Dragons and Corn Snakes by Ben

Keeping Reptiles as Pets.

People keeping reptiles as pets has dramatically increased in the last decade.  Many people don’t understand why scaly reptiles are so popular.  Reptiles can make fantastic pets if kept correctly.  They are smell free if kept clean and are unlikely to have any sort of allergy to them like you can to fluffy pets such as cats and dogs.  They can be friendly and make good buddies.  They don’t need much attention or exercise, so may be more suited to the modern-day busy lifestyle.  There are about 8,000,000 reptiles kept as pets in the UK.  Here are examples of 2 of the most popular reptiles that are kept as pets in this country.

The Bearded Dragon

The Bearded Dragon originally came from central Australia, where they live happily in the sub-tropical woodland, deserts, shrublands and shore areas.  They are now found almost anywhere in Australia and their colours and markings are usually typical of the area they come from, helping them to blend into their natural environment and hide from predators.

The Bearded Dragon is a medium sized lizard which grows to around 24 inches in length.  They have a calm temperament and are an easy lizard to look after.

A fully grown Bearded Dragon will require a tank which is a minimum size of 75 gallons.  It is important to make sure that it is big enough for them or they can feel cramped and have some health issues.  Also, if the tank is too small, then they may not grow as big as they could if they lived in a larger tank.

If kept correctly, a captive Bearded Dragon can live for up to 12-14 years.  Their tanks should have a basking light as well as a full lighting system fitted in to the roof.  As Bearded Dragon’s come from a hot and humid environment, they need to be able to bask in the warmth for most of the day.  The basking light should be placed about -6-8 inches out of the dragons reach, this is possible by making a rock pile for them to climb on.  The lighting in the roof gives off UVA and UVB rays as well as providing light in the tank.  The UVA and UVB rays mimic natural sunlight which the Bearded Dragon needs in order to stay healthy by getting the sunlight nutrients that they would be getting in the wild.

The Bearded Dragon’s tank should be heated to a temperature of 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit in the area around the heat lamp and around 80 degrees in other areas of the tank.  Overnight the temperature can drop to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The best kind of bedding for the Bearded Dragon is shredded newspaper, paper towels or special reptile carpet.  These can be easily replaced when cleaning out the tank.  It is also important to use bedding which the lizard won’t eat when hunting for live insects.

Bearded Dragons are omnivores, which means that they can eat both meat and plants.  They should be fed a varied diet to make sure they get the right balance of vitamins and nutrients.  Young dragons who are still growing need more protein than an adult so should be fed more of the live insects such as crickets or roaches.  In order to keep a Bearded Dragon healthy, you also must keep the live insects fed and healthy.

CORN SNAKES

 Snakes are becoming more popular as pets.  Snakes are delicate and need special care to stay healthy.  The Corn snake is a calm, non-venomous snake which is relatively easy to care for, so is a good snake for beginners.  The Corn snake is a species of rat snake, they come from South East USA and they are mainly active at dusk until dawn when the temperature cools down.  They usually liver on the ground, but also like to climb and are extremely good at escaping.  (Like my pony Toffee),  They grow throughout their life and a healthy adult can grow up to around 6 foot long, they can live for around 20 years if cared for properly.  Corn Snakes are carnivorous, meaning they only eat meat, and are fed on defrosted pinkie mice or rats.  A baby snake should be fed every 5-7 days and an adult every 7-10 days.

Corn Snakes, like other non-venomous species are constrictors, meaning that they would kill their prey by squeezing it in their coils until it suffocates.

A Corn snake needs a vivarium suited to their current size.  As they grow continuously throughout their life, they will need several vivarium’s.  If they are put in a tank which is too big, then they will become very stressed and could suffer from health problems or feeding problems.   The enclosure needs to be very secure to stop the snake from escaping. 

Corn snakes, like all snakes are cold blooded, they need an area of their tank to be heated ideally by a heat pad covering ½ to 1/3 of the floor, or they could have an adjustable heat lamp with a safety cover.  The best temperature for the tank should be 24-27 degrees Celsius in the coolest area and 30 degrees Celsius in the heated area allowing the snake to control it’s temperature.

A snake will usually poop 1-2 days after they have been fed, it is important that they are cleaned out as soon as possible after they poop to minimise the risk of infection, and the entire cage and all of the contents, the rocks, hiding place and branches,  being fully cleaned and disinfected with a special reptile safe disinfectant every 2-3 weeks.  The snake should be bedded on aspen or hemp as these are non-toxic to the snake and unscented.   Snakes needs a water bowl which is big enough for them to bathe in as well as drink.  Before they shed their skin, they are likely to spend a lot of time in the water to get their skin ready.

A Corn snake should be handled often so they get used to it and handling can help people notice if they have any health problems.  They shouldn’t be handled for at least 48 hours after they have been fed as they can regurgitate their meal.

A Corn snake should have branches and rocks in their enclosure, so they can climb and use branches to help rub their skin off on when they are shedding.  They also need somewhere to hide and sleep.  They do not need a light source in their vivarium if they have enough natural light throughout the day, although they should not be put in direct sunlight.

Conclusion

Both reptiles have special needs in order to cope with UK weather .

A snake has more needs and is more fragile in terms of care and diet.

A snake can suffer from more health issues than a dragon.

Snakes are more likely to bite even though both reptiles are calm in nature.

A dragon is likely bond to the owner much more quickly.

Mum wouldn’t like to feed the insects and then feed them to the dragon,  she would get attached to the insects.

Less tanks are needed for a Bearded Dragon in a life time, as they don’t continually grow all of their life and they are less likely to get stressed by living in an area which is too big for them.   Both a snake and a Drago need heat and or light sources in their enclosures.  Both will shed their skin as they grow, although the snake will shed more often and throughout his whole life.   Both reptiles need to be handled with clean hands and hands should be cleaned afterwards as they can carry bacteria such as salmonella.  The Bearded Dragon is a little more robust than the corn snake and is likely to have less health problems.

Both the corn snake and the Bearded Dragon are easy to buy and are popular pets in the UK, although  Mum is not going to ever let me keep a snake as she is terrified of them, but I am working on getting a bearded dragon and I will feed him without my Mum seeing the live insects go in there as I think she would like a Bearded Dragon once she got used to it.

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