Terrariums and Housing

Tropical Terrarium and Vivarium Creation >> Amphibian Care

Protecting reptiles and amphibians in dwelling terrariums has rapidly elevated in reputation during the last decade. An enclosure that mixes reside crops and animals collectively seems engaging and could also be useful for sure species. Many individuals who haven’t stored animals in a terrarium typically avoid them because they assume that they are troublesome to create or hold clear. When correctly deliberate and cared for, nothing might be farther from the reality. Although terrariums take time and planning to set up, they don’t seem to be difficult to make. The key to long run success is careful planning through the starting and maintaining with common maintenance, comparable to spot cleansing and pruning crops.

Unfortunately, not all reptiles and amphibians could be stored in terrariums or vivariums due to their measurement, quantity of waste produced, or conduct. Avoid most giant species of reptiles or amphibians as a result of they typically trample crops and are messy. Species that burrow or dig are also poor candidates for a tropical terrarium because they typically uproot crops. Herbivorous species and these from arid environments ought to be prevented for obvious reasons.

The Enclosure

Tropical terrariums are moist and it will be significant that the underside portion of the cage is waterproof. Normal glass or acrylic aquariums work properly and are extensively out there. Specialty reptile tanks with sliding or hinged front doorways also are a sensible choice. They work notably properly for terrariums that house skittish animals which may be frightened by a hand getting into from above like with a regular glass aquarium. Understand that the dimensions of the cage that is used will limit what varieties of crops can develop and what options may be included inside. Bigger enclosures are most popular, as a result of they give you extra choices.

A terrarium with a display insert for ventilation.

The type of cowl or lid that’s used will depend on the wants of the reptile or amphibian that’s being housed in the tank. Display covers could be bought from most pet stores and provide wonderful air flow and also permit for ultraviolet mild to enter, which is essential for a lot of species. Display covers could be modified by taping plastic wrap or glass over half, which can help keep excessive ranges of humidity. In some situations, it’s also applicable to make use of a strong glass cover. This can be a good choice if the humidity in the room the terrarium is inside is particularly low. Air flow may be offered by chopping out a big gap and masking it with window display silicone in place. Good air circulation is necessary for many herps and many widespread crops, so though humidity is essential, air flow may be more so.

When planning the duvet, be sure that it accommodates the varieties of lighting which might be required for the animal in the terrarium. UVB rays are essential for a lot of species of reptile and amphibian. They will be filtered out by way of glass and high-quality screening so mild bulbs that produce UVB radiation have to be placed over a display part of the cage. Basking and spot lamps typically crack glass and soften plastic, so use caution if heating a terrarium with these units.


The kind of background that’s used can have a big effect on the aesthetics of a terrarium. Simple black paper or poster board might be taped to the surface of the tank. That is okay for small terrariums with terrestrial animals. Nevertheless, in most situations it is best to attach an actual background to the inside of the terrarium that crops can grow on. This creates an entire new dimension to the terrarium and works nice for tall tanks. It’s easiest and typically required to connect the background to the enclosure before putting something inside so this is typically step one. There are various totally different backgrounds out there. Most could be hooked up to glass with aquarium-safe silicone sealant, which could be purchased from pet stores or hardware stores.


This terrarium has a DIY background made out of expandable foam, silicone, and coconut husk fiber.

Under is a brief record and description of background materials which are generally used:

Cork Bark

Cork bark varieties a beautiful background to which epiphytic crops could be hooked up. Bark flats are bought at many pet stores. The most effective qualities of cork bark is that it lasts a very long time in moist circumstances. Pure cork bark flats are often curved to a point and depart a small gap between the middle of each piece of bark and the glass. This empty area ought to be full of soil, moss, expandable foam, or gravel to stop animals within the cage from turning into trapped or inconveniently hiding between the glass and the bark. Alternatively, pressed or reduce cork bark panels are typically obtainable from specialty terrarium supply corporations that are utterly flat and gained’t depart a niche between the glass and the bark.

Tree Fern Panels

Tree fern panels are the roots of tree ferns which were shaped into flat board-like sections and our common with orchid hobbyists. These panels are darkish black to chocolate brown. Tree fern panels look nice and work properly for mounting epiphytic crops. Unfortunately, they’re not often harvested from the wild in a sustainable method. A better various to tree fern is EpiWeb, which resembles tree fern panels however is produced from recycled merchandise.

Coconut Fiber Sheets/Panels

Coconut fiber panels are made out of the long fibers that seem like hair and grow on coconuts. They’re available at garden facilities as well as from terrarium provide corporations. Coconut fiber is cheap and practical, nevertheless it can be a bit of troublesome to mount crops onto.

Synthetic Foam Backgrounds

In recent times, painted duplicate rock or wood backgrounds have gained reputation and turn into extensively obtainable. Nevertheless, these foam backgrounds inserted into a dwelling terrarium, for my part, look tacky. They could be improved by making use of silicone and dried coconut husk fiber or different natural material over their painted face, though on this case it might be even better to start out with plain Styrofoam and sculpt your personal background fairly than spend the money on the pretend rock.

DIY Backgrounds

Moderately than purchase a background and glue it to the back of the terrarium, many individuals favor to make their very own. There are dozens of methods and types. One of the widespread methods is to make use of a spray-on polyurethane insulation foam, corresponding to Nice Stuff – Gaps and Cracks. This may be sprayed onto the again of the cage and layered to create a singular form and texture. This foam is then adopted most frequently by black or bronze silicone sealant with a view to make it waterproof and protected. Immediately after the silicone sealant or different waterproof substance is utilized, dry coconut husk fiber or peat moss is pressed into it to offer the background a pure appearance. Josh’s Frogs has a superb tutorial about how to do that here. I have additionally put up a step-by-step publish about how I build a foam background. An identical technique for making a terrarium background is to use Styrofoam insulation sheets. These giant sheets are minimize and formed using a foam cutter, coated with silicone sealant and coconut husk fiber or peat moss as talked about above, and then hooked up to the back of the cage. There are various different methods for creating a background in a terrarium, the above mentioned two are solely a pair widespread ones.


While some terrarium lovers opt for rising mainly epiphytic crops and utilizing a thin substrate or virtually none in any respect, most tropical terrariums will want each a potting media for crops and underneath a drainage space for extra water to drain into. Without this drainage space most soils develop into waterlogged shortly and will spoil, disturbing the biological cycles that occur inside.

A drainage area might be created a lot of ways. Gravel is reasonable and straightforward but heavy. Using 2 or 3 inches (5 cm to eight cm) of pea sized or bigger gravel beneath the soil is a simple strategy to create a drainage space. In giant terrariums it might be higher to make use of a lighter substrate beneath the soil as an alternative of gravel. LECA (lightweight expanded clay combination) is a wonderful substitution for gravel. It may be bought by means of some garden facilities and hydroponics provide shops in america underneath the model identify Hydroton. A false-bottom can also be a good way to offer a light-weight drainage space, and this includes utilizing a porous plastic materials on legs that holds the soil an inch or two above the underside of the terrarium, the place water can collect.

No matter drainage substrate you select, place fiberglass window screening or comparable material over it so that the soil does not slowly fall under into the water or combine into the gravel or LECA.

There are dozens of beneficial terrarium soil mixtures on-line and in books. Many profitable soil mixtures used in tropical terrariums are based mostly off of coconut husk fiber. This product is created from coconut shells which were floor right into a soil and then compressed right into a dry brick. When placed in water, this brick expands back right into a moist soil-like media. Coconut husk fiber decomposes very slowly, has a neutral pH, is created from a renewable useful resource, and is reasonable. It could actually type nearly all of the substrate utilized in a tropical terrarium.

Prior to now I have also used peat moss instead of coconut husk fiber, however the more that I study peat moss the extra I hesitate to use it. Peat moss takes a whole lot of years to type and presently is usually collected unsustainably by destroying bogs and different wetlands. Within the terrarium, it decomposes shortly and must be modified typically. It also is slightly acidic which could be harmful to certain terrestrial amphibians. The one practical software that I’ve found for it is when it’s used to develop reside moss or carnivorous crops. Most varieties of stay moss and carnivorous crops develop greatest on a soil that is barely acidic and peat moss works properly in these situations, however is greatest combined with different components.

Mixing other materials with coconut husk fiber will help present drainage for crops. Orchid bark, fir bark, or coconut husk chunks may be combined in for this objective. Orchid bark could make up nearly all of the soil in areas the place crops that do greatest in well-drained soil are used, resembling bromeliads. Sand, tree fern fiber, shredded oak leaves or leaf compost, milled sphagnum moss, activated carbon, and chopped reside moss may also be added. Adding a small quantity of leaf compost to terrarium soil mixtures can introduce useful micro-organisms that help to take care of the terrarium although be wary of introducing pests this manner too, resembling snails or slugs.

When housing terrestrial amphibians or small reptiles, putting a handful or two of leaf litter over the substrate once the terrarium is planted is particularly useful. It additionally improves the looks of the terrarium. Indian almond, reside oak and magnolia leaves are often favored however ensure that to collect them in an area that is freed from pesticides and to scrub them with water before use.

Leaf litter might be an essential element of a terrarium. On this terrarium magnolia leaves have been used.


There are lots of totally different gadgets that can be used to furnish a terrarium. They could serve a objective (akin to a basking website for small lizards or shelter for nocturnal frogs), or might simply improve aesthetics.

Cork bark slabs can be utilized to hold soil back in certain areas, creating small hills and cliffs. Cork bark tubes might be planted with epiphytic crops to make them seem like over grown fallen logs. Driftwood could be purchased at many pet stores, and can be used as a centerpiece for the terrarium. River rocks and slate can be used as cage decor and add a nice touch when they’re placed along aspect of a water space. Usually, terrariums look greatest when just one sort of wood is used. Too many differing kinds muddle the terrarium and make it look unnatural. Wash all wooden or rocks with scorching water earlier than putting them within the terrarium. Don’t worry in the event that they mould over for the first week or two. Typically it could take time for driftwood or cork bark to regulate to humid or damp circumstances, and throughout this time they could grow white fuzzy molds which often go away on their very own.

Before utilizing a bit of wooden or rock think about the care requirements of the reptile or amphibian you propose to maintain. Does the animal need a basking spot? Arboreal or terrestrial hiding spots or egg-laying sites? How about a couple of hiding areas? Wood and rocks could be hooked up to greater areas in the terrarium with silicone sealant to create a dramatic impact, and even better, included in a do-it-yourself background from the beginning. Be sure that all rocks and wood are secure and won’t be knocked over by the reptiles or amphibians being stored.


The sort and amount of lights to use depend upon the crops and animals being stored. In small terrariums which have a number of low light-tolerant crops in them, and an animal that doesn’t need any special sort of lighting, a single fluorescent tube can be used. Tall terrariums with crops that like vibrant lighting may have extra. Whereas normal T8 or T12 fluorescent tubes are nonetheless extensively used, newer LED lighting designed for planted aquariums could also be higher options. For notably tall terrariums chances are you’ll need to think about even stronger lighting options, comparable to metallic halides.

The color temperature or Kelvin score of the bulbs used has a big impression on the looks of the terrarium. Bulbs with a low shade temperature under 5000Okay typically give a yellow or purple hue to the terrarium. These with a high shade temperature above 6500Okay produce a purple or blue tone. Totally different individuals favor totally different terrarium appearances, however I usually choose using bulbs with a colour temperature close to 5500-6500Okay. These bulbs are also known as “natural white” or “daylight” bulbs as a result of they produce a vibrant white mild just like the colour temperature of the solar throughout noon. A number of bulbs usually are not all the time needed, however will help improve plant progress and usually improve the looks of most terrariums. Along with colour temperature, the CRI (color-rating index) score of a bulb can also be necessary to take a look at. This score determines how the colors of crops and animals within the terrarium will appear. The sun has a CRI score of 100, so when choosing a bulb try to find one with a high CRI score, preferably above 80.

Large terrarium

This can be a simple terrarium overgrown with creeping fig and housing yellow-spotted climbing toads (Pedostibes hosii), however nicely lit. Discover the small fan on the aspect of the sunshine fixture that helps hold all the things cool.

The animals in the terrarium might require further lighting to the kinds talked about above. Most diurnal lizards want a light-weight bulb that produces UVB radiation so as to course of calcium from their weight loss plan. Many amphibians benefit from UVB radiation as nicely. Both fluorescent and energy compact fluorescent bulbs are available from pet retailer that produce UVB radiation. Some species additionally require a basking spot within the cage that’s produced through the use of an incandescent mild bulb. It’s essential to use an accurate thermometer to examine the temperature of this basking spot to make sure it doesn’t get too scorching.


Reside crops make terrariums what they are. They add a dimension of life that can’t be replicated with synthetic crops. Several types of crops require totally different environments to reside in identical to animals, and not all species grow properly in a tropical setting. High humidity and moist soil will trigger many species to rot or mould. These circumstances additionally trigger many crops to grow too shortly, or get too giant too fast which makes them unsuitable to use. It can be advantageous to hunt out crops from specialty terrarium supply corporations somewhat than the local garden middle to ensure they are a very good fit.

Epiphytic crops may be grown on backgrounds or items of wood in the cage to create an arboreal area for small animals to climb. Ground covers and low growing crops can rework the soil right into a inexperienced dwelling carpet. Tall broad-leaved crops can be used as middle pieces in the terrarium, and crops with small leaves can be utilized to accent them. Under is an inventory of some generally obtainable crops that I’ve used efficiently in a tropical terrarium, clicking on the scientific identify of most will show a photograph of the plant.

Scientific IdentifyWidespread IdentifyComments
Aglaonema modestumChinese Evergreen
Alocasia speciesElephant EarFor tall terrariums only
Begonia thelmaeClimbing/trailing small-leafed Begonia
Cissus discolorEngaging vine; requires regular pruning as soon as established
Crypthanthus speciesEarth StarsNeeds well-drained soil
Ficus pumilaCreeping FigQuick growing vine, nice for backgrounds
Fittonia speciesPoke-a-dot Plant
Geogenanthus undatus
Guzmania speciesBromeliad
Humata tyermaniiRabbit’s foot fernCan grow giant
Marantha tricolorPrayer Plant
Neoregilia speciesBromeliadSmall and miniature varieties are good
Pellaea rotundifoliaButton Fern
Pellionia pulchra
Pellionia repensWatermelon VineAnother straightforward to grow engaging vine
Peperomia fraseri
Peperomia meridana
Peperomia obtusifoliaChild rubber plantGrows shortly, very hardy
Pilia speciesAluminum cropsGrow in a short time
Philodendron speciesPhilodendronPractice smaller varieties alongside driftwood, cork, or backgrounds
Polypodium polycarpon ‘Grandiceps’Cobra FernMount above substrate
Polypodium polypodioidesRessurection FernEpiphyte to mount above substrate
Rhaphidophora tetraspermaPhilodendron ‘ginny’A Philodendron-like vine with supportive leaves
Saintpaulia speciesAfrican Violets
Scindapsus aureusPothos, Devil’s IvyOne other basic, grows quick
Scindapsus pictusSilver VineDoes greatest in well-drained soil
Selaginella speciesMembership Moss, Golden Club MossNice ground cowl, requires high humidity
Syngonium podophyllumArrowhead VineHardy, might shortly outgrow a terrarium
Tillandsia speciesAir cropsEpiphytes to mount high in terrariums, must dry out completely between waterings
Tradescantia fluminensisWandering JewGood for backgrounds or a ground cover
Vesicularia dubyanJava MossAn aquatic plant that may be grown on land when stored moist
Vriesea speciesBromeliad

Crops which might be bought at local garden centers must be washed completely with water before being positioned in the terrarium and ideally grown outdoors the enclosure for some weeks to let chemical on their leaves dissipate. Many stores use fertilizers, pesticides, leaf shiners and other chemical compounds on their crops that could possibly be harmful to reptiles and amphibians. Buying crops by way of the mail from specialty terrarium provide stores is often the safest route to go.


Many people want a lush inexperienced carpet of moss to develop in their terrarium. Whereas it’s definitely potential to efficiently grow moss, not all kinds of suitable for use. Keep away from species from temperature climates, which can want a dormant period in winter and typically only final a yr or so in the terrarium earlier than they flip brown, by no means to return. Tropical mosses might be purchased from terrarium supply corporations which might be higher, but still could be tough to grow. There are additionally moral considerations about using commercially harvested moss in a terrarium.

Moderately than purchase moss for use, most terrariums will develop moss on their very own given time and this is the popular method to develop moss in a terrarium. You may as well use hardy crops that resemble moss instead. Java moss (Vesicularia dubyan) is an outstanding choice. It’s an aquatic plant bought at many tropical fish shops, but when draped over a moist land space or log rising from the water it additionally grows properly. Ricca (Riccia fluitans) is an alternative choice that may be grown out of water in very moist, very shiny circumstances and is usually a better various to actual moss.

Java Moss

As an alternative of stay moss, attempt java moss. Although it is an aquatic plant, it grows nicely just about anyplace damp. Listed here are two dart frogs (Dendrobates tinctorius) on java moss.

Setting it All Up

  1. Select an enclosure and lighting. Place the cage and mild where you propose for it to completely go and examine to ensure it is straightforward to entry, there are electrical retailers close by, and the stand or table will help the load.
  2. Connect a background and let this dry till there are not any robust smells of silicone sealant or different adhesive in place.
  3. Add the substrate. Drainage layer first, adopted by window display or other divider, and finally soil.
  4. Furnish the enclosure with driftwood, cork bark or other gadgets. Seal the tank up and give every little thing a superb watering or heavy misting. Let it sit for a number of days when you can and be sure to like the best way it appears.
  5. Plant it. Tie epiphytic and vine-like crops onto driftwood or different gadgets over clumps of sphagnum with fishing line. Use U formed items of wire, like giant staples, to press stay crops into the background over small clumps of moist moss. As soon as the upper elements of the terrarium are planted, add others within the soil combination. Keep away from straight strains, plant in odd numbers, don’t use too many various species.
  6. Wait. Give the terrarium a minimum of every week or two, and preferably longer, earlier than adding any animals. During this time, verify the temperature all through the enclosure and tackle any issues that come up.
  7. Stock the terrarium. Once you’re sure the environmental circumstances inside the new terrarium are appropriate for the species of amphibian or reptile you propose to maintain, add animals and take pleasure in!