Last updated: September 25, 2020

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When you first hear about terrariums, you may think they are rather strange products. You may change your mind if we tell you that a terrarium is a protected space in which the natural environmental characteristics of your pet (rodent, reptile or amphibian) can be simulated.

What could be more exciting than the day when you purchase or bring home a new pet. Choosing a new pet such as a rodent, reptile or amphibian to keep in your your home is not complete if you don’t have a safe container within which to keep it. Iin this guide we’re going to explain, point by point, which terrarium is best for your pet and which factors you should take into account when buying one. If you are thinking about getting one of these pets, read on, and by the time you reach the end of this article, you will know exactly what you need.

Key Facts

  • Any pet you bring into your home should be housed in a suitable, familiar space. If your pet doesn’t have a place of its own, it may become stressed because it doesn’t feel safe.
  • When you find yourself ready to puchase a new terrarium, you should take into account things like the specific characteristics of your pet (type, breed and lifestyle), the location in which the terrarium will be placed at home and any other animals that are in the house.
  • As a general rule, reptiles are animals that don’t do well sharing space with other animals, so you should pay attention to this if you have more than one reptile in the house. This happens because reptiles are very territorial and like their own space.

The Best Terrariums on the U.S. Market

Both reptiles and amphibians have their own charm. It is obvious that not everyone understands the charming nature of reptiles because the vast majority of people believe that they are cold, boring creatures. This statement is simply not true.  These animals are fascinating–some of them  can change their color and the way they appear, according to the environment. Therefore, it is better to stop comparing them to mammals, such as dogs or cats and seeing them for the dynamic and amazing animals they are in their own right. Below we have created a list of the top 5 terrariums on the U.S. market to give you some options to choose from.

Exo Terra Glass Natural Terrarium Nano/Tall- 8 x 8 x 12 Inches

The Exo Terra Natural Glass Terrarium is the ideal reptile or amphibian housing designed by European herpetologists. There are 12 different sizes of the Exo Terra Natural Glass Terrariums, all built with the same great features that help provide your reptile or amphibian with a durable and comfortable environment to live in.

The front opening doors (single door on the Nano terrariums) allow easy access for maintenance and feeding. A specially designed lock will prevent escape and the doors can be opened separately. The full screen top ventilation allows UVB and infrared penetration, and is completely removable for easy access while decorating or cleaning. In the back of the screen cover are five closable wire or tube inlets on both sides to install Heat Wave Rocks, Waterfalls, sensors, etc. inside the terrarium.

The bottom plate of the terrarium is raised to mount a substrate heater to heat a part of the extended ground surface. The extra high fixed front window is ideal for thick layers of substrates (burrowing reptiles), aquatic parts (paludarium) or to mount an Exo Terra reptile den. The natural background is in the same color like all other Exo Terra decoration items (Water Dishes, Waterfalls, Heat Wave Rocks, etc.) and provides an extra climbing dimension.

NCYP Footed Rectangle Clear Glass Geometric Terrarium with Lid for Reptiles

Modern style and classic elegance can both be yours when you make this lovely artistic glass cube a part of your home. This low-coast terrarium gives your pet a healthier, more spacious environment, while at same time gives you a new way to interact with them. Perfect for adding a touch of eye-catching style to your home or for showing off a favorite pet.

Ideal for adding visual interest and wonderful as a gift for a new pet owner. Made of ultra clear sodium calcium glass and featuring a sturdy copper frame.  Opens from the top that allows you to easily interact with your pet.

Exo Terra Outback Terrarium 24″ x 18″ x 12″ – 20 Gallon

The Exo Terra Glass Terrarium is the ideal reptile or amphibian housing designed by European herpetologists. The front opening doors allow easy access for maintenance and feeding. A specially designed lock will prevent escape and the doors can be opened separately. The full screen top ventilation allows UVB and infrared penetration and is completely removable for easy access while decorating or cleaning.

In the back of the screen cover are 5 closable wire or tube inlets on both sides to install Heat Wave Rocks, Waterfalls, sensors, etc. inside the terrarium. The bottom plate of the terrarium is raised to mount a substrate heater to heat a part of the extended ground surface.

The extra high fixed front window is ideal for thick layers of substrates (burrowing reptiles), aquatic parts (paludarium) or to mount an Exo Terra reptile den (not included). The limited edition hand painted Outback 3D Rock Background is included and provides an extra climbing dimension.

REPTIZOO Mini Reptile Glass Terrarium, Full-View Visually Appealing Glass Reptile Habitat

Reptizoo is a company focused on production of reptile supplies, which already has more than ten years of experience in producing reptile pet products.Their goal is to provide customers with high-quality products and excellent service.

Reptizoo reptile glass terrarium helps provide your reptile or amphibian with a durable and comfortable environment in which to live. The “lift and pull” sliding door is simple to open or close and prevents your reptile from escaping. The full screen top ventilation allows UVB and infrared penetration, and is completely removable for easy access while decorating or cleaning.The terrarium not heavy and is therefore easy to move.

Carolina Custom Cages Terrarium, Large 36Lx18Dx18H; Easy Assembly

These new Carolina Custom Cages Terrariums are very easy to assemble and come in 18 different models. The 24”L models and the 36”L models feature hinged doors. The 48”L and 72”L models feature sliding doors. All models feature key-lock security.

The Bio Deep models feature a 12” deep waterproof base. All other models feature a waterproof base that is: 4” deep on the 18”H models, 6.3” deep on the 24”H models and 7.5” deep on the 36”H models.

One purchaser stated “This is a fantastic cage that is well built and very functional. Our beardie loves it. It comes in equal size plates of glass and screws together easily at the corners. The base is one part as it the top. The door has a simple keyed latch that prevents them from opening. The top grate is metal and works fine with ceramic heat bulbs, etc.”

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Terrariums

Owning a reptile or amphibian is not a simple thing. There are some people who believe that it is the same as having a dog or a cat. However the simple fact is these sensitive animals are radically different from other pets, especially in their care, food, manner communicating and habitat. They need you to pay close attention to them, because they are not as proficient at communicating with you as mammals.  In the following section we will provide all the information you need to be proficient in this field and to choose the right terrarium.

Choosing between one terrarium or another will depend on the type of pet you have.
(Source: Sergey Novikov: 60365960/ 123rf.com)

What is a terrarium?

A terrarium is nothing more than a container, often made of glass, where the optimal, natural conditions for your pet are reproduced to keep certain animals or even plants inside. A terrarium usually remains closed, while maintaining the proper ventilation, temperature and humidity needs of the animal at all times.

It is important to understand that if some environmental characteristics are not met, such as humidity, temperature, size or light, your pet could become stressed, which may seriously affect its health. You should also know in advance the critical needs and lifestyle of your pet, such as if it needs the companionship of a partner.  You may need to invest in a backup power system for your pet’s environmental system, in the event of a blackout–especially if your home climate is much different from the pet’s natural habitat.

What terrarium materials are available and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

It is very important that your pet, whether an amphibian, reptile, arachnid, or other critter, has a place to shelter and live in peace. In other words, a home within your home. There is nothing like learning how to set up a terrarium environment the right way, by knowing exactly which types of terrariums exist in the market as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Material Ideal for Advantages Disadvantages
Glass Pets that you want to keep in the same place within the house. Allows you to see the inside easily.

Glass adds an atmosphere of solidity.

Resistant to blows and falls.

Easy to clean

Static, because they are usually very difficult to move.

Weighs a lot, because the glass is usually thick and reinforced.

Wood Becoming a new piece of furniture in your home. Conserves heat effectively

Better terrarium insulation

Easy to clean

Suitable for large animals

Not suitable for aquatic species or environments where moisture exists.

Mesh Less common, but suitable for turtles and reptiles in dry environments. Unbeatable ventilation

Minimizes bad smells

Resistant and light

Easy to assemble

The cheapest option

Interior and exterior use

Efficiently lets in sunlight

Often an unappealing design

The use is limited, since it only the base can hold earth.

Plastic Usually used as quarantine or travel containers. Also very common for beginners starting out in the world of reptiles. Easy to transport

Easy to clean and ideal for storing insects.

Not designed to contain your pet for a long time.

Scratches easily

What accessories can I place in a terrarium?

There are many elements that can be added to your terrarium, but this depends on many factors: the natural habitat of your pet, your pet’s needs, tastes and/or whether it is sharing the terrarium, among other factors. However, we can establish six main groups of objects and complements that can be introduced into a terrarium: ground surface, water supply, elements that simulate natural conditions, plants, pictures and light.

  • Ground surface: Good soil (for spiders, iguanas, snakes or turtles) is an important element in any terrarium.
  • Water supply: your pet should always have fresh water available.
  • Accessories that simulate their natural habitat: stone caves, branches or waterfalls, among others.
  • Plants: try to use artificial plants because natural plants are more difficult to maintain (due to the terrarium’s heat).
  • Pictures with landscapes: this feature gives a more natural look. You can, for example, search for photos or wallpaper with landscapes of rocks or forests, deserts or meadows–whatever is present in your pet’s natural habitat.
  • Light: depending on your pet, there will be some that require UV rays and others that require red light bulbs (for nocturnal animals). Above all, always make sure that the bulb is covered with a protective grill so that it doesn’t burn you or your pet if accidentally touched.

What types of ground material can I place in the terrarium?

Instead of leaving the base with only cold glass or metal, it is better to place a substrate or floor that is suitable for the type of pet you have. This allows the animal to dig and tunnel as it would do in its natural environment. Another advantage of a substrate is that it provides a more natural environment, keeping your pet calmer and helping them feel more at home.

Below we can classify the most common ground materials into three different types:

  • Calcium sand: for desert animals, which require minimal humidity.
  • Coconut fiber or pine bark: for tropical pets.
  • Mosses or leaves: ideal for terrariums with warm climates.

What habitats and types of terrariums exist?

In general, we distinguish three main environments in which reptiles and amphibians can live: desert, forest and tropical. Each of these require certain characteristics of a terrarium, such as adequate humidity, size, temperature, light or ventilation, among others aspects. In the following table we elaborate further on each type of environment.

Habitat Basic characteristics
Desert The easiest to maintain.

A layer of sand and stones, including some decorations and a small amount of vegetation.

Be diligent regarding the temperature (raise it a lot during the day and lower it at night).

Good ventilation is required.

Forest May include aquatic elements such as a pond.

Abundant vegetation, basically composed of ferns and branches.

Temperatures milder than in the desert environment, taking into account the difference between winter and summer.

Possibility of including small waterfalls, to create a suitable humid environment.

Jungle These are the most difficult to create and achieve.

High humidity and temperature.

Tall elements and objects, so that the animals can climb and hang off of objects.

How do I set up a terrarium for an iguana or a chameleon?

It is incorrect to think that any terrarium is suitable for all animals, regardless of the species. If you are thinking about bringing an iguana or a chameleon into your home, we can explain exactly what these two pets need in order for their habitat to be optimal. You must carefully take into account light, humidity, substrate (ground material), heating and decoration.

  • Substratum: A good product is forest bark, which you can spread in a thickness of 3 mm at the base of the terrarium.
  • Lighting: Low-consumption fluorescent lamps with UV radiation.
  • Heating: For iguanas, ceramic heating lamps of 100 watts (W). Chameleons require a 50 W heating cable.
  • Accessories: Suitable feeders and water supply are required. Chameleons enjoy drinking from a small cascading fountain, although they will often hydrate with the dew that accumulates on the terrarium glass.
  • Decoration: Both iguanas and chameleons require spaces in which to feel safe, such as a hiding place.
  • Temperature and humidity: The ideal environment is a temperature between 75ºF and 79ºF and a humidity of 70%.

What about terrariums for amphibians?

The idea of a terrarium is to recreate your pet’s natural habitat as closely as possible. However this can be complicated and is slightly more difficult in the case of amphibians (such as frogs, newts and salamanders, among other amphibians). The terrarium must have the right conditions and the objects that you introduce must be completely clean.

Cleanliness is an absolute because bacteria grows rapidly in humid environments, which must also be taken into account given the diet of an amphibian (in many cases, they like fresh biological products). In addition, it is also important to note that amphibians should always have access to a body of water that does not receive direct light to be able to cool down.

With terrariums, you should take into account light, humidity, substrate, heating and decorations.
(Source: Suttiwat Phokaiyajima: 70394209/ 123rf.com)

Is it better to have a terrarium or an aqua-terrarium?

When talking about amphibians there can be some doubt, since terrariums aren’t the only type of habitat that exist, but aqua-terrariums are increasing in popularity. The main (and obvious) difference between a terrarium and an aqua-terrarium is that the latter are always inhabited by aquatic animals or amphibians, which need a lot of humidity to survive.

Another aspect to emphasise is the necessity of many species to have a filter to purify their water and to keep it clean. It is important to have easy physical access to an aqua-terrarium to be able to be able to change the water source regularly. Although it seems counter-intuitive, it is actually easier to maintain humid conditions in a large terrarium than in a small one.

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Did you know that insects can also be kept in a terrarium? They have other needs, but today a multitude of products are sold specifically for insects.

Where should I locate the terrarium?

Professionals and experts in the terrarium field often recommend placing terrariums on solid, stable surfaces, such as purpose-built supports or sturdy tables. Weight must be taken into account, as many terrariums are very heavy, so not just any place will do. It is also recommended to keep the terrarium away from regular visitors, so a private room is better suited.

The best room in your home for a terrarium is the coldest room you have (no direct sunshine, away from drafts and heating), as this will make it easier to control the temperature of the terrarium. It is also vitally important that you have easy access to a a power outlet. If you follow these simple steps to start, you are on the right track to creating a well-functioning terrarium.

How do I clean a terrarium?

Needless to say, there are many reasons to have a clean environment for your pet. Reasons like the hygiene of your reptile or the smell in your home are more than enough for you to clean your terrarium on a regular basis. Below, we will show you, step by step, how to clean your terrarium properly.

Before proceeding with the cleaning instructions, a couple of important details must be made clear. It is ideal to put on gloves when cleaning your terrarium, especially to pick up the pet (depending on the type of animal). You must also make sure that the process takes place in a safe environment, away from noises and air currents as this may frighten the pet.

  • Remove the animal with care, as well as all its accessories, leaving the terrarium empty.
  • Throw the dirty substrate away.
  • Mix soap and water in a clean bucket, gently sponging the surface of the terrarium, both on the outside and inside, making sure to clean every corner.
  • Rinse with a clean cloth soaked in warm water, applying a disinfectant. In this step, you must leave the disinfectant for approximately 20 minutes before continuing.
  • Rinse with sponge and water to remove all the disinfectant.
  • Finally, dry the terrarium with paper towel or a clean cloth. Let it ventilate for a few minutes before returning the terrarium to the way it was before the cleaning process.

I’m a beginner, where do I start in the world of terrariums?

Starting out in the world of terrariums is relatively simple, as it won’t cost you many resources to begin with. You only have to focus on choosing a specific terrarium for your pet, choosing the accessories it will need and the food that is suitable for the type of animal. With these three main ideas you will be starting out well.

As we told you before, there is no point in buying the pet and the terrarium at different times, as your pet needs its accessories, containers, food and entertainment in order to survive. You must be clear that a reptile is not a toy and requires just as much care as any other animal, such as a dog or cat.

Desert, forest and tropical are some of the terrarium types that exist.
(Source: Dirk Ercken: 117544954/ 123rf.com)

Shopping Criteria

What should you take into account when buying a terrarium? We imagine that at this point, you still have many questions about buying a terrarium, so here we provide you some buying tips, detailing them one by one. By doing this, we hope to dispel your doubts, ensuring a successful new purchase.

Dimensions

This is one of the first aspects to observe, as animal stress due to small spaces is often a common cause of illness or even death. There are two main types available: long and wide, for reptiles and amphibians that crawl or stay on the ground; or tall, designed for species that need to climb.

Another key aspect is to think about is the future of your pet, as many species grow rapidly. If you have an iguana or some types of snakes, you’ll want to keep this in mind and stay ahead of their growth. Obviously, the bigger the terrarium, the more money you will need to invest.

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Did you know that reptiles don’t really have cold blood? They are ectothermal animals, receiving heat only from the sun.

Type of Pet

As you’ve seen, there are very different types of terrariums available, depending on the animal’s habitat characteristics, size and species of the reptile or amphibian. The type of pet is not a trivial matter, and is arguably the main factor for deciding on the type of terrarium you need. If you don’t want to buy the wrong terrarium, regardless of whether you have a turtle, salamander, gecko, snake or scorpion, do your research and make sure you buy the right environment for the type of pet you have.

The type of pet you have is linked to the style of habitat you will need to acquire. You will need to identify the breed of your animal and classify it within a certain type of environment. A reptile or amphibian accustomed to living in a jungle environment (even if bred in captivity) will not require the same living conditions as a forest or desert reptile.

Cleanliness is critical for your pet’s health.
(Source: Narongrit Dantragoon: 82109781/ 123rf.com)

Materials

The material of your terrarium is another important criterion to consider when choosing your terrarium. In the shopping guide section above, we have shown you the types of materials with which terrariums can be built: glass, plastic, mesh or wood. In addition, there is a brief description of each one, detailing a series of advantages and disadvantages.

With the information we have provided, you have no excuse not to buy the most suitable terrarium for your reptile or amphibian. For example, if you have a gecko, you know that they love to hydrate themselves with the dew from the inner surface of their terrarium, so it makes sense to buy one made of resistant glass. An example like this shows how important it is to adapt the terrarium to the pet.

Security

Having a reptile or amphibian requires a certain level of security, as well as providing a conducive home environment. Maintaining safety, both inside and outside the terrarium, will guarantee the health and happiness of your pet. High levels of stress over a long period of time are among the most frequent reasons of health problems in these types of animals.

To meet this requirement, there’s nothing better than buying a home for your pet that has the following features: a reliable seal and optimal entry panels (so you can feed your animal without it escaping). You can also consider buying an additional padlock, for extra security.

It is also necessary to choose a resistant material that can withstand possible blows or impacts, both from your animal and from the outside–accidents happen. With this in mind, that is why you need to place the terrarium in a place that is not the most busy area of the house.

Maintenance

The terrarium needs to be cleaned sooner rather than later. Earlier in the guide, we described the cleaning process in a step by step manner so that you know exactly how to clean your terrarium. However, this task is easier if you buy a product that is not overly complicated to clean in the first place. What to take into account in this regard? The dimensions, simple lines, and the way the terrarium panels open.

The dimensions of the terrarium are important because if you think about it, it is not necessary to buy a terrarium far bigger than your pet currently needs if your pet is not going to grow much over time. In terms of how to open the panels, maintenance can require more work if they do not open completely and if they do not offer easy access.

foco

Did you know that snakes, many years ago, had legs?

Ventilation and Light

Your pet needs an environment where they can enjoy an adequate level of oxygen. Since they are locked up without the option to leave, a comfortable and well-oxygenated space is critical. You should choose a terrarium with optimal ventilation in which the air inside renews easily. A well-designed vent is usually sufficient to allow air to enter a terrarium. Be sure the holes in the vent are not large enough for your pet to squeeze through and escape.

Although your pet should not be located in direct sun in your home it is beneficial that through the cracks in the ventilation, some UV rays from the sun can enter. This is necessary because reptiles, as we wrote above, are not cold-blooded animals, but receive their heat from external sources such as the sun. Your reptile needs to be able to gt in and out of the sun as well as the heat at his or her own option.  This need can also be supplemented with appropriate light bulbs.

Terrariums should be kept in cool, ventilated areas.
(Source: Jacek Nowak: 65174602/ 123rf.com)

On the market today there are a multitude of terrariums equipped with everything you need to get started, especially if you are a beginner: lights, heating, accessories and additional complements, such as landscape photos. If natural light is poor, you will need to buy a light bulb to supplement your pet’s light on your own. Luckily, these items are not expensive but very useful to maintain the health of your pet.

Summary

The world of reptiles and alternative pets has its charm. As stated earlier, there are a lot of people who don’t like these types of pets, but this is mainly because they don’t understand them well enough. However, if you are lucky enough to welcome one of these amazing animals into your home, you will know fascinating they can be. In this guide we have written about how to proceed with the purchase of a suitable terrarium.

You should know that no matter how good your intentions are, if you don’t provide your animal with a safe place, as well as good food, designed for reptiles or amphibians, there is a high chance that your animal won’t live very long. Also, never forget to get regular advice from a vet, who will help and assist you through all of the natural processes that your animal will go through, such as breeding.

We hope you enjoyed this shopping guide on terrariums. If you liked it, don’t forget to share on social media, as well as leave a comment below. See you soon!

(Source of featured image: Zhanna Tretiakova: 46920610/ 123rf.com)

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