Ok, so first off, the incident that lead to my last H/A thread where the state treasury ganked me for $400+ has been resolved, and on top of the money I'm getting back, my lawyer fees are being paid and I'm getting a $200 gain to pocket after everybody's satisfied.
So, the thread's about what I want to do with the $200. I'm in a decent position on my pet budget - I recently trimmed down my fish tanks a bit more, so their operating costs are lower than they were last year, so I'm thinking of branching out into new types of pets.
I'm pretty experienced with freshwater/brackish fish, invertebrates, reptiles, and amphibians, but almost no experience with terrestrial pets past my cat.
Anyway, I am looking to minimize up-front costs. I have a number of empty fish tanks (the biggest are 32 long x12 wide x24 high, and 48 long x12 wide x18 high). I'd like a bird, but I don't have the housing for one currently, and both birds and cages are fairly expensive. Ideally I'd like to use or modify one of my empty fish tanks.
So, any good beginner lizards or snakes I could look at, or would I be further ahead with rats or mice?
Anyway, relevant information:
The house is fairly cool in the winter, 65-68F. It's never a problem with aquatic pets, since water's easier to keep warm than air, but it's a limiting factor with a lot of cold blooded animals.
I prefer at least somewhat active animals (I've kept stonefish and found them supremely boring), but I know that any reptile is going to be fairly inactive for at least part of the day.
I'm also interested in something that can be kept in single-species or community groups, as with my aquariums I've always been most fascinated to watch interaction between fish, and I think I'd like something similar with other pets.