What kind of materials should you use when constructing a reptile cage? All-glass, tubs, melamine cages, screen cages, there are many different types of housing systems for reptile. Take your pick, depending on the adult size of the animal, how much room you have to spare, and how much money you are willing to spend!
Aquarium tanks: Good choice for keeping snakes under 6 feet, amphibians, turtles, and basically anything requiring a swimming pool or some humidity. If a screen top is used, there will be enough ventilation to keep a sand boa or leopard gecko or any desert animal in it.
If higher humidity is needed, the screen top can be partially wrapped with Saran wrap, and the tank can be treated as a tropical garden; put soil in it and plant some plants to raise the humidity!
Viewing is unrestricted, the tank can be easily cleaned, it will not get scratched, and temperatures are easier to maintain. They are very cumbersome to move around, especially big ones, or fully-loaded ones. They need to be on a solid table or stand and if you do want to move them, the stand will need solid castors.
Many lizards such as water dragons should not be kept in glass tanks, as they do not understand glass and will continuously ram into it. Tanks should not be considered for chameleons; cages are better.
Plastic/Rubbermaid tubs: The feeding trough sizes are great for turtles! You can half-fill them with water, pile rocks in a corner for the basking area, put a lilypad or two in it, and have your own indoor pond complete with turtles!
For the more common sizes, the sweater boxes and shoe boxes, any non-aquatic reptile can be kept in them. In fact, these are used in breeding racks and in households with too many reptiles to be able to have the amount of tanks/cages to keep them all in.
This material is not good for arboreal animals, as they cannot climb. But, it’s perfect for use during the quarantine period prior to introducing a new animal to an established collection. These restrict viewing, and are generally limited to hatchling animals. Good to use as an emergency or isolation enclosure.
Melamine cages: Melamine is the stuff many countertops are made of. They resist moisture well, so rotting is usually not a problem. They’re easily cleaned as well. Custom-made enclosures are sometimes made of melamine, and you can build furniture-quality enclosures yourself. These can be made to fit a leopard gecko or a fully grown green iguana. With a glass front, these enclosures hold humidity incredibly well.
Wood cages: Same as for melamine, except much cheaper and easier to work with. Both enclosures, if ordered from a custom builder, can cost a great deal depending on size and material.
Screen cages/Reptariums: Excellent for anoles, chameleons, light-bodied snakes, and young water dragons. The major disadvantages are that the largest size is only 29″ x 29″ x 72″, humidity is very difficult to keep up, and strong animals could knock them over or even move them. This is a great idea for an easily-transported cage for small animals.
MDF or craftwood: Same as for Melamine but also much cheaper. Good for use in combination cages i.e. Melamine base with MDF sides, back etc. It can be painted, has good thermal properties and if used in conjunction with a coating material such as Contact, will hold humidity well. Excellent to work with and has a smooth finish. You can also use thinner sheets as it retains its rigidity. Some people recommend wearing a mask when cutting or routing MDF as it can be dusty.
There are still other material that can be used for reptile cages. We will continue our discussion on the next article.