View Full Version : enclosures.. multiple issues

08-23-2005, 09:16 AM
a thread in the AFT section gave me the idea to broach this subject and get people thoughts on two matters.

1) naturalistic vs. sterilized. how does every one feel about housing their herps in planted, naturally substrated, larger enclosure vs a bare bones, paper towel/newspaper substrated, minimally required sized sterelite/rubbermaid. i have a mix of the two but am finding that i am getting more enjoyment out of the natural enclosures. my herps are easier to view for pleasure, i can see if there's any problems, but if i continue with these type of enclosures, i am going to have to limit my collection to alot less. is it 'better' or more ok to house snakes or terrestrial geckos this way? i was thinking of expanding my collection of Goniurosaurs, viper geckos, and Coleonyx by using rack style enclosures, but for my Rhacs, Uros and, maybe soon, Oeduras this just doenst feel right. i have drawn up some plans similar to the arboreal racks being offered by AC with oversized sterlites that i hope to decorate in a more naturalistic fashion.

2) multispecie enclosures. does anyone keep them? what do you have housed together? this obviously is a branch down the naturalistic path. i have some interest in perhaps trying a small wet enclosure with some dart frogs and a day gecko of some sort, but have no experience with this type of mini-ecosystem. i know the big online mantra is 'dont mix species, but i have read articles from respectable breeders who seemingly encourage mini-ecosystems, including the mixing of species. i dont see how it could be detrimental as long as they've all gone through their quaratine period and they are sized correctly as well as in their correct habitats in regards to foliage, humidity, size, etc.

opinions, experience?


Johnathan B. Jackson
08-23-2005, 09:49 AM
1) naturalistic vs. sterilized. how does every one feel about housing their herps in planted, naturally substrated, larger enclosure vs a bare bones, paper towel/newspaper substrated, minimally required sized sterelite/rubbermaid.

I think it is pretty much whatever floats your boat on the first question.

Me particular, I have a 10 and a 20 gal, both setup nicely. I tried the newspaper and paper towel approach, but one I got no satisfaction, and two I felt I was depriving my Leos (Sahara & Blizzard Dough). These animals are born with wildlife instincts, no matter how genetic the color morph... And I haven't seen any paper towel deserts, or newspaper mountains anywhere! Granted I don't actually consider my setup to be 'keeping' them on sand, as the primary substrate in my own enclosure is slate w/ calci sand as the crack fillers. No hides sit on sand.

On the other hand, if I was in it to make a profit and wanted to ensure the healthiest herps possible then I would more than likely keep them on paper towels. Hell Petco and Petsmart should use paper towels... but that's another matter.

So its all about what your intentions are.

2) multispecie enclosures. does anyone keep them? what do you have housed together?

I would love to see some good answers(pros & cons) on this, because I would want to one day do something of this sort as well.

08-23-2005, 10:08 AM
1. I keep my cages somewhat in between your two descriptions. I use bark/mulch on the bottom, and use corkbark, branches, exo-terra vines, fake plants, etc in all of my cages for climbing, decor.

2. If the animals are similarly sized and from the same area in the wild and use different parts of the eco system, I'd say you'll probably be ok. I'd think that you would be fine with some smaller day geckos from Madagascar along with some mantellas. Mantellas are from Madagascar and have bright colors, unlike their South American counterparts-the dart frogs.

08-23-2005, 10:16 AM
well damn guys.. this isnt much of a discussion.. lol.. everyone is agreeing!

JBJ, i wasnt really looking to talk about my personal intentions, but i have considered that the keepers intentions are definitely a factor in the decision. i, personally, would like to breed geckos, but am in way having any fantasies of having as any sort of income. that said, if i am looking to have quantities of certain colonies i realize that i will need more room or sacrifice my personal feelings and resort to less natural enclosures..... i think.

Aaron, how do you feel though about the 2 different choices? are you comfortable w/ the minimalistic approach? do you feel it helps with breeding? as far as mantellas over dendro's.. i was just throwing out some species. :P


08-23-2005, 10:49 AM
I personally hate papertowel/news paper. I think it's ugly, doesn't hold humity, gets kinda nasty, esp w/ heavy misting...

I'd love to have the time/motivation to maintain a planted tank, but when it comes down to it, their just not for me. Also, with a dirt substrate and plants, you have no idea where eggs are laid or even if they've been laid.

I like mulch because it holds humidity, looks nice, and for my babies, they can burrow into it to hide or attain the moisture to shed their skin.

Johnathan B. Jackson
08-23-2005, 11:18 AM
I know that I've asked you this before Aaron, but what kind of lizard is that in your avatar, and do you have a care sheet or info on it. I really dig that guy.

08-23-2005, 11:26 AM
Aaron, i dont remember if we have discussed this or not, but what about your ball pythons? how do you keep them? what is your long term intentions on their breeding? do you continue to house them the same way if you end up with a larger amount of balls?


08-23-2005, 11:35 AM
I know that I've asked you this before Aaron, but what kind of lizard is that in your avatar, and do you have a care sheet or info on it. I really dig that guy.
It's an armadillo lizard-cordylus cataphractus. They're pretty rare and very expensive. I know of only one person breeding them in the US. There could be a few more, but I'm not sure.
Check this thread: http://www.geckosunlimited.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1118

Aaron, i dont remember if we have discussed this or not, but what about your ball pythons? how do you keep them? what is your long term intentions on their breeding? do you continue to house them the same way if you end up with a larger amount of balls?
I have 1.1 bps, and they're kept in 20 gallon long aquariums on cypress mulch. They have a water dish(ceramic dog dishes so they can't tip them over anymore), and a log to hide under. If/when they breed, I'll be selling/trading all the babies. The babies will be kept in a small rack of some type-I'm not exactly sure yet. I don't plan on getting any more, so they'll probably be kept the same way for years to come.

08-24-2005, 11:28 AM
i have 23 banded geckos and 7 leopard geckos that I keep in sterilite containers. If I had the room i would do otherwise though. I also have some bearded dragons, but i keep those in an aquarium. I use papertowels for all of them except for 2 wild caught C. mitratus, which have bed a beast. It is safer and cleaner that way. I can monitor food, defecation, and still meet their habitual requirements. The towels and water are changed everyday. They are thriving and breeding.

It really depends on your preference, amount of space, and how many critters you have!

09-20-2005, 01:19 AM
My animals don't seem to mind paper towels as long as they have a dig box.

09-20-2005, 09:09 AM
I keep my desert and tucson bandeds in 6 quart sterilite containers with grade 60 silica sand (course), a water bowl, a sandstone rock, and an upside down styrofoam bowl with a hole for a hide. Gravid females get an egg laying box to replace the hide.

Central american banded geckos get bed a beast, a waterbowl, fake plants, and the styrofoam hide.

04-08-2006, 11:58 AM
I keep my rhacs on paper towel. I include cork, fake plants, laying boxes with coco and moss. They do not seem to mind the paper towel. My babies are housed in KKs with an eggflat, fake plant, and pvc pipe, all on paper towel. For my ackies however, they have 1 foot of sand/soil mix with a slate basking platform. I like paper towel, as it is easier to manage and keep track of whos eating, but for the ackies, I needed the deep substrate. They would not like paper towel at all!

04-08-2006, 09:00 PM
1) naturalistic vs. sterilized.
I'm right in the middle, for both my snakes and my geckos. I would love to have all naturalistic vivaria, but it is a *lot* of work when you have a lot of animals, and you run into issues with pests when you start to introduce outside plants and substrates. I have one enclosure (gargoyle) with a mixture of live and fake plants, using organic topsoil as a substrate, and it's not bad. But if I kept everything that way it would be a lot more work, and I would spend so much time keeping the plants alive, watching out for mildew and mold in the high humidity enviornments, finding crickets that weren't eaten, etc, that I wouldn't get as much enjoyment out of the animals as I do. My leaftails I keep in a "synthetic but realistic" enviornment, in kritter keepers with fake plants and bed-a-beast type substrate. It looks real enough, it gives them plenty of climbing and hiding places, and the bedding holds plenty of humidity, so for me it's the best of both worlds. I don't have to worry about pests, keeping plants alive, etc, but it's real enough that the geckos don't know or care about the difference. They're small enough that it's easy for them to find prey, and it's just as easy for me to monitor who has eaten and how much, which is especially important for young specimens.

For breeding, however, my intention is to have a more naturalistic setup with live plants and soil-based substrate, and to house 1.2 in a single enclosure for breeding/laying.

My snakes I keep on cypress mulch, because it holds humidity well and looks/smells nice, but I use plastic hides and water dishes to keep cleaning simple. Natural-looking hides and water dishes get crapped on, and they are a real pain in the neck to clean. Non-porous plastic cleans easily, and the snakes don't care what their hides and dishes are made of.

The bottom line here is that these animals don't really care. They will make their home in whatever is available, be it an overturned coffee can or the stump of a tree. The term "naturalistic" has no meaning to a gecko, home is whatever fits their requirements. So technically, an upside down ceramic pot with a hole in it *is* a naturalistic hide, and a rusty tire iron is a naturalistic climb, at least from the animals' perspective. The important thing is meeting the animals' requirements.

Cage size is largely a personal choice, although there are good reasons to use smaller enclosures. In some cases, animals feel stressed and insecure in larger enclosures (although this can usually be covercome with lots of hiding places), and it is also harder to maintain good temperature gradients and humidity in larger enclosures. For these reasons, smaller enclosures are perfectly acceptable and not "unnatural", because they fit the animals' needs, and that is really all they care about. People have asked me if my snakes are always trying to escape since they live in a 2'x4' cage their whole lives, and my answer is "No, why would they? They have food, water, warmth, and security, and in the wild, if they found all of those things in an 8 square foot space, they would never leave it either."

2) multispecie enclosures.
This is the one where what happens in the wild becomes important. In the wild they obviously live in milti-species groups, with many of the same species in close proximity. However, you should also keep in mind that in nature, many animals are injured, maimed, and killed, not only by predators but also by competing species and others of the same species. They also starve, die from floods or droughts, they die from parasite infestations, and even things as simple as accidentally falling off a perch and landing wrong. So we don't want to imitate nature perfectly, because nature is dangerous.

The important thing to keep in mind is that in nature, these animals live in close proximity, but they have the ability to flee from conflict. In an enclosed space, they do not have that ability. This is why keeping multiple males of the same species often results in serious injury, when in the wild a bested male would usually flee the scene without serious injuries. I've seen it happen with snakes many times. In nature, two males will fight over a female, but only with shows of strength. When the winner is determined, the loser will flee. But in an enclosed space, the loser tries to flee and has nowhere to go, so the situation escalates until the loser is injured, sometimes quite badly. And that is only with ritualized combat between the same species, it can be even worse between different species who don't have a natural, ritualized combat or show to warn the other off. That said, I do know several people who keep several of the same species or several different species in one enclosure with sucess, but there are difficulties that come along with it.

The other argument against keeping multiple species, or even multiple specimens of the same species, is for record keeping. It is much easier to say who ate what and when, who shed and when, who laid which eggs and when, etc, when you keep one animal per enclosure. It makes it much easier to montor the health of each animal, and it ensures that you won't accidentally find a single snake with a funny, wavy shape in its belly where you expect to find 2 snakes. Even animals that are not normally cannibalistic will eat each other in certain situations, and competition for food, dominance, and mistaken identity can and do happen. Personally, I only house animals together that are intended for breeding, usually only in 1.1 or 1.2, but sometimes also in 2.2 groups depending on how the males get along together, and I haven't kept different species together since I was 10 years old and put a toad in my garter snake's enclosure and woke up one moring to find the snake gone and the toad happy even though he hadn't been fed yet.

If you do house more than one species together, make sure you read up on them and know that they can be housed together safely, and even then you should keep a close eye on their behavior for signs of competition. Competition can be stressful and can kill an animal just as easily as an injury.


04-08-2006, 10:29 PM
I personally keep all my animals in natural cages they seem much happier. I right now keep green anloes, brown anoles, green tree frogs in one cage, and in the second I keep cuban tree frogs 5-lined skinks, and green tree frogs together, I also have kept green anoles, brown anloes, and golde dust day geckos together all you need is a big enough cage and plenty of hiding spaces, Just my experience.

04-09-2006, 09:06 PM
I,ve been there and back with both types several times. I currently maintain about 200+ pairs of 45 species. These were always housed in boring rack type enclosures for I suppose the last 10 years. I am now converting all of my cages over to semi natrualistic enclosures. Why??. I suppose when I was younger, with less income it was important to me to "produce" as much as possible, as many first breedings as I could and keep everything that everybody expected me to keep from a money point of view. I have now decided that I need to keep what I enjoy, for solely that purpose, regardless of how worthless they are, in an enclosure that I find enjoyable. Have I gone soft in the head. Probably, but I am much happier about the type of reptile keeper I have become. Do I sneer at those who use rack systems?? Definately not. From a health point of view I think they are better and if you enjoy things that way, then good for you. Its just not my kettle of fish any more.

04-09-2006, 10:48 PM
I think it all depends on the species you are keeping. Some geckos do much better in the naturalistic and some actually require at least a taller inclosure, making it hard to use a tub. Also in my opinion, the natural lighting for a humid cage can keep bacteria levels down.

Babamba, I know of someone who imports cataphractus and the sungazers here in Oceanside. I am working on him to get more geckos from South Africa, but its not easy as wc are not legal to export. It has to be cb so it is a long process.

04-12-2006, 10:22 AM
I use natuaralistic for all adults and a sterilized setup for babies, it's easier to keep and eye on them.

04-16-2006, 05:12 PM
I've been keeping reptiles for only two years now.I first started keeping sub-tropical plants in Seattle.I later moved to Montana and have watched all my plants die in this cold,dry, baron place.I needed to create a closed enviorment so i could at least grow a few plants I love.I had the intentions of keeping a reptile for sometime and decided to combine the two to have a minture eco-sytsem.I have two tokays, four poison dart frogs,and a 35 gal tank with african chilids.With every tank I try my damnest to make it as nature as possible.Live plants everywhere,nature soil(if coco fiber can be considered natural),water features, real stones and wood.The onlt thing not real is my background walls usaually made out of foam and coated with silicone and coco fiberor sand.I have had many disasters with attempts to do this, but now that I'm getting a grasp for it I enjoy it tremendously.Its alot of work at first but the idea is quality over quantity.When you have a tank that looks like you cut it out of nature,its quite an accomplishment.This whole papertowel and rack system approach seems depressing and lifeless.There is a greater risk with sterilization when dealing with the natural set up,but we can't protect them from everything.Besides, if they are never exposed to these diseases,bacterias, and so on and so forth then they would become a far weaker species with no immunity to anything foriegn.Tanks should be kept clean.To try and keep the sterile is unrealistic.Naturalistic tanks become more than a housing for your pets;They become a living entity within themselves.I hope I'm not preaching.This is just my desire to be surrounded by life, not just the dead walls of my home and the machines that fill them.

04-17-2006, 10:28 PM
I would really like to discuss the issue of multi species enclosures. I have personally kept multiple species in the same enclosure with a good amount of success. I have mixed bearded dragons with blue tounge skinks and bearded dragons with uromastyx. I have also mixed snake species in the past. I kept an amazon tree boa with a pair of rainboa boas, and ball pythons with a blood python. I have never had any problems with any of these mixes. I do however know of instances when it really has not worked out. As far as geckos go i dont know about mixing them except for similarly sized Phelsuma and Gekko gekko with Gekko smithi. I have also seen success in types of habitats that kept very different animals together. Such as venomous arboreal snakes with turtles and frogs. Although the frogs are a longshot in many cases. I know of zoos that even go as far as to keep tortoises with terrrestrial boidae.

The REAL problem with mixing species is the flack you are going to get from some people by doing it. My only suggestion is to use common sense and have a very good knowledge of the animals you are working with BEFORE attempting to mix species.

04-18-2006, 02:27 PM
I have also mixed snake species in the past. I kept an amazon tree boa with a pair of rainboa boas, and ball pythons with a blood python. I have never had any problems with any of these mixes. I do however know of instances when it really has not worked out.

The REAL problem with mixing species is the flack you are going to get from some people by doing it.

I have (personally) seen rainbow boas eat ball pythons before. I have seen bloods eat balls. I've seen redtails (BCI and BCC) eat balls. I've seen one ball eat another. None of these species are *supposed* to be cannibalistic or eat other snakes, but they can and do. Sometimes it is feeding error (they smell prey on one another and one eats the other), and other times it is simply dominance. (I can post pics of these if you'd like, but they're fairly graphic)

Additionally, I've seen snakes die from being housed together, simply due to stress and competition. The bottom line is, snakes are not communal or social, and should not be housed together. People claim they are seen together in the wild, but in the wild they are able to get away from one another. In a 4 foot cage there is nowhere to go when they need privacy, and they end up hurting one another. Housing snakes together is just a bad idea. You may never have a problem with it, but then again, you might wake up one day with one snake missing and the other suspiciously fat. My perspective is, why take the chance? The truth is, if you put two snakes together for more than short periods of time (like for breeding), you might as well take bets on which one will survive.

As for geckos, some of them may be communal, and they may cohabitate with other species, but you still have to be careful. The key here is plenty of space, because these animals need to be able to get away from one another in order to keep stress levels down. Even in very large enclosures there will be choice basking and hunting spots, and there will be competition for those locations. And you also have to consider contamination. Communal animals share parasites and disease in addition to living space and prey. A mite or something that might be harmless and simple to fix for one species might be a death warrant for another, so you have to use very careful quarrantine practices before introducing multiple species.

All that said, multi-species vivs can be very rewardsing (if a lot of work), but they require good planning and constant maintenance if you want them to thrive.


04-18-2006, 02:48 PM
I agree with ryanm.
An example of introducing species and parasite problems...

1) Fish are commonly kept together and/or using the same water supply. Now days you can not keep any fish without being worried about disease. If they where kept seperately we would not have these problems.

2) Before good treatment of mites, they where spreading many deadly diseases from one cage to the next.

Many species of reptiles have parasites that are unique in their group, but when introduced to a new species can be deadly.

So if you try to introduce species and notice they "get along", consider the other complications not seen by you. I would recomend that if you do introduce species for a natural set up, not to re-introduce one back into the hobby or any breeding projects.

04-18-2006, 04:35 PM
Geckos dont hide very well on scott towels, all my geckos are on naturalistic setup, its better for my mental health i guess.



05-02-2006, 02:20 PM
I'm definately a fan of naturalistic vivariums. Not only for the reptiles, but I find it enjoyable to design and create a mini-version of a habitat, though I did add a bridge in my snakes new vivarium but surprisingly that doesn't really damage the idea much at all :lol: I'm looking forward to getting the large vivarium for my Stenodactylus and creating a larger desert for them to play in and doing a rain-forest set-up for my mourning geckos (Lepidodactylus). My mourning geckos are in a sterile cricket tub right now but hopefully they'll be moving into a nursery enclosure soon, and then onto an even larger enclosure when they are adults.

As for keeping multi-species together I'm new to keeping reptiles and can't really comment much on that. But if the enclosure was large enough, I'm sure a realistic natural setting would look fantastic.