All you have to do is type “bearded dragon care” into Google to see that there are hundreds of resources on reptile care out there. So why bother with one particular website or care guide? Don’t they all contain more or less the same information?
Not at all.
There are a million and three places where you can find information on reptile care — lifestyle sites, breeders, pet stores, blogs, social media groups, forums, etc. And you’ll find that they rarely agree. That’s because most care sheets and guides available today contain information that is either outdated, oversimplified, trying to sell something (biased), or just plain made up.
As a result, the reptile hobby has become clogged with folklore husbandry advice and practices that get circulated in reptile forums around and around until everyone is parroting the same advice and false facts, backed only an aggressive, “Well it works, so it must be true!”
Don’t believe me? Here’s a short list of the misinformation I see on a daily basis:
• Heat mats are better than heat lamps.
• Reptiles can’t see red light.
• A nighttime heat source is required for a reptile’s health.
• “Belly heat”
• Not all reptiles need UVB.
• Nocturnal reptiles don’t need lights.
• Superworms are nutritious and okay to use as a regular feeder insect.
• Loose substrate causes impaction and will kill any reptile housed on it.
• Snakes should be housed in the smallest enclosures possible.
• Reptiles need their enclosures thoroughly cleaned and disinfected on a weekly basis.
• Feeding a snake more often will make it less aggressive.
• Feeding a snake in a separate enclosure will make it less aggressive.
If you’ve been in the hobby for any amount of time, you’ve probably seen a few of these. And you may be shocked to see them as part of this list. It’s okay — I believed many of these myself when I first started out.
So we come to the big question: If so many care sheets and care guides are so unreliable, what makes ReptiFiles care guides any better? The answer is because we hold our care guides to a high standard. Each guide must meet the following four standards of quality:
• Thoroughly researched
• Up to date
Research is something that most people don’t like to do, but personally, I love it. When I start on a new ReptiFiles care guide, I go on a research blitz, reading and taking notes on EVERYTHING. I pull information from just about any source I can find:
• scientific research papers
• climatological data
• social media groups
• herping observations
• field guides
• care sheets
• personal experience
Of course, not all the information that I find is correct, so during this process I also sort. Because reptiles have evolved to thrive within the very specific conditions of their natural habitats, I give heavier weight to information collected from scientific sources (climatological data, herping observations, field guides, and research papers). I then use what has been collected from those sources to judge the information I’ve found on keeping the species in captivity.
Each ReptiFiles care guide is divided into several sections to provide a complete picture of its subject’s husbandry needs:
• Introduction — Covers basic information about the reptile, such as natural habitat, lifespan, size, fun facts, and a rating of how difficult they are to keep.
• Species List — Names, pictures, and descriptions of this reptile’s closest relatives that may be encountered in captivity and have similar husbandry needs.
• Enclosure Size — Covers recommended enclosure dimensions, ready-made enclosure options, and cohabitation rules.
• UVB, Temperatures & Humidity — Instructs keepers on how to recreate the light, heat, and moisture levels present in a reptile’s natural habitat and therefore required in captivity.
• Substrate — Explores the various substrate (bedding) options most appropriate to the type of reptile, and warns of which ones to avoid.
• Decorations — Lists and describes which accessories are recommended to beautify the enclosure, recreate the animal’s natural habitat, and provide environmental enrichment.
• Diet — Discusses what type of foods the reptile eats, specific foods that one can use to provide a varied diet, how much and how often to feed, and guidelines for vitamin and mineral supplementation.
• Handling & Behavior — Notes on common behaviors and decoding body language demonstrated by the reptile. Also instructions on how to tame and handle the reptile, if at all.
• Health — Discusses the variety of illnesses and other health topics relevant to this type of reptile.
• Additional Resources — Provides additional reading for interested readers, as well as a list of relevant scientific papers.
I keep ReptiFiles’ guides as concise as possible, but I also do have to do my best to provide all of the information that a reptile keeper needs in one resource. For example, our published guide on boa care is over 11,000 words long and quite excellent.
I have seen some awful reptile “care sheets” with outright wrong information, written only to sell products through affiliate links or to sell their sponsor’s products. But that’s not how ReptiFiles works. The only reason I write these care guides is to give pet reptiles around the world a better life, and to educate their owners on how to do it.
We are looking for truth, and the truth is that although reptiles are sensitive animals with specific husbandry needs, there is also plenty of room for variation within that set of requirements. So rather than claiming that there is only one right way to set up an enclosure, our guides provide the information that keepers need to make informed decisions with the resources that they have available to them.
Even though we do use some affiliate links to help cover research, marketing, and site maintenance costs, our care guides and product recommendations are never swayed by affiliate links or relationships. And I never recommend products that we don’t trust and wouldn’t use ourselves for my own reptiles. Several times I have been offered potentially profitable partnership opportunities, but these companies wanted an exclusive relationship, being the only brand that ReptiFiles recommends, and I have turned them down in favor of maintaining our objective position.
ReptiFiles is committed to total honesty about each reptile species, and about the products that we choose to recommend in our product reviews. We want to be the most accurate, trustworthy resource on pet reptile care on the Internet, and we can’t do that if I align myself with any one company’s products or any one group’s ideologies.
That being said, I have a confession — we do have *one* bias: Although there are both minimalistic and naturalistic methods of reptile husbandry, we favor the latter and discourage the former. Reptiles are still a fairly recent addition to the pet trade, and there are many things that we don’t know about their care. I firmly believe that the best way to help a reptile thrive in captivity is by looking at its natural habitat, and then recreating the conditions of that environment within its enclosure.
Up to Date
A lot of people resist changing their information or opinions when they learn that they’re wrong — you probably see this behavior in Internet arguments every day. But at ReptiFiles, we are constantly tweaking and adjusting our care guides to fit our latest findings from our research. I’m delighted to find something that proves my original beliefs wrong, because that means I get to improve the information on ReptiFiles.
A lot of people find this weird. But ReptiFiles isn’t an ego boost for me — it’s about being the best possible resource to help new reptile owners start on the right foot, and to help more experienced reptile owners improve their existing husbandry. And if my pride has to take a hit every once in a while because I was wrong about one detail or another, that’s a fair price to pay.
About the Author:
Mariah Healey is the owner and lead researcher for ReptiFiles. Their mission is to raise the bar for what we consider the “minimum” standards of reptile husbandry, helping pet reptiles to thrive, not just survive. In the sea of confusion and conflicting information that is the reptile hobby, ReptiFiles gives new reptile keepers an all-in-one place where they can go to find information that they can trust. That’s why all of ReptiFiles’ care guides are 100% free.
You may choose to purchase the supplies that they recommend, or make a donation to support their research, but they don’t hide their research behind a pay wall — because they believe that quality education should be available to everyone. And as ReptiFiles writes more care guides, they just keep getting better! So when you read a ReptiFiles care guide, you know that you are reading the most up-to-date, highest quality advice on modern husbandry practices for that particular species.