TURTLES, LIZARDS & SNAKES:
To keep a reptile in Queensland you need a Recreational Wildlife Licence (birds, reptiles, amphibians).
There are two ways to obtain your licence: 1) you will need to ring the Ecoaccess Department on 1300 130 372 and they can send you an application form or 2) you can go to their website and complete the application form online:
www.ehp.qld.gov.au → Wildlife & Ecosystems → Apply for a Recreational Wildlife Licence
The current cost of the licence is approx $67 for 5 years.
A Freshwater Turtle showing the three main sections of the shell.
In Queensland, the freshwater turtles most commonly kept as pets are the Eastern Long-necked (also known as Snake-necked) Turtle characterised by its long, snake-like neck which is generally as long as the carapace (the shell) and the short-necked Brisbane River Turtles, Saw-shelled Krefft’s and Murray or Macquarie River Turtles.
Where winters are cold, turtles and reptiles will go into hibernation at that time of the year. If turtles are kept warm during winter they will not hibernate but they may have a smaller appetite. It will not harm your turtle to be kept warm and active during the cold months of the year.
Hibernation is a dormant state where all body functions slow down greatly and turtles can’t control this in the cold. If you allow your turtle to hibernate, remember that during hibernation a turtle’s digestive system slows down, so they should not be fed for about a month or so before the cold weather is expected, to allow the digestive tract to empty before they go into hibernation. Any food left in the stomach during hibernation will decompose, often killing the turtle. It is recommended that you do not allow your turtle to hibernate in their first year.
A standard 60x40x40cm glass aquarium tank is adequate for a young turtle measuring up to 10cm diameter or two hatchlings. The water area must be large enough for the turtle to swim freely and deep enough to be able to submerge themselves completely. The land area must also be big enough to allow them to move around freely and completely dry out after swimming.
The tank must be kept as clean as possible. As soon as the water becomes dirty, it should be changed (approx. every 2-3 days). Ensure the temperature of the new water is close to the temperature of the discarded water. A small internal filter will reduce the frequency you need to change the water.
An aquarium heater will keep the water temperature at 22-25ºC which is ideal for your turtle and an aquarium thermometer will allow you to easily check the temperature of your turtle’s water. In the wild, turtles like to bask in the sun so a light globe with a temperature range of 25-31ºC over the land area in your aquarium is ideal. Turtles need UV rays to aid in the production of Vitamin D (this is needed to keep their shell hard). Special fluorescent tubes are available for your turtle’s enclosure to provide them with the UV they require.
If your turtle is very active and seems to be searching for food, this is the time to feed them. They will begin to recognise a particular person or activity and may associate this with food and then expect to be fed. A baby turtle needs to be fed regularly – approx. what they can eat in five minutes 2-3 times a day. Remove any uneaten food as it will become debris and dirty the water. As they get older, the amount of food that will fit into a matchbox, fed 2-3 times a week, is usually enough for an average sized turtle. They can become obese so it is best not to overfeed them.
Turtles will only feed in the water. A water temperature under 20ºC will cause digestive problems and over 32ºC may cause regurgitation.
Australian turtles are basically carnivorous. Live fish, yabbies, shrimps, water snails, mealworms, crickets, frozen Turtle Dinners, Turtle Flakes and as they get older, Turtle Pellets can be offered. Thaw out the frozen Turtle Dinner before feeding. If feeding meat to your baby turtle, only feed the meat sparingly and only feed lean meat.
Calcium is very important in turtle diets. Adding a Turtle Neutralizer Block to your turtle’s water will both condition the water and add calcium for maintaining a hard shell.
To be sexed accurately, freshwater turtles must be at least 12cm long. A slightly concave plastron and a longer tail will usually indicate a male when compared to a female of a similar size.
Australian turtles mate in late spring with the eggs being layed in early summer. An average-sized female Long-neck Turtle will lay 10-12 eggs and Krefft’s will lay from 15-25 eggs. The eggs are best incubated buried deep in sand at 27-29ºC. If fertile, Long-neck Turtles will hatch in 60-75 days and Krefft’s after 45-55 days. The young turtles should be placed in a clean tank separate from their parents.
Young turtles are very prone to fungus. It is usually seen as a small whitish area which appears first on the feet and may spread to the face and tail. Add Fungus & Finrot Remedy each time you do a water change until the turtle is at least 4 months old as a preventative measure. Fungus & Finrot remedy can also be applied directly to any fungal areas if they do occur.
This information is a general outline only for the care of your turtle. We recommend you get further information related to your particular species and good books are available atYippeeio Pet & Aquarium Centre.
Lizards are the largest group of Australian reptiles. The three most popularly kept species in Queensland are the Blue-tongued Lizard, Shingleback or Stumpy-tailed Lizard and the Bearded Dragon. Blue-tongued lizards are found throughout Queensland and the common Bearded Dragon is found in coastal Queensland.
All reptiles rely on an external source of heat to maintain their specific preferred range of body temperature. They achieve this by basking in the sun or lying on warm surfaces and when they are in danger of overheating, they seek shelter.
Adult pairs of lizards will require cages at least 1m X 1m X 75cm and larger cages are required for more. A small enclosure will not allow enough area for your lizard to get away from the heat. Smaller lizards are best housed in a glass terraria and larger lizards are best in outdoor enclosures.
Woven wire or solid cages are best as most lizards, especially the Dragons are good climbers and lizards are inclined to rub their noses on larger bore wire like chicken wire. Your enclosure must be secured against unauthorised access and locked. Many lizards also burrow, so outdoor enclosure walls must continue below ground (a depth of 60cm is recommended for larger lizards).
Coarse sand, aquarium gravel or wood pellet bedding are suitable substrates (floor coverings) in your lizards cage.
In order to reduce stress, always provide your lizard with some form of retreat eg. raised flat rocks, hollow logs or broken flowerpots. Be careful using heavy objects such a rocks, that they cannot tip and trap your lizard underneath.
A heat lamp suspended over one end of the enclosure will allow your lizard to move in and out of the heat source and maintain their preferred temperature range.
A source of ultra-violet light is essential for most lizards, particularly the dragon lizards. Either direct sunlight (in outdoor enclosures) or special UV fluorescent tubes are a good alternative. Ultra-violet light is important as it provides Vitamin D which is required for the synthesis of calcium (for healthy bones). A natural cycle of light and dark is required for normal conditions.
If you are wanting to make your lizard’s enclosure in as natural an environment as possible, you could include things like plants, dry leaf litter and interesting moss-covered branches, rocks and logs. Provide a good free flow of air.
In general, a good diet should provide a large variety of food types to balance your lizard’s nutritional requirements. Any soft fruit or vegetable, eg. Tomato, banana, cucumber, zucchini, apple, pear, peas, broccoli etc which has been diced or chopped to about mouth size for your lizard should make up about 80% of the food mixture. The remaining 20% of the ingredients should be high protein foods such as (for smaller lizards), small mice, cockroaches, grasshoppers, boiled egg, chopped lean meat, canned dog food, or dry dog food pellets soaked in water until they are soft, then squeeze the excess water out and (for larger lizards) rats, mice and chickens. Ensure the fruit and vege mix is not sloppy, otherwise dental problems may occur.
Muti-vitamin and calcium powder should be added to the diet as a supplement. The calcium is important especially for indoor lizards, as they do not get Vitamin D from the sun. Other foods which should be fed as often as possible are meal worms, wild flowers eg. dandelions, and large insects eg. crickets, moths, grasshoppers and cockroaches (woodies).
Correct temperature must be maintained when feeding your lizard. If the temperature drops after feeding, the food may be regurgitated or remain undigested in its digestive tract and cause serious illness. Regurgitation can also occur if temperatures are too high. Like most reptiles, your lizard does not need to be fed every day, rather every two or three days. When you do feed them, give them as much as they can eat and if you have more than one lizard in your enclosure, ensure that each one gets enough food as some lizards will have a pecking order.
Clean fresh water should be provided at all times. Use a container that cannot be turned over by your lizard and is shallow enough that it won’t drown. A rock placed in the container will ensure easier access.
Handling your lizard
To minimize stressing your lizard, allows allow it time to settle into its new environment and begin to eat and behave normally before you handle it.
Sexing and Lifefspan
Male Blue-tongued Lizards generally have broader, longer tails than females, together with broader, thicker head and neck region. Male Shingleback Lizards have a thinner, longer tail than females of their species. An average lifespan of these species of skinks would be 8-15 years.
Wild lizards generally spend the colder months of the year well concealed in a sleep-state or torpor. However, newly acquired or young lizards should be kept warm and fed throughout the winter months.
Skin shedding (sloughing) problems in skinks usually indicate that its environment is too dry. Such difficulties commonly occur on the lizard’s legs, feet and tail. If this occurs, allow your lizard to soak in a bucket of shallow tepid water to soften the skin and remove it manually. It is important to remove old skin caught around the lizard’s toes as this can cut off blood flow, resulting in loss of the toe.
If their environment is too damp, fluid filled blisters that look like subcutaneous haemorrhages (bleeding under the skin) or rotting scales may occur. This problem is common in Shinglebacks kept in humid locations such as coastal Qld so they are best kept indoors in climate controlled rooms.
Mites can easily be treated with mite spray.
This informationis a general outline only for the care of your lizard. We recommend you get further information related to your specific species – good books are available at Yippeeio Pet & Aquarium Centre.
Snakes (Children’s Python)
Children’s pythons Liasis childreni are a northern Australian small python light to reddish brown in colour with darker brown irregular blotches. They can grow to a maximum of one metre. Pythons are non-venomous but are all capable of inflicting a painful bite so care is needed during handling. They are best held behind the head while supporting the rest of the body.
Wooden, metal, fibreglass or plastic cases with a glass panel are suitable for housing your children’s python. Simple aquariums are also suitable for these snakes when a secure pegboard lid has been fitted. Two or more snakes are best kept separate as there is the risk that one will eat the other but if more than one python is to be kept in a cage, the floor area must be increased by 50% for each additional snake.
This is the term for floor coverings. Coarse grade aquarium gravel is difficult to change but is washable and appears natural in the enclosure. Choose a coarser grade pebble as fine particles can be ingested or become lodged in the nasal openings of reptiles. Wood pellet bedding is another option, much easier to clean out and highly absorbent of fluids and any odours.
It is important for your snake to have some form of hiding place. These animals can become stressed or agitated if they feel they cannot seek refuge. PVC pipes, terracotta flower pots and bird nesting boxes are good hiding places which also allow easy removal of your snake.
Water bowls or ponds are essential although some species may require spraying to obtain their moisture. These bowls should be deep enough to submerge your snake without the water flooding the cage floor.
Snakes should have access to full spectrum lighting, particularly ultra violet. Full spectrum fluorescent tubes closely simulate natural sunlight and also appear to stimulate the appetite of poor feeders.
Lights should be provided from above the cage and a 12 hour cycle adopted, or according to the season.
Heating A heat pad is a good source of heating for your snake. They can be placed on walls or ceilings and approximately ⅓ – ½ of this surface should be covered with the heat pad. Temperatures should be monitored underneath the heat source and your snake should be able to escape direct heat. All heat sources should be wired to a thermostat to prevent overheating.
The ideal temperature range for your snake under the heat source is 25ºC to 30ºC. Some species of snakes from temperate regions should be allowed to ‘cool down’ considerably in winter. Some keepers allow their snakes to undergo full dormancy, which results in better health, longevity and breeding potential for the animal. If ‘cooling down’ your snake in winter, care should be taken that this process is done gradually, that your snake is not disturbed or fed when they are in torpor (sleep state) and that they are maintained at temperatures between 10ºC and 15ºC.
Temperature must be consistent before, during and after a meal otherwise regurgitation can occur and in some cases death. Fresh water should always be provided in a container that is large enough for the animal to soak in but not more than half full.
Your new snake requires an adjusting period in their new enclosure and more often don’t feed for several weeks or in some cases, months. Sometimes in captivity snakes may need to be started on live food (baby mice or rats) to stimulate feeding response. Never leave live animals in the cage overnight as they may injure your snake. Some snakes will adapt to frozen mice thawed to room temperature. Offer food approximately once a week in warm months, less in winter.
Food should be offered with tongs as this is less intimidating for the snake and safer for you. Shake the prey gently in front of your snake.
If your snake is approaching a slough (see below), it is unlikely to feed at this stage. Be aware of mixing snakes as cannibalism can occur.
Your snake is best removed and placed in a clean plastic garbage bin with a secure lid while you are cleaning the enclosure. Removal of faeces can be done as required. Total cleaning of the enclosure can be done every few months.
Snakes will shed their skins (slough) in relation to their growth. Young snakes may slough many times a year. The skin will appear cloudy and form eye spectacles as mucous is secreted under the scales. During this period, your snake may become agitated. Your snake’s scales then appear normal though a little darker. Two to three days later it will find a rough object on which to rub its nose and will start rubbing the old scales off turning the skin inside out to reveal a brand new appearance. The slough may remain in one piece or tear into lots of little pieces.
If your snake has not sloughed properly, it will require soaking for one to two hours in a plastic bin of warm water. Snakes may soak themselves in a water bowl prior to sloughing or they may do this to lower their body temperatures, or as a relief from mites.
One of the most important aspects of maintaining health is keeping the correct temperature. Stress can be caused by overheating, improper or over handling, overcrowding or incompatible or dominant snakes. No refuge or hiding places in your snake’s enclosure will lead to stress.
These are perhaps the most common problem occurring in collections of snakes. They are found around the eyes, body and anal areas. Some of the more obvious signs are raised scales or tiny white spots on your snake – these are the mite’s faeces. Mites irritate so your snake may be seen rubbing, twitching and sometimes continually soaking or more frequently shedding. This is treatable with mite spray.
This information is a general outline only for the care of your snake. We recommend you get further information related to your specific species – good books are available at Yippeeio Pet & Aquarium Centre.
* The information in this care sheet is intended as a helpful general guide only.
Yippeeio Pet & Aquarium Centre is an Accredited Member of the Pet Industry Association and abides by its Code of Practice.