Box turtles are omnivorous. Generally, your box turtle's diet should be about 50% plant-based material and 50% animal-based material, but be sure to discuss a specific diet plan for your turtle with your veterinarian. Most young turtles eat daily, while older turtles can be fed daily or every other day, depending upon the pet's individual appetite, body weight, and overall health. Most (80-90%) of the plant material fed to box turtles should be vegetables and flowers, and only 10-20% should be fruit. As a rule, dark, leafy greens should make up the largest part of the diet. Fruit should be fed more sparingly than vegetables, since they are often preferred by box turtles over vegetables and tend to be less nutritious. The key is to feed a wide variety of healthy items, including both plant- and animal-based protein sources. A common problem seen in pet box turtles is over-supplementation with vitamins (especially vitamin D3) and minerals. Check with your veterinarian about the need to supplement your pet's diet with any kind of vitamin or mineral. Fresh clean water should always be available to box turtles.
Iguanas are herbivorous, meaning they eat plants. Most of their diet should be dark green leafy vegetables, with less than 20% of the diet as fruits. In general, foods comprised of large amounts of animal-based protein, such as crickets, mealworms, pinky mice, tofu, and hard boiled eggs, are too high in protein for iguanas to eat frequently and should be offered as less than 5% of the adult iguana’s total diet. The amount and type of supplements required by iguanas is controversial and somewhat age-dependent. Most veterinarians recommend lightly sprinkling a growing iguana’s food every other day (4-5 times per week) with calcium powder (calcium carbonate or gluconate), without vitamin D or phosphorus that has been specifically formulated for reptiles. Most veterinarians recommend that young iguanas receive a multivitamin supplement containing vitamin D twice a week. Opinions vary regarding the nutritional needs of captive iguanas, and our knowledge in the subject is continually expanding based on new dietary studies in reptiles. Check with your veterinarian for specific nutritional needs for your pet iguana.
All snakes are carnivores. Some eat warm-blooded prey (rodents, rabbits, birds), while others eat insects, amphibians, eggs, other reptiles, fish, earthworms, or slugs. Since snakes eat entire prey whole, it is easier for their owners to feed them nutritionally complete diets and certainly prevents many of the dietary-related diseases commonly seen in other reptiles. Live prey should not be fed to snakes. Snakes can be offered either thawed, previously frozen prey, or freshly killed ones. Smaller or younger snakes usually eat twice each week, while larger, more mature snakes typically eat once every week or two. If your snake has a decreased appetite, see your veterinarian. A large, heavy ceramic crock or bowl filled with fresh clean water should be provided at all times.
Pigs are omnivores that typically eat multiple small meals throughout the day. A mini-pig’s base diet should consist of a commercially available, nutritionally balanced pelleted chow formulated for mini-pigs. Different formulations are available based on the life stage of the pig. In addition to pelleted pig chow, pigs may be fed small amounts of other foods, including fresh or frozen vegetables and small amounts of fruit. Pelleted food should be offered first to help ensure it is consuming a balanced diet. The exact amount of pelleted food to feed depends on the brand being fed; most brands give general feeding recommendations calculated from their caloric content. Treats such as small pieces of succulent fruits or vegetables may be offered once or twice a day and are best used as rewards in training.
There are many breeds of miniature pigs, including the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. In addition to pot-bellied pigs, the term mini-pig includes an additional 14 recognized breeds of small pigs including Julianas and KuneKunes. Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs can be as heavy as 200 pounds, reach a height of 14-20 inches at the shoulders and typically live for 14-21 years. Mini-pigs communicate both with sounds and with body language. Mini-pigs should never be left alone unsupervised with even the friendliest, potentially predatory, dogs and cats. Mini-pigs are very smart and can be trained to walk on a leash/harness and to sit, stay, come, and retrieve objects.
Mini-pigs may be housed successfully inside if they are given enough space, an area in which to root, and proper environmental enrichment. Ideally pet pigs should have access to a safe area of untreated lawn outside in which to root and chew on grass. Pet pigs generally like to urinate and defecate in a single area that is far from where they eat and sleep and can be trained to eliminate either inside and outside. Pigs in urban environments may be taught to walk on a leash/harness and go outside like dogs. If this is not feasible, they can be trained to use a litter pan indoors.
An improper environment is one of the most common causes of health problems encountered in reptiles next to improper nutrition. Aquatic turtles should be kept in as large an aquarium as possible and the environment should have enough water for the turtle to swim, a dry area on which the turtle can escape the water to bask, a heat source, and a source of ultraviolet (UV) light. Since pet turtles eat and eliminate in the same water, the tank water must be changed at least once weekly or more frequently if it becomes dirty. A heat source is necessary for all reptiles to maintain their environmental temperature within a constant range. In addition to regulating the water temperature, the temperature of the basking area must be regulated. Plants can be used for decoration, as long as they are safe for the turtle to eat. Failure to provide unfiltered UV light can predispose your pet to nutritional metabolic bone disease. Thoroughly wash your hands after feeding, cleaning, or handling turtles, as they can carry and transmit Salmonella bacteria.
A 20-gallon aquarium is usually adequate to begin with, depending on the size of the turtle, but as your turtle grows, you may need to provide it with a 60-100-gallon aquarium. Newspaper, butcher paper, paper towels, or commercially available paper-based pelleted bedding or reptile carpet is recommended. Cedar wood shavings should never be used. Rocks and hiding places should be provided. Provide a shallow water dish or pan with a ramp to help the turtle climb in and out of the dish to soak and drink. Turtles are ectotherms and therefore require a heat source in the tank to establish a temperature gradient within the tank. Hot rocks or sizzle rocks are dangerous and should not be used. UV light is essential for turtles to manufacture vitamin D3 needed for proper calcium absorption. Failure to provide UV light can predispose turtles to metabolic bone disease. If you house your turtle outdoors, it should be contained within an escape-proof enclosure. Make sure a shaded area is provided to enable your turtle to cool off from the sun, as well as a hiding area to provide seclusion and escape from rain.
As an iguana grows, it must be moved to a larger enclosure, with accommodation for both horizontal and vertical movement. Glass or Plexiglas® enclosures with good ventilation are ideal. The cage bottom should be easy to disinfect and keep clean, with a screened top to prevent your pet from escaping, while still allowing some ventilation. A source of heat and UV light must be provided for iguanas. All reptiles require a heat source, such as a ceramic heat-emitting bulb, in their tanks to provide warmth. Ideally, the cage should be set up so that a heat gradient is established, with the tank warm on one and cooler on the other. The cage temperature should be monitored closely. For UV light to be effective, it must reach the pet directly, without being filtered out by glass or plastic between the pet and the bulb. The bulb should be approximately a foot away from the animal and be on for 10-12 hours per day, mimicking a normal daylight cycle.
When well looked after, and given a good diet and environment, iguanas are reasonably hardy animals. Common conditions of pet iguanas include metabolic bone disease, infectious stomatitis (mouth rot), parasites, respiratory disease, and hypervitaminosis D.