Mantella Care – Keeping Madagascar Poison Frogs in the Terrarium

Often compared to the Dart Poison Frogs in size, appearance and behavior, Mantellas are among the most highly desirable of all amphibian pets.  Most are spectacularly colored – so much so that I’ve often had visitors to my exhibits at the Bronx Zoo ask if they are real!  Indeed, many frog enthusiasts consider the ruby morph of the Golden Mantella (M. aurantiaca) to be the world’s most beautiful frog.  Several of their colors, including some of the greens and oranges, are not seen in the more popularly-kept Dart Poison Frogs.

Mantella bernhardi

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Devin Edmonds

You can expect to see many interesting behaviors from Mantella Frogs, as they are active by day, quite bold, and are always foraging, exploring, interacting and otherwise “on the go”.  Once considered delicate captives, several species are now regularly bred in captivity, and we are learning more about Mantella care and fascinating natural histories (including how they acquire their famous skin toxins…please see below) each year.The following information can be applied to most available species, including Painted, Golden, Green, Brown and Saffron Mantellas.  However, details vary; please post below for information concerning individual species. Read More »

Reptile Lighting – Understanding and Using Compact UVB Bulbs

The technology behind amphibian and reptile lighting has come a long way since I began working at the Bronx Zoo, when “black lights” and the sun were our only UVB (Ultra Violet B radiation) options.  Today I’ll review an important herp husbandry innovation, the compact UVB fluorescent bulb (note: bulbs are referred to as “lamps” in technical papers).  My experiences have been positive, but some reptile-keepers have raised concerns, so I’ll address them as well. Please be sure to post your experiences and ideas below, as we still have much to learn about this important topic.

Pancake Tortoises

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Dave Pape

Reptiles, UVB and UVA: a Quick Primer

Most heliothermic (basking) lizards, turtles, and crocodilians need exposure to UVB light rays with a wavelength of 290-315 nanometers in order to synthesize Vitamin D3 in their skin.  Vitamin D3 allows these animals to utilize dietary calcium.  Without D3, dietary calcium is not metabolized and metabolic bone disease sets in.  Snakes, highly-aquatic turtles, nocturnal lizards, most amphibians, and certain others can make use of dietary Vitamin D, but most basking species rely on the skin-synthesized form. Read More »

Chameleon Care Tips from a Herpetologist – Panther Chameleons as Pets

Chameleons are spectacular creatures to care for, but they are almost “too interesting” for their own good.  Drawn by their beauty and unique-to-bizarre characteristics, many rush into chameleon care without proper preparation.  None are suitable for beginners, but if asked to recommend a large, colorful species to an experienced keeper, I would choose the majestic Panther Chameleon, Furcifer pardalis.  While not as hardy as the Veiled Chameleon, Chamaeleo calyptratus, the Panther is adapted to environmental conditions that fluctuate wildly, and this seems assist its adjustment to captivity.  It is also an excellent study subject…recent studies have revealed new insights into the relationship between chameleon basking behavior and diet (please see below).

Male Panther Chameleon

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Marc Staub

I’ve worked with many chameleon species in zoos, and can attest to the difficulties involved even when one has sufficient space and supplies.  Please read this article and those linked under “Further Reading” carefully, and post any questions below. Read More »

Pet Lizards – Fascinating Species for those who keep Reptiles as Pets

 From minute House Geckos to massive Water Monitors and endangered Rhinoceros Iguanas, an amazing array of fascinating lizards is now available in the pet trade. Fortunately, many are being bred in captivity, and new discoveries concerning their needs occur regularly.  But the range of choices of pet lizards can be overwhelming. Not all species are suited for each keeper, and some, although popular, are best avoided by private collectors.

Drawing from decades of work with hundreds of species at the Bronx and Staten Island Zoos, today I’d like to highlight the pros and cons of some popular lizards. Detailed care information can be found in the linked articles, or by posting your questions below. Scores of other species could be used in place of those I have suggested…please be sure to write in with your own favorites, so that other readers may benefit from your experiences.

Chuckwalla (Sauromalus obesus)

Frilled Lizard

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Miklos Schiberna

This stocky desert-dweller was once difficult to maintain in captivity, mainly because its UVB requirements were ignored. Today’s high-output florescent UVB and mercury vapor bulbs have changed this situation, and captive bred animals are now readily available. Read More »

Mazuri High Calcium Cricket Diet and Other Foods for Feeder Crickets

My professional experience with captive reptiles, amphibians and other creatures extends back over 4 decades, with much of that time being spent at the Bronx Zoo. For the past 24 years, I’ve relied heavily upon Mazuri animal diets, as have many of my zoologist colleagues worldwide. From turtles to elephants and hamsters to cassowaries, Mazuri formulates more carefully-researched foods than does any other company. I recently had occasion to experiment with and read about Mazuri’s High Calcium Cricket Diet, and am quite pleased with the results. In the following article, I’ll also highlight some other useful products for crickets and similar feeder insects.

Crickets feeding

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Sean Wallace

The Calcium: Phosphorus Ratio

In order to maintain optimum health and normal growth, the foods offered to reptiles and amphibians should (depending upon the species) contain calcium and phosphorus in a ratio of 1:1, 1.5:1 or 2:1. Crickets and many other feeder insects in their natural (“un-supplemented”) state have a calcium: phosphorus ratio of only 0.3:1. Read More »

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