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Furnishing Your Tank: FAQ

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 25 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
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Once you know what sort of an animal you’re going to buy and you’ve chosen a suitable tank to keep it in, the next thing you’ll have to do to get everything ready for your pet is to furnish its new home.

What Are The Best Kinds Of Flooring Materials?

A lot depends on the kind of pet. The sort of washed small gravel sold for fish-keepers can often be the best flooring for aquarium-dwelling exotics – with the more secretive ones being given plenty of hiding places to stop them feeling the need to burrow to avoid being seen.

For terrarium pets, the choice is wider although again it depends on the type of habitat that the animal would live in naturally. Sand may be appropriate for desert dwellers, for example, while forest living species would do best on potting compost, sphagnum moss or bark chippings, all of which can help maintain the necessary humidity levels.

Although it may not be as aesthetically pleasing as other materials, some keepers prefer paper towelling – or even old newspaper – on the grounds of hygiene and ease of cleaning.

Can I Use Ordinary Garden Bark Chippings In My Tank?

Most keepers would tend to favour the special bark chips sold for the purpose, since ordinary garden chips could be harbouring parasites or bacteria which although harmless in a garden, might cause problems for your pet.

Can I Have Some Plants In My Tank?

Plants can be very successfully in tanks and a tastefully planted vivarium makes a great feature in any room. Fish keepers have a lot of experience of planting, and there’s no reason why the exotic pet keeper can’t do the same – although many of the animals can be a lot clumsier in their tanks and more prone to rooting up the vegetation.

The story is fairly similar for terrarium animals too; planting can add a great deal – provided it doesn’t hamper keeping things clean and hygienic – but larger snakes and lizards can be rather rough on the plants themselves.

My Pets Naturally Live In Trees; How Can I Give Them Somewhere To Perch In My Vivarium?

Firmly anchored sections of branches can be very successful, though it’s important to remove the bark and sand them carefully so there are no crevices left to harbour bacteria or disease.

Depending on the species being kept, live woody plants – such as fuchsias – are also a very effective and natural looking way to provide a suitable climbing frame.

What Will Make The Best Kind Of Hiding Place For My Pet?

Hiding places are important features in tanks and provided they meet the obvious need to provide somewhere where the animal can feel secure, without any chance of collapsing and injuring it, almost anything can be used.

For a natural look, many keepers favour large pieces of reptile bark, while broken bits of well- scrubbed old-fashioned terracotta plant-pots can also be used. For larger species, an up-ended margarine or ice-cream container – with a suitably entry hole cut in it – can often make the best hiding place, and though it isn’t particularly pretty to look at, it’s very effective and easily cleaned.

Whatever you use, it’s important to make sure that there aren’t any sharp edges for your pet to hurt itself on, or places where bacteria or parasites could breed.

Does My Terrarium Need A Water Dish?

Although some animals almost never seem to drink directly, it’s still advisable to give them the opportunity – even if that means a very shallow dish with a little cotton wool or a pebble inside, so that they will be able to get out, if they fall in.

For other species, a big water dish is an absolute must – with many snakes in particular enjoying a long soak around shedding time to help soften their skins.

The water dish also plays an important part in helping to maintain humidity, which can be vital for some kinds of pets; tarantulas, for example, need suitably humid conditions to help them shed their skins and avoid a loss of appetite.

Deciding how to furnish your tank for your new pet is an important part of helping to make sure that it enjoys the very best possible conditions in captivity. The trick is to balance achieving the right “look” with the demands of cleanliness and, most importantly, providing an environment that meets all the animal’s needs – so it’s certainly worth taking the time to get it right!

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