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Best Reptile Pets For Beginners: A Complete Guide

First published:  May 31, 2020
Last updated: February 8, 2024
Best Reptile Pets For Beginners: A Complete Guide
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  • Reptiles like bearded dragons, leopard geckos, corn snakes and ball pythons make good starter pets as they are relatively easy to care for.
  • Lizards are more popular than snakes or turtles as reptile pets due to their personalities, smaller sizes and ability to interact with owners.
  • It's important to set up the proper housing and meet all care needs before bringing home a new reptile. Key elements are appropriate lighting, heating, bedding, and hides.
  • Diet varies by species - insects for lizards, rodents for snakes, plants and protein for turtles. Supplements are often needed.
  • Lifespans range from 5 years for anoles to over 50 years for larger tortoises. Consider the commitment.
  • Health checks, quarantine and proper handling are important. Reptiles can carry salmonella.
  • Proper humidity, temperature, lighting, hydration and diet are essential. Improper conditions can lead to health issues.
  • Do research to avoid supporting illegal trade and get proper permits. Purchase captive bred reptiles from reputable sources.
  • Consider species personality and do not house different reptiles together. Provide proper enrichment. Seek vet advice on introduction to other pets.

In search of a pet that is exotic and fascinating to look at? Keeping a reptile as a pet would be a great choice. Especially for pet owners looking for unique, hypoallergenic, and easy-to-care creatures, getting the best reptile pet works excellent.

However, remember that these cute reptiles have individual care requirements, and it’s advisable to select the ones that go well with your lifestyle.

As a beginner, whether you are planning to keep the best snakes or lizards as pets, they will surely keep you company for long.

These scaly friends are available in various sizes and shapes. Moreover, some of them require very low maintenance, whereas some need great care.

If you are new to keeping herps and wish to get one, you will find numerous choices that will suit your family. These creatures are adorable and fun to watch and require very little space.

Read on to find out more about the best reptile pets that are suitable for beginners.

Whether you have a dog, cat, reptile, fish, or bird, make sure to keep an eye on Pet Supplies Unlimited for more detailed reviews and information about pets in general and reptiles particularly.

Reptile Pets, Why Not?

Child Sitting Next To A Pet Turtle Pet Reptiles

Reptiles are unbelievable pets that offer an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Also, they are the best choice for individuals who reside in limited spaces. Wish to adopt a unique pet that’s different from the usual cats and dogs? Why not get the best reptile pets home for a change? 

Wondering if reptiles will make great pets? Check out the below reasons.

  • You don’t have to feed these cute reptiles daily. 
  • You don’t have to take the time out of your busy schedule for cuddling or petting them.
  • Once you have set up a proper enclosure for these creatures, maintaining them with appropriate care and attention is not a laborious task.  
  • As you cater to the likes and dislikes of these pet lizards, turtles, and snakes, you tend to view things from their perceptive, thereby learning empathy as you care for them. 

Irrespective of any reptile type that you’re planning to get home, you need to conduct careful research and find out their specific needs.

Being well prepared will avoid any negative experience that can have adverse effects on your family as well as the new pet.

The Best Way To Be A Responsible Reptile Owner

To become a responsible pet keeper, you need to purchase these cute reptiles from reputable outlets and educate yourself on the key requirements of your scaly buddies. This is because, in the pet trade market, most of the reptiles are usually transported from their natural environment on an illegal basis.

You also have to see to it that the species you’re planning to adopt does not have any conservation issues. 

Conduct Careful Research:

Before bringing your reptile pet home, you need to do plenty of research on these creatures. You need to be completely aware of how to keep them healthy and comfortable in their enclosure. For specific advice, you can also consult your vet.

Why Do People Prefer Lizards As Pets Over Snakes And Other Species?

Close up photo of lizard reptile with white background

Though reptiles are gaining popularity over the last few decades in the pet market, pet lizards are the most preferred choice among keepers. A few examples include the bearded dragon, Leopard gecko, and so on. Here is the reason, why?

  • To begin with, they have a lesser alien look compared with the rest of the reptiles. Unlike snakes, they have legs and eyelids and have an exotic appearance. 
  • They display their personality to a certain degree like dogs and cats, which gives it an appealing touch. You can watch their boosting energy levels and excitement level when you offer food to them, which is not a common trait among the other reptiles.
  • You will come across a few species that enjoy the company of humans. Though tortoises and snakes get used to human touch, lizards are the only ones that actively seek attention and approach their keepers.

As they grow in popularity, you will come across a wide range of species, making it challenging for pets to get the best lizard.

Preparing Your Home For Your New Pet Reptile

Man shows children green lizard, the Best Reptile Pets

Reptiles are fascinating creatures with diverse and complex requirements. Meeting each of their needs is quite significant, and this requires a great deal of preparation before you bring these cute reptiles home.

You will have to plan well ahead concerning their housing and dietary needs to make sure things run smoothly from day one onwards. Depending on the reptile species you are bringing home, your shopping list might vary. 

Moreover, you need to set up their enclosure, which should have healthy environmental conditions for each species. Once the conditions inside the housing are stable and you have all the equipment required for its smooth functioning, you can transition these best reptile pets from the store to your residence. The basic preparations include:

  1. Setting up the terrarium. 
  2. Select the perfect covering for the bottom of your pet's house.  
  3. Make sure they have sufficient warmth inside. 
  4. Provide sufficient lighting.
  5. Provide a secure terrarium cover to prevent these escape artists from sneaking out.

Which Reptiles Make The Easiest Pets For Beginners?

Are you looking for the best reptile pet but not sure which one is the best one for you? Not all reptile species make an excellent choice for pets. Those who are venturing out into the world of reptilian pets must make a note of this point, because of the reptile environmental requirements, dietary habits, and huge adult sizes.

However, some of the readily available species are excellent choices for starters. You will find that they have very low maintenance compared with the rest of the reptiles. Well, you still need to provide them with proper care and invest in getting the right equipment for their healthy well-being. 

Research well if you’re planning to get kid-friendly or easy to care species. Choosing ones that are docile like leopard gecko, which shall engage your family members well, would be a great one to pick. Here are some of the easiest reptile pets for those with very less or no experience.

Young bearded dragon with swollen neck

1. Bearded Dragon

Do bearded dragons make a good pet? Well, they socialize well and are very good at interacting with humans. Due to their unique and great personality, they are a great addition to your family. Though small in size when compared to an iguana, they are bigger than geckos. 

When it comes to bearded dragons' care, they require very low maintenance and are easily adaptable and friendly.

Being omnivores, they enjoy feasting on vegetables and insects like meal-worms, roaches, crickets, and super worms. However, some birdies just have an aversion to a specific diet, and some will only eat certain types of food and can be picky in their diet.

Also, these creatures are diurnal; hence they stay awake in the daytime, thereby keeping company with you if you are someone who stays at home more often.

Leopard Gecko close up image

2. Leopard Gecko

Leopard geckos are cute reptiles that are nocturnal. Hence if you’re active during the early hours of the morning or throughout the night, you will be able to enjoy their activities. These docile and handy creatures, easy to maintain, relatively quiet, making it a great pet.

Due to their easily accessible dietary requirements, which includes mainly insects, it is easy for the keepers to manage them.

There are various Leopard Geckos morphs with different shades and patterns and will stay with you for around 10 to 20 years. This medium-sized lizard will require a minimum enclosure size of about 20 gallons as the adults grow up to 8” in length.

Green Chameleon on tree close up photo

3. Chameleon

Chameleons are incredible pet lizards, costing between $30 and $300 depending on the species and age. However, some say that they’re not suitable for starters. This is because of the environmental requirements that they require, which has to be quite precise.

However, if you’re a person who is not interested in handling creatures, chameleons are great options as they get stressed easily when handled. 

Due to their ability to change colors based on the surrounding in which they sit, makes them a unique and exciting companion.

However, concerning the housing, you will have to work with experts to get it right. With their life expectancy ranging from 3 to 10 years, you will find that the adults grow up to 27 inches.

Red Corn Snake on stones close up photo

4. Corn Snake

Corn snakes have a calm nature and are small in size. These herps spend most of their time borrowing and hiding. They also have fun climbing branches, so you need to make sure that the housing has sufficient space to accommodate such décor. With a wide array of patterns and shades available, they offer a great appeal. 

As the adults grow to a size of 4 feet in length, you will have to get an enclosure of 20 gallons in size. These cute reptiles are fantastic escape artists; hence, they need to ensure their tanks have a safe and secure covering. Moreover, these snakes are not picky eaters; thus, they hardly refuse any food. They will stick around with you for approximately 15 to 20 years.

Female Ball Python snake in enclosure

5. Ball Python

Wish to have a legless companion around at home? If so, the ball pythons are the best snakes for pets. They are small in size and quite shy, which makes them attractive to most first-time herp keepers. They do not require elaborate housing needs but are picky when it comes to feeding.

You will come across a wide variety of ball python morphs that are available in different patterns and colors such as the Banana Ball Python. Based on the morph, the price, color, and length also may vary accordingly.

They grow up to 3 to 5 feet lengthwise and are available in numerous colors and patterns. As for the life expectancy that ranges from 25 to 30 years; these creatures will keep you company for most of your lifetime. Hence you need to make sure that you are fully committed to taking up the responsibility.

Check Also: The Ultimate Ball Python Care Sheet For Beginners

Eastern Box Turtle crawling on dry leafs

6. Eastern Box Turtles

Eastern box turtles survive for a long period in various climatic conditions. They do not require any aquatic environment for their existence. These omnivores feed on both insects and plants and are easily adaptable.  

Moreover, they do not become large, like most tortoises, and are easy to maintain. These reptiles come with a brown shaded high domed shell with orange, red, and yellow markings.

The adult turtles grow to a size of 5 to 7 inches in length and require an enclosure of 18 inches height and 4 sq.ft widths. With proper care and maintenance, they live up to 30 to 40 years in captivity.

Green Chinese Water Dragon lizard close up photo

7. Water Dragon

Water dragons have relatively easy housing requirements where you get to enjoy more time with them. When compared with iguanas, they are the best lizard pets as they consume very little space and are less aggressive. However, when threatened, they run quickly and stay submerged in water for almost 90 minutes. 

These pet lizards, at times, run on two legs just like humans. They remain completely still by standing on the other hind legs to merge with the background. These Agamid lizards have a special ability where they can regenerate their tails when severed. They live up to 10 to 20 years and, at times, much longer with proper care.

Tiny Crested Gecko lizard on human finger

8. Crested Gecko

Crested Geckos come with long crests on their eyes and body, giving them a cartoon-like appearance. These entertaining pet lizards are docile and are available in numerous patterns and shades. 

As this species is arboreal, they will need housing that is quite tall. Hence, it’s suitable for those who do not have much space to keep an enclosure in their house.

However, they are highly sensitive to high temperatures; hence you will have to keep misting their enclosure daily as part of their care routine. When it comes to their dietary requirements, they enjoy feeding on commercials feeds and insects, which is quite convenient.

Red Eared Slider Turtle On Green Grass

9. Red-Eared Slider

Red-Eared Sliders are freshwater turtles that are fun to have around. As for their hatchlings, you’ll have to provide these omnivores with proper nutrition daily. When they grow older, they fill their bellies only once every 2 to 3 days. 

These cute reptiles thrive well for around 20 years. Hence you need to be quite serious about your commitment if you’re planning to get one home. They also need lots of space and requirements, so be prepared for this life-changing addition.

Smaller tanks work well for the young ones, whereas the matured sliders need a tank that can hold around a hundred gallons of water.

Russian Tortoise walking on wooden surface

10. Russian Tortoise

Russian tortoises are better options when compared with red-eared sliders. This is mainly because of their ability to interact with their keepers, and they’re relatively easy to maintain.

Since they thrive well for around 50 years, it can be quite a long commitment if planning to get one.

These cute reptiles are handy and small in size and grow up to a maximum of 8 to 10 inches. When it comes to their water requirements, they absorb most of the moisture from their food. These creatures are capable of surviving extreme heat conditions and low temperatures up to 20°F.

A male green anole throat puffing out

11. Green Anole

These pet lizards are skittish and small in size; however, they are very active. Though the adult green anoles have a length of 9 inches, they are comparatively smaller than the crested and leopard geckos. 

As they are quite jumpy, it’s advisable not to touch and handle these lizards, or else they will escape. They require an enclosure of around 20-gallon size and have a lifespan of 5 to 10 years.

When it comes to their dietary requirements, they feed mainly on live insects. These creatures need to be properly fed quite often as they have a quicker metabolic rate.

Reptiles Rescue Vs. Pet Store

Individuals mostly purchase pet reptiles from reptile shows, pet stores, or at times from rescue groups or shelters. Most of the best reptile pets are usually bred in captivity; however, some are taken from their natural environment and are illegally sold in the pet market.

Hence before you make the purchase, you have to inquire and research well to avoid illegal trade practices. 

Though rescuing is an incredible way of helping those reptiles in need, you need to get a healthy creature if you have kids at home. 

Opting for reputable pet shops based on the species would be a great choice. These stores also have support staff who will guide you concerning the maintenance, housing, and dietary habits.

Moreover, they come with a license to sell these best reptile pets, so you will have to undergo an inspection every year to ensure that you are adhering to all the required standards.

Basic Pet Reptile Equipment Checklist

You will find that a wide variety of reptiles are normally kept as pets these days. However, you need to acquire a license before you get them and make sure that the cute reptiles you purchase are bred in captivity.

Once you get the permit, avoid rushing to get them home. This is because you need to have some understanding of the care requirements and get their habitat in place before you shift them from the pet shop to your house. 

Improper husbandry and housing practices can impact their health. When it comes to taking care of reptiles, each species has a unique care system. You have to be well acquainted with all the information concerning the species you are planning to bring home as they will keep you company for quite a long period.

You need to pay careful attention to all the essential requirements such as temperature and humidity gauges, lighting, heat, food, supplements, and other accessories. Let's have a look at each of them in detail.


For housing the majority of these best reptile pets, you need to set up a basic aquarium tank known as the terrarium or the vivarium.

It’s advisable to opt for glass tanks instead of the plastic options as they are sturdy enough to withstand the ever-growing scaly buddies’ abuses. Moreover, the plastic material may leach out chemicals that are harmful to the health of these creatures.

The glass tanks are capable of holding up the moisture content and the heat levels inside the enclosure. Since they rapidly grow in size and require large distances to roam around freely, be generous in selecting the size of the tank. On a global basis, the tank size varies from 10 gallons to 15 gallons.

Related: Best chameleon cage

You May Also Like: Best Bearded Dragon Enclosures


You can enrich the environment of the pet reptile’s enclosure by adding more furnishings and décor. This includes rocks, branches, and places to hide. The majority of the best reptile pets like the lizards and snakes require hiding spots where they can escape and release stress.

To humidify the terrarium, you can spray the décor items with water. Even though it is entertaining to arrange and decorate the habitat of these herps and see them interacting with the environment that you created for them, it acts as a serious factor. This is because it offers most of their essential requirements, such as protection, basking, and shelter.


Most of the reptilian enclosures need two different types of lightbulbs—one for producing heat and the other to provide ultraviolet light. The UV light is of two types depending on their wavelength. UVA is for visual, and UVB is for the production of vitamin D and metabolism of calcium.

Diurnal species that are active during daytime need UVB for absorbing calcium and producing vitamin D. When it comes to the nocturnal creatures, they do not require much UV light as they get their vitamin D from dietary resources. Make sure that your reptile pets get 12 hours a day and night cycle for proper growth.


The temperature requirements of each reptile vary based on their species. Generally, they are not capable of controlling their body temperature and must be well kept in an environment with a specific temperature range suitable for them.

This is possible by providing them with additional heating equipment such as heat plates, cords, or lamps. However, avoid using heat rocks and mats as they malfunction and result in extensive burns.

Make sure that the heat source is appropriately regulated using a thermostat and provides heat throughout. Though these cute reptiles slow down their metabolic activities during winter and brumate, restricting the heat source will cause health issues.


By providing bedding for your best reptile pets, it creates a feeling of natural habitat for them. Ones like the bearded dragon, dragon gecko, and other herptiles require very little extravagance.

The common tropical housing substrates are reptile soil, bark, moss, and coconut husks. When it comes to desert enclosure beddings, reptile carpet and specially formulated sands will work great.

Most creatures prefer to hide among the substrates, and some of them use it as nesting material. The tropical herps make use of the humidity that it offers, and the cold-blooded reptiles get warmth from the insulation it provides.

Related: Best bearded dragon substrates

Food And Water Dishes

Snakes are mostly fed with different types of rodents as a whole. As for the best lizard pets, they enjoy feeding on different types of vegetables and insects, such as roaches, silkworms, and crickets.

Mature pet lizards need protein sources around once or twice a week, along with powdered or liquid calcium supplements. Turtles enjoy a variety of foods like a frozen mix of seafood, insects, and whole fish along with calcium supplements.

The short-necked species also need aquarium plants in their diet. Most herps get their water source from their diet. However, turtles and tortoises require strict water quality for their wellbeing.

Reptile Health

Your vet is best qualified for evaluating the health of your new family member. They also advise you concerning proper nutrition, grooming, socialization, and parasite control of your new scaly pet. Schedule a wellness test with your vet to evaluate your best reptile pet's overall health before you bring them home.

This helps in checking if they have any external or internal parasites on their body. The screening test includes checking the following.

  • Eyes: As it’s the common spot for the parasites to thrive, it must be free from build-ups and clean. 
  • Mouth: The mouth should have a light pink shade, which shows they are healthy. 
  • Shell: Check if its firm and devoid of defects. 
  • Skin: It needs to be supple and smooth with no bumps, burns, dulling, scratches, or bite marks. 

As new pets are normally quarantined for a minimum of one month and kept away from the other creatures in the house, your vet will decide when it's safe to introduce them.

Check Also: How Big Do Ball Pythons Get?

What To Avoid While Keeping A Reptile As A Pet?

Understanding how to properly care for your best reptile pet without any potential health concerns is essential for keeping them safe at home.

Getting pet insurance for Turtles, bearded dragons and geckos may also provide additional peace of mind, though exotic pet policies are notoriously hard to come by.

Here are some aspects you need to keep in mind to avoid making any mistake as a beginner pet keeper. 

  • Dehydration: Most of the herps kept in captivity are given water in a bowl, but that does not mean they are well hydrated. If the air present in the enclosure is dry, it can result in the dehydration of your pet. Hydration is essential for maintaining proper humidity levels, skin health, and sufficient soaking.
  • Improper Lighting: Lack of UVB lighting can have adverse effects on creatures like bearded dragons, tortoises, turtles, dragon geckos, and chameleons. This is because they won’t be able to metabolize calcium and synthesize vitamin D from their diet.
  • Simplified Diet: In the wild, these herps have access to a variety of food options. Whereas in captivity, the diet source is quite limited, and they won't get all the required nutrients. Hence you need to supplement their diets with necessary vitamins and minerals for their proper growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

Unlike the furry companions, getting the best snakes for pets or lizards as pets would be a great choice. However, the care requirements for each species are entirely different.

While one requires extremely high temperatures and low humidity, others can thrive well under low temperatures and high humidity.

Do you have any queries about taking care of your new reptilian pet? Here are some of the frequently asked questions about the best reptile pets.

What is the best reptile pet for beginners?

Getting the best reptile pets for new herp keepers is essential as they require minimum maintenance. However, you still need to invest a lot in their care and housing necessities, but they’re easier to handle than other pets.
With proper care and attention, these herps turn out to be the best intriguing companions. Out of which, bearded dragons are the most favorite among beginner herp owners. This is because they remain awake during the daytime and are socially active towards humans. Moreover, these unique creatures are entirely different from the usual pet birds and mammals that you keep. Also, their enclosure enables you to bring a miniature piece of nature into your abode.

Do reptiles enjoy being pet?

When it comes to herps, it’s hard to imagine them as creatures that exhibit emotions and like being handled. The idea of bonding with the slithering snake or keeping tortoises and lizards as pets may seem impossible or creepy to some. However, most of the reptile species enjoy the company of humans and interact with them. 
For instance, tortoises love petting, and they either close their eyes or stick their necks out and remain calm and still as you pet them gently. Whether it’s a large snake or a small gecko, these scaly companions are docile and have fun lying on your lap as you read your book or watch your favorite TV channel.

What is the friendliest reptile for a pet?

Ever considered reptiles as social animals? They may not seem to be social to reptiles of other species but interact well with humans. However, they are not usually found in groups other than for reproductive purposes. This solitary nature of these herps may pose an issue for pet keepers who wish to keep more than one reptile species in an enclosure as it will stress them out.
Keeping snakes and lizards as pets together in a single enclosure can make them extremely aggressive, resulting in huge fights. As far as sociability matters, bearded dragons are the most popular options. This is because these scaly buddies prefer to hang around the shoulders of their owners or even snooze on their lap, similar to feline companions.

Is it dangerous to keep a snake as a pet?

Generally, most of the non-venomous pet snakes are docile, calm, and gentle. Keeping the best snakes for pets is not a dangerous affair. They do not bite their keepers unless they are provoked. However, most species may bite unexpectedly when they are starving or startled. When they are hungry, they may lash out to get a hold of the rodents and may bite your hands that offer them food accidentally.
These cute reptiles also bite and become more irritable when they are not feeling well and while they are shedding. Remember to address these wounds immediately, as it is crucial for your health. This is because the snake bite wounds may get infected with numerous bacteria like salmonella.

Is it cruel to keep reptiles as pets?

With the right amount of care and maintenance, keeping the best reptile pets at home does not endanger them. While in captivity, you need to provide housing and care necessities similar to their natural habitat. As they are ectothermic, they thrive well in most conditions but require proper temperature range for their healthy wellbeing. Also, you have to provide them with feeds that are nutritious to keep them from getting sick.
In certain countries, you need a permit to keep most of these cute reptile species at home. These regulations may vary depending on where you reside. Hence you need to confirm with the local authorities or the state government regulations.

How long do pet turtles live?

Turtles are well known for their long lifespan, where some species can survive for more than 100 years. Some common pet water turtles may only live up to 40 years. Remember that various factors influence the life expectancy of these best reptile pets. This mainly depends on their dietary plan, species, and environmental aspects.

The lifespans of some of the common turtle pet species are the following:
Red-eared slider thrives up to 25 to 35 years.
Eastern Box Turtle can live for more than 50 years.
Russian Tortoise has a life span of more than 40 years.
Leopard Tortoise may survive beyond a century.

Larger tortoises and turtles are commonly known for their extremely long lifespans, whereas the smaller species are short-lived and go up to only a few decades. There have been records of tortoises living for more than 200 years as well.


Being aware of the specific requirements and personality of your new pet reptile will help you to give them the best care. For this, you will have to spend a lot of time doing careful research as caring for them is a lifetime commitment. 

Not sure which species is the best one for you? It’s advisable to visit your local reptile pet store and get the best advice from the support staff or the local veterinarian present. 

Which reptile species are you planning to take home? Do let us know in the comments below. For further information and queries on these cute reptiles, feel free to get in touch with us.

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2 comments on “Best Reptile Pets For Beginners: A Complete Guide”

  1. My friend is thinking about adopting a pet as his new companion during these tough times. I like how you explained that a reptile can work as a pet and some of them grow into different sizes. Since he likes exotic things, I think finding a pet store that sells snakes could help him start being a pet owner.

  2. Wow, I didn't know that even smaller turtles could have pretty long lifespans. I'm interested in looking for reptiles for sale because I'm thinking about having a pet at home in the future. I am allergic to fur some scaly animals might be the right fit for me.

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