ReptiFiles received a free Repti Zoo Air Cool Fan Dehumidifier in exchange for an honest review, whether positive or negative. The review below is my honest, unbiased opinion.
Should we be providing wind in our reptiles’ enclosures? As mentioned in my interview with the Project Herpetoculture podcast, I believe that improving air quality is the next big thing in improving reptile husbandry. Here’s why:
Decreases the risk of humidity spikes. Have you ever thought about how bearded dragon communities claim that this species can’t tolerate periods of high humidity, or that an overturned water dish will kill a rosy boa, yet these animals somehow survive rainy days and hanging out in humid burrows in the wild? The difference is fresh air. Your hair dries faster outside on a breezy day than if you’re sitting around indoors — similarly, a breeze in a reptile’s enclosure helps the animal weather spikes in humidity without harm.
Discourages mold growth. If condensation is frequently seen on your enclosure doors, that’s actually a sign of poor ventilation, and not a good thing! This lingering moisture encourages the growth of mold and bacteria, which absolutely love a consistently moist environment. Mold is particularly well known for creating a toxic indoor environment. The CDC notes that while some people are more sensitive to mold than others, mold is known to irritate mucus membranes, cause difficulty breathing, and even promote chronic headaches. Early exposure to mold in children has been linked to increased likelihood of asthma, a chronic respiratory disorder.
Reduces bacteria concentration. A 2019 study on tuberculosis, a bacterial infection, found that increasing air turnover in a space via improved ventilation significantly reduces transmission rates. The effect is the same for reptiles and the potentially pathogenic bacteria in their environment. By reducing the amount of bacteria present in an enclosure, you reduce their likelihood of contracting bacterial illnesses like respiratory infections. It also increases their rate of recovery from illness by preventing re-infection. Of course, a hygienic enclosure also plays an important role here, but we should beware of relying on sterile conditions to keep our pets healthy. If an animal (including humans) must be kept in a completely sanitized environment to maintain good health, then is it actually healthy? Given that only the most sick humans are required to live in hospital-grade “bubbles” long-term, my conclusion is no.
Reduced concentration of VOCs. Plastic and other artificial materials are notorious for slowly leaking VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into their surrounding environment. Consider your reptile’s enclosure: are you using artificial décor items, particularly anything made from plastic? Although some plastics are substantially more heat- and UV-resistant than others and therefore emit little to no VOCs, others are ready sources of indoor air pollution (I’m looking at you, craft store plastic plants). Of course, your home likely has plenty of its own VOCs from paint, carpet, furniture, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, etc. (New York Department of Health), so increasing ventilation alone may not actually resolve this problem. Combining increased enclosure ventilation with a good air purifier designed to tackle VOCs, however, is likely to be beneficial to reptiles and humans!
Reduced carbon dioxide concentration. Humans and reptiles have plenty of differences, but we also have plenty of similarities; for example, the fact that we both require a certain concentration of oxygen to survive and function well, and are essentially poisoned by high levels of carbon dioxide in our environment. Exposure to too much carbon dioxide causes drowsiness, poor concentration, and generally impaired cognitive function (Allen et al., 2016; Strøm-Tejsen et al., 2015). Adding live plants to a reptile enclosure can also help with this problem, as plants “inhale” carbon dioxide and “exhale” oxygen.
Lower ambient temperatures. Struggling with uncomfortably high temperatures on your enclosure’s cool side? That means the hot air generated by your reptile’s heat lamp(s) is having trouble escaping. While some species of reptiles do enjoy a consistently warm environment, providing a wide temperature gradient is important to allowing them to regulate their body temperature, utilizing areas of warm and cool as their body demands.
Grow stronger plants. According to Michigan State University, when plants get pushed around by wind, they release a hormone which encourages the plant to reinforce itself, making it stronger than those raised in a still-air environment. Considering that a common complaint about live plants in reptile terrariums is that they get flattened by the animal inhabitant (of course, if the animal is too large for its plants, that may be a sign your enclosure needs to be taller or even topless, but that’s a topic for another day), your plants can use all the strengthening they can get! Of course, it is worth acknowledging that being harassed by your reptile will also help strengthen the plant, but too much movement will only harm the plant, not make it stronger — kind of like overdoing it at the gym only succeeds in making you horrifically sore rather than swole.
Have I made my point yet? Tl;dr: As long as you’re still meeting your reptile’s species-specific needs for average humidity, active air circulation in a reptile enclosure is likely to improve your pet’s health and wellbeing.
Don’t get me wrong, I get it — the last thing you want is another electrical device to add to your power supply. When you’re already running a couple of heat lamps, a UVB lamp, an LED, and then maybe an automatic misting system or humidifier, adding a fan to the mix isn’t exactly the most appealing prospect. However, if that fan has a USB cable instead of a standard power cord and you’re using a power strip which includes USB ports, well…
Meet the Repti Zoo Air Cool Fan Dehumidifier
Repti Zoo is one of the leading budget reptile supply distributors on Amazon. I’ve been keeping an eye on them for a while (one of those “I really should test drive those products sometime” situations), so when Repti Zoo reached out to me about doing a product review, it was like fate! After looking through their catalog, I settled on three representative products that I was most curious about and felt could be the most beneficial to improving reptile husbandry.
I chose their terrarium fan product for review because I believe that better enclosure ventilation is one of the next big steps in reptile husbandry. Plus, reptile-specific fan products are fairly rare, so I wanted to see if this would do a better job/have better features than the desktop and computer fans that have been used historically.
What I’m hoping to see from the Repti Zoo Air Cool Fan Dehumidifier is a noticeable but still gentle air current pushing fresh air into the enclosure, quiet operation; and easy, secure installation. Preferably a terrarium fan should have an on/off switch and multiple speed options. A timer of some kind would also be a nice feature.
- Quick, tool-less assembly
- Magnetic installation
- USB compatible
- Plug converter included
- Measures 4″ x 4″
- 6’ long cord
- No on/off switch
- W Input : 100-240V~50/60Hz 0.2A
- W Output: DC5.0V/MAX 0.5A
- 1 speed: up to 4200RPM
- Maximum air supply: 27CFM
At first I wanted to test the Repti Zoo Air Cool Fan Dehumidifier on my 18x18x24 mourning gecko enclosure, but one look at the fan’s design made me realize that would be a bad idea. The terrarium side of the fan is hollow, with a small, round outlet — exactly the kind of thing that microgeckos tend to like to hide and lay their eggs in. So, I opted to test this on my leaf-tailed gecko’s 18x18x36 terrarium.
The fan is quick and easy to assemble and perfectly functional out of the box — all you have to do is plug it in. It comes with just a few pieces: the fan top w/connected USB cord, magnetic lower piece, and a USB to outlet converter. Print instructions are included, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how this thing works, especially if you’ve looked at the product photos online. There is no timer, on/off switch, or variable speed settings. You simply plug the fan in to turn it on, and unplug it to turn it off.
The cord is nice and long (6’), and I love that it’s a USB rather than standard plug. My Kasa smart power strips have USB ports, which means I don’t have to use up an entire outlet to add a fan to a setup. On the downside, this also means I can’t schedule the fan’s function via the outlet.
I also like the way that the fan’s magnetic two-part body secures it in place against the terrarium mesh so it doesn’t slide around on top. Unfortunately, due to the design of the lower half, it’s unexpectedly noisy — kind of like a very small hairdryer. Despite all this noise, the airflow is weaker than expected. I expected a breeze that would create at least some leaf movement directly below the fan, but the airflow was barely noticeable. (It should be noted that this fan is quieter if you omit the funnel part that goes inside the enclosure. That removes the magnetic security though, which…kind of defeats the whole appeal.) This fan is advertised as “Low noise…but large fan wind” on Repti Zoo’s store, but I found neither claim true.
I happened to have some 2” USB computer fans on hand, so I plugged one in to see how it compared with the Repti Zoo Air Cool Fan Dehumidifier. It was also very weak (the Repti Zoo fan is about 2-3x stronger, by my estimate), but also least it was silent. Next I decided to buy a cheap 4” USB desk fan (which is roughly the same dimensions as the RZ fan) from Amazon to see how it would compare. For the price, it had an on/off switch, 3 speed options, and better airflow at lowest speed, as well as less noise.
To test how effective this fan is at reducing humidity, I misted my enclosure to spike the humidity, then ran the fans and recorded humidity levels again after 3 hours. I run an air conditioning unit in the room where this enclosure is set up, so I expect that may cause things to dry out faster for me than for others.
- When no fan was running, humidity dropped approximately from 68% to 62% after 3 hours.
- When the Repti Zoo Air Cool Fan Dehumidifier was running, humidity dropped from approximately 88% to 52% after 3 hours.
- When the 4” desktop USB fan was running on its lowest setting, humidity dropped from approximately 87% to 45% after 3 hours.
Given the Repti Zoo fan’s almost-imperceptible output, I was genuinely surprised to see such a significant drop in humidity in a vertical enclosure with a volume of 50 gallons.
Things I Liked About the Repti Zoo Air Cool Fan Dehumidifier
- Easy to install
- Sleek design
- USB plugin
- Included USB to plug converter
- Secure magnetic mounting
- Long cord
Things I Didn’t Like About the Repti Zoo Air Cool Fan Dehumidifier
- No on/off switch
- No timer function
- Only one fan speed
- Relatively noisy
- Likely to cause problems with microgeckos
Conclusion: Just get a cheap USB desktop fan
ReptiFiles rating: 2.5 stars
Overall, I’m not impressed with the Repti Zoo Air Cool Fan Dehumidifier. Is it functional? Yes, it does the job. Is it attractive compared to other options? Yes. But it’s generally underwhelming. At the very least I would expect a product like this, especially at the current price point, to have quieter operation and an on/off switch. Additional features like a timer and variable speeds would push this product to 4 or even 5, depending on how they were implemented.
Although a good terrarium fan is very needed in this industry, this isn’t it. As this product stands, there’s really no reason to choose it over a cheap computer fan or miniature desk fan unless you’re dead set on the sleek aesthetic and don’t mind the constant whine.
ReptiFiles’ tips for success with the Repti Zoo Air Cool Fan Dehumidifier:
- Use in an enclosure measuring 18”L x 18”W x 36”H or less.
- Use without the magnetic half to reduce unnecessary noise.
- Do not use with microgeckos.