Small reptiles often do well in 10- to 20-gallon aquariums, whereas larger animals must be moved to more comfortable enclosures. These cages can often be purchased or built by the pet owner. At a minimum, the pet should be able to turn around in the cage; snakes should be able to stretch to at least one-quarter to one-half of the body length. Substrate should be easy to clean and non-toxic to reptiles. Newspaper, butcher's paper, cloth towels, paper towels, or astroturf is recommended. Astroturf is preferred by many reptile owners. The owner should acquire two pieces and cut them to fit the bottom of the cage. One piece is placed in the cage, while the other piece is kept outside and thus is always clean. When the turf inside the cage becomes soiled, the owner will then have a clean, dry piece to replace it. The soiled turf can be cleaned with ordinary soap and water (dilute bleach or dilute chiorhexidine solution can be used as long as the cage and turf are properly rinsed), thoroughly rinsed, and hung to dry before the next cage cleaning. Alfalfa pellets can also be used as bedding for iguanas or turtles; these pellets are often eaten by the pet without problems. Owners should avoid sand, gravel, wood shavings, corn cob material, walnut shells, mud, moss, and cat litter, as these substances are harder to clean and can cause impactions if eaten on purpose or accidentally if the food becomes covered by these substrates. In particular, cedar wood shavings are reportedly toxic to reptiles.
Natural branches are enjoyed by both snakes and iguanas. Owners must ensure that they are secure and won't fall onto the pet and cause an injury. Ideally, the branch should slope from the bottom of the enclosure to the top, ending near a heat source so that the pet can bask. Large rocks in the cage also allow for basking. A hiding place is appreciated by all reptiles; reptiles without hiding boxes often become stressed and ill. Artificial plants can be arranged to provide hiding spaces, as can clay pots, cardboard boxes, and other containers that provide a secure area. In general, reptiles should receive 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness each day.
A heat source is necessary for all reptiles, as reptiles are ectothermic and need a variety of temperatures to regulate their internal temper ature. Ideally, the cage should be set up so that a heat gradient is established, with one area of the tank being warmer than the other end. In this way, the pet can move around its environment and warm or cool itself as needed. To establish and maintain the proper temperature gradient, owners should purchase two thermometers and place one at the cooler end and one at the warmer end. The cooler end of the cage should be approximately 20°C, while the warmer end should be 30-35°C for most reptiles . Temperaures may vary for exotic species, and a reference book should he consulted for information. A convenient, inexpensive, and safe way to supply heat is with a focal heat source. A 100W incandescent bulb with a reflector hood works well. This heat source should be placed outside and above one end of the cage, which should be covered by a screen top to prevent iguanas and snakes from escaping or burning themselves on the bulb. At night, additional heat usually isn't necessary as long as the temperature remains 18-20°C. If additional heat is needed, room space heaters, heating pads placed under an elevated cage (elevated about I in. off the surface), or infrared bulbs can he used. in place of or in addition to 100W light bulbs.
A good way to allow the reptile to bask is to place the bulb and hood at one end of the cage and arrange a branch or perching (basking) area near the light. This set-up allows the animal psychological stimulation (provided by the climbing) as well as a safe heat source. A popular form of offering heat for reptiles is the infamous "Hot Rock" or "Sizzle Rock." These devices are dangerous and should be avoided! Why an animal would not remove itself from a dangerously hot object is unknown, but it is not uncommon for reptiles to sustain severe, even fatal, burns from a Hot Rock. Therefore, these external sources of heat are not recommended. As mentioned earlier, heating pads can be used underneath the cage, at one end of the enclosure. Owners should be advised to make sure that the pad adequately warms that part of the cage and to ensure that it doesn't overheat the cage, creating a "greenhouse effect." Many experts recommend elevating the cage about 2-3 cm off the ground with blocks and then sliding the heating pad underneath the cage. If heating pads are used, the top of the cage must not be open or too much heat will be lost. A few small holes can be cut at the top and along the lower part of the cage for ventilation and some thermoregulation. Heating tape or coils of the variety used to warm the soil for plant protection present another possibility. Such heat sources need to be buried in soil (soil usually isn't recommended as a cage substrate) and can cause harm if exposed. Finally, space room heaters can be used if the room cools down too much at night. They probably shouldn't be the only heat source, as they don't allow for a cooler area of the cage.
(Reptile diseases by Shawn P. Messonnier)
Sjá líka Animal health Center