Students Showcase Unique Pets

Tanya Marsh

Tanya Marsh

If you’ve had a pet, you know how easy it is to get attached to Fido. But as these SDSU students demonstrate, there’s more to pet life than cats and dogs.

Freshman biology major Jason Scott throws pet stereotypes out the window with the Reverend, his ball python, and Fluffy, his Chilean rose-haired tarantula.

The python is only 7 months old and 22 inches long, but already can hold his own as a violent animal. Although he tried to eat the photographer, he usually is fed mice.

Scott gets the frozen mice as well as Fluffy’s crickets from Safari Land pet store in Sioux Falls.

Despite the inconvenience of having to travel to buy food for his pets, Scott said he chose his animals for their low maintenance requirements.

“I got them because they don’t require a lot of attention,” he said. “They don’t get pissed if you don’t hold them for three weeks.”

Since Scott is a non-traditional student, he doesn’t have to worry about having someone else care for his pets while he lives in the dorm. And you dorm-dwellers don’t have to worry about a snake and spider roaming the halls at night.

Senior photojournalism major Mike Gussiaas, however, had to make alternate living arrangements for his iguana during his first two years at SDSU. He left it at home with his mom, and despite initial fears, the two became close.

“He became her pet. She was always talking to him and singing to him.”

Now 7 years old, Gussiaas’ iguana, nicknamed “E,” is 4 feet long.

E enjoys dining upon a large plate of salad, which consists of Romaine lettuce, carrots, leeks, and some fruits. The lizard eats a lot.

“The equivalent would be me eating out of a laundry basket,” Gussiaas said.

E doesn’t require a lot of care beyond feeding, monthly baths, and nail trimming, Gussiaas said, because getting the cage set up right is the hard part.

“It is hard to care for an iguana because you have to have the right temperature and you have to have the humidity at a certain level.”

Once these things are achieved, care is relatively easy.

Initial costs are also the worst part. Although Gussiaas saved by buying second hand, an iguana owners must buy a cage, expensive lights and heaters in addition to the lizard.

The same is true for fish tanks. Sophomore music education major Josh Kula has a 55-gallon saltwater tank, and said it has been an expensive venture.

“I got it second hand so it was pretty cheap, but a new tank would be $300, not including anything.”

On top of that expense are costly lights, protein skimmers, live rock and fish.

“Really the fish are the cheapest part,” Kula said.

His current swimmers include shrimp, snails, a starfish, a damsel, and a clownfish (that’s “Nemo” to the layman). The highest price fish was a $17 shrimp.

Not only is a saltwater tank expensive, it requires a lot of care.

“An ordinary fish tank you can really let go — the fish are usually hardier and don’t get stressed out by pH changes, but with a saltwater tank, all these things are more important.”

To maintain the balance, Kula changes the water every two weeks, adds water to the tank every three days and keeps an eye on the protein skimmer. Of course, he also feeds the fish.

The efforts are worth it, pet owners agree.

“I can watch the fishtank much longer than TV would be interesting, and I get to show it off to friends,” Kula said.

Scott finds Fluffy and the Rev. to be stress relievers. “You get the same benefits that you would from a dog or a cat.”