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Your Guide to Buying the Right Reptile SuppliesResponsible pet owners know that caring for a reptile is a large commitment, and not something that should be decided on a whim. Reptiles make interesting and worthwhile pets, but only if proper consideration is given to the housing and other supplies necessary to give the pet the proper care it needs to thrive in captivity. As with any pet, thorough planning should occur beforehand to ensure that any reptile, be it a snake, lizard, tortoise, or otherwise, lives a long and happy life.

Each type of reptile has slightly different care requirements, and research needs to be conducted to learn the specifics about a species before deciding to buy that animal. Some species need a specific degree of humidity. Other species require enough water to submerge themselves. All reptiles, however, have the same main requirements for basic survival, and these requirements should be met before any purchase of a live animal is made.

Reptile Enclosures

First and foremost, a reptile needs some type of enclosure in which to live and be kept safe. In most instances, the proper enclosure is some type of terrarium or aquarium, since they retain heat and humidity, provide little to no means of escape, and can hold various types of substrate. They are also made in sizes that are extra long or extra tall to accommodate any species of reptile available to pet owners.

The Difference Between a Terrarium and an Aquarium

The average person likely wouldn't notice the difference between a terrarium and an aquarium upon first glance. The primary difference between the two enclosures is that aquariums are made with thicker glass. Since they are designed to hold water, they are generally stronger and hence more expensive than terrariums. Depending on the type of reptile that will inhabit the enclosure, as well as the enclosure's contents, a terrarium may be more than sufficient. If one wishes to err on the side of caution, however, an aquarium can be purchased instead. If too much heavy substrate is added into a terrarium, the glass may crack or shatter, equaling disaster for both pet and owner alike.

The Importance of a Lid

Some enclosures come with lids, while others do not. A lid is an absolutely necessary in order to keep the reptile safely inside the enclosure, so a buyer must be sure to purchase one separately if one is not included. Wire or mesh lids are the most common type of lid for terrariums, and they are sufficient for reptiles that don't require a tropical, high humidity environment. Glass or plastic lids often come with aquariums, and these are necessary for species that thrive in areas of high humidity.

Heat and Light Sources

Reptiles are cold-blooded, which means they need an external heat source in order to stay warm. In the wild, reptiles move into sunny areas to bask, and then move to shady areas when they need to cool down. All reptiles will need to have the ability to find warmer and cooler areas inside their enclosure to regulate their body temperature. In addition, reptiles will need a cycle of daylight and darkness in order to achieve optimum health.

Overhead Lighting

Overhead lighting is the most common way of heating a reptile enclosure, and it is the easiest to supply for any size reptile. Different types of bulbs and heat lamps are available in various different wattages, and it may take some experimentation to determine what wattage heats a particular tank to the correct temperature range. With overhead lighting, however, consideration needs to be given to heat during the night. Having a 24-hour source of bright light will cause a reptile stress and can lead to health issues. Special night bulbs are available for overnight usage, which give off a red or black glow rather than bright white light. Otherwise, one of the other heating options needs to be implemented in addition to the daytime overhead lights.

Ceramic Heaters

At first glance, ceramic heating elements look similar to regular heating lamps. The ceramic element screws into a specialized socket just like a light bulb, except it emits no light. Because of this, they are acceptable to use as a sole heating method; however, the enclosure should be kept in a room that receives some sunlight in order to maintain a natural day/night cycle.

Under Tank Heaters

Under tank heaters are simply heating pads that adhere to the bottom of a terrarium or aquarium and provide heat to the reptile. They are available in several different sizes in order to heat most small to moderate sized enclosures. For most reptile owners, these are sufficient, but for reptiles kept in much larger enclosures, another option may have to be implemented.


In addition to the heat source itself, at least one thermometer needs to be purchased in order to properly monitor the temperature inside the tank. Ideally, a thermometer should be placed in both the warmer and cooler areas inside the tank to monitor both ends of the spectrum.

Reptile Shelter

Pet reptiles should be given a place where they can hide themselves from view and feel safe from danger. There are many different options that one can choose to meet this requirement. A wide assortment of natural looking caves and logs can be found, made from materials ranging from actual wood or stone to plastic or resin. If a reptile owner wants something a little more whimsical; castles, skulls, pirate ships, ancient ruins, and other sculptures can be found that offer sufficient hiding places as well.


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