Are you looking to become a reptile owner? Or, maybe you already have your own scaly friend! If so, you know the importance of maintaining a suitable environment for your pet. Reptiles are especially sensitive to environmental factors such as light, temperature, and humidity. But, if you have a pet that requires a humid home, how can you ensure their tank stays humid?
It will take an entire article to explain how to keep the humidity up in a reptile tank, but here’s a short answer.
To keep humidity high in a reptile tank there are five main things that you can focus on. Optimizing the substrate and enclosure will help keep humidity in. You can also try adding water features, misting the enclosure, and even try starting a bioactive tank.
It really is that simple, but, there are some pretty important details to take into consideration! Let’s talk about how to keep humidity up in your reptile tank.
How Humid Should It Be In A Reptile Enclosure?
Before we get into it, are you 100% positive you know what the humidity should be in your reptile’s enclosure?
Not all reptiles are built the same. Some of our pets come from the sub-Saharan desert while others come from tropical rainforests. Obviously, these animals have vastly different husbandry needs. Actually, reptiles can be generalized into three groups of humidity needs. Desert reptiles have the lowest humidity requirements. Reptiles originating in temperate areas need moderate humidity. And of course, reptiles from tropical areas need high humidity. Here is a chart that will show you the exact humidity ranges.
So, using a chart like this, you can get an idea of what your pet’s humidity should be based on its natural history. You’ll notice our chart also provides humidity information for common pets like leopard geckos, bearded dragons, and ball pythons.
It’s important to note that some species will have increased humidity requirements. The relative humidity is also a balance between humidity and temperature. So as the temperature of your reptile’s enclosure goes up and down, you will need to adjust the moisture to maintain good humidity.
How To Monitor Humidity In A Reptile Tank
So, now that you know how much humidity your reptile needs to be happy, how do you monitor it?
Luckily, reptile owners all over the world have the same question! Hygrometers are meters that can accurately measure humidity in a space. Usually, you will find hygrometers paired with thermometers, so that you can measure both variables in your scaly friend’s tank. It’s important to make sure these tools are calibrated and working well. Make sure to refer to the manufacturer’s guide on maintenance and calibration.
5 Ways To Keep Humidity High In A Tank
So, we know how humid to keep our tanks, and we know how to measure humidity, now let’s discuss how to create a humid environment in a tank.
Keeping humidity high for tropical pets doesn’t have to be a difficult task. Some easy swaps will help keep a tank humid. There are also options to install automated or natural humidity helpers. Here are 5 things that you can do to increase humidity in a reptile tank.
1. Pick The Right Substrate
The substrate is what makes up the ground or bottom of your reptile’s enclosure. If you have a reptile who likes a humid environment, the right substrate is so important. The right substrate will help trap moisture and keep humidity levels high. It will also keep your reptile’s skin from drying out if they decide to burrow in the substrate.
Here are a few substrate recommendations.
Cypress mulch is a good option for tropical, high-humidity environments. Cypress mulch is made from cypress tree shavings. Cypress mulch won’t become soaked and soggy in high humidity. Cypress mulch also provides a bumpy terrain, that can make hunting small bugs more enriching for your pet. Cypress mulch can be mixed with other substrates to give you the perfect humidity combination.
Eco earth is a coconut fiber substrate intended for high-humidity environments. Eco Earth has a great ability to trap moisture and keep humidity levels high. Because this substrate can become quite compact, it might be a good idea to create a substrate made from a mixture of Eco Earth and Cypress mulch.
Sphagnum Moss or Other Mosses
Sphagnum or peat moss is a natural moss that can be used to help support humidity levels. Mosses are a great addition to a tropical setup because they hold tons of moisture and can also provide an extra humid hiding place for your small reptile. Mosses can help live plants to grow and maintain hydration levels. Sphagnum moss looks a little strange when you buy it. Here is a video explaining how to use this moss and place it in a reptile tank.
Avoid Most Woodshavings
If you want humidity to stay high in an enclosure, most wood shaving substrates should be avoided. Wood shavings are great for holding moisture and keeping humidity levels low, but they aren’t a good choice for high humidity needs.
2. Choose A Good Enclosure
Picking the right enclosure can save you time, stress, and even money.
Think about it, how much easier would it be to keep a small Tupperware humid as compared to a small wicker basket? That’s an extreme example but hopefully, it shows the importance of an enclosure in keeping humidity levels high. Here are some tips for kicking the right enclosure for moisture-loving reptiles.
Avoid Screen Tops
One of the easiest ways to lose humidity is through a screen top.
It’s frustrating because most reptile tanks do come with a screen top. But, the tanks aren’t one size fits all and need to be modified for different species. If you already own a tank with a screen top, don’t worry, you can work around this.
How To Increase Humidity In A Screen Top Enclosure
Screen tops can easily be modified to create a more humid environment. One easy way to cover a screen top is just by placing foil over the top of it. Although it’s not the most aesthetic solution, it will get the job done!
If you’re looking for a more long-term solution, you can always get a bit of plexiglass cut to size at your local hardware store. The plexiglass should never cover the entire mesh area. But, by covering up some of the screen, you can more easily trap moisture and keep humidity levels up.
Tub or Vision Cage For Snakes
Snakes are special pets that don’t necessarily even do the best in glass tanks. If you have a snake that likes high humidity and privacy, a large tub or a vision cage might be a good idea for you.
Many snake keepers keep snakes in large tubs that are modified to make wonderful enclosures. The benefit of these tubs is that humidity levels naturally stay very high (like in the Tupperware example.) But, tubs might be restrictive for lighting purposes. Many snakes (and other reptiles) do not need UVB lights in their enclosures because they are nocturnal, but, f you don’t handle your snake often, a tub might lack enough environmental stimulation and natural light to keep your slithery friend happy.
Vision cages are special enclosures made just for reptiles. These enclosures are opaque nearly all of the way around except for clear sliding doors in the front. Vision cages usually have small meshed holes in the sides and mesh on top for lights, but trap moisture much better than a tank with a mesh top! My only warning with vision cages is to wast h out for escape artists. Many snakes will have no issues pushing open the sliding doors and making their way out. At that point, humidity levels will be the last thing on your mind!
3. Use Large Water Features
Humidity is moisture in the air. So, it makes sense that any moisture in an environment will naturally increase humidity!
Large water features are beautiful, and enriching, and keep the humidity up in a reptile tank.
Large Water Dish
The easiest way to increase humidity with a water feature is by adding a large water dish.
The more surface area of water in a space the more humid that space will become. A large water dish doesn’t have to be too deep. It can be a very shallow nearly flat dish. But if you have a large area of still water, it will keep the humidity up. You might even find that pets like ball pythons like to spend time lying in their water dishes.
Water dishes should be cleaned once a week to prevent bacteria growth, but, other than that they are very low maintenance and affordable. Some animals, like snakes, have special requirements for the water that they drink. Make sure that you aren’t giving your reptile chlorinated drinking water.
One of the most beautiful ways to increase humidity in a reptile tank is to add a waterfall feature.
It sounds extreme, I know. But, waterfall features are actually pretty accessible for reptile owners. Reptipet makes a rocky waterfall that is easy to install and maintain. a waterfall is pretty, stimulating, and might even make a nice sound for you to enjoy as well. The waterfall will make the humidity in an enclosure go up.
Because waterfall features stay moist, they will need to be cleaned regularly to avoid algae growth.
4. Mist The Enclosure
Mist, mist, mist! As a reptile owner, you have probably heard about misting.
Not only do some reptiles enjoy misting to maintain a very humid environment, but other reptiles like chameleons also need misting to get their drinking water.
The easiest way to mist an enclosure is to get a mister bottle. These can be found at any pet or reptile supplier store. You can mist your reptile’s enclosure as often as needed. If you have one reptile who enjoys a misty environment, this method should work for you! With multiple reptile tanks or super high-maintenance pets, other options might be ideal.
For reptiles like chameleons, who can only drink from droplets of water, you may find that you need to turn to an automated system.
Automatic misting systems work in a similar way as sprinklers in gardens or lawns.
You can purchase automatic mister and install them throughout your enclosure. This way, if you are gone all day for work or school, you can ensure that your reptile is getting regular misting. Obviously, this is ideal for keeping the humidity up in a reptile tank.
Drip systems are great choices for reptiles who need humidity in the form of water droplets. Drip systems can be purchased or created by funneling a small tube down from a filled water bottle. You can adjust the setup so only a drop or two come out of the tube every minute, and provide your pet with fresh water all day.
A fogger is an automated mister that runs nonstop. Foggers are ideal for reptiles who need the highest humidity levels in their enclosures. Different foggers are used in different ways but will create a spooky misty environment for your pet.
5. Try A Bioactive Enclosure
The last way to keep the humidity up in a reptile enclosure is to create a bioactive enclosure!
The best bioactive enclosures are like mini-ecosystems. They have living plants, beneficial bugs, and of course your pet all inside of them. The live plants in the enclosure help maintain humidity by trapping moisture in their roots and leaves. They will also enrich the ground and make the substrate more able to hold moisture. The plants and bugs in a bioactive enclosure will not only trap humidity but will also prevent dangerous mold growth!
How To Prevent Mold Growth In Your Enclosure
If you succeed in keeping a humid environment for your pet, at some point you will have to deal with preventing or removing mold.
The best and easiest way to prevent mold is to change substrates regularly. Remember the moss and shavings we were discussing above? Those will be recurring purchases for you as they will need to be replaced regularly. These substrates should never become too wet or heavy. Of course, you should also ensure that there is ventilation in your enclosure. If you trap humidity too well, you will encourage mold growth.
If you choose to create a bioactive enclosure, you will be able to keep mold at bay. A popular bug for bioactive enclosures, called spring tails, actually consume and control mold. These bugs are a great addition to a bioactive enclosure for a humidity-loving reptile.
Keeping humidity levels up doesn’t have to be a difficult, expensive, or time-consuming task. Some small changes to your setup can make a huge difference to your humidity levels. Make sure you know what level you need for your pet and keep monitoring it every day. In no time, you’ll have the perfect setup for your pet!