Improving Husbandry at Reptile Expos

I was thinking about this today and I thought we could make a compiled list of ways to improve husbandry at expos. What are some easy ways that you think husbandry could be improved at reptile expos?

  • Larger deli cups, if necessary reptiles could be moved under the table for duplicates and taken out if anybody inquires about them. Or more could be kept with the following.
  • Utilize vertical space. Instead of stacking deli cups 5-10 high you can use shelves or pvc cages with the doors removed to have storage for more or larger deli cups. Milk crates stacked on their side work as an easily transportable inexpensive shelf.
  • Taping around the sides, that would make the deli cup act like a hide, ventilation holes would need to be poked through the tape.
  • Adding crumpled newspaper or aspen (depending on species) in the deli cup for cover.
  • Having an enrichment tank that animals could be moved to and rotated around for enrichment. This would also help buyers to see their animals behavior first-hand.
  • Not bringing snakes that have not taken enough meals (should be healthy enough to ship, expo stress is usually higher than shipping), are in shed, or that aren’t all-around healthy.
  • Not keep the animals under bright lighting except for when specifically looking at them for a short time.
  • Having a 2nd, tinted, lid on the container so it’s dark. The lid is taken off temporarily when viewing and offers more security to the reptile.

I think this a great topic, because last time I went to an expo I ended up not only not buying anything, but leaving early just beause I was so distressed by the conditions of some of the animals. I think I may have reached a point where I don’t want to go at all because I don’t want to play a role in promoting it.

A few thoughts:

  • A minimum size/age limit. I know a lot of people like to sell hatchlings and young stock at shows, but the last one I went to had some ball pythons that look like they barely had their first shed. There was no way those snakes had even had 3 meals in them, a few were super dehydrated, it just looked all around bad. This would be hard to enfororce, but just as we had a thread about reccomended size/age before shipping, I think it should be reccomended that breeders consider waiting until the next show for super young hatchlings.

  • The whole bright lights/acrylic boxes thing. I know people love to look at all the snakes, but it just seems so cruel and stressful to make to take an animal that is normally nocturnal/crepuscular and force it to sit under bright floodlights in a clear box with nowhere to hide for several days in a row. Not sure how to remedy this, but it just seems all around bad. I guess the same could be said for deli cups.


I do agree, these poor creatures are put into tiny boxes with no temperature regulation, so much light and minimal space to move and you don’t know how well they have been carried for.

I haven’t been to an expo in a few years ago I can’t say much (hoping to soon). But I did see a video on YouTube where someone had made proper little enclosures with 2 lids, the to bring tinted so the reptiles were kept dark, unless someone lifted the tinted one to be looked at. It looked amazing.

My first reptile was from a Reptile show many many years ago and she wasn’t old enough to sell (I didn’t know that at the time as they were all so tiny) and she turned out so small compared to what she should have been.

We’ve bought other Reptiles sl at reptile expos (still a long time ago) and they have all been smaller / thinner compared to others not from a Reptile show and have taken longer to get bigger.

Would be awesome to see improvements for the Reptiles. Although I don’t know that expos are like ATM


Great list!
Not been to a show yet, hopefully soon!
But I know of uk ones, and some breeders do have some behind the tables etc and bring out when asked or when one goes etc. Also darker containers of hides etc are done too here with some breeders! :blush:
When I even send a reptile (Cresties).
I send them in braplast or cricket tubs depending on size with substrate and leaf litter. And half the lid is tapped to be darker for them. And they can hide under the big leaves I put in also! Which is why I add them in!
I personally don’t like sending them with just kitchen roll and having them so ‘open’.
So I’ve been doing this for a while now!
I think I’ll be opting for the black braplast tubs next time! These would be great for people to use as the lid is clear but the bottom is black so they feel more safe! :blush:


This is really something that needs talked about. I enjoy supporting the good vendors at my local show, but the stuff I see there sometimes is a huge turn off. I feel like there should be a vet or some sort of neutral inspector at shows that give the yay or nay for obviously sick or underage animals.


Unfortunately I see a lot of animals that are in the middle of shedding (usually from one or two vendors). They’re trying to finish shedding while in a low humidity clear container with bright lights. I personally don’t see how that’s a good idea. If anything bring a picture of the animal and sell it later.


Some of those practices are law in European countries. At the hamm show in Germany for example, the containers for snakes must be at least 1/3 the length of the snake. There are also size requirements for other species that I don’t know off hand. Containers are also only allowed to have 1 transparent side and snakes must be housed individually. As far as the enrichment enclosure, I don’t think having a rotating enclosure is a good idea because you don’t want to be handling animals unnecessarily, and it’s a potential biosecurity risk, excessive handling on the animal etc. Also if you bring 30 animals to a 6 hour show, even 2 of such enclosures only gives each animal 20 minutes at a time, let alone the vendors that would have 50-100 or more animals at a show.


I don’t think of an enrichment enclosure as handling, more of a break from being in a box. It could also be used on one per species (since most vendors only have a few species) to avoid pathogen risks.

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I have never been to a reptile show, and now having read this thread, i agree with it and believe this is incredibly harsh on the animals. I believe that i do not want to support shows, i already have issues with stores and animals. This post has made me actually thing of possibly a perspective i never totally put thought into.

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It totally depends on the seller. Some sellers will take reptiles in shed, not use heat, and keep them under bright lights, while others will give them darker, larger containers, use heat, and rotate them through lighting. Most of the sellers are ethical, but there are still those who aren’t. But, everybody feels different about the ethics of shows. If you wanted to see the conditions the animals are in, you could look up some youtube videos of expos to see what they are like. Some of the large multiple-day shows can be stressful on the animals and some might be stuck in that same deli cup for days.

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I want to add, as someone who goes to shows on a regular basis, there are a few things I’d like to point out. Keep in mind that these are things that, when done correctly, can be perfectly okay for animals - it’s when someone doesn’t have the best interest of the animal in mind that it becomes a problem.

First, the acrylic displays. There are a few big benefits to these (not only the breeders but the animals themselves):

  • prevention of stress. Yes, these displays can be bright and don’t provide cover, but there are a lot of things that do help to prevent stress. For instance, when using an acrylic display, the animal and the display is stationary - meaning they can’t be picked up, moved around, jostled, etc. unless taken out intentionally by the seller. This prevents the common issue I see with deli cups being picked up, moved around on the table, knocked by kids, etc.
  • heat regulation. Almost everyone who uses acrylic display (that I have spoken to, at least) uses a heating element underneath them. My mentor and I, for instance, use a heat cable at the back of each display strip, so that the animal can bunch toward the back to warm up or move to the front to cool down. It’s very difficult to maintain a temperature gradient with deli cups or huge enclosures due to them being moved around and the need to have multiple things plugged in - socket space is at a premium at expos.
  • sanitization. As nice as it is to use pieces of substrate for cover in displays (and I do think it should be used for small species, like, say, garters and small geckos) leaving the displays bare makes it really easy to sanitize before and after every show. This means that not only are we preventing sickness spread in our own collection by ensuring the display can be properly cleaned and sanitized between different animals being in it, but it also allows easy cleaning after shows to prevent illness being spread from other animals at the shows, people touching the outside of the deli cups and passing disease, etc.
  • and finally, security. Going to a show can definitely be stressful for animals but so can being taken off a table, stolen, knocked over, etc. Many times going to a show you are out of your home area, and many times hotels do not allow animals to be kept in rooms, especially not as many as one vendor may often have at shows. Using the acrylic displays is security because a) they’re very heavy and very large, and b) are able to lock, so it’s not like someone can come up and just scoop them up and walk away.

Now, all of that said, I completely agree with a lot of the other points here. Animals should not be taken to shows until they’ve had the absolute minimum number of consecutive meals (at the very least) and are large and established enough to be able to thrive in a new home, not just survive. For me, this means I’m not taking ball pythons to shows until they’ve had three meals and are at least 90g, and crested geckos I’m not taking until they’re a minimum of 5g. I saw a few people selling baby crested geckos at the Schaumburg show that were smaller than my babies that hatched less than a month ago.

It always makes me very disappointed to see animals that are thin, small, look like they haven’t taken enough meals, are dirty/have bad sheds, etc. To me, going to a show means displaying and showing the best of what you can produce. If an animal isn’t in a healthy, bright, alert state that proves immediately to buyers how well taken care of they are, it shouldn’t’ go. I went to Schaumburg last weekend and I remember remarking to my friend on more than one occasion about animals that looked lethargic or emaciated. I even remember one time saying that the animal looked like it was going to die before the end of the show.

I think it would be a great practice to have an exotics vet or state animal welfare official (say, with parks & wildlife) at shows to evaluate the health and well-being of animals. And also, people need to use common courtesy. If you know there are mites or have recently been mites in your collection, don’t go to shows. If you’re wanting to sell animals that haven’t been through proper quarantine procedures, don’t go to shows. If you can’t set up basic heating/lighting for the animals and provide them opportunities to drink while at the show, don’t go to shows. If any of your animals aren’t eating consistently, don’t take them to a show.


These are all great points!


I fully agree. These were the two main issues i was thinking about a well.

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Well I have to stay as I was scrolling by rather quickly I swore that read “Improving Husbands at Reptile Expos” so I had to see how we were being improved.


I’d like to play devils advocate. You’ve got to remember, shows are temporary, usually a weekend. For the most part, when these animals go back to the shop they are returned to their, hopefully correct, husbandry. Venders are trying to show the most animals they can in the best possible light under limited space. Are animals stressed at shows? Absolutely, they are not in their normal environment. I’m not saying some of the ideas here are not a great idea, but anything that hinders the possibility of a sale needs extra consideration.

For instance, wrapping the sides of deli cups in masking tape to make it more like a hide seems like a good idea for the animal, but a potential buyer is either going to be turned off because they can’t see from the side or going to open the deli cup and pull out the animal to see the sides. Which is more stressful to the animal?

One thing I do agree with is the animals should be properly warmed. RI’s are no fun.



My suggestion is to just buy your spouse whatever they want. Hard to improve on that.