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6 Reptiles That Make Great Pets, According to Experts

If you're looking for a scaly companion, experts say these animals are your best bet.

For many prospective pet owners, the idea of cuddling on the couch with a furry friend is usually the incentive to start looking for an animal to adopt. However, some people simply don't have the time in their schedule to take care of even the most low-maintenance dog or cat. And some smaller animals that can live in enclosures might not be the best fit for other owners, either. Fortunately, there are still plenty of options for anyone in the market for a non-mammal companion. Read on to see which reptiles experts say make great pets.

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Bearded Dragons

A close up of a young woman holding a bearded dragon on her shoulder
iStock / Nevena1987

Reptiles may not be known for having affectionate personalities like canines or felines. But experts say one entry-level lizard can make for a very attentive friend.

"Bearded dragons are hardy reptile pets that can also be great for children," Pierre Cab, founder and owner of Reptile Craze, tells Best Life. "They are easy to maintain once their enclosure is set up properly. It is surprising to note that they love cuddling and going on walks. You can watch TV or play video games while your bearded dragon sits on your lap!"

Cab adds that their omnivorous diet also makes them easy to feed, usually consisting of insects, fruits, and vegetables.

Box Turtles

A closeup of a child holding a box turtle
iStock / NoDerog

There's nothing like a pet that's so easy-going you'll never have to chase it around the house. However, before you go out and pick up any turtle, experts say certain types of shelled reptiles are easier to care for than others.

"Turtles are often one of the first pet reptiles that come to mind, especially water turtles like red-eared sliders. But maintaining a water enclosure can be difficult…and smelly," says Georgina Ushi Phillips, DVM, a practicing veterinarian and Florida-based writer with the Reptile Room, tells Best Life.

"Box turtles don't need water, and these terrestrial reptiles will require substrates that are much closer to what you'd use with other land-dwelling reptiles," she explains. "However, box turtles will need more space compared to other reptiles. And you should be prepared for a lifelong pet, as these box turtles can live for up to 50 years!"

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Corn Snakes

portrait of a beautiful corn snake

Snakes are arguably one of the more misunderstood members of the animal kingdom. However, the slithering reptiles actually make for fantastic pets—especially one colorful variety.

"Corn snakes are one of the most beloved snakes even for beginner and professional reptile owners," says Cab. "They come in different colors and patterns, and they are docile snakes that tolerate handling really well. Some corn snakes even come up to their owners when they approach their enclosures."

They're also quite easy to take care of when it comes to mealtime. "They are low-maintenance snakes and are not picky eaters, so you can feed them live or frozen-thawed food."

Crested Geckos

A closeup of a crested gecko
iStock / MuttiaATH

Some owners fear that taking in a reptile as a pet can mean devoting a good amount of real estate to housing them. But one low-maintenance lizard can save on space while making a great companion.

"Crested geckos are arboreal lizards—which means they like to live in trees—and their enclosures are often taller than they are wide," says Phillips. "This can be great not only for saving space but can also allow you to create beautiful enclosures that your crested gecko will love too!"

"They're relatively easy to care for, and while some live insects are best, it can be a smaller portion of their diet compared to many other reptiles," she adds.

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Ball Pythons

A young girl holds a small ball python

Oversized animals can be a lot to take care of, no matter what species they are. But depending on how comfortable you are with them, experts say that some larger snakes can make for a worthwhile pet.

"Ball pythons aren't small snakes, and adults can grow up to six feet in length. While that size might sound a little intimidating, they still weigh less than 10 pounds, and their extra size makes them much easier to handle compared to smaller snakes," says Phillips.

And similar to turtles, you'll likely never have to chase after your pet ball python. "These snakes are also docile and slow moving which makes them even easier to handle. It also helps that care is relatively straightforward as long as you're comfortable with feeding them small mammals as they get larger."

Leopard Geckos

leopard gecko on a branch

Anyone on the market for a lizard might get turned off by how large well-known species such as iguanas can get. But for anyone new to reptile caretaking, some species remain manageably small while still making for a great addition to the family.

"Leopard geckos are one of the most popular pet reptiles, and for good reason: They're hardy, widely available, and easy to set up," says Phillips. "They are a bit smaller than some other reptiles, which can make handling a little more difficult, but their docile attitude more than makes up for that."

Since the creatures are nocturnal, leopard geckos also require less UV light than other lizard species, according to The Spruce Pets. And while they should still receive plenty of attention, their cage requires less maintenance than many other reptiles as well.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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