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Canadiandragon   JackAsp   Canadiandragon   JackAsp  
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 New to Herps - are Collareds a good Choice?


My fiance (Tau on this forum) and I are new to herp ownership (I had a red-eared slider when I was growing up, but otherwise we’ve both been strictly mammal people), but about two months ago we purchased an Australian water dragon and we adore her. We are also receiving a hatchling corn snake in a couple of weeks (a friend of mine bred them and the clutch is hatching as we speak). We’ve consulted with several people and care sheets with regards to our setup and husbandry for both animals, and have been resoundingly informed that we’re doing a great job; our Aussie is happy, healthy and eats like a horse and we’ve read numerous books on the care of corn snakes in preparation for our baby.

All this to say that a few weeks ago the local reptile shop (where we got our Aussie; an excellent place owned by a long-time collector, all of his animals are healthy and well-cared for and he won’t sell to anyone he’s unsure about) got in a shipment of collared lizards. My fiance and I have been oohing and aahing over them since they arrived. They’re just the CUTEST things ever, and they’re quite tame; the shop owner lets us take them out and play with them whenever we’re there. We’re upgrading our dragon to a larger vivarium in a few weeks, which means her current one (40 gallon) will be empty...

So my question is this; are collareds a good choice for amateur herp keepers? I know they’re a bit pickier about their habitat and ideal temperatures than Aussies or corns, and I know that they eat (a lot) more. But how fragile are they? Are we likely to have our hearts broken?

06/30/10  11:50am


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  Message To: Canadiandragon   In reference to Message Id: 2159581

 New to Herps - are Collareds a good Choice?

I’d hold off a while. You’re completely right about how cute they are, but two things they’re vry prone to are respiraory infections that can kill very quickly and severe winter depression that can lead to starvation if you can’t eitherget their hibernation temps just right or convince them to stay active. Also, the females are extremely prolific egg-producers, which can lead to a lot of medical complications.
Buy yourself an infrared temp gun and use the animals you have now as an excuse to play around zapping all the different temperatures in various sections of their cages. After a few seasons of that, watching how room temperature variations and crossdrafts affect different sections of the thermal gradient you’ll be much more skilled at trouble-shooting temps, which are one of the easiest place for unseen problem areas to develop.
I’m not saying that it’s impossible that you might not do well if you jumped into collards right now, and half of these threads are us trying to help people who did exactly that, but there are still going to be collards around in a year or two. Besides the large number of cheap wildcaught ones that get shovelled through the retail system every year to replace the ones that died last winter, there are also healthy captive-bred ones being produced by a few people here and a somewhat larger number over on Kingsnake.
I had one back in high school who go sick every winter and then eggbound every spring. She lasted less than two years. More recently, when I decided to get back into them, I spent a couple of years "on the fence," researching but actually buying, and when about a year and half ago I found a breeder I liked I reserved two females and an unrelated male, spent at least another month getting the tank set up jut right and waiting for our schedules and local weather patterns to line up just right for shipping, and when they arrived, despite it being early March, they were begging for food an hour out of the box, running up my arm on Day One, and have bred for me two years in a row without hibernating. (They started almost as soon as I got them, actually, despite the little male being only 5 months old, lol.)
Might I have great results if I hadn’t worried about it as long first? Maybe, as long as I still did things right. But I don’t regret taking my time, and it’s not like I didn’t have other pets to play with anyway.

06/30/10  03:34pm


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  Message To: JackAsp   In reference to Message Id: 2159637

 New to Herps - are Collareds a good Choice?

Hi JackAsp;

Thanks for your response; after some thought and research, my fiance and I have both concluded that you’re right. Collareds are adorable, and we’d love to have a few someday, but for right now they’re too challenging an animal for us. We’re still discussing getting another lizard to take over Tiamat’s old tank, but it will be something less fragile than a collared.

We have been considering leopard lizards, which we’ve been informed are similar to collareds but hardier. Do you know anything about them?

07/02/10  09:41am


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  Message To: Canadiandragon   In reference to Message Id: 2159962

 New to Herps - are Collareds a good Choice?

Do you mean leopard geckos, or the Southwest American leopard lizards of the Gambelia genus?

If it’s the latter, I advise against it. They’re great, and a few people here have them, but they haven’t yet stood the test of time in herpetoculture. They’re the closest relative of the collared lizard, so close tha they can even interbreed if your collard doesn’t just rip the leopard lizard to shreds bickering over territory, but they are not the same exact animal. Hell, even we collared people cheat off other species. Everyone does, but the more onscure your species is, the more straws you have to grab at.

Collards are known as a great pet, but they just haven’t made it big yet, so they’re sort of like D-List celebrities. The ascending type, who just hasn’t hit it really big yet, but has a bunch of great little almost-theres. Not the Hasselhoffian type, who used to be bigger. Leopard lizards, meanwhile, are more like your town’s zany TV weatherman, who’s kind of cool to see in real life for five seconds, unless he’s more than 20 miles from town, or unless a local sports star walks in right next to him...

Use that "fame or lack thereof" metaphor for "veterinary knowledge and ability to troubleshoot online" and you see where I’m going with this. We’ve kludjed together enough information that we know collards can live way into their teens. Leopards probably can as well, but I haven’t heard of it happening yet, and the data sample isn’t large enough yet to know what real differences in their care there actually should be. Since in the wild, where collards and leopards often live in the same territories, the leopards spend more time on open sandy areas than the collards do, it actually seems probable to me that the industry picked the wrong species. It’s easier to keep a sandy cage clean than a rocky one, so the way we keep out collards may be even better suited to leopards... except for whatever it is that we haven’t figured out about them yet, because they decided to mostly sell collards.

However, if you meant leopard gecko, excellant choice. Even the wildcaught ones, way way back when I was young, made better pets than almost everything else. Nowadays... there’s been so much emphasis on morph-production that a lot them might be swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool, but if you actually get a normal one instead of albino with a rainbow-tinted unicorn on the side you should be okay. They have the same general cute look as Crotaphytus or Gambelia, with the flattened body and wide blunt triangular head, but their relatively few common problems are humungously documented. Also, while they don’t leap around like collard/leopard lizards, bear in mind that as exciting as it looks to US when a wild crotaphytine jumps 18’’, in the wild it would have been ten feet further a few seconds after that. And still moving. A nocturnal but captive-bred ground-dwelling gecko’s movements are much more compatible with around-the-clock casul handling.

Leopard geckos are like bearded dragons, boa constrictors, ball pythons, red-eared sliders, corn snakes... they’re about as A-list as you can get. If your goal is to have a lizard that lives a nice long time with you, A-list is probably the way to go. African fat-taileds, their B-list cousin, aren’t bad either. AFTGs like a little more humidity. so they do better in what to some people is a more interesting terrarium... whether that’s a pro or con varies. If you want to work your way toward crotaphytines as safely as possible, focus on diurnal A-list desert lizards (beardies are a good example) then perhaps B or C listers of the same niche (Uros.) I’m not saying you HAVE to play the alphabet game. Although it might be a fun forum topic in its own right. I’m just saying that the really, really extensively bred species are extensively bred largely because they’re doing well enough that the keeper’s biggest worry is things like their potential offsprings’ meanin to xanthin level. Some of the B,C,D, and even non- listers are just as inherantly good, but don’t yet have the same benefit of "infrastructure’s familiarity."

07/04/10  03:28am

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