Reptile Enclosure Set up Tips - get it right and your pets will thrive!

Posted by Reptile Direct Australia on

Reptile Enclosure

I saw this Bearded Dragon enclosure posted online and thought it would be a good chance to point out some considerations when setting up an enclosure.

Glass vs Wood - this glass enclosure looks great but is not really the ideal choice for Bearded Dragons as it would be very difficult to maintain the correct temperature gradient. Wood enclosures are better insulated so hold the heat better which means better temperatures for your pets and less cost on your electricity bill.

Enclosure Location - placing a tank like this next to a glass window so that your pet can see out and get some direct sun access may seem like a good idea but unfortunately it is not. The major concern is that direct sunlight coming through the glass can be magnified which creates a real danger of overheating on a sunny day even if the outside temperatures are not that high. Conversely in winter being next to a glass window is going to introduce winter chill to your pets enclosure which is not ideal. Your lizard is not going to get any benefit from the view but could get spooked by predators like large birds outside. Finally there would be no UV advantage to placement next to a window as the valuable UV required by reptiles does not pass through glass. It is much better to place your reptile tank against an internal wall or room where you can control the temperatures much better. It would be better to choose a cooler room that you need to heat rather than a hotter room that you cant cool.

Lamp Placement - for a Bearded Dragon you will generally need two lamp fixtures as you see in the photo - one for a basking bulb like the bulb on the left, the other for a reptile UV bulb - the moonlight bulb on the right of this enclosure would provide no benefit to Bearded Dragons and would be better replaced with a UV bulb. It is generally more desirable to have both of those bulbs next to each other down one end of the tank - that way when your pet is sitting under the basking bulb getting heat, it is also within range of the UV bulb and will absorb valuable UV when its body temperature is as at the higher preferred body temperature while basking. With the fittings split like in the photo with one down each end your pet is not going to get best use of the UV bulb.

Thermostat Probe Placement - the sensor probe from the thermostat should be placed inside the enclosure as close to the basking site as possible - that is going to be hottest point in the enclosure where your lizard sits and that should reflect the best basking temperature that you will set into the thermostat. Temperature gets lost rapidly in the air so if the probe is placed at a distance from the basking site then you are not going to have accurate temperatures at the basking site.

Basking site - Bearded Dragons love to bask and climb. In a high tank such as the one in the photo you should make full use of that by furnishing the enclosure with climbing branches especially one close to the basking light bulb. That way your lizard can move throughout the enclosure in different locations and elevations to make the best from temperature gradients in the enclosure. Ideally your pet should bask at the closest point to the heat source where it will warm up the quickest for an hour or so in the morning, and then shuttle back and forth from that 'hot spot' during the course of the day. If your lizard spends all day at the basking site then it is likely temperatures are not high enough so he/she will become a slave to the heat source; conversely if your lizard never sits at that basking site then chances are the temperatures there are too high.
Furnishings and Decorations - this set up is not bad in that regard as it provides a range of textures for the lizard to move around on. The addition of a background board on the back wall would help to insulate the glass tank and provide the animal with some security rather being visible from all four walls, and also provide the lizard with an extra climbing opportunity for environmental enrichment.

As reptile keepers we should generally be looking to set up enclosures that replicate as closely as possible the environmental conditions that our pets would face in the wild. Controlling temperatures is one of the key factors for reptile health and well being and following the above steps will help with that considerably.