7 Pet Reptiles That Stay Small

small pet reptile (leopard gecko) being held by a person

Reptiles make great pets in general.  They’re different, fun, and highly entertaining!  Reptiles are incredibly convenient for people who can’t have a pet like a cat or a dog in their home.  But, not all pet reptiles are easy to care for, and some of them can get pretty big!  It’s much more convenient for most of us to get a pet reptile that won’t outgrow our housing situation.

Today, we’ll talk about 7 reptiles that stay small throughout their entire lives.

You have plenty of options when you’re looking for a small reptile.  Some of the smallest reptiles you can find are anoles, pygmy chameleons, and crested geckos.  There are a few others that you’ll be able to house in a pretty small enclosure for their entire lives.   

Keep reading this article for more details on the smallest pet reptiles!

Why Would You Want A Small Pet Reptile?

If it’s not already clear why you might want a small pet reptile, we’ll give you a couple of reasons to consider a tiny pet!

Unless you’re a homeowner, you will probably move a few times in the next 10 years.  Owning a small pet makes the move way easier.  Trust me, the difference between moving a 10-gallon tank and a 60-gallon tank is significant!  Plus, it’s way easier to find a spot in a new place for a small enclosure as compared to a large one.

Small reptiles are also going to be easier and cheaper to feed.  While a large snake might require 1 – 2 large animal protein items every week, some of these small reptiles might just need a few small bugs each day.  If you’re already tight on your home storage, that’s going to make a big difference!

Small reptiles are also easier to handle for first-time reptile owners.  If that sounds like you, imagine how much easier it will be to work with a leopard gecko as opposed to a green iguana!  Because not all reptiles stay small and easy to manage.

How Big Can Pet Reptiles Get?

Some pet reptiles get pretty big!

Actually, one of the biggest reasons that people surrendered their pet reptiles while I worked at an animal rescue was the size.  Unfortunately, many people adopt turtles and snakes when they’re cute tiny babies.  These people don’t always realize just how big these animals are going to get, and they end up not being able to care for them.

Most turtles will get pretty large by the time they’re adults and will need a large enclosure for housing.  The same is true for most snake species.  While being big isn’t a problem in and of itself, you just need more space for a bigger animal!  To give you an idea of the housing demands, check out this guide we created.

On this chart, you can see how most enclosure sizes are based on the size of your pet.  So, as your snake grows in length, it’ll need bigger and bigger enclosures!  For reference, ball pythons can grow up to 6ft in length.  For these snakes that like to burrow, you’ll need a tank that is a minimum of 6ft long, with room for substrate, water, and hides in it.

Now, let’s talk about some of the pet reptiles you can find that will stay small!

Most Reptiles Will Benefit From Extra Space

Even though all of the reptiles in this article can live in pretty small spaces, there aren’t many reptiles who won’t appreciate more space.

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7 Reptiles That Stay Small

Finally, we can give you our top 7 small reptiles!  Hopefully, you’ll find a pet on this list that inspires you to become the owner of a tiny reptile.

1. Leopard Gecko

Length: 7 – 10 inches \ Lifespan: 10 – 20 years

When you’re looking to adopt a small pet reptile, leopard geckos are probably one of the first reptiles you’ll hear about.  Leopard geckos are small, terrestrial lizards that don’t need much space at all.  These lizards are pretty lazy and spend a lot of the day basking and lying around.

Leopard geckos are also one of the easiest reptiles to care for and a great pet for beginners.  Since these guys only grow to about 10 inches in length maximum, they’re one of the pets that we recommend for a 10-gallon tank.  Though you might want to upgrade your scaly friend eventually, they’ll be happy in small spaces!

2. Green Anole

Length: 5 – 8 inches \ Lifespan: 3 – 5 years

Green anoles are another fun reptile that stays small. But unlike many other smaller pets, these lizards are actually surprisingly intelligent.  These tiny little lizards are delicate climbers that do great in small spaces.

These tropic animals need a very humid enclosure with lots of places to hide.   Because they need such high humidity, a small space is preferable for anoles.  It’s one of the easiest ways to keep humidity up in a reptile enclosure!  Ideally, your anole enclosure will contain lots of plants (live are best).

Since they don’t have a long lifespan, these are also great pets for people who aren’t yet homeowners.  It’s not a huge commitment, and you should be able to move this small pet around with you if need be.

3. House Gecko

Length: 3 – 5 inches \ Lifespan: 5+ years

House geckos are cool, low-stress reptiles.  They stay small and get their name because they can sometimes be found in homes.  One of the things that makes this small reptile a great pet is that they thrive in the same environments we do.  Usually, the temperature of your house will be just about what they’re after!  This makes it easy to get your house gecko’s tank to the perfect set of conditions!

4. Five-Lined Skink

Length: 5 – 8 inches \ Lifespan: 6 years

Skinks are small reptiles that are native to the U.S.  These reptiles are pretty shy and aren’t recommended for beginners.  But, if you’re looking for a more advanced reptile that stays small, they’re a great option.

Even though skinks only get to be about 8 inches long, these animals need at least a 20-gallon tank to be happy!  You’ll also need to make sure that their tank mimics the leaf litter on the forest floor.  They love to hide in damp dark areas.

5. Crested Gecko

Length: 6 – 10 inches \ Lifespan: 15  20 years

Crested geckos are one of the coolest-looking pet reptiles, in my opinion!  These tiny lizards really look like miniature dragons.  They’re an arboreal species that loves to climb and they’re actually in the number 1 spot on our list of fun arboreal pet lizards.

Crested geckos make great pets because they stay so small and they’re pretty low maintenance.  These geckos don’t eat much, and since they’re nocturnal, they technically don’t need any special UVA/UVB lights.

6. Pygmy Chameleon

Length: 3 – 3.5 inches \ Lifespan: 1 – 1.5 years

Pygmy chameleons are the smallest reptile on this list!  Full grown, their chameleons will only reach a length of about 3 – 3.5 inches.  They’re also very short-lived and can make great pets for people who move around a lot.  As you can see above, pygmy chameleons are super cute and stay very small for their entire lives.

However, pygmy chameleons are incredibly sensitive to their environments and you should not get one of these pets as a starter reptile!

7. Rosy Boa

Length: 24 – 36 inches \ Lifespan: 20 – 30 years

I know what you’re thinking, how is a 2 -3 foot long snake considered small?  Although rosy boas don’t technically stay super small, they spend almost 100% of their time coiled up.  Actually, these snakes are considered to be the slowest snakes in the world and they just don’t move around much!  Because of their sedentary lifestyles, these snakes are one of the only snakes that you can house in a fairly small enclosure.  They’re also friendly and easy to care for.

Are There other Pet Reptiles That Stay Small?

Our 7 choices of reptiles that stay small are the most common and obvious pets you might be able to get if you’re looking for something small!  But, are there any others?

Most Frogs Stay Small

Even though frogs are;t technically reptiles, many reptile lovers also love frogs!

Most frogs that you can find as pets stay relatively small.  African dwarf frogs only reach about 1 -2 inches in size while the classic red-eyed tree frog will only reach about 3 inches as a full-grown adult.  Even though frogs stay super tiny, you’ll still need to provide them with adequate room.  Frogs need more room than many other reptiles because of their activity levels.  Most of these animals need room to jump, swim, and climb.  They’re not the best pets for new reptile owners because they have difficult environmental requirements.

But, if you need a small pet, these will definitely do the trick!

Garter Snakes And Ring-Necked Snakes

Most snakes get pretty large, but if you’re set on getting a smaller snake these two snake species are more choices in addition to a rosy boa.

Garter snakes and ring-necked snakes stay pretty small and slender throughout their lives. Ring-necked snakes can be smaller than 1 foot in length as full-grown adults.  Plus, they’re beautiful and have very unique scale patterns.  Garter snakes can get to be a little longer but usually stay under 2 feet in total length.

Unlike rosy boas, these two snake species are active and will need enough room to stretch their bodies out!

Some Turtles Stay Small

Surprisingly, there are a few species of turtles that stay really small!

These turtles aren’t the mainstream adoptable turtles.  You won’t want to get a Sulcata tortoise or red-eared slider as a pet and expect them to stay small.  But turtles like spotted turtles and eastern muck turtles are great examples of turtles that stay small.  These animals won’t be more than a handful of inches total in length.

If you decide you want to adopt a small turtle, you’ll need to do plenty of research on habitat and enclosure setup.  Some turtles are semi-aquatic, which means they’ll need a dry area and a wet area in their enclosure.  Both aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles need plenty of space to swim.  You’ll likely end up with a pretty large, heavy, and high-maintenance setup if you do end up as a turtle owner!

Final Thoughts

If you are limited by space, a small pet is going to be a great choice for you.  There are plenty of pet reptiles that stay small for their entire lives.  These small reptiles all vary in difficulty of care and environmental needs.  Even though some of these animals are super tiny, they still need all of the care a larger pet would receive like vet visits, quality food, and attention.  And, if you’re getting an arboreal species, you’ll need extra special “furniture” for their enclosure.

Wherever you’re at in your reptile journey, we hope you were able to find a small reptile that fits your needs on this list!