Reptile Convention Attracts Thousands


Lizards, geckos and spiders, oh my!

ReptiCon Reptile Shows tours year-round nationwide, including in several Georgia cities. ReptiCon was in Lawrenceville, at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, on April 15 and 16. This event allows reptile lovers to learn about and collect creatures from certified breeders. You cannot buy these animals at a traditional pet store. For non-enthusiasts, the convention is an opportunity to learn what this niche community is all about.

The convention features a variety of purchasable creatures, from blue iguanas to Asian water monitors. Each table is hosted by a different company offering handmade products in addition to the pets they sell. Alex Menke, for instance, crafts themed keychains for his company FrogDaddy, while Aaron Carlson of Aaron’s Reptiles makes 3-D printed toys and desk ornaments.

Father and son duo Ron and Eric Walters are the creators of Appalachian Axolotls, a Murphy, North Carolina-based company specializing in the sale of amphibians called axolotls, as well as care products, food and merchandise. 

Eric Walters started Appalachian Axolotls in 2018. His father Ron soon became involved and they began distributing quality axolotls and care products after becoming licensed pet dealers. “We don’t have a brick-and-mortar location yet,” says Ron Walters, “but we ship to anywhere in the contiguous U.S.”

Of axolotls, Ron Walters says, “They are even lower maintenance than fish, in my opinion.” He says that while he typically loses at least one koi fish per year, he has never killed an axolotl, after having owned hundreds.

According to Eric Walters, the once-niche online community of axolotl lovers has grown significantly through social media, as many people find these amphibians particularly adorable. This recent surge in interest has both helped and harmed the Walters, who are veterans of the axolotl business. “We don’t sell to people who just come up to our table and want to buy because [our axolotls] are cute, without having any way to properly care for them,” says Eric Walters. Ron Walters says the axolotl community is very active online, and Appalachian Axolotls is a go-to source for those looking to get their start as pet owners.

Ron Walters says ReptiCon serves as a one-stop-shop for people to start their journey of animal companionship since the convention features aisles of terrariums and other products required to care for reptilian or amphibious pets.

“People usually freak out seeing [axolotls] for the first time, but then they get obsessed and want to know how they can own one,” says Ron Walters. He says that he had reservations about starting the business at first, but through supporting his son became passionate about helping others care for these unique, manageable pets. “I’ve had up to ten [axolotls] on my kitchen table at once,” says Ron Walters, laughing.

The Walters say they have come to ReptiCon every year since starting Appalachian Axolotls, as it’s a great way to showcase their business and network with other like-minded people. “It’s a small world,” says Eric Walters. “But there are at least three other [axolotl dealers] represented here, who we are friends with.” Ron Walters says ReptiCon puts into perspective the scope of the community.

ReptiCon will return to the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds on July 15 and 16, but for those who cannot wait to start their reptile ownership journey, they will be in Marietta on April 29 and 30.