Whole Lotta Reptile Love at RVA’s Richmond Reptile Expo

A visit to Richmond Reptile Exhibit is a must for anyone who loves reptiles or is just looking for something fun to do with friends or family. I’ve been hosting this semi-annual show at Richmond Raceway, which usually takes place in March, July and October each year, for a few years now. Originally it was just to see the different creatures and get some good prices on feeders for our bearded dragon, but the more I went the more amazing I found everything on display. It is certainly its own cultural phenomenon; it draws a large crowd, and of course the reptiles and amphibians are the star attractions.

You will find a number of reputable breeders who take great pride in raising healthy animals. The abundance of snakes with incredible patterns and colors provides a unique opportunity to capture so many photos of these adorable creatures. You have pretty much every type of pet snake available including Boa, Pythons, Corn, Cape House, Hognose, Milk, and the California King Snake. It really is a learning experience if you have the time and want to take it all in. Plus, these breeders know more than your usual local pet store and take much more care in producing healthy specimens for snake lovers.

Snake breeders are definitely the majority of breeders at this expo. However, there are also a number of other breeders, and that’s what I came to check. We’re all about crested geckos and bearded dragons here in my house. There has been a huge boom in Crested Gecko ownership in recent years; breeding programs have produced some of the most beautiful colors for these cute animals. It’s like owning Stitch from lilo and stitch, lick your eyes and all. Owning a Little Stitch certainly appeals to me a lot.

As for attitude, they’re usually pretty cool if you get a good breed that’s been bred properly. The enclosure and installation is relatively easy compared to other reptiles. Their diet is also quite simple, involving fruits and mixtures. Keep them in good humanity and enjoy these weird and cute little reptiles. Our Crested Lola Gecko is very sweet and likes to jump into our hands when we take her out.

The search for more crested geckos was the plan, and the Richmond Reptile Expo did not disappoint. Your basic gecko in juvenile form costs around $50-60, but specially colored and marked ones can be quite expensive. I really want what is called a crested Lilly White. However, they are one of the most demanded crested geckos, so it is quite difficult to find one under $800. Here is one that I really liked, it has such beautiful markings and colors.

I also like the harlequin and dalmatian version of the crests. There are so many builds and races that you can really get confused. Search for crested gecko breeders online and you’ll get a good education in all of this. Luckily, there were quite a few breeders with amazing geckos at the show; they had almost all of them: leopard geckos, Gargoyle Gecko, Chahoua Gecko, Chinese Cave geckos, big tails, Leachianus, and many varied crested geckos.

For the first time, I was able to see the giant Leachianus geckos, the largest of the pet geckos. These are huge and amazing with really cool eyes, and I want one so badly. Check out this guy here; he seemed to want to pose for me.

I want them all. All! Many of them were reviewed and verified by other gecko owners and fans. As with the snakes, you’ll find like-minded people at the exhibit who enjoy talking and sharing photos and information about their love for their reptiles. One of the people I met had a very unusual gecko which I believe is a Chahoua Gecko. It looked like moving foam, colored with star spangles. Just an exquisite animal here, and very tame for such a big guy.

I can go on and on about geckos. But there were so many other types of reptiles to share. Let’s talk about Tegus: Argentine black and white tegus in particular. They have certainly been a popular reptile for people who want a pet that looks like a lizard but acts more like a dog. It’s more complicated than that, but they form strong bonds with their owners. Did I mention they can get HUGE? Look at this guy’s jowls.

Yeah, he sure is packing his bags. There were two breeders for this lizard, and I came very close to bringing him home. However, I no longer needed to expand our zoo at that time. The Tegu has been popular lately, and I can see why. People have to look into time and space for this big lizard. They’re not monitors, but they’re definitely big and require more than some people realize. But if you came to the exhibit to pat and see rather than buy, like we did, it was cool to have the chance to hold one and check them out. I really want this one, and I want to call him Trent (duh).

There were a few juvenile bearded dragons, but I sure wish there were a few more dragon breeders around this expo. I’m a huge bearded dragon fan and would recommend it to anyone looking to get into reptiles. They have a lot of personality and tend, after their juvenile phase, to be quite calm and friendly. On that note, here’s our cool bearded dragon, “Claws,” in his winter gear.

Besides all the amazing reptiles, we have a good amount of arachnids to discover. I’m not super into owning a spider. It’s nothing based on fear; it’s just that, to me, an arachnid is something to look at but not to own. But if you like them, you can find breeders at these shows who know about arachnids and can help you get settled.

We really enjoyed visiting the only axolotl breeder – you know those cute things, right? It’s the smiling salamanders that look like stuffed animals. There are a few issues with owning these aquatic animals: they need to be in cooler water, and they make quite a mess while eating. They are also quite the shits. Yes, they poop a lot. So you need to have a dual filter system if you really want to keep their water and environment as natural as possible. They are vicious eaters, so don’t let the smile fool you. They will eat anything they can put in their mouths. True carnivores, of the apex variety.

On the subject of vicious carnivores, my favorite photo from the expo is the image above of this Pac-Man frog. He raised his head at the right moment and opened his eyes. If you watch it for a long time, it will mesmerize you like The Hypnotoad. All the GLORY TO HYPNOTOAD!

You might be wondering why they’re called Pac-Man frogs. Well, it’s because of their huge mouths and voracious appetites. They will eat anything smaller than them and would probably at least try to eat things of their own size. Basically, if they can eat it, they will. They’re not the most playful or entertaining pets, but I can see the attraction they have in them. I couldn’t stop checking out a number of these frogs. So many unusual colors. They all look like demons and have an attitude to match. Yeah, I want one. But they also scare me enough to abstain.

They also had poison frogs; these are fun and colorful. I haven’t been interested in raising frogs or turtles, but if you’re into that, you should come to the next Richmond Reptile Expo and visit some breeders. There are also many other reptiles and animals to discover. It’s worth visiting just for sightseeing and maybe picking up your next favorite hobby. The breeders are always happy to talk to you and share information about all of these amazing animals. As always, do your research before taking on the responsibility of owning a pet.

The next Richmond Reptile Expo will take place on July 23. More information is available here: mdreptilefarm.com/richmond-virginia-reptile-expo/

You can also visit a number of other exhibits at various locations this spring and summer around Virginia and Maryland. mdreptilefarm.com contains all the up-to-date information you need. I hope you will have the opportunity to visit, even if it is just for sightseeing.

Pictures of John Reinhold

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