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Ultraviolet A Light Bulbs and Lamps – Product Review – Part 2

Redheaded Rock Agama Please see Part I of this article for a description of UVA light, information about its importance to reptiles and amphibians and its role in their captive husbandry.

Light and Heat

In addition to promoting natural behavior and improving the appetites of many captive reptiles and amphibians, ( Part I), the light emitted by UVA bulbs will also accentuate your pets’ natural colors.

The models listed below are incandescent, and therefore provide heat and encourage basking.  When placed in close proximity to florescent UVB bulbs (which emit little heat), UVA bulbs can help assure that your pets receive the full spectrum of essential light rays.

Light Cycle

The length of the UVA light cycle provided is critical, especially for those creatures that are native to areas subjected to seasonal changes in sunlight intensity and duration.  Ideally, you should study the natural habits and ranges of the animals in your collection, and endeavor to provide them with an appropriate light cycle.

Suggested UVA-Emitting Bulbs (Lamps)

Zoo Med manufactures a number of useful UVA bulbs. Select a foodRepti-Halogen Bulbs are available in 50-150 watt sizes.  Repti-Basking Spotlights offer a narrow, tight beam, and range in size from 25-150 watts.

Zoo Med Turtle Tuff Halogen Bulbs  are water-resistant, and so can stand up to the splashing that is so common around aquatic turtle basking areas without breaking.  They have an average life of 2,500 hours.

Other high quality UVA bulbs include the Hagen Sun Glo Daylight Halogen and R-Zilla’s Spot Day White Bulbs and Incandescent Day White Bulbs.

Alternative Substrates: Rabbit and Alfalfa Pellets for Lizards and Tortoises – Part 2

Please see Part I of this article for tips on using oyster shell for desert dwelling lizards and tortoises. Today we’ll explore the use of rabbit pellets for herbivorous reptiles and their important role in preventing leg deformities in hatchling tortoises.

Rabbit Pellets for Hatchling Tortoises

Rabbit pellets? Yes…surprisingly, rabbit pellets are useful to herp keepers in several ways.

Hatchling tortoises that are housed on hard, unyielding substrates (i.e. newspaper over a bare floor, packed bark-based products) very often develop splayed legs. Eventually, the animal is left in a fairly crippled condition; corrective measures are relatively ineffective after a certain point.

Rabbit pellets used as a cage substrate provide exactly the right consistency for all newly hatched tortoises. I have raised many broods of star (Geochelone elegans), leopard (G. pardalis), radiated (Astrochelys radiata) and other tortoises on rabbit pellets with great results.

Rabbit and Alfalfa Pellets as Food

R-Zilla Alfalfa PelletsAdditionally, rabbit pellets are useful as a substrate for older tortoises, green iguanas (Iguana iguana) and other herbivorous lizards. Comprised largely of alfalfa, they are a fine food item for these creatures, and so can be swallowed with impunity by animals that drag damp salad out of their feed bowls. This fact is gaining acceptance among reptile keepers…so much so that R Zilla now manufactures an alfalfa pellet specifically for use as a reptile substrate.

Rabbit and alfalfa pellets clump when wet, quickly revealing areas in need of spot cleaning. As they are likely to be eaten, it is important that the pellets used as a substrate are kept fresh and clean. Alfalfa pellets support fungal growth, and therefore are not suitable for use with desert-dwelling reptiles (please see Part I of this article for further details).


Overconsumption of rabbit pellets reputedly results in overly high protein levels for some tortoises. Although I am not aware of any specific incidences of this, rabbit and other alfalfa pellets in and of themselves do not provide any tortoise with a balanced diet, so their intake should be monitored. In my experience, most tortoises eat rabbit pellets accidentally, along with salad, and do not specifically seek them out.


Krill in Turtle Diets: an Interesting Experiment and Some Useful Products

Small, shrimp-like marine crustaceans known as krill have long featured prominently in the diets of aquarium fishes.  I’d like to relate here some personal experiences that point to their value as food for turtles, tadpoles, newts and salamanders.

Krill as Turtle Food

KrillSome years ago a herpetologist of my acquaintance, noting that krill were quite high protein and calcium, decided to use this food as a major part of the diet of a group of Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) that had hatched in his collection.  The diet he used, simple by current standards, was comprised of 50% freeze-dried krill and 50% Reptomin Food Sticks.  The turtles matured into beautiful, healthy adults with hard, well-formed shells…not always an easy task in captivity.  I later successfully repeated the experiment with a clutch of Eastern painted turtles (Chrysemys picta).


The diet fed to tadpoles greatly influences their survival rate during the stressful period when they transform into frogs.  I have found that species typically considered to be herbivorous, such as bullfrog and spring peeper tadpoles, actually fare much better when protein such as krill is included in their diets.  Newts, amphiumas, axolotls and African clawed frogs relish krill as well.

Useful Products

We carry a wide variety of freeze dried and frozen krill of various sizes at ThatFishPlace/ThatPetPlace.  You will also find krill and shrimp in Reptomin Select-A-Food, Suprema Food Sticks and Gammarus Shrimp Supplement and in Zoo Med Can O’ Shrimp.

The World’s Most Abundant Animal?

The Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba, may be the planet’s most numerous species…550 million tons of them are swimming in the southern Pacific Ocean at any one time (our own biomass tops out at a mere 110 million tons).  Krill form nearly 100% of the diet of certain seals, whales, birds, shrimp, squid and fishes.

Further Reading

To learn more about using freshwater shrimps, please see my article Zoo Med Canned Freshwater Shrimp.



Krill image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Saperaud

Blandings Turtle image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Raphael Carter.

Bird Aviaries as Outdoor Homes for Reptiles and Amphibians

iguanaWhile reviewing the outdoor aviaries that were recently added to out line of bird cages, it struck me that these large, sturdy enclosures could be put to good use by reptile and amphibian keepers. Outdoor pens, both at home and in zoos, have given rise to some of my most enjoyable times and memorable observations.

In addition to allowing space and opportunity for a wide range of behaviors, outdoor aviaries promote good health and reproduction by exposing pets to sunlight, natural day/night and weather cycles, and dietary variety in the form of wild invertebrates. My first crude outdoor pen, populated by green frogs and spotted turtles, provided, even to an unskilled 10-year-old, a first peek at herp reproduction and hibernation.

An outdoor aviary equipped with a can provide a lifetime of enjoyment….if you focus on native species, your workload will be minimal and breeding a very real possibility. Although unenclosed ponds also have great potential, many frogs wander and predation by dogs, raccoons, herons and other animals is an ever-present concern. Our outdoor aviaries will keep your pets safe and contained. They are available in 5 sizes, ranging from 3.5′ x 4′ to 9′ x 5′, and with bars spaced ½ inch and 1 inch apart.

iguana outdoorsCertain reptiles, such as adult green and rhinoceros iguanas, spur-thighed (“Sulcata”) and other large tortoises, tegus, and larger monitors are almost impossible to keep properly indoors. Others fare far better when given outdoor access for at least part of the year…success with chameleons, for example, nearly always soars once they are introduced to well-planted outdoor cages. They and other species are often stimulated to breed by a change in environment as well. Mixed species displays and many arboreal animals are also far easier to accommodate in large outdoor quarters.

A spacious aviary can also allow for the keeping of multiple-male colonies of territorial lizards, which will give you a unique view of display and reproductive behavior. I have worked with groups of sungazers, red-headed Agamas and various dabb lizards set up in this fashion…I learned a great deal in the process and enjoyed myself immensely.

Further Reading
For more information on keeping herps outdoors, please see my articles on Red-Eared Sliders in Outdoor Ponds and Bullfrogs in Outdoor Ponds.


Feeding ReptoMin Select-A-Food to Aquatic Frogs, Turtles, Newts, Tadpoles and Shrimp

Select a foodReptoMin Floating Food sticks have long been recognized as a valuable dietary staple for many aquatic reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates, and are used in zoos and private collections worldwide.  A new version, ReptoMin Select-A-Food, contains the original food sticks as well as freeze dried plankton and shrimp.  The size of the individual food items is geared towards smaller creatures, and each ingredient is housed in its own compartment, allowing for careful control of your pet’s food intake.

My Experience

ReptoMin Food Sticks are unique in that they form a nearly complete diet for quite a few species…the addition of freeze dried invertebrates increases the product’s value immensely.  I have used Reptomin Foods Sticks while caring for herps in the Bronx Zoo’s collection, as well as for my own pets, since its introduction, and most other professional zookeepers do the same.  Following is a brief summary of those species for which I have used it as a major component of the diet.


50-75% of the diet of African clawed frogs (several species) and of fire-bellied, red-spotted, California, ribbed, alpine and crested newts, among others.

80-90% of the diet of Mexican axolotls and of larvae over 1 month old.

50-75% of the diets of the larvae of numerous salamanders, including spotted, marbled, tiger and fire salamanders.

50-75% of the diets of numerous tadpoles, including American and African bullfrogs, green frogs, edible frogs, American toads, Wallace’s flying frogs, Australian bell frogs and horned frogs (several species).


Except for live food specialists such as the mata mata, nearly every aquatic and semi-aquatic turtle relishes ReptoMin and freeze dried shrimp.  Due to the high calcium needs of growing turtles, I tend to supplement their diets quite frequently with whole fishes and crayfish as well.  I vary the percentage of ReptoMin with the species and situation, but usually rely upon it heavily.

I have used ReptoMin for 50-75% of the diets of hatchling red-eared sliders and snapping turtles, and 30-40% of the diets of spotted, painted, musk, Asian box, Bornean pond and many other turtle species.


Reptomin is eagerly accepted by crayfishes, fresh water shrimp and most aquatic snails, as well as a number of terrestrial invertebrates – millipedes, roaches, snails, crickets and sow bugs.

Larger Animals

For those pets that require larger food items as they grow (i.e. the huge African clawed frog pictured here) you can offer the same basic nutrients by switching from Select-A-Food to a combination of ReptoMin Food Sticks, ReptoTreat Suprema Food Sticks (krill)  and ReptoTreat Gammarus Shrimp.

Further Reading

For a look at another very useful food item for aquatic animals, please see my article Zoo Med’s Canned Shrimp .


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