Keeping reptiles and amphibians as pets : A Beginners Guide to Herpetofauna

A beginners guide to reptiles and amphibians

Herpeto – what? Yes, herpetofauna, more commonly known as reptiles and amphibians, are fun and easy pets to keep. With numbers in the wild declining, ownership is now playing an integral part in the preservation of many unique species.

Reptiles and amphibians share some similarities, so which species belong to which class of animals often causes confusion. 

Reptiles include snakes, tortoises, turtles and lizards, while amphibians include toads, frogs and salamanders.

Everything you need to know if you are thinking about a reptile or amphibian as a pet.

What’s the difference between a reptile and an amphibian?

Water. One key difference between reptiles and amphibians is their relationship with water. Amphibians need water in their habitat, because they spend at least part of their life cycle in water and most amphibians lay their eggs in water – think frogs and tadpoles. 

Reptiles, on the other hand, do not have to spend part of their lives in water, although they do often live near water and spend time in water.

What are axolotls?
What are axolotls?

Both reptiles and amphibians hatch from eggs, although the eggs are quite different. Reptile eggs are coated with a leathery or brittle coating, and the animals that hatch from them are miniature versions of the full-sized animals – think turtles on the beach.

In contrast, amphibian eggs are transparent and jelly-like. The animals that hatch from them still must go through metamorphosis. As I mentioned before a tadpole develops into a frog. 

Despite these differences, reptiles and amphibians do have a few things in common. Both reptiles and amphibians can be found on every continent in the world except Antarctica, although only reptiles live in the world’s oceans and seas. 

All the animals in the two classes are vertebrates, meaning they have backbones. They are also all ectothermic, which means their body temperature is determined by their environment rather than regulated by their bodies as it is in humans and other mammals which is why it’s important to provide them with the correct heat in their enclosure.

Getting Started

Establishing your reptile or amphibian enclosure can be expensive; however, once set up, only food will be the main expense. Here are some of the things you will need to get started:

  • Vivarium
  • Lighting
  • Heating
  • Reptile/Amphibians of choice
  • Anti-Bacterial/fungal solutions
  • Water Solutions
  • Objects for displaypurpose (optional)
  • Licence

Most reptile dealers have ready-to-go vivariums with everything you need to complete your set-up.


Feeding isn’t an issue as they are mainly fed crickets every few days, depending on the weather, which is available from most pet stores or reptile dealers.

Licences for herpetofauna

In order to own some amphibians or reptiles, you will need to obtain a licence from the Government. Most reptile dealers have licensing information available.

READ NEXT: Check out our post on keeping exotic pets for more details

As a precautionary measure, you are only allowed to own species that are native to your own country to avoid any Herpetofauna becoming pests and threatening native species

Do I need to insure my reptile or amphibian?

No, not by law, though depending on what you keep, you might want to consider insuring against vet bills as these can be very high for exotic animals, or third party damage. Such as having to pull the floorboards up in you neighbours house to find your escapee snake.

What reptiles and amphibians can I keep?

The British Herpetological Society founded in 1947 is one of the oldest and most prestigious Societies of its kind in the world. It carries a list of native species of herpetofauna in the UK . You can join as a member and it has lots of advice for new keepers.

And here is the Official National Herpetology List of the World with all the family, genus and common names of the animals as we know them today.

5 Best Pet Frogs for beginners

  • Horned Frog (Ceratophrys sp.)
  • Gray Tree Frog (Hyla chrysoscelis)
  • Dart Frog (Dendrobates sp.)
  • Red eye tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas)
  • Whites tree frog (Litoria caerulea)

5 Best Pet Lizards for beginners

3 Best Snakes for beginners

  • Corn Snake (Pantherophis guttatus)
  • Royal Python (Python regius)
  • Western Hognose Snake (Heterodon nasicus)

5 Best Tortoises for beginners

  • Hermann tortoise (Testudo hermanni)
  • Spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca)
  • Marginated tortoise (Testudo marginata)
  • Horsfield tortoise (Testudo horsfieldi)
  • Red footed tortoise (Geochelone carbonaria)

READ MORE : All you need to know about keeping a pet tortoise

Owning herpetofauna and helping to protect a species

The constant increase in housing development, agriculture, and pollution have had a devastating impact on Herpetofauna around the world.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) monitors global statistics and aims to increase awareness on the impact of human activity on the environment.

The IUCN has developed the Red List, which indicates which species are near threatened, vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered, extinct in the wild, or extinct.

According to the IUCN website, 32 percent of amphibians are “globally threatened,” whilst 1,677 reptiles are on the Red List, of which 22 species are completely extinct or extinct in the wild.

Top 10 Most Popular Pet Reptiles

However, despite the disturbing statistics, the IUCN suspects that the reality is much worse. Due to a lack of funding, the IUCN is unable to perform sufficient environmental investigations that they believe are crucial in proving how bad the situation really is.

However, despite the disturbing statistics, the IUCN suspects that the reality is much worse. Due to a lack of funding, the IUCN is unable to perform sufficient environmental investigations that they believe are crucial in proving how bad the situation really is.

pet corn snake
Beautiful Corn Snake
Pet Leopard Gecko
Fabulous Leopard Gecko
gray tree frog
Cute Gray Tree Frog

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