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Reptile Gardens: Attracting Terrestrial and Aquatic Invertebrates – Part 3

Please see Parts I and II of this article for information on growing terrestrial and aquatic food plants for reptiles and amphibians.

Aquatic Invertebrates

A startling variety of aquatic invertebrates will likely establish themselves in almost any body of standing water, be it a backyard pond or a container of water on a fire escape in the heart of a busy city (the adults of most aquatic insects are winged, and quickly locate new breeding sites).  Ranging in size from tiny Daphnia to quite large dragonfly nymphs, all are fine food items for insectivorous herps, and make wonderful aquarium subjects as well.

You can also use an outdoor pond to breed snails, guppies, crayfish and other useful food animals.

Terrestrial Invertebrates

Your reptile garden will, in addition, attract numerous terrestrial insects.  All are interesting to observe and many can be collected to feed to your collection (a Bug Napper Insect Trap situated near a garden will provide a great nightly haul).

Flowering gardens are also important as feeding sites for pollinating insects, many of which are in serious decline.  Over 80% of the world’s plants and 90% of US food crops rely upon insect pollinators.

A Bonus…Observing Garden Visitors

You are sure to come across some interesting finds, as invertebrate diversity, even in temperate areas, is astounding.

An acre of Pennsylvania soil, for example, can host 425 million individual invertebrates (including 2 million tasty earthworms!) and New York State is home to 4,125 species of beetles.  Over 11,000 different types of moths may be found in the USA, and new species are constantly being uncovered in the most unlikely of places…be sure to check those captured in your Bug Napper carefully before popping them into a terrarium!

Further Reading

The leaf fall that gathers below your plants and trees will quickly become populated by an unbelievable assortment of millipedes, springtails, sow bugs, beetles and other creatures.  Many of these, especially the smaller invertebrates, are vital foods for tiny poison frogs and other small herps.  For information on collecting and using this free food source, please see my article on Leaf Litter Invertebrates.

Image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Alvesgaspar

Reptile Gardens – Growing Food Plants and Attracting Insects for Your Pets – Part 2

Please see Part I of this article for information regarding specific types of reptiles and the growing of native plants.

Nearly all fruits and berries, and many flowers and grasses, can be put to good use in feeding tortoises, herbivorous lizards, and certain aquatic turtles.  Try also adding grass clumps and leafy branches to your insectivorous pets’ terrariums…frogs, day geckos and others will enjoy poking through them in search of tasty insects.

Fruit Trees and Bushes

Apple and Crab Apple





Most berries, including natives such as elderberry and juniper











Seeds, Grains and Grasses


Canary Grass



Seeds of most native grasses (“weeds”)

Pond Plants

A small pond, or even an unfiltered, water-filled container set out in a sunny location, will support duckweed, Anachris and other hearty aquatic plants, many of which are important natural foods for aquatic turtles.  Keep a few minnows in the pond to consume mosquito larvae.

You can also easily (almost too easily!) grow water hyacinth and water lettuce – both look great in terrariums housing frogs, newts and small turtles.  They require very bright light, but you can always rotate individual plants back out to the pond, where they will perk up very quickly.

Next time I’ll highlight some interesting insect visitors that you can expect in your reptile garden.

Further Reading

Fruit and other trees attract cicadas…a mixed blessing for “real gardeners” but a bonanza for herp enthusiasts.  For my take on using these chunky summer songsters as reptile food, please see Cicadas, an End of Summer Treat.

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