Guide written by:
Pauline, Self-taught handyman, Leeds
Terrariums are similar to aquariums with one major difference: instead of water, they feature a layer of substrate (soil, sand, gravel) suitable for a snake, iguana or other reptile. A small-scale recreation of a given species' 'biotope', a terrarium mimics the living conditions of the plants or animals it houses.
- Desert or tropical climate
- Temperature, lighting, humidity
- Shape and size
- Substrate and vegetation
Reptile terrariums: a checklist for beginners
Terrariums come in a number of styles, each suited to certain species.
- Desert terrarium (hot and dry)
- Tropical terrarium (hot and humid)
- Aquaterrarium (turtle habitat)
A terrarium habitat needs to be adapted to the species it houses to ensure that the animal will thrive and not die prematurely. A number of factors should be taken into consideration when setting up a terrarium:
- Air and soil temperature
How to choose the right terrarium
Reptile terrariums come in many shapes and sizes. When selecting a model, be sure to take into account the location of the openings (front, back, side or top) for easy upkeep and also check for a false bottom. Choose a size that is appropriate for the animal, allowing it to move about as it does in its natural habitat.
Keep in mind:
- For crawling reptiles: opt for a long ground surface area, which will allow them to get around easily.
- For climbing reptiles: a taller terrarium will enable them to move about on plants or other vertical accessories.
A large terrarium is your safest bet in the event of a power outage. The microcosm will more effectively maintain the proper climate conditions if the system regulating temperature and humidity fails. If necessary, the animal(s) can move about and find a more comfortable spot.
So, for the record: small terrariums are riskier as the slightest change to the environment will have an immediate impact on the animal.
Glass or plastic: which is better?
Glass terrariums remain the most popular choice due to their wear-resistance and superior visibility. After all, isn't the whole point of a terrarium to let you observe exotic animals right in your own home?
You can even make your own terrarium out of wood and mesh; just be careful what kind of snake you put in there!
Plastic terrariums tend to discolour and streak during cleaning and/or as a result of animal-induced wear.
Setting up the inside of your reptile terrarium
Follow these tips to create an enclosed environment in which your reptile will thrive:
Don't forget the hideouts!
Hideouts are essential for reptiles. They can be created using natural or decorative elements designed for the purpose. Common terrarium hideouts include:
- Rocks with hole
- Hollow logs
- Hide boxes
- Faux rock caves
- Burrowing substrates
Vegetation for a reptile terrarium
As a key component of any lizard or snake habitat, plants should be given a prominent place inside your terrarium.
However, as the climate conditions inside a terrarium are not compatible with all plants, you may have no choice but to furnish the habitat with artificial plants.
Not only do artificial plants imitate the natural vegetation of the animal's habitat: they also providea decorative touch and a great hideout.
Vegetation serves a number of purposes in a reptile terrarium:
- Provides animal with stimulation and hideouts
- Mimics animal's natural habitat
- Nice decorative touch
Cooling effect (natural plants).
Substrate buying guide
The choice of bedding material will vary according to the species.
Common terrarium substrates include:
- Coarse sand
- Wood shavings
One material to avoid is fine sand, which retains heat and can become burning hot. Moreover, fine particle substrates can easily be inhaled: to prevent your reptilian friend from suffocating or ingesting them, it's best to avoid them entirely!
Now you're ready to build a beautiful terrarium habitat for your exotic (or not-so-exotic) pets!
Guide written by:
Pauline, Self-taught handyman, Leeds, 97 guides
With a handyman-father, I grew up with the soft sound of the sander and hammer on weekends. I am both manual and cerebral (yes, it is possible.), I learned the basics of DIY and the customization of furniture because I was passionate. The salvage mentality is a true way of life that allowed me to know how to use all the tools and products needed to give something a second life, from sander to varnish. I have two favorite activities: the transformation of old furniture and decoration tips. I am always ready to lend a helping hand to revamp a table or to restore a mirror that was intended for the trash that will become a friend’s centerpiece. I’m convinced that it’s possible to reinvent an interior by small, regular modifications, I constantly research low-cost, test ideas.