Daily Care and Grooming


Keeping a pet reptile healthy requires integrating regular cleaning habits into your life. On a daily basis, you should plan on cleaning your pet’s water bowl, any food serving containers or utensils, and remove any debris from the enclosure, including feces. Generally herptiles defecate on a substrate or in water. By getting rid of organic matter like this daily, you can reduce or prevent the growth of bacteria and diseases. Hot soapy water is all that is needed to clean these items, but be sure to rinse soap away completely. Pay attention to cleanliness on walls and other surfaces. You may also need to remove some of the substrates on a day-to-day basis because of exposure to feces, moisture or other matter. Simply replace what you remove with more of the same material.

Disinfecting and sterilizing is a weekly activity for your pet’s enclosure. These processes ensure that any organisms are killed to prevent the growth of bacteria, viral microorganisms and diseases. Often, disinfection and sterilization use the same products and processes; the difference is the length of time the products are left to do their job.

You’ll need a set of supplies that are used solely for the purpose of cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing your pet’s home. Supplies include:

  • disposable gloves,
  • disinfected sponges,
  • window or glass cleaner,
  • a bucket of rinse water,
  • a spray bottle or bucket of prepared disinfectant solution,
  • disposable trash bag,
  • a bucket of hot, soapy water,
  • disinfected or new paper towels or rags.

The animal will need to be placed elsewhere during the cleaning process. Be thorough in your cleaning and disinfecting. If needed, scrape off any debris that resists removal. When you are through, any utensils or products that you plan on reusing, such as buckets, gloves and sponges, must be disinfected after the cleaning before using them again.

Two household products can be used to disinfect reptile tanks: chlorine bleach and ammonia. However, both these products are toxic to the animals, so it is important that you use the correct dilution strength — four ounces per gallon of water for chlorine bleach and three-and-a-half ounces per gallon of water for ammonia — and rinse surfaces completely. Other commercial disinfectants are available through pet supply stores and catalogs.


Grooming for reptiles and amphibians is generally done by the animal in its environment. Some herptiles defecate in water, which makes it easy to remove and clean. Others defecate in the substrate, which can be replaced on a daily basis as needed. Some reptiles require no special grooming activities at all, such as snakes. Others, such as lizards, need to have their claws trimmed periodically. You can learn to trim claws yourself or simply have your vet do it for you at regular check-ups.

Many reptiles shed some or all of their skins over a period of a number of weeks. This requires no action on your part until the shedding is completed and the remaining debris needs to be removed from the enclosure.

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