Housing for a reptile will, of course, vary with the type and size of your pet. A tree dwelling or climbing reptile will be happiest in a tall narrow cage with branches for climbing. A terrestrial reptile will be happiest in a wide, low cage. Aquariums with screen covers or glass fronted wooden cages make suitable housing or you can purchase a specially made terrarium.
Some considerations before you purchase your reptile terrarium
The cage must be:
- Escape proof
- Draft proof
- Heat resistant
- Well lighted
- Moisture resistant
- As large as you can make it
Some reptiles that need extra consideration:
Boas and Pythons – can grow to over 20 ft
Green iguanas – can grow to 6 ft
Some considerations before you purchase your reptile
Only mix reptiles that are known to be compatible
House reptiles by their kind and size
Types of Terrariums
An aquatic terrarium is similar to an aquarium but usually has only four to six inches of water. Like an aquarium it needs a filter and a heater and gravel on the bottom but needs a raised area above the water for a basking area and a vented or wire screen lid.
A basking area can be a rock protruding from the water or piece of bark. The vented lid should have a lamp for basking and a background should be added, not only to look nice but to help your pet to feel secure.
Pets that are at home in an aquatic terrarium include turtles, newts, frogs, salamanders and water snakes.
This type of terrarium is a mixture of water and a dry area. The two areas are separated by glass or by using a water container that is removable. The water area is set up as in an aquarium and needs a heater, filter and gravel on the bottom.
The land area is best made by placing a layer of charcoal, covered by a thin layer of filter material then covered in sphagnum moss and potting compost. Decorate the land area with rocks, driftwood or other decorations and add some moss and plants.
For some reptiles you will need to provide a basking area by attaching a lamp to the lid. Place this at one end of the terrarium to provide a warm area under the lamp and cooler areas at the other ends.
Pets that are at home in a semi-aquatic terrarium include any of the aquatic reptiles plus crocodile lizards, basilsks, some turtles and especially newts and frogs.
A woodland terrarium is a land terrarium with plants and/or ornaments. A source of water for the pets is also needed. The terrarium can have gravel or reptile carpet as a base or potting soil if you are adding plants.
Depending on the reptiles you are keeping decide if you will have just gravel and rocks, suitable for ground dwellers, or plants and branches for climbing for an arboreal (climbing) species. Plants that are suitable include fittonias, philodendrons and other plants suitable for plant terrariums. They need very little maintenance apart from a light misting occasionally.
Depending on the pet you may need to provide a basking lamp and basking area. as in other types of terrarium ensure that it is warm under the lamp but cooler in other parts of the enclosure. Some pets also need full spectrum lighting.
Pets that are at home in a woodland terrarium include salamanders, anoles, snakes and many types of frogs including green tree frogs and barking tree frogs.
Desert Terrariums are very dry and may have desert loving plants such as cacti and other succulents. Substrates suitable for a desert terrarium include sand, reptile carpet or bark. A heat source is needed as in other types of terrariums and full spectrum lighting is required for almost all desert type reptiles.
Pets that are at home in a desert terrarium include desert iguanas, collared lizards, leapard geckos and spiny lizards.