June 7, 2017

By Jennifer Higgins

In the culinary arts, they say food presentation can make or break a dish. Though probably true, I doubt the same sentiment can be heard from a gecko or a tortoise. However, it seems that reptile owners take food and water presentation quite seriously. No longer is a simple, round, glaze-finished ceramic dish good enough for some herp enthusiasts to use for their scale-tailed and shell donning friends.

Form Follows Function
According to Benjamin Ayer, senior staffer (and store owner Stephen Ayer’s son) at Jabberwock Reptiles in Winchester, Massachusetts, “many herp enthusiasts and reptile owners look for bowls and feeders that are natural looking, such as those that mimic rockwork.”

In contrast to this, Ayer points out that “reptile breeders look for bowls, feeders and watering devices that are sturdier and can withstand the wear and tear to which many reptiles subject them… such as tipping them over.”

It seems that breeders are less concerned about what these items look like and more about how they function. Jabberwock Reptiles, like many other pet retailers, places the natural as well as the more functional bowls and feeders in pre-assembled reptile habitat displays in its store.

Fortunately, manufacturers, distributors and—therefore—retailers, can cater to the whims of reptile breeders and of T-Rex Products proudly boasts of his company’s Waters Edge Bowl which is, “an easy access, beach-like bowl, with a ramp on one side. It is ideal for turtles, tortoises, frogs, newts, lizards, crabs and snakes.”

“This was an emerging technology when it first came out many years ago,” Hanono said. “We [T-Rex] were the first to come to market with a bowl that had one side as a ramp. It allows your pet to crawl into the water to soak or get a drink. It’s like being at the edge of a lake or river, hence the name of the bowl, ‘Waters Edge Bowl.’”

What better way to re-purpose a coconut exocarp than to make it into a functional water receptacle that looks so natural in a reptile terrarium? T-Rex Products manufacturers must have thought so when they came up with the idea for their Wetlands Bowl.

He recommends that “you make a hole in your substrate and place the Wetland Bowl in the hole, so the surface of the bowl is just about even with the substrate.” As if that weren’t innovative enough, it turns out that this tropical nut (also considered a fruit and/or a seed) can serve to bolster humidity levels in a terrarium or home habitat as well.

“It’s a good bowl for amphibians and other reptiles who need a humid habitat,” Hanono said. “If you soak the top surface of the coconut, it provides additional humidity for a rainforest environment.”

In concurrence with the observations and experience of the retailer Jabberwok Reptiles, Hanono stresses how important it is for stores to set up decor items in their store terrariums.

“Consumers want to see examples of how a bowl or any other decor item is being used, which, in turn, will generate sales of the product,” he explained.

If You Build It…
Ashley Rademacher, Animal Care and education coordinator at Zoo Med Labs, Inc., reveals, “As reptile hobbyists, we strive to make products that we would want to use.”

Zoo Med carefully, skillfully crafts their watering and feeding dishes to meet the current and changing needs of reptile keepers and the pet reptiles for whom they care. She cites Zoo Med’s Repti Rock Dishes, Corner Bowls and Ramp Dishes as examples of products created with the health of the pet and the environment in mind because “in addition to being user friendly, they are all made in the USA of post-consumer recycled materials and are BPA free.”

“The Repti Rock Corner Bowl fits nicely into the corner of a terrarium and helps to maximize usable space,” Rademacher said. “This bowl is a favorite of snake keepers, as they are very difficult for animals to tip over and are large and deep enough for snakes to soak in.”

For the sometimes awkwardly ambling tortoises and turtles, the Repti Ramp Bowl is the best choice. Because these carapace-carrying creatures need to have access to water for soaking, the way to their water source should be smooth and unfettered for easy entering and exiting. These dishes, like many others in Zoo Med’s inventory, are tough, sturdy, resist harboring bacteria and are easy to wash.

Let’s not forget that a reptile’s use of water need not always come from that contained in a receptacle. Misters and drippers exemplify the technological brain children of manufacturers who understand some reptiles have a natural history that dictates a need for constant moisture, whether ambient or in the substrate. Zoo Med fulfills this requirement with its ReptiRain Automatic Misting Machine which, as Rademacher describes, “is a misting unit that can be set to run every one, two, 6 or 12 hours for 15, 30, 45 or 60 seconds at a time.”

“This device is especially helpful for keeping sensitive animals, such as chameleons and other species that require drinking water droplets or high humidity, in a terrarium,” she said.

Getting Hungry
It is perfectly acceptable to scatter meal, wax or super worms throughout the substrate of a reptile terrarium or release a herd of crickets to stampede through the unforgiving desert territory belonging to a bearded dragon. However, there do exist reptile feeders that will present some of these delicacies in a more efficient and safe way.

Exo Terra offers its Feeding Rock. This palatable prize-producing contraption holds anywhere from 10 to 20 crickets—depending on cricket size—and has small openings where the crickets can emerge to meet their ultimate reptile feeding fate. This is a slower way to dispense the crickets and will retain excess supplement dust so it can be reused or removed. It also keeps the excess supplement dust from settling into the substrate, which would be a danger to the terrarium’s inhabitants.

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