Meet the Exo Terra Experts

Thomas Merckx

Thomas Merckx, a young and dynamic agricultural engineer, infused the Exo Terra team with fresh energy when he joined in late 2011. As a product coordinator, he plays an instrumental role in ensuring that the company’s numerous exciting and innovative projects swiftly make the transition from concepts to tangible products. Yet, Thomas’s value extends far beyond his technical prowess. His background, marked by a profound passion for exotic animals, particularly reptiles and amphibians, enriches the team’s collective experience and drive.

The spark for this passion was kindled in Thomas’s family, which harbored an interest in exotic animals, mainly turtles and tortoises. Growing up in such an environment, it was only natural for him to develop a similar fascination. His childhood explorations included keeping various invertebrate and vertebrate exotic animals, laying the foundation for his future pursuits. A series of internships in zoos, animal rescue centers, and breeding facilities further honed his interest, leading him to specialize in reptiles and amphibians, with over 30 years of hands-on experience. Among his many interests, Thomas holds a particular fascination for frogs, especially poison dart frogs, which he considers the jewels of the animal kingdom.

Thomas’s expertise is not confined to captivity; his passion has taken him to some of the world’s most exotic locales. A significant chapter in his life unfolded in South America, where he lived and worked, diving into studying the region’s exquisite fauna. His focus on poison dart frogs led him to explore and research these stunning creatures in their native habitat, the rainforests, adding layers of understanding to their behavior, physiology, and ecological role.

During his time in South America, Thomas was presented with an extraordinary opportunity to contribute to the conservation of endangered species. He worked at the Galapagos Tortoise Breeding Centre on Isla Isabela, the largest island of the famed Galapagos archipelago. There, he played a vital part in preserving and breeding these iconic creatures, contributing to the global effort to protect our planet’s biological diversity.

Thomas’s journey, marked by a blend of professional acumen and a relentless passion for the exotic, aligns perfectly with the ethos and vision of Exo Terra. His joining the team has not only accelerated the company’s product development efforts but also brought a vibrant perspective that resonates with the organization’s technical and natural aspects.

As Exo Terra continues to push the boundaries of innovation, Thomas stands as a symbol of the synergy between human creativity and respect for the natural world. This synergy fuels the very core of Exo Terra’s mission.

“Thomas’s expertise is not confined to captivity; his passion has taken him to some of the world’s most exotic locales. A significant chapter in his life unfolded in South America, where he lived and worked, diving into studying the region’s exquisite fauna.”

Thomas Merckx

Thomas with the Indri in Andasibe Reserve, during one of his expeditions to Madagascar.

Articles

Agalychnis callidryas

Agalychnis callidryas

Red-Eyed Tree Frogs are native to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and even occur in some isolated populations in Colombia. They primarily prefer tropical rainforests and humid lowland forests but can sometimes be found in humid forests on premontane slopes up to 1250 m above sea level.

The Red-Eyed Tree Frog's common name refers directly to the beautiful, big red eyes that these frogs show at night. Red-Eyed Tree Frogs are sometimes referred to as Red-Eyed Leaf Frogs as well because of their arboreal lifestyle, sleeping on the back of the leaves in the trees and shrubs that they live in.

Red-Eyed Tree Frogs are stunning, long-lived and relatively “easy-to-care-for” amphibians. Their engaging personalities, their huge bright red eyes, bright green dorsal color with blue striped sides, and their bright orange webbed feet, make them one of the most stunning display animals for both the beginning reptile enthusiast as well as for the advanced hobbyist.

Red-Eyed Tree Frogs are a fairly social species and are best enjoyed when kept in small groups of 4 to 8 animals. The interaction between the animals in these small groups increases the viewing pleasure but also stimulates their mating behavior.

Red-Eyed Tree Frogs have been captive bred in the USA and Europe for more than 30 years. They are available in various local color variations and even an "albino type" morph with yellowish dorsal coloration and silver eyes called "lutino" is sometimes offered.

Anolis carolinensis

Anolis carolinensis

Green Anoles are native to the Southeastern United States, but have also been introduced to Hawaii, Ogasawara Islands of Japan, Cuba, the Bahamas, and Guam. Green Anoles are diurnal, primarily arboreal, iguanid lizards of the Genus Dactyloidae. Green Anoles mostly inhabit trees and shrubs in tropical & subtropical evergreen forests, but can just as well be found in open grassland with only a few trees, and even in rural and urban areas.

With their changing base color from brown to vivid green, their reddish-pink colored dewlap and their interesting displaying behaviour, these terrarium inhabitants rank among the most popular and easiest to keep beginner reptiles.

Green Anoles are a fairly social species and are best enjoyed when kept in small groups of 1 male with 3 or more females. The interaction between the animals in these small groups increases the viewing pleasure but also stimulates their mating behavior.

Green Anoles have been captive bred in the USA and Europe for more than 30 years. Green Anoles are available as captive bred specimen as well as wild-caught specimen using sustainable ranching and size-selective harvesting.

Bigodi Swamps

Bigodi Swamps

In the heart of Uganda, the Bigodi swamps stand not just as a geographical landmark but as a beacon of life's astounding diversity and tenacity. It is a testament to the delicate balance of ecosystems – a living, breathing ode to the wonders of our natural world.

Bioactive

Bioactive

In the terrarium hobby, the bioactive approach focuses on creating a self-sustaining and ecologically balanced environment where animals, plants, microorganisms and substrates interact harmoniously to support one another's needs. The goal is to replicate natural ecological processes and interactions, resulting in a more balanced and stable environment. 

Bombina orientalis

Bombina orientalis

Fire-Bellied Toads are endemic to Northeastern China, Korea, and the Khabarovsk and Primorye regions in Russia. Despite their common name Fire-Bellied “Toad”, these cute amphibians are actually frogs. As the name already indicates, their bellies are brightly colored in orange, yellow or red. These strikingly colored bellies are actually a warning sign (called aposematic coloration) to inform predators that they are distasteful and should not be eaten.

Fire-Bellied Toads are hardy, long-lived and “easy-to-care-for”. Their semi-aquatic lifestyle, their exposure of belly colors as they float at the water surface, and their somewhat clumsy “amusing” motions make them appealing display animals for both the beginning reptile enthusiast as well as for the advanced hobbyist.

Fire-Bellied Toads are a fairly social species and are best enjoyed when kept in small groups of 4 to 8 animals. The interaction between the animals in these small groups increases the viewing pleasure but also stimulates their natural- and mating behavior.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Deep within the heart of Bwindi's verdant labyrinth, amidst layers of ancient green, the chameleons—nature's unparalleled artisans—paint dynamic portraits of adaptation and intrigue. Trioceros johnstonii, with its colossal horns and intricate color patterns, stands as a testament to nature's boundless creativity.

Ceratophrys ornata

Ceratophrys ornata

Ornate Horned Frogs are hardy, long-lived, and “easy-to-care-for” amphibians. These large, terrestrial, burrowing frogs are native to South America and are characterized by more or less developed fleshy horns projection above the eyes.

The Ornate Horned Frog is only one of eight species of Horned Frogs:
Ornate Horned Frog (Ceratophrys ornata)
Cranwell’s Horned Frog (Ceratophrys cranwelli)
Suriname Horned Frog (Ceratophrys cornuta)
Brazilian Horned Frog (Ceratophrys aurita)
Caatinga Horned Frog (Ceratophrys joazeirensis)
Venezuelan Horned Frog (Ceratophrys calcarata)
Pacific Horned Frog (Ceratophrys stolzmanni)
Ecuadorian Horned Frog (Ceratophrys testudo)

The Ornate Horned Frog is one of the most commonly kept and bred Ceratophrys species. Horned Frogs are colorful and rather easy to breed which makes these fun frogs an ideal species for both the beginning amphibian enthusiast as well as for the advanced hobbyist. Captive-bred youngsters are readily available and come in a variety of colors & patterns. Next to the more common color morphs like Pattern-less Green, Strawberry, Sunburst, Albino or Chocolate, there are even hybrid morphs available called Fantasy Frogs.

Horned Frogs are commonly called Pac Man Frogs because their rounded shape and huge mouth resemble the animated character in the video game. Just like in the Pac Man game, the Horned Frogs devour everything that crosses their path.

Chamaeleo calyptratus

Chamaeleo calyptratus

Veiled Chameleons or Yemen Chameleons are native to Yemen and Saudi Arabia. There are also introduced populations in Hawaii (thought to be eradicated but still persisting), California and SE and SW Florida, USA. They primarily prefer montane subtropical to tropical vegetation in the deep valleys (called wadis), in the Hijaz Mountains in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Since Yemen is suffering for over a decade of war and is not an easy country to travel to, or to export animals from, it is amazing how this species was established so well in the hobby. One of the first to study this species in nature, as well as establish the captive husbandry guidelines, was the world-renowned herpetologist Petr Necas. He bred tens of thousands of Veiled Chameleons and introduced these to the hobbyists in Europe and the USA. In the meantime, this species has become not only the most readily available chameleon, but also one of the more popular reptile species in general. Due to selective breeding, there are "bloodline" variations of the Veiled Chameleon available that show more yellow/orange or bluer and there's even a partially leucistic color morph available (called translucent in the USA).

Correlophus ciliatus

Correlophus ciliatus

Crested Geckos (Correlophus ciliatus) are native to the islands of New Caledonia in the southern Pacific Ocean. These Crested Geckos, or Eyelash geckos, get their common names from the distinctive rows of spikes that run over their eyes and down the sides of their heads.

Thought to be extinct for many years, they were rediscovered in 1994, and several animals were brought to Europe and the United States. Soon thereafter, they proved to be very prolific in terrarium. Due to their beauty, easy manageable size, calm temperament, and ease of care in terrarium, these geckos have become one of the most popular reptiles kept as pets.

“One of the great accomplishments of herpetoculturists,” says Philippe de Vosjoli, “was to establish the New Caledonian Crested Gecko in captivity. Twenty years ago, this species was known by hobbyists only in the form of photographs of preserved museum specimens.”

Cruziohyla sylviae

Cruziohyla sylviae

Sylvia's Tree Frogs are native to Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. They prefer primary tropical rainforests located at low to mid elevations, up to 750m above sea level. The type locality of the Sylvia's Tree Frog is Guayacán in the province of Limón, Costa Rica.

The Sylvia's Tree Frog's common name refers to the 3-year-old granddaughter of the Herpetologist Andrew Gray, who described the species in 2018.

Sylvia's Tree Frogs are stunning, long-lived and relatively “easy-to-care-for” amphibians. Their engaging personalities, bright green dorsal color, their orange with black tiger striped flanks, and their bright orange webbed feet and inner thighs, make them one of the most stunning display animals for both the beginning reptile enthusiast as well as for the advanced hobbyist.

Sylvia's Tree Frogs live an arboreal lifestyle, sleeping on the back of the leaves in the trees and shrubs that they live in.

Sylvia's Tree Frogs are a fairly social species and are best enjoyed when kept in small groups of 4 to 8 animals. The interaction between the animals in these small groups increases the viewing pleasure but also stimulates their mating behavior.

Sylvia's Tree Frogs have been captive bred in the USA and Europe for several years now, but were mostly mistakenly named Cruziohyla calcarifer, until Andrew Gray described the species as Cruziohyla sylviae.

Dendrobates auratus from Taboga Island, Panama - by J.A. Hernandez

Dendrobates auratus

The green-and-black poison dart frog, or Dendrobates auratus, is a captivating amphibian native to southeastern Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and northwestern Colombia. Recognizable for its long lifespan, the species is also notable for being relatively easy to care for, making it an appealing choice for hobbyists and researchers alike.

Its vivid mint-green base coloration punctuated with black splotches sets it apart visually. However, this species displays a fascinating trait known as color polymorphism. Individuals can exhibit varying shades, with base colors ranging from green to blue, yellow, and even white. The darker splotches, a characteristic signature of the species, vary from bronze to black.

Just like other poison dart frogs, their bright colors serve a crucial evolutionary purpose. They exhibit aposematic coloration, wherein the vibrant hues deter potential predators by signaling the frog's toxic nature, discouraging them from considering the frog as prey.

Primarily terrestrial, green-and-black poison dart frogs are bottom dwellers, spending most of their time navigating through the leaf litter blanketing the forest floor. However, they frequently venture upwards, climbing vines and trees in their tropical habitats.

These frogs are attractive display animals for beginner and advanced amphibian enthusiasts. Their stunning coloration, coupled with their relative ease of care, make them popular choices for terrarium inhabitants. They are best kept as pairs or in groups with most males, as females may exhibit aggressive behavior towards each other when vying for a specific male's attention.

Initially, these creatures may exhibit shy behavior. However, when housed in a well-planted terrarium offering plenty of hiding spots, they quickly become more active, adding a dynamic element to their display. With their intriguing behaviors, rich color variation, and their adaptability, Dendrobates auratus offer a unique glimpse into the vibrant world of amphibians.

Dendrobates leucomelas

Dendrobates leucomelas

Yellow-banded poison dart frogs are endemic to the western Guiana region and the northeastern Amazon basin of South America: southeastern Venezuela and small, adjacent parts of Colombia, Guyana and northern Brazil. They are long-lived, intriguing and “easy-to-care-for”. Because of their typical color combination consisting of a yellow to orange base color with contrasting black splotches and bands, they are also sometimes referred to as "Bumblebee dart frogs".

Like other poison dart frogs, their bright colours are actually a warning sign (called aposematic coloration) to inform predators that they are poisonous and should not be eaten.

Yellow-banded poison dart frogs live a mainly terrestrial lifestyle: they are bottom dwellers that spend most of their time on and in between the leaf litter that covers the forest floor. They do, however, also frequently climb vines and trees.

Their amazing colours and the fact that they are easy to care for make them appealing display animals for both the beginning amphibian enthusiast as well as for the advanced hobbyist. Yellow-banded poison dart frogs are best kept as pairs or groups consisting of a majority of males: females might express dominant and aggressive behaviour towards other females when there is a conflict of interest in a specific male.

Dendrobates tinctorius

Dendrobates tinctorius

Dyeing poison dart frogs are endemic to the eastern part of the Guiana Shield: French Guiana, southeastern Guyana, southwestern Suriname, and a relatively small adjacent part of northern Brazil.

The species is known for its extensive colour and pattern polymorphism, both within and among populations. The frog's pattern is made up of a black base color and a varying combination of bands, splotches and dots in different shades of blue, yellow, white, and even orange. Like other poison dart frogs, their bright colours are actually a warning sign to inform predators that they are poisonous and should not be eaten (aposematic coloration).

Dyeing poison dart frogs live a terrestrial lifestyle: they are bottom dwellers that spend most of their time on and in between the leaf litter that covers the forest floor. They do, however, also frequently climb vines and trees.

Their amazing colours, curious nature, and the fact that they are easy to care for makes them appealing display animals for both the beginning amphibian enthusiast as well as for the advanced hobbyist. Dyeing poison dart frogs are best kept as pairs or trios consisting of two males and one female: females might express dominant and aggressive behaviour towards other females when there is a conflict of interest in a specific male.

Discovery of a new Gecko

Discovery of a new Gecko

Madagascar, the land of mystique and wonder, has always been revered for its unparalleled biodiversity. Every step on this island is a testament to nature's grandeur. And there, in the midst of the towering bamboo of Ampisindava, was our stage, where nature's drama would unfold.

Dragon Grub, not your average reptile food!

Dragon Grub, not your average reptile food!

Insects make up a big portion of the daily food intake of Bearded Dragons and other insect-eating reptiles. The Dragon Grub formula from Exo Terra is an enticing insect-based reptile food, specifically formulated for insectivorous reptiles and named with Bearded Dragons especially in mind. It features Black Soldier Fly larvae that are not only tasty to your reptiles; but are high in protein and very nutrient rich, with an ideal calcium to phosphorus ratio! This diet also contains natural plant and fruit ingredients enriched with vitamins, minerals and other trace nutrients to ensure a happy, healthy reptile!

Eublepharis macularius

Eublepharis macularius

Leopard Geckos are native to Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the North-Western part of India. The Leopard Gecko’s scientific name refers to the fact that these geckos have eyelids, whereas their common name is based on their spotted “leopard-like” color pattern. Young Leopard Geckos show a more banded pattern which over time changes towards a spotted pattern when they become adults.

It is a docile and “easy-to-care” for species that has been captive bred in the USA and Europe for more than 40 years. Their cute smiley faces, their ability to clean their eyes with their tongue and their somewhat clumsy, tail-wiggling movements make them appealing display animals for both the beginning reptile enthusiast as well as for the advanced hobbyist.

Leopard Geckos are a fairly social species and are best enjoyed when kept in small groups of 1 male with up to 5 females. The interaction between the animals in small groups increases the viewing pleasure but also stimulates their natural- and mating behavior.

Leopard Gecko youngsters are readily available and come in a variety of colors & patterns. The list of designer morphs available is extensive and still growing. Where it started with High Yellow, Albino, Striped, Hypo and Hyper, there's now many cool morphs available with appealing names like Godzilla Super Giant, Banana Blizzard, Blazing Blizzard, Enigma, Tangerine, Raptor, Diablo Blanco and many more.

Furcifer pardalis

Furcifer pardalis

Panther Chameleons are native to Madagascar, but have also been introduced to Réunion Island somewhere between 1750 and 1836. They were first brought to Réunion by sailors who left them at the landing port of the island during that era, which was in the vicinity of Saint Paul. The Panther Chameleons thrived and over time, they spread to various parts of the Island. There have also been sightings of Furcifer pardalis on Mauritius Island, but these populations are expected to have been introduced quite recently.

They primarily prefer warm and humid lowland coastal forests, rainforest canopies, secondary forests, plantations and hotel or home gardens and planted fences.

Ever since the Panther Chameleon was imported in Europe and the USA, starting around 1980, herpetologists and reptile breeders have worked on enhancing the captive husbandry guidelines continuously. For instance, the use of UVB lighting was a game changer and after a decade or two, the Panther Chameleon became well-established in the hobby.

Due to the hardiness, the gentle character and the striking colors, the Panther Chameleon, rapidly became a popular terrarium animal. The Panther Chameleon is currently available, as captive bred animals, in many geographic color morphs.

There's currently a wide array of captive bred, geographic color forms of the Panther Chameleon available from breeders as well as in stores and on reptile shows. There are also color morphs available that have been selectively bred to increase a certain color or color combination by mixing various natural, geographic color forms. Panther Chameleons have now been captive bred in Europe and the USA for more than 30 years.

Grammostola rosea

Grammostola rosea

The docile temperament of the Chilean Rose Tarantula (Grammostola rosea), combined with its stunning visual appeal, and easy-to-care-for nature, makes it a favorite among those new to tarantula keeping.

Heating

Heating

Reptiles and amphibians are ectothermic or cold-blooded animals. Unlike endothermic animals such as mammals and birds, these animals cannot generate their own body heat internally. Instead, they rely on external heat sources to regulate their...

How to setup a bioactive terrarium

How to set up a bioactive terrarium

Setting up a bioactive terrarium can be a rewarding and sustainable way to keep certain types of reptiles, amphibians or invertebrates. The concept of a bioactive terrarium is to create a self-sustaining ecosystem where the animals live alongside various microorganisms that help maintain a natural balance. 

Hyla cinerea (Dryophytes cinereus)

Hyla cinerea (Dryophytes cinereus)

American Green Tree Frogs are native to the Southeastern United States roughly from Eastern Virginia to Florida in the East and from Central Texas all the way to the West. There's also records of introduced populations in Puerto Rico and even some invasive American Green Tree Frogs have been noticed in Hawaii.

They can be primarily found around lakes, ponds, swamps, streams and in wetlands. They prefer habitats with floating vegetation, reeds & grasses, and shrubs with branches overgrowing the riparian zone. American Green Tree Frogs easily adapt to various habitats and can be found in urban environments, like garden ponds in private gardens, hotel gardens and industrial complexes.

American Green Tree Frogs are hardy, long-lived and “easy-to-care-for” amphibians. Their engaging personalities, their bright yellow-green back and cream-white lateral stripe running from just under their big golden eyes all the way to their groin, make them appealing display animals for both the beginning reptile enthusiast as well as for the advanced hobbyist.

American Green Tree Frogs are a fairly social species and are best enjoyed when kept in small groups of 4 to 8 animals. The interaction between the animals in these small groups increases the viewing pleasure but also stimulates their mating behavior.

The American Green Tree Frog has been successfully bred in Europe and the USA for decades. American Green Tree Frogs are available as wild-caught specimen as well as captive-bred. We do recommend starting with captive-bred specimen, so you know their age and can rest assured that the youngsters are healthy.

Stay up on all things exo terra.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.