14 Cheap Pets That Are Easy to Take Care Of

Low-Cost Pets to Own


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Low-Cost Pets to Own

Budget-Friendly Best Friends

Humankind's best friend doesn't come cheap. Owning a dog or cat costs about $500 annually, and owners can expect to pay up to three times that during the first year in food, veterinarian visits, and additional costs. What most people might not realize, however, is that there are plenty of pets that don't require a lot of time or money. From insects to birds, we compiled a list of some of the cheapest low-maintenance pets to help you choose.

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Price: $100
Canaries have been one of the most popular types of pet bird for more than 500 years, thanks both to their ease of care and, among male canaries, their trademark singing. Canaries live for about 8 to 15 years and they're relatively inexpensive compared to other pet birds like parrots. Pet stores will typically sell canaries for about $100 to $150, though breeders will often sell them for cheaper. Excluding the costs of a cage, toys (canaries can get bored), and unforeseen veterinary visits, you can expect to pay about $100 per year for food and miscellaneous supplies.

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Degu by stanhua (CC BY)


Price: $80
Degus, which come from Chile and are a type of rodent similar to a guinea pig, make surprisingly easy-to-care-for pets when socialized from a young age. There's one catch: They do best in pairs because they're extremely social critters. After buying a multi-level cage ($50 to $150) and some other supplies ($100), you can expect to pay between $60 and $120 per year on food for each degu (guinea pig food works fine), depending on its appetite.

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Price: $20
Butterflies are one of the few pets you can order from Amazon right now (in caterpillar form at least). Raising butterflies is fairly easy, though most live butterfly kits only guarantee that several of the five or so caterpillars they send you will reach maturity. The best part about this pet is that most butterfly species don't have a specialized diet: You can simply feed them a mixture of sugar and water. Expect to pay less than $30 to raise and keep your butterflies.

Sea Monkeys
Wikimedia Commons

Sea Monkeys

Price: $12
Marketed as the world's only instant pets, Sea-Monkeys is the brand name for a type of brine shrimp that are sold in novelty kits, usually to children. They make remarkably easy pets: Just pour a packet containing salt, conditioner, and brine shrimp eggs into a tank of water, and wait a few days for the little crustaceans to hatch. After, all you'll need to do is change the water every once and a while and feed them the "growth food" that comes with most kits.

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Venus Fly Trap

Venus' Flytrap

Price: $20
A plant qualifies as a pet if it captures and eats animals, right? Venus' flytraps are unique in that they have a special mechanism that's able to close rapidly on insects unlucky enough to land on their lobes. The plants aren't too difficult to raise, requiring consistent sunlight and a special type of soil (about $5 for a gallon), and are inexpensive when purchased young.

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Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis

The praying mantis is great for people who don't want a fuzzy, emotional connection with their pet. Rest assured, this insect, whose females kill and eat males after sex, won't provide that. Still, praying mantises are cool to look at and it's fun to watch them feed. Speaking of which, food is the only catch with this strange pet: Typically, praying mantises eat live insects, which can cost about $100 per year.

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Price: $20
With their two pincers and a venomous stinger, it doesn't take an ethologist to see that scorpions are a look-but-don't-touch kind of pet. They're easy to care for and only need a terrarium and a heating pad, totaling about $50. The one catch? Like praying mantises, scorpions eat live insects, so plan on spending about $75 per year on crickets.



Price: $10
Choosing a rat as a pet might seem like a gamble. But many rat owners say that the furry little rodents are actually cuddly if they're handled often from a young age. Rats are also low-maintenance. All you'll need to buy is a 20-gallon aquarium or a similarly sized wire cage ($30+), some bedding and toys, and food, which will cost you about $40 per year.

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Guinea Pig

Guinea Pig

Price: $30
Guinea pigs are arguably the cutest pets within the rodent family, and they make great little companions for pre-teens or younger children who can handle them gently. Despite their name, guinea pigs belong to the rodent family — though they're known to squeak and squeal like real pigs when expressing emotions. Guinea pigs aren't the cheapest pet to own on our list — food, bedding, and hay can cost up to $30 per month — but their friendly and easy nature makes them a classic "beginner" pet. If cared for properly, guinea pigs can live to be 8 years old.

Nick's ant farm
Nick's ant farm by Jeffrey Zeldman (CC BY-NC-ND)


Price: $15
Ants aren't smart, cuddly, or particularly cute. But they're remarkably cheap and easy to maintain, and watching them tunnel in their ant farms can be fascinating – especially if you buy a modern ant farm like those offered by the ant supplier Antworks, which start at about $20 and are made from a clear gel that doubles as food.

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Betta Fish

Betta Fish

Price: $5
Betta fish might be gorgeous, but they're decidedly not friendly. They're also known as Siamese fighting fish because bettas (especially the males) are extremely aggressive and are prone to attacking any other kind of small fish that's kept in the same tank. Still, these vibrantly colored fish make for beautiful, low-maintenance pets when kept in isolation. A betta fish will do fine in a 5-gallon tank ($20), and you can expect to pay as little as $20 for food each year.

Goldfish | $3 to $15


Price: $3-$15
Goldfish can live for more than 20 years, have a memory span of at least three months, and can be taught to perform tricks. Their vision is surprisingly sharp and allows them to distinguish between people — your fish will eventually learn who you are, so don't be surprised if a day comes when it swims over to ask for food when you're nearby. These animals cost a few dollars for the standard variety (rarer breeds can run you up to several hundred dollars). Daily food fees are minimal, but fish need a proper tank and setup costs about $100. The traditional goldfish fishbowl doesn't provide enough oxygen and has been banned in several countries. Opt for a larger tank, ideally with a filtration system.

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Leopard Geckos
Daniel Castillo/istockphoto

Leopard Geckos

Price: $20-$70
Leopard geckos make a great pet for reptile enthusiasts. They are enchanting, cheap, and low maintenance. The small, spotted creatures may be shy at first, but after some love and care they'll sweeten up to your touch, just like other pets. Leopard geckos are nocturnal — meaning they're less active during the day — and unlike other reptiles, don't require UV light bulbs, but do need an incandescent bulb and possibly a heat pad, depending on temperatures in your home or apartment. These animals also require a moist hideout to aid their shedding, a water bowl, and a second hideout for when they're feeling self-conscious. A beginning terrarium setup generally costs between $100 and $200. Geckos enjoy eating live crickets and worms, and weekly food expenses run from $3 to $7, depending on the size of your gecko.

Hermit Crabs | Less Than $10

Hermit Crabs

Price: Less than $10
Misleading name aside, hermit crabs actually enjoy company and can be bought in pairs. The animals themselves are inexpensive, and it's fun — for children and adults alike — to buy young ones and watch as they grow. Once they've outgrown one shell you'll need to buy their next, larger shell — a small cost. Hermit crabs sometimes move between shells at night so buy several shells and let them choose their daily outfit. (Painted shells are controversial — there's a risk of using a toxic material that will hurt the crab.) And note that pet hermit crabs need water to drink, bathe, and replenish their shell water. You should budget between $50 and $150 for a tank and decorations. Being small creatures, crabs have low day-to-day food costs.

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