As anyone who has bred reptiles as a business can tell you, it's not a fast route to riches. However, as a part-time business, it can be extremely rewarding. For beginners, breeding reptiles is usually a hobby, although you may soon begin to make money by selling your hatchlings to friends and family.
Breeding reptiles for a living can be difficult unless you have a dedicated customer base, like several pet stores. You also need enough breeders to keep production flowing week after week and month after month. Easing into the business by beginning as a hobby and then putting more time and money into it as a business over the course of months or years is the usual route most breeders take.
Starting a Reptile Business
To breed reptiles as a business, you'll first have to get some good breeders to lay and fertilize the eggs. It's usually best to start with one breed that you know is popular. You should have experience with these reptiles, ideally after having them as pets for a few years so you know how to care for them, what to feed them and how they should behave so you know the difference between a healthy animal and one that is sick.
In addition to any experience you have with reptiles, you also need to consider which reptiles people will want to buy. Wide Open Pets ranked the 12 most popular reptiles people can choose as pets based on size, sociability and for being low maintenance:
- Water dragon
- Russian tortoise
- Crested gecko
- Ball python
- Corn snake
- Leopard gecko
- Bearded dragon
- Red-eared slider
- African sulcata tortoise
- Eastern box turtle
- Green anole
You'll need to invest in breeders with which to start, which can be more expensive than a typical pet reptile, possibly costing several hundred dollars. To protect your investment, you will also need to find a veterinarian who is experienced with the species you want to breed. Be prepared for an emergency when they begin to lay eggs.
Permits, Licenses and Restrictions
Your state government as well as your city or county government will have a few requirements for a business based on breeding reptiles. In addition to getting a business license, there are five specific areas you will need to examine:
- Breeding permit: Your state's department of agriculture or department of natural resources may require that you get a reptile breeder license or permit.
- Dealers' license: Your state or local government will likely require a dealers' permit to sell reptiles. You may need an additional license to display reptiles at an event or bring them into the state.
- Fishing permit: In most states, it is illegal to catch reptiles in the wild without a fishing permit. Even then, you will be limited in the number you can catch. Reptiles cannot be released back into the wild once they have been handled.
- Restricted or prohibited species: Some governments restrict or prohibit keeping some specific animals, such as crocodiles. Additionally, if you rent, your landlord may prohibit you from keeping reptiles or any pet in your home.
Supplies You Will Need
The supplies you need will depend on the types of reptiles you have. Food, of course, will be a priority, and if you are keeping reptiles for a business, you will need to find food at a price that doesn't cut too deeply into your profit margin.
- Habitat: aquariums, reptile racks, thermostat, heat source, egg cartons, perlite
- Food: worms, crickets, mealworms, roaches, rodents or other foods as well as dietary supplements and vitamins as needed by the species
Whenever possible, buy food and consumable supplies like paper towels in bulk to reduce costs. This will mean that you will need to store the food as well, which will require a freezer and additional containers. If you're using live food, then you will also need to consider where to get food for the reptiles' food.
- Chameleon Breeder Podcast: Starting a Reptile Business
- PetHelpful: What Supplies and Investments You'll Need to Breed Reptiles
- Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture: Application for Dealers of Live Fish, Live Baitfish, Live Fish Bait, Reptiles, Amphibians, and Other Aquatic Organisms
- Georgia Department of Agriculture: Pet Dealers Licenses
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife: Restricted Species Permits
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife: Native Reptile Captive Propagation (Breeding) Permits
- Wide Open Pets: 12 Best Pet Reptiles: Guide for Beginners and Experts Alike
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources: Captive Reptile & Amphibian Permit/License
A published author, David Weedmark has advised businesses on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years and used to teach computer science at Algonquin College. He is currently the owner of Mad Hat Labs, a web design and media consultancy business. David has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and websites including American Express, Samsung, Re/Max and the New York Times' About.com.