'Terrariums for your new pet'

by Mervin F Roberts

Date published: 1990
Name of Publisher: T.F.H Publications Inc.
ISBN: 0-86622-525-0

I first picked up "Terrariums for your new pet" by Mervin F Roberts on sale at my local pet store in 2011. Pubished in 1990, the book suffers from usual, outdated scientific names, and old-fashioned husbandry practices, which were likely advisable at the time of printing, but which pose various problems to keepers of today, looking for relevant and safe information.

Language and Style
This book is a bizarre mashup of facts, and personal ramblings, or so it seems. It opens with a rather confusing discussion into the definition of "terrarium", and descends into topics of natural history, genetics, different habitats and further relevant, but not-so-well structured areas of interest.

One area I was particularly impressed with in this book, was the author's vision of terrariums being a living environment and habitat, rather than a simple display box for a rare animal. Emphasis is put into live plants and creating naturalistic habitats, something which I feel needs to be addressed in modern exotic pet care.

The writing style throughout is very casual, often becoming rather emotive and not objective enough to provide a clear, concise idea of what the reader needs to do to create and maintain an exotic animal habitat. The book uses simple language, and the casual style aids readability, but makes it hard to extract the helpful information.

Misleading information
My main concern with this book is that most of the recommended information is heavily outdated, and some of it is bordering on dangerous to both animal and keeper. At the time of printing, this information was probably the best, or most advisable, but exotic pet care has come a long way since 1990.

1. The book frequently, and briefly, mentions the captive care of Softshell turtles, which the author claims "never, or hardly ever leave the water ... except to lay eggs." This is not the case; Softshell turtles require basking sites where they can leave the water and dry off completely, to help prevent fungal and respiratory infections. Due to the reduced protective structure of their shells, Softshells are much more vulnerable to predators, and as a result, are very nervous baskers, often waiting for the most peaceful moments to leave the safety of the water.

2. When discussing the choices of exotic pet, and how some require live insect diets, the author seems to recommend that new keepers "start with" the Green Iguana (Iguana iguana) instead of the Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis), as they are vegetarian and easy to provide food for; clearly overlooking the fact that Iguanas can grow 2m long, requiring much larger and costly enclosures than the 20cm Anole!

3. Diet becomes a problem later in the book, with the author recommending the use of tinned cat and dog food for various reptiles, assuming that the rigorous packing regulations used for such commercial foods make them a safe choice. This obviously overlooks the idea that different animals require different nutrition, vitamins and minerals, and many exotic pets are not adapted to the digestion of mammalian proteins and fats.

4. The last, major concern with this guide, is that it suggests the idea of using a desklamp to heat the water in aquaria, by half-submerging the bulb. This should not be attempted in any circumstance. I am unaware of a time when this was deemed an acceptable method, but this poses all sorts of risks to animal and keeper. Today, there are many forms of heating for terrariums and aquariums, including fully submersible heaters designed for tropical fish, and there is no situation where submerging a bulb would be recommended!

To summarise, this book was probably a pinnacle of information over 20 years ago, but has no place for sale in pet stores today, and should not be relied on as a suitable guide for modern exotic pet care.

If you have any questions regarding this review, or require further information on this title, please contact me using the email address below:
Paul Edmondson

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