Habits and habitats: first steps in reptile decor
How do I decide which decor to choose for my pet reptile?
When you buy your first reptile vivariums or terrariums, the huge range of decor and accessories on the market can be overwhelming. So how do you know what to buy first? The most important things to consider are the habits and habitat of your reptile, using these to create the most realistic environment you can.
Some reptiles and amphibians are arboreal, or tree-dwelling, whereas others are terrestrial, or ground-dwelling, with some species sitting somewhere in between, being what we term as semi-arboreal. Knowing the habits of your pet, along with a little common sense, makes deciding on the types of decor fairly easy. For instance, an arboreal reptile will need lots of branches and vines, whereas terrestrial reptiles will prefer ground-level caves and logs.
Once you've worked out the habits of your reptile, you should consider their native environment. Rainforest reptiles such as Crested geckos or Dart frogs have high humidity requirements and will appreciate natural decor that can also help to maintain humidity levels, such as reptile mosses. Desert reptiles, however, such as Bearded dragons or Leopard geckos will be more appreciative of conductive rocks or basking platforms to bask on than damp mosses.
How can I decorate an arboreal enclosure?
Arboreal reptiles such as Crested geckos, Yemen chameleons and Tree frogs are usually also tropical species, as you are unlikely to find high densities of trees for these animals to colonise in hot, barren deserts. This makes decorating an arboreal enclosure a little easier, as you will almost always be creating a rainforest habitat.
The first thing to consider is a rainforest substrate, which can be adorned with moisture-retaining reptile mosses and aesthetically pleasing botanicals. Once you have the foundations in place, you should add plenty of branches and vines to allow your arboreal reptile to climb and utilise all of its vertical space, also providing covered areas both high up and low down using real or fake plants.
How can I decorate a terrestrial, tropical enclosure?
Some tropical reptiles that are popular as pets are terrestrial rather than arboreal, preferring to spend their days in the dark, damp forest floors, such as Dart frogs, Red eye crocodile skinks or Redfoot tortoises. These examples will not benefit from branches and vines in a vertical enclosure, rather they do better with a horizontally orientated enclosure with lots of hiding areas.
You should consider a similar base as above, using a forest substrate topped with mosses and botanicals, but what you put on top of this will be vastly different. Terrestrial reptiles should be provided with lots of hiding areas, either using reptile caves or logs and cork bark pieces depending on the species. You can add further cover using foliage from artificial or live plants.
How can I decorate a terrestrial, desert enclosure?
Terrestrial desert reptiles such as Bearded dragons, Leopard geckos and Hognose snakes will not benefit from the addition of mosses or moisture-retaining substrate in their vivarium, rather they should have a well-draining, dry, sandy substrate that will help to keep humidity levels down.
These examples will benefit highly from hiding areas along the length of their enclosure, either using hides, logs or cork bark pieces and cover from real or artificial plants. Your pet won't care if your styling is a little off, and your artificial plant is a tropical fern, but part of the fun is replicating their natural habitat, so why not try and keep your accessories within the desert theme, for example, with an artificial cactus.