8 Things to Consider Before Choosing Your First Exotic Pet

How to Choose Your First Exotic Pet

Gone are the days where you only adopt common pets into your home. This is the age of exotic animals. Nowadays more and more people are inviting exotic pets into their lives.

A beautifully-arranged display containing an exotic animal can be quite the showpiece in your home. It offers you a window into nature no matter what the weather outside.

That said, with everything from tarantulas, turtles, fish, and frogs to from stick insects and snakes, an overwhelming number of potential pets are out there in the world for you to choose.

So, Where do you even start? In this guide, we’ll look at some of the most important considerations that will help you to start narrowing down your options.

1. What Appeals Most To You?

Very few people start keeping exotic pets for any “logical” reason. Instead, it is something inherent; they just have a passion for the exotic without really knowing why.

A good first step is to consider what really appeals to you.

For example, do you want an exotic pet that you can handle? Do you want to build a naturalistic vivarium? Do you want to be able to breed your animals?

Are you happy to keep one animal on its own – such as a tarantula – or would you rather keep a number of animals together?

By making a “hit list” of what your perfect exotic pet offers you’ll quickly be able to cross multiple options off your list and drill down to that which meets your needs best.

2. What is Your Budget?

Pets that are described as “exotic” come in an almost infinite range of prices.

For example, you could set yourself up with a tank of triops or stick insects for virtually nothing, while it is possible to spend literally hundreds on a single top-end snake or lizard.

Furthermore, it’s not just the cost of purchasing your exotic pet(s); you’ll also need to think about their housing requirements. A large reptile, for example, will require a large vivarium.

Lizards and turtles will need artificial lighting, most exotic pets will require some kind of supplementary heating. And so on.

So, spend some time deciding on your maximum budget so that you can see what pets might actually fit within that budget. The last thing you want is to set on your heart on something only to discover that you can’t afford it, or have to cut corners on their housing.

3. How Much Space Do You Have Available?

Adult Burmese pythons can grow so large that they require a vivarium of 8 feet long or greater. On the other hand, a single betta fish can be kept in a very small fish tank.

Most common tarantula species require even less space than that. The last thing you want to do is to unwittingly purchase an exotic pet that is going to take over your home or require an entire bedroom.

Put some thought into space you have available in your home for pets and be sure to select a pet that meets these limitations. Also, consider whether you’d rather have one single tank – like a large aquarium of community fish – or whether you’d rather have multiple smaller cages in that one space.

For example, many invertebrate keepers end up with many cages of praying mantis or tarantulas, but these still take up less space than one large snake or lizard vivarium.

4. How Much Time Do You Have Each Week?

There’s no denying the beauty of a large reef tank with numerous brightly-colored fish flitting around. Sadly, many potential fish keepers underestimate the amount of time that maintaining such a tank requires.

Soon enough their tank becomes more of a chore than a pleasure; at which point there is a risk that the tank will slowly start to be ignored.

Snakes and lizards require less ongoing maintenance, but a degree of effort is required to routinely handle them, keeping them tame. This is particularly important for larger species like pythons and monitor lizards, who can be difficult to maintain in captivity if they’re aggressive or scared of people.

At the other end of the scale, you could maintain an entire collection of tarantulas in just a few hours each week. A single spider or scorpion would take even less time.

Be honest with yourself; how much time do you have to dedicate to your animals? 

5. Do You Want to Handle Your Exotic Pet?

One of the most common questions that exotic pet owners get is whether or not they handle their pet. It seems that to the general population holding a snake or tarantula in your hands is a shocking way to spend your evenings and weekends.

And for many exotic pet keepers, this intimate contact is a very special part of the whole experience.

On the other hand, other exotic pet owners are perfectly happy to simply observe their animals going about their daily activities from behind a piece of glass.

So – is handling your pet an important part of why you’re considering an exotic pet? If so, be sure sure to choose a pet like a bearded dragon or ball python that doesn’t seem to mind regular handling.

If you’re happy with a “hands-off” approach then the number of potential options expands considerably. Only you can decide on what is right for you.

6. Carnivores Vs Herbivores

Many exotic pets are meat-eaters. Snakes will eat rodents, tarantulas will catch and kill cockroaches, locusts and other invertebrates. A praying mantis will start munching on their dinner while it’s still alive. Some people are fine with this – while others find it monstrous and can’t bring themselves to handle the dead mice or live crickets that their pet requires.

Fortunately, other animals are much easier to feed. Fish, of course, are typically quite easy to feed (though even these seem to enjoy some live food on occasion).

Some lizards will happily enjoy a diet of fruits and vegetables while stick insects will happily feed on a frond of privet or bramble taken from your garden.

Think not only about the types of food that different exotic pets will eat but also how easy (and expensive) these foods are to find.

7. What Will You Do About Vacations?

Finding someone to look after exotic pets while you’re on vacation can be a lot more difficult than finding a dog sitter. What is the solution?

Some exotic pet owners opt to give up on vacations entirely, enjoying individual days out on occasion. Others take their exotics with them. Some reptile shops will look after pets while you’re away – but this often isn’t cheap and requires you to transport the animals to the store.

A large tank of turtles isn’t exactly the easiest thing to move. All the same, it is best to consider what you’ll do before you bring your new pet home, to avoid any difficult decisions down the road.

8. Do You Have Hands-on Experience?

Lastly, actually owning an exotic pet can be quite different from many people’s expectations.

One example of this is some first-time tarantula keepers, who find that owning giant spiders can actually be quite boring for many people. After all, tarantulas don’t really do a huge amount.

They hide away all day long, out of view, sitting motionless. Many spider keepers end up getting rid of their first tarantula once the initial thrill dies away.

Final Thoughts

Before making a final decision on which exotic pet is right for your needs it makes sense to gain as much experience as possible. Do your reading online; there are plenty of exotic pet websites providing tons of free information.

But try also going to reptile shows and visiting local exotic pet stores to see the animals “in the flesh”. Meet others on discussion forums and join social media groups.

Make sure that the pet you’re considering is perfect for your needs before you finally hand over your cash.

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