There’s no doubt that the sun plays an important role in the life of different animals, especially cold-blooded creatures like lizards. People who keep lizards as pets need to provide a reptile enclosure that mimics its natural environment where the sunlight plays a key role in its survival.
Lizards, like the bearded dragon, considered as the most popular pet lizards in the world, need an indoor enclosure where it can live, eat, play and enjoy basking under a warm tank light. A lizard owner should learn the different modular habitats of common pet lizards so he can provide the most conducive and healthy home for his pet.
The different habitats of pet lizards
If you live in the United States or have a climate that’s similar to the US, then your pet lizard needs to be maintained indoors. You may use an outdoor habitat for your pet in cases when the weather is perfect (with bright skies, warm air, and perfect cover). But if you live in the Mediterranean or desert climates like Southern California, you can maintain a lizard tank outdoors from the late months of spring to late summer.
One of the most important things to consider when preparing an outdoor habitat is security. It is your responsibility as a lizard owner to ensure that your pets are safe and secure. You should protect your lizards from predators and prevent them from escaping as well. Remember that when in captivity, your pet lizards’ top predator is your own pet dogs and cats; therefore, you need to keep them away from your tank as much as possible. It is through thoughtful construction of their habitats, and careful maintenance and husbandry can easily reduce the risk of dangers and accidents. S
One of the most commonly used enclosures is the glass-type enclosure, such as a glass terrarium or aquarium. If you are using this, never place it directly under sunlight for any such reason. What can happen is that your pet can overheat and this can severely affect its health. Inside a glass enclosure, when ambient outdoor temperatures are cooler, the rays of the sun may be magnified through the walls of the tank, and this creates an oven and the only difference from a real oven is, you can see the animal inside cooking! Lizards that are housed outdoors for any amount of time should be inside a screen or mesh-type enclosure to prevent overheating.
Meanwhile, custom-built enclosures may be a good option, but you must consider the efficiency, time, and cost of your project. If you don’t have time to make a DIY enclosure, you can simply order or purchase ready-made enclosures like the Zoo Med Laboratories ready to use enclosures. And although most of Zoo Med’s enclosures are created for keeping tortoises, these can also work well with lizards like bearded dragons.
Check out the Zoo Med Tortoise Pen. This is a medium-sized outdoor cage that’s used for basking or sunning. This is perfect for keeping one to two bearded dragons outdoors when the temperature is perfect. There is a built-in reptile shelter inside the enclosure to help lizards thermoregulate and prevent overheating. With this enclosure, the floor is absent so you can use different beddings like organically-grown grasses, leafy greens, dandelions, kale, and many more.
Aside from the tortoise pen, the Tortoise House is another enclosure, but this is larger and expandable. With this kind of modular enclosure, you can house more bearded dragons. This has a solid floor; therefore, it is best for larger and older lizards that may try to escape by digging the ground. Another plus is that this enclosure may be combined with other cage components so you can accommodate more lizard pets.
Another popular brand of the enclosure is the Reptarium brand, which is a mesh enclosure. This is more preferred, especially when you are taking care of more animals. The Reptarium is modular and is very easy to clean and maintain. This enclosure also provides more space for each lizard and this allows better transfer of UVB rays and heat.
Make your own modular lizard habitat
It’s not enough to feed and cage your pet lizard. You must make sure that its home is very conducive to its overall health and development.
Where to place its modular enclosure
Once you’re certain about the design, style, and size of the enclosure you want to use, you must now consider where you need to place this enclosure. If you decide to place it outdoors, the physical orientation of the cage should be considered. After observing how the sun moves in an area and after a few days of trial and error, you may have the perfect place to keep your lizard enclosure.
It’s very important that the chosen area receives a fair amount of sunlight and should provide cover when it becomes too hot, especially during noon-time. The best place for an outdoor enclosure is an area that receives the best direct sunlight for only a few hours during the morning and afternoons. This is related to the general activity schedule, and during these times the sun is at its lowest point and hence your lizards will get intense exposure
Also, natural areas in your garden or may be utilized as a natural cover for the outdoor enclosure. You may also use a thick cloth to cover the outdoor enclosure. Placing the enclosure below a tree is a good idea for outdoor enclosures.
You should never place your pet lizards in an enclosure with direct sunlight and without any shaded areas inside the tank. Despite some reptiles liking a hot environment, it’s important to place structures and furniture where it can hide and regulate its temperature.
And by making sure that the lizard’s outdoor habitat is placed in an area without direct and constant sunlight in both illuminated and shaded areas, your lizard will be able thermos-regulate better and faster.
Take note of the following
- Carefully consider if you want to place your lizard indoors or outdoors.
- Consider natural materials as part of your indoor or outdoor enclosure.
- Study your surroundings carefully and prevent accidents by pet-proofing your home indoors or outdoors.
- Consider the placement of the sun to find out the best area where you can place an outdoor enclosure.
- Consider the placement of the sun inside your room if you wish to use an indoor enclosure.
The basic reason why some larger lizards are housed outdoors is to provide easy access to natural light and increased UV light as well as improved air temperature. These should be considered before placing your pet inside an outdoor enclosure. If lizards are placed in an outdoor enclosure with very cool temperatures, then these may become sick or stressed. Also, lizards will only be able to use the UV rays of the sun when they are within their preferred temp ranges.
Air temperature and surface temperatures inside a lizard’s enclosure can vary a lot. It’s important to invest in a quality digital thermometer that comes with a minimum and maximum temperature. Using an infrared temperature gun is also a good idea to get the temperature of basking areas and sleeping areas as well as the temperature of your pets as well.
When it comes to choosing the right basking or hiding areas, lizards are able to maintain its body temperature from 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit regardless of air temperatures. And as long as ambient temperatures are maintained above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, lizards that can bask under the sun can easily achieve its ideal thermal range.
When the conditions are at their best, animals may be left outdoors even overnight. Take note that in the wild, lizards can thrive even when temperatures in the night can drop to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of the time, pet lizards are not acclimated to adapt to these temperatures.
You must take your pet indoors when it gets dark unless temperature lows can reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit. But usually, the threat of your lizard being eaten by domesticated animals like your pet cat or dog is higher compared to the threats of temperature changes.
Take note of the following
- Invest in a quality digital thermometer and heat gun
- Observe your lizard for signs of overheating
- The ideal basking and resting temperatures should be maintained at all times.
Tank furniture and enclosure substrate
Keep your lizards happy and prevent boredom by placing tank furniture. Also, a good enclosure substrate makes for decorative flooring and helps maintain the right humidity and reduce the smell. Again, enclosures found outdoors have different tank furniture and substrate requirements.
When outdoors, you must use things that are easy to clean and replace. Popular materials are cypress mulch and redwood chips. These substrate materials are easy to find, very easy to place and remove and can absorb excess moisture and unwanted smells. Also, cypress mulches and redwood chips make the enclosure aesthetic and area easy to spot clean. These will also hold up when exposed to extreme weather.
And when housing small numbers of hatchlings or juveniles in an outdoor setting, use coconut husks. This material has small particles that won’t be an issue if your pet accidentally eats the husks. Also, this is weather-proof and is better for longer use than other types of substrates.
When housed outdoors, lizards must have multiple areas where it can bask. Use different materials like wood, rock, or both. If you have more lizards, make sure that each one has its own basking spot or access to one. Usually, every lizard will have his favorite.
Large portions of driftwood, slate slabs, and Mopani wood make perfect basking areas. The bamboo root is another basking material that has recently become popular in the market. This root has a unique appearance with different angles and branches. Bamboo root has no crevices or cracks that crickets and other pests can live in and hide. And because this is smooth, it is easier to clean compared to other basking materials.
Whatever furniture you choose, make sure that you give it at least two basking and shade areas. You can use two wooden perches and a warm basking rock. You can mix and match cage furniture according to your preference or create a unique design but remember that your pet’s safety is foremost.
If you are going to use rocks, make sure to place these on a level surface and pick a nice, stable rock. If you want to use natural branches and stems, use wire to secure them to the wall of the enclosure or post. Do not take chances because any small accident can squish your pet dead!
Take note of the following
- The right cage accessories and equipment are safe and easy to clean.
- You must use materials that a lizard finds in its natural habitat.
- Your pet’s safety is foremost rather than the design of the tank.
- It’s easy to get carried away when designing a tank décor, but your pet should be your priority.
- A clean enclosure looks and smells better rather than an unkempt one.
Escape proof enclosures
Lizards range from a few inches in size to a few feet from nose to tail, and despite this huge difference, all lizards are adept at escaping an enclosure. Small lizards like geckos can squeeze through cracks, holes, and in between things and thus escape before you know it. Some large specimens like bearded dragons and skinks will use their strength to crawl through screens, to climb on top of their enclosures and some may quickly move out as soon as you open their cages.
A modular enclosure takes the safety and security of your lizard and your home seriously. There are many ways to make sure that your pets are safe inside their enclosure. First, use strong materials for their homes. Despite the size and weight of your pet, use strong building materials made of metal, strong wood, and hard plastic. Never use flimsy screens and wood that can easily rot and damage.
Some lizards can dig and burrow under the ground, and this can also pose a threat. For ground burrowing lizards, your enclosure posts and walls should be buried at least three feet under the ground. Never take chances; instead of placing the cage on the ground, place it on a cement or paved floor. You can use wood as the enclosure floor if you want.
Place the enclosure under lock and key. Some lizards are very smart and can learn where the enclosure door is and where it can get out. To prevent this, use a simple lock or use a padlock and key for maximum security.
And while your pet is slowly becoming an escape artist, it is also vulnerable to predators, which can instantly prey on them even in broad daylight. Your cute cat is a cunning predator and would love to take a bite out of your pet lizard! Also, your fluffy dog thinks that this lizard is a plaything and may want to grab it and play with it.
Placing the enclosure under lock and key is one way to deter predators. Build your enclosure or use a ready-made modular enclosure made from durable materials. And if possible, take your pet indoors, especially at night, to avoid predators. Don’t take chances.
The safety of your pet is guaranteed when you take care of them indoors. Not only will you avoid predators, but escape is impossible when you place them inside a secure terrarium or aquarium.
You may know by now that some lizards can stick to walls like geckos. These can climb up and stick to any material other than Teflon. They may stick to the top part of the enclosure and easily slide out of the crack and escape. To avoid this, some pet owners spread a thin amount of petroleum jelly on the wall of the enclosure, especially near the top. The lizard won’t be able to climb out because of the slippery petroleum jelly walls.
Take note of the following
- Lizards are escape artists and will do so no matter what size or shape lizard it is.
- Some lizards can dig to freedom so burry the enclosure walls and posts deep
- Don’t take chances if you have pets at home (cat or dog).
- Place your enclosure under lock and key to prevent accidents
- Use household items like petroleum jelly to stop a crawling lizard from escaping.
Adding water features
Some lizards are not just land dwellers but love the water as well. This is why some pet owners create water features inside their pet’s enclosure. Before starting, it’s best to use a glass enclosure or an aquarium, so it’s waterproof and easy to design. Use a sliding or sloping floor so you can have an instant pool at the end of the tank. If you want a deep pool, use a water filter to clean your tank water regularly. Meanwhile, shallower pools may not need a filter anymore.
Water features enhance the life of your lizard and may also help improve humidity inside a glass enclosure or aquarium. Also, change the water regularly as this can become a haven for bacteria growth.
Take note of the following
- When adding a water feature, consider the type of material your enclosure is made of.
- Change the water often because this is a haven for bacteria and mold growth.
- If you want a deeper water feature, use a water filter or pump to efficiently clean the water
- The water inside the enclosure can increase the humidity of a glass tank.
Some unique reptile modular cages
You can now purchase modular cages for your lizard, and usually, these come with unique features. For instance, there is a plastic, stackable cage that looks like a shoebox. Every section is connected to another, and most of the time, you don’t need tools to do so. What makes this cage perfect is that it’s escape-proof, it’s available online and ready to order plus are easy to clean. Since this cage is made of plastic, your lizard will stay safe and away from predators. The only problem is this modular home is not as spacious as a large enclosure and usually, it will only house one lizard at a time.
Another type of modular caging for pet lizards is a cage that looks like furniture. Imagine your TV cabinet with glass panels and shelving where your pet lizard is placed. This kind of cage is mostly used for display and is commonly placed in living rooms, dens, and in areas of the home where there’s high traffic. And although this kind of modular home is visually appealing, it can be very stressful to your pet as it gets disturbed easily, especially when it prefers to laze around and relax. It’s best to avoid this kind of enclosure unless you want to view your pet 24/7.
A simple aquarium or glass terrarium may work as your pet’s enclosure. This is a good enclosure for small lizards, but larger ones may become too strong and break the enclosure glass walls. Your pet will love a glass terrarium so it can see you as well. But usually, this kind of enclosure lacks safety features. There are no hatches on top that you can lock, and you’ll end up reaching inside the enclosure to get your pet and this can make them anxious. So despite being a good enclosure, you still need to secure the terrarium top to prevent your pets from escaping and predators from reaching inside the glass. Consider getting two or three modular enclosures if you want to breed lizards. A large enclosure will be the main tank for males and another one for females. The third one will hold baby lizards and thus may be smaller than adult cages. Newly hatched lizards may try to escape, so avoid this by using escape-proof terrariums, enclosures, or outdoor enclosures.