Tips for Decorating a Terrestrial Reptile Enclosure

Terrestrial (ground-dwelling) reptiles have a different lifestyle and needs compared to arboreal (tree-dwelling) reptiles, so it stands to reason that the approach for enriching their enclosure should be different as well. How do you maximize usable surface area for an animal that doesn’t spend most of its life climbing, and what are the best objects for achieving that goal?

This article addresses all facets of decorating a terrestrial reptile enclosure, including the strategic use of substrate, burrows, caves, plants, stone, branches, and ledges. You can read the whole thing in my article over at The Bio Dude here: https://www.thebiodude.com/blogs/bio-activity-with-your-pets-how-does-it-work-with-mine/what-are-the-best-types-of-decor-for-terrestrial-reptiles

This article was written by Mariah Healey exclusively for use by The Bio Dude and originally published on August 5, 2021.

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  1. Hi Isabel — What makes pine shavings (to be honest, I’m not entirely sure about cedar) potentially toxic is when the wood hasn’t been kiln-dried, which essentially removes the harmful sap and associated VOCs. This is a particular concern given the high surface area of wood shavings and chips, as more surface area = more VOCs released. In theory, the risk associated with using pine branches is lower than using pine shavings, given that there is less surface area, and most of the sap-laden wood is covered in bark. That being said, personally I prefer not to risk it and only collect deciduous branches. Regarding your other question, I’m sorry to say that I’m not completely certain about which species are the most potentially dangerous, although I do know that fir is less problematic than other conifers. That said, best practice is simply to avoid all untreated coniferous wood. Sealing coniferous branches with a generous amount of low-VOC sealant such as Kennel Seal essentially renders them safe, but this does make them unsuitable for use in bioactive setups.

  2. Hello Mariah, I have a question regarding the use of branches collected from outside in an enclosure, and hoped to be able to contact you this way.
    My question is this: If pine and cedar shavings are potentially toxic to reptiles, as you have stated in some of the careguides here, does that extend to branches of those trees as well? Is it important to know which type of tree a branch is from before collecting it as a climbing branch?
    Also, when you write pine and cedar, do you mean everything in the genus cedrus and pinus, or just certain species such as pinus pinea? Which gets somewhat important when the nearest forest has lots of coniferous trees, and you just picked up a random branch.
    Any answer you could give would be appreciated.
    Thank you for the effort you put into providing such a reliable source of information.