Unique or exotic pets

Live animals and animal products from overseas could introduce some of the world’s most damaging pests and diseases into Australia. This could devastate our unique environment.

While it’s common to keep dogs and cats as pets, other unique and interesting animals including reptiles, insects, amphibians and terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates are increasing in popularity and becoming more available.

If you are looking online for a unique or exotic animal from outside Australia, consider whether it is allowed to be imported. Check the Live animals and reproductive material web page or search the Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON) to determine whether the animal you wish to purchase is permitted to be imported into Australia.


Currently only dogs, cats, rabbits, horses and selected species of birds from approved countries may be imported as pets and only when strict conditions are met. No other vertebrate animals are approved for import into Australia as pets. Reptiles are not permitted to be imported as pets but may be imported under strict conditions for zoological purposes. This may include, but is not limited to:

  • turtles
  • tortoises
  • snakes
  • lizards.

Live fish may only be imported for the aquarium (ornamental) trade or for laboratory research. Pet fish are not permitted to be imported into Australia. Approved species of fertile fish eggs may only be imported into Australia for laboratory research.

Frogs and other amphibians can only be imported for laboratory or zoological purposes.


The importation of insects and other terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates as pets is not permitted.

This includes, but is not limited to:

  • beetles
  • cockroaches
  • butterflies
  • crickets
  • stick insects
  • spiders
  • scorpions
  • snails
  • worms
  • crabs
  • brine shrimp, including brine shrimp eggs (artemia cysts)
  • live coral
  • starfish.

Permitted species of invertebrate can only be imported into approved premises in Australia for research or zoological purposes.

If you are considering purchasing an insect farm (e.g. for butterflies or ants) to house local varieties, make sure that it does not contain insects, eggs, food or plant material as these will be confiscated on arrival in Australia. Likewise, hatching kits for novelty aquarium pets (brine shrimp such as Sea Monkeys and Aqua Dragons) and insects (such as butterflies and praying mantises) containing eggs will be confiscated.

Pet food and medicines

Any food or medicine (such as treats, supplements, dried insects, plankton and meat and plant based products) to be given to animals requires an import permit issued by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment before the products are imported.

Live food for animals (such as insects or worms) are not permitted to be imported into Australia. 

Wildlife trade

The illegal import of wildlife is cruel and smuggled animals suffer stress, dehydration or starvation and many die during transit. Refer to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment for more information.

Last reviewed: 4 February 2020
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