PREPARING FOR YOUR FIRST CHONDRO
Chondros are not difficult to keep when proper husbandry is met. But if you don’t prepare well before your first purchase it will often end with health issues. Some examples are stress, grounding, and refusal to eat. By putting in the time before your purchase you will increase your chances for success.
Deciding Between a Yearling, Sub-adult, or Adult
While a USCB neonate is a good choice, it may not be the best age for your first chondro. A better entry-level animal would be one from 9 months to one year old. Here’s why. One of the most exciting and fascinating parts about owning a GTP is watching it go through the ontogenic color change. At 9 months, with the exception of some yellow neos, most GTP’s have not completed this change. The slightly older sub-yearlings are less fragile while you dial in your husbandry skills. And they don’t dehydrate as easily and can go longer without food. This can be helpful if an animal initially refuses to eat due to the stress of shipping and acclimation to a new home.
If you choose to purchase a USCB sub adult or adult GTP, you will be getting an established animal that is at, or close to, it’s final coloration. Although you won’t experience the ontogenic color change, you will know exactly what the animal will look like as an adult. Males at this age will usually not feed during the breeding season so don’t be nervous if a male won’t eat for a few months. More on this later.
So you have done your research, and feel you are prepared to successfully work with chondros. Now for the most important task… finding your first GTP.
Selecting a Breeder
One of the best ways to find a reputable breeder of chondros is on the MVF. There are many experienced breeders on this forum and some of their websites are located at the top of the classified section. Other reputable breeders do not have websites, but they are active members on MVF and can be reached via the forum. Another good resource for locating breeders is the Facebook group USCB Chondro Classifieds. This group was created to provide social media with a reputable source for finding and buying USCB chondros.
Get to know the breeder you plan to buy from through the forum, PM’s, email, references, phone calls or at reptile shows/meets. A dedicated breeder wants the best for his/her animals and will do everything they can to help you succeed. A reputable breeder stands behind his/her animals and will happily answer any questions you have whether you buy from them or not.
Questions To Ask When Buying Your First Chondro
Once you have decided on a breeder you need to ask some important questions. Whether you are purchasing a neonate, sub-adult or adult, find out as much information as possible about the animal and how it has been cared for. Make every attempt to reproduce the same husbandry conditions, including the size and type of enclosure, the size of perches, the frequency of misting, and the size and frequency of feeding. This information will be important to make sure you are successful with the new animal. The less traumatic the move, the more quickly it will acclimate to its new home. While all of these questions will not pertain to every situation, verifying that it is USCB should be your first priority.
Who produced the animal?
As previously mentioned, if an animal is advertised as USCB and this question is followed by evasive answers, the animal is likely not USCB.
Do you have pictures of the dam, sire, copulations, ovulation, and egg deposition?
Again, the answers to these questions will help establish how likely an animal is to be a USCB chondro.
Has it ever had an illness or injury of any kind?
This is largely a trust-based question, but it is worth asking. Obviously you might think twice about purchasing an animal that has suffered an illness or injury that may affect the way it eats, defecates, or breeds. You don’t want any surprises.
What is it eating? Frozen thawed, scented ,fresh killed, live?
Some chondros are picky about what food items they will eat. If an animal only eats live or fresh killed rodents, this may influence your decision of whether or not to purchase it.
If it is a neo, how many meals has it had?
Baby chondros are not usually sold until they have voluntarily eaten about 15-20 meals. This is widely considered to be an “established neo.” A reputable breeder will not sell neonates until they are established feeders.
Does it require any special feeding technique?
Some chondros can be picky when it comes to feeding. That is, they might not eat if the food item is too cold or if it is presented to them too aggressively. Some chondros require subtle teasing to induce a strike, while most “fly off the perch” when presented with food. Knowing the animal’s feeding habits can make for a smoother, less stressful transition.
What size and type of enclosure is it currently kept in?
While adjusting to a new home, duplicating its current enclosure will reduce the animal’s stress level and make for the smoothest transition. Many chondros, especially neos, are easily stressed by a change in their environment. The most obvious signs of stress are grounding and a refusal to eat.
What was the temp range you were using? Did you provide a night time temp drop?
Again, keeping these parameters as close to how they were is important during the acclimation period. A change in temp can stress the animal and lead to health issues. A slight nighttime drop can be beneficial to adult chondros, but if the animal was not getting one do not abruptly initiate it. Rather, slowly introduce it over one or two weeks if you do choose to add one.
What type of substrate?
This is typically not a major issue since chondros do not make excessive use of the cage floor. However, it might help in reproducing the original environment in the event the animal has difficulty adjusting to the new enclosure.
How often do you mist/spray? Do you only spray the substrate, or the animal as well?
This is another element that should be initially duplicated. Once the animal has settled in and is eating/deficating regularly you might decide to adjust your technique to that which best suits your climate.
Does it have a pedigree, lineage chart, or hatch certificate?
Pedigrees and lineage charts are mainly provided when purchasing animals from designer lines. On the other hand, a hatch certificate or other similar documentation typically accompanies the sale of a USCB chondro. Receiving this paperwork along with your chondro can affect the future resale value since it is likely to be requested from future buyers. Also, if you plan on breeding, a pedigree will help map out a suitable mate, and can help to avoid excessive inbreeding.
Points Of Sale
The MVF is one of the most trusted places to buy a GTP on the Internet. But if you buy over the Internet you will have to trust the breeder. Ask for references, prepare a list of questions, and ask for pictures of the dam, sire, and the pregnancy events such as copulations, ovulation, and egg deposition. You should also ask if a pedigree comes with the animal. This can be important if you plan on breeding your animal or selling your animal later on.
While some breeders are willing to invite a buyer into their home or facility, not all are comfortable doing so. There are many reasons for this and usually it’s a matter of privacy and security. In most cases this should not be viewed as a “red flag” to the buyer. In these cases a location is usually agreed upon for the snake to be viewed or delivered. You should make sure there are no visible signs of injury or illness. And don’t forget to ask questions about its feeding habits and enclosure conditions.
Other Points of Sale
Reptile shows are common places where chondros are purchased. Unfortunately, these purchases are often impulsive, made prior to doing any research, and are from brokers who are attempting to convince an uneducated buyer that they are purchasing a “CB” chondro. If a vendor’s table contains many different species of snakes, and a few chondros, he/she is almost unquestionably a broker. On the other hand, reputable breeders can be found at reptile shows. They are likely to only have chondros, or just a few different species since breeders tend to focus on fewer projects. And remember, a true breeder will happily answer your questions, provide pictures, and offer references if asked.
Pet stores will occasionally have a USCB animal that a breeder or individual has sold. However, in almost every case it is more likely an Import/FB animal. Pet stores typically do not understand chondros’ specific husbandry requirements, and as a result the animal is usually in poor condition. Unless there is definitive proof of the animal’s origin from a reputable source, a good deal is more likely to be a bad decision.
Buying a New Chondro 101
- Most breeders have a relaxed or open policy on payment plans, and each one is usually addressed on an individual basis. If you decide to do a payment plan, make sure you and the seller agree on a payment schedule, you get it in writing, and that you notify the seller of any changes as soon as possible.
- Most breeders will require a non-refundable deposit on neos, and sometimes sub-adult and adult snakes. Make sure you know what a breeder’s policies are before sending any money.
- If you need additional pictures, most breeders don’t mind providing them. But keep your requests reasonable. If you are looking at a specific trait and you feel you need additional pictures, talk with the seller and let them know your concerns so they can provide additional photos to address them. Also, it is always worthwhile to verify how current the photos are.
- You should keep in mind that photos might not always precisely represent a chondro’s colors. Not every breeder or seller has the photography skills to capture the precise colors of the animal being sold. The colors may be off due to several factors including poor/improper lighting, exposure, and/or white balance. Also, colors often look different on different monitors or media devices. Direct sunlight can wash out colors, while indirect sunlight through a window or outside in the shade will offer a better rendition of color. Regardless, it should be every seller’s goal to provide accurate and current photographs, and a buyer should expect photographs to accurately represent the animal being purchased.
- Do some research first to establish a baseline of knowledge. You won’t be expected to know everything, but knowing the basics will demonstrate you are a committed buyer. Most breeders are willing to help you anyway they can. But they might be unwilling to sell you an animal if you cannot demonstrate you are capable of providing proper care. This should not be taken personally; sellers put a lot of time and effort into producing animals and they want to ensure they will live a long and healthy life.
- Record keeping can be very beneficial when you purchase a chondro. Keeping a record of activity will help you understand the animal’s feeding/defecation habits, as well as its growth rate as demonstrated by shed frequency. There are many free resources for easily tracking your animal’s activity, such as Iherp. The activities that are typically recorded are feedings, defecations, sheds, weights, and any health issues that arise. You should also keep in mind that when buying a GTP, you may or may not be given records for the animal. While most people do keep records, some do not. However a reputable breeder will provide a hatch card that provides hatch date, hatch weight, and first shed. Typically the hatch card will also track feedings while the neo is being established. Although tracking records are helpful, maintaining them is a personal choice and a lack of record keeping is not itself a sign of negligence or dishonesty.
- If you are purchasing a male that is a 1 ½ years or older, do not be alarmed if it goes off feed after a few months. Young male GTP’s as early as 18 months of age are notorious for refusing to eat during breeding seasons. This non-feeding period can last anywhere from 2 to 10 months! If the snake is in good health prior to the fast, this period of non-feeding will do them no harm.