Reptile keeping for beginners
"Do your research," is Ben's biggest piece of advice to any budding reptile keeper. His second tip is not to buy the reptile before the equipment.
Often flustered new owners will call Swell saying, I've just bought a Bearded dragon or Royal python and have nowhere to put it can you help...
The beardies live in VivExotic Viva Vivariums, the boa in an X-Tend modular setup, the Yemens in a ReptiBreeze and the turtles in an Exo Terra turtle terrarium. Technically the tortoise has a tortoise table but, Ben says, he just has the run of the house.
His menagerie isn't limited to herps though, as Ben reels off an impressive collection of birds and beasts. "Two love birds, two budgies, four rabbits, four ducks, two dogs, two cats, two fishtanks and a hamster named Ted."
His long-suffering girlfriend "leaves me to it."
Ben's first reptile was a black rat snake (pictured) which he rescued while working for the RSPCA. This was enough to get him hooked on herps and then around 17 years ago he moved onto lizards, adding a leopard gecko to his collection along with corn snakes and royal pythons.
The only reptile he wishes to add to his collection is a caiman - we're not sure if he's joking and suspect not...
For beginners, the three reptiles Ben would recommend are corn snakes, leopard geckos and in third place bearded dragons. Although beardies are popular for newbies, the need for UV makes them more demanding than leos.
According to Ben, beardies and chameleons are leading the pack as the UK's most popular reptiles, but he reckons this could change when Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michaelangelo return to our screens.
"When animals feature on the telly this often leads to a lot of neglect and unwanted pets."
And this is the part of the job that Ben enjoys the most, teaching members of the public how to keep their reptiles healthy and happy.