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How to Choose the Right Materials for Your Reptile Cage

If you're planning to build an enclosure for your reptile, choosing materials can be a bit daunting. You want to make sure you meet your reptile's needs, and that means getting the right materials.

Building the Cage

First, you'll need the structure of the cage itself. Plywood, particle board, and pegboard are common options for building the frame. Melamine, a laminated particle board, is strong and easy to clean, but it's also heavy.

When it comes to the walls, you have a few options:

  • Screen covers
  • Wire mesh (avoid if you have snakes)
  • Glass panels
  • Transparent thermoplastic panels

Keep in mind that you'll need some ventilation in your enclosure. Small ventilation holes or mesh panels work for most cages.

When constructing your cage, use glue and screws to build the frame and attach the panels. You'll also need hinges for a door if you want side access. Once it's put together, seal it with a nontoxic sealer.

Choosing a Substrate

Next, you'll need a substrate to cover the bottom of the cage and (potentially) help with odor control. Common options for a substrate include:

  • Sand (good for desert reptiles)
  • Bark, mulch, or wood shavings (best for reptiles that spend little time on the ground)
  • Shredded paper towels or newspaper (note that these provide no odor control)
  • Coconut fiber or moss (for high humidity and burrowing reptiles)

The substrate you choose depends on the reptile's natural habitat. For example, sand simulates dry environments, while moss is best for reptiles that need high humidity.

Adding Heat Sources and Lights

Reptiles need external heat sources to regulate their body temperature. You have a few options for heating your reptile enclosure:

  • Ceramic heaters
  • Basking lamps
  • Heat pads
  • Heat cables

It's best to choose only one heating method since multiple heat sources could make the enclosure too hot. Heating pads and cables tend to get very hot on their own too, so be careful with how they're placed.

For lighting, you need some form of UV light. These should be placed outside the cage or otherwise shielded from your reptile. Make sure you choose the right output for your reptile's needs.

Furnishing the Cage

The furnishings in your reptile cage should mimic its natural habitat. Branches are best for climbers, while flat rocks are good for ground-dwellers. They should have a couple places to hide: one warm and one cold. Also, some reptiles will need a pool of water to climb into, while others will only need a drip bottle.

Choose the Right Materials

If you're not sure what your reptile needs, your local pet shop can help you choose the best materials for an enclosure. Contact us to see what we have available.


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