The Fine Line Between Hobby and Hardship

I wanted to take a minute and open what can sometimes be a sensitive discussion about keeping the kind of numbers of reptiles that some of us do (and many others strive to someday). Where is the line between hobby and hoard?

Here in this community I’m more comfortable being open about the numbers I work with than I am on other platforms that are more visible to those outside the community. The world at large doesn’t necessarily have a positive view of someone keeping hundreds of reptiles and rodents at their home. I can understand where some of that concern comes from because the media rarely portrays organized, experienced keepers of any animal it highlights. Puppy mills, cat hoarders, and factory farms are the imagery the public has to draw on when they hear about someone keeping a large number of animals. When it comes to snakes they only know about evil venomous or invasive Burmese. As a community we need to be careful that we’re walking the walk and really only keeping animals we can care for well and not creating or contributing to the problems that can put the community in a negative light.

To a degree, I can agree with that crowd, if things aren’t kept up and cared for properly. Ironically I have that viewpoint because I live just across the metaphorical street from it. If I didn’t have the means I do to maintain, build, or purchase adequate equipment and have help with husbandry, I wouldn’t be able to sleep well keeping this many animals. Some people can manage the time out of their life to properly care for triple digit reptiles, but for most people with a family or busy work life, that can quickly become very difficult. It’s also very easy to reach a number of animals that you can care for under normal circumstances, but then be completely out of your league when circumstances change. I know from experience. The busier my career gets the more help I NEED to properly maintain my collection.

My eventual goal with my animals and the reason I never made the choice to downsize, is in the (hopefully not too distant) future we plan to put it in a facility that can be opened to the public for education. My wife and I are entrepreneurs and have the drive, and the means to make it happen. At this stage of our life however, we have zero time to devote to that, and our animals are still our escape to our dreams. In order to give them all the best care we can, we make the decision to profit less or break even on ball python breeding, so we don’t have to go out of pocket for help to clean and care for everything.

If you’re reading this and you’ve got a large collection, don’t be afraid to get help. There is this weird spartan, “I must clean all my own animal poo” culture I see here and there. Honestly even if you can stay on top of it, the educational opportunity it can provide others is well worth it.

When you’re maintaining 100+ reptiles, breeding them, and breeding the rodents to feed them, all it takes a little shift in your life and you can no longer enjoy them or possibly even maintain adequate husbandry. They cease to be a hobby, and become a hardship at that point. I caution anyone who’s growing their collection to do so slowly and be methodical about it. I purchase a lot of new reptiles. Posting new pick ups all the time is something I worry may encourage people to buy beyond their means to maintain. I don’t lightly acquire new reptiles. I hope when people see me making frequent acquisitions that they keep in mind, I have a team of people that work with my collection. The reality of having 110-120 permanent residents is something you can’t understand until you’ve had to maintain it for 3-4-5 years consecutively.

There were times before I opened the collection up and started having interns and employees that I was miserable. I mean not one free second miserable. Work 10-12 hours come home work on snakes and rats until 11pm, wake up at 4:30, do some waters, check the incubator, check the swamp cooler for the rats, and head to work again. As our businesses became more successful, our hobby became a chore. Once we went through a few people and finally arrived at good help, not only are we able to spend so much more time educating, we also spend much less time scooping poop. That gives us the time to really, truly, sit down and enjoy our animals. If at any point you lose that enjoyment for the animals, you’ve lost your hobby and are just maintaining a hardship.

I see part of the hobby shifting towards keeping less species in better setups and that’s a great thing. I hope that as time goes on the overwhelming need to breed every reptile you own diminishes. The hobby putting more of a spotlight on people who aren’t breeders would be a really positive change.

Share your thoughts on having a large reptile collection, and let’s have a positive discussion about it.

Since I’m just the one who deals with the mean snakes and stands around doing all the talking (kidding) I’ll use this post as an opportunity to introduce and thank my team for all their hard work and the boss for not divorcing me over how far out of hand our 3 ball pythons and a BCI ended up all these years later :joy:

Cierra and Fay do most of the dirty work

And Jasmine keeps me in line :expressionless:


I actually came up hard against that attitude with myself. Though I don’t have hundreds of animals, I have double digits of insectivore lizards, which are often more labor-intensive than some commonly kept snakes. Additionally, all of my reptiles are my pets- my home is their forever home.

In 2017 I was injured at work, and that injury turned into a crippling disability in under 6 months. Suddenly I had a lot of animals, most of which were (at that time) very geriatric, I had no income, and it was borderline impossible for me to care for them entirely by myself.

I felt humiliated at the time, but I ultimately accepted the offer from my immediate family to help pay for a caregiver that was also willing to help with the cage cleaning. Though it still makes me feel kind of useless, I’m gradually adjusting to it.

And ultimately, I have to admit- it’s not that ridiculous to pay someone to help you every few weeks, whether you’re disabled or not. I mean, it’s not really any different from how people help me scoop my cat’s litter pans- it helps me, it helps the person being paid, and it helps my pets too.

Agreed! Especially if you are a pet owner with intent to keep your animals for their whole lives.

Agree with this too!! Everyone loves seeing fancy new morphs and baby reptiles, but it’s awesome to see really cool setups too!

Overall, you raise a lot of great points. One thought I have to add (from experience) is that it’s good for everybody to have a plan in place in case something happens such that they can’t take care of or afford the care of their animals. Maybe they’re injured, need emergency surgery with a long recovery, or need to travel.

Before my injury, I had a career ahead of me as a companion animal veterinarian. Financially, that generally means you make good money, but with heinous student loans that may last beyond your retirement, and that was the case for me. I hadn’t made much money yet, as I’d barely graduated vet school (Oregon State University, class of 2015). Following my injury, I had no income anymore, I could no longer be my own vet (meaning I was suddenly going to be spending considerably more on vet care for all my pets), and I still had heinous student loans.

I’m very lucky- my family is helping me out because they know how important my reptiles are to me, especially after such an extreme downturn in life. But even though I lucked out in that regard, it’s still forced me to make very different choices when it comes to keeping reptiles, in an effort to avoid any issues in the future.

As a side note to anyone in an applicable profession- if your job or professional association offers Disability Insurance and you are eligible- GET IT, especially if you have massive student loans.


To answer this, hoarding to me is when you no longer have the means to care for the animals or the care for the animals is harming you, financially, mentally, reducing time in other important areas of your life ect. Of course imo.

To the rest of it, I feel you 100%. I don’t have the size it sounds like you do, but I currently manage it solo. I work 10 hrs a lot of days, have the kids half the days, other random obligations, fitting in this hobby can be a lot.

There’s multiple parts. The basic animal husbandry, the highest priority. It honestly doesn’t take me that long to do a speed spot cleaning, but I never just do a speed spot cleaning, so it more time than I originally intend. Other parts can be easier to get behind on, the record keeping when breeding which I’ve been behind for a while up until a few days ago. I just spent this last weekend catching back up to par. Feeding day is a few hours total each week. Checking eggs and all the other little stuff. vending once a month. Compared to a 40 hour job it’s nothing. When it’s on top of a 40+ hour job, it’s burnout material sometimes. There’s a reason I’m active on here for a bit and disappear for a while. At a minimum I have to take care of the animals, but the rest is easy to let slip for a while.

One part I know I fall way behind on is marketing myself online. This hobby has a social part to it also.

The good part is, this hobby has a lot of motivation built in. Watching holdbacks grow up, hatching eggs, even when you get a lock on that pairing you’ve been waiting forever for. While we’re being honest and killing stigma, let’s not pretend like making certain sales doesn’t feel good either. This is what makes me feel like I’m on the hobby side of the line still. I still get great enjoyment from it, I won’t deny the hardship is there still.

You mentions tools people can use, acquing extra help, keeping less species, both investments in time. I’ll mention for me what really helped was making my reptile specific rooms (which I hope to be moving animals into this weekend, work schedule dictating that), when the collection got big enough it was worth the investment to save me time. Hose ready to go in the room, misting filling waters takes far less time. A sink that fits the tubs and tools to make cleaning easier. My newest room has a high pressure sprayer to make cleaning faster. My rats are delivered right to my garage, I lucked out and have an awesome rat breeder. I can go on and on about all the little stuff I’ve refined and systems I’ve created for myself. All to save time which is personally my biggest hardship in the hobby.

Probably not the positive vibe, but this hobby is a lot of work on this type of scale. With that said I get opportunities I else wouldn’t have, met people I never would of, get to cater to the mad scientist in me. On this scale I learn things I never could with a smaller sample size. Even with the extra work I want to keep going and I’m excited too. Overall I love this stuff.

I’d mention I love the reptile community as a whole, but one of it’s shinning points is you don’t have to be on this scale or any scale at all to be apart of it. So it doesn’t really apply to just this.

And this is what happens when I get a chance to ramble while putting the kids to bed.


I have enough space for roughly 70 snakes. I never go above this number. If I run out of room and want to buy something or hold something back I sell something. I don’t honestly think I want to keep more than this due to I do operate solo.

I also maintain a Rodent colony myself I find this to be the most work. Maintaining them In good health, in clean conditions,producing enough to feed my snakes but not to many were I become overrun is tricky lol.

The last factor I personally have is I can afford to pay out of pocket to feed my snakes if rat colony crashes.


My fiancé recently quit his 25/hr job at TMMI (mostly just so we could go to Tinley, oops— half joking, he hated the job anyways and him not being able to get the Friday off before despite having PTO was what pushed him to take the leap and quit… the money isn’t worth it for either of us anymore)

We tried Walmart, he found he hated dealing with customers, my job about physically killed me and left me with absolutely no time to take care of the snakes and my other hobbies because I was so exhausted, so we both quit after two days.

He’s now getting an easier part-time job at a local FedEx warehouse, and plans to do a bit of Amazon Flex on the side.
I’m focusing on my art commissions and will be trying to make it the main source of income.

With this giving us both more free time, we should be able to still give plenty of time to our snakes and rodents. I try to check them daily, besides the day after feeding.

Granted, I only have 55 or so snakes, but my collection has grown steadily over the past 3 years or so. I’ll have 9 to 11 female ball pythons breeding this season, as well as a couple hognoses, so I’m hoping to see more coming out of the reptile business as well.
Any hatchlings I sell, I plan to put all that income into a savings account and then use it to buy all new equipment for the snakes (ARS racks mainly, so I don’t have so many smaller racks stacked everywhere with a bunch of thermostats)

I’ll also hopefully have a third hand once my fiancé and I’s partner moves in with us in about 6-8 months or so— he likes snakes and wants to help with the business so it should work out nicely.

Once we get big enough we’ll likely find volunteers to help care for the collection, or even straight hire people if we have the means to, so we can focus on other things besides basic enclosure maintenance.

Kind of my input and thoughts about my own plans given what others have said… this is a really good discussion though!


Absolutely! I’ve also found that every person who’s helped me and was really on board learned a ton in a process. The girls love my animals as much I do (the ones that don’t bite anyway lol). You’d also be surprised how many people will just volunteer for no pay just to hang around cool animals they wouldn’t be able to see ordinarily.

This! There needs to be a back up plan in place. It’s also wise, even if you’re healthy, to have an end of life plan if you have a big collection. I have a close friend who will step in and take over what he wants out of it and break the rest up between other deserving keepers so my family doesn’t have to think about it. He owns a reptile store so he’s got the means and the experience to save my family from what would be a disaster to deal with if I passed unexpectedly. It’s a weird thing to talk about, but if something happens to me, it would be a nightmare for my family to have to deal with my collection even with the monetary value involved.


That part right there, is where I think most people are the wrong side of the fence. I think our natural inclination is feel like the only detriment is to the animals in a hoarding situation. If you’re paying to keep them with your own well being, it’s no better than if they’re being tortured by bad husbandry. And I think it’s all kind of a circle since it’s hard to have good husbandry when you’re suffering.

At first, I’m sure the grind doesn’t get to most people but at certain point if you don’t have a lot of willpower it will start to make you pay. To a degree that willpower is probably what separates those of us that stay around long term from the easy come easy go crowd. Again though to your point above, there should be a cutoff point of how large a personal cost you pay to maintain a hobby though.

This is a great point. I see a certain group of pet keepers being very judgmental of anyone breeding and selling animals. I sometimes see people conflate profiting on the animals with being financially driven or working off of an assumption the animals are treated poorly because they’re being commercialized. For most of us, I think that’s exactly the opposite. I can do more for my animals because they contribute financially is the way I try to look at it.

These are the X Factor things that I really do think burn a lot of people out in the hobby. I’m impressed with a lot of people’s reptile rooms, not because of the room itself but the logistics of using it. I don’t have water in my rooms and it’s a pain. Everything else I’ve got distilled down to what works best through time and trail like yourself. You nailed it on Time being the biggest hardship we face with this much work to do.

I totally agree. For me the hobby is a place I can find the intellectual stimulation that isn’t always available in my sphere in the real world. Before snakes I worked with Coturnix quail on a much bigger scale because that’s fairly easy to do with things that live outside and are edible lol. But the numbers taught me so much I couldn’t have learned keeping 10-12 or at a time. With snakes it’s the same thing. When I see a ball python do a weird thing or have an issue, I have 75 others handy for reference. When it comes to getting non feeders started, I’ve done it so many times it’s almost a checklist now. It really is awesome that we get to appease that inner mad scientist too. That guy is always trying to get out :joy:

The community is definitely a rewarding part of the hobby. The support when you’re trying to figure something out or the solidarity when you lose one that’s hard on you, is just awesome. It also generates a good portion of the market. Like any good pyramid scheme, it needs more people all the time, so we’re lucky it’s such a friendly place. That’s probably been the biggest improvement I’ve seen over the last 4-5 years is the community. I really don’t miss the ‘me first’ attitude that seems to have largely faded out in recent years.


At times, when life is in progress, this hobby is not capable of not being a hardship. Hanging in there through those times, and finding ways to make it work better are the best you can do. That’s also what separates the long term community members from the revolving door keepers that come and go.

Even at that size, you’ve got a lot of extra work to do. It’s a great experience if you can make it through life’s tough spots without your animals suffering. It definitely builds character. As long as you aren’t paying too high a personal cost like @owalreptiles mentioned above. You’re well being is a priority as much as the animal’s is.


This is extremely commendable. As humans we all tend towards at least a bit of a hoarders mentality at times. Keeping boundaries like that on your hobby keeps it from ever entering the arena of overwhelming your life. I had no idea that any of my businesses would last, let alone succeed (and eat into my time as much as they do). Suddenly I was completely out of my league and I paid for it personally before I got everything back in line. As much as I’d like to think I had it all covered, there’s no way I did and I’m sure I was dropping balls in both courts.

100% My rodents are way more of a pain than my snakes!

This is another critical point. If my rodent colony crashed, I’d be looking at a $6-800/month food bill on the low end, and during breeding season that could end up around $1k at my local prices or online. And you know what? It’s happened before lol. Once an auto waterer failed, the other time my swamp cooler died while I was at work. Recovering from those two incidents cost me more than a years worth of rodent food does!


We’re definitely trying our best to get situated so we can dedicate more time to our snakes and even ourselves, and just be happier in general.

My fiancé was often exhausted from his own job, and working night shift made it worse. Vending at expos, or even attending some of the local ones, were always a hassle because he’d be falling asleep at the wheel, and too tired to focus on seeing the animals when we were just attending.

Since he quit his job, and was able to adjust back to a normal day time schedule, when we went to Tinley he didn’t have those same issues and actually got to enjoy the expo and seeing all the cool animals. It was awesome, really!

That’s also true! We also breed our own rodents so we don’t have to spend much extra on feeders, though we also have the means to pay for them if/when we need to.

We currently split the workload when it comes to the snakes — I’ll take care of the babies and juveniles, as well as all the non-ball python snakes — he cares for the subadults and adults and usually does the rodent care.

I also manage all the social media and online business related things, as well as feeding and record keeping. So it works out pretty well at the moment.


As someone who has failed in business as much as I’ve succeeded, you’re getting extremely valuable experience whether you make it or not as a business. The ‘not’ part really sucks when it’s happening to you, but it’s where all the important lessons come from that you need to succeed.


I conducted a “time audit” of my reptile hobby to determine how many reptiles I take care of to an A+ standard while also keeping this as a hobby and not hiring any employees.

For me personally I find that the max number of adult colubrids I can keep is effectively 40

I do want to note that I have 3 children, a full time day job, and i’m OCD when it comes to cleanliness so I may be a bit overboard in my cleaning routine. I see 1 poop I gotta clean it.


That’s a great way to approach it. Especially when you have a family, whether they’re involved in the hobby or not. Reptiles can’t be all consuming of your time. My wife reminds me of that occasionally, and we don’t even have kids (yet?) :joy:

Having those boundaries is fantastic. Husbandry and care are the most important aspects of keeping, and they quickly suffer when you’re over extended.


I agree with what has been said.

I personally don’t know how many breeding sized boas I will be able to care for but I know that before I purchase them I will have separate fail safes for my collection and my family. As it is now, I can do my daily maintenance (spraying if needed, water change, and check if I need to spot clean) very efficiently. Even doing a full substrate change can be finished in 10 minutes or so (if I am doing it very relaxed). I do doubt that I will be able to care for 100 boas but I think I could support 30 eventually (money wise, and care wise). I personally don’t want employees because I want this to be a small business that I can operate and care for. I want what is best for my family and my animals. Getting big in the business sense will top that for me. I value family and my animals to much.

I am very money and care conscious.

But I will say, we will see the best is yet to come.


As a guy with only a few reptiles (15 snakes and lizards) that may only ever breed a couple of colubrids and crested geckos, this is invaluable information. Helps me keep things in perspective. I’d like to have a good sized crested gecko program, but I know my limitations at the moment. And I’d be that guy that can’t sell anything because I want them all.

So thanks all for sharing your lives and lessons learned.


I absolutely love this thread! I have several reptiles myself and also being the only expert in my very rural area, get asked a lot of questions and have even had people give me animals. My partner is also very into reptiles because of me, and she has been willing to learn and help out as she can! It makes a world of difference, considering I work 2 jobs on top of freelancing, and she works part time as well as she attends post-secondary schooling. We may have a rather small collection (5 ball pythons, a crestie, and a leo) but we both have agreed to boundaries for our animals to promote healthy husbandry on top of allowing our conversations about money or other traditionally “touchy” topics to be much more easily approached and about listening to each other and our ideas and concerns.

We also have a 24 hour rule, were we have to wait 24 hours from inquiry and receiving confirmation from the other of a possible purchase to move forward. That way, we have to talk about a new animal and take some time to consider if it is a good addition to our program. Even if you don’t have someone to talk to about purchases, setting healthy boundaries and even saving up for large purchases can be much better than buying on impulse, I have found. Best of luck out there everyone!


Graveyard Snakes


I too love this thread!

Hubby and I have several Cresties & snakes for several years now and we help each other out as much as possible.

This year was our first year of BP clutches and next year will be out first season of crested gecko breeding :crossed_fingers:

We are breeding for us so decided to do no more than 2 of each per year (for now) so we don’t become over run with too many reptiles too quickly. Esp as we haven’t sold any of the baby BPs yet :sweat_smile: I can’t even bring myself to sex them as it might make us decide who stays and who goes lol although I need to, so that I can name them :relaxed:

We have a dedicated room for BPs and racks for cresties. So plenty of room for more, but we are taking our time as we don’t want it to become a choir or too much hassle. Especially as we both work and have 2 children that take up majority of our time.

I’m usually very organised and I will make sure I have empty enclosures and accessories long before I buy another reptile.

It’s great to read all your stories so thanks for them.


I’m glad this thread has resonated with some of you. It’s easy to get caught up in this hobby and end up burning out. I’ve been very mentally fatigued from work lately and if I didn’t have help to keep up the snakes, I would be buried under that workload as well. Life isn’t nice, and as positive as we all try to be, sometimes it’s going to kick you ribs right when you’re trying to catch your breath. That’s the biggest reason NOT to have a large collection. It can very easily be a dark thing looming over you if you don’t have it well maintained.


Just wanted to post a friendly reminder that if you’re overwhelmed with your collection, help isn’t expensive, and can change the whole atmosphere of your room!

These two keep the mood light and happily work as much as I need them to to keep things sharp around here. I couldn’t enjoy my collection the way I do, and keep up with my career without them. It’s important to me to pay them well but they happily work extra regardless of the pay. Your reptiles are fantastically interesting to someone, let them help and enjoy them with you.

I live in California in a median market but both of them for 3 hours on a Saturday runs me less than $100. It’s well worth it!!!


Personally, I couldn’t keep more snakes than I could provide regular socialization for, which for me is daily interaction for at least 30 minutes with each animal.