Welfare of exotic pets - evidence: scoping review

Scoping review conducted by Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) on the evidence of the welfare of exotic pets in Scotland.

Appendix 2: Selected information from websites selling reptiles and amphibians

Ball pythons

Advice on enclosure size recommends vivarium sizes that do not allow snakes to fully extend:

  • “You are best providing your snake with a vivarium or terrarium that is roughly just over half their size in length” (“Swell Reptiles”, reptiles.swelluk.com).

The congenital neurological condition “spider wobble” may be perceived as normal.

  • “Great snake eats and does everything as he should… He does have the typical spider head shake at feeding time” (Ball python for sale in Scotland (as of 28/02/22) on “Morph Market“).

On the sales site, “Morph market”, with adverts from across Europe, including 16 Scottish locations, 18,206 ball pythons were available for sale (28/02/2022). Ball pythons on this website are traded chiefly on the basis of their colour (under the heading “Genes and Traits”), and within the description of each individual is their sex, age (juvenile or adult) and a brief description of their diet (e.g., “live mice”).

Burmese pythons

  • “As the python grows it will need to be upgraded to a much bigger enclosure. A male may be okay in something aroun (sic) 7x2x2ft but females could need something even bigger”, Northampton reptile centre.
  • Descriptions of Burmese pythons on general purpose sales sites (Preloved and Gumtree, accessed 01/03/2022) highlight the priorities in owners’ perceptions of good health and welfare are chiefly determined by feeding, defecating and shedding.
  • “I’ve done the boring bit for you getting her to this size. She will probably hit 11ft with a sensible feeding regime, if you push the envelope with the food this girl will get VERY large”. (Pets4homes)


  • “an excellent frog to keep in captivity if you like a low maintenance and easy to care for animal”, (Horned frogs, Reptiles Cymru)
  • “The best breeds to start with are often the horned frog and fire salamander”.

(Pets at Home)


Reptiles Magazine

“become puppy-dog tame, form strong bonds with their keepers, and they adapt easily to life in captivity”.

Handle from hatchlings.

Avoid staring directly into their eyes or making sudden moves with your hands.

Be gentle, calm and talk softly.

Spend time together in a small room and just sit with your pet while letting it roam.

[Argentinian tegus] “often become very docile when kept in a stable setting and with the attention needed”, “appear to seek human attention and thrive more when kept in a caring environment”.

Reptiles Lounge

“With constant human interaction they can be domesticated and create a bond with the handler”

Their social skills allow them to cohabitate in one enclosure. The only thing you need is to double everything for two and increase accordingly as you add a tegu”.

“When domesticated, you have the option of allowing them to freely roam about as long as the humidity and sunlight exposure is adequate”.


Handle often, Argentine tegus get more docile as they get older.

If not used to being handled, can become anxious and lash out… can grow to have an incredibly strong bite.

Blue tegus may not play well with others, be extremely careful not to keep two males together.

If not breeding, keep two females with plenty of space.

Can be housetrained, red tegus particularly suited to clicker-training to drink from a water dish and toilet outside.

Gold tegus harder to domesticate, use thick mitts or gloves when handling.


Can be trained (to an extent), can run on two legs, can jump almost 3- straight up.

Go through “puberty” like adolescence… “thoroughly unpleasant to deal with”.

Even a tame, adult tegu will bite/scratch/ tail whip if scared or threatened.

Wild-caught tegus are difficult to tame and more likely to harbour parasites and disease. Argentine tegus are calm and easy to tame. Tupinambis (Colombian) tegus more defensive but can be tamed.

Tegus are perfectly happy living alone. Female and female pairs or male and male pairs can be housed together (although individual personalities mean cohabitation won’t always work).


Reptiles Magazine


Hatchlings: insects dusted in calcium. Adults: whole frozen/thawed rodents, lean meat, fish, eggs, fruit and vegetation.

Vary the diet, and mix ingredients to encourage eating vegetation.

Reptiles Lounge


Diet largely composed of meaty meals with some fruits and veggies.

Any raw meat: pinkie mice and boiled eggs.

“Zoo menu” tegu and monitor food as a ready-to-use alternative.

Red tegus need more fruit and vegetables.

A full list of recommended foods is included, owners advised to ensure variety.

Prey supplemented or gut-loaded with vitamins, other food should be sprinkled with calcium and vitamin D, or rep-cal herptivite given 2x/ week.



Young: mostly insects (recommends “tegu hatchling bundle”, which contains ground whole prey and fruit and vegetables)

High C:P ratio.

Adult: cooked eggs and turkey meat, tropical fruits, “megablend” proprietary food.

Special requirements for blue tegus: lean cooked meat and less fruit, ensure Ca supplements. Ground-up rabbit bones (for calcium) and quail eggs (help absorb vitamins A and D). Similar recommendations for gold tegus.

Red tegus: more fruit compared with others.


Salvator (Argentine) species are pmnivorous, Tupinambis species are carnivorous.

Juveniles: 90% protein, 10% vegetables, occasional fruit. Most of diet= insects.

Ault Argentine tegus: 60% protein, 30% vegetables, 10% fruit). Adult Colombian tegus (90% protein, 10% vegetables).

Recommend less fruit than wild tegus eat because captive tegus are less active.

Portion size: “about the size of the tegu’s skull”.

Avoid obesity by sticking to a schedule and encouraging exercise.

Full list of insects (not wild caught), whole prey, meat (supplemented or dusted with calcium).

Eggs and fish should be cooked.

Full list of vegetables and plants including list of plants not to give.

Commercial diets in addition to rotation of tegu foods.

Dog and cat food can be added (canned).

When whole foods are given, supplements are not required. If using non-whole food, “repashy calcium plus, arcadia earthpro A, miner-all indoor and herptivite”.

Live prey is recommended.

Enclosure size (adults)

Reptiles Magazine

At least 6 x 3 x 3 ft, preferably 8 x 4 x 3ft.


6-8ft x 3-4ft x 3ft


8’ x 4’ x 4’ (Argentine)

6’ x 3’ x 3’



Reptiles Magazine

UVB lighting is mandatory and vital to health (no further specifications).

Reptiles Lounge

10-12 hours of natural sunlight that is not filtered or UV light.

6-month replacement cycle must be done to ensure adequate UVA/UVB


UVB bulbs recommended for gold tegus.


12-14h daily UVB, supplemented by natural sunlight when possible.

Fluorescent UVB bulb of high output (specific recommendations).

S. merianae categorised as “open or partial sun baskers”, all day UVI 2.6-1.0 (gradient from 2.6 to 0).

Need solarmeter 6.5 to measure precise UVI.


Reptiles Magazine

Use a 12 hours on, 12 hours light cycle or 4h on, 4h off, 4h on, 12h off.


“All the tegus need proper lighting”, especially important with gold tegus.


Heat bulbs and UVB bulb not enough to provide bright light.

Arcadia jungle dawn LED bar, expensive but high output, use one or even two per enclosure to actively light at least half the length of enclosure.


Reptiles Magazine

100-110F over basking spot, 90-95F at warm end, 75- 80F at the cooler end.

Heat lamp over basking spot,

Reptiles Lounge

Basking spot: 95-100F, warm area 90F, cool spot 80F.

Basking spot bulbs, incandescent lights and infrared ceramic heat emitters controlled with a thermostat.

Use a thermometer to help maintain temperature.


Basking surface 125-135F, warm side 90-95F, cool side 75-85F.

Turn off all lighting and heat at night.

To monitor temperature, need infrared temperature gun.

Hatchlings: high wattage halogen floodlight bulb for basking spot.

Adult: Series of halogen flood lights clustered together.

Experiment and use dimmer switch


Reptiles Lounge

Humidity helps tegus shed.


Use damp moss or substrate

Tip-proof water bowl big enough to soak in with easy entry and exit

Misting also helps keep humidity optimum.


Mist the substrate as needed to maintain the recommended humidity level, but the substrate shouldn’t be “overly saturated”.

Provide a secure screen top and/or vents but avoid too much airflow.

“Experiment a little to get things just right”.



Mix water into substrate until uniformly moist (weekly).

Mist enclosure (pressure sprayer). Provide cool, humid hide box with damp moss.

Track using digital hygrometer (one for warm side, one for cool side).

Include pool large enough for body and tail to fit inside.


Reptiles Magazine

Cypress mulch, coconut coir or a sand and soil mixture.

Depth of about 4” for hatchling, 8” for adults.

Not “over dusty or resinous” substrates,

Reptiles Lounge

Cypress mulch, coconut fiber.

Substrate must allow them to dig/ excavate.


Mix of 40% organic topsoil, 40% reptisoil, 20% play sand.

Bio Dude terra firma

Reptichip (mulched coconut shell), less dusty than coconut fiber.

Cypress mulch (layered on sand/soil mix)

12-24’ depth at least on one side of enclosure


Reptiles Lounge

Hide big enough for them to move about inside freely.


Minimalistic setups are horribly boring for your pet and do nothing to keep them entertained or make them feel secure”.

Ensure you let them free-roam regularly for enrichment and exercise.

Hide box/ cave

Large water tub

Thick substrate

Large logs/ branches

Live or artificial plants (live plants require planning so not destroyed, artificial plants must be durable, not placed under heat source and low/ no VOC).

Toys: leaves, boxes, hang whole fruit from the ceiling, hidden food, live insect/ bird/ mammal prey, puzzle balls, rearrange “furniture”, newspaper balls, snake sheds, tunnels.


Email: SAWC.Secretariat@gov.scot

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