Glossary For Exotic Pet Keepers


Acclimation: The process of adjusting to different conditions or situations.

Acclimatization: The physiological and psychological process of adjusting to a different climate or environmental condition.

Aerating: The process of exposing something to air or oxygen. Often used in reference to aerating water by introducing air bubbles or an air pump.

Aggression: Hostile or violent behavior or attitudes toward another; readiness to attack or confront.

Algae: Simple, typically microscopic, plant life that grows in water or in very damp places and contains chlorophyll but lacks true stems, roots, leaves, and vascular tissues.

Algae Eater: A type of fish or invertebrate used in aquariums that eats algae as part of maintaining water quality. Common examples include otocinclus catfish, Siamese algae eaters, and nerite snails.

Ambient temperature: The surrounding or environmental temperature.

Ammonia: A colorless gas with a characteristic pungent smell, widely used in industry and cleaning products which is highly toxic in high concentrations to aquatic life. Its presence in aquariums needs to be monitored.

Amphibian: A cold-blooded vertebrate animal of a class that comprises frogs, toads, salamanders, and caecilians. Characterized by a life cycle involving aquatic larval and terrestrial adult stages.

Anuran: A member of the order Anura, including frogs and toads.

Aquarium: A tank or indoor pond used to keep aquatic plants or animals.

Aquascape: The design and arrangement of plants, wood, rocks, and decor in an aquarium.

Aquascaping: The craft of arranging aquatic plants and decor in an aesthetically pleasing manner in an aquarium.

Aquatic: Living, growing, or taking place in or on water.

Aqueous environment: A water-based environment or medium.

Axolotl: A neotenic salamander known for its ability to regenerate limbs and organs. Often kept as exotic pets. 


Background: The part of an aquarium or terrarium that forms the rear wall, often decorated with an image or backdrop.

Ball python: A popular pet snake species known for its docile temperament. Native to West Africa.

Bark: The protective outer covering of stems and roots of woody plants. Commonly used as a substrate or decoration in reptile and amphibian enclosures.

Bearded dragon: A popular pet lizard species known for its beard and docile temperament. Native to Australia.

Bell jar: A domed, transparent container, open at the bottom, historically used in scientific research and now sometimes used to house small animals like invertebrates.

Betta: A species of labyrinth fish native to Southeast Asia, often kept as aquarium pets due to their colorful fins and long flowing tails in males.

Bioactive Setup: An ecosystem-based aquarium or terrarium setup that uses live plants and soil-based substrates to foster a natural cycle where the waste of animals is broken down by microorganisms and invertebrates.

Bioactive substrate: A substrate such as soil or coconut fiber that fosters microbial activity to help keep an enclosure clean. Used in bioactive setups.

Biofilter: A device such as a canister filter, sponge filter, or undergravel plate that houses beneficial bacteria to convert fish waste into less harmful substances through a nitrogen cycle in an aquarium.

Bioload: The total waste output of animals in a captive environment that must be processed by the enclosure’s filtration.

Brackish water: Moderately salty water, usually with a salinity between that of freshwater and seawater. Used for species that tolerate a wide salinity range.

Breeding: The reproductive processes of animals aimed at raising offspring.

Brooder: A parent animal that cares for eggs until they hatch and cares for offspring until they can survive independently.

Brumation: A period of decreased metabolic activity and lethargy entered by some reptiles and amphibians during winter months.

Bush cricket: A type of long-horned grasshopper with membranous forewings that are often used as feeder insects for reptiles and amphibians.


CO2 system: Equipment used to supplement carbon dioxide levels in aquariums, often including a pressurized CO2 tank, regulator, and diffuser.

Cage furniture: Decorative elements placed inside an enclosure to allow animals to climb, hide, or display natural behaviors. Examples include branches, rocks, hides.

Calcium: A mineral required by many animals for strong bones and shells. Often supplemented in powdered form.

Calcium Powder: A supplement containing calcium, often in the form of calcium carbonate, used to support bone and shell health.

Calcium sand: A coarse sand substrate containing calcium carbonate, used in enclosures for animals needing calcium intake like certain reptiles.

Cane toad: A large, venomous toad species invasive in Australia. Native to Central and South America.

Canister Filter: An aquarium filter that houses filter media like mechanical, biological, and carbon filtration in an external canister for higher volume water flow and filtration.

Canopy: A hood or cover placed over the top of an aquarium or terrarium to reduce evaporation and prevent animals from escaping. Often includes lighting.

Captive bred: Animals bred and born in captivity rather than wild caught.

Captive environment: An artificial habitat where animals are kept and cared for, such as an aquarium, terrarium, or zoo exhibit.

Carnivore: An animal that eats mainly or exclusively animal flesh.

Carrier: An enclosed container used to safely transport animals.

Caudal fin: The tail fin of a fish or aquatic animal.

Central bearded dragon: A subspecies of bearded dragon native to central Australia.

Chelonian: A member of the order Chelonia including turtles, terrapins, and tortoises.

Chloramine: A disinfectant compound sometimes present in tap water containing chlorine and ammonia. Toxic to fish.

Chlorine: A toxic gas used in municipal water treatment. Must be removed from water before use in aquariums.

Chytrid fungus: An infectious fungus lethal to amphibians such as frogs and salamanders. A cause of global declines.

Clutch: A batch of eggs laid at one time by an oviparous animal like a reptile, amphibian, or fish.

Clutch (Eggs): A grouping of eggs laid by an animal at one time.

Clutch size: The number of eggs typically laid in a single clutch.

Coelacanth: An ancient fish species closely related to tetrapods. Previously thought extinct until rediscovered in 1938.

Cold blooded: Having body temperatures that vary according to the environmental temperature rather than being internally regulated.

Colony: A group of organisms of one species living close together or in physical contact.

Colubrid: A member of the snake family Colubridae, which includes many harmless species.

Communal: Describing animals that can be housed together in groups without conflict.

Compatibility: The ability of different species or individuals to be housed together without conflict or harm.

Copepods: A group of small crustaceans, some of which are important microfauna in aquariums and eat algae and debris.

Coquí frog: A genus of small tree frogs native to Puerto Rico known for their high-pitched calls.

Crested gecko: A pet lizard species from New Caledonia with a prominent head crest. Omnivorous and arboreal.

Crickets: Common feeder insects often used to feed insectivorous reptiles, amphibians, arachnids and more due to their low cost, availability, and nutritional value.

Crocodilian: A member of the order Crocodilia including crocodiles, alligators, caimans and gharials.

Crypts: A plant genus used in aquascaping to add cover and texture, with roots and rhizomes that form dense colonies.

Culturing: The rearing and maintenance of live feeder organisms like insects, worms or microfauna.

Cycling: The process of establishing nitrogen-fixing bacteria in a newly set up aquarium or sump to safely convert toxic ammon


Daphnia: A small crustacean commonly used as live food for fish fry and some aquarium invertebrates. Also known as water fleas.

Dart frog: Any of various small, brightly colored poisonous frogs typically found in tropical Central and South America. Often kept as pets.

Dechlorinator: A water conditioner product that neutralizes chlorine and chloramines added to municipal water supplies, making water safe for aquariums after treatment.

Decor: Ornamental accessories placed inside enclosures for visual appeal and to provide cover, basking spots etc. for animals.

Dehydration: An excessive loss of water from an animal’s body. Can occur in aquariums or terrestrial pets without proper humidity.

Densities: A measurement of how closely packed something is, such as stocking densities in aquariums or vivariums.

Desert iguana: A large lizard native to the deserts of South America. Adapted to extreme arid conditions.

Diatoms: A common type of algae that looks like brown dust. Often one of the first types of algae to appear in a new aquarium or after a water change.

Diet: The foods and nutrients consumed by an animal on a regular basis.

Digging: The act of displacing substrate and soil with claws or bills, engaged in by many burrowing or foraging animals.

Dither fish: Small, peaceful fish kept with larger, shyer fish to help the larger fish feel more secure in an aquarium.

Diurnal: Active during daylight hours as opposed to nocturnal animals that are active at night.

Dorsal fin: The unpaired fin located on the back of fish and some aquatic animals.


Ectothermic: Having body temperatures that vary with the environmental temperature rather than being internally regulated, as in most reptiles, amphibians, and fish.

Egg Binding: A condition in female oviparous animals where an egg becomes stuck in the oviduct and cannot be laid naturally.

Egg-eater: Any animal that consumes eggs as a food source.

Egg-feeder: A species that feeds its young by regurgitating pre-digested food in the form of an “egg”.

Egg-layer: An oviparous animal that lays eggs rather than giving live birth.

Eggbound: When an egg becomes stuck in the oviduct of a laying animal and cannot be passed naturally, as in egg binding.

Eggmass: A mass of eggs deposited or attached together, often seen in amphibians like frogs.

Eggshell: The hard outer covering of an egg.

Elodea: A genus of aquatic plants commonly grown in aquariums and ponds.

Emergence: When an animal fully exits its egg during hatching.

Emergent plants: Aquatic plants that grow partly in and partly out of the water.

Enclosure: The container or housing for captive animals, such as an aquarium, terrarium, or cage.

Enclosure furniture: Decor placed inside an enclosure for animals to hide, climb or play on such as branches, rocks, plants.

Endothermic: Having internally regulated body temperatures, as in birds and mammals.

Exo Terra: A popular brand of terrariums and habitat accessories for herpetocultural


Fecal Sample
Fecal float test
Feeder insects
Fire bellied toad
Frog tank
Fry (Baby Fish)


Gastrointestinal: Relating to the stomach and intestinal tract.

Gecko: Any of over 1,500 species of lizards in the genus Gekko characterized by toe pads that allow climbing.

Gestation period: The time period between conception or fertilization and birth.

Glass frogs: Any of various small New World frog species whose transparent belly skin allows viewing of internal organs.

Gravel vac: A siphon device used to remove waste and debris from the substrate surface in aquariums without disturbing the gravel or sand.

Green anole: A small, common species of anole lizard native to Southeastern USA. Often kept as pets.

Gut loading: The practice of feeding feeder insects nutritious foods prior to offering them to insectivorous reptiles


Habitat: The natural environment or home of an animal, plant, or other organism.

Habitat design: The arrangement and decoration of an enclosure to resemble the natural habitat of the species.

Habitat enrichment: Modifications or additions to improve animal welfare by allowing more natural behaviors.

Hatching: The process by which an animal emerges from an egg.

Heat mat: A flat heating device placed underneath an enclosure to provide bottom heat.

Heat rock: A rock-shaped heating device that is unsafe and can burn animals due to uneven heating; not recommended.

Heater: A device used to regulate temperature inside an enclosure, such as a ceramic heat emitter or incandescent bulb.

Herbivore: An animal that eats mainly plant or vegetable matter.

Hermit crab: A crustacean that lives in an abandoned snail shell which it uses for shelter and protection.

Herp: Short for herpetofauna, meaning reptiles and amphibians.

Herpetoculture: The keeping and breeding of reptiles and amphibians as pets or for conservation.

Herpetology: The branch of zoology concerned with the study of reptiles and amphibians.

Hibernaculum: The site where an animal spends the winter in a state of hibernation.

Hibernation: A winter dormancy period characterized by lowered metabolic function and body temperature.

Homothermic: Maintaining a constant internal body temperature regardless of environmental temperatures.

Horned lizard: Any of various lizard species characterized by horns or spines, especially in the genus Phrynosoma.

Hydric environment: An aquatic environment or one with high humidity levels.

Hydrometer: A device used to measure water density and thereby salinity in aquariums.

Hygrometer: A device used to measure relative humidity levels.


Incubation: The process or period of keeping eggs warm so that development and hatching can occur.

Incubation temperature: The specific temperature range required for successful incubation and hatching of eggs.

Insectivore: An animal that eats mainly insects and other invertebrates.

Invertebrates: Animals without a backbone, such as insects, spiders, snails and jellyfish.

Isolation: Separating a sick animal from others to prevent the spread of disease.

Isolation tank: A separate enclosure used to house an isolated animal.

Isopod: Any of various small crustaceans of the suborder Oniscidea commonly found in damp areas, including woodlice and pillbugs. Some species are used as cleaners in vivariums.


Java Moss: A very popular type of aquatic moss used to decorate aquariums. It grows well attached to driftwood or rocks and requires low to medium light.

Juveniles: Young or adolescent animals that have not yet reached sexual maturity.


Keeper: A person responsible for the care of captive animals.

Kidney failure: When the kidneys are no longer able to effectively filter waste and toxins from the blood, potentially leading to a buildup of toxins in the body.

Kinkajou: A rainforest mammal native to Central and South America known for its prehensile tail used to grip branches. It has a mostly folivorous diet and can live over 20 years in captivity with proper care.

Koi Pond: An outdoor pond stocked with ornamental varieties of domesticated carp (koi fish).

Kritter keeper: A small, basic plastic habitat often used for temporary housing of small animals like insects, amphibians, or reptiles during transport or treatment.


Lamp: A device that produces light, such as an incandescent bulb, fluorescent tube, or LED used for lighting in animal enclosures.

Lampropeltis: A genus of kingsnakes and milksnakes, with over 20 species found in North and Central America. They are non-venomous colubrid snakes often kept as pets.

Larvae: The early life stage in animals that undergo complete metamorphosis, between the embryonic stage and adult form (e.g. tadpoles, caterpillars).

Leaf litter: A substrate layer of decaying leaves used to replicate a natural forest floor environment and provide cover for animals like dart frogs or geckos.

Leaf-tailed gecko: A nocturnal gecko species native to Southeast Asia and northern Australia known for the flattened leaf-like appendages protruding from its tail.

Leopard gecko: A small, commonly kept pet gecko species native to parts of Asia and the Middle East, known for its distinctive spotted or banded pattern.

Live foods: Small invertebrates fed to insectivorous animals like reptiles, amphibians, fish, etc. Examples include crickets, worms, flies.

Livebearer: A fish or other animal that gives birth to live young instead of laying eggs.

Lizard: A reptile of the suborder Sauria, with over 6,000 known species ranging from geckos and anoles to monitors and iguanas.

Local species: Wildlife native to a particular region or habitat that could


Madagascar hissing cockroach: A large species of cockroach known for emitting a hissing sound. They can be kept as pets and require high humidity.

Maintenance: Ongoing tasks required for proper animal care like cleaning, feeding, record-keeping.

Malformation: An abnormal physical defect present from birth or hatched.

Marine: Relating to sea water, such as marine aquariums or marine reptiles/fish.

Mediterranean gecko: A small gecko species native to parts of southern Europe and northern Africa. Often kept as pets.

Metamorphosis: The process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form, like a tadpole changing into a frog.

Microclimate: A local atmospheric zone where climate differs from the surrounding area, such as near heat sources.

Microfauna: Very small animals only visible under magnification, like springtails or mites found in soil/leaf litter.

Microhabitat: A very small, specialized habitat within a larger one.

Misting: Lightly spraying water, usually with a spray bottle, to increase humidity.

Morph: Distinct color/pattern variation within a species, such as different corn snake morphs.

Morphology: The form and structure of an organism or any of its parts.

Mosses: Small, soft plants that grow in dense green clumps or mats, often used in vivariums or paludariums.

Mouthbrooder: Fish or amphibians that retain eggs/larvae in the mouth until hatching, like some cichlids.


Naturalistic enclosure: A habitat designed to replicate natural surroundings using live or artificial plants, rocks, driftwood, etc.

Nitrate: A form of nitrogen produced as waste from the breakdown of food and other organic matter in an aquarium or vivarium substrate. Moderately high levels can be tolerated by most species.

Nitrates: The plural form of nitrate.

Nitrite: A form of nitrogen that is toxic even at low levels and must be removed quickly by the aquarium nitrogen cycle.

Nitrites: The plural form of nitrite.

Non-local species: Wildlife that is not native to the habitat where it is kept in captivity. Introducing non-natives risks invasive species issues.

Northern blue tongue skink: One of the most commonly kept blue tongue skink species, Tiliqua rugosa.


Omnivore: An animal that eats both plants and other animals.

Ootheca: A leathery egg case or capsule containing multiple eggs, laid by some insects such as cockroaches or mantids.

Osteoderms: Bony scales or plates embedded in the skin as dermal armor in some animals, such as bearded dragons.

Oviparous: Reproducing by laying hard-shelled eggs that hatch outside the mother’s body, as is typical for reptiles and amphibians.

Ovoviviparous: Giving birth to live young that developed within eggs retained in the mother’s body, such as in some lizard.


Paludarium: An enclosed vivarium containing both land and water areas that aim to recreate a marshland habitat.

Panther chameleon: A large, color-changing chameleon species native to Madagascar and commonly kept as exotic pets. They require spacious, well-planted enclosures.

Parameters: Environmental factors like temperature, humidity, water quality that require monitoring and control for animal well-being.

Parasites: Small organisms that live on or in a host animal and harm it, such as mites, worms or flukes. Regular health checks are needed.

Parthenogenesis: Reproduction from unfertilized eggs, as in some species of whiptail lizards, resulting in clones of the mother.

Pellet: A compressed and dried form of complete nutritional food for herbivorous animals like rodents or tortoises.

Period of dormancy: A phase of reduced activity and metabolism, like brumation in reptiles or aestivation in amphibians.

Photoperiod: The duration of light vs dark cycles, which impacts various animal behaviors and physiological processes.

pH: A measure of acidity/alkalinity on a scale of 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Must be controlled in aquatic environments.

pH Level: A specific measurement on the pH scale, such as maintaining a 6.5-7.5 level for most freshwater fish.

Pink-toed tarantula: A medium-sized, brightly colored terrestrial tarantula species native to parts of South America. They are occasionally kept as pets.

Planted Tank: An aquarium habitat containing live aquatic plants in addition to fish and other stock. Plants help oxygenate water and absorb waste.

Plants: Living foliage used to furnish naturalistic animal enclosures, providing food, cover and environmental benefits. Choices vary by species’ needs and origin.

Poison dart frog: Small, brightly colored amphibians from Central/South America that secrete toxins through glands in their skin as a defense. Some species are popular exotic pets.

Pollution: Contamination of air, water or land by man-made waste that can harm animal and ecosystem health. Proper filtration prevents aquarium pollution.

Pond: An outdoor habitat for aquatic plants and animals, typically larger than an aquarium but smaller than a lake. Construction and maintenance is more complex than a tank.

Portulaca: A succulent plant genus commonly used in vivariums due to low light/water needs and varied colors/forms. Also called moss rose.

Pouched frog: Any of various frog species where males carry eggs and tadpoles in vocal sacs on their thighs, like Assamese or ornate pouched frogs.

Precocial: Referring to young animals that are relatively mature and mobile shortly after hatching/birth, such as chickens compared to altricial birds.

Predators: Animals that hunt and consume other animals. Replicating predator-prey dynamics can increase naturalism but requires space/security.

Prosimian: A primate suborder including lemurs, lorises, and tarsiers. Some species like slow lorises are occasionally kept as exotic pets.

Pupation: The stage of insect development where a larva transforms within a pupa (chrysalis) into an adult form,


Quarantine: Isolating an animal to observe its health before introducing it to an established group, to prevent the spread of potential parasites or illness.

Quarantine Tank: A separate smaller aquarium or enclosure used to house newly acquired animals individually for several weeks of monitoring before adding them to the main habitat.


Raptor Lamp: A type of off-road vehicle light inspired by the Ford Raptor truck, typically consisting of three rectangular LED pods.

Rearing: The raising and caring for young animals, which requires special conditions and diets depending on the species.

Refugium: A separate compartment of an aquarium used to culture algae, macroalgae and microfauna to consume excess nutrients and provide habitat.

Reptile: A cold-blooded vertebrate animal that lays eggs on land, including lizards, snakes, turtles, crocodilians, and tuataras. Proper husbandry varies greatly among species.

Reptile Carpet: A textured fabric substrate commonly used in reptile enclosures instead of loose substrates that could be ingested. It requires more frequent cleaning.

Reptile incubator: A temperature-controlled container used for incubating reptile eggs until hatching, with settings optimized for the species’ natural nest temperatures.

Reptile shows: Events where reptile keepers exhibit and sell animals, supplies, and share information. Some are competitive with judged classes.

Respiration: The physiological process of gas exchange where animals breathe in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide through lungs, gills or other structures. Aquatic species require dissolved oxygen in water.

Rhacodactylus gecko: A genus of large, robust geckos native to islands in the south Pacific and Indian Oceans. Some forms are commonly bred as pets.

Rock iguana: Large lizards native to arid parts of the Americas that use rocks and cliffs as shelter. Most common as pets is the green iguana. Proper care requires spacious enclosures and UV lighting to mimic natural habitat.

Rocks: Natural decorative elements for replicating habitats. Choices vary in size, texture and should be thoroughly cleaned to prevent introduction of wild parasites or bacteria.

Rostrum: The protruding portion of the upper jaw in animals like turtles, crocodilians, or some snakes and lizards.

Rosy boa: A small, non-venomous North American boa species that is pinkish or red in color. They are occasionally kept as pets.

Rubber boa: Another small, non-venomous North American boa. They are nocturnal and spend days hidden, requiring naturalistic enclosures with hiding spaces.


Salamander: Any of various amphibious animals in the order Caudata characterized by moist skin, four legs, and tails. They can live on land or in water depending on species. Proper care requires attention to moisture and humidity levels.

Salinity: The concentration of dissolved salts in water, measured in parts per thousand (ppt). Must be controlled for saltwater aquariums and some brackish species.

Saltwater: Water with dissolved salts similar to levels in the ocean, requiring specialized aquarium equipment and livestock only tolerant of salinity above 30 ppt.

Saltwater crocodile: The largest living reptile, native to coastal habitats in parts of Asia and Australia. They can reach over 7 meters in length and are apex predators in estuaries and mangroves.

Sand: A natural loose substrate used in desert-dwelling reptile enclosures like sand boas or bluetongue skinks. It requires regular cleaning to prevent compaction.

Sand boa: Any of various small, burrowing boa species native to deserts in Asia and Africa. They spend much time hidden underground and need deep, soft sand as substrate.

Scavengers: Animals that consume dead and decaying animal and plant matter. In nature, they help decompose organic material but excessive scavenging can lead to health issues in captivity.

Scutes (Reptile): Bony dermal plates or shields embedded in skin as armor, found on turtles, crocodilians, and some lizards. Proper husbandry prevents scute problems.

Seasonal: Referring to natural or captive animal behaviors linked to changing seasons, such as brumation, breeding cycles or aestivation. Replicating seasonal conditions aids welfare.

Sediment: Fine organic or inorganic particles that settle and accumulate on the bottoms of bodies of water. Moderate amounts benefit aquatic animals but excess can cloud water quality.

Seed shrimp: Tiny crustaceans commonly used as live food for small fish fry or coral reef invertebrates.

Shedding: The natural process where reptiles and amphibians periodically slough off their outer epidermal layer of skin. Proper husbandry supports healthy shedding.

Sliders: Semi-aquatic turtles in the genus Trachemys native to North America. Two common pet types are red-eared sliders and yellow-bellied sliders.

Snails: Mollusks commonly found in aquariums and paludariums, some as algae eaters and others as decor. Different types have unique care needs and risks of parasites.

Snake: Any of over 3,400 species of elongated, legless, carnivorous reptiles. Proper care varies greatly depending on species’ origin, size, diet and other requirements.

Snout-vent length: A measurement from the tip of an animal’s nose to the base of its tail used mainly for snakes, lizards and amphibians to determine size without including tail length which can vary.

Spawning: When aquatic animals like fish release eggs and sperm into the water to reproduce externally. Triggers and water parameters impact success.

Species only: Referring to keeping captive animals from one consistent species together rather than mixing kinds for compatibility and naturalistic reasons.

Sponge filter: A simple aquarium filtration method using a porous sponge attached to an air pump outlet to house beneficial bacteria as water passes through. It provides mechanical, biological and gas exchange.

Spotted turtle: A small freshwater turtle native to eastern North America, featuring yellow spots. They require specialized care mimicking streams and wetlands.

Squamata: The order comprising lizards and snakes, distinguished by having dry scaly skin. Proper husbandry considers key differences even within this group.

Stages of metamorphosis: The developmental periods like eggs, larvae, tadpoles and morphological changes some amphibians undergo to transition between aquatic and terrestrial forms. Environmental triggers impact timing.

Standing water: Non-flowing bodies like ponds that can become stagnant if not properly maintained. Regular partial water changes prevent issues in animal habitats.

Substrate: The base material covering the bottom of an enclosure to provide drainage, burrowing and other natural behaviors depending on the species. Choices vary greatly.

Substrate heating: Using heat lamps, mats or cables placed under substrates rather than overhead to generate ambient and burrowing zone temperatures for ground-dwelling animals. Uniform heating prevents thermal burns.

Suitable: Fit for a particular purpose, environment or animal in terms of meeting physical and behavioral needs. Proper research ensures only using appropriate substrates, decor, lighting etc.

Superworms: The larval form of the darkling beetle, a common live food for insectivorous reptiles and amphibians.

Supplements: Additional nutrients provided in precise amounts to aid captive animal health and reproduction, such as calcium or vitamin powders for reptiles and amphibians. Schedules vary by species.

Swim bladder: An internal gas-filled sac that some fish possess to control buoyancy. Damage or malfunction can cause health issues, so habitats consider security and water quality.


Tank raised: Fish or invertebrates bred and reared entirely in an aquarium rather than being wild-caught, which aids acclimation as pets but domestication impacts some natural behaviors.

Tannins: Naturally occurring compounds released by driftwood, leaves or other botanicals that impart a slight tea-colored tint to water, believed to benefit certain aquatic animals. Excess can stain equipment.

Temperature: The measure of heat expressed in degrees that impacts all ectothermic animals’ metabolism, digestion, growth and other life processes. Proper husbandry maintains stable, species-appropriate levels.

Temperature gradient: A varied thermal range within an enclosure achieved by using different heat sources to allow animals to freely thermoregulate across zones from warm to cool. Uniform heating risks health issues.

Terrarium: An enclosed, usually glass, container setup to house one or more land-dwelling animals and replicate their natural environment, microclimate and behaviors. Designs vary greatly.

Terrarium lighting: Lamps that provide targeted heat, UVB radiation and illumination appropriate for visual/behavioral needs depending on species. Proper bulbs, placement and photoperiod are critical.

Terrestrial: Living or active on land rather than in water, describing certain animals that require humid terrestrial enclosures rather than aquariums.

Terrestrial turtle: Turtle species that spend most or all time on land versus in water, needing specialized care focused on humidity, substrates and shallow water access only for drinking.

Thaw kill: When frozen feeder insects are improperly or too rapidly thawed, harming gut bacteria and risking the animal consuming it to develop an infection. Gentle, staged thawing prevents this.

Thermoregulation: The ability of warm-blooded and some ectothermic animals to control their internal body temperature through behaviors like basking or seeking shade to maintain thermal balance.

Ticks: Blood-feeding ectoparasites potentially carrying diseases, occasionally infesting reptiles, amphibians or their living spaces from wild hosts. Regular husbandry mitigates risks.

Toad: Any of various tailless amphibians in the order Anura distinguished from frogs by drier, rougher skin. Care involves attention to moisture and insect prey.

Tongs: Long-handled forceps or tweezers used for safely and precisely handling food, decor, bedding materials or small animals without risk of bites or scratches.

Tongue-flicking: A behavior where snakes rapidly extend their forked tongues to sample scents in the air or on surfaces, important for hunting and navigation. Proper habitats allow expression.

Toothless: Describing animal species like caecilians that naturally do not grow teeth. Dietary and enclosure considerations adjust to non-carnivorous lifestyles.

Topfin: A manufacturer of aquarium décor, filters and other supplies.

Tortoise: Any of over 300 land-dwelling turtle species characterized by a domed shell and short, elephantine limbs. Diets, arid habitats and longevity require specialized care.

Tranquillizer: A sedative drug used in veterinary settings to temporarily calm anxious, stressed or dangerously aggressive animals for safe handling or treatment, though misuse can harm welfare.

Tropical: Flora and fauna adapted to warm, humid climates. Replicating tropical conditions year-round requires precise temperature, humidity and lighting controls in captive settings.

Tubifex worms: Aquatic oligochaete worms commonly cultured as live food for fish fry or aquatic invertebrates requiring protein sources.

Turtle: Any of over 300 species of reptiles characterized by a bony or cartilaginous shell developed from their ribs and bearing a strong beak with no or few teeth. Care varies significantly among semi-aquatic, terrestrial and marine types.

Turtle Dock: A brand offering floating platforms, ramps and accessories designed for semi-aquatic turtle habitats to allow easy access between water and dry areas for natural behaviors according to species’ needs. Proper setup aids welfare.


UV sterilizer: A device placed in aquariums, sumps or on turtle docks that uses ultraviolet radiation to kill algae, bacteria and other microbes in the water column.

UVA lighting: Lamps emitting long-wave ultraviolet A radiation used in reptile and amphibian enclosures to provide natural illumination for visual/behavioral needs. UVA alone does not promote calcium metabolism like UVB.

UVB lighting: Essential fluorescent or LED bulbs emitting ultraviolet B radiation to support calcium absorption and vitamin D production in many reptiles and amphibians. Proper strength and photoperiod prevent metabolic bone disease.

Ultrasonic humidifier: An appliance that uses high-frequency sound waves to create a cool, fine mist from water to increase ambient humidity for terrariums, vivariums or rooms housing animals sensitive to dry air.


Variance: A permit or exemption granted by regulatory agencies to allow otherwise prohibited activities like keeping certain exotic or endangered species with appropriate, reviewed care standards that do not harm the animal’s welfare.

Ventilation: The exchange of air in an enclosure to remove moisture, odors and provide oxygen, critical for most animals’ wellbeing. Mesh tops, fans and other passive/active systems balance needs with security.

Ventilation screen: Wire mesh covering the top of a terrarium, aquarium or turtle habitat to prevent escape while permitting airflow and visibility to minimize condensation and maintain healthy conditions.

Vermiculture: The rearing of composting worms, most commonly red wigglers, to create nutrient-rich worm castings for use as organic fertilizer or feed by keeping in breathable containers with bedding and food scraps.

Vinegar eels: Tiny, live aquatic larvae of the worm Tubifex tubifex cultured in a vinegar solution and used as first food for fish fry due to their small size.

Vivarium: An enclosed, usually glass-fronted habitat designed to house one or more terrestrial or amphibious animals and simulate natural conditions through climate/humidity control, planting, water features and more complex furnishings than basic aquariums or terrariums.

Vivarium setup: The construction and furnishing of a vivarium to provide all necessary elements for an animal’s health, behavior and welfare according to their specific needs and natural environment, from substrate and décor to lighting, temperature/humidity regulation and more.

Viviparous: Describing animal species that give live birth to young that develop within the mother’s body, as is typical of many lizard, snake and fish varieties, rather than laying eggs.


Water conditioner: A chemical additive used to remove chlorine, heavy metals and other toxins from tap water before use in aquatic habitats, making it safer for inhabitants while raising pH and hardness to optimal levels. Products vary in active ingredients and benefits.

Water bowl: A shallow receptacle provided in any dry-area enclosure holding reptiles, amphibians, small mammals or birds to allow natural drinking/bathing behaviors important for health and welfare. Placement considers risk of drowning.

Water changes: Regular partial draining and refilling of aquariums with dechlorinated source water to remove waste metabolites and maintain optimal water quality parameters for inhabitants. Frequency depends on biofilter capacity and stocking.

Water dragon: Any of several species of agamid lizards native to Southeast Asia requiring high humidity and access to standing or flowing water, as well as UV lighting and heated basking areas to thrive in captivity.

Water parameters: Measures of water chemistry including pH, hardness, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and chlorine/chloramines that impact aquatic life. Consistent, species-appropriate levels are maintained through husbandry.

Water quality: A measure of water purity determined by testing for dissolved waste products, heavy metals, chlorine and pH levels that affect inhabitants’ health if suboptimal. Requires diligent maintenance.

Water quality testing: Using liquid reagent kits or test strips to monitor multiple water parameters and catch developing issues before reaching dangerous levels, done on a regular schedule and any time abnormalities are seen.

Well water: Groundwater source for homes lacking municipal water connections, requiring testing and potentially treatment to ensure safety for animal and human use depending on mineral and contaminant content.

Western hognose snake: A relatively harmless North American snake known for playing dead behavior as a last defense.

White’s tree frog: Arboreal frogs native to Australia needing tall, well-planted vertical tanks mimicking rainforest habitats with high humidity, branches for climbing and misting systems.

Wildlife permit: A legal document from fish and game authorities allowing private possession of native species otherwise protected due to conservation status, with stipulations on proper care to prevent harm, escape or commercial exploitation. Knowledgeable husbandry is key.

Worm farm: A container-based vermicomposting system using red wiggler worms to efficiently break down food scraps into fertilizing castings for gardens or to feed insectivorous animals. Proper bedding, aeration and feeding keep worms.


Xenopus (Frog): Xenopus is a genus of highly aquatic frogs native to Sub-Saharan Africa. Xenopus frogs live their entire lives in or near water and lack lungs, breathing and extracting oxygen through their moist skin.


Yolk Sac: The yolk sac is a structure that develops early in pregnancy, around days 13-16 after conception. It functions to provide nutrition to the developing embryo before the placenta is fully formed.


Zooplankton: These are small aquatic animals that drift or swim weakly in marine or freshwater bodies of water. They include protozoa and invertebrate animals such as copepods, krill, jellyfish medusae and the larvae of marine animals.

Zooxanthellae: These are single-celled dinoflagellate algae that live symbiotically inside the tissues of many marine invertebrates such as corals, clams and jellyfish. They are photosynthetic, using sunlight to produce nutrients through photosynthesis that are transferred to the host animal.