Setup Guidelines for Reptile Enclosures
Once you have selected the appropriate size cage, you will want to make sure you have selected all the options necessary to give your pet a healthy environment as soon as you receive it. We have created some guidelines to help you so there is nothing you forget when ordering. The following will provide a good basis of information for most reptiles, but you should research your specific reptile to find out if it has any unique needs.
Our Standard Setup
All of our Hybrid reptile cage and Majestic reptile cage specials are specifically configured for reptiles. Because most reptiles come from hot tropical environments we designed the cages with all sides enclosed to retain heat and humidity. Reptiles do not move around much and consume very small amounts of oxygen; therefore ventilation is not as important as retaining heat and humidity. Opening the door once in a while to feed your reptile will introduce plenty of new air into your cage. If more ventilation is desired we have several options for installing vents. We also understand the amount of force large reptiles are capable of exerting and as a result use acrylic as the standard material for the front doors and is an option for the side panels at no additional charge. This will provide excellent viewing from all angles while maintaining a very secure environment. The floor, back, and ceiling are made of a durable laminate that is easy to clean, resists moisture, is much less likely to harbor bacteria than other materials, and is strong enough to support a lot of weight.
In the Hybrid reptile cage and Majestic reptile cage sections we selected a common range of sizes with a basic, deluxe, complete and ultimate setup at discounted prices. The basic option is standard frame configuration without any accessories at a discounted price. The deluxe setup comes with a few additional options at further reduced prices. The complete setup will come with everything you need to house most reptiles in a bundled package, and the ultimate package includes backgrounds, hoods and stands and substitute panel and lighting options (if applicable) with the most cost savings.
We have a full range of custom options available with any cage. We strongly recommend ordering your custom options before receiving your cage because it is much easier for us to install options at our facility than it will be if you wait until the cage is set up, and it’s inexpensive to have us do the work.
The first is lighting and heating accommodations. We have many options for mounting fixtures inside or outside the cage. We can pre-install inserts so all you have to do is screw the fixture into the top of the cage when you get it. We can pre-drill cord grommets to run cords outside the cage without unsightly drill holes. We can install inserts on top of the cage if you prefer to have the lights outside of the cage and do not want to order a wire top. We can also pre-drill holes for any fluorescent fixture or guard so you can easily mount them when you get the cage. This option is free with the purchase of the fixture or guards. (See the “Lighting” or “Heating” sections for more details.)
Another possibility is to have us help you install the cage furniture. Some of our products mount to the back of the cage with bolts, such as the Replica™ Rock Shelf. We will be happy to drill the holes for you in advanced so you can get your setup up and going quickly. This option is free with the purchase of the shelves, just leave instructions on the order form or give us a call to tell us how you want them mounted. (See the “Replica Furniture” sections for more details.)
Lighting & Heating Recommendations
Proper lighting in your reptile enclosure is very important. Lights not only act as an excellent heat producer but also affect the health and psychology of your pet. It is important to provide a source of UVA and UVB light spectrum to your reptile. Many materials such as glass in windows or plastic light covers are made to filter the UVA and UVB spectrum reptiles need. Even a cage placed near a window will not get a sufficient amount of UVA/UVB light by the time it reaches the inside of the cage. Unlike humans, reptiles are able to see more of the UVA light spectrum. Failure to provide a source of UVA can alter your pet’s perception of its environment and cause stress. UVB is used by some reptiles in the synthesis of vitamin D3, a critical element for the metabolizing of calcium in your pet’s body. Skin disorders and frail bones can result from an inadequate amount of full spectrum light, iguanas in particular. Most bulbs made for personal use are not designed to emit the range of UVA/UVB reptiles need. In addition, many fluorescent fixtures sold commercially come with a plastic protective cover. This plastic cover will filter the UVA/UVB spectrum you are trying to give your animal even if you have a full spectrum bulb in the fixture. That is why we created a series of wire guards made to fit the fixtures that we sell. This way you can protect your animal from damaging the fixture without filtering the light. These guards are all sold exclusively by CagesByDesign.com.
Maintaining the proper heat and humidity levels is also very important for reptile enclosures. Being cold blooded, without the right temperature your reptile will not digest its food properly and can become very sick, or even die. For example, iguanas require a preferred optimal temperature range (POTR) of 75-88°F with an optimal basking range of 88-95°F. Using heat emitters, basking bulbs, or heat pads can accomplish this. To more closely regulate the amount of heat the cage is getting you can also use thermostats and rheostats. You use a rheostat by plugging the heating fixture into the rheostat, and then you plug the rheostat into the wall. It has a dial on it to increase or decrease the amount of electricity your fixture is getting, therefore changing the temperature. You will need to use an independent thermometer to read what the actual temperature is inside the cage. A thermostat is a little easier to use. All you do is turn a dial to whatever temperature you desire and it will automatically turn on and off your fixture to maintain that temperature.
Recommendation: Use a heat emitter to provide a consistent 24-hour heat source without disturbing your pet’s sleeping pattern. You can maintain a consistent temperature in combination with a thermostat. Then, use a basking spot lamp to provide a basking spot and temperature gradients throughout the cage. This basking bulb should be placed on a timer to turn off at night. This will also create a slight difference in temperature between night and day to more closely mimic a natural environment. The basking bulb in combination with shelves at various heights can create a range of areas at different temperatures your pet can go to reach the most comfortable level. Because heat rises and will want to escape through the top, the most efficient way to heat the cage will be either by mounting the fixtures inside the cage with a guard protecting the bulb, or by setting them on a wire top and covering the cage with a hood to trap the heat in. In addition, we have several different ways to give your cage full spectrum light shown in the Lighting section.
Setting up Cage Furniture
We have a full selection of natural objects such as roots and driftwood, as well as the Replica™ Furniture line of products. The natural objects can create a very realistic and unique display. However, our line of Replica™ Furniture has many advantages. First, it is much safer for your pet. Natural objects tend to harbor dangerous bacteria and insects. Spider mites, for example, are a very serious threat to reptiles. Our replica furniture will not be a likely place for them to burrow and spread. Our Replica™ Cage Furniture is also very realistic. All of the items were molded from actual objects found in the wilderness and take on the exact shape. They are also made with a very strong and durable material. The rock shelves, for example, have 2 bolts molded through the center and when mounted properly are capable of holding well over 100 pounds. They are also much lighter than natural objects. The Replica™ Rock Shelves weigh approximately 2-3 pounds. If they were made of real rock they would be closer to 50-60 pounds each. Imagine filling your cage with natural objects, by the time you add just a few items it would add considerable weight and be very difficult to move.
Recommendation: Your furniture setup will vary significantly among different species of reptiles. It is important to research the needs of your specific reptile before setting up its cage. Some natural woods and substrates are known to cause certain species to become sick. Our recommendation for more common setups such as iguanas, water dragons, or bearded dragons would be to fill the back wall with as many shelves at different levels as you can, to allow the animal to climb to whatever height is desired to be comfortable. To fill the open space toward the front of the cage, get a Y-log/straight log base combo as shown in the Replica Furniture section. This will accomplish the same goal of allowing your pet multiple heights and temperature climates. In addition, a large water dish can be used for the animals to soak in while molting or cooling off. A smaller dish can be used for food to keep it separated from its water and waste. (See the “Replica” section for more details.)