This year Santa brought my younger son two salamanders. It started with a request for hamsters, which shortly thereafter became a request for chameleons. Only I learned after a quick spin through a very depressing pet store that chameleons are lightening quick little creatures–too fast for little hands. Salamanders, which are available online, are a great first pet for a bunch of reasons: they’re relatively low-maintenance, clean, and they don’t bite. Prices range from $20.
You’ll find, however, that not many people at pets stores know anything about reptiles. Here’s what you’ll need:
1. A standard reptile habitat, which is essentially a glass cage with vented top and warming lights and a little mat, which makes things easy to clean. They like indirect sunlight and temperatures of around 65 degrees or so. From $50.
2. Fill a low shallow dish with water. They spend a lot of time in the water. Change new water out daily as they excrete in the water.
3. One catch: You have to feed them live crickets, which are available in small plastic cartons for $5 (for 36 crickets) from a good pet store. It sounds worse than it is–I was a little grossed out at the thought of them before we made the purchase. They are tiny and low-maintenance and you feed them a shred of carot every couple of days. They need something damp, like a moistened scrunched up paper towel and something dry, like a piece of egg carton, which they often come with.
4. Give them a bit of nature, pieces of bark (available in pet stores), as well as live moss. They like to hide and burrow.
5. Cleaning the cage once a week is no big deal. You rinse the mat and wipe the glass.