Creepy Crawlies!

For those who have dogs and cats and for those who may be squeamish, viewer discretion is advised!

As a relatively all purpose kind of pet store, we sell insects. For those who have never had a reptile, it’s hard for them to imagine keeping bugs in the house. Though there have been many advancements in “bug technology” that is keeping dead bugs in containers, EXO TERRA is a wonderful example of a company doing such a thing, many people prefer live bugs over the dead ones.

This article is to explore the world of insects, their life spans, their purpose and their importance.

Insects are fed to a variety of animals, typically these are other forms of arachnids and insects that people keep as pets, but also for reptiles. However, some people will also feed insects to their mammals and birds, a good example of this is the hedgehog, which is an insectivore by nature.

It’s a fact that many cultures outside the Western world eat insects, not only is it healthy and good for you but the chances of getting sick from a bug (other than one you shouldn’t be eating of course) is incredibly rare!

The first insect we will explore is the cricket!



Crickets are the staple diets for a variety of animals kept as pets. They’re sort of like clothing however, the various kinds of species fall in and out of season. One year a particular species will be more popular than others. Right now, it’s the banded cricket for us that has fallen into season. The most commonly found crickets in pet stores are the house crickets (Acheta domesticus), the banded cricket (Gryllodes sigillatus) and the black field cricket (Grylus bimaculatus) though there are other varieties that do exist.

There really isn’t much of a huge different between the three species mentioned above, in general black field crickets tend to be more aggressive, house crickets are often times louder and banded crickets tend to be faster.

Many people don’t like having crickets in their house because of the stigma that they are loud, and when they are fully grown adults searching for a mate this is certainly true. However, crickets in general have a 9 week life span, and it isn’t until they’ve reached sexual maturity that they make the noise that people often despise.

Due to their popularity as a staple diet there are a variety of cricket pens that one can purchase which are wonderful if one decides to keep crickets in bulk.

Crickets are inexpensive, easy to find and full of protein.


1374356222_2549_super2Next to crickets, superworms (sometimes called mealworms in other stores) are the next most commonly kept insects. These worm like insects are actually not worms, but beetles, we they’ll eventually turn into beetles. They are often fed as good treats as they are full of fats, proteins and other goods. The Zophobas morio, the Latin name for superworms, are the larvae stage of the black beetles that will eventually emerge.

Considerably larger than crickets, these make good snack items. They are also popular because they have less of an exoskeleton, making these treats especially and considerably easier for reptiles to digest.

Superworms will turn into a pupae in 1 or 2 weeks, and in another 1 to 2 weeks you’ll get the beetles.

The beetles aren’t especially dangerous, but we recommend to get rid of them.



Often confused as superworms, and vice versa, mealworms are not the same as superworms. Where superworms are Zophobas morio, mealworms are Tenebrio molitor. Though like superworms they do eventually become beetles as well.

Mealworms are also considerably alot smaller than superworms.

Mealworms are often kept in fridge, making them perfect for storage.

They are often fed to smaller reptiles who cannot eat superworms.



By far one of the prettiest of the worm species, the hornworm (or Manduca sexta) is another popular choice but they are often considerably more expensive than the other worms. They do not turn into beetles like the previous two, instead they turn into a beautiful moth if given the chance. Thus, hornworms are the larvae stage of the Manduca sexta.

They are quite low in a few areas like protein and fat (hornworms are much better for that), but they are decent for calcium and water intake. Thus they are good to help a reptile maintain their weight, but also provide good calcium and water.

These particular worms have a shorter life span than others, living up to 50 days. During that time they’ll turn from larvae, into pupae to eventually a gorgeous moth.


20130215silkwormcloseupThe Bombyx mori, or more commonly known as silkworm, are similar to hornworms in that they are a caterpillar or larvae. They will eventually also become a moth.

Out of all the insects this one might be the hardest one to find, however they are growing in popularity and in demand.

They are beneficial for many reasons, the first is that they’re a non aggressive insect, which might come to a surprise to people who may not have considered that insects can be particularly defensive or aggressive. Where the hornworm will generally mock an attack,silkworms don’t seem to respond at all.

They are also highly nutritional.

Unlike hornworms that are often just high is moisture and water, silkworms actually have a wonderful balance of calcium, magnesium protein and vitamins.



Two different species, waxworms or Achroia grisella and butterworms or Chilecomadia moorei are well known as they are often kept in the fridge similarly tWaxwormso mealworms. Both are  a good source of protein and source of calcium.




Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) in Reptiles


Metabolic Bone Disease (also known as MBD) is among one of the most common diseases found in reptiles in captivity, and it is a complicated issue all together which doesn’t always stem from calcium deficiencies (however, by far the most common reason). MBD is an umbrella term referring to abnormalities of bones caused by a broad spectrum of disorders. For reptiles it is generally an improper calcium to phosphorus ratio in the body as well a lack of Vitamin D. As such, with a lack of calcium, the body compensates by taking from other areas of the body, such as bones. This leads to the softening of bones, which in turn makes it easier for fractures to appear.

It also causes disposition of fibrous tissue as the body tries to strengthen the bone in an absence of available calcium.

MBD symptoms vary depending on severity, however, commonly noticeable signs of MBD are as followed:

* Limping
* Bowed legs
*Hard lumps along the legs, spinal column and/or jaw
*Softening and unusual flexibility of the lower jaw
*Difficulty raising off the ground
*Tremors, jerky movements and twitching
*Lameness and anorexia
*Lethargy, weakness and paralysis
*For tortoises and turtles their shells become soft and may cause the shell to “pyramiding,” the shell starts looking like a pyramid.

Though there are various treatments that can be done for MBD, they are often expensive, hard to find and can take years. If you suspect your animal to have MBD it is advised you make an appointment with an appropriate veterinarian and get a proper diagnosis.

However, there are measures one can take to help prevent the cause of MBD in your reptile.

Lighting and heating is essential to the prevention of MBD, it’s important to know the appropriate temperatures for your animal (as all reptiles require different temperatures), as prolonged exposure to coolness can cause MBD. Lighting is also essential, by lighting we aren’t talking about the light from the basking bulb, we’re talking about specialised bulbs that emanate ultraviolet radiation, these bulbs are known as UVB bulbs, they generally come in various different watts, sizes and types that are appropriate for your lizard.

Another important factor is how your animal will get it’s calcium, as the main staple diet often rarely fully donates enough calcium for their bones. Generally speaking most reptiles eat insects, as such these insects are sprinkled with a mineral or calcium powder to help supplement and augment the diet. Reptiles that often have a mammalian diet tend to get plenty of calcium from the bones of their prey item. Choosing a high quality calcium and/or mineral powder is crucial because a calcium supplement with too much potassium will actually increase your reptile’s chances of getting Metabolic Bone Disease.

Next on our list is a Vitamin D3 supplement. Though calcium dust and mineral powder are important, it wouldn’t matter if your reptile ate nothing but calcium if he also wasn’t getting enough Vitamin D3. The best way to insure your animal gets Vitamin D3 is a combination of certain calcium powders alongside with a UVB Bulb, make sure you read the label of your calcium powders carefully for the indication of Vitamin D3.

The most commonly used, and one of the highest grade calcium powders (which come in a variety specific to certain reptiles), is REPTI-CALCIUM by Zoo Med which can be a little tricky to get a hold of–luckily we sell it here.

Lastly, regarding feeding, it’s important to use the highest quality insects or animals around. This will guarantee that your animal will get the most of what it’s eating and with the calcium powder and the UVB bulb you will not only be preventing MBD you will also help prolong the life and providing excellent animal husbandry.

It’s also important not to overfeed your animals, as this can also be a factor in causing MBD. Many new comers to reptiles often make the mistake of overfeeding their animals and one should do proper research on the animal of choice before any big purchase.

*It’s very important that you witness signs of MBD that you take the animal immediately to an appropriate veterinarian clinic. As they have the equipment, knowledge and experience to deal with this issue accordingly. Consult the chart above if you feel that your animal is at risk as MBD kills reptiles. The process of MBD may be as simple as injecting the animal with a calcium shot, or it may be a long and gruelling experience for others. This disease and issue should not be taken lightly!*


How to bring the colour out of your reptile

With the increase popularity of reptiles it’s no surprise that people are becoming more interested in how properly care and keep there animals as healthy and as natural as possible. It’s for this very reason that many companies who specialize in the manufacturing of reptile and amphibian items are hard at working developing excellent products to better the lives of the animals that are been maintained by their devoted owners.

A few years ago you would have never had so much opportunities to maintain the level of care for reptiles, and one of the neatest little features that have come to the forefront is the idea of enhancing the natural colourations of your reptile.

This blog post, is as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, is specifically geared towards how to bring out the natural colourations of your reptiles. You would be surprised at how much colour your reptiles and also your amphibians are hiding.

To bring out these colours, it is determined by three main factors that we will examine individual, these factors are: heating, lighting and food/water.

Heating and lighting are two different things, although they are sometimes confused with each other because the way heat is emitted and given to your animal is usually either through a heating pad that is placed beneath the terrarium, or through a lighting source (hence confusion). Heating provides your reptile (also amphibians) with the energy they need to get their blood pumping, because they are cold blooded animals it is essential for them to have a heat source.

By maintaining proper heat, as well as humidity, this will drastically reduce stress, and allow the reptile to function properly. When they function properly, blood (and all it’s goodness) can circulate properly, the colours of the animal flushed and full, which is what you will need to help bring out those colours you want to see. Think of heating as a building block, you need something to build on.

We already discussed that lighting is vastly different from a heat source, even though a heat source may produce light in the form of a bulb it is not in fact a light source. A good majority of reptiles can survive without a proper light source, but many cannot live properly without one (chameleons are a great example).

A light source, is in essence, a bulb that properly distributes the appropriate amount of UV light, you know that same radiation that is emitted by the sun? Yup, reptiles need that, but you can’t just stick a reptile under sunlight. You need a UVB bulb because, these bulbs are special designed specifically for certain reptiles and amphibians who dwell in certain habitat and simulate the appropriate UV they require.

Without a UVB you won’t be able to fully bring out colours of certain reptiles (such as the chameleon). There are plenty of reasons why, but a good one is actually because of their bones. UV synthesises Vitamin D this in turn makes sure that the bones of your reptiles and amphibians are healthy and strong. Many diseases regarding bones for both reptiles and amphibians are common in captivity due to the ignorance of those who don’t know that these animals require the appropriate lighting.

Now, there is another kind of lighting that has caught the interest of the hobbyists, and that is spectrum lighting. Spectrum has dual purpose, one it really brings out those colours (which is the whole point of this blog post) and really brings them to the forefront, but also because reptiles and amphibians don’t see like we do. This bulb drastically reduces stress, lighting from a basking bulb may cause stress to your animal because of the fact they don’t see like we do, this lighting makes the way the reptile see the world in more natural way, and reduces the stress that our lighting and that of the basking bulb can produce, and at the same time bring out those colours we are looking for and want to see!

It should go without saying that proper maintenance of your animal will make sure that it will remain healthy, happy and content. However, food and water are almost always overlooked, people just don’t think about it.

Let’s talk about water first, water runs the risk of unhealthy bacterial growth the longer it stays out, the longer it is introduced to UV light and heat. Water is so vital to all living animals, that it should be one of the first things you think about when maintaining your animals well being. The cleaner, the healthier the water, the healthier your animal will be.

Now food sources, for the most part people know what to feed their reptiles, but very few know about additional items that can be used to enhance the food source they are using. If it is a pellet base diet you should be supplementing the diet with appropriate vegetables and fruits such as romaine lettuce, the majority however feed their reptiles an insect base diet. For them, there are special powders that you can buy which contain within them the appropriate minerals and supplements they wouldn’t normally receive in captivity through their main source diet. For those who are feeding vertebrates such as rats and mice, make sure they are as healthy as can be, and you should also be feeding various fruits and vegetables.

These are just some of the many ways to bring out the natural colours of your reptiles. Been mindful, and actively utilising these items at your disposal, your reptile will be blooming with colour in no time at all!

Reptiles for the beginner

So you are thinking about buying a reptile and aren’t sure what kind to get. Well, reptiles are one of the most interesting of gods creatures. Most Reptiles you buy in a pet store usually have a very good disposition. They can be sweet and cuddly and they are not slimy like a lot of people think. If you find a slimy one then chances are that it is sick. Don’t buy it.

A lot of people who buy reptiles are inexperienced and don’t do enough research before they make the plunge. Owning a reptile can take considerable time and effort. For example, cleaning their tanks, feeding and watering them, and taking them to the vet when they are sick is just a small part of the responsibility of owning one.

Do you have the time and patience for this, if you do, then it is just a matter of deciding what kind of reptile to get.

Before you buy, do the research on the reptile you’re thinking of buying. Each species has different characteristics and some require much more care than others. Think long and hard about this before you decide which species of reptile you want to buy. Baby reptiles are recommended for first time buyers because they will bond and grow with you. Adults are extremely cautious at first and the potential to bite or attack is more prominent

If you are a beginner, consider these factors:

Ease of maintenance – should be a primary factor in determining what type of reptile you want to buy. it is a given that All reptiles require attentive care, but some species are easier to maintain than others. Reptiles that are easier to maintain are usually tolerant of a wide variety of environmental conditions, and are naturally very hardy.

How fast will it grow and how big will it get – The easiest reptiles to care for are small or moderately sized species.

How docile will it be – No reptile likes to be handled all of the time, but if you wish to be able to handle it on a limited basis then docility is important, consider which species is the most tolerant to handling.

Feeding vigor – The easiest species are usually the most voracious feeders.

To sum it all up, the most suitable reptile species for beginners should be small to moderately sized at a price you can afford. They should be captive born and be able to tolerate a wide variety of environmental conditions. They should be able to tolerate some handling and be voracious feeders.

Some of the reptiles that could easily fall into the above catagories would be:

  • The Corn Snake
  • The Leopard Gecko
  • The Bearded Dragon
  • The Ball Python
  • The Blue Tongue Skink
  • The California Kingsnake

Welcome to the Urban Zoo’s Blog

More than half the homes in North America have pets. People seem to crave the companionship of nature in the confort of their own home, while feeling good about their ability to care for another living being.

At The Urban Zoo we share your love for pets and maintain the goal of offering only the healthiest pet stock, plus everything your pets need to help them feel confortable, safe and cared for.These blogs will be about the store and how we suggest you care for a pet