Choosing Terrarium Plants

terrarium plantsTropical/Rainforest Terrarium
Successful reptile terrariums are naturalistic ones, and the rain forest terrarium is suitable for a range of reptiles and amphibians that thrive in a tropical environment. You will need a number of items to create a rain forest terrarium: the terrarium, substrate, plants, cage furniture, lights, and an air-conditioning material or screening. Terrarium plants are often overlooked by the keen herpetologist, but selecting the right plants is an important part of setting up the ecosystem.

The first step is to place the river rock in the tank, then place the air-conditioning material or screening over the river rock, following this you can add the cage furniture such as rocks and branches. Top soil and plants can then be added. Some suitable plants include philodendrons, prayer plants, tropical ferns, spathyphyllum and pothos. The final stage is to add the lighting and any heat pads that will be used. The top of the terrarium can be a mesh screen or solid top, depending on the humidity you seek to achieve.

The key part of the tropical terrarium is to create a humid environment, and you can make use of a cage fogger to achieve this. Alternatively a combination of the right heating, strategic placing of water features, and regular misting can achieve the same effect. Some examples of pets that you might keep in a topical terrarium are golden mantella frogs (Mantella aurantiaca), and green and black arrow poison frogs (Dendrobates auratus).

Woodland Terrarium
The closest to the tropical terrarium is the woodland terrarium, which differs in that it has seasonal plants, rather than all year round tropical vegetation. Plants such as mosses, ferns, pipsissewa, and spotted wintergreen are typical choices for the environment. To recreate the seasonal environment you will need to adjust the terrarium’s lighting during the year, making it darker during the winter months. Some examples of specimens that thrive in the woodland habitat are: ground skinks (Scincella lateralis), five-lined skinks (Eumeces fasciatus) and the red-bellied snake (Storeria occipitomaculata).

Savanna Terrariums
Savanna terrariums are those that recreate the area that sits in between woodland and desert. This is very challenging since savannas go through arid summers, but have thriving vegetation emerging after the rainy season. To create this climate on a minature scale you should use savanna plants such as Copernicus palms and esparto grass. However, these are often very hard to buy, thus African plants such as Pachypodium lamerei and Pachypodium brevicaule are used. Haworthia plants also do well in a savanna environment, check out:

  • angustifolia
  • arachnoidea
  • aristata
  • bayeri
  • blackburniae
  • bolusii
  • chlorocantha
  • cooperi
  • cymbiformis
  • decipiens
  • emelyae
  • floribunda
  • gracilis
  • heidelbergensis
  • herbacea
  • lockwoodii
  • maculata
  • magnifica
  • maraisii
  • marumiana
  • mirabilis
  • monticola
  • mucronata
  • mutica
  • nortieri
  • outeniquensis
  • parksiana
  • pubescens
  • pulchella
  • pygmaea
  • reticulata
  • retusa
  • rossouwii
  • semiviva
  • serrata
  • springbokvlakensis
  • transiens
  • truncata
  • turgida
  • variegata
  • vlokii
  • witterbergensis
  • zantneriana

Tortoises are the best known of the animals that have adapted to the savanna habitat. Others include the European greed toad (Bufo viridis), Bibron’s gecko (Pachydactylus bibroni), fat-tailed gecko (Hemitheconyx caudicinctus), and banded geckos (Coleonyx elegans).
Setting up a savanna terrarium requires a bit more work than the tropical and woodland varieties. The trick is to place a Styrofoam base on the floor of the terrarium. This base with have holes in it which are then filled with gravel and soil, and planted in. You can also make tiny holes in which to plant grass stems. When you add the cage furniture, such as rocks, it is best to glue them to the glass rather than the Styrofoam, as it is not a good bonding surface.

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