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Some fundamentals about *happiness* in reptiles....

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Posted by DC on May 07, 2003 at 15:33:22:

In Reply to: Some fundamentals about colouring... posted by kev on May 07, 2003 at 07:28:35:

Hi there Kev, while you certainly have some of the most beautifully colored bluestars I personally know of, I think I must interject some dissonance on a couple of your points here...

It seems your collareds may have been unhappy due to their surroundings. The colouring, or intensity of colour, is affected directly by the way you house them.

Firstly, let us dispense with the concept of "happiness" as measured by the observed coloration, as the corollary (lack of coloration indicates severe unhappiness) is unfounded. Assuming these were in fact wild caught lizards in this case, the statements that described them as eating well, active, and *affectionate* (handleable?) points to a situation in which I would not say they were overly stressed by their surroundings; In fact I would call this pretty laudable results in housing a pair of wild-caughts from an unknown background. If they had been described as "hissing, gaping, refusing food, and attempting to attach themselves to every possible human appendage offered" then I would agree that it was going to be challanging to get them adjusted. Fading coloration is not unusual in the least, particularly if contrasted to the vivid colors seen in recently caught wild examples. I think you will see this complaint as a common lament from very experienced keepers who obtain their own stock from the wild.

The first thing that you should have done was get a larger tank. A 20-gallon tank is WAY to small for even a single collared lizard. And the fact that your collareds were wild caught means they need even more space than captive bred collareds. I would say a minimum 50-gallon tank is required for a pair of WC collareds. Larger is always better.

While I will agree that you can't actually HAVE too big of an enclosure, I would think that the 20 long, while minimal, was providing them with an acceptable housing arrangement. I don't recall seeing any other data linking cubic inches of habitat to coloration.

Second, were the temperatures in the tank correct? I found temperature plays the largest roll in reptile colouring. If your tank is cooler than it's supposed to be, your collareds will be duller in colour. For collareds, the tank should have a proper temperature gradient of 90 degrees to 75 degrees with an elevated basking area in the 'hot' end of 105 to 115 degrees.

Incorrect temps usually first manifest by problems related to feeding or digesting. Anorexic behavior and prolonged weight loss tend to indicate the temps are out of range. I have certain lizards that do just the opposite from what is usually expected in cool temps: They seem to be darker blue when first waking up from their cooler hides. Exposure to some amount of natural sunlight seems to be the largest factor in allowing the maximum color to express.

Although diet is also a factor in colour I've notice as long as you properly supplement with calcium and the occasional vitamin powder colours, and health, of your collared will be optimum. I've experimented with different foods and supplements and didn't notice any considerable differences between them when it came to the colour of my collareds.

Diet is a big unknown in color expression, as things stand now. Very little is known with any certainty.

One last note, wild caught lizards (animals in general) never do as well as captive bred lizards. If you do plan to keep collareds in the future, insure they are captive bred.

Again, the biggest failing with wildcaughts is in refusing food and other signs of being intolerably stressed (frantic activity, fixation on escape). His lizards sounded to me to be adjusting very well. My only problems were as listed: I feel it was specious to release the lizards in the manner chosen and for the reasons given. I hope we can de-emphasize terms like *happiness* just a bit.


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