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Mites vs. Ticks:

      Feces ashy white. Snake mites are generally black (colour of dried blood if you look closely). Lizard mites are both as above and bright orange-red.

      Mites are roly-poly with little wriggly legs and can be seen moving around rather animatedly.

     Size varies from invisibly small to the size of the period at the end of the sentence. Often seen congregating where the scaling and skin is the thinnest for easier access to the good parts (blood): around the eyes and ears mostly.

      Ticks, on the other hand, are rarely seen moving around, are flat with little legs, mouth parts generally firmly embedded into the flesh.

     They are seen as white or whitish-red/brick when empty or partially fed; colour of dried blood and a bit fatter when engorged. May be found where skin is the thinnest, which on snakes may be half embedded under a scale.


      Mites can be introduced into a group of mite-free reptile by bringing in a mite-infested reptile. People may be the unwitting carrier by bringing mites in on their body or clothing after exposure elsewhere to a mite-infested reptile...

      Mites can usually be found roaming the body, tucked under the edges of scales and congregating around the eyes, ears, tympanic membrane and any place on the body where the scales are thinner. If you can see them from about three feet away, or your hand comes away with several mites on it, then you have a severe infestation. The presence of mites requires immediate environmental intervention as well as treatment of the individual animals.

      Reptiles who are moderately to severely debilitated may require fluids and nutrient supplementation to help restore fluid balance and provide energy for rapid recovery.


Listerine® / Pesticide Method:

  • 1. Place the snakes in a dilute Listerine® bath with water that is just warm to the touch with your arm. The water should be tinted a light gold with the Listerine®. Leave the snakes soaking while you work on their enclosure(s). If the snakes are able to escape from the tub or room, you will have to put them in a holding container, such as an easily cleaned carrier or disposable cardboard box, until you finish setting up the fumigation of their enclosure.

    To keep them warm, you may want to empty and refill the tub with the water-Listerine® mixture several times during the eradication process, or place the bathed snakes in a clean, warm holding environment until their regular enclosure is ready. A small portable room heater can be put into the bathroom, well away from the tub, to provide additional heat for the snakes.

  • 2. Remove and dispose of all the substrate in the enclosure. Vacuum the inside of the enclosure thoroughly, especially in the angles of the walls. If the tank is made of wood, lightly scrape the inside angles with the edge of a blunt knife, then vacuum again. You are trying to get up all the loose eggs, mites and mite feces (the white dust on your snake and in the bottom of the tank).

    If you have a glass or Plexiglass® tank, wipe all surfaces down with hot soapy water. Remove all soap residue. For good measure, take the time to thoroughly disinfect glass tanks by swabbing them down with a 1:30 bleach-water solution, let the solution sit for ten minutes, then thoroughly rinse out the bleach residue.

  • 3. If you have cage furnishings such as branches or rocks, bake them in the oven, set at 250 F (120 C), for two hours (rocks may be boiled, completely submerged, for 20-30 minutes). If they are too big to place in the oven, soak them in a bucket, cement mixing tray or tub in a 1:30 solution of bleach and water for eight hours. Rinse thoroughly, spraying into all the crevices, playing the water over the wood and rock until they are well saturated and flushed, then let sun dry for at least 24 hours.
  • 4. Wash all bowls with the bleach-water solution, rinse well, then air dry.
  • 5. If you have heating pads inside the tank, remove, unplug, wipe down with the bleach-water, let them sit for ten minutes, then rinse clean and set aside. If you have the stick-on heating pads, check under them as best you can, or get rid of them entirely, replacing with a people-type heating pad or other free-standing heating pad or tape.
  • 6. Disconnect all light fixtures and wipe them down with a damp cloth.
  • 7. Lay the pesticide strip or collar on the foil and place it inside the enclosure. Squeeze the strip or collar out of the foil envelope onto the foil, leaving a bit still inside the envelope so that you can slide it back in when done.
  • 8. Close the tank and seal it up as air tight as possible. Cover large screened areas or ventilation holes with paper, taped in place. Tape over the seams and any gaps between the doors and tank. You want to keep as much of the pesticide fumes inside the tank as possible. Leave in place for three hours, longer for large enclosures.
  • 9. When the time is up, unseal the tank, disposing of all the paper and tape into a plastic bag for immediate disposal into the trash. Push the strip or collar back into the foil envelope, place it in a zip lock-type bag, then store it in a safe place. Leave the tank open and air out for several hours. If possible, open a window in the room and turn on a fan to help air out the fumes.
  • 10. Put in new substrate and any new furnishings. Simple substrates, such as paper towels, are best used for the next couple of weeks. This will enable you to easily see if additional mites have hatched or migrated to the tank. Replace the water bowl, hide box, etc., into the tank.
  • 11. Before placing the snakes back into the tank, wipe them down with a clean towel. Dab mineral oil on each eye using a cotton-tipped swab. This will suffocate the mites that have burrowed into the pits near the eyes or in between the spectacle and surrounding skin.
  • 12. Watch the snakes and check the tank carefully for the next month (average 2-6 weeks). If there is any reappearance of the mites or traces of mites (such as their ashy feces), repeat the above procedure. If you see no reappearance, you may wish to repeat the procedure in 6 weeks just to make sure that you have caught all the eggs, especially in a wooden tank. Mites have several different morphs, feeding and non-feeding, and their metamorphosis from one stage to the next is dependent upon, among other things, ambient temperatures.


Povidone-Iodine Method

  • 1. Place the lizard in a warmish bath of diluted Povidone-iodine: add enough Povidone-iodine to water (shoulder-deep to the lizard) to make it the colour of medium tea. If the lizard is a small one, or a species that does not regularly swim, keep the lizard in a dry, warm area until the tank has been treated.
  • 2. Follow steps 2-10, above.
  • 3. While the tank is being fumigated, remove the soaking lizards from the tub or holding area. Saturate a clean soft cloth in undiluted Povidone-iodine. Use a cotton-tipped swab to apply the Povidone-iodine around the eyes and nose. Do not put oil in their eyes.

          Let the lizard soak again in a fresh Povidone-iodine dilute solution, or keep in a warm place until the tank is done. The Povidone-iodine soak soothes and treats the mite bites. This bath should be repeated at least every couple of days while the bites heal. Non-soaking lizards should have undiluted Povidone-iodine applied by cotton-tipped swab to crusty areas after their wipe-down and daily for several days.

  • 4. See step 12 above.


      Another way to eradicate mites requires the use of a prescription medication, ivermectin which may be obtained without a prescription in the bovine or equine section of feed stores (Abrahams, 1992). Mix .5cc (5mg) of injectable ivermectin (10mg/cc) per quart of water. Shake or stir vigorously and use immediately Follow steps 1-6 for snakes above. Instead of using the pest strip or collar, soak a cloth in the ivermectin-water solution, or pour the solution into a spray bottle. Thoroughly wipe down or spray the entire inside of the tank, wiping down the unplugged the heating pads and light fixtures. While the ivermectin solution is drying in the enclosure, soak a clean cloth in the solution and wipe down the snakes and lizards. Use a cotton-tipped swab to apply the solution around their eyes, ears and nostrils, being extremely careful to not get any of the solution in their eyes or nostrils; finish the snakes by dabbing their eyes with mineral oil. Put new substrate and the furnishings into the tank and replace the reptile. Monitor carefully for the reappearance of mites, repeating as necessary.

      Please note that ivermectin poses a potential danger to any animal, but most especially to severely debilitated reptiles, particularly when used systemically (administered orally or by injection) on such reptiles. Take extreme care when using it topically.

Working with pesticides--internal and external products alike--

      Working with pesticides--internal and external products alike--always involves some risk.

     An animal may be oversensitive to a product or to a particular component in a product. In a group of animals being treated, one may suffer while the others remain unaffected. This could be due to an extreme sensitivity or an unknown underlying physiological condition.

      Many people have for years used pest strips inside their reptile enclosures with no apparent ill effect. It is best, however, to never leave a pest strip in an enclosure with an animal, nor even open in the same room with an animal.

      Poikilotherms metabolize substances at rates much different from mammals and birds. Do not assume that what is safe for one animal (such as a flea collar for dogs or cats) is safe for your reptile.

      Self-treating animals always carries the potential for harm, even death. If you have any questions about these or other procedures or products, they should be discussed with an experienced reptile veterinarian.

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Water Dragon Books

Green Water Dragons, Sailfin Lizards and Basilisks (General Care and Maintenance of Series) by Philippe De Vosjoli

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      Basic but detailed information about the care, diet, and health of green water dragons, sailfin lizards and basilisks.

Anoles, Basilisks, and Water Dragons Anoles, Basilisks and Water Dragons : A Complete Pet Care Manual (More Complete Pet Owner's Manuals) by Richard D. Bartlett, Patricia P. Bartlett (Contributor)

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     Discussion of the general care of many species of anole, basilisks and water dragons. Excellent information regarding enclosures, cage building, and insect care and breeding.

Eat this Bug Eat This Bug : A Guide to Invertebrate Live Foods for Reptiles and Amphibians by Lynn Davis

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      This book is a guide for owners of reptiles and amphibians who feed insects and other live foods to their pets. Advice is offered for selecting , ordering and raising your own supply of live invertebrate foods. More than a dozen species of live foods are discussed. The book includes instructions on keeping cultures of insects, and recipes & diets for insects.

Last updated
April, 10, 2012

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