stronger like a super bug. The frogs may have become resistant to the original strain, but perhaps they cant  handle the new strain. Your introducing the unknown and causing things to mix that shouldn't.

Maud Island frog native to New Zealand

Frogs and the law
Under current legislation native New Zealand frogs (ie Archeys frog, Hamiltons frog, Maud island frog and Hochstetters frog) are totally protected and it is illegal to disturb, handle or collect them and even to specifically look for them without a DoC permit.
It is also illegal to release pet frogs into the wild.

Keeping Turtles

Steve Coppell - Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Common problems

Most common problems can be avoided if you keep your turtle warm, vary their diet, keep the water in their habitat clean, and use the correct lighting.
Soft shell
Soft shell is simply that, softening of the shell, (hatchling shells are quite soft anyway in their early months) and in adults the shell becomes very soft and spongy. This condition is caused  by a lack of calcium in the diet and a deficiency of full spectrum lighting. This condition is very easy to avoid. Make sure the staple diet contains the essecial calcium and vitamins
Also, turtles must have an area in their tank where they are able to leave the water in order to completly dry themselves off. U.V rays are provided by the sun and are absorbed by the turtles when they sunbath. U.V. light provided  by artificial lighting will assist their shell to grow and harden.

Swollen Eyes

99% of the time this condition result from not changing water regularly. A turtle swimming around in a tank filled with bacteria from food waste and excretions is bound to develop sore eyes. The eyes appear to be bulging out of its head and are swollen. Consult yor vet for medication if you experience this problem.

Shell rot

There is debate and conflicting views as to the cause of shell rot. The most popular reasons for shell rot are, over crowding, rough sunning areas, shell bites, and poor water. Small pink dots appear, mostly on the under shell, and if left, grow wider and deeper. The easiest cure is to carefully dig out the infected area and treat with an antibiotic ointment. If you suspect you have this problem a visit to the vet is strongly recommended.

Bacterial shell infection

This first appears on the top of the shell of the turtle as small white blotches along the edges of the scutes (a bony external plate or scale, as on the shell of a turtle) and quickly expands toward the middle of the scutes.It is thought that this occurs when the turtle is not able to completly dry itself due to high humidity in the air within the tank. Removing the lid of the turtles sunning area will remedy the humidity problem. There is no quick fix to the infection on the shell. The white blotches will remain until the turtle sheds the outer layer of the scutes. The new layer of the shell will be free of infection after a couple of sheddings if you keep the humidity low and provide a dry sunning area.

Turtles can easily catch a chill which quickly leads to pneumonia. Most chills arise from the following:
No lid on the turtles tank overnight during winter months resulting in cold air verses warm water.
Taking your turtle outside on a cold day.
Having your turtle out of its tank when your room is cold or your tank is not heated during the winter months.
Symptoms of this condition include:
The turtle spending excess time out of the water with its head drooped.
The turtle is lethargic and not eating
Swimming lope sided, with rasping sounding breath. Pneumonia is almost always fatal with turtles. When the symptoms start showing generally its too late.

Choosing a turtle for a pet

Steve Coppell - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

So your thinking of keeping a turtle for a pet.
It's a big commitment. Turtles live for around 30 years in captivity, so take this into consideration before you make the dicision to go ahead.

Selecting a healthy turtle
How do you know whether a turtle is healthy or not?
If you are buying a turtle from a pet shop, ask to see the turtle being fed. A healthy turtle will swim level and not lop sided. The turtle will feed heartily and quickly, especially if there are other turtles in the tank.
Ask to hold the turtle. If you are not sure how to handle the turtle ask for advise from the assistant.A healthy turtle should be very active and continually trying to escape from its holder.
Check that the eyes are clear and are not puffy and half closed.
Check the shell for injuries. An adult turtle's shell will be very hard and won't flex when pressure is applied. Be sure not to apply forceful pressure if the turtle is a young hatchling. Hatchling shells won't harden  until a size of around 10 cm is reached. If the turtle you are inspecting has deep soft pitting in the shell or raw looking injuries around the edge of the shell, then I would recommend strongly against purchasing it. It could be a disease called shell.
Key points
1/Feeds heartily
2/Swims level
3/The turtle is very active and not lethargic.
4/Eyes look clear and bright. Not half closed and puffy.
5/The shell is firm and free of injuries and soft raw spots.

Info courtesy of Chris @ Hot House Turtles