It is believed that the conditions in the terrarium should be as close as possible to the natural habitat of the animal that you are going to contain in it. Nevertheless, it must be understood that it is impossible to create a complete analogue of the natural biotope with a huge number of closely related environmental factors in a small volume. Therefore, equipping a corner for your pets, you do not need to be afraid that you will not be able to accurately reproduce their natural habitat. It is important to observe only key, vital conditions for each particular type of condition. Providing a suitable microclimate is in this case the primary task and only then you can think about the design, planting of plants and other decorative solutions. In some cases, artificial materials specially made for use in a terrarium turn out to be much more convenient and practical than natural ones, and animals do not at all feel the difference between them. For example, a plastic relief background for walls, unlike natural stone, is easy to wash, which helps to maintain cleanliness in the terrarium and avoid the excessive development of fungi and microorganisms that can cause various animal diseases.
Soil selection is a very important aspect of terrarium design. Besides decorative soil, soil has many other functions: this is the place where the animal hides or searches for food, it is a moisture accumulator, it is a substrate for plants. It protects the animal’s limbs from damage on the bottom of the terrarium, provides it with the ability to move normally. The soil should be as close as possible to the substrate on which animals live in natural conditions. If you contain desert species, sand is ideal for them, and if forest. peat or coconut crumb. An important property of the soil. ease of cleaning. For some animals that quickly pollute the terrarium, artificial substrates are preferable to natural, as they are easy to clean. This primarily refers to woody amphibians, which in addition to litter emit a lot of toxic mucus and in the dirty terrarium they themselves become victims of their own secretions. It is better to cover the bottom in such terrariums with a plastic rug or paper, which changes regularly, and rinse driftwood, branches and plants regularly with running water. Below we give various types of soils and their descriptions.
A very convenient and hygienic substitute for natural substrates. Shavings can be used for keeping snakes, large lizards, such as tegu and monitor lizards, and many other animals. It is suitable for terrariums with low humidity, because with excess water it coalesces and quickly rots. Such a substrate is easy to clean, partially or completely replacing. One of the disadvantages of this soil is its appearance, which does not allow its use in imitation of the natural habitats of animals.
Very good hygroscopic soil, allowing to maintain constant humidity in the terrarium. With the sphagnum, you can draw up a "terrarium swamp" in which small ponds are located. They can be made from ordinary drinkers disguised as moss. This substrate also has drawbacks: on sphagnum it is poor to contain poisonous amphibians, the discharge of which is almost impossible to wash from the substrate. In this case, it must be constantly changed.
Coconut crumbs are usually sold in briquettes that need to be soaked in water. After swelling, a large amount of soft loose soil is formed, which is perfect for keeping tropical forest inhabitants. This soil does not deteriorate from a prolonged stay in water, perfectly retains moisture. Small lumps of soil can stick to feed insects and enter the stomach of animals, but the consequences of consuming a small amount of such a substrate have not yet been identified. Nevertheless, in a terrarium with coconut crumbs, it is recommended to feed the animals from the feeder or with tweezers.
Mulch, or crushed pine bark, is a good substrate for containing large lizards. Mulch can be poured on the bottom of the terrarium or on a layer of soil mixture. By itself, the mulch does not hold moisture well, but sprinkled on a layer of the earth allows it to retain water longer. Mulch is perfect for terrariums with gerrosaurs, amiwas, tegu, monitor lizards and other large lizards.
Pretty comfortable soil for terrariums with a dry microclimate or for aquaterrariums. Gravel is not hygroscopic, it retains moisture very poorly, but it does not deteriorate in water, creating a convenient substrate for the bottom of the reservoir or the pool. It is easy to wash gravel, such soil can be used indefinitely. The pebbles should be well rounded, without sharp edges, so that the animals do not get hurt.
Expanded clay is a round lumps of clay, dried in a muffle furnace. This material is good as drainage, but poorly suited as a base substrate. Expanded clay is very hygroscopic and creates an excellent supply of moisture. Expanded clay is not used in dry terrariums, since it serves as a source of fine dust, causing an allergic reaction in many animals.
A good artificial substrate is an artificial turf carpet. These are mats with synthetic nap, which are easy to wash and hold moisture well. It is undesirable to use such a substrate in terrariums with large lizards, since they can tear fibers from such rugs with their claws, and if the fibers that are wound on the finger in time are not removed, this can lead to death of the fingers. But this rug is perfect for a terrarium with tree frogs, wood geckos or chameleons. Between the villi, however, dirt quickly accumulates, so the rugs must be regularly and thoroughly washed so that they do not turn into a hotbed of infection.
As a substrate, especially when quarantining or treating animals, paper can be used. For this purpose, sheets that do not contain printing ink poisonous to animals are suitable. The paper is good in that, with regular replacement, it ensures the cleanliness of the terrarium and prevents soil particles from entering the animal’s mouth. Moisture maintenance in a terrarium with such a substrate is ensured by spraying wrinkled paper sheets that are capable of retaining moisture for quite some time.
Almost all animals require shelter for normal life. If the animal has not been able to hide for a long time, this leads to stress and poor health of your pet. Some animals simply dig into the substrate, for example some snakes and skinks. Tree frogs have enough shelters that form the axils of plant leaves and branches. But many animals still need more comfortable homes.
Ceramic pots or coconut halves are perfect shelters for most terrarium animals. Such a shelter is installed on a pallet or directly on a substrate, and a hole of a suitable size is drilled in the side wall. Sphagnum or sponge can be placed in the pot to maintain moisture. Such wet shelters are enjoyed by many animals. In addition, they contribute to the normal course of molting, because with insufficient moisture during molting, old skin can dry out and not peel off, interfering with the normal development of a new cover.
For rocky animals, piles of stones or ceramic shards can serve as shelters. Such structures must be built carefully so that the animal does not collapse them on itself.
For tree snakes and geckos, great shelters come from long round pieces of bark. However, such a shelter is not convenient for observing animals.
As shelters for some species, hollows or boxes mounted on the walls or at the bottom of the terrarium are suitable.
Now specialized shelters began to appear on sale, which have removable walls that allow you to observe the animal without disturbing it. Some designs have built-in heating.
The choice of background, i.e., the design of the back and side walls, is one of the most pleasant stages in preparing the terrarium for settlement. In choosing the background, you can be guided mainly by aesthetic considerations and the field for imagination in this area is huge.
The second option. Artificial embossed background. A terrarium designed in this way looks much more spectacular than with a film background. In addition, climbing animals can use protrusions and the structure of such a background. Artificial panels compare favorably with real ones in lightness (the weight of a panel made of artificial stone, for example, is several times less than that of a real one). The many advantages of such panels include ease of mounting. they can be attached to glue or silicone, they are easy to make holes, for example, for wiring or ventilation. The joints of the panel with the walls of the terrarium can be coated with colorless silicone, which will provide isolation of the back (where, for example, you can place the heater) from animals and feed insects. The disadvantages of relief backgrounds include the fact that they occupy quite a lot of space in the terrarium.
The most difficult, but at the same time the most interesting option, wall decoration with natural materials. One of the great elements for decorating the walls of a terrarium. bark of oak or cork. In glass terrariums, bark can be attached with silicone sealant. When attaching pieces of the bark, it is necessary to carefully connect them to each other and fill all the cavities formed between the glass and the bark with silicone or polyurethane foam. Otherwise, in a humid terrarium, such cavities will serve as a place for the development of mold and rot, in addition, they become shelters for feed insects. After setting this background, the terrarium should be dried for several days, since the silicone fumes are toxic to animals. Terrarium with a background of bark has a very natural look. Along the bark, wood lizards climb with pleasure, climbing plants can braid the wall. To decorate the walls in small terrariums, you can use cork or panels of coconut fiber. In contrast to the relief bark, such a design practically does not take place. Such panels are practically not susceptible to decay; climbing animals can easily cling to the soft material of such walls. The panels are mounted with silicone. Terrariums for rock animals whose walls are decorated with stone look very aesthetically pleasing. To design such terrariums, as thin as possible stone plates are used, which are firmly connected to each other, leaving no gaps. Attaching a stone panel must be carried out very carefully, since such panels are very heavy and, when collapsed, can kill an animal and damage the terrarium. In the glass terrarium, due to the difficulty of drilling additional holes, silicone and polyurethane foam are used. In terrariums made of softer materials, such as acrylic glass or wood, stone plates can be attached using brackets, wire or screws.
Decoration by plants and other decorative elements
The animals living in your terrarium do not care what plants you plant. artificial or live, which driftwood you put, plastic or real. The main thing is that the terrarium should have enough surfaces on which animals can sit and under which to hide. If you keep land animals, it is enough to place several shelters in the terrarium, and the rest of the scenery can only meet your tastes, and not the needs of animals. If you have woody animals, for a comfortable life they need plants, driftwood and other vertical elements along which they can move.
One of the very popular terrarium decoration elements is plants. Living plants adorn any terrarium. The disadvantages associated with this design method include the difficulty of leaving: plants must be washed regularly to maintain cleanliness in the terrarium; many animals dig up the soil and damage the root system, the same applies to feed insects, animals can eat plants. Nevertheless, if you still decide to plant plants in the terrarium, there are several important points to remember. Firstly, plants should not be prickly, as this can harm both animals and the terrarium. Poisonous plants should not be planted in the terrarium, especially if you contain herbivores. Poisonous plants include alocasia, aloe, anthurium, bougainvillea, dieffenbachia, clivia, croton, milkweeds, monstera, ivy and many others. Secondly, it is important to consider the plant’s requirements for temperature and humidity. they must meet the requirement of animals. If you plant a moisture-loving plant in a terrarium with desert inhabitants, it will quickly die. Plants are best planted in pots, because then they are better protected from digging, they are easy to wash, removing the pot from the terrarium and easy to feed, placing fertilizers in the pot, where they are less dangerous for animals. If you are planting plants in open ground, it is advisable to protect the bushes from digging with stones or snags. Plants resistant to trampling should be planted at the bottom of the terrarium, especially if you keep land animals. These are many saxifrage, arrowroot, some ivy (non-toxic), ficus, tradescantia. Epiphytic plants, planted on vertical pieces of bark or driftwood, decorate the terrarium very much. Epiphytes include the majority of orchid and bramelian. Depending on the species, such plants are attached directly to a piece of bark or driftwood, or to a container hollowed into a driftwood, which is nutritionally filled with a mixture of peat and sphagnum. Most epiphytic plants easily tolerate high humidity. It is recommended to water and spray the plants with distilled water, since it does not leave calcium streaks on the leaves and glasses. However, plants cannot live on such a “diet”, therefore, fertilizers are added to the water for irrigation once a few days.