This is a question I get every once in a while: “How much do reptiles cost?” And I always hesitate, because it’s such a complicated answer. As with any animal, cost varies largely depending on the species and standard of husbandry.
Because the needs of lizards, snakes, turtles, and tortoises vary, I’ve made four tables with popular beginner species from each group: bearded dragon, corn snake, red-eared slider, and red-footed tortoise. Because most keepers start with a juvenile, the listed requirements and numbers reflect a juvenile’s needs.
The figures presented below are based on average investment, or what new reptile keepers can anticipate to spend based on product price averages. Electricity costs are not included; however, the increase in one’s utility bill due to having one reptile is typically nominal.
**These figures are meant to be a guideline for new reptile keepers in terms of what they should buy for a new pet reptile, and how much they can expect to pay. More experienced reptile keepers will find that their expenses are below this estimate. (More information on saving money at the end of the article.)**
How much does a lizard cost?
EDIT 12/13/18 — Due to mounting evidence, ReptiFiles now recommends that all adult bearded dragons are housed in 120 gallon enclosures, measuring approximately 48″ x 24″ x 24″.
How much does a snake cost?
How much does a turtle cost?
How much does a tortoise cost?
Reptiles seem expensive; how can I save money?
After skimming through those numbers, you might be feeling a little light-headed. One reptile is expensive enough; how do reptile enthusiasts keep ten or more??
Because reptiles are an addiction, knowing how to minimize expenses (without sacrificing quality of care) becomes just as important as knowing how to care for your animals.
- Adopt. Reptile rescues, animal shelters, and especially your local classifieds are full of reptiles that need new homes. Often these reptiles are less expensive than buying from a breeder or pet store, sometimes even free. And sometimes you’ll be able to get the reptile’s supplies for a dramatic discount. ***Beware, however — reptiles in your local classifieds often come with health problems, so the money you save will be redirected toward vet bills.
- Buy second-hand. As mentioned above, sometimes adopted reptiles come with their own set of second-hand supplies. However, it’s good to have a back up plan with supplies of your own. Supplies like food/water bowls, light fixtures, and especially terrariums are often listed in local classifieds. If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, check thrift stores and garage sales. You’ll likely find something for half-price or less! ***Beware: All second-hand supplies should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized with a bleach and/or chlorhexidine solution.
- Make your own supplies. If you’re handy, making your own hides, decorations, or even your own enclosure can be a fun way to save money. For example, found branches and rocks (after sanitizing) can be used to create great—and free!—naturalistic hides, basking platforms, and other decor.
- Buy non-reptile specific products. Reptile supplies often have marked-up prices because they’re being sold in a niche market. Take them out of context, and there’s more to compete with, resulting in lower prices. For example, thermostat-controlled heat mats can be found for lower prices as seedling sprouting mats or medical-grade personal warmers. Heat lamps and bulbs also tend to be cheaper at farm supply stores.
- Buy in bulk. When you buy in bulk, you spend more money on the initial expenditure, but the cost per unit is (sometimes much) lower. This works best for ready-made reptile diets, feeder insects, frozen prey, and substrates. Reptile expos and feeder insect/animal breeders are the best places to take advantage of bulk discounts.
At the end of the day, any pet can be expensive, so it’s best to know what you’re getting yourself into before bringing a new reptile home. But healthy, happy pets are worth the investment.
What are your best tips for saving money on reptiles? Share your wisdom in the comments!
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