When you are choosing a habitat for your reptile, it is important to think about what is in his natural environment.
We will start at the bottom and go up from there. Substrate is the bedding in the bottom of the habitat that the reptile resides on. There are many types of substrate: sand, wood chips, reptile carpet, bark, water, gravel, and so on. You should choose the kind that is best for your animal. For instance, a corn snake might do better on aspen substrate, while a leopard gecko might be more comfortable on reptile carpet.
Heat lights and heat pads are necessary for most reptiles. Because reptiles are cold blooded, they need something to keep them warm. In nature, they lie on rocks to bathe in the sun. UV lighting is important for many of reptiles. It helps them digest their food. UV activates the synthesis of vitamin D3. Some lizards will need UV-A while some need UV-B. A thermometer will indicate if the habitat is at the appropriate temperature.
Your reptile should always have a water bowl, which should be removed, cleaned, and refilled daily. Most reptiles will also appreciate a place to hide. You can find caves that look like stone and coconut shells for your smaller reptiles. Having a hiding place will give your reptile a place to go where he will feel secure when he rests or becomes scared. In addition to hideouts, other decorations are a fun way to make your cage appealing. Artificial leaves and sticks are both pretty and will entertain the animal. Most snakes and some lizards will climb the artificial sticks and vines.
The perfect size cage for your reptile can vary. Baby reptiles need smaller cages so food is easier to find. They also feel safer in a smaller area. Snakes are a perfect example of this: you should start with a smaller cage and move up as the snake grows. A good rule of thumb is to have a cage with a diameter twice as long as your snake. On the other hand, one leopard gecko would do fine in a 20-gallon long cage for his entire life. For an iguana, however, you might think about building a custom cage when he gets too big. Also, remember to upgrade cages as he gets bigger. Take into consideration the habits of the animal you are keeping. The leopard gecko tends to stay on the ground, so he doesn’t need a lot of height, but the iguana is a climber and will be much happier with a taller habitat.
There are also different types of cages. Plastic cages are nice because they are lightweight and hold humidity well. Glass cages are easy to see in and are fairly durable. Glass cages also give you the option of using a screen top to let air in, or a glass or plastic top to keep humidity in. Screen cages let a lot of air into the cage.
Keeping your critter safe and contained is obviously important. Snakes, frogs, and most lizards can climb or hop out, so a cage top is a must. You also want to keep them safe from other pets or children. If you live in a situation where children may try to remove the reptile while unsupervised, there are several habitats on the market that include a place to put a small lock either on the front of the habitat or on the top. While locking the habitat will slow down little hands from getting into the habitat, do not trust it to completely secure the animal from harm.
With these tips, you should be able to set up the proper habitat for your reptile friend. Remember, the most important thing is to create a home for your reptile that is as close to his natural environment as possible. Now, go enjoy each other’s company!