Buying Terrarium – Everything You Need To Consider

Not all reptiles are the same – not all terrariums are the same! Before you decide on a dwelling, the question of its inhabitant should already be clarified. Terrariums cannot be generalized, just as little as animals. They have different living conditions due to different requirements. The new habitat must also be adapted to these.

Preliminary Considerations

Reptiles come from very different climatic zones. First, find out what your pet’s natural habitat looks like. Does it come from the desert or the jungle? Does it like the cold or the heat? A wrong attitude can have in the worst case deadly consequences for your protégé. You can get information from various specialist literature or get advice at trade fairs and in special stores.

Before you buy a terrarium and pet, calculate the costs beforehand. These are often underestimated! Ask yourself if you have the motivation to take care of a pet for several years. With turtles it can be several decades.


If you have now decided to take the animal including terrarium, it goes to the planning. First, choose a location for the new dwelling. It should not be located near a window or a heater. These can mean additional heat sources and influence your technique. Also avoid drafts and noisy places. Ideal is a power supply near the terrarium. If necessary, you can also lay cables.

Make sure that small children and other pets cannot access the terrarium.


Now that you have decided on a location in your home, you can estimate the size of the terrarium. This is primarily based on the needs of your animal. The rule is: the bigger, the better!

Now measure the location exactly. Slopes and possible base cabinets must be taken into account. Also remember that you need to open the lid easily and that you should have enough space for cleaning.

Terrarium Types

Depending on the needs of your animal, you can choose between different types of terrariums. Here are the four most popular models.

Desert Or Dry Terrarium

The desert or dry terrarium usually simulates a dry and hot place. In the wild, this would be the desert. Inhabitants need high temperatures and sandy underground. Stones and cacti are particularly suitable for decoration. You can build a cave with larger stones. Because many animals need a shelter and retreat.


The climate must be kept hot and dry. For this you need heat lamps. However, since the natural weather cools down at night, take the fluctuations into account. It is recommended to install a thermostat, which automatically regulates the set temperatures. To ease the transition from night to day, you can, for example, imitate the morning dew. To do this, in the morning lightly spray the plants with water and provide a small cooling.


The most important technique is probably that of heat regulation. Heating mats, heating stones and heat spots such as UV lamps can be used for this purpose. Since the required technology also depends on the material of the terrarium, read more about this under the points of the terrarium materials.


Urgently necessary is a water bowl. Visually, stone bowls blend perfectly into the environment. If you decide for a glass terrarium, you can design the back wall in stone or desert optics.

The bottom of most reptiles from the desert will be made of sand. Exceptions are for example the leopard gecko, which prefers a loamy and finer substrate. Since you’ve already learned about your pet at this step, you’ll know best which substrate will work for your pet.

For reptiles in a desert terrarium, grasshoppers, mealworms and crickets are usually on the menu. The situation is different for snakes, which prefer living small animals such as mice. Read about the special requirements of snakes in this article: Buying a snake – tips and tricks from buying to keeping.

Wet Or Tropical Terrarium

The great advantage of the wet terrarium is the individual design possibilities. Many plants, extensive decoration and furnishing ideas can make the terrarium the eye-catcher of your living room. The big disadvantage, however, is the great care effort.


It is very important to create a tropical terrarium with constant temperatures, optimal lighting and a sultry climate. For beginners this is usually too demanding a task. Therefore the humid or tropical terrarium is rather recommended for people with first experiences in the field of terraristics. Due to the humid climate, glass or aluminum versions should be considered. Wooden terrariums are completely unsuitable for this purpose. In addition, they can cause mold in the dwelling of your pet, which could have fatal health consequences for your protégé.

To ensure adequate ventilation, the terrarium should have air openings at the top and bottom. This will allow excess moisture to escape and provide good air circulation. The humid terrarium should have on average between 70 and 80 % humidity (depending on the animal). Temperatures are usually between 25 and 32 degrees. At night it cools down to a pleasant 20 degrees.


Generally you need less technique for a tropical terrarium than for a desert terrarium. Nevertheless, heaters such as heating mats or heating cables are necessary. The heating is usually located under the terrarium. Exceptions to this are the needs of animals that require a damp or semi-damp floor. Then mat or cable is attached to the back. Ready-made back walls can be purchased in a specialty store.

Since the constant temperature is very important, it is recommended to install controllers. Because fluctuations can harm the animal. By attaching thermometer and hygrometer you can check the values.

The lighting in the tropical terrarium should be sun-like and natural. UV light tubes, daylight tubes or plant tubes are best suited for this purpose. These have a low energy consumption, but at the same time have a high light output.

For the rainforest feeling to come up, the humidity is enormously important. Therefore, the terrarium must be watered daily. Make sure that the water is low in lime and runs through a carbon filter beforehand. For sprinkling you can use hand pump bottles and manual compressed air sprayers. These are the less expensive, but more costly option. A sprinkler system runs automatically, but is also much more expensive to purchase. However, since the terrarium should be watered 2 to 3 times a day, a cost-benefit comparison makes sense.


When furnishing the terrarium, you have a lot of creative freedom. The choice should of course be adapted to the size of the housing and the animal. However, pretty much everything is allowed: from bark and cork to roots and leaves to whole branches. Plants not only provide a visual eye-catcher, they also ensure an optimal climate. The substrate also depends on the reptile – some prefer coconut substrate, others moss.

Aquaterrariums (Paludarium)

A special form of terrarium is the paludarium. For water-loving reptiles as well as amphibians a symbiosis of land and water is copied here. It is considered a “compromise solution” between aquarium and terrarium. Palus is the latin term and means translated as swamp.


The paludarium consists of a water and a land part. The humidity is high and a tropical climate is created.
A more natural feeling comes when you put the plants directly into the ground. However, you have to remember that you have to pull them out again every time you clean them and replant them later. Therefore, flower pots are usually the more practical solution. Care of the paludarium often turns out to be a challenge. Complete and independent cleaning is impossible. Set the inhabitants only when completely free of no and parasites. During cleaning, a powerful drain can be a valuable help.

The optimal water level of a paludarium varies – who would have thought it – based on its inhabitants. It should not be too high for the animals where there is a risk of drowning. To avoid this, an exit opportunity should also always be installed, for example by branches or stones. However, too low can also be harmful and not provide them with enough liquid. Therefore, it is recommended not to use too many different species.


The technology consists of a water filter that ensures a clean environment, a nebulizer that creates high humidity, and lighting. Amphibians do not rely on UV light for this. Reptiles, however, as warm-blooded animals, do. Also, some animals require an extra heat range. Spotlights are particularly recommended for this purpose.

The higher requirements for ventilation have to be considered. Good planning is everything! Open paludariums are also possible. Let yourselves be advised for it in specialized stores.


In terms of habitat, the paludarium offers the greatest choice. Plants and roots provide protection for the fish, just like a natural shore. The water quality is usually even better than that of the aquarium. Plant roots grow here directly into the water part. Thus, they have the opportunity to extract pollutants and release them through their exposed leaves.

Whether you plant the aquaterrarium densely or rather sparsely depends on the inhabitants. Suitable for a paludarium are toads, newts, turtles or agamas.

The design of the land part can be based on the swamp area. Planting with ferns, bromeliads, reeds and bamboo can become the visual highlight of the terrarium. The substrate is peat, humus or gravel.



When buying the terrarium, you will soon come across the choice between glass, wood, plastic and aluminum. All materials have their advantages and disadvantages, but are not equally suitable for every animal.

The Glass Terrarium

Is one of the most popular forms in terraristics. You can always see the animals and with a nice design the glass terrarium is an absolute eye-catcher. The glass home is versatile and can be the right choice for a variety of animals. Especially for animals that prefer humidity or moisture, this material is recommended. Also, the cleaning is much easier compared to wood and can be done without much effort.

However, glass can store heat poorly and so additional heat sources are always necessary. This can result in higher energy costs. Many reptiles do not like to be observed all the time, so they tend to withdraw.

The Wooden Terrarium

Is especially popular for desert landscapes. It provides the perfect home for insects, spiders, subtropical and steppe-dwelling animals. The natural material blends easily into the habitat. It also has better thermal insulation than glass, resulting in lower costs for electricity consumption and heat sources. The purchase price is also usually lower.

However, the wooden terrarium can not be inhabited by every animal. Especially species that live in humid areas cannot be kept in wooden terrariums. The risk is too great that molds will form due to the moisture. In the worst case, this will make your pet life-threateningly ill.

The Plastic Terrarium

Is characterized by very good thermal insulation, which keeps energy costs low in the long run. They have a high stability and are still very light. The smooth surface makes the terrarium easy to clean. In addition, it can not mold or swell like wood.

Integral rigid foam panels or Forex are the materials used here. This makes the terrarium very expensive.

The Aluminum Terrarium

Is hygienic, robust and stable. Also, due to its light weight, it remains mobile and often has a modern design. The durability of aluminum is undeniable.

However, this variant, like the plastic one, is quite costly. In addition, there is poor thermal insulation. Thus, not only acquisition costs are high, but also the running expenses increase.

Good To Know

The choice of the door of the terrarium should also be taken into account. Note in the case of a sliding door, that it is lockable.

With poisonous inhabitants a trap door is recommended. Here you can react quickly and bring your hands to safety. However, this variant is more advisable for smaller terrariums.

If you have animals that like to dig (e.g. bearded dragons) the distance between door and floor determines the filling height of your substrate. In this case it is advisable to choose a terrarium with a higher portal.

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