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  • How To Build A Reptile Terrarium

How To Build A Reptile Terrarium

By John DoeLast update: 2023-08-17

How to build a reptile terrarium? This is the answer that many people need to know to better understand the pet you are about to raise. It doesn't just keep the reptile's inside. It also provides it with a safe, comfortable home and allows the reptiles to enjoy their natural behaviors. Reptile needs vary from species to species, and the reptile's needs should be researched before building a cage for it.

1. Build a terrarium

1.1 Consider the behavior of reptiles

It is necessary to determine the type of reptile you have. Do some reptiles like them need water? What kind of light does your reptile need? Small reptile? How big are reptiles expected to grow? Is the cage kept indoor and outdoor? The cage should be as close to the reptile's natural habitat as possible. In addition, your cage also needs to be able to accommodate those animals.

1.2 Material selection

The material chosen for the cage will depend on the budget and needs of the reptile. Cages are usually made of mesh or mesh, plastic or wood, or acrylic or glass containers. You should also consider how often you will need to clean the cage.

Unless you have experience working with acrylic and glass, buy pre-cut sheets. The panels can be glued together or attached to a wooden or plastic frame. Plastic cage materials are overpriced, last longer, and retain heat better than glass material cages.

Melamine, a high-pressure chipboard with a decorative laminate finish, looks good, holds up well, and is easy to clean, but it's heavy. Other options include good-grade plywood or pre-cut rack boards.

Walls of the product can be made of raw material including wood, glass, transparent thermoplastic, or coated wire mesh. Furthermore, reptile cages from existing items, such as aquariums, old chests of drawers, entertainment centers, or refrigerators have had their doors removed.

1.3 Determining the size of the cage

The reptile should have room to move and hide in its cage. There should also be enough room to incorporate the necessary lighting, heating, and flooring. Most cages are rectangular.

Small reptiles like leopard chameleons and scorpions need two to six square feet of space.

Medium-sized reptiles like pythons need 6 to 8 square feet of space. Also, small reptiles that move a lot like bearded dragons need 8 to 32 square feet of space.

Large reptiles such as iguanas, tortoises, and iguanas require a cabinet or room size for a cage.

1.4 Ventilate the cage

Wire mesh, anchor boards, and holes are ventilation options. Mesh is necessary for reptiles like chameleons that need lots of air flow. The ventilation system should be based on the needs of the reptile.

Ventilation openings should be too small for reptiles to escape or be covered with wire mesh, stiff cloth, or black window screens. Do not use wire mesh in solid cages.

Pegboards are reptiles that like to rub their noses against things. If you're worried about this reptile's nails injuring the cage, a quarter-inch thick plastic-coated stiff cloth can be used.

1.5 Create a sketch of the cage

Should choose the size of the cage and the materials you use, and sketch out the cage you intend to build. This will help you pinpoint the exact things

need to buy and help develop a game plan to build the cage. Also, measure the area where the cage is to be placed to ensure that there will be enough room.

Make a list of tools you will need like chisels, drills, saws, etc. Also gather any screws, hinges, glue, or adhesives that you may need.

1.6 Cage construction

Attaching the wall cage using wood or glue. Plexiglass and wood will require screws. From there create cutouts for ventilation. Build the door for the cage and attach the hinges or latches to the door frame.

Doors should always be open to the side or down. If you hold the door with one hand, it will be more difficult to clean the cage or care for the reptile.

Place the door where it allows easy access to all areas of the cage. A poorly placed or sized door can make it more difficult for you to care for your reptile. You do not place hinges on top of the door. Make sure that all hinges, screws, covers, and doors are secure.

1.7 Add any finishing touches

Sanding down any rough areas or sharp edges. Seal the bottom of the cage so that the substrate, water, and feces do not leak out. Furthermore, a non-toxic silicone sealant and a durable plastic sheet can be used. Cover the raw edges of any wire mesh inside the cage.

If you plan to paint or decorate the wood, stain the bare wood and apply a topcoat, such as polyurethane, for protection. Make sure to air thoroughly afterward so the smoke doesn't sicken your reptile.

2. Prepare the living environment

2.1 Choosing the substrate (flooring)

Flooring options include sand (fine beach sand, playground sand, silica sand), gravel/stone (lava stone, pea gravel, polished stone), wood, and some paper products (bark, mulch, butcher paper, newspaper, paper towels, shavings), soil and moss (sphagnum moss, potting soil, spanish moss), or litter (cat manure, clay, alfalfa pellets). The type of substrate you want to use will depend on your reptile's needs.

For a better understanding, you should seek some advice from a reptile expert. Certain substrates, such as sand, can easily cause intestinal effects if a small amount is ingested by the lizard when feeding insects.

Therefore, wood would be good for vertebrate reptiles, like lizards, that don't spend much time on the ground.

Paper towels and newspapers can be chopped and placed on the bottom of the cage. These materials are inexpensive and easy to clean but do not help control odors.

Coir is also great for reptiles that need a high-humidity environment and helps control odors. This helps reptiles like to burrow and hide.

Moss supports high-humidity reptiles and is good for burrowing reptiles.

Sand for reptiles in the desert; however, can be harmful if eaten in large amounts.

However, soil, grass, bark, or other substrates from a park or yard should not be used. They may contain organisms and bacteria that can be harmful to reptiles.

2.2 Heat up the reptile cage

All reptiles require an external source of heat because they cannot control their body temperature, and many of them come from regions with warm climates. If the reptile spends most of its time on a tree branch or in the upper part of the cage, it will need heating.

If reptiles spend most of their time on the ground, heat from the ground will be needed. All types of cages also need a thermometer. The ideal temperature is between 20 and 32 ºC (68 to 89.6 ºF).

Alternatively, ceramic heaters, spotlights, and base lights can be used to provide heat to the substrate. Lights are used to create a desert environment. Lights have a limited time (14 hours in summer and 8 hours in winter) and must be monitored.

On the other hand, heat mats and pads, hot stones, heat cables, and ropes provide heat to the ground. Heat mats and pads will provide constant heat. Hot rock for nocturnal reptiles.

Choose hot stones, rugs, and pads carefully. Some mats are too hot and the reptile can burn its stomach while lying on it. Thermal cables and conductors are very flexible and can be wound around different objects. Heat cables and ropes are very hot. Therefore, you need to use a rheometer to monitor the temperature.

Never place the backlight above the heatsink. This can cause the temperature of the heat pad to reach an unsafe level and could injure the reptile.

2.3 Provides ultraviolet (UV) light

In general, reptiles need full-spectrum light that provides either UVA or UVB light. Light will keep reptiles healthy and happy, and provide adequate amounts of Vitamin D3 and calcium. The light you use will depend on the type of reptile you have.

Note, spotlights should be placed 12 to 18 inches away from where the reptile will be located. Lamps that provide 4% to 10% of radiation are UVB at best, depending on the animal. In addition, you also need at least two UV bulbs. It's best to turn lights on and off including UV to mimic the length of the day in the habitat your lizard lives in in the wild.

At the same time, the lights should be replaced every six months, whether they are working or not. This is because the level of UV emitted decreases markedly after six months.

Incandescent lamps will add heat to the cage. While you can use this light as a source of heat, be aware that it does not overheat the cage.

Setting up outside the cage if possible. If you choose to install a light bulb inside the cage, put up a screen around it so that the reptile doesn't come in contact with it.

2.4 Equip the cage with items that simulate the natural environment

You should place branches for climbing species and flat rocks for pets who like to soak under the heater. Provide the reptile with hiding places, ideally one at the warm end and one at the cool end of the cage. Alternatively, buy furniture from a trusted pet store or online retailer. Branches, sticks, and leaves from our natural environment can be harmful to reptiles.

Consider your reptile's water and food needs. Some need a large saucer they can climb into, while others need a dropper bottle to drink from.

2.5 Observing reptiles in cages

Place the reptile inside and observe the behavior closely to make sure it is comfortable. If the reptile is behaving strangely or is constantly trying to run away, it may be in distress, requiring you to adjust or build a more suitable cage.


To understand step-by-step instructions on how to build a reptile terrarium. You make sure you can move it into place exactly when it's done. Besides, you should measure the door widths and redesign your terrarium as needed to make sure it will fit through the doors.

Moreover, you are not allowed to use any toxic chemicals that may harm your reptile. You always remember that you make sure to cover any excess holes with extra wood, glass, or mesh wire.

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