Reptiles come in all kinds of shapes, forms, colors, and sizes. The world of herpetology is exciting and complex! For newcomers, though, it can be rather intimidating. Where are you supposed to start when it comes to reptile keeping?
On the other hand, this might not be your first reptile, instead, you might be looking to add a new species under your care. If you already have one or more, you may want another pet without sacrificing too much of your time. If that’s the case, which species should you consider?
Both of these scenarios may leave you wondering the same thing: what are some of the easiest and low-maintenance reptiles to keep?
Bearded dragons, leopard and crested geckos, Greek and Russian Tortoise, corn snakes, and rosy boas are among the easiest reptiles. That’s because they share similar characteristics such as a friendly temperament, handleability, a small adult size, resilience to most changes, and generally simple enclosure requirements. They’re also manageable and should fit within your available space.
Whether you’re a first-time reptile owner or a seasoned hobbyist, this list of the easiest reptiles to keep will help you decide which pet to bring home next!
7 Easiest Reptiles To Keep
There are a few factors that determine if a reptile will be easy to care for and if it will be a low-maintenance pet.
You should look into the specific animal’s temperament as it can give you an idea of what kind of interaction (or lack thereof) you can have with your new pet. Friendly, even-tempered, and sociable reptiles are more likely to accept being held by you and actually enjoy it!
After all, nobody wants a pet that bites them because it makes caring for them more stressful and, not to mention, a less fulfilling experience.
Another factor to consider before purchasing is how big the reptile is going to grow. Oftentimes, people take home animals without realizing the sheer size that these critters can become!
Large pets get expensive rather quickly as you have to upgrade the enclosure and increase the amount of food over time. With this, maintenance is bound to increase as well. So, you generally want to find a reptile that stays relatively small and reasonable!
Some reptiles can be ultra-sensitive to changes in the environment and interaction with owners. Avoid this if you’re a beginner!
If you don’t want a huge responsibility that consumes most of your free time monitoring, cleaning, and adjusting parameters, then stick to a reptile that is hardy. They should be more tolerant of changes and stressors. Don’t expect to find an animal that is impossible to kill though, because that isn’t going to happen.
OK, so where do you find a reptile that meets all of these recommendations? Look no further! I have compiled a list here of the best reptiles to own that are both easy and low maintenance, meeting all of these factors!
1. Bearded Dragon
Have you ever walked around a pet store only to notice a stranger with a large, spiky lizard hanging on their shirt? Having worked at a pet store for a few years, this became the norm for me. Instead of asking, “Can I pet your dog?”, I found myself asking, “Can I pet your bearded dragon?”
It’s hard to blame me because, after all, bearded dragons tend to be the dogs of the reptile world! But what makes them such great and easy reptiles to own?
Well, the first point goes to their temperament. Beardies are naturally inquisitive and kind creatures, particularly with the hand that feeds them. They aren’t defensive, aggressive, or territorial unless placed into an enclosure with another bearded dragon.
In fact, these lizards love to be handled and spend time with their owners! This is where their comparison to a dog comes in, as they appreciate interaction and can get along excellently with children.
If you still feel intimidated, then check out the video above for a few ways to bond with your new beardie!
Diet is another factor that makes the bearded dragon a simple reptile to keep at home. They are omnivorous, meaning they eat both animal and plant matter. And they are not picky eaters! Able to consume a wide variety of insects, beardies will also go nuts over a variety of leafy greens, flowers, and fruits.
This reptile can live upwards of 10 years and grow to a maximum of 1-2 feet in length (counting the tail). This may sound like a commitment, but 10 years is not as long as a dog or cat, so it might be the best alternative!
Habitat & Enclosure
Looking at the necessary habitat, the electrical fixtures might concern some people as being too much maintenance. However, do not be discouraged, because both a UVB light and heat lamp are easy to purchase and when paired with a timer, you don’t even have to worry about them!
Bearded dragons do require a UVB bulb over their enclosure to aid in their synthesis of vitamin D3. A heat lamp is also necessary to provide a source of heat for your beardie to bask in, as with any other cold-blooded animal. Humidity is nearly effortless to maintain for this reptile, at a range of 35-40%.
Other than these two requirements, the rest of the enclosure isn’t very complicated at all! Just be sure to add in two hides, several items to climb around on (rocks, wood, reptile-safe nets, plants), and an easy-to-clean desert substrate or carpet. Creativity can run wild, and I’m sure a bearded dragon will be pleased with any kind of setup you give them (so long as it meets requirements)!
With a straightforward diet, easy setup, and welcoming demeanor, bearded dragons are no doubt one of the best reptiles to keep if you’re looking for little maintenance and care.
2. Leopard Gecko
Speaking of low maintenance, the leopard gecko might just take the cake on this one!
This unique lizard is surprisingly easy to take care of and also a joy to watch whether sleeping or awake. Better yet, they come in a plethora of different morphs, giving you options to find your favorite look!
I was not expecting to enjoy caring for leopard geckos, but rather thought it might be kind of boring. Boy was I wrong! These geckos are calm and gentle, and frankly, they don’t seem to have much going on in their brains.
Handling these reptiles is a wonderful experience that you may not have with other, more sensitive reptiles. It gives you the opportunity to bond with them, though be sure to take proper steps to comfortably adjust your leo to playtime outside of his tank!
Despite this peaceful temperament, leos have an absolute ball when you put insects in front of them! And this is all that these geckos eat being insectivores: crickets, worms, and roaches.
Undemanding and cheap, keeping this reptile’s belly full and happy doesn’t take much. Do make sure that the insects are dusted with calcium and multivitamins though, so your gecko intakes enough to maintain regular levels in their blood.
This reptile can live up to 10-20 years and only reach a length of about 8 inches! This small stature allows them to live a full life in a smaller tank of 20 gallons (pick length over height), which is perfect for those with less space available.
Habitat & Enclosure
Different caves to hide in, plants, and plenty of substrate to dig through will give your little friend the enrichment he deserves!
Another bonus is that leopard geckos don’t need UVB lighting or a basking lamp! While there have been some studies stating that UVB lighting can benefit your leo, they’ll do just fine without it given two reasons: you already supplement their diet with vitamin D3 and they’re naturally crepuscular animals.
And since they absorb heat through their stomachs, you can get by with a heating mat that sticks to your enclosure. Similarly to a bearded dragon, the humidity should remain between 30-40% (we are trying to replicate a desert here).
Being a hardy desert dweller with a permanent grin on their face, a leopard gecko would be my first recommendation when deciding on adopting the easiest, lowest-maintenance reptile.
3. Crested Gecko
A crested gecko was my introduction to the reptile world (that is, other than at my old job), and let me tell you, it has been an amazing journey down the herpetology rabbit hole. I enjoy caring for my rescue crestie, and it is less work to do so than maintaining my fish tanks!
Crested geckos are very unique individuals on the friendlier side of the lizard scale. You can hold them so long as you take the process slowly and recognize signs of stress in this reptile (some may never feel comfortable outside of their enclosure).
They do have the likelihood of dropping their tail when scared or threatened, and the tail will never grow back!
That is how I stumbled upon my crestie “Dave”, surrendered with no tail and developing MBD. And let me tell you, today he is still easygoing, active, and a voracious eater that loves to hang out in my hoodie pocket!
If you have patience in mind when handling these critters, you shouldn’t have an issue with a dropped tail. You might, however, have an issue with getting too attached to their beautiful crests that look like eyelashes!
When it comes time to feeding, though, these reptiles will let you know when they are hungry. My crested gecko always sits atop his food ledge, facing the door when I walk in with his food. This is the only time I feel like my little friend really wants to be with me! So, what do you feed them anyways?
Well, crested geckos are omnivores, but when they get older they will eat fewer insects and more mashed fruits. You can feed them the occasional crickets, worms, or roaches, but stick to fruit mixes as the main diet.
To make your life even less burdened, you can purchase a powder diet (just add water) that meets this lizard’s required vitamins and minerals intake! Think of it like a fruit soup that you put in a cup for your friend to eat throughout the night.
The lifespan for this lizard is 15-20 years in captivity, and they reach an adult length of around eight inches, tail included. Cresties are the smallest reptile listed in this article, making their care that much easier. They are nocturnal too, so don’t feel bad if you are busy during the day and can’t be with them.
Habitat & Enclosure
This reptile is perfect if you are looking to save space while still wanting a new pet. They are arboreal creatures, which means they prefer to climb and stay higher off of the ground. Fully grown cresties should be housed in a tank that is 18″x18″x24″ giving more height than length. Pair this with tall branches of wood, vines, and plants, and your crestie will be enjoying his life every night!
Mist every day (or a few days) to keep humidity at 60-70%, and be sure to hold the temperature gradient between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit using a heat lamp. These reptiles, like many others on this list, do not need UVB lighting. It will help them with their natural circadian rhythm, though!
Overall, crested geckos are relatively hardy animals that don’t require much attention at all. Be careful though, you might find yourself staring at their beautiful colors and crest for longer than you’d think!
4. Spur-Thighed (Greek) Tortoise
You probably see semi-aquatic turtles everywhere, attracted to them by their exotic appearance and interesting habitat. However, what people don’t tell you about these creatures is the significant amount of maintenance you have to do to keep the tank clean!
A great alternative to turtles is the terrestrial tortoise, but not just any species. Let’s talk about the greek tortoise!
Habitat & Enclosure
The spur-thighed tortoise, commonly called the greek tortoise, is a very hardy reptile that can be kept indoors or outdoors. They don’t actually have a specific habitat requirement as they have been found in various landscapes across the world. One trend across these areas, though, is that humidity is relatively low (40-60%).
If housed indoors, this tortoise will need a UVB light to supplement that of real sun exposure. Add in a heat lamp (just like the other reptiles) to provide a source of warmth, the hottest side being around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Overall temperature can fall in the range of 75-90 degrees Fahrenheit.
You’ll definitely need plenty of space for this tortoise’s home, but every other aspect of keeping this pet is painless! Greek tortoises don’t need much to stay happy, so you really only need a few enrichment items: a hide, a water dish, and plants.
You can even purchase live plants that fit into this reptile’s diet so they can munch whenever they please! They prefer roaming, grazing, and digging over climbing, which is the main reason for such a large tank.
A fully grown spur-thighed tortoise will reach a length of five to eight inches. This small size makes for an enclosure you would not expect! A three-foot by six-foot containment will do the trick as these pets like to explore.
Maybe you’re asking, what kind of plants can I add? What is their diet?
A varied diet keeps things interesting, and it is safe to say that tortoises can eat quite a few things! Being the herbivores they are, greek tortoises love to munch on plants like dandelion and thistle as well as several dark leafy greens and vegetables.
You can treat them with fruit too, just don’t exceed 10% of the total diet. Plenty of owners have even supplemented with timothy hay to increase fiber in their tortoise’s belly!
Once a greek tortoise recognizes you as his provider, you can expect him to shuffle over to you with excitement when it is time for food. This isn’t the only time this reptile will show his personality, either. Greek tortoises are naturally amiable and peaceful creatures. They are very active during the day, too, giving you plenty of entertainment if you’re home!
While these creatures can learn to be outgoing as they get comfortable with their surroundings, it is not recommended to handle greek tortoises unless necessary. It can quickly stress them out which isn’t good for any party involved.
With the care done right, greek tortoises can live at least fifty years. And trust me, it is easier to care for a land-loving tortoise that doesn’t smell for fifty years than it is scrubbing a filthy, stinky tank and performing water changes for a semi-aquatic turtle that lives up to forty years!
5. Russian Tortoise
Maybe you have some extra space you want to fill, and what better option to fill it with than an enclosure for a pet? Tortoises surprisingly make excellent pets, and they aren’t high maintenance nor difficult to care for!
Your first thought regarding this reptile group might jump to the massive Sulcata, Aldabra, and Galapagos tortoises. That’s where mine usually goes to!
However, there are a plethora of species that don’t end up huge and are unable to be held by their caretakers. That’s where Russian tortoises come in, and they are a wonderful starter pet in the reptile world.
Their adult size is a mere 5-10 inches long, making them look like shrimp compared to other tortoises! But, this miniature size actually makes caring for them significantly easier, since there are fewer waste, cleaning, and initial setup costs to consider. Owning a tortoise is a lifelong commitment, however, since the Russian tortoise has been known to live up to 50 years in captivity.
Don’t let this age scare you away from owning these guys, as their personality is sure to make up for it. Soon enough you won’t even feel like 50 years is burdensome! Tortoises are actually quite intelligent creatures behind those slow movements, and studies have shown that we have greatly underestimated their long-term memory and quick learning.
So, you can train your tortoise to perform various tasks, providing enrichment and joy for both of you! Otherwise, just expect your tortoise to come waltzing out of his hide when it’s mealtime.
Tortoises are also known to have unique personalities, and Russian tortoises are no different! Handling can be stressful for this reptile, so don’t feel bad if you don’t give him attention. They will be fulfilled with feeding interactions and not cling to you like another kind of animal.
They can be labeled as “boring” simply because they sleep a bunch and like to bask in heat despite their daytime activity. However, several friends of mine talk about their tortoises’ shenanigans often as if they are just another cat or dog at home!
Habitat & Enclosure
The biggest amount of maintenance for the Russian tortoise is upkeep on the enclosure. Though they are small, they require a larger habitat than most can accommodate.
An adult should be housed in at least a 40-gallon terrarium with sufficient bedding to promote the tortoise’s natural digging behaviors. The water dish should be large enough for them to bathe and soak in, but be sure to clean this out daily (they are bound to poo in that water!)
All species of tortoises do require a UVB light supplement, kept on 12-14 hours per day. They will also need a basking lamp on one end of the enclosure (around 95 degrees Fahrenheit) to provide a source of heat, and the humidity should remain around 60%.
Once you get the hang of the setup for a tortoise, it is extremely manageable and doesn’t take long to tend to each day!
The diet works in a similar fashion. It seems daunting at first, but quickly it will become part of your routine.
Russian tortoises are herbivores, eating primarily dark leafy greens, vegetables, grass, and the occasional fruits. They aren’t picky eaters, so your creativity can run wild when crafting each meal (so long as the foods are acceptable)!
Most people wouldn’t think of a tortoise as an easy, low-maintenance pet, but you’d be surprised the more you learn about these smaller tortoise species!
6. Corn Snake
There are three snakes relatively simple to care for, that is if you are comfortable with snakes in the first place!
Though snakes are low maintenance by nature, the two that I’ve compiled here are some of the smallest sizes as well as the most docile to avoid any unwanted strikes and bites (though with owning a snake, this is admittedly inevitable).
Corn snakes are similar to leopard geckos in the wide variety of colors and patterns present, and with their wide availability in pet stores, you can easily find your perfect match! Their popularity has skyrocketed recently due to their petite size, since the adult corn snake reaches around five feet in length, and ease of care.
This snake is diurnal, meaning it is most active during the day. If you work from home or have kids, then this reptile may be an excellent option as they can entertain you for hours by just being themselves!
They can live up to twenty years, so this could make a great commitment for your family to take on this responsibility and try something new.
And handling them isn’t all too intimidating either, because of their size. While five feet may sound large, when compared to other snake species, this is actually a compact size that allows handling of the snake without sacrificing its health and well-being (or sacrificing your well-being).
Once a corn snake becomes an adult, it only needs to be fed a mouse (dead or alive) of appropriate size once per week. Arguably, this is easier than a lizard needing insects every few days!
Habitat & Enclosure
This reptile will spend its captive days in a longer enclosure that holds heat yet ventilates well. Usually, a 20-gallon tank works perfectly for a solitary corn snake so long as you give him secure, hidden caves and branches to stretch his noodle-self out too! Not to mention, this tank is great if you have less space.
You don’t necessarily need a UVB light for this snake, but it does help create proper day/night cycles. A heat source, however, will be needed since corn snakes have a temperature range of 70 degrees Fahrenheit on the cool side to 85 degrees Fahrenheit on the warm end. Ensure the humidity in the tank is kept at a range of 40-50%.
Naturally, a small and nicer snake will be easier to take care of for beginners as well as being a low-maintenance creature in general. Corn snakes may just be your first (or next) reptile!
7. Rosy Boa
Now, if you’re worried about the size that a corn snake can grow to, will subtracting a whole foot persuade you? Rosy boas are smaller than corn snakes allowing for a less intimidating responsibility, but it will still give you the excitement of owning a gorgeous reptile!
This snake has a personality even more appealing than its appearance, as it is good-tempered, laid-back, and meek. All of these qualities make the rosy boa easy to handle and hang out with (so long as you don’t reach into its hide to pick it up).
So, if interaction with this reptile is possible, what else should you know about them?
Briefly mentioned in the rosy boa’s introduction, these snakes are one of the smaller species that you can keep as a pet! Fully grown rosy boas will reach three feet in length which is shorter than it might sound! Get ready for an undertaking, however, since this snake can live upwards of 30 years in captivity.
You’re in for plenty of feeding times with this long lifespan, but to make it better, rosy boas only need food once per week! And the cherry on top? Rodents are easy and cheap to acquire!
Habitat & Enclosure
Well, caring for them isn’t much different than it is for other snakes. Adults will be satisfied with a 20-30 gallon enclosure that fits their dry, terrestrial lifestyle. A couple of snug caves, enrichment items (various kinds of wood), plants, a water dish, and a sandy substrate is all you need to create this snake’s home.
UVB light is recommended for the same reason as corn snakes, so if you can add one, why not? Be sure to add a heat lamp on top of one end of the enclosure, and you now have the full setup!
Maintaining proper heat and humidity shouldn’t be too much of a headache either, since there’s a wide range of heat (65-85 degrees Fahrenheit) and minimal misting to achieve less than 60% humidity.
With such a tiny, slow, lazy, but kind snake, how can you not be excited about the minimal maintenance? Experience a rosy boa for yourself and you’ll never look back!
How To Choose The Best Reptile For Yourself
Looking at this list, you may have your eye on more than one reptile to adopt. How do you choose just one? Start by reading more about the reptiles that you found interesting off the bat.
Understand the specific requirements that will be your job to uphold and decide if it is something you will be able and willing to do for the duration of the pet’s life. Make sure you pick a reptile that will fit best with your personal schedule so you can tend to it regularly.
Consider what you’re capable of doing as well. If you’re afraid of insects and rodents, then stick to owning a tortoise. With them being herbivores, you’ll only have to deal with plants, vegetables, and fruits!
Also, determine how often you’d like to interact with your reptile. Granted none of them will be as free-range and cuddly as a dog, but some reptiles are known to handle better while others prefer to never be held.
If you want a closer bond with your new pet, then choose a reptile that is known for getting used to handling. Don’t choose a reptile that gets stressed from human touch if you or your kids constantly want to touch!
It is unlikely that someone living in a studio apartment has enough room for ten golden retrievers. The same goes for reptiles, and you want to make sure that you have ample space for the enclosure! Not only the juvenile enclosure but the adult’s required space should also be taken into consideration as you will have to upgrade over time.
Lastly, look at the total cost of caring for your favorite reptile. Some species are bound to be more expensive based on setup and diet requirements. If you worry about affording your preferred lizard, snake, or tortoise, then opt for a cheaper reptile that you’d still enjoy caring for!
This isn’t an all-inclusive list as there are plenty more reptiles in the trading world that are hardy, easy to care for, and don’t require much maintenance. With that said, this compilation is meant to make you on a less intimidating journey into herpetology and give you options depending on your personal preferences!
“Low maintenance” doesn’t mean “no maintenance”, so keep that in mind as you are inevitably going to have to clean, feed, and check in on your reptile.
The difference is that low-maintenance pets won’t take up as much of your time as other, more advanced reptiles.
Evaluate your daily schedule and what you are comfortable with to figure out which reptile will work best for you. Then, all you have to do is build the enclosure and welcome your new friend home!