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July 1, 2015

With Reptiles by Mack at the forefront of commercial-level reptile breeding, many within the pet trade ask us what’s on the horizon. They want to know, “What’s new? What’s coming down the pike?” Having been involved in the reptile trade for 30 odd years, we’ve seen a great deal of evolution in the roles of numerous species as they transition from rare collectors’ items into everyday pets.

One great example of this is the current status of the ball python. Just 15 years ago, a spider ball python sold for a whopping $17,000 and a pinstripe ball python could run more than $20,000. Now, these ball python morphs are staples in pet stores across the country, selling for only around $100. What were once highly specialized, rare morphs available only as a breeder’s investment have become an attractive, reasonably-priced option for reptile enthusiasts everywhere.

Three key factors determine the potential success of a species in reaching the wider reptile sales market: the animal must live well in captivity, it must have ease of care at the consumer level and it must sell at an affordable price. Without those three criteria, there is little realistic chance that a given morph or variant will reach the mass market. If an animal cannot be kept well in captivity, its ability to breed nosedives. Without ease of care and affordability, the average reptile enthusiast will not make the initial purchase to justify an investment at the corporate level.

Now, when we speak about what’s new in the reptile world, we really have to look approximately two to three years into both the past and the future to get an accurate glimpse at which animals may be heading to stores soon. Because reptiles must be bred and grown to proper size, there is a significant delay before a new morph or variant breed hits stores.

Further, reptile breeding requires frequent, continual testing. Quality breeders keep genetic maps for their animals to better determine which morphs, colorations and variants are viable and what elements are necessary for a specific variety to do well in a captive environment. These tests take time, which can add to that two to three year window of what comes next.

A Few Predictions

As mentioned earlier, specialty ball pythons represent transitioning demand for particular species particularly well. Morphs, colors and patterns of ball pythons that sold for thousands of dollars a few years ago are now well within an affordable price range, making them easily accessible for reptile-loving consumers. These variations will only expand and increase as time passes and breeders continue experimenting with new genetic strains. Keep your eyes peeled for some of these exciting new ball pythons in the coming months.

One notable amphibian that pet store owners should keep tabs on is the White’s tree frog (Litoria caerulea). While the White’s tree frog has been a staple in pet stores for many years, breeders have been experimenting with different colorations and variations in the species, which are slowly coming down in price. As the price falls, these morphs and colorations can provide a great addition to a well-tended frog display.

Two reptiles that will likely be in high demand once they’re more available are the giant day gecko (Phelsuma grandis) and the panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis). While most reptile-selling stores are intimately familiar with leopard and crested geckos and with veiled chameleons, day geckos and panther chameleons provide unique variations in color and pattern that appeal greatly to reptile enthusiasts.

However, while these animals have done well in captivity, there are simply not enough of them being bred currently to make them economical for resale in most retail environments. That said, as more day geckos and panther chameleons enter breeders’ genetic pools, their availability will increase and their cost decrease, making them more attractive for store owners.

As humans, it’s in our nature to always look toward the future and to think about what comes next and what we can do with that knowledge. While it’s always exciting to investigate which reptiles you may be able to sell in coming years, don’t allow that anticipation to blind you toward creatures that are currently available. Just as you look for which reptiles will be bred in coming years, keep an eye on the morphs and variations that are available now. After all, variety is a crucial asset for any store.

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