12 Best Pet Reptiles: Guide for Beginners and Experts Alike


Forget cats and dogs; today, we're talking about the best reptile pets for beginners and experts alike.

Reptiles as pets are a great option for a multitude of reasons. For owners looking for something relatively easy to care for, unique, or hypo-allergenic, reptiles are a great choice. However, each animal has a particular and important set of reptile care requirements, and it's best to choose the requirements that work well for your lifestyle.

Reptiles are available in many shapes and sizes, and while some pets have higher care needs, others are fairly low-maintenance. So whether you're just getting started in reptile ownership or are a veteran reptile owner, these 12 reptiles make great pets.

What is the best reptile pet?

The bottom line and theme we looked for was low maintenance. They will still need a significant investment in housing and care but compared to other reptiles. These 12 are easier to handle when you're considering pets.

Which is the best pet reptile for a beginner?

All 12 of these reptiles are great candidates. However, the Bearded Dragon is such a great pet reptile, so of the 12, this is our fave for a beginner reptile owner. Beardies are over the top when it comes to being social, and they're awake during the day.


What are the worst reptiles for beginners?

Any giant snake species is not for a novice handler, and iguanas can be moody and aggressive.

12 of the best reptiles that make good pets:

1. Water Dragon

Water dragons are full of personality and spunk! However, with easily attainable habitat requirements, you get to spend more time enjoying them than caring for them.

Many people want to own iguanas without realizing the space they take up or their aggressive nature. A water dragon is a perfect compromise because they are much smaller and less aggressive but have some similar physical qualities.

2. Russian Tortoise

A Russian tortoise is a better choice than the popular red-eared slider because of the different maintenance requirements and ability to interact with a human. However, tortoises live for up to 50 years, which is a lengthy commitment.


Relatively small on the tortoise scale (maximum of 8-10 inches), these tortoises are very hardy, making them a great choice. They also don't have the water requirements of other reptile pets, as they get almost all of their moisture from their food.

3. Crested Gecko

The crestie is a very docile, entertaining reptile. The long crests on their body and eyes make them look like cartoons.

This gecko species is arboreal and requires an enclosure that is taller than long, making it an easy pet for someone who might not have a lot of space for an enclosure.

Their dietary needs are easily available through insects and commercial foods, making them not only entertaining but also convenient.


4. Ball Python

For those who would like a leg-less companion, ball pythons are one of the most popular choices. Balls are a little shy and smaller in size, which appeals to many first-time snake owners.

They come in a variety of color variations and range from three to five feet in length. Another factor is lifespan. They average around 25-30 years, which is a long time, so make sure you are committed!

They do not have elaborate tank requirements, which makes them favorable to first-time owners. Ball pythons are often thought of as the best pet snake!

5. Corn or Rat Snake

Smaller in size and very calm, both of these snakes make for great pets. However, they enjoy climbing branches, so they need an enclosure that allows them some space to do so.


Corn snakes spend the rest of their time hiding and burrowing. But, because of their curiosity, they are incredible escape artists, and their tank needs to be secure.

6. Leopard Gecko

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Hardy and docile, a leopard gecko makes a great pet. They are nocturnal, however. So, if your family is active early in the morning or at night, you'll get to experience their peak activity.

These spotted geckos are also quiet and easy to maintain, making them great additions to any family.


They have easily accessible heat and dietary requirements (they eat only insects!), contributing to the ease of ownership.

7. Bearded Dragon

Beardies have easy care requirements and, when socialized properly, love interaction. In addition, they have great personalities which are individual to each one and make great additions to the family.

Bigger than geckos and smaller than an iguana, this lizard species is a great size for pet lovers of all ages. Bearded dragons are omnivores and eat insects and veggies. They are also diurnal, so they're awake during the day, making them a great pet for anyone who spends a lot of time at home.

8. Chameleon

Some may say Chameleons aren't great for beginners, but it's mainly due to the environment they need as it has to be very precise. If you're not interested in handling your pet reptile, this is a great option as they can also stress easily. Yet, with their ability to change colors, they make a very interesting and unique pet. Work with an expert on their housing.


9. Red-Eared Slider

They're a freshwater turtle that makes a fun pet! This pet reptile requires daily nutrition when young, while the older Red-eared Slider can be fed once every two or three days. The Red-eared Slider eats in water and is omnivorous. 

10. African Sulcata Tortoise

They are one of the largest tortoise species in the world! They must be housed outdoors. It is strictly herbivorous and does not require animal proteins, fruits, or pet tortoise food. They may outlive you, so make some plans. 

11. Eastern Box Turtles

These turtles live a long time, but they do not have the aquatic requirements like red-eared sliders!  Eastern box turtles live in varied climates, so they are quite adaptable and are omnivores, enjoying leafy greens in their terrariums. 

12. Green Anole

Green anoles are small and skittish but very active. Like the chameleon, they are more of a look-don't-touch reptile, and handling them isn't recommended as they may escape. They require a diet of live insects and because they are smaller reptiles with faster metabolisms. They need to be fed more often.


Reptiles are awesome! Knowing the personality and requirements of each potential reptile will help ensure a perfect reptile fit for everyone. Make sure you do thorough research on each of these pet reptiles, as they need proper care and commitment!

Research pet lizards and always reach out to see what's available at your local pet stores. Keep in mind that these popular pets require a gallon tank large enough to house them, as well as a substrate and faux environment to keep them comfortable. Some of these beginner pets love basking under UVB light sources as well.

Whichever you choose, large size or small size, get ready a ball of fun with your new reptile!

Do you own any of these best pet reptiles? Share them on our Wide Open Pets Facebook!


The original post was published on March 26, 2016.

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