Perfect Roommates or Solitary Dwellers? How to Know if Your Pet Reptile Wants a Friend
Creating the right tank environment is vital for your pet reptile's health and happiness. This includes choosing the best-sized terrarium, getting the lighting and heating just right, figuring out the proper day-night cycle, and ensuring you have an appropriate diet for your pet. But an equally important part of raising a reptile is determining if he's outgoing or shy. Will your pet thrive with a tankmate, or is he better off on his own? Making a mistake in this arena can be just as detrimental as setting up his tank incorrectly, like having a desert environment for a tropical-loving pet.
How do you determine if your pet wants a roommate or prefers the solitary life? Sometimes, you can get a hint based on how the reptile is housed with the breeder. Is the reptile kept by himself or with other reptiles? Some species of reptiles should absolutely be kept alone, while others do well with tank mates. Knowing which scenario is best for your pet requires a little research on your part.
Often It's Easiest to Just House Reptiles Alone
If you have any doubt, it's better to err on the side of caution and house your pet by himself. In general, reptiles are perfectly happy living by themselves and don't need the social interaction humans crave.
Plus, some species simply prefer the solitary life and shouldn't be put under the stress of having a tank mate.
- Snakes, for example, are better off being housed alone.
- Chameleons tend to be solitary and prefer living alone (with a maximum of maybe two chameleons together in some situations).
- Bearded dragons are better off living solo and thrive that way.
Sometimes Multiples Pets of the Same Species Can Live Together
If you really want your pet reptile to have a roommate, the simplest solution is to let two or three of the same species live together. Some species are perfectly happy in groups of their own kind, but they really don't want to be mixed up with other species. For example, you can keep two female leopard geckos together if you provide enough space, food, and hiding places. But they won't do well with crested geckos or day geckos in the same habitat. (Novice keepers shouldn't keep a male and a female in the same habitat because they will produce offspring!)
Pro Tip: Always make sure you only have one male per tank. Otherwise, there will be competition and fighting.
Other examples of species that can do well in small groups (as long as there is only one male) include:
- Green anoles: Aim for a 10-gallon tank for two anoles, larger if you have more.
- Long-tailed grass lizards: Can live in groups of two or three in a 10-gallon tank or larger.
- Crested geckos: Two females can live together if the terrarium is at least 29 gallons or an 18x18x25 front-opening tank.
If you're unsure, ask your veterinarian or breeder for advice before adopting a couple of playmates for your reptile.
You Can Mix Species in a Few Cases
There are a few limited cases where you can mix species in the same habitat, but this requires caution and lots of research before taking the plunge. A lot can go wrong if you choose the wrong tank mates, including fighting and injury. In most cases, it's easier not to mix species.
If you really want to put two different species in the same habitat, look for species that don't have a predator-prey dynamic. They should also prefer the same type of habitat — don't mix a desert species with a tropical species.
A few examples of species that could be compatible include:
- Some dart frogs can be kept with mourning geckos or small tree frogs
- A green iguana with a red-footed tortoise
- A desert iguana with a chuckwalla
- A painted turtle and a map turtle
- A long-tailed grass lizard with an anole or gecko
If you want to house more than one species together, check with your veterinarian or breeder first to ensure the two are compatible and your terrarium is large enough for them to live comfortably.
How to Successfully House Multiple Reptiles in the Same Terrarium
If you've researched and determined your multiple pets will be compatible in the same habitat, go the extra mile to ensure success. For example:
- Make sure the species are compatible. It's important the new roommates have the same diet, temperature, and humidity requirements. Keep desert dwellers together and tropical dwellers together.
- Make sure they don't compete for resources. Choose a tank big enough for everyone to have their own space. This means separate places to eat, bask, hide, and stretch out. For example, dart frogs are ground dwellers, and tree frogs are arboreal. Even though they eat the same food, they occupy different spaces in the habitat, so your chances of happy cohabitation increase.
- Quarantine them for at least a month before introducing new reptiles so you don't pass along any diseases.
Understanding Your Pet Reptile's Personality Is Important
Reptiles don't have the same social cravings humans have, so they can typically be perfectly happy living by themselves. If you really want two or more pet reptiles living together, do your research first to make sure they'll get along. The time you spend researching before you adopt new pets will more than pay off in the long run.