Pet Guide – Exotica II

Fine Feathered Friends

The beauty of birds as pets is that most species have colorful personalities to match their good looks. Cheryl Brown, owner of Chief’s Bird Cabin in Orlando (; 407-292-6828), recommends the following birds because their calm, forgiving dispositions make them good companions. Brown advises feeding them a diet of nutritious food pellets—not bird seed—combined with fresh fruits and veggies. Yearly vet exams will suffice.


The smallest of the cockatoo family, this variety is native to inland Australia. Cockatiels develop a personality as a result of care and handling by their owners, Brown says. With patience and attention, they tame quickly. Brown recommends owners socialize cockatiels with people to normalize behavior around strangers. Price: $85



Found in Central and South America, the conure has earned a reputation as the clown of the parrot family because of its attention-seeking antics, like hanging upside-down and bouncing about. Conures come in several varieties, ranging in size from 9 to 19 inches. Cages should include two perches: one high for roosting, the other low for feeding. Price: $200-$400



Distinct and beautiful, males are emerald green; females are bright red with blue/purple plumage. Out of their cages, these parrots, which are native to the South Pacific, will wander into cupboards and under furniture, looking for nesting sites. They are known to become possessive of these hidden spaces. The Eclectus is a playful bird, and Brown highly recommends it for first-time owners.
Price: $900-$1,200


Pionus Parrot

Native to Mexico and Central America, the Pionus makes a charming pet but it’s not particularly energetic and prefers not to be handled a lot. Price: $400-$500


Senegal Parrot

Native to regions of West Africa, the Senegal is a popular parrot species, drawing attention to itself with high-pitched whistles and squawks. It prefers warm climates, but will adapt to indoor temperatures. However, Brown advises that Senegals be kept away from air-conditioning vents and open windows. Roomy cages are a must for this bird, as is socializing it at an early age. Price: $400


 The Pet Aquatic

Fish may not be cuddly, but they’re easy on the eyes. Marcye Sweeny of Sea in the City (orlandotropical; 407-207-5056) recommends the following tropical varieties for novice fish owners:


The star of the Disney/Pixar movie Finding Nemo is available in a variety of colors and species. The clownfish prefers the confines of a sea anemone to a coral cavern and will often spawn in captivity. Sweeny warns that to avoid turf wars, only one male and one female of each species should be kept in the aquarium system. Price: $18



Most species of tangs can grow to be a foot or longer and should be kept in tanks that are at least 6 feet long. Tangs are mostly herbivores in the wild, so a balanced diet should consist of algae and plant-based food selections. Price: $32



Considered by many as the most sought-after fish for saltwater aquariums. Larger coral-eating species like the Queen or Emperor are favorites in large fish-only systems. “Bellus angels are great additions to larger reef tanks,” says Sweeny, because “they are herbivores and do not count coral as a food source.” Price: $22



An elegant saltwater fish. Larger, more aggressive species are suitable for fish-only systems, while the fairy wrasse family is coral-friendly. To ensure that live food is always available, Sweeny recommends a refugium system, a separate refuge tank where food sources can grow away from predators, and a supply of live copepod crustaceans.  Price: $16



There are more than 2,000 varieties of the Goby, which ranges from a centimeter to a foot in length. These big-eyed bottom-dwellers are best kept alone, or with friendly, surface-dwelling fish. Take caution: This crafty escape artist has been known to jump out of the tank without a properly secured lid. Price: $12



Members of the anthia family do best in groups with at least one male and two or more females. “Not all anthias are good selections for home aquariums,” Sweeny says. Many come from deep waters, have an aversion to bright light, and are finicky. Price: $24



6 Wild Reptiles for Those So Inclined to Own Them

Shane Hill, owner of Pet Bazaar in Casselberry (407-260-0552), recommends the following reptiles if you’re up for cuddling with cold-blooded creatures, some of which eat live food:

Ball Python

Native to Africa, they like cage temperatures of 85 to 95 degrees. This docile species, which grows to 5 feet, is low maintenance, feeding every week or two. The recent climb in popularity of ball pythons, Hill says, is because of the development of more color and pattern mutations through selective breeding. Price: $50


Bearded Dragon

Hill believes these are the friendliest of lizards. “They make great pets and are excellent for handling,” he says. Bearded dragons grow to 18 to 24 inches and will eventually require at least a 40-gallon tank with a UVB lamp. They are omnivores and feed mostly on crickets, mealworms, greens and vegetables. Price: $39


Corn Snake (Red Rat Snake)

Baby corns average smaller than a pencil, and adults reach about 5 feet. With a docile nature, they are easy to keep.  Corn snakes require feeding every week or two, with their diet ranging from small lizards and tree frogs for hatchlings to mice or rats for adults. They come in dozens of color combinations. Price: $25


Crested Gecko

A small lizard—8 inches fully grown—that Hill classifies as “good for handling, low cost and low maintenance.” The lizard is his top recommendation for beginners. This species does not require artificial heating, and it can live happily on a powdered diet available at pet stores, rather than the typical meal of live insects. Price: $59


Leopard Gecko

Another small lizard like the crested, this species is easy to care for and good for handling. Nocturnal creatures, these lizards don’t require much UVB lighting but do need a heat lamp or heating pad. A low maintenance lizard for beginners, Hill recommends multiple hiding areas in their cage and a humidity shelter. Price: $30


Red-Footed Tortoise

Put this pet in your will—it can live upward of 100 years. Red-footed tortoises average 18 inches long and will eventually need a pen outdoors because they prefer to move around. Indoors, UVB lighting and a heat source are required. They are herbivores, with a typical meal including greens, vegetables and flowers. Hill recommends providing a water bowl large enough for the tortoise to climb in. Price: $150

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