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Creatures of the Night

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To ensure they get the creature comforts they crave, scaly critters that are active at night require resourceful retailers to be active in the daytime offering the kind of products patrons desire—including all-in-one starter kits with all the basics thrown in.

From bare bones setups to elaborate habitat packages bundled with fun accessories, smart pet retailers have learned to stock their shelves with competitively priced and value-added kits designed to simplify shopping for nocturnal reptile owners.

Most setups in this category are geared toward a handful of popular nocturnal reptile pets, including the crested, gargoyle, tokay, leopard, leaf-tailed, flying, and golden gecko, the ball python, and, to a lesser extent, the gray-banded kingsnake and various python and boa species.

“Generally speaking, there are still not a significant amount of reptile products geared toward nocturnal animals,” Steve Sotelo, Exo Terra division manager, Rolf C. Hagen Corp., said. “I believe the primary reason for this is their need to remain hidden in the wild to avoid predation.”

Additionally, Sotelo says most nocturnal reptiles are cryptic in coloration, “so the general emphasis on habitat design is natural.”

Up All Night

Most nocturnal reptile setup kits typically consist of only the minimal essentials, including an appropriately sized terrarium, fake plants and climbing branches, lighting hood, bedding, starter food and food and water dishes.

Packaged kits from some manufacturers, however, often boast extra bells and whistles designed to get consumers’ attention. Case in point, Exo Terra’s Desert Habitat Kit is ideal for leopard geckos and other desert reptiles, and provides an 18”x18”x18” glass terrarium; compact top with a compact fluorescent lighting fixture; hygromometer; thermometer; red sand; barrel cactus and saguaro cactus; rock background and outcrop; water dish; cave; and instruction manual. Features include dual front doors for escape-free easy access and simpler feeding and maintenance as well as better ventilation via the front window and top metal screen.

Zoo Med’s latest nocturnal reptile setup bundle is the Naturalistic Terrarium Crested Gecko Kit. Among its ingredients are a 12”x12”x18” vertically oriented enclosure; bush plants; a twisty vine climbing branch; substrate; food; food and water dishes; water conditioner; vitamin complex and calcium supplement; and a crested gecko care handbook.

“The enclosure is vertically oriented, making this kit much more appropriate for arboreal animals,” Ashley Rademacher, animal care and education coordinator for Zoo Med Labs, Inc., who adds that it’s also appropriate for many of the crested gecko’s cousins such as gargoyle, mossy, prehensile-tailed, New Caledonian chameleon, mourning, white-lined and skunk geckos, said. “With the front opening door, habitat access is easy and stress-free for both the keeper and the pet.”

Zilla offers a Deluxe Snake Kit, perfect for a baby ball python or other small sized nocturnal serpent. The product comes complete with a 32”x14”x14.9” terrarium topped with a screen cover that latches securely while easing air exchange, two dome light fixtures, temperature/humidity gauge, Douglas fir bedding (conducive to burrowing behavior), humidifying spray bottle, watering dish, snake shelter and setup/care booklet.

Customize the Packages

Sean Childers, manager at Chicago Reptile House in Orland Park, Ill., sells Exo Terra setups that have proved to be popular. However, his biggest hit with nocturnal reptile-minded customers has been offering customized starter kits that bundle various products from different manufacturers.

“Our in-store setups include a range from small (8”x8”x10”) to large (18”x36”x36”) terrarium, lighting element, plant, flexible jungle vine, high humidity substrate, water and food dishes, multivitamin supplement and a cave,” he said. “They retail for between $99 and $299. They’re pretty good sellers because we display them prominently and because they represent a better value than if the customer were to buy these products individually. They can save $40 or more by choosing one of our kits.”

Childers says he tries to discourage shoppers from building a starter kit themselves, “which usually ends in bad results that they later regret. They’ll either end up spending a lot more or getting worse quality products. We encourage our customers to choose quality products. Being honest with them about what they’re paying for goes a long way with customers.”

Whatever kit you bundle together and stock, Sotelo says it’s important to offer and suggest the right kind of lighting accessory for nocturnal species.

“In most cases, the obvious choice for care-related products would be to begin with lighting,” Sotelo said. “Reptiles’ eyes are not sensitive to the same red and black lights that we are, so to view nocturnal reptiles and their natural behavior the environment must focus on nocturnal lighting.”

Zoo Med recently introduced the Moonlite Reptile Bulb for viewing and heating nocturnal reptiles and amphibians, designed to not interfere with the animal’s sleeping patterns. Composed of an unpainted/uncoated deep blue glass for better heat transfer, this bulb provides beneficial UVA rays for the reptile.

Rademacher says showcasing the right in-store displays of setups can lead to more register rings.

“Having a kit set up (in your store) and, better yet, in use is highly recommended,” Rademacher said. “When all of the components are being used together, customers can see how the products are meant to be used and feel confident in setting the kit up at home.”

Additionally, knowing the kit’s components and understanding the needs of the intended pet occupant “allows the retailer to make good recommendations for customers,” adds Rademacher.

Childers agrees, noting that a well-educated retailer makes all the difference.

“The best thing you can do is understand the animal first, which is where a lot of pet stores fail,” Childers said. “They often hire high school kids who don’t really know what they’re selling or what to recommend.”

Whether it’s nocturnal reptiles or any other pets, “you should have a good knowledge of the animal so you can answer customers’ questions.”

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