How do you set up a terrarium?
Here the first priority is the choice of animals you want to keep and what sort of habitat these animals need.
We make a basic distinction between rainforest and desert terrariums. But of course there are many subcategories within this rough classification. In a rainforest terrarium, for instance, it’s very important whether the animals live on the ground or in trees, and thus need climbing options.
For a desert terrarium, similarly, it is important whether the animals come from a sand desert and need fine sand or they live on hard desert ground and stones, like the popular leopard gecko does. Furthermore it’s important whether the animals are day, dusk or night active. This impacts on the temperature and the lighting.
Another type of terrarium is the so-called aquatic terrarium, also called paludarium. It is a combination terrarium, with a water part and a surface part.
You need to consider the following basic questions and act on the answers when setting up your terrarium:
How many animals would you like to (do you have to] put in?
How large will the animals get and what space requirements do they have, which means: how much bottom surface and height does the terrarium need to have? (Climbing animals need a high terrarium, bottom dwellers more bottom surface).
What substrate do the animals need? It’s best to study photos of their natural habitat and then choose the suitable Substrate .
What kind of decoration suits your animals? For rainforest terrariums you need wood roots and sometimes stones. For desert terrariums the type of desert is important: sand desert, stone desert or mountains?
What plants are present in their habitat and what plants are suitable?
Who is allowed to open the terrarium? If you have small children in the flat or if you fear unauthorised access, it’s best to install a terrarium lock, such as JBL TerraSafe . This allows you to lock the door panes of the terrarium with a key.
If you have several terrariums and don’t want masses of keys, the JBL Shiro locking system is the right choice, where a magnet is used instead of a key.
Do the animals require visible light only or UV radiation as well? A common directive is that rainforest animals need little or no UV, whereas the desert animals always need a lot of UV light. This is not actually true, because a rainforest animal living at the riverside or in the crown of a tree gets more UV radiation than a desert animal which is active at twilight or living in a cave. The choice of lighting depends on the animals’ UV demand.
Here you will find light sources without, with low or high UV content:
What are your animals’ heat needs? Find out which temperatures your terrarium animals feel comfortable at. But always offer your animals the chance to retreat. So heat up only a part of the room with e.g. heating mats or install the spotlight only on one side of the terrarium. The animals will possibly require a lower temperature at night than during the day. Often the temperature drops as soon as the lighting is switched off. But it is also sometimes necessary to switch off the heating mats at night.
And finally: What are your animals’ humidity needs? Desert animals generally need significantly less humidity than rainforest animals. But not even jungle animals live with 90% humidity all the time! Measurements taken during the JBL expedition to Amazonia registered a humidity of between 50% (in the afternoon – early evening) and 90%. You can regulate the humidity by spraying water and using a fogging system.
This subject doesn’t strictly belong to the area “Set-up” but should definitely be taken into account when purchasing terrarium animals. Many lizards, frogs and spiders only eat live food. Snakes often require living or dead mice/rats and can’t be switched over to other food. The feeding of this nutrition is not everyone’s cup of tea. There are also many vegetarians among the terrarium animals which can easily and healthily be fed with fruit, vegetables and food sticks, such as JBL Herbil or JBL Agivert (e.g. iguanas, tortoises).