So you've decided that normal herps weren't doing it for you. You wanted something more aggressive, something more challenging. Something that would strike fear in the hearts of other reptile owners at your local pet store. Something perhaps, like an alligator!
You did it. You went out and got yourself a gator. You excitedly take him to his new home, obsessively stroking him because you've never felt anything like his skin before. You begin imagining all the wonderful things you'll do together, and decide that not a day will go by that you won't play with him. You'll have his enclosure immaculately decorated, and it will make all your friends and family jealous. But you soon find that he doesn't want to be held, and often tries fighting you off when you go to pick him up. He constantly knocks over the decorations, breaking and biting them. Your water is always dirty and cloudy, although you have the right size filter for the amount of water in your tank. Dead fish float unmercifully throughout the water causing it to smell horrible, because he just kills them and does not eat them. You find yourself having to change the water every two days, which seemingly does nothing but disrupt the cycle that you are trying to create to keep healthy fish, and a healthy gator. With all of the water changes, your gator seems to do nothing but hide form you all the time. It's only been a month or two, yet somehow is already too big for his tank. Owning a gator has somehow lost it's luster, and you realize that you are spending all of your free time cleaning the tank. You begin to get angry that no matter what you do, he never wants you near him, let alone touch him. You decide that you don't want him anymore, and so you try to get rid of him, but no one wants him. The local pet stores won't take him, and no one is calling about your ad in the local newspaper. There's only one thing left to do?
This is what I imagine happens when people are not prepared before purchasing a gator. They assume that caring for one will be like any other herp, and are quickly discouraged when the reality of owning one suddenly slaps them in the face. You may have quite an extensive knowledge of both alligators and crocodiles, but knowing and owning are two very different things. That is why I have prepared this basic care sheet for you, which is based on some resources, but mostly out of my own experience.
If you have no prior experience with reptiles or fish, I would not recommend getting a gator. Owning a gator requires a good amount of knowledge of both reptiles and fish; their habits, needs, and maintenance. Additionally, if you are seeking a gator as a companion, owning one is not for you. They nether prefer nor like to be touched, and the tamest they will get is moderately aggressive. At a mere 3 feet in length, a good bite is potentially lethal. Gators require what I like to call the four "P's". Planning, precaution, patience, and persistence.
- Always plan first. Planning helps you to be prepared, and being prepared ensures that you will be ready for most situations when/if they arrive.
- Being pre-cautious is a must. Gators are very fast on both land and water. Although they are strongest in the water, they are capable of bursts of speed up to 30mph for a length of 50-60 ft. Taking steps to be safe should be common sense.
- Patience is a virtue. There will be many obstacles to overcome dealing with just about everything from feeding and cleaning schedules, to interaction and maintenance. If you are not patient, you could jeopardize the safety of both you and your gator.
- Persistence is self-explanatory. Never give up. Set your goals and stick to them, and all parties will benefit in the long run.
The purpose of this is simply to inform you of the harsh realities that come with the responsibility of having a gator. It is by no means intended to dissuade your decision.