Monday, September 7, 2009

Hanging out

"Mama's legs. Comfy."

"Do you mind?"

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

At the Vet's office

Yesterday, we took Richard to see the vet. He's the only vet in St. Louis with a lot of reptile experience, according to herpetology enthusiasts.

The tip of Richard's rostrum looked sore over the weekend. I noticed what appeared to be whitish goo between his front teeth and the front of his face. We treated him with betadine and Neosporin, which I had previously read about for use on lizards.

By Tuesday, Richard's snout was looking back to normal, but since the appointment had already been made, we figured it would be a good time for Richard to have a check-up. We needed to be absolutely sure that Richard was in good health. For lizards, it's often too late to help them if they really start to LOOK sick. We didn't want to take that chance.

When the doc entered the examination room, Richard shuffled away from him at first. He gently picked Richard up, had a look at him, and then proclaimed that Richard looked great. He used a stick to keep Richard's mouth open, and said we had nothing to worry about.

What was remarkable was the way the vet held our lizard. He had Richard in one hand, upright, and Richard merely dangled there with his hands on the vet's thumb. I couldn't tell if Richard was totally relaxed or too petrified to retaliate.

Our vet anwered my questions and sent Richard off free of charge. Of course, I am hesitant to say that because I don't want people to think that they can have their lizard looked at for free if they see this vet. It's just how our visit turned out that day. And that's why I am not posting the veterinarian's name on the blog. :-)

I'm really grateful to him for easing my fears, and I think it was very generous of him to not charge us. Richard doesn't know what's going on, naturally. As far as he's concerned, we took him to a strange place and subjected him to examination by a random human.

Hahaha. :-)

I also forgot to bring my camera so we could capture Richard's helpless dangling for all eternity. It was priceless!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The usual antics

"Oh, this thing looks like a tree! Never mind that it's short. I'll climb it, anyway!"

"Do I look like I'm ready to have my photo taken? Can't you see I'm trying to shed?"

"This could be delicious even though it's just the floor."

Close-up of Richard shedding his back:

A Dubia cockroach (not the same species as the one I featured before). This one just molted. Their exoskeletons harden and become darker after a while. I purchased a bunch of these from a breeder and am trying to grow my own colony.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Superworm pupa

Here's a photo of one of our largest pupae. Superworms (Zophobas morio) are similar in appearance to mealworms. They are larger, faster, prefer warmer temperatures... and according to Richard, more delicious than mealworms.

Breeding superworms was an interesting adventure for us. Unlike mealworms, they must be separated from each other and left without food or water. Before this can be done, the superworms worms must achieve a large size.

Pupae are somewhat freaky. If you harass them, they try to wiggle away!

The most striking difference between a mealworm pupa and a superworm pupa-- other than size-- is the fact that mealworm pupae "hold" their arms closer to their body.

Our insect menagerie has increased to three species! We now have dubia roaches, discoid roaches, and superworms. Richard doesn't seem to care of acknowledge this effort. :-)

Friday, July 24, 2009

We're moving!

Hello, everyone!

Before I talk about moving, let me share a cool link with you.

The author (Jamie Derkenne) shares his or her experiences with the wild Eastern (from Australia) Water Dragons in their backyard.

On to moving...

Richard's dad and I have been very busy the last couple of weeks. We're moving to a new place. :-) As a matter of fact, there are movers struggling to get Richard's house out of the apartment as I type this. It's a real ordeal-- something anyone with a giant reptile enclosure must one day cope with.

Other news: We have a breeding colony of about 20 Zophobas morio ("superworm") beetles right now. We have no choice but to breed. Richard goes through about $12 in superworms every week. That doesn't include his red wigglers.

He'll also have his first nightcrawler tonight. He's finally big enough to tackle them. :-)

Yesterday, we saw a baby water dragon at Petsmart-- the smallest I have ever seen in person! The little guy's body wasn't even as long as Richard's head. And its head was only slightly bigger than one of Richard's eyeballs. He was a real shrimp and seriously cute. Just imagine: Richard was that small at one point in his life. Unreal.

I can only imagine a parent giving their "okay" for a water dragon that small, only to find out-- the hard way-- that they get pretty large... :-P

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Let's play catch-up!

"How you doin'? Where have I been all your life?"

Don't be shy, baby. Your Prince Charming is finally here. I know-- you can't handle this feeling... But it's okay because Richard is here to sweep you away.

(What a charmer.)

I'm mellltinggggg!!!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Richard will appear in the Cute Overload calendar!

I was just notified by Theo of Cute Overload that Richard will appear in their 2010 page-a-day calendar! The very thought of many people flipping their calendars and coming across Richard's surly face... makes me smile. :-)

I never thought that would happen. It' a big source of pride for me and Richard's dad. The funny thing is that Richard is a lizard and therefore has no grasp on the gravity of this news.

I have to say that I am truly honored, especially since most people do not find lizards "cute". It's understandable. But since you check out Richard's blog every once in a while, you know that there is at least one funny lizard around, and his name is Richie!

I wish Richard had not been shedding when the photo was taken. It doesn't do him justice. But he looks great anyway, and why? Because he's a handsome guy and his mom and dad love him. We really do.

The latest: Richard has chosen a new sleeping place, and he prefers to have his head buried in the leaves. Before I go to work in the morning, I leave him breakfast. He awakes, sleepily, spots his morning meal, and groggily climbs down to have it.

We're also making him chase down his food a little. We do this buy throwing a superworm a few feet away, letting him run after it, and then tossing another worm in the opposite direction. We will try to get some footage of this, since it's downright hilarious.

Also hilarious is Richard dragging himself across the crown molding above our window to get to the best spot on the curtains. We will have footage of that, too.

Thanks for sharing this wonderful news with us.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sorry for the absence!

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. Richard's dad and I were out of town, and I got a new job. I apologize for not uploading photos.

Two of our friends bought Richard a little sofa/armchair. I'm thinking about re-upholstering it to match the color scheme of our house. This is how it looks right now. By the way, it sits on the floor of our dining room. Sometimes, during his house adventures, Richard climbs onto it and relaxes for a spell.

Charming, huh? It was really nice of our friends to get it. Better photos of the sofa/armchair thing in the future. I promise!

Here we have a shot of Richard in our little dvd shelf. If you ever wondered what kind of animal would hang out on dvd's and camcorders, now you know.

Richard has chosen a "bed." Actually, it's just a twisted vine that I installed in his enclosure. It was originally just for decoration (to fill empty space), but Richard actually prefers to sleep on it. Around 9:30, he climbs onto it. When the lights go out, Richie goes to sleep. The funny thing is that he doesn't hang out on that vine unless it's right before bedtime. He does not frequent it during the day! Silly lizard.

Once Richard actually tried eating a discoid roach, he developed an appetite for them. Here he is, mid-munch.

Oh! I should also mention that one of my roaches laid an egg pouch! We're looking forward to having baby roaches to give to Richard soon. (Don't say it out loud. Richard might hear. It's supposed to be a surprise)

More to come soon, I hope. :-) Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

What is the Pee-pee dance?

Unfortunately, I do not have a video of Richard doing the pee-pee dance. It happens too suddenly for me to capture it. :-(

Occasionally, Richard is let out of his enclosure before he has made his daily poop. (It happens, folks) When this happens, he sometimes has no choice but to take care of business wherever he may be. Usually, Richard goes to the bathroom in his swimming pool.

Here's how the pee-pee dance works: Richard shuffles his rear end back and forth, frantically, in a shuffling, dance-like fashion. Since water dragons are arboreal, this shuffling usually positions them so that their hind end is hanging over the edge of a tree branch. This allows them to defecate onto the ground.

This behavior is useless on a wooden floor. :-)

When Richard begins to perform his pee-pee dance, we sometimes have the time to take him away. And other times, we don't. Bummer!

And that is the pee-pee dance.

Friday, April 24, 2009

You can't turn your back for a second!

I left Richard on his tower for about ten minutes and returned to find the tower... vacant!

After a brief search of the living room, this is what we discovered. A very smart idea, indeed!

Let's take another look at his antics:

As long as Richard is sleeping, he is still an angel. Too bad he's not always asleep. :-P

Another look at the harness and leash:

Life is great. Of course, Richard seems to hate us more and more each day, but at least the hatred is amusing. For now. I told Richard that if he keeps it up, this will be his fate. (Click on link to view photo)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lizard on a leash

I've just completed Richard's new harness. I also sewed a matching leash for it. :-) Richard looks very sharp in it.

Lately, Richard has been developing an attitude, which I can only associate with his approaching sexual maturity... He's exhibiting some hilarious behaviors, such as puffing up his neck, sudden repositioning, and sitting very erect in response to what he considers harassment, e.g., petting and tail-touching. As a matter of fact, I got a mild whipping from Richard's tail today when I tested his harness on him.

We had two guests over at the house last night. It was the first time they had met Richard. As soon as they entered the door, Richard reacted by inflating his neck. We've never observed him do that unprovoked. He exhibited no fear whatsoever, and even seemed to show off to the guests by being extra energetic (climbing my leg to my chest and then launching himself to the kitchen counter and eyeballing everyone carefully).

While these behaviors are amusing, they also herald the coming of the "new" Richard, and it saddens me to an extent. But such is the way of life! Our children-- I mean, lizards-- become ungrateful and surly, even though we keep their tummies full and their bodies clothed.

So, say "goodbye" to the sprightly Richard and his charming antics, and say "hello" to the grumpy fellow he is becoming.

I'm kidding. :-) This is just a part of growing up. I can deal with it! Hopefully you will still appreciate hearing about Richard when he's not cute anymore.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

First adult discoid roach

Yesterday, one of the nymphs shed its exoskeleton, and emerged as a very beautiful adult. He/she is gorgeous. :-|

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Richie Boy goes for a test drive

Enclosure renovation is still in progress. :-) I'm currently covering the platforms with "reptile carpet." It's not the most attractive stuff in the world, but it's practical for clean-up. They are affixed to the platforms with velcro.

I put Richard in for a little while to see how he would like it. He studied his surroundings carefully and seemed a little frightened by the new environment (as evidenced by his less than beautiful coloration in the photo above). He cheered up shortly thereafter. I sensed satisfaction.

I bought him a Dracaena plant! This is safe for herbivorous reptiles, according to multiple credible sources, including Tricia's Water Dragon Care Page. Tricia is basically the water dragon authority on the internet.

I gave the Dracaena plant some thorough bleach-water dunkings earlier and brand new, safe soil. I topped the pot off with coconut bark. This particular coconut bark is used for reptile and amphibian vivaria. I do have some artificial vines. I'll let my pothos plants grow a bit more before I use them in place of the artificial vines.

*Getting back to work*

Monday, March 30, 2009

Shaving kits and discoid roaches

We relocated Richard's tower from the living room to the bedroom during the enclosure-renovation process. He figured out how to get to a shelf in our closet. This should come as no surprise since Richard has an undying love for closets...

It just so happens that his dad's shaving kit is on the shelf, too. In a lizard's mind, I suppose it's a great place to relax, even if it doesn't make any sense. :-)

By the way, I'm thinking about putting a webcam on Richard's cage when it's complete, so that anyone with plenty of time to waste can watch our little guy as he... sits around. Basically, antics that will have you at the edge of your seat. Really exciting stuff, folks. :-P

Here are two shots of our discoid roaches.

Below is a nice photo taken by shadowshador from Flickr, used with permission. He also has an extensive portfolio of animal photography.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Enclosure progress, cockroaches, and MSDS

What I've done since last I blogged:
  • Sealed (x 3) the faux rock panels
  • Mounted them
  • Started staining the outside
  • Purchased a 36" Fluorescent fixture that accommodates two tubes (10.0 UVB and full spectrum)
  • Purchased a mercury vapor bulb (UVB, UVA, and heat)
  • Started the disinfection process of the driftwood and swimming pool
10.0 UVB is usually used for desert-dwelling reptiles, but since there is an aluminum screen between the fixture and the cage, 5.0 won't really do the job. Besides, the platform is over one foot below the fixture, and one foot is basically the limit of effectiveness for 5.0 UVB tubes (it's about 30 inches for 10.0). UVB is necessary for the production of Vitamin D, and Vitamin D is necessary for calcium uptake in lizards. (I won't speak for others, as I wouldn't know. I think snakes require much less UVB because they get the majority of their Vitamin D from the livers of their prey. That's what I READ. If I'm wrong, please feel free to correct me.)

Don't be surprised if Richard starts doing the hilarious, territorial arm-waving that is observed in several species of lizard. UVA light increases territorial behavior, as well as (no surprise) breeding behavior and appetite. I say this because the mercury vapor bulb I'm putting in produces quite a bit of UVA. The set up I currently use is crappy in that department, I admit. The mercury vapor bulb will be used in a part of the enclosure where Richard can't really get too close to it (right side), and it too is separated from the enclosure by an aluminum screen. I'll put some tall-ish driftwood on the right side so he can climb it.

The left platform that you see will just have a basking light over it. There will be ceramic heat emitters over the large platform.

I've consulted a water dragon expert in Illinois about the lighting scheme, and he likes it.

If I had to give some kind of estimate, I would say Richard's enclosure is 70 to 75% completed. I'm in the process of staining and sealing the outside, and don't worry, the cage is going to air out for a month, at least. After a month, we're running it with lamps and the humidifer (without Richard) for a few days. Then, if everything is peachy, Richard will move in.

On the fascinating subject of MSDS, I try to gather the information that is available, both anecdotal and otherwise. I read about the methods of others, whether or not they have had success, and then I look for information to confirm or deny what they say. Inert is inert.

It is certain than MSDS is flawed, but if I can't look at anecdotes and MSDS for SOME kind of idea as to whether or not I'm taking an appropriate route, who should I ask? Water is dangerous if you try breathing in it. A brick is dangerous if it falls on your head. A feeder insect can be dangerous if it has a parasite. A piece of non-toxic paint is dangerous if a lizard chokes on a chunk of it. Driftwood that has been disinfected and aired out can be dangerous if a splinter from it goes into Richard's eye.

Nothing about Richard's life is ever going to be 100% safe. I have to take reasonable actions, of course. I have to gather information as best as I can and hope nothing bad hapens. And I'm going to bank on the experiences of others, especially if dozens of them have used their methods without a hitch.


Richard's dad and I went to a reptile show here in town, and we bought Blaberus discoidalis cockroaches for Richard. Don't freak out. They aren't nearly as bad as you think. Crickets are much stinkier and annoying. Discoid cockroaches are more nutritious, easier to gutload, make no noise, have no odor, can't jump, can't fly, and have a long lifespan (up to a year or so). Lizards love them, and they are relatively easy to breed.

Basically, everything is better about them (except for their price. They are quite expensive), but they aren't mainstream because people hate cockroaches. After all, the sight of one in your house is most unwelcome.

Discoid roaches aren't cute or anything like that, but they're definitely not as horrible as you would think. Their scurrying motions freak me out, though. These are special cockroaches, though, and they are not native to the U.S.

I will blog later on their care. :-)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Is it morning already?

... because I'm still so... sleepy...

*going back to sleep*

Friday, March 13, 2009

A little pearl

Check out his hands... (Click for a larger view)

Here are shots of William, the wild anole. He is really fat because I used to leave him mealworms. He lived on our front porch. We didn't keep him.

I had more mealworms than Richard could eat. I filled dishes with them for the birds, too.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A sneak peak...

Here's a small part of Richard's new house. It is a faux rock that was constructed with styrofoam, tile grout, and paint. There's plenty more where it came from.

This is my first time trying to make faux rocks.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Funny way to relax, huh?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Tower for Richie

A perfect hang-out spot for a growing dragon to survey his kingdom from.

Today, I let Richard check it out while I worked on his house. I think he likes it. :-)

Update on Richie's house: I'm still working on the false-rock background. I'm carving the entire thing out of styrofoam! I spent almost six uninterrupted hours sculpting it today. Fwew.

Monday, March 2, 2009


I was sitting on the couch and eating popcorn while Richard sat with us. He seemed interested in what I was doing, so I offered him some to see what he would do. Sure enough, he deemed it edible. The video is actually of his second attempt. My apologies for the lighting!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Lizard photography how-to

How do I take flattering photos of Richard? Before I get to that, I'll post some new stuff.

This is what relaxation looks like. The arm belongs to Richie's dad.

Yes, this is right side up. :-D

Everything starts out with Richard's diet. I meticulously "gutload" the prey items that Richard receives.

The obvious exceptions:
  • Waxworms - which eat honey and are given only as treats
  • Mice - "whole prey" which are highly nutritious on their own
I make my own gutload. The recipe is based on several ingredient lists I have found online, with modifications that I have determined to be appropriate. I include a pigment-promoting nutrtional supplement that isn't cheap.

Since I believe that people should do their own homework for their pets, I won't reveal what the supplement is, not that the information is difficult to find in the first place. Animal husbandry is something that takes effort and dedication!

I also try to not over-feed Richard. While it is said that water dragons know "when to stop", I still want to make sure that he doesn't get too fat.

I prefer to take photos when Richard isn't shedding large parts of his body. A shedding lizard looks grayish! This is what he looks like when he's shedding his face:

Not very pretty, huh?

It's my experience that indirect natural light is the most flattering for Richard. His scales reflect natural sunlight very beautifully, as you would expect. The above photo was taken under hideous ceiling-fan incandescent light bulbs, showing a more muted green. Direct sunlight tends to wash his scales out. Also, scales can appear to have a different color, depending on what angle they are being photographed from. This is because the scales have a grain, like shingles.

Don't get me wrong: Richard's scales ARE very green. But what you see, way something is, and what you capture with a camera can be very different just because of your vantage point, the spectrum of light involved, and the way light behaves. We're not hear to talk physics, though. :-P

Although Richard cannot change his colors as dramatically as a chameleon, he does go between shades of dark green to shades of very bright and light blue-green. It all depends on how he's feeling. If he's afraid or uncomfortable, he tends to become quite dark. When he's comfortable, he is much greener and lighter. When sleeping or napping, he becomes a shockingly bright blue-green and looks absolutely gorgeous. He is never so beautiful as when he is asleep.

If it weren't for his closed eyes, I'd choose his resting state for photos all the time!

Richard can also change the intensity of the stripes on his body. When he sleeps, the stripes are PALER than the rest of his body. When he's afraid, the stripes can be much darker (black, in fact) than his body. Because the stripes are isolated to certain scales, they appear "pixellated."

This is why Richard's coloration can vary dramatically from photo to photo.

I take tons of photos
I take a lot of photos so I have more photos to choose from. Many of my photos aren't taken under optimal conditions! But I tend to not post those because it takes time and energy to add borders, credits, and watermarks.