Reptiles – Not an Inexpensive Pet

A Family Tries to Do What Is Right

A few years ago a young family brought in their sick turtle – it was a Red Eared Slider, although they didn’t know that. They were trying to live within their means. With two young children wanting a pet, these parents knew they couldn’t afford a dog or cat. So they bought a turtle. Because the pet store employee said “get a turtle, they’re cheap”.


This turtle was sick. He needed testing to determine what was wrong with him. He needed treatment for the apparent bacterial infection. But they couldn’t afford either.

The turtle was sick because his home wasn’t set up correctly for him. The pet store said to just keep him in a tank. He needed a water filtration device, a water heater and a thermometer to measure water temperature. He had a basking light but the air temperatures weren’t being measured so he may have needed a different light. They were not providing a UVB lamp. The parents couldn’t afford to purchase all of these items.

The Outcome

They made the difficult choice to re-home the turtle. All this time they were just trying to do the right thing.

Is Any Pet an Economical Choice?

Sure – some are. If they don’t get sick or injured.

But not a reptile. Ever.


Proper reptile care requires setting up an appropriate home environment. They need higher temperatures than our homes provide. They need special lighting that is appropriate to their species. They need specialized cages that keep them contained safely within their carefully managed environmental zones. They need special food that has to be supplemented – ok, some are vegetarians so it may be cheaper to feed those but most still need a daily freshly prepared balanced meal.

Reptile environments must be checked periodically – is it too hot or too cold, are the humidity levels appropriate, is it clean?

One part of the difficulty in reptile care is that we are still learning what they need from us and how best to replicate their natural environment. Another difficulty is that they require an experience veterinarian for their care.  These guys are slow to get sick, slow to develop signs and slow to respond to treatment. That often means that by the time they are brought into a veterinarian, they are very sick.

Reptiles Aren’t for Everyone

…but they are great pets for the right people. Can’t stand insects? Don’t get a Leopard Gecko. Feeding mice make you squeamish? Don’t get a snake.

Do some research on their needs, their care, their lifespan…and you will find yourself in a much better starting place. Don’t forget – if their home is set up appropriately, it is much less likely that you will find yourself needing sick pet rather than well pet care.

Here’s a link to a page with information on setting up a tank for an aquatic turtle and the associated costs. Costs range from about $350 (for a hatchling) to $1500 (for a full sized adult).

Corn Snake