Writen by: Georgina @ Swell Reptiles
Source: Live plants for terrariums and vivariums: humidity, health and lighting
As the addition of live plants in reptile terrariums and vivariums continues to grow in popularity, we thought it was about time Swell Reptiles took a look at the ways you can keep them and your reptiles healthy with the right humidity and lighting.
Unless your terrarium is to be set up to exclusively house live plants and nothing else, then the first thing you need to consider is will your new plant and your reptile get along? Most plants available on the pets market are only available because they are safe to be housed along with live animals, and pose no threat to them in the form of poison, leaching and from spines and sharp leafs, but it’s always best to do a little research, and different reptiles will react to each plant a little differently.
Conversely, it’s best to ensure your new and potentially expensive plant isn’t simply going to become a meal for your reptile, or the live food like locusts and crickets you may have hopping around in there. Fortunately, overcoming these obstacles is easy: do your homework, ask for advice at purchase, and choose as carefully as you can.
Assuming you have your reptile lighting already sorted, the next lighting task is going to be catering for your new plant.
It doesn’t take a biologist to know that plants need light from the sun to photosynthesise, producing the glucose they need for fuel and growth, and you need to be able to replicate the light conditions of the jungle or the desert (depending on plant origin) to cater to this.
Fortunately, the reptile supplies world is fast catching up with this need. At the top of the list, we feel we must give special mention to Arcadia’s Jungle Dawn LEDS for those luscious rainforest beauties, and Exo Terra Ion bulbs, both helping to give plants the light-energy they need to flourish in your terrarium
Thinking back again to secondary school biology lessons, the next thing plants need is water who knew? Most live plants in your terrarium are going to want everything nice and humid, and there are a few different ways to approach this.
The first we must recommend is to think about your substrate. While a simple rainforest terrarium setup might just feature tree bark substrate, this isn’t going to be enough to sustain rooted plants in need of a good slurp to keep them turgid and flourishing.
Instead, we recommend a base of hydro-balls, ceramic balls that when used together form a drainage system, and also keep a constant supply of humidity in the terrarium for you plants. Try Swell’s own hydro-rocks, or look to a premium brand like Exo Terra.
On top of that, once again, moist absorbent substrate is the way forward, strong enough to allow your plants to take root (although you should consider potting them and burying them anyway to help with substrate changes).
Once your substrate is taken care of, you can either use a cheaper mister spray to ensure your plant gets a regular dose of simulated rain-fall, or employ an automated fogger, mister or rain-maker system to keep your terrarium well hydrated. Don’t forget to monitor things with a hygrometer too!
More recent additions to the reptile plants markets now include “air plants” too. These plants are great for arid conditions, requiring very little water, and most will continue to grow under the normal conditions you would create for housing desert reptiles, allowing keepers of arid vivariums to enjoy a little botany too!