How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium

How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium

Whether you live in an arid climate or you care for a species that requires a high level of humidity (such as a rainbow boa or amphibian species), you’ll certainly need to know how to increase humidity in a terrarium!

SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR MY VIDEO REVIEW OF SPHAGNUM MOSS

How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium

Sphagnum Moss is one of the best, natural ways you can increase your humidity levels.

Humidity vs Relative Humidity

Before we go any further it is important we understand what we are talking about!

Humidity: as you probably know is the term we use to describe the amount of water vapor in the air.

Relative Humidity: on the other hand, is the actual measurement of the amount of vapor in the air represented as a percentage of the amount needed to fully saturate the air at its current temperature.

Relative humidity is what you are working with when discussing humidity levels inside your terrarium. The reason it is “relative” is due to the fact that air is capable of holding different amounts of water vapor at different temperatures.

Warm air can hold more moisture than cool air as shown in this image below.

How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium
from: http://www.processtechacademy.com/its-all-relative/

An equal volume of water vapor will result in different levels of relative humidity at different temperatures. Therefore it is important that you are trying to balance your reptile’s humidity levels after you have established the proper temperature parameters.

If you are looking for how to increase humidity in a terrarium… then here are the first two keys takeaways:

  1. Higher relative humidity will require more water vapor in the air
  2. You must ensure your temperatures are set properly for the species you care for before trying to establish proper humidity levels.

How to Measure: Best Hygrometer for Reptiles

Okay, so I understand what relative humidity is but how do you measure it? What is the best hygrometer for reptiles?

There are many digital hygrometers on the market, typically you can save money by buying one off of Amazon rather than your local pet store.

You have two options when it comes to hygrometers:

  1. Inexpensive ($3-8), the two below are the ones I use (the white one seems to be more accurate, see below).Inexpensive hygrometers have two fairly serious faults. The first is that they are typically not that accurate and the second is over time they will become even more inaccurate as extended exposure to high humidity tends to damage the sensors.
    Best reptile hygrometer- DC103
    Best reptile hygrometer- DC103
    Best reptile hygrometer
    Best reptile – Brand: Amir

     

  2. Or expensive ($10-25). You’ll find high-quality hygrometers in the cigar hobby. Those guys are serious about there relative humidity! Cigar hygrometers are very accurate, can handle high humidity for a very long time and can be calibrated and recalibrated to maintain accuracy.
Best Reptile Hygrometer- Hydroset II
Best Reptile Hygrometer- Hydroset II

 

Best reptile hygrometer- Cigar Oasis Caliber IV
Best reptile hygrometer- Cigar Oasis Caliber IV

 

If Cheap Hygrometers are Inaccurate, Are they even worth it?

You don’t feel like spending the extra money on an expensive, more accurate hygrometer hey? I don’t blame you! I didn’t either. Fortunately, there is a way you can calibrate even the cheap units!

Calibrating a Hygrometer

How to Test a Hygrometer: 6 Steps (with Pictures) – wikiHow

Instead of a ziplock bag, I used a Tupperware container like in this video:

Note: You need to wait the full 24 hours, as the video says. Not 6 like the wikiHow article says.

Your inexpensive hygrometer will not have a button to adjust the reading it gives you so it is just something you’ll have to keep in mind. For example, this was my result after calibrating my units:

Best Reptile Hygrometer
Best Reptile Hygrometer

This meant that the white hygrometer bang on but the black ones seem to read about 10-12 % high. There is nothing I can do to the black ones to make them display an accurate figure, instead, I just have to do some mental math every time I look at them.

NOTE: I redid this calibration about 1 year later and the white one then displayed 72% (i.e. 3 % low) and the black ones displayed 79% (4% high). As I said above, over time the inexpensive hygrometers will fluctuate in their accuracy.

How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium

There are several different ways you can increase humidity in your animal’s terrarium. Your goal should be to set your enclosure up in a way that the relative humidity stays within your animal’s requirements with little to no regular intervention.

In other words, you should not be fighting with your humidity levels on a regular basis. Things should be set up in a way that your humidity natural sits in the healthy range for your specific animal.

How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium: Various Methods

Ventilation:

The more ventilation you have the lower you relative humidity will be. If you have an animal that requires high levels of humidity than limited ventilation is in order.

My Brazilian Rainbow Boa enclosure only has eight vent holes, four of them are shown below:

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Ventilation- How to increase humidity in a terrarium
Brazilian Rainbow Boa Ventilation- How to increase humidity in a terrarium

Water Dish:

This one is pretty straightforward! The larger the surface area of your water dish, the more evaporation, the more water vapor in the air of your terrarium. Some people like to but their water dish on the warm side of the enclosure to illicit more evaporation. In my opinion that encourages bacteria growth in the water dish.

I like to use large plastic containers for my water dishes (without the lid obviously):

Large water dish- How to increase humidity in a terrarium
Large water dish- How to increase humidity in a terrarium

Substrate:

There are many types of substrates you can use to help maintain humidity in your terrarium. Cypress mulch and EcoEarthare my favorites, you can read more about that in this article: Best Ball Python Substrate.

Cypress Mulch- How to increase humidity in a terrarium
Cypress Mulch- How to increase humidity in a terrarium
EcoEarth- How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium
EcoEarth- How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium

These are great substrates but keep in mind there affects on your terrarium’s humidity is not permanent. They will slowly dry out over time and no longer provide as much moisture as they did right out of the bag.

Misting:

Misting your terrarium is one of those controversial methods! Many people say you should not use misting as a way to maintain humidity (unless of course, you are using it for your animal’s drinking water).

Generally, people say to avoid this method for two reasons: 1) it implies that you have not done a great job setting up your enclosure so it can maintain proper humidity on its own and 2) it can lead to too much sitting-water in the terrarium.

Exo Terra Mister- How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium
Exo Terra Mister- How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium

“Anti-misters” definitely have a point! This is a method that should be used sparingly but I do think it has its place provided it is done properly. If you are like me and have to deal with an extremely arid climate then misting may be a necessity for you on occasion.

When I mist, I make sure to mix around the substrate while I do it. I am looking to create a slightly moistened substrate and that is it, not sopping wet!

Sphagnum moss for Snakes and other Critters!

Just recently I tried out sphagnum moss by Zoomed and loved it! It is a very easy (and reusable) product that holds moisture for a very long period of time! I added it to my Brazilian rainbow enclosure and it maintained a relative humidity of over 90% for more than 2 weeks straight without having to be re-moistened.

How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium

I highly recommend this product if you are needing a boost in your humidity levels. Watch my full video review below:

 

BSFL: Best Feeder Insects

BSFL: Best Feeder Insects

BSFL or black soldier fly larva are some of the best feeder insects available for your reptile. They are my go-to feeder for my giant day gecko. They are very easy to care for, extremely nutritious and can provide some great environmental enrichment when they turn into flies!

Watch the video below!

ALL BSFL are not made the same!

There are many different brands of black soldier fly larvae but the only brand I can recommend is Phoenix Worm.  

Phoenix worm's
Phoenix worm’s: Best feeder insects

Phoenix Worm feeds their BSFL an enriched grain-based diet which causes the larvae to be very high in calcium. You may be able to find other brands you are satisfied with but always I stick with Phoenix Worms

BSFL: Best Feeder Insects
Phoenix Worm: Best feeder Insects

Why Choose BSFL?

Black soldier fly larvae produced by Phoenix Worm are a far superior feeder than most of the other common feeders available. The main reason for the difference is their nutritional makeup as you can see in the chart below.

Feeder Insect Nutrition Chart
Feeder Insect Nutrition Chart (from phoenixworm.com)

BSFL (especially from Phoenix Worm) have a VERY high calcium to phosphorus ratio. This means you are not required to dust them before feeding!

You also do not have to gut load them. They can survive for weeks inside the tub you purchase them in. When I say you don’t have to gut load… I really mean— don’t gut load! Guting loading can cause your colony to die off and rot inside the container.

Ideally, you keep your container of BSFL at a temperature of around 50-60°F as this will slow down their life cycle considerably. In the winter months I keep my container on a window sill (it is very cold where I live) and in the summer I don’t worry about it. i.e. I just deal with the quicker life cycle.

Feeding BSFL to your Animal

When you first open your container of Phoenix Worm’s you’ll think: “what? the container is empty?” but if you dig around you will find plenty of worms!

BSFL: Best Feeder Insects
BSFL: best feeder insects

Here is what one looks like up close:

Black soldier fly larva
Black soldier fly larva

When I am getting ready to feed my animal I dig out about 8-12 worms (larvae) and place them in a glass dish. The larvae don’t move around a ton but they do wriggle around enough to draw the attention of my gecko (and yours too probably).

BSFL: best feeder insects
BSFL: best feeder insects

And again, no need to dust with powdered supplements so once I have removed them from the container the feed dish can go directly into the enclosure!

Black soldier fly larva
Black soldier fly larva feeder

Mealtime!

BSFL: Best Feeder Insects
Day Gecko eating Black Soldier Fly Larva

Ruby loves these things!

Day Gecko eating BSFL
Day Gecko eating BSFL
Day Gecko eating BSFL
Day Gecko eating BSFL

Can you Feed Black Soldier Flies to Your Animal?

So, what happens when the larvae start to pupate?

Eventually (if you don’t go through your colony fast enough), the larvae will begin to pupate. BSF pupae look like this:

Black Soldier Fly Pupa
Black Soldier Fly Pupa

They are stiff, black, cacoon looking things. They still have essentially the same nutritional value as the larvae but they don’t move! Therefore, your animal will likely not eat them.

But, that doesn’t mean they are useless! When the larvae enter this phase of their life it means they are getting ready to metamorphose into the adult form: the black soldier fly!

Black Soldier Fly Pupa
Black Soldier Fly Pupa

Black soldier flies are great to feed your animal as it forces them to really hunt which is very fun to watch (click the video to see that in action). Every few days I collect any pupae I find in the BSFL container and I chuck them into the soil of my giant day gecko enclosure.

Over the next few weeks (sometimes months) the pupae will complete their life cycle and you’ll find a fly buzzing around the enclosure. Usually, they have fairly short lives… it typically takes my gecko about 3-5 minutes to grab them.

Black Solider Fly: Best feeder insects
Black Soldier Fly: Best feeder insects
Black Solider Fly: Best feeder insects
Black Soldier Fly: Best feeder insects

Watch the video below to watch a giant day gecko hunt down some black soldier flies!

Day Gecko Care

Best Substrate for Ball Pythons- 5 Options, 1 to Avoid

This day gecko care sheet is directed mainly towards the care of Phelsuma Grandis or the Giant Day Gecko. The general care of most day gecko species is similar but you should seek out a specific care guide for the species you own (or plan on owning)

SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM FOR A FREE DAY GECKO CARE INFO-GRAPHIC!

Day Gecko Care
Day Gecko Care Infographic- Scroll to bottom for full size version

If you’d rather listen than read watch the video below! Although the article does go into slightly more detail so you may want to eventually come back to it.

Day Gecko Care Video:

Cage/ Vivarium

Day Geckos are arboreal so an enclosure with good height is necessary. I would say the minimum cage size for a Giant Day Gecko is 18x18x24 (LxWxH). I keep my gecko is a Exo Terra Glass Terrarium, 18 by 18 by 24-Inch and she does just fine!

Terrarium Size for adult Day Gecko Care
Terrarium Size for adult Day Gecko Care

If you read my DIY Chameleon Cage post, you know I did keep her in china cabinet converted into a vivarium for awhile. She did well in that too, but I almost think it was too large for her. I would say on average she used 20% of the enclosure, now that she is in something slightly smaller she tends to explore more, most likely she is a little more conformable.

Give your gecko lots of plants and branches to climb on! They love bamboo, you can get large bamboo (2″ diameter) at a your local home gardening store for fairly cheap. Most Day Geckos enjoy using bamboo to hide in.

Day Gecko Care
Day Gecko hiding in Bamboo

My day gecko enclosure is planted with Golden Pothos… this is a seriously easy plant to take care of and they are harmless to the gecko.

Day Gecko Care: Live plants for Day Geckos
Day Gecko Care: Live plants for Day Geckos

Substrate

I use a layered substrate to support plant grow. The layers are as follows (starting from the bottom most layer):

I have found this combination to work great! Supports plant growth with no trouble and absorbs any waste produced by the gecko in a few days. It also holds moisture well so it can help with the humidity.

Day Gecko Care
Vivarium Soil- Day Gecko Care

Lighting:

As their namesake suggests, Day geckos are diurnal animals. This means they require a UVB producing light bulb as they need artifical sunlight to produce vitamin D. Without this a day gecko can develop metabolic bone disease, eventually leading to death.

I use a Zoo Med ReptiSun 5.0 UVB which I replace annually. I read somewhere that Zoo Med bulbs release a more consistent band of UVB, where the Exo-Terra bulbs release strong blasts early on and then fail to produce any UVB thereafter.  I’m not sure if that is true… I stick with Zoo Med just in case.

You should upgrade to the high output, Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 if the bulb is placed more than 18 inches away from the basking spot.

I also run t he lights on a 12 hr on/ 12 hr off light cycle (in the winter I reduce it to 10 hrs on/ 14 hrs off). I recommend buying a outlet timer off Amazon rather than buying one specifically intended for pets… usually it’s less expensive.

Day Gecko Care
UVB Lighting for Day Gecko



Temperature and Heating

I keep the enclosure temperature around 75°F – 80° F during the daytime with a basking spot of 90°F. I use an Exo Terra Sun-Glo Basking Spot Lamp, 50-Watt as a heat bulb. Here is how I maintain the basking spot temperature:

  • I connect the bulb to a outlet dimmer
  • I use my Temperature Gun to monitor the hot spot, this way I can dim or brighten the bulb as need. Although once it is set, I don’t need to touch it.
Day Gecko Care: Basking spot
Day Gecko Care: Basking spot

At night time, the bulb turns off of course and I let the enclosure drop to room temperature which is roughly 72°F.

Day Gecko Care: Temperature requirements
Day Gecko Care: Temperature requirements

Food 

In the wild, Day Geckos tend to eat: Insects, flower nectar, and fruit.

Insects:

Day Geckos will eat most feeder insects. This includes: crickets, silkworms, hornworms and phoenix worms. Make sure you are dusting your feeder insects before offering them to your gecko. (Silkworms, and phoenix worms already have a high calcium content and therefore don’t need to be dusted.) Also be sure to feed insects smaller than the space between your animal’s eyes.

Crested Gecko Diet

Day Geckos also thrive on crested gecko diet! Crested gecko diets have come along way in the last 5-10 years, and can be a very healthy option for your Day Gecko. I have actually started seeing breeders marketing Day Geckos as “insect-free geckos”. My Day Gecko almost exclusively eats Pangea Fruit Mix With Insects Crested Gecko Complete Diet.  That particular type of crested gecko diet is balanced with fruit and insects making it close to what they would consume in t he wild. She turns her nose up to almost all insects! Thankfully she does eat phoenix worms, but after two weeks or so of those she will start refusing them as well.

This is generally how I have been feeding:
  • Every 2-3 days I offer Pangea Fruit Mix With Insects Crested Gecko Complete Diet
  • Every 6 weeks or so I will offer phoenix worms alternate crested gecko diet and phoenix worms every few days until she has gone through a container of 100 (usually takes 2-3 weeks or so)
  • I sometimes mix in mashed up banana (they will eat many different types of fruit) and/or honey into the crested gecko diet as a treat
Crested Gecko diet for Day Gecko care
Crested Gecko diet for Day Gecko care

Your gecko may be more likely to accept insects, I would say it would be ideal to feed your day gecko insects at least once per week provided you are also feeding crested gecko diet. Day Geckos love to hunt, it is great enrichment for them!

Humidity

Humidity should fluctuate between 50-85%. I usually heavily mist about once per day, this causes the humidity to spike up to +85%. I then let the enclosure dry out for the rest of the day. If I notice she is about to shed, I might mist twice during that day to help her out. Day Geckos will lick up the water droplets for their daily water consumption, meaning a daily mist is very important. The Exo Terra Mister (or other misters like it) are a real life saver when compared to conventional misters.

Day Gecko Care
Humidity for Day Gecko

Size and Life Span

Female Giant Day Geckos will tend to max out at 9-10″ and males can grow to upwards of 12″. Of course there are also smaller species of Day Gecko, such as the Gold Dust Day Gecko.

Day Geckos can live anywhere between 8 – 20 years long.

Day Gecko Care
Giant Day Gecko Care information

Handling

Simply put, you shouldn’t handle your Day Gecko! Day Geckos are very flighty creatures! They are very easily spooked. Day Geckos, like many other geckos drop their tails as a defense mechanism but they also have very delicate skin that “peels” off as an attempt to flee from a predator. It is not pretty, it essentially creates an open wound.

If you want to physically interact with your gecko, I recommend washing your hands and dipping your finger in either the crested gecko diet or honey. They  will usually be comfortable licking it off your finger.

FREE INFO-GRAPHIC: 

If you are a newbie to Day Gecko Care, you might find it helpful to print thi out (at least the bottom half) and hang it near the terrarium as a guide!

Click the picture to expand to full size OR download the FREE PDF Verison HERE: Day GECKO CARE

Day Gecko Care
Day Gecko Care Infographic!



DIY Chameleon Cage

Best Substrate for Ball Pythons- 5 Options, 1 to Avoid

This article is a step by step guide to how I used an old china cabinet to create by own DIY chameleon cage. If you are the type of person who likes to listen rather than read you can watch the video below:

DIY Chameleon Cage:



SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM TO FEW THE FINISHED PROJECT!

STEP ONE: FIND A PIECE OF CHEAP FURNITURE!

It is always I good idea to have a particular animal in mind when designing and building an vivarium. Or at least a “class” of animal. I converted this china cabinet initially as a diy chameleon cage project but since it was made with an arboreal species in mind, it also worked for my giant day gecko for a while as well.

So, if you have a species or a “class” of species (arboreal, terrestrial, tropical, arid, etc.), hit the classifieds and start looking for a good piece of furniture! Moving sales are great, normally you can get things fairly cheap.

This exact cabinet below I have seen for sale as high as $350 on the classifieds (although who knows what they actually got for it), I bought mine for $50 because the seller “just wanted it out of the house!”… they also may not have been fully aware of the actual value of the unit. Worked for me. Anyway, of course I went with this unit because of its height (3.5′), it was also about 2 feet wide and 2 feet deep (at its deepest point, it is a corner cabinet).

 

Corner China Cabinet, $50.00
DIY chameleon cage: Corner China Cabinet, $50.00

STEP 2: COME UP WITH A PLAN

Once you have your piece of furniture at home, spend some time planning. Some mistakes are forgiving but some are not, especially if you are working with a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture. This vivarium was being converted to a diy chameleon cage, therefore I needed it to:

  • Have good ventilation
  • Handle high humidity and mositure
  • Have proper lighting
  • Handle live plants

So, my plan was:

  1. Remove the top and side panels, replace with screen
  2. Seal any wood, as well as any seams
  3. Build some kind of “tray” in the bottom to hold soil and plants

Seems simple enough, let’s go!


STEP THREE: VENTILATION

The first thing I did was remove the side panels of glass. Chameleons require ample ventilation so adding more screen was necessary.

Removed side glass panels
DIY chameleon cage: Removed side glass panels

The top also needed to be removed. This accomplished two things:

  1. Increased ventilation
  2. Provided an area for a lighting system to function properly

As you can see, the top was solid wood. I used a Reciprocating Saw to cut it our completely.

Top of the cabinet
Top of the cabinet
Top of the cabinet removed
DIY chameleon cage: Top of the cabinet removed

I went to Home Depot and bought metal mesh screen and screen frame. I used the “tabs” that held the glass panel in to secure the screen frame to the cabinet.

On one side of the cabinet I included a “hand door,” pictured below. Hand doors are handy (sorry)… but they are! Especially if the main door is very large like the one on this cabinet. It is very convenient to be able to open a small door for feeding, misting, etc., rather than opening the entire front of the vivarium (especially if you are keeping flighty animals).

I don’t have a great picture of it but I also stapled screen to the top as well.

Screens installed to replace glass panels
Screens installed to replace glass panels



STEP FOUR: SEAL!

Next on the agenda was sealing the china cabinet up to protect it from moisture damage.  First I used GE 100% Silicone I (make sure you use GE Silicone I, not II. Scroll to step 4 HERE to read why), to seal any of the seams in the cabinet.

Silicon filled seams
Silicon filled seams

It was also necessary to seal any exposed wood. Keep in mind, the two major walls of the cabinet are actually mirror. This was great because it really reduced the amount of wood in the vivarium to pretty much just the door frames.

I used MINWAX Polycrylic to do this. It is water based and paints on very easy. Plus, once dry it is perfectly safe for your animals!

DIY Chameleon Cage

 

STEP FIVE: PLANT TRAY

The second last piece of the “diy chameleon cage” puzzle was building a tray to allow the vivarium to hold soil and live plants. This was my favorite part of the build!

The china cabinet came with glass shelves. I used one of these glass shelves as the base of the tray. Then, remember the glass panels I removed at the beginning? Well I took that glass, cut it to size and used silicone to secured it to the base to form “walls’ for the tray. It worked perfectly!

I let it cure for 24 hours and the filled it with water to ensure their were no leaks. There weren’t!

I found the glass edges to be a little sharp so I cover them with pipe insulation.

Glass plant tray
Glass plant tray
Glass tray completed
Glass tray completed



STEP SIX: BACKGROUND AND SET UP- DIY CHAMELEON CAGE

The last thing left to do before planting the vivarium was covering the mirror’s. As I said above the two large back walls of the vivarium were mirrors. This was good news and bad news. The good news was mirror’s are obviously made of glass meaning water damage wouldn’t be an issue. The bad news was it needed to be covered because it looked weird.

I went to staples and bought Quartet Cork Roll. It was inexpensive and worked great. I just glued it to the mirror using the silicone and was all set. The cork provided a more natural look to the vivarium’s background and is durable enough to handle moisture.

Cork background
Cork background

Then it was time to add soil, plants and decor!

diy chameleon cage
diy chameleon cage- door open
diy chameleon cage
diy chameleon cage- door closed

To plant the vivarium, I used:

Before it was sold, I swapped out some of the plants shown below:

diy chameleon cage- replanted
diy chameleon cage- replanted

 This was a really fun project to work on and fairly simple to do! Again, the project was intended for chameleons but I was able to keep my giant day gecko in it for a few months before I sold it.

I encourage you to go out, find a piece of furniture and do a diy project of your own! Always remember the animal’s safety is priority number one!

Material List: