A visit to the Richmond Reptile Expo is a must for those that love reptiles, or are just looking for something fun to do with friends or family. I’ve been hitting up this semi-annual show at the Richmond Raceway, which usually happens in March, July, and October of each year, for a few years now. Originally this was just to see the various critters, and to get some good prices on feeders for our bearded dragon, but the more I went, the more amazing I found everything that was on display. It’s certainly its own cultural phenomenon; it draws a big crowd, and of course, the reptiles and amphibians are the star attractions.
You will find a number of reputable breeders that take great pride in their breeding of healthy animals. The sheer abundance of amazing patterned and colored snakes makes for a unique opportunity to capture so many photos of these lovely creatures. You have just about every kind of pet snake available, including Boa, Pythons, Corn, Cape House, Hognose, Milk and the California King Snake. It’s truly 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 mart, and take way better care to produce 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 out. We are all about Crested Geckos & Bearded Dragons here in my household. There has been a huge boom in Crested Gecko ownership these last few years; the breeding programs have produced some of the most beautiful colors for these so-very-cute animals. It’s basically like owning Stitch from Lilo and Stitch, eye licks and all. Owning a Little Stitch certainly appeals to me a lot.
As far as attitude, they are usually rather chill if you get a good breed that has been raised properly. The enclosure and setup is relatively easy in comparison to other reptiles. Feeding them is also fairly simple, involving fruit and mixes. Keep them in some good humanity, and enjoy these little, weird, cute reptiles. Our Crested Gecko Lola is very gentle and likes to jump around in our hands when we get her out.
Looking for more Crested Geckos was the plan, and the Richmond Reptile Expo did not disappoint. Your basic gecko in juvenile form runs around $50-60, but the specially colored and marked ones can get quite expensive. I really want what’s called a Lilly White crested. They are one of the most in demand crested geckos out there, though, so finding one under $800 is pretty hard. Here is one that I took a real liking to, she has such beautiful markings and colors.
I also love the Harlequin and Dalmatian version of cresties. There are so many versions and breeds you can really get lost in it all. Look up crested gecko breeders online and you will get quite an education in it all. Luckily, there were quite a few breeders with amazing geckos at the expo; they basically had them all: Leopard Geckos, Gargoyle Geckos, Chahoua Geckos, Chinese Cave Geckos, Fat Tails, Leachianus, and plenty of various Crested Geckos.
For the first time I got 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 bad. Check out this guy here; he seemed to want to pose for me.
I want all of them. All of them! Quite a few were being looked at and checked out by other gecko owners and fans. As with the snakes, you’ll find like-minded people at the expo who love to talk and share pictures and information about their love of their reptiles. One of the people I met had a very unusual Gecko that I believe is a Chahoua Gecko. It looked like moving moss, colored with sprinkles of stars. Just an exquisite animal right here, and very tame for such a large guy.
I can go on and on about geckos. But there was 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 that they can get HUGE? Look at the jowls on this guy.
Yeah, he’s packing for sure. There were two breeders for this lizard, and I came close — real close — to bringing him home. I didn’t need to grow our zoo any more at this time, though. The Tegu has been popular of late, and I can see why. People need to look into the time and space for this big lizard. They are not monitors, but they sure are big, and require more than some people think. But if you came to the expo to pet and see rather than purchase, as we did, it was cool to get the chance to hold one and check them out. I really want this one, and I want to name him Trent (duh).
There were a few juvenile Bearded Dragons, but I certainly wish there were a few more breeders of dragons around this expo. I’m a big fan of the Bearded Dragon, and would recommend these for anyone wanting to get into reptiles. They are big on personality and tend after their juvenile phase to be fairly calm and personable. On that note, here’s our chill bearded dragon, “Claws,” in his winter gear.
Along with all the amazing reptiles, we got a good amount of arachnids to check out. I’m not super into the idea of owning a spider. It’s nothing fear based; it’s just that, to me, an arachnid is something to look at but not own. But if you’re into them, then you can find some breeders at these expos who know about arachnids and can get you set up.
We really liked visiting the one breeder of axolotl — you know those cute things, right? They’re the grinning salamanders that look like stuffed animals. There are a few issues with ownership of these water pets: they need to be in colder water, and they make quite a mess from eating. They are also quite the poopers. Yep, they poop a lot. So you need to have a double filter system if you want to truly keep their water and environment as natural as possible. They are vicious eaters, so don’t be fooled by the smile. They will eat anything they can fit into their mouths. True Carnivores, of the apex variety.
On the topic of vicious carnivores, my favorite pic from the expo is the image above of this Pac-Man Frog. This one brought his head up at just the right time and opened his eyes. If you stare at him for a long time he will entrance you like The Hypnotoad. All GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD!
Maybe you’re wondering why they are called Pac-Man Frogs. Well, it’s because of their huge mouths and voracious appetites. They eat anything smaller then them, and would probably at least try to eat things their own size. Basically, if they can eat it, they will. They are not the most playful or entertaining of pets, but I can see the attraction in them. I could not stop checking out a number of these frogs. So many unusual colors. They all look kinda like demons, and have attitude to match. Yeah, I want one. But they also scare me enough to hold off on it.
They also had some poison dart frogs; those are fun and colorful. I have not gotten into frog-keeping or turtle-keeping, but if you are into that, you should come by the next Richmond Reptile Expo and visit some breeders. There are plenty of other reptiles and animals to check out as well. It’s worth a visit just to sightsee, and maybe get into your next favorite hobby. The breeders are always happy to talk to you and share information about all these amazing animals. As always, do your research before taking on the responsibility of pet ownership.
The next Richmond Reptile Expo is July 23rd. More information is available here: mdreptilefarm.com/richmond-virginia-reptile-expo/
You can also visit a number of other Expos in various locations this spring and summer around Virginia and Maryland. mdreptilefarm.com has all the updated information you need. I hope you get to visit, even if its just to sightsee.
Photos by John Reinhold