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This area is for people to come and get info on how to keep their pets.
There is now both a caresheet for both Ball Pythons and Green Iguanas,
Click  either of the two links below to take you to the right care sheet.  

 

Ball Pythons
Revised 20/6/00, By  

Natural History
Ball pythons (Python regius) are found at the edges of the forest lands of Central and Western Africa. They are equally comfortable on the ground and in trees. They are crepuscular, active around dawn and dusk. Called Royal pythons in Europe, here in the United States we call them "Balls" due to their habit of curling themselves up into a tight ball when they are nervous, their heads pulled firmly into the center. Like most pythons, Balls are curious and gentle snakes.
Balls typically reach 4 feet (1.2 m) in length; occasionally there are specimens that reach 5 feet (1.5 m). When properly fed, their bodies become nicely rounded. Like all pythons and boas, Balls have anal spurs. These single claws appearing on either side of the vent are the vestigial remains of the hind legs snakes lost during their evolution from lizard to snake millions of years ago. Males have longer spurs than do the females; males also have smaller heads than the females.
Ball pythons, like all pythons and boas, devour a variety of prey in the wild - amphibians, lizards, other snakes, birds and small mammals. They do not eat mice in the wild, however, and do not recognize the mice we offer them as being something edible. Thus, imported wild-caught Balls tend to be very picky eaters, at least initially, and drive their owners to distraction in their attempts to get them to eat something. Balls are reputed to be able to go for extended periods of time without food; wild-caught Balls have gone for a year or more without food until finally enticed to eat lizards and other snakes. This is not a healthy trait and must not be a reason for selecting this species. This should also make you suspicious when a pet store tells you that their Balls are eating well. Buying captive-born Balls reduces the stress on the threatened populations in the wild and helps ensure you will get a healthy, established eater and a snake already used to contact with humans. Buying from a reputable breeder will ensure that you will get the help and advice you need to assure that your Ball feels comfortable and secure enough to eat after you bring it home and let it get settled for a week or so.
With the increased popularity of reptiles as pets there is increased pressure on wild populations. In addition to the more than 60,000 Balls that are imported annually, Balls are killed for food and their skin is used for leather in their native land. For some reason, despite their low reproduction rate, wild Balls are the least expensive pythons on the market, generally wholesaling for under ten dollars. Imported Balls also harbor several different types of parasites which may go unnoticed by the novice snake owner. All around, it is better to buy a captive-born hatchling or an established, well-feeding juvenile, sub-adult or adult than an imported Ball of any age.
In captivity, young Balls will grow about a foot a year during the first three years. They will reach sexual maturity in three to five years. The longest living Ball python on record was over 48 years old when it died. Egg-layers, female Balls encircle their four to ten eggs, remaining with then from the time they are laid until they hatch. During this three month period, they will not leave the eggs and will not eat.
Getting Started
Selecting Your Ball Python
Choose an animal that has clear firm skin, rounded body shape, clean vent, clear eyes, and who actively flicks its tongue around when handled. All Balls are naturally shy about having their heads touched or handled by strangers; a normal reaction is for the Ball to pull its head and neck sharply away from such contact. When held, the snake should grip you gently but firmly when moving around. It should be alert to its surroundings. All young snakes are food for other, larger snakes, birds, lizards and mammalian predators so your hatchling may be a bit nervous at first but should settle down quickly.
Selecting an escape-proof enclosure
Select an enclosure especially designed for housing snakes, such as the glass tanks with the combination fixed screen/hinged glass top. All snakes are escape artists; Balls are especially powerful and cunning when it comes to breaking out. A good starter tank for a hatchling is a 10 gallon tank (approx. 20"L x 10"W [50 x 25 cm]). A young adult requires a 20 gallon tank, and full adult may require a 30 gallon tank (36" x 12"W [91 x 35 cm]).
Select a suitable substrate
Use paper towels at first. These are easily and quickly removed and replaced when soiled and, with an import, will allow you to better monitor for the presence of mites and the condition of the feces. Once the animal is established, you can use more decorative ground cover such as commercially prepared shredded cypress or fir bark. Pine and aspen shavings should not be used as they can become lodged in the mouth while eating, causing respiratory and other problems. The shavings must be monitored closely and all soiled and wet shavings pulled out immediately to prevent bacteria and fungus growths. The utilitarian approach is to use inexpensive Astroturf. Extra pieces can be kept in reserve and used when the soiled piece is removed for cleaning and drying (soak in one gallon of water to which you have added two tablespoon of household bleach; rinse thoroughly, and dry completely before reuse). Remember: The easier it is to clean, the faster you'll do it!
Provide a hiding place
A half-log is available at pet stores. An empty cardboard box or upside-down opaque plastic container, both with an access doorway cut into one end, can also be used. The plastic is easily cleaned when necessary; the box can be tossed out when soiled and replaced with a new one. The box or log must be big enough for the snake to hide its entire body inside; you will need to eventually replace it as your snake grows. Balls prefer dark places for sleeping and, as they are nocturnal, they like the dark place during our daylight hours; they also like to sleep in something that is close around them, so do not buy or make too big of a cave for its size. Place a nice climbing branch or two in the tank with some fake greenery screening part of it; your Ball will enjoy hanging out in the "tree."
Keeping it warm
Proper temperature range is essential to keeping your snake healthy. The ambient air temperature throughout the enclosure must be maintained between 80-85F (27-29 C) -during the day, with a basking area kept at 90F (32.5 C). At night, the ambient air temperature on the coolest side may be allowed to drop down no lower than 73-75F ( 23-24 C) only if a basking area of at least 80F (27 C) remains available. Special reptile heating pads that are manufactured to maintain a temperature about 20 degrees higher than the air temperature may be used inside the enclosure. There are adhesive pads that can be stuck to the underside of a glass enclosure. Heating pads made for people, available at all drug stores, are also available; these have built-in hi-med-lo switches and can be used under a glass enclosure. You can also use incandescent light bulbs in porcelain and metal reflector hoods to provide the additional heat required for the basking area. All lights must be screened off to prevent the snake from burning itself. All pythons, especially Ball pythons, are very susceptible to thermal burns. For this same reason do not use a hot rock. New on the market are ceramic heating elements. They radiate heat downwards, do not emit light, and are reported to be long lasting. Plugged into a thermostat will enable you to adjust the temperature inside the tank as the ambient room temperature changes with the seasons.
Buy at least two thermometers - one to use in the overall area 1" (2.5 cm) above the enclosure floor, and the other 1" (2.5 cm) above the floor in the basking area. Don't try to guess the temperature - you will either end up with a snake who will be too cold to eat and digest its food or one ill or dead from overheating.
Lighting
No special lighting is needed. Balls are nocturnal snakes, spending their days in the wild securely hidden away from possible predators. To make it easier to see your Ball during the day, you can use a full-spectrum light or low wattage incandescent bulb in the enclosure during the day. Make sure the snake cannot get into direct contact with the light bulbs as Balls are very prone to getting seriously burned. Respect your Ball's needs, however, and be sure to provide a hide box, and expect them to use it!
Feeding
Allow your snake to acclimate to its new home for a couple of weeks. Start your hatchling (about 15" in length) off with a single pre-killed one week to 10-day old "fuzzy" mouse. A smaller sized hatchling may require a smaller mouse; try a pre-killed 5-day old. Older Balls may be fed larger pre-killed mice or pinkie rats. If you have not had any experience force feeding a snake, you may not want to try it yourself until you have seen someone do it. Force feeding, whether of a mouse or with a formula inserted by catheter and syringe, is very stressful for the snake (and it isn't much fun for the owner!). If your new Ball has gone several months without eating and is beginning to noticeably lose weight, take it to a reptile vet or contact your local herpetology society and ask to speak to someone who is knowledgeable about Ball pythons and feeding problems. A good inexpensive book that covers some of the tricks to enticing reluctant Balls to feed is The Care and Maintenance of Ball Pythons by Philippe de Vosjoli, or the new edition, The Ball Python Manual, by de Vosjoli, Dave and Tracy Barker and Roger Klingenberg.
Water
Provide a bowl of fresh water at all times. Your snake will both drink and soak, and may defecate, in it. Check it daily and change when soiled. Soaking is especially good just before a shed. When they eyes clear from their milky opaque, or "blue" state, soak the snake in a tub of warm water for ten minutes or so, then lightly dry it off, and return it immediately to its tank; it should shed cleanly within twenty-four hours.
Health problems
Routine veterinary care for newly acquired snakes is essential. Many of the parasites infesting Balls and other reptiles can be transmitted to humans and other reptiles. Left untreated, such infestations can ultimately kill your snake. When your snake first defecates, collect the feces in a clean plastic bag, seal it, label it with the date, your name and phone number and the snake's name, then take it and your snake to a vet who is experienced with reptiles. There it will be tested and the proper medication given if worms or protozoan infestations are found.
A common problem encountered in captivity include retained eye shed (spectacles) and mites. When snakes shed their skin, the layer of skin over their eye is also shed, and can be clearly seen when looking at a piece of head shed. Always check your Ball's head shed to assure it has shed the spectacles. If one or both spectacles have been retained, bathe the snake again in warmish water for about ten minutes. Before returning it to the enclosure, place a dab of mineral oil on that eye with a cotton-tipped swab. The spectacle should come off within twenty-four hours. If it does not come off, wrap your four fingers with transparent tape, sticky side out. Gently rock your fingers from left to right (or, from nose to neck) across the eye; the spectacle should come off. If this does not removed the spectacle, then seek veterinary assistance.
Mites are a sign of poor environmental conditions. Adult mites are tiny reddish brown dots barely bigger than the period at the end of this sentence. You may first notice them swarming over your hand and arm after you have handled your snake (don't worry...they are harmless to humans) or see them moving around your snake's body or clustered around the eyes. Mites are harmful to snakes, especially ones that have not been kept properly. On the positive side, they are easy and relatively inexpensive to get rid of, although the process is time-consuming. Read the article "Getting Rid of Reptile Mites" to find out the best ways to eradicate them.
Snakes, including ball pythons, should routinely shed is one piece, from snout (including spectacles) to tailtip. If a snake does not shed cleanly, it is a sign that something is not right, either with the snake or with its environment. Newly acquired snakes may not shed properly for the first month or two as they are getting acclimated to their new surroundings. This is a sign of transient stress. If it continues, or begins to occur in a long established snake, the snake must be evaluated for possible health problems, and the snake's environment must be evaluated for humidity problems.
Humidity and Ball Pythons
Ball pythons are native to very warm, but not hot, dry areas in Africa. Many people make the mistake of trying to keep them in a too humid overall environment, using damp sphagnum moss or misting them frequently throughout the day. The problem with this is that keeping the overall environment damp leads to conditions such as blister disease where in the skin, usually of the belly, becomes covered with blisters, leading to bacterial infections of the skin, which in turn leads to overall health problems.
In fact, all a ball python needs is an area within its dry enclosure to which to retreat when it requires higher humidity. One way to accomplish this is to provide a water bowl large enough for the snake to soak in when it wants. Depending on the ambient room (and thus enclosure) humidity, this may be enough, or may be enough during part of the year. Another good, safe option for a ball python is a humidity retreat box.
Handling your new snake
After giving your Ball a couple of days to settle in, begin picking it up and handling it gently. It may move away from you, and may threaten you by lashing it's tail and hissing; don't be put off - it is usually just a bluff, and snakes, like most reptiles, are very good at bluffing! Be gentle but persistent. Daily contact with each other will begin to establish a level of trust and confidence between you and your snake. When it is comfortable with you, you can begin taking it around the house. Don't get overconfident! Given a chance and close proximity to seat cushions, your Ball will make a run (well, a slither) for it, easing down between the cushions and from there, to points possibly unknown. Always be gentle, and try to avoid sudden movements. If the snake wraps around your arm or neck, you can unwind it by gently grasping it's tail and gently unwrapping it from around your neck or arm - do not try to unwrap it by moving the head. Some snakes are a bit sensitive about being handled soon after they have eaten. If you feed your snake out of it's enclosure, go ahead and replace it back into it's enclosure after it has finished eating. Then leave it be for a couple of days. As the snake gets more comfortable with you, it will be less nervous and less likely to give you back your mouse.
Inclusion Body Disease / Quarantine
Inclusion body disease (IBD) is a virus that affects boas and pythons (boids). It is always fatal in pythons. Unfortunately, the lust to sell has overcome common sense in private breeders as well as pet stores and wholesalers, and an increasing number of boas and pythons are being sold who are infected with this virus.
Always spend a considerable amount of time observing boids before you buy them, especially at pet stores. Even reptile specialty stores have been selling infected stock so buying from such stores is no guarantee that you are buying an uninfected/unexposed snake. Don't buy a boid because you feel sorry for it, because it looks sick and the store isn't providing proper care for it - you may lose every boid you own.
Always observe strict quarantine procedures when bringing in a new boid into your house if you already have other boids. IBD may take several months to manifest itself. Owners have reported their new snakes showing signs as little as one month after acquiring hatchlings to well over one year after acquiring a new boid.
Always have boids who are not acting well (loss of appetite, regurgitating meals, mouth rot, respiratory infection, contorted body positions, stargazing) seen by a reptile vet as soon as possibly after symptoms are noticed. Warn the vet before coming in that it may be IBD so they may take precautions to reduce exposure to other boids who may be in their office at that time.
Remember that it doesn't require snake-to-snake contact to spread the disease. You may unwittingly spread it by handling other snakes without first thoroughly washing your hands. Viruses are airborne - think twice about taking your snakes to places where they will encounter snakes belonging to people who may not be taking proper precautions.
Necessities
Some things you should have on hand for general maintenance and first aid include: Nolvasan (Chlorhexidine diacetate) for cleaning enclosures and disinfecting food and water bowls, litter boxes, tubs, sinks, your hands, etc. Betadine (povodine/iodine) for cleansing scratches and wounds. Set aside a food storage bowl, feeding and water bowls, soaking bowl or tub, even sponges, to be used only for your snake.
Enjoy yourselves
You have a companion that will be a part of your life for a great many years if taken care of properly. They should remain alert and active well into their old age. The main causes of death of snakes in captivity are directly related to their care: Improper temperatures, contact with heating and lighting elements, no regular access to water, lack of necessary veterinary care and treatment, careless handling--all things for which we, as their caretakers, are directly responsible.
Places to Go, Things to See and Learn
Join your local herpetological society where you can meet other reptile owners, learn more about your ball python, and find an experienced reptile veterinarian in your area. Check your local pet stores, library, or mail order herp booksellers for these and other python and reptile care books:
The Ball Python Manual, by Philippe de Vosjoli, Dave and Tracy Barker, and Roger Klingenberg, 1995. Advanced Vivarium Systems, Lakeside CA.
Completely Illustrated Atlas of Reptiles and Amphibians, by Obst, Richter and Jacob. 1988. TFH Publications, Inc. Neptune City, NJ.
Snakes of the World, by Scott Weidensaul. 1991. Chartwell Books, Seacacus, NJ.
Living Snakes of the World, John M. Mehrtens. 1987. Sterling Publishing Co. New York.

Kaplan, Melissa. 1996. Ball Pythons. Available online: http://www.sonic.net/~melissk/ball.html © 1996 Melissa Kaplan
This is a great care sheet, it was written by Melissa Kaplan. Good one Melissa!


 

Green Iguana Care
by Joyce E. Davis
Revised 12/01/01, By  

Originally published in Notes From NOAH, the newsletter of the Northern Ohio Association of Herpetologists, Vol. XXII, No. 11, August 24, 1995
Reprinted in The Cold Blooded News, Vol 23, No 11, November, 1995.

The first thing to remember is that each animal is an individual. Like any other pet, your ig will have a personality all its own. The basic needs are all the same, but each has its own likes and dislikes as far as certain foods, people, favorite resting spots, handling, etc., are concerned. Pay attention to your pet and you will learn everything you need to know to keep it healthy and happy.
THESE ARE THE BASICS YOU MUST PROVIDE TO ALL IGS:

     Heat
     Igs need a base source of heat at night which does not go below 75°F Heat rocks (on rheostats) or under cage heating pads do well. Periodic checks of temperature are necessary on these items. Black heat lamps are best, though. Some people use regular heat lamps day and night, but igs need dark at night as they sleep at night when it is dark. THEY NEED THEIR NIGHT TIME JUST LIKE WE DO! Their systems go haywire in constant daylight.

     Spotlight And Full Spectrum Lighting
      A spotlight set up on a favorite basking site is ideal. Igs like to hang out on logs or shelves. I have a basking light situated so the temperature does not exceed 100°F. Have enough area so the animal can move around to different degrees of heat and still be comfortable. You also need to add full spectrum lighting for the animal. There are many good ones available on the market just for reptiles. In the summer you can eliminate these lights by having a basking site at a window that gets good sunlight throughout the day. The window needs a good HEAVY DUTY SCREEN in it. The sunlight is not effective if it comes through glass; the UV rays essential to your ig's health are filtered out through the glass. They love natural sunlight, so if you can do this, it will be great for your ig.
     Humidity
      In the cage this is easy. Daily misting can get you the level of humidity they need. A large water pan in the cage is essential, too. They will defecate in the water so it will have to be changed often, and disinfected. Animals left loose in the room can be misted before going to the basking site in the morning and a water pan on the floor is usually sufficient. DO NOT MIST YOUR IG AT BEDTIME! They must be dry when their "sun" goes down or they might become chilled if the temperature goes down.

      Food
      There are many things you can feed your ig to insure proper nutrition. They like a variety of foods more than a steady diet of a few things. They get bored very easily and tend to fast when you least expect it. Farther in this article there will be a very large list of foods that are nutritious for your ig. The most important thing is to feed your ig in the morning as the heat from basking aids in the digestion. They can have an afternoon snack with no ill effects.

     Handling
      Most igs will respond nicely to being handled. They do get to know their owners and respond to voice. Most like to be petted on the head, but not for a long period of time. A few igs just will not tolerate human contact. They make nice display animals, but there will be no bond there. As these animals mature they will often settle down and accept you. Don't be too quick to get rid of an animal with an attitude. A little patience goes a long way here. A room where you can turn the lizard loose in the daytime can work wonders, too. The longer the two of you are together the easier it is to Find a way to live together. DON'T GIVE UP!

Just a few notes on the ig getting adjusted:
After purchasing your new iguana, let it rest in its new home for about a week. It will be nervous at first, and all attempts at handling will only make matters worse.
Start your interaction with your ig by talking to it. It will get to know your voice.
Try to keep your ig on a schedule. Feed in the morning, bask for a while to digest the food, then comes the handling. Go slowly at first. Get to know the ig as well as you want him or her to know you.
Start letting your ig run loose in a room. If it hides at first, it won't hurt anything. Their hiding places are easy to find, and they always go to the same one. As it gets used to the room, there will be less hiding. You can at some time give the ig total freedom in the daytime. Shelves or large branches located in sunny spots will be appreciated.
A water pan left on the floor will turn into a bathroom. This makes for less work for you and a cleaner place for your ig. You just have to keep the water clean.
Soon your ig will stay with you and sit with you and I even have one that will come when I call his name. But NEVER take one outside without a leash. It doesn't matter how tame your ig gets, one sniff of the great outdoors and it will be gone.  

     Vitamin And Calcium Additives
     Young igs need vitamins and calcium added to every meal. Older ones 2-3 times a week. This is very important since some of the foods are deficient in some vitamins they need or the lighting isn't what it should be to help them absorb everything they need from the food they eat. The best source of calcium that I have found is a cuttle bone scraped into a powder. It has no odor or taste. There are many kinds of reptile vitamins on the market but the one my igs like best is Nekton Rep. It is water soluble and smells like fruit.

Green Iguana Food List
If the food is not on this list, don't feed it!

Vegatables
10-20% of the diet

Green beans

Lima beans

Asparagus

Peas

Carrots

Black eyed peas

Sweet potatoes*

Squash

Okra

Kidney beans

Navy beans

Butter beans

Corn, once in a while


*Sweet potatoes, not yams, are to be grated if raw, cut in small chunks if cooked. All raw vegetables must be grated as igs cannot chew hard food. In any case, raw is best but if not available, use canned (but sparingly, since some canned vegetables have significant amounts of sugar and salt). NEVER use a high proportion of frozen green vegetables in the diet as the thiamin is destroyed in the freezing process; other sources of thiamin (vitamin B1 must always be provided if frozen green vegetables are fed.

Leafy Greens
80% of the diet

Endive

Mustard greens

Parsley

Red Leaf lettuce*

Dandelion

Bean sprouts

Collard greens

Turnip greens

Escarole

Beet greens (but not beets)

Alfalfa sprouts

Dandelion flowers

*Use once in a while if none of the others are available.
Fruit
10% or less of the diet
Any fruit except citrus and bananas. They don't like the citrus, and bananas are too high in phosphorus. They especially like any red fruit. Use kiwi for the potassium.
Junkfood

Use only as treats; they won't hurt and they like these. Cooked rice, spaghetti, hard boiled eggs, noodles, plain yogurt, whole wheat bread.


It is critical that a wide variety of the above foods be given, to provide all necessary nutrients.
I have written this article on how to keep an iguana healthy assuming you're beginning with a healthy one. Igs are just like all other animals; once in a while you run across one that appears to be healthy but has a hidden problem or one that hasn't developed as yet. There are some symptoms to watch out for and ALL will need medical assistance.
1. Listlessness; wanting to sleep all the time; no interest in anything in the surroundings
2. Swollen limbs
3. Lumps or abrasions anywhere on the body
4. Redness or swelling in the mouth
5. Runny stool
6. Swollen ankles
7. Broken bones
8. Hand, foot, and/or body tremors
All of these symptoms could be due completely to a lack of vitamins, calcium, or the presence of internal parasites. The sooner these problems are corrected the better for the animal.
Hopefully you will not encounter many of these, but if any do show up, I hope I've given you enough information to go on to help. These little guys need us all to pay attention to them and keep them well, since they are giving us so much.
If you pick a healthy animal to start with and follow the guidelines I've provided, you and your ig are in for a long and healthy life together. There is one more thing, though. When you get your new pet home, make an appointment with a vet who is known for successfully treating reptiles and have your ig checked for internal parasites. They're easy to treat and it is inexpensive to do so. If left untreated, your ig could pay for it with its life. This first check up could save you both a lot of grief.

There is no greater reward than to have a 5-6 foot iguana walk across the floor to you and not be afraid. They are one of the best pets one can have. They don't bark or shed and you can pen them up if you have to go away. To know that you have brought one to this point healthy, is one of the best feelings you can have. I wish you and your ig all the luck in the world. You won't be sorry.
 GOOD LUCK TO YOU BOTH!