Reptile Enclosures and Sizes

Reptile Enclosures and Sizes

There are hundreds of reptiles that can make great pets, from the lesser-known carpet python to the visually stunning sailfin dragon. However, most people who keep reptiles don’t have the capacity to meet the needs of some specialist species. That’s why, over time, certain animals have risen to the top of the hobby for their ease of keeping, interesting personalities, and accessibility.

When deciding on a reptile of your own, it’s easy to get lost wading through care sheets to find the baseline information about enclosure size and diet to understand if they might be a good fit for you. Here are the top 10 most popular reptiles (in no particular order—we love them all!) to keep as pets and the basics of how to keep them, from food and lighting to the types of enclosures you’ll need to house them.

Remember: every pet is unique, and they’ll be counting on you to take care of all their needs for the rest of their life. That means you’ll need to be realistic about how big of an enclosure you can fit, what your budget is, and more. But if you’re still in the research phase, a big picture overview of what to expect from these mainstays in the herping hobby can help you narrow down your choice.

  1. Bearded Dragons

Beardies are native to Australia, which means they’re fans of hot, arid or semi-arid climates. They’re terrestrial (that is, they walk around on the ground instead of climbing), so a bearded dragon’s enclosure should prioritize horizontal ground space rather than vertical space. Beardies will climb for enrichment, but they don’t live up in trees!

To make sure a beardie has enough space, a 120 gallon enclosure is the recommended minimum; that’s 4x2x2. At four feet wide, the enclosure will provide space for your bearded dragon to explore and use their muscles, which is important for good health and mental stimulation.

Beardies like it hot, so be prepared to install lamps that can get your hot spot over 100 degrees for basking. However, these lizards still need 30% to 40% humidity, so choose a substrate and enclosure arrangement that doesn’t keep things bone dry!

In the wild, bearded dragons eat a lot of bugs, fruits, and vegetables. You can replicate this diet in captivity by providing a variety of foods in a bowl or trying the Reptilinks Omnivore blend, which mixes bugs, meat, veggies, and fruits in a variety of ratios to suit your pet’s needs.

  1. Blue-Tongued Skinks

Like beardies, blueys are also native to Australia, though some species also come from Indonesia. Regardless of the type of blue-tongued skink you own, their enclosures should not be smaller than 4x2x2. Despite their small legs, they are very active lizards that love to roam, and they will use every inch you give them.

The right humidity for your bluey will depend on the species you have, with Australian variants tolerating moisture content from 40% to 60% and Indonesian subspecies requiring a higher minimum at 60% to 80%. Blue tongue skinks also benefit from a basking spot slightly higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but provide a wide area for them to thermoregulate.

As omnivores, blue-tongued skinks will eat a wide variety of foods, from bugs, fruits, and vegetables to many types of red- and white-meat whole prey and even small birds. Reptilinks for omnivores as well as any of the ground whole prey links can be a good choice!

  1. Corn Snakes

Among snakes, few are as commonly kept as corns. These reptiles hailing from the United States come in many colors and patterns, and thanks to their diverse range, they are well adapted to the requirements of outdoor living—climbing, burrowing, and exploring. They will live happily in the wide terrestrial space of a 4x2x1, but corns can gain extra enrichment from the additional vertical space of something larger once they become adults.

Corn snakes enjoy a cooler basking spot than many lizards, sitting at the high 80s. They are experts at thermoregulation and will burrow down when they feel too warm. With a mid-range humidity requirement of about 60%, most enclosures can meet their needs with minimal modification.

Corns prey on a wide range of small animals in the wild: birds, amphibians, rodents, and even baby animals such as rabbit kits. Varying their diet by including these whole prey animals or using Reptilinks blends of quail, frog, or rabbit can meet their nutritional needs.

  1. Leopard Geckos

The smiling face of a leo is one of the most characteristic images of the reptile hobby. These friendly and curious lizards are native to the around surrounding northern India, which means that they find their homes in rocky, mountainous deserts. Despite their soft, velvety skin, they do not need high humidity; in fact, 30% to 50% will keep them happy and healthy. Some like it wetter, others prefer a drier home.

Despite the popular myth that leos don’t bask, leopard geckos can regularly be found on rocky outcroppings in areas that reach the 90s Fahrenheit. This misconception first came about because leos are not often seen fully basking; rather, they participate in a practice called cryptic basking, where they may only expose one small part of themselves to the warmth.

A 40 gallon enclosure can provide a good home for an adult leopard gecko. This measures about 36x18x18, focusing on a terrestrial orientation. These lizards thrive on live insects, so be sure to vary their diet among popular options such as super worms, dubia roaches, black soldier fly larvae, and more to give them rich nutrient opportunities.

  1. Ball Pythons

Another of the most recognizable pets, the ball python is known for its tightly wound ball shape when taken by surprise. These sub-Saharan snakes are diverse in colors and patterns, with females typically getting slightly larger than males. A 4x2x2 is a baseline for this species, but some large females can benefit from even more space. Contrary to popular belief, they will use all of the vertical space you provide!

Balls typically bask on areas in the low 90s up to the low 100s, but because they are a nocturnal species, it is common not to see your snake bask. They shed best in at around 50% humidity and enjoy numerous prey items in the wild, so maintaining a varied diet goes a long way in keeping them happy. Reptilinks’ ground whole prey items with rabbit and quail are good choices, but opt for the variants that are prey-only and do not include high vegetable or fruit content.

  1. Monitor Lizards

Recommending an enclosure size for a monitor lizard is like asking what size shoe a human wears. Monitors come in all shapes and sizes, from the 20-inch Timor monitor to the Asian water monitors that can exceed 8 feet in length. As a general recommendation, you’ll want an enclosure that is at least twice as wide as your animal’s adult length, head to tail. For some large species, that can mean an entire room!

Just as their sizes can vary so widely, so do their diets and heating requirements. In general, monitors like it hot, and most commonly kept species such as savannah monitors will want a basking spot in excess of 120 degrees Fahrenheit—which can require some more advanced lighting setups and a lot more electricity than other species.

Most monitors start their lives on a diet primarily comprising insects, then transition to a greater proportion of whole prey later. However, feeding too many prey items is the leading cause of premature death in captive monitors due to fatty liver disease, so it is crucial to continue including a large portion of insects in most monitors’ diets. Opt for Reptilinks’s bug-based omnivore with occasional ground or whole prey to balance nutrition more optimally.

  1. Tortoises

As with monitor lizards, hobbyists can keep tortoises that fit in the palms of their hands or can house the giants from the Galapagos that reach more than 500 pounds and five feet long. Tortoises are often highly active and exploratory, so the recommendation is that their enclosure be at least six times as long as your animal is wide.

Basking temperatures and humidity requirements will vary among species, but with tortoises, do not neglect proper calcium supplementation and UV light exposure among your setup requirements. Otherwise, your animal can become prone to pyramiding, in which the shell transitions from smooth to mountainous. Tortoises do not live in their shells—they are their shells, and so this condition can leave them with a poorer quality of life.

Depending on the type of tortoise you have, their natural diet may include animal proteins from sources such as birds. Megablend Reptilinks are consistently popular for these shelled friends thanks to their wide range of nutrients and inclusion of whole prey items such as ground feathers.

  1. Crested Geckos

The crestie is one type of New Caledonian gecko (that’s in between Australia and New Zealand), and they have come into wide hobby fame for their expressive faces, engaging personalities, and hardy nature. While it’s true they can drop their tails, establishing a bond of calmness and trust with your crestie can be easier than for other species.

As a gecko, cresties possess the clinging feet characteristic of many members of this family. As such, their enclosure should be at least 36x18x18, with the 36 inches being height, not width, to allow them to engage in their natural climbing abilities. Many crested geckos prefer not to bask directly, instead simply soaking up the ambient heat on their warm end. Their temperature tolerance is lower than many other lizards, so they should not be exposed to temperatures higher than approximately 82 degrees Fahrenheit. For keepers in cooler climates, this can be a blessing.

New Caledonia is a humid environment, and crested geckos enjoy an ambient humidity between 60% and 80%. Their diet in the wild includes many insects and occasional fruits, so be sure to gutload insects and offer a wide variety in order to meet their nutritional needs.

  1. Boa Constrictors

The term “boa constrictor” encompasses a huge potential range of animals. Rosy boas measure an average of about two feet as adults, whereas green anacondas need an entire room (at the very least) at their adult size of up to 30 feet. Practical advice on housing constrictors varies but typically recommends that the enclosure be long enough that your snake can stretch out across the front and one side. Alternatively, make sure the enclosure is at least as wide diagonally as your snake is long.

Like other types of snakes, boa constrictors consume whole prey in the wild. Reptilinks that offer ground whole prey items are favorites, especially the rabbit links. The strong casing of the links can stand up to your constrictor’s natural instincts to strike and hold!

  1. Iguanas

When most people think of iguanas, they imagine the long, green lizards with spikes and stripes. However, iguanas come in many forms; green iggies can grow up to five feet, whereas Cuban rock iguanas remain a bit smaller and need different types of habitat items. No matter what, be prepared to provide an enclosure that offers at least 8 feet of space in one direction; larger lizards will often need upwards of 12 feet.

Iguanas eat a lot of plant matter, avoiding animal proteins when they have the choice. As such, feeding them can be a consistent undertaking, as you’ll need to provide fresh produce daily or every other day. They thrive in fairly hot basking temps upwards of 115 degrees, depending on the species, and UV light is an important part of their development. Additionally, males can become territorial and temperamental during breeding season, even with established keepers—so be sure you know what you’re getting into with these guys!

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