How to Choose a Lizard Cage and Habitat
up a reptile or lizard cage requires that an owner simulates
the type of environment the lizard would have experienced in the
wild. These are also referred to as lizard vivariums, terrariums or
habits. Some owners prefer a simple home made cage or one that is
sparsely decorated, while others like to replicate the native
environment of the lizard. New hobbyists can get a fast start by
purchasing a kit such as the one pictured below.
Each lizard habitat needs to take into account:
- Native Environment: Latitude and elevational range where your
species of gecko is from. This will dictate how the terrarium is
- Temperature: The lizard body temperatures is set by the outside
temperature. Most lizard habits require a heated area for
basking, such as a flat rock and a cooler daytime area that is often
adjusted an additional 10 to 15 degrees colder at night.
- Lighting: Lizard need vitamin D to metabolize calcium. This
comes from either exposure to natural light or approximatley 10 hours
of light provided by a UVB bulb.
- Lizard Cage: Reptile cages are measured in gallons, in square
feet and in side x side x height dimensions. The reptile cage
needs to accommodate the size of the lizard and the type of environment
required. For example, some lizards like to burrow, others hide,
and still others climb.
- Water and Humidity: Lizards require a humidity level between 30%
and 70%. Semi-aquatic lizards require higher humidity while desert
lizards are on the low end of the scale. Lizard and reptile cage
materials will vary based on whether you need to keep humidity in the
cage (glass, plexiglass) or wire mesh (be careful with dimensions so
that lizard does not get caught in the mesh).
- Reptile Cage Furniture: Pet stores sell a wide variety of
furnishings. These include flat rocks, substrates (material for bottom
of cage), branches and more. Note that the cage will need to be cleaned
frequently, and substrates will need to be replaced every 3 months, so
keep this in mind as you select decorative items.
Use the search box on this page to find infomation on the natural
habitat of your lizard breed or our lizard list
Aquarium for Lizards by Specie
Different lizard species thrive in different environments, depending on
were they are from. These are:
Requirements vary based on the
- Lizard Cages: The
of the cage reflects the size and needs of the lizard. A Gecko can
thrive in a 10 gallon acquarium, although a 15 to 20 gallon size is
better, Species that live in trees require
vertical and horizontal branches, while others like to dig or
burrow. A larger lizard, such as an adult bearded dragon requires a 75
gallon aquarium (238L), although an even larger habitat is
preferred. These lizares also require a screen top for
ventalization, a rock cave for hiding, and branches for basking (see
descriptions of these items below.
Most lizards do not like to be housed with others,
particularly males. Lizard cages can be home made or purchased
from a pet store.
Exo Terra Allglass Acquarium for
Lizards. Available in multiple
sizes as shown here
- Lizard Temperature:
Lizards are cold blooded. They change the temperature of their
bodies by moving to different areas of the aquarium. They typical
lizard will need a heated area for basking, and then a colder area for
cooling down. When the lizard reaches the required temperature,
other areas allow them to cool off. If the lizard is from tropical
areas, temperatures usually range between 80 to 100F (27 to 38C).
Temparate lizards are kept in temperatures sfrom 68 to 95F (20 to
35C). Again research the suggested temperatures for your lizard
specie. Do not overheat any surfaces and keep heat lamps at least
18 inches, but can be several feet from the lizard.
Heat sources include undertank heater which should be placed under no
more than 30% of the lizard cage bottom and heat lamps. Many owners
prefer Mecury Vapor lights such as the Power
since they provide the required heat and some UV light. UV light
provides many of the benefits of natural sunlight and is critical to
lizard health. Other options are infrared heaters which attach to the
top of the acquarium. The advantage of infrared such as the ZooMed
Repticare Ceramic Heat Emitter
is that they do not overheat the
basking area and do not emit light. A minimum habitat temperature
can be set 24 hours a day wiht the use of a floor heat mat.
Note: most experts recommend that owners avoid hot rocks due to the
lizard burning risk
- Lizard and Reptile Cage
Substrates: The habitat floor can be covered by a variety of
- Some prefer simpler choices such as recycled newspaper or
- Other more natural looking choices are cypress shavings/mulch
(cyprus mulch and cedar shaving/mulch
- Vitamin infused sand- may be a problem if ingested by the
lizard, particularly geckos looking for additional calcium
- Redwood bark
bedding is popular for burrowing lizards, comes in a variety of
- Sterile Potting Soil
- Pine Shavings
- Butcher paper
- Astroturf works for some lizards such as Bearded Dragons
Redwood bark and cypress mulch in particular are lizard and owner
favorites for their appearance and the way lizards take to the
substrate. An alternative is to use a product made for lizard cage
floors called a Repticarpet.
- Aquarium for Lizards Lighting:
Every owner should learn the photoperiod or number of hours of
continuous light needed for a particular lizard. The number of hours
will vary based on time of year with many lizards requiring 10 hours of
light in winter and 14 hours in the summer.There are two types of
lights used in an aquarium for lizards. The first is a UV or
ultraviolet light and the second is a Basking light for heat.
- UV Lizard Lights: These
lights have many health and behavior benefits for lizards (also called
UVB), including skin health. Bulb choices include flourescent light and
the Power Sun type Mercury Vapor bulps mentioned above. The light
wavelengths are referred to as between between 290 and 320 nanometers.
- Basking Lights are 50
to 75 watts and should be kept at least 18 inches from the lizard (in a
location that cannot come in contact with the lizard, such as outside
- Purchase a thermometer for both ends of the lizard card to check
the cage temperature in hot and cold areas
Light that naturally comes through windiows or the side of a tank is
not adequate since the UV rays are filtered out. If a lizard does not
get enough sunlight, a vitamin D supplement may be necessary.
- Humidity and Water Levels in an
Aquarium for Lizards:
Required water and humidity levels depend on the lizards species.
For example, lizards from the desert are genetically able to conserve
water while others such as as those from semiaquatic environments need
to spend a signficant amount of time in the water, and may even eat in
the water. Many types of smaller lizards such as Anoles drink from
water droplets on leaves, while others are comfortable drinking from a
water dish. If humidity is too low for a particular lizard (under 30%),
the skin can become too dry, resulting in shedding. Too much humidity
can leads to lizard health issues such as skin infections (+75%
- Lizard Cage Furniture:
Reptile cages do not have to be ornately decorated. Many
hobbyists in the United States prefer simple designs, opting to keep
smaller lizards such as Geckos in simple plastic boxes, using paper as
a floor substrate. In Europe, hobbyists opt to create an entire
ecosystem in the terrarium. The answer is to which is best is
based on personal preference and the needs of the lizard.
- Lizard Hide Boxes: This
is where the lizard can have some privacy. A popular option is a
box where the lizard feels like it is hiding, but is carved out on the
side for owner observation. Hide boxes can be home made (plastic cat
litter boxes) or store bought as the one pictured below. A home
made hiding box could be as simple as a shoebox.
Lizard Cage Hide Box by Exo
- Cork Bark: Cork bark is
a material that can be used to decorate lizard cage backgrounds or as a
place to climb and hide.
Lizard Cage Cork Bark provides a
natural looking area for lizards to hide or climb
Tree Limbs: As mentioned above, lizards require an area under a
lamp or light to bask or warm. This can be on top of a limb or on a
depending on the preference of the species. For comfortable basking,
the limb width should be at least the size of the lizards body.
Lizard Cage Limb for Basking.
The limb should be as wide as the lizard.
- Lizard Cage Foliage:
Planting in cages provides additional security for the lizard as they
can use the foliage to hide from view. Suggested plants include F. ben
jamina Dracaena are popular. Plastic or silk terrarium plants provide
another option. Plants can be kept in their pots and then buried
into the substrate. Avoid live plants that produce sap or that have
pricks. Plants require light such as full specturm flourescent lamps.
Lizard Cage Silk Decorative
Plants like this one replicate natural plants and provide additional
hiding places for the Reptile.
- Lizard Cage Rocks: A
for lizards often includes rocks that mimic those found in the lizard's
natural environment. Rocks are used as a vantage point and for hiding.
Use a silicon adhesive to hold rocks in place. Rocks are made
from materials that mimic the real thing when used in a home terrarium.
If you place rocks on top of a substrate such as sand, make sure that
small lizards such as Geckos cannot burrow and get trapped underneath.
For example, silicon rocks can be set into place with silicone.
Make sure any silicone used has dried and is not emiting any more fumes
that could harm the lizard.
Highly Rated Lizard Cage Rock
that Holds in Place Using Magnets
Aquairum for Lizards Hygiene and Sanitation
To keep the lizard healthy, any lizard cage should be kept
This means that feces is removed, urine is cleaned, and any food is not
allowed to spoil. If feces is not removed, parasites can become a
health threat to the lizard. Remove any feces at least 1x or 2x per
week. Any substrate or product used to cover the
bottom of an acquarium should be changed every 3 months. The entire
terrarium should be completely disinfected. Clean and disinfect water
dishes at least 1x per week to avoid bacteria. Do not wash lizard items
in areas where food is prepared to avoid salmonella.
Note that even products
made for lizard cages sich as Wipe Out
requires that the lizard be removed prior to cleaning.
Care from A to Z
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