Record keeping is important for any reptile hobbyist or professional. I personally have tried many different methods over the years. Some of those methods include purchased software that was not always cheap. As time has gone on, and the tools have improved, there have been some very cool additions to the record keeping arsenal. The good ole index card and pen method is still as viable as it was. That said, with these newer tools you can quickly access the data, print reports, search data, view on a mobile device, etc. It adds a whole new dimension to record keeping and ease of doing said activity. At the same time, too much of a good thing becomes cumbersome(as I have learned). Sometimes we over do it.
In this article I will describe a system that you can build very easily, at no cost(minus some printer ink and paper). It will help you record data as good as any of the paid QR Code systems out there for reptiles. I did not invent this, I am simply describing how I have used it(hopefully in a clear manner) so others can use it as well. I do want to point out there is nothing wrong with most of the paid services and if you have the cash or lack the time, they are not necessarily a bad option. Additionally, as I have inferred prior, you can tend to over do it when you have so many options at your disposal. I quickly learned after a few months of using this system that I really didn’t need to record certain data points regularly if at all.
NOTE: I have had many people contact me about this method asking me why I don’t just use Reptiscan, HerperPro, or one of the other software packages out there. A few reasons come to mind. First, I have actually purchased reptile husbandry or tracking software’s over the years. After spending hard earned money, they ended up fading away in support and updates over time. This is not to say that this same thing will happen with any of the newer options, but I personally am careful about putting my data, and also time into, another’s hands. The reality is though I am of course putting my data in Googles hands.. but at least its free and I export regularly filing paper records as well.
Another bit of info I feel obliged to share: If you haven’t worked with google docs or spreadsheets in general there will be a learning curve. The paid options out there do make this easier for you, taking away the back-end setup. Although, if you want to save some money and have full customization then this is a great option. It takes a little bit of work to set up, but once set up it works.. and it works well.
Once you set this up once its VERY easy to copy each form and just modify the details. The same goes for the labels. The first one is the hardest to set up, after that it is much much quicker.
How it Works:
- You use a free QR Scanner App or potentially your phones camera(if supported) to scan a QR Code
- That QR code will bring up a website that is a form where you enter data for the specific animal you have scanned(feeding, shed, anything you define).
- The data you enter gets automatically placed in a spreadsheet
- You can view, print, etc. at any time.
What you need:
- A mobile device with a camera(most people have a cell phone these days).
- A google account so you can create google forms and google spreadsheets. If you don’t already have one go to https://accounts.google.com/SignUp?hl=en
- A graphics editing program(I used a vector editor called Inkscape that is free located here https://inkscape.org/en/ another potential tool could be Gimp which is free also https://www.gimp.org/downloads/ )
- A computer printer and paper.
Assuming you have created a google account, go to https://docs.google.com/forms
Start a new blank form
Here you can enter your title and other details to create your form. Think of how you want your info to display and any numbering or labeling system you may want to use. This is all custom and its up to you how you want it to look. Play with the different question options, if they are required or not, etc. There are lots of options. There are no hard and fast rules.
In this form I have included things such as food type/size, if it was accepted, shed, weight, and notes so I can add anything else I want. Keep in mind you don’t have to enter in each data point each time you scan as long as you don’t have the “Required” option checked. These are only examples and you can get as detailed as you want or keep it as simple as you want.
After all of this is to your liking, at the top right there are the three vertical dots. Click on this and go to “Add-ons”
Once in the Add-ons area go to search and type QR and add the QR Code Maker Add On. After you complete this the first time, the add-on will always be there if logged in.
Once the QR Code Maker is added, go to the puzzle piece icon on your main form and click QR Code Maker, click Get the QR Code of my Form, then click Add the QR code into my form, click done.
Go To the eye icon at the top right and click preview, scroll down to the QR Code and right click save image as. Name it according to the animal code or name you created and save it to a place you can remember. This is so you can create an actual label later.
Finally, click responses(next to questions) and click the spreadsheet icon to create a spreadsheet
Your first form is now complete!
When you go to make future forms you will simply make a copy. Please keep in mind it will make a copy of your first forms QR code and will need to delete that QR code and generate a new one for the new form. Don’t forget this step!
Next you will be creating labels. This can be done a number of ways depending on your preference. I create them in inkscape by importing the image of the QR Code we saved and then adding details around it. I simply print it out, insert it in plastic badge holders, and clip them to my snakes tubs. I am sure there are many creative ways you could do this. This is nice for breeding since I can move the clip of the male to whatever tub he is occupying with the female. How you make it look is really up to you. Here is a link to a Inkscape template you can use: http://oherps.com/inkscape-cage-label-template/ Below is an example of what mine look like:
Even though my phones camera does have the QR Code scanner built in I actually prefer using a QR Code App. You can find a number of free ones on your app store. Simply download one, scan the QR code and it should bring you to the form. Enter in whatever information you want to capture, click submit, and it should automatically generate into the spreadsheet(with time stamp). You can view the spreadsheet by going to google sheets https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets. I will include some info in later articles on how to assemble these spreadsheets into consolidated locations for easy viewing. There are also options to add graphs and charts in which you can get a visual on different data points. For example.. a chart of the weight of the animal over time.
I hope this was helpful. Although it may seem cumbersome at first, I can assure you after the initial setup.. you can add a new form and new animal within 15 minutes easy since you simply make a copy of your existing form and modify all the info.