cages – Keeping Exotic Pets Tue, 26 Dec 2017 10:39:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Corn Snake Enclosures Tue, 06 Jun 2017 11:26:21 +0000 Corn snakes are one of the most popular pet snakes due to their docile nature, ease of care and low cost of purchase. Like all snakes, however, the key to a long and healthy life for your pet is in the provision of a suitable enclosure. A corn snake enclosure should meet all of the […]

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Corn snakes are one of the most popular pet snakes due to their docile nature, ease of care and low cost of purchase.

Like all snakes, however, the key to a long and healthy life for your pet is in the provision of a suitable enclosure.

A corn snake enclosure should meet all of the following requirements:

Security / Escape-Proof – Corn snakes are natural escape artists, and are capable of squeezing through the tiniest of gaps. A suitable corn snake enclosure should therefore address this situation, ensuring that there is no way that your pet can escape. This is particularly important as corn snakes tend to be nocturnal, so they are likely to be most active (and therefore to escape) while you’re tucked up in bed. By the following morning trying to track them down can be a frustrating experience.

Just as important as preventing your corn snake from escaping, however, is preventing unauthorized access to your snake from outside. This doesn’t just apply to other people in your home, but also other domestic pets. Cats can be a particular nuisance, so ensure there is no way for your cat to open the cage door or to sneak a paw into the enclosure.  

Suitable Environmental Conditions – One of the key differences between keeping exotic pets like corn snakes and other more traditional pets is that they are far more affected by their environment. Temperature and light levels should be suitably controlled to ensure maximum comfort. At the same time, your corn snake should have continual access to fresh water, somewhere snug to hide away from prying eyes, and should enough space to move around.

Cleanliness and Hygiene – Corn snakes are surprisingly clean animals. While they may eat dead rodents and birds, these are normally swallowed whole, leaving little or no residue in their cage. Eating only occasionally, snakes also tend to defecate only irregularly, and this often dried quite quickly in the confines of a warm cage.

Cleaning tends to be a reasonably simple affair as a result, but is important all the same. Drinking water should of course be changed daily, the cage should be spot-cleaned as necessary and the whole thing emptied, scrubbed with reptile-safe disinfectant and set up again on a regular basis.

Visibility – Lastly, of course, you should be able to see and enjoy your pet from afar. A corn snake enclosure with a clear plastic or glass front ensures that you can get the most from owning a snake, and can observe your snake’s everyday activities without interfering unnecessarily.

Corn Snake Cage Size

corn snakes photo

Unlike more timid snakes such as ball pythons, corn snakes can be surprisingly active, especially around dawn and dusk. They willingly explore their cage, looking for suitable prey (and, some people might argue, opportunities for escape!). Growing to an adult length of around 120cm (4’) corn snakes therefore appreciate a reasonable amount of space.

Cage Sizes for Adult Corn Snakes

Opinions vary as to the optimum but a good rule of thumb for adult corn snakes is a cage measuring no less than 90cm (3’) in length with a depth of 40cm (15”). Of course, as with other active snakes, if you’re able to provide a larger cage then all the better. A corn snake kept in a four foot long (120cm) cage with a depth of eighteen inches (45cm) will all the happier.

Cage Sizes for Hatchling Corn Snakes

Of course, a pencil-sized baby corn snake would soon get lost in a large enclosure, which would also make maintaining your snake rather more problematic. Ideally corn snakes should be housed in a cage where you can easily lay eyes on them at any time, in order to ensure they are in full health.

Many baby corn snakes are kept in clear plastic containers measuring little more than 18” long by 8-10” deep. Such a container is suitable for the smallest of hatchlings, but of course over time your snake will need to be rehoused as it grows.

Types of Corn Snake Enclosures

corn snakes photo

In theory, any container which effectively meets the guidelines provided earlier can make a suitable corn snake enclosure. In reality, there are a limited number of “tried-and-tested” cages which tend to work best for corn snakes in captivity…

Glass Aquariums with a Suitable Lid

One of the more popular corn snake enclosures is a suitably-sized glass aquarium. Such a cage provides excellent visibility of your pet and is both easy to source and to clean. There are, however, downsides. Firstly, of course, glass aquariums can be heavy to get home and to move around.

Secondly, it is critical to purchase a suitable reptile-safe lid. This lid should not only prevent escape of your pet, but should also prevent too much heat from escaping in colder months. Increasingly, a small range of specialist glass tanks are being made available to reptile keepers, complete with a specially-made lid which offers the maximum in security.

Wooden Vivariums

Possibly the most popular option of all for housing larger corn snakes is a wooden vivarium. These tanks are available online or from most good pet stores, and often for rather less than an aquarium.

With their ventilated sides for air movement, and the sliding glass doors at the front, wooden snake vivariums offer all the practicality needed with an attractive design and easy access.

The solid sides and roof also offer other benefits; not only do they allow your corn snake to feel rather more secure than having glass on all sides, but they also help to hold the heat on cold winter days. As a result, keeping your corn snake warm and comfortable becomes easier and cheaper.

Lastly, note that the wooden construction can make it easier to affix the electrical components necessary. It is simplicity itself to drill a small hole in the side, in order to feed through a heater, light or thermostat cable; something that is far more challenging in a solid glass tank.

For these reasons, my own personal preference when keeping corn snakes is for one of the reasonably-priced, highly practical wooden vivariums.

Glass Exo Terra Cages

For smaller corn snakes glass Exo Terra cages can work very well; offering a compromise between wooden vivariums and glass tanks. The Exo Terra is of all-glass construction but offers a number of carefully-designed benefits.

For one thing, the lockable front-opening doors make accessing your snake very simple. The raised glass floor also makes fitting a heater beneath very simple indeed. Exo Terras also come with built-in cable holes, which can be closed easily, making it easy to install any electrical equipment required.

Lastly, if you opt to provide artificial lighting for your snake, or heat the cage from above, then Exo Terra also offer custom-designed cage hoods, complete with bulb fittings, into which your chosen lighting solution can be fitted.  

Exo Terras come in a wide range of sizes, making them ideal for corn snakes of many sizes, from tiny hatchlings right up to full-grown adults.


A faunarium is a low-cost corn snake enclosure, suitable for smaller specimens. It is made of rigid clear plastic, with a closely-attaching ventilated plastic lid. Larger models tend to also have a “trapdoor” in the middle of the lid, to enable access to the enclosure without removing the entire lid.

To me, these are a solid solution for smaller snakes. Indeed, you may see some reptile shops placing multiple faunariums into one single large vivariums, with each one containing a baby snake.

Due to the size that your corn snake should achieve, however, these are unlikely to be suitable for larger snakes, however they can be a cheap solution while you’re waiting for your corn snake to reach a suitable size for their own wooden vivarium or Exo Terra.

Really Useful Boxes

Other escape-proof plastic containers have also become popular among exotic pet owners over the years. Of these, arguably the Really Useful Box (or “RUB” for short) is the most popular. These sturdy, stackable boxes have the distinct benefit of offering a “locking” lid thanks to two blue devices which “click” over the lid, preventing escape.

RUBs are also quite cheap to buy, and due to their solid design it is very simple to drill some air holes in the side using an electric drill. These are arguably the most practical enclosure of all for very small snakes.

What is the Best Corn Snake Enclosure?

One of the more common questions I receive through my contact form is what the best corn snake enclosure really is. Of course, with the wide range of cages available there is no easy answer to this question. Some are far more practical than others, while prices can vary considerably between the different options.

My own personal preference is to opt for one of the smaller Exo Terras if I’m buying just a single baby snake. The appearance and practicality of these cages is, I think, exceptional. Of course, if you’re keeping a number of baby snakes then these can quickly become expensive, in which case you may opt for something less visually appealing but far cheaper – such as a suitably-sized RUB.

For adult corn snakes I think the best enclosure is a wooden vivarium. These come in a range of different colors, look fantastic, and offer both security and practicality for you – especially if combined with a low-cost cage lock.

That said, I would encourage you to consider your budget, and the size of the snake you’re planning to buy, to decide what the optimum compromise is for you regarding price, size, practicality and appearance.

Siting Your Corn Snake Enclosure

snake vivarium photo

Alongside buying a suitable corn snake enclosure another critical aspect relating to corn snake enclosures is where to place the cage in your home. Like other reptiles, corn snakes are sensitive to noise and vibrations, as well as to a range of common household chemicals.

In terms of which room to place your corn snake enclosure in, the kitchen and bathroom are therefore best avoided. The best option is a quiet bedroom or office where your snake won’t be regularly disturbed. The enclosure may alternatively be placed in your living room, assuming you won’t have children running around and causing stress to the snake.

Being sensitive to noise, it is best to place your corn snake enclosure away from such sources – ideally they should be housed away from TVs, stereo systems and washing machines for example.

Being cold blooded creatures, requiring artificial heating in all but the warmest weather, also think about drafts or areas of your home where temperatures may fluctuate excessively. Don’t, for example, place your corn snake enclosure near an outside door, or against a radiator that may warm up rapidly in winter.

Lastly, be aware that direct sunlight can rapidly heat up a glass cage, leading to dangerous temperatures inside your corn snake enclosure. Keeping tanks away from windows – especially those facing south – is therefore also recommended.

While this may sound like a long list of requirements, it is normally quite easily achieved in most homes. A dimly-lit spare bedroom away from a radiator, for example, is a perfect site for your corn snake’s cage, where they will be away from noise, vibrations and fluctuating temperatures.

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Praying Mantis Cages & Housing Fri, 12 May 2017 14:06:59 +0000 Praying mantis are still quite an unusual pet, so you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that you local pet store is unlikely to sell specialist praying mantis cages. Instead, the praying mantis keeper must be willing to think creatively, and to reuse other containers to create a suitable cage for their mantids. In this article, […]

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Praying mantis are still quite an unusual pet, so you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that you local pet store is unlikely to sell specialist praying mantis cages.

Instead, the praying mantis keeper must be willing to think creatively, and to reuse other containers to create a suitable cage for their mantids.

In this article, therefore, we’re going to look at some of the better cages for praying mantis that can be ordered online or found in your local pet store.

Whatever option you choose, arguably the most important element of all will be the dimensions of the cage you select. Mantis experts recommend a cage at least three times as tall as your mantis is long, and at least twice as long as their body length. So think 3x mantis tall, and 2x mantis wide and deep.

Lastly, before we talk about the best cages for praying mantis, it can be wise to consider how large your mantis will grow in time.

Buying an adult or subadult should present very few problems. However, if you’re buying a youngster that is set to grow considerably larger then you may want to plan ahead.

Doing so means you can select a cage that will fit your mantis comfortably for months to come, rather than continually having to upgrade as your mantis moults.

mantis photo

The Best Mantis Cages for Adult Praying Mantids

Let’s start with a discussion on the best cages for large mantids as these are typically the easiest to accommodate and can also make the most attractive displays.

Exo Terras

Exo Terras have revolutionized the housing of many exotic pet species. These cages may not be the cheapest option, but they do manage to combine both seriously good looks with a large dose of practicality.

Exo Terras are available in a wide range of different sizes, including tall cages like this one which are perfect for an adult mantis. The front-opening glass doors make feeding and cleaning much easier, while these can be securely locked shut the rest of the time.

Lighting hoods can even be bought for Exo Terras, which can help to create a truly mesmerizing display and/or to heat the cage in the coldest of weather.

For my money, these are the best option, especially when I want to create an eye-catching display of my mantis.


A range of similar cages are sold under a range of different names. In brief, they are clear plastic containers, with a removable grilled lid. This lid allows plenty of air flow; some mantids may even use the lid as a perch to hang from.

While these cages are typically cheaper than Exo Terras, you do need to be careful to ensure that you select a model tall enough for your pet. Sadly, the majority of models seen for sale are the “low and long” variety rather than a more practical “tall and slim” shape.

Also, with so much air movement these cages can be more challenging to heat effectively in cooler months, and tend not to lend themselves to attractive displays as the Exo Terra does.

In warmer weather, however, these can provide a low-cost alternative to the Exo Terra.

Small Fish Tanks

Glass fish tanks can be purchased in a range of different sizes. The smaller models may sometimes be used successfully to house praying mantis, though once again carefully consider the height of the cage.

Another consideration is the security of such a cage; you’ll want to be sure to select a tank with a tight-fitting escape-proof lid, though these aren’t always the easiest to find.

As fish tanks tend to be “sealed units” ventilation in such cages can also be poor, so it may be necessary to bore some holes into the lid of the tank, or to cut out a section and replace this with metal gauze.

Mesh Cages

A growing number of mesh cages are available to entomologists and reptile-keepers. Traditionally these are used by those keeping and breeding butterflies, and are also excellent housing for chameleons. They can, however, also make good housing for praying mantis.

The fact that many taller mesh cages can be found also helps to make them an appealing option.

If there is a downside to such a cage it is of course all the ventilation. Such cages can be quite difficult to heat using a traditional heat mat, and instead generally require the use of a heat lamp. Such lamps can be far more expensive to buy, especially as you’ll need all the mounting for the lamp, as well as a thermostat to prevent it overheating.

As a result, while mesh cages can make excellent cages for mantis, in colder weather they are rarely the best solution, requiring some considerable thought (and often investment) to heat suitably.

In the summer months, however, they can serve as an excellent “back up” if you suddenly find yourself in need of a few spare cages, and can be bought very cheaply indeed.

Upcycled Household Containers

For the creatively-minded a range of glass or plastic household items can make suitable cages for praying mantis. Anything from tall tupperware boxes intended for pasta, to sweet jars, through to glass vases may all potentially be used.

Assuming they can be securely sealed to prevent escape, can be heated without too much difficulty and are of the right dimensions as discussed above then almost anything may be used.

Sometimes it can be quite fun to surf Amazon or visit your local cookery or hardware store to look at all the various tubs, containers and jars on offer, and find some that can make perfect;y-acceptable mantis cages.

The Best Mantis Cages for Hatchlings & Youngsters

Smaller praying mantis require extra care. The younger a mantis is, the more fragile it tends to be.

Additionally, of course, extra care must be taken to ensure that a tiny mantis cannot escape through any tiny holes or gaps. Equally, placing a tiny mantis into a giant cages can make keeping an eye on him or her more challenging, and can make life harder for your pet when it comes to locating their food.

Small Exo Terras

For smaller mantis, there are also smaller Exo Terras. The much-loved Exo Terra Nano, for example, is perfect for many species of mantids as they are growing. With great visibility, the mesh grill on top for ventilation and being easily heated these can be one of the best praying mantis cages for young mantis.

Upcycled Household Containers

As with adult mantis, a range of household items may be used to house smaller mantids. Many people use plastic deli cups and suchlike for the tiniest hatchlings. A piece of muslin, or net curtain material, may be cut to size and secured over the top with an elastic band.

Another technique that I have had great success with is to use old cricket tubs. The floor of the tub is lined with kitchen paper, before the tub itself is placed on its end. The kitchen towelling then becomes more of a “wall” than a “floor”, allowing the mantis to grip successfully to the vertical plastic sides of the tub.

Such a container costs nothing (thanks to all the crickets I get through) and provides a suitable home for many species of mantis.

As with adults, the key is to think creatively. Ensure heating, ventilation and dimensions are met, then select the best-looking or most cost-effective solution you can find. With imagination, all sorts of containers can make great praying mantis cages.

What do you like to use to house your mantids? Why not leave your experiences in the comments section below to help other people…?

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Tarantula Cages & Housing Mon, 13 Mar 2017 14:55:51 +0000 Tarantula cages have come a long way in recent years. When I first started keeping tarantulas in the 1990’s (how old do I feel now?) we had to try and make do with whatever was at hand. In recent times, however, as interest in the hobby has grown, so too have the number of cages […]

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Tarantula cages have come a long way in recent years.

When I first started keeping tarantulas in the 1990’s (how old do I feel now?) we had to try and make do with whatever was at hand.

In recent times, however, as interest in the hobby has grown, so too have the number of cages available to us keepers.

In this article we’ll look at some of the best tarantula cages on the market, perfect if you’re just considering investing in your very first spider.

tarantula photo

Exo Terra Terrariums

For me, the glass Exo Terra terrariums are the best possible cage for the average tarantula keeper.

I now have dozens of these set up in my “office” with various species in them.

First of all they look very smart indeed, allowing you to create a really eye-catching display that looks great and meets all the environmental needs of your tarantula.

The gauze lid makes ventilation easy, the closeable holes for electrical wires can come in very handy indeed for adding digital thermometers etc. and the lockable, front-opening door makes for easy access.

Exo Terras come in a range of different sizes, too, meaning that anything from a half-grown juvenile up to a large Goliath can be safely accommodated in such a cage. My smaller juvenviles are kept in Nanos, most adult specimens can be kept safely in the 30cm cube version, and taller Exo Terras are also available for arboreal tarantula species.

While they’re not the cheapest option in the market, I think they perfectly combine appearance and practicality and are my number one choice.

Specialist Acrylic/Perspex Cages

Besides the well-known Exo Terra cages, a small number of specialist cage makers have entered the market in recent years.

Some of the new acrylic tarantula cages are quite beautiful to look at and very cost-effective to purchase. Unlike glass cages, which tend to be heavy, acrylic is much lighter. This can make shipping cheaper, as well making moving the cage a little easier.

If there is a downside to these cages it’s that perspex can get scratched quite easily, such as when cleaning the spider out.

They also don’t offer quite such a list of practical benefits as I believe the Exo Terras do, but can be handy for those on a tighter budget.

Specialist Glass Tanks

In the UK, at least, there are a number of specialist glass tank makers. These cages offer the sturdiness and practicality of glass, and many are available with special “ventilation panels”.

If such a cage is of interest then it may be worth visiting your local reptile shop, or alternatively a reptile show, as these are normally the easiest place to source such a cage.

Over the years I have bought quite a number of such cages. I have a few tanks which have been split up into lots of smaller cages. They’re like a bank of glass tanks some 12cm of so in each direction, attached to one another, and with separate glass lids.

They’re a favourite of mine for when I’m rearing juvenile tarantulas and want the best possible visibility of them.


Faunariums are plastic cages with removable grill lids. Many also have a clear “trap door” in the lid for easier access, without having to take the whole top off.

Such cages can work well for tarantulas that relish a drier environment, though the excessive ventilation can make it difficult to maintain more tropical species.

The high levels of air movement can also make heating more difficult in the winter months, while the general appearance of the cage is certainly not the most attractive on the market.

In short, while the faunarium isn’t a bad cage in any way, I believe that some of the other options already outlined are better tarantula cages than these in most situations.

Upcycled Containers from Home

Perhaps the cheapest tarantula cages of all come in the form of household objects, such as food containers.

Anything from ice cream tubs to tupperware boxes may potentially be used as tarantula cages if they meet the needs of your spider; that is to say that they should be escape proof, suitably ventilated, of appropriate dimensions and easy to heat.

One of my personal favorites here for an easy low-cost housing solution is the use of smaller Really Useful Boxes (RUBs).

Some ventilation can easily be added by drilling small holes in the side or lid, and the plastic flaps on each end provide a safe and secure environment for your pet. Strong and sturdy, they can be stacked effectively, and the clear plastic body means they’re easy to see into.

The only really downside of RUBs and their kin is of course that they’re not the most attractive of cages.

If I only had one or two spiders I’d probably opt for one of the better-looking cages to really show off my pets. However if and when your collection starts to expand (as they so often do) then RUBs can make a very cheap and practical solution to housing large numbers of tarantulas on a limited budget.

Photo by logatfer

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Leaf Insects Cages & Housing Mon, 27 Feb 2017 14:55:24 +0000 Over the years I have tested dozens of different ways to house leaf insects in captivity. Through a process of experimentation I have slowly developed a system which works tremendously well, by separating out the care of hatchlings versus larger specimens. In this article we’ll discuss the best leaf insect cage options, and how to […]

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Over the years I have tested dozens of different ways to house leaf insects in captivity.

Through a process of experimentation I have slowly developed a system which works tremendously well, by separating out the care of hatchlings versus larger specimens.

In this article we’ll discuss the best leaf insect cage options, and how to ensure that your own pets always have the ideal environmental conditions…

phyllium photo

Cages for Hatchling Leaf Insects

As with most invertebrate pets, the hatchling leaf insects are considerably more sensitive than larger specimens.

One of the most common problems is that tiny leaf insects can quickly become dehydrated.

Kept like adults the survival of youngsters can terrible; instead the best solution is to keep young leaf insects in a warm and very humid environment. Under such conditions the survival rate is massively improved.

The process is reasonably simple.

Here’s what you’ll need:


The best cages for baby leaf insects are sealed plastic or glass containers. Remember that the insects themselves are tiny, so be careful to check for any gaps through which they might escape.

Personally I like to use Really Useful Boxes. These tubs are made from clear plastic which makes it easy to see what is going on inside.

They’re very sturdy, so can be stacked on one another if you have lots of baby leaf insects, and the locking blue handles on each end keep the lid tightly shut at all times.

I do not make any holes in it for air exchange, as I want to keep things really nice and humid. I do, however, open the lid each day to allow an exchange of air and to mop off any excess water with kitchen towel.

Large droplets of water can be deadly for baby leaf insects, which can sometimes get stuck in them and drown. In other words, humidity is good, but large water droplets are bad and need to be controlled.

If you’d rather not buy a Really Useful Box then most large plastic containers can be used – such as tupperware boxes sold for food storage. They should, however, be a suitable size to allow for moulting.

Kitchen Towel

The second element that makes up the housing of my baby leaf insects is a thick layer of kitchen towel at the bottom. This helps to absorb excess moisture, and also makes cleaning nice and easy. All I need to do is pull the kitchen paper out, wipe the cage clean and leave it to dry before setting it up again.

Heat Mat

Baby leaf insects need a warm cage at all times, so I use a reptile heat mat to gently heat the tub.

This is placed under the Really Useful Box, ensuring that the tub is half-on and half-off the heater. This way one end of the cage is warmer than the other, and my insects can escape from the warmest area if they so desire.

In particularly cold weather (such as during the winter when you’re at work at the central heating is off) placing the heat mat and cage on a polystyrene or cork tile can help to reflect as much warmth up into the cage as possible.

Food Plants

With the basic cage set up, I next loosely fill it with the selected food plant. Not only do these leaves provide suitable food, but the stems of the plants provide a place for the hatchling leaf insects to rest off the ground and to moult successfully.

Lastly, the plants continue to respire inside the cage, giving off water vapour. This creates the moist environment required, which not only keeps the insects alive but also means the food plant lasts for a week or more before needing to be replaced. The cage is not misted artificially at any time.

phyllium photo

Cages for Adult Leaf Insects

When leaf insects reach a length of 4cm they become considerably easier to look after. At this point I therefore move them up into an “adult” cage where they have more space, and I can enjoy watching them more.

As with the youngsters, one of the most critical considerations when choosing cages for leaf insects is height. Like stick insects, leaf insects need tall cage if they are to moult successfully. This means that taller cages tend to work better than low cages.

Here there are two main options…

Tall Glass Tanks

The first, and arguably best, option is to use a tall glass tank such as an Exo Terra.

The actual size you’ll need will be dictated both by the number of leaf insects you have, and the volume of food plants that you want to include.

I personally find that larger cages are better, as they give the insects far more space to move around, and they provide me with easier access. The front-opening doors of the Exo Terra can also make maintenance much easier.

As a general rule, I like a cage 18″-24″ in height, with around 12″-18″ in width and depth. Once again these can be heated using a heat mat. If the weather is particularly cold the temperature can be increased by purchasing one of the separate hoods.

Using a thermostat as a controller, a low-wattage heat bulb can be added to the hood, which will warm the cage even more. I find a bulb of around 25 watts tends to be suitable for a cage of this size.

Tall Mesh Cages

The second type of caging suitable for larger and adult insects is an all-mesh cage. These tend to be far cheaper than glass tanks to buy, and many fold flat for storage which can surprisingly useful.

That said, they do have a major weakness – they’re much more difficult to heat. The fact that they are so open means that the gentle warmth provided by a heat mat is very quickly lost to the air. These cages are really only suitable in the warmest of weather as a result.

When the summer does roll around, however, there’s nothing to prevent you using one of these cages, which have the added benefit of allowing your leaf insects to climb effortlessly up the sides, rather than primarily remaining on their food plants all day long.

Note that while some people recommend the use of plastic sweet jars I personally find that the narrow neck of these containers can make maintenance a little annoying, especially if you’re trying to lower a “vase” full of food plants to the bottom.

As you can see, cages for leaf insects don’t necessarily need to be complex or expensive. While housing the adults may require a small investment, it is well worth making.

Getting the cage right is arguably the most important element of successfully keeping leaf insects as pets. Furthermore, as leaf insects will breed profusely when kept in the proper conditions you should find that buying just a few specimens will lead to a never-ending colony of these stunning insects.

Housing hatchlings and juveniles is even easier and more cost-effective to accomplish that I normally have a number of cages of hatchlings on the go in early spring, which soon grow up to become beautiful, fully-winged adult specimens in my larger cages.

Images c/o Pasha Kirillov & berniedup

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Best Ball Python Cages – Types & Setup Tue, 16 Aug 2016 07:13:23 +0000 Much has been written in the past about ball python cages, and each keeper will have their own preferences. The intention of this article is to provide a balanced guide to choosing and setting up your ball python cage, in order to keep your pet snake happy and healthy throughout its life. If there’s one […]

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Much has been written in the past about ball python cages, and each keeper will have their own preferences. The intention of this article is to provide a balanced guide to choosing and setting up your ball python cage, in order to keep your pet snake happy and healthy throughout its life.

If there’s one key factor that differentiates keeping reptiles from other types of pets it’s the importance of their cage.

While a rabbit cage is really just a container designed to stop the rabbit from escaping, ball python cages have rather more factors to consider. For example, the right ball python cage will:

  • Allow the maintenance of a warm environment (they are cold blooded animals after all)
  • Allow the maintenance of of a suitable humidity (especially important at moulting time)
  • Provide an environment where your ball python can feel safe and secure (ball pythons without this can cease to feed)
  • Prevent the escape of your python, where damage could come to it
  • Provide an attractive feature for you to enjoy observing your pet

As you can see, there are a lot of factors involved with selecting the best ball python cage, but we’re going to cover everything you need to know…

Ball Python

Types of Ball Python Cages

Over the years ball python keepers have experimented with a wide range of different caging alternatives. Here are the most suitable options being used at present in the pet trade:

Glass Tanks

Glass fish tanks have been used by numerous keepers in the past, as they offer excellent visibility for the owner. They do, however, represent a significant number of difficulties when it comes to creating the ideal ball python habitat.

For starters, ball pythons are well-known as escape artists so it’s critical that any fish tank you consider using has a closely-fitting (escape proof) lid. Fortunately a number of cage toppers are now available on the market, and typically consist of a black mesh lid, often with a glass panel which slides in and out for easy access to the cage.

Truth be told, however, even these tank toppers aren’t perfect. Ball pythons are adept climbers and are surprisingly strong for their size, so its not unheard of for them to manage to push such lids off the top of their cage before making a break for freedom. If you are to use such a device, therefore, be certain that it is very tight-fitting or weigh it down with some heavy books.

Another consideration when selecting the best ball python cage is how you’re going to heat it – and keep the warmth inside. These mesh lids can present problems with warm air rising up and out of the cage, making it difficult to maintain the required temperature for your pet. For this reason it may be necessary if using an aquarium to cover up some of the mesh or install more powerful heating than in other types of cages.

As you can see, while glass tanks certainly have their benefits, they also represent a number of potential pitfalls too. Personally I have used them as short-term homes for young snakes when the weather is warm, but as the mercury starts to drop (or the snake starts to grow) I prefer to make use of other cage types.

Ball python

Wooden Vivariums

Wooden vivariums which are designed specifically with snake owners in mind can make far better ball python cages.

The wooden surroundings of the cage mean that keeping in warmth and humidity is far simpler. This keeps your electricity bill down and helps your ball python to feel more comfortable.

Furthermore wooden vivariums are easy to “modify” – meaning that attaching or installing heaters of all forms is quite simple and efficient.

Another aspect of ball python vivariums which makes them such a tempting option is that the solid walls and back of the cage provide extra privacy for your pet. Ball pythons tend to be quite sensitive and shy animals, and benefit from areas where they can escape your gaze and feel safe.

Warning: I strongly advise you to invest in a suitable cage lock for any wooden vivarium you’re using for a ball python. This prevents your muscular snake from accidentally opening the sliding glass doors, and also ensures that children or visitors to your home aren’t tempted to open the cage without your authorization.

Exo Terras

Exo Terras are specially-designed glass cages designed for keeping reptiles and amphibians. They offer handy glass doors that make accessing your tank a breeze, while also locking shut when not in use. Thanks to their design, adding heating to Exo Terras is also simplicity itself and they represent, in my mind, one of the most attractive forms of caging around.

That said, the greatest weakness of Exo Terras for ball pythons is that they come only in a small range of sizes, none of which are really suitable for larger pythons. As a result while an Exo Terra can make a fantastic-looking and very practical cage for a hatchling ball python, they’re next-to-useless for larger specimens who require suitable space to feel comfortable.

Plastic RUBs

ball python photoPlastic containers have become surprisingly popular as ball python cages over the last few years, mainly thanks to exhaustive experimentation by experienced breeders.

The reality of keeping ball pythons is that they’re not the most active of snakes, they can be nervous in captivity when exposed for too long and in the wild they’ll spend most of the day hiding out in a burrow.

All this means that ball pythons don’t necessarily need the biggest cages in the world; indeed a huge cage with nowhere to hide is arguably the worst thing possible for a ball python.

Compact plastic containers therefore have a number of particular strengths. While they’re certainly not the best-looking caging option they do make it very easy to keep warmth and humidity in the cage.

Their plastic nature also makes them lightweight, cheap to buy and easy to clean. Just as importantly (for breeders) these plastic cages take up minimal space, meaning that those with a large collection can accommodate them in a relatively small space.

Here in the UK I use a brand known as “Really Useful Boxes” (or simply RUBs for short) which are strong, light and have useful locking handles that keep the lid on no matter what. All you need to do is to drill some ventilation holes (simplicity itself with an electric drill) and you’ve got a perfectly serviceable ball python cage. These can also be purchased in the USA from sites like Amazon (direct link).

Homemade Cages

Wooden vivariums are such a practical option that some keepers opt to make their own. Doing so can reduce your costs and allow you to build a cage of the perfect dimensions for your home and your snake.

Of course you’ll need some DIY skills, and the ability to source the parts you’ll need. Remember that it’s not just the wood you’ll want to buy and cut to size, but you’ll also need the glass doors, runners and ventilation panels.

As an alternative to buying a premade wooden vivarium homebuilt cages can be highly effective cages if you’ve got the skills and patience to build one in the first place.

So What’s The Best Ball Python Cage?

We’ve covered quite a few alternatives by now, discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each. The obvious question is really what’s “best”? Personally my preference is for wooden vivariums. I feel they’re ideal for retaining heat and humidity while providing an excellent view of your pet. They’re also available in a dizzying range of colors, sizes and shapes to suit any home and really create a fantastic focal point for any room.

As a secondary option, for those who plan on keeping a number of ball pythons, are the plastic tubs.

What Size Cage Does My Ball Python Need?

ball python photoSelecting a suitably-sized ball python cage is a critical part of the whole process.

Too small and your snake won’t have suitable space to move around.

Too large and some snakes can feel insecure, refusing food and losing condition.

Generally speaking it is my belief that ball python cages should be at least as long as your pet is, and a minimum of half this width.

Height is unimportant for ball pythons who may try to climb, and risk potentially harming themselves in the process.

More specifically I would suggest the following measurements:

Hatchling Ball Python Cages – Minimum of 24″ long, with the knowledge that you will have to keep an eye on your python’s growth and invest in a larger vivarium and he or she grows.

Adult Ball Python Cages – Should measure a minimum of 36″ long and ideally more. Personally I typically house my ball pythons in 48″ long vivs.

Here are what some other authorities recommend in terms of cage sizes:

“Adults require at least 400-600 square inches of floor space.” –

“A royal python needs a vivarium which allows it to fully stretch out. Allow at least third of the snake’s length for the width and height. For example, a 120cm long snake will need a minimum 120cm long, 40cm wide and 40cm deep vivarium.” –

“Adult ball pythons do not require exceptionally large or elaborate enclosures. A 36-inch by 18-inch by 12-inch enclosure will more than comfortably house an adult ball python.” –

Creating The Habitat

One of the most effective strategies for keeping any species of reptile or amphibian successfully in captivity is to consider its wild habitat. The more we can understand about where ball pythons live, and how they spend their time, the better we can replicate this in captivity.

The ball python naturally occurs in sub-Saharan Africa. Here it is a surprisingly wide-spread snake, found in countries such as Senegal, Benin and Uganda. Here it spends much of its life in the security of a dis-used rodent burrow or natural crevice.

While many of these countries are relatively dry, within the confines of the burrow the humidity levels are likely to be much higher. Indeed, many authorities point to the problems that can occur from low humidities in captivity, especially in terms of difficulties moulting.

Equally it should be noted that keeping snakes on damp substrate can lead to all manner of problems, including respiratory problems and skin complaints.

There are a number of factors we can draw from this in order to provide a suitable captive habitat for ball pythons:

  • Artificial heating will be necessary for your ball python to feel comfortable.
  • A dry substrate should be used, but with the option for higher humidities especially during moulting.
  • We should aim to mimic the ball python’s burrow by providing a number of secure hides for concealment.


There are ever more substrates available in the reptile trade, and many of these are ideal for ball pythons.


This light and fluffy substrate is excellent at absorbing any excess moisture and looks fantastic within the confines of a cage.

Unfortunately the fact that the particles are so soft and light can cause problems with feeding. On more than one occasion I have observed ball pythons grabbing a rodent to eat, while taking a large mouthful of aspen shavings at the same time.

The consistency of these shavings mean that they can get lodged in the ball python’s mouth, causing discomfort and distress. Sometimes the python will be able to get the sticky chippings out of its mouth; at other times you might need to intervene.

While aspen shavings are far from a bad substrate in captivity, great care should therefore be taken when feeding your pet. You may opt to either select a different substrate or to move your ball python to a different cage for feeding purposes.

Beech Chippings

My personal choice for ball pythons is beech chippings. While these aren’t as absorbent as aspen, they look great and – being heavier and chunkier – tend to cause far few feeding problems in my experience.

Just be aware how much you’ll need; with a good-sized vivarium you’ll find that you always rather more than you expected. If in doubt, buy a bigger bag of chippings, just in case.

Corn Cob Granules

Less commonly-seen than either of the two previous substrate options, corn cob granules are another possible option for your snake. Just as the name suggests, these are the ground-up middles of corn cobs, which dry into a tough and gritty consistency.

A range of different “grades” are available though I would always advise that you use the largest particles possible to minimize the chances of accidental ingestion when feeding.

Note that while corn cob granules look great, they do have a nasty habit of going mouldy quite easily. Therefore you should keep a close eye on this substrate, especially around the water bowl or where you pet feeds, to make sure that no mould is growing. Spot-clean as necessary and replace with fresh bedding.


Some ball python keepers – especially breeders with large collections – promote the use of newspaper as a potential substrate. After all it’s free, and makes cleaning simplicity itself. Personally however I must admit that I’m really not a fan of newspaper for a number of reasons. Firstly, of course, it looks terrible. I want my snake tank to look fantastic.

Secondly newspaper has very low absorbency meaning that it needs to be replaced far more regularly than the other substrates listed above which can be “spot cleaned” when required.

Lastly, I dislike the way it is so “unnatural”. Call me soft but I like to provide a substrate to my ball pythons which at least has a passing resemblance to a “natural” substrate. I believe doing so adds an extra layer of environmental enrichment for my pets.


ball python photoAs stated earlier, it is critical that your ball python should be provided with at least one secure place to hide.

If space allows I always like to offer two hides; one at each end of the vivarium in order to give my snakes the ability to choose the hide that suits them best.

Any hide chosen should allow your snake to safely curl up beneath in its entirety.  There are a number of possible options for ball python hides:

Cork Bark

Cork bark is the bark of tropical oak trees. It is harvested from the tree, which then carries on to grow more. This means it is a natural and renewable resource.

There are a number of things that make cork bark ideal for a ball python hide. Firstly cork bark looks great in any cage. Secondly cork bark is very lightweight, which means there is little chance of damage to your snake if he or she tries to burrow underneath.

The only thing to be aware of is that cork bark is a “natural” product so you’ll find a range of sizes and shapes. For best results try to find a piece of bark with a decent “curve” to it, creating a dark “burrow” beneath for your snake to recline to.

Custom-Designed Bark Hides

While I’m a huge fan of cork bark, my personal preference for ball python hides are specially-made hides. The model I use is made from wood, giving it an attractive rustic and “natural” feel.

They’re also available in a wide variety of sizes, meaning that no matter what the size of your snake you’ll be able to find an appropriately-sized hide. Best of all, I’ve found these custom hides to be much easier to clean than cork bark – and hence rather more hygienic.

Cereal Boxes

Cereal boxes are another simple idea as a hide for your ball python. These are of course free and easily replaced, though quickly become soiled in the cage.


Ball pythons require artificial heating to keep them healthy, though the specific type of heating will be affected by the type of caging you use.

Ideally ball pythons will benefit from a thermal gradient, with one end of their cage being far warmer than the other. In this manner they can pick-and-choose the area most agreeable to them.

For the hot end, a temperature of around 30-34’C tends to work well, with the cooler end measuring somewhere closer to 24’C.

In some containers, such as rubs or wooden vivariums, these temperatures can often be reached with a simple heat pad placed at one end. For more open cages, with greater air movement, it may be necessary to add a secondary form of heating, such as a heat lamp or ceramic bulb, to the hot end of the cage.

Do you have questions about housing your ball python? If so, why not leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible…?

Photos c/o The Reptilarium, daveparker & snakecollector 

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Housing Imperial Scorpions In Captivity Sun, 15 May 2011 20:13:52 +0000 Imperial scorpions – also known as Emperor Scorpions – are one of the easiest species of scorpion to keep in captivity. They’re also large and showy specimens that can make very eye-catching displays when they are set up right and can even be quite sociable meaning it is generally possible to keep two or more […]

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Imperial scorpions – also known as Emperor Scorpions – are one of the easiest species of scorpion to keep in captivity. They’re also large and showy specimens that can make very eye-catching displays when they are set up right and can even be quite sociable meaning it is generally possible to keep two or more imperial scorpions together providing they have suitable space and food.

Housing imperial scorpions is also generally quite easy and all he equipment you’ll need can be bought cheaply and easily from most decent reptile stores.

Suggested Equipment For Housing Imperial Scorpions

Lets start off by discussing the recommended equipment that you’ll be needing when i comes to housing your imperial scorpion and then we can move onto some guidance on how to actually set the main tank itself up for your pets. Here’s what you’ll be needing;

Scorpion Cage– The first thing of course that you will need is a cage or vivarium to put your scorpion in and here there are a range of possible options. Examples include a fish tank with a specialist reptile-safe lid, one of the purpose-built glass tarantula tanks now seen for sale regularly through to a cage intended for small reptiles like the Exo Terra glass terrariums.

The main thing to bear in mind is that scorpions can be great escape artists and so a close-fitting lid is vital. Also ensure that both the lid and the main body of the vivarium have no small gaps through which your scorpion could escape.

Personally I typically use an all-glass tank with a close-fitting glass lid as designed for invertebrates. A size of 18″ long will be suitable for a single specimen though if you decide to keep two or more it is recommended you start with a cage measuring at least 24″ long to provide extra space.

Heater – Imperial scorpions are a tropical species hailing from the warm, moist areas of Africa so a source of warmth during the cooler months is necessary. A simple reptile heat mat is a perfect solution for this as it provides gentle background heat without the risk of overheating and without the expense of some of the more powerful heating devices.

Substrate – Imperial scorpions tend not to burrow in captivity to their substrate does not need to be too deep. Rather this is really to create a natural environment that is not only attractive to look at but also allows your scorpion to live in a rather more authentic habitat. Imperial scorpions like a reasonably high humidity so the substrate you choose needs to be suitable for this.

Examples include orchid bark, coir compost or potting compost mixed with some vermiculite to retain moisture. Beech chips, corn con granules, sand and other popular reptile substrates typically don’t work as well as they either rot in the moist environment of an imperial scorpion cage or they don’t retain enough moisture for your pet.

Water Bowl – Whilst they do so very rarely you should aim to provide a water bowl for your scorpion so that fresh water is available if and when required. Scorpions can drown quite easily so the water bowl should be as shallow as possible. The upturned lid off a jar can work well and some scorpion enthusiasts also like to place cotton wool in the bowl before adding the water to reduce the risks of drowning even further.

Hide – Imperial scorpions are nocturnal and generally like to hide away somewhere safe during the day. Providing a hide such as a piece of bark or slate, carefully mounted so it cannot fall on your pet, is therefore essential when housing emperor scorpions. Should you keep two or more emperors it is wise to offer a range of hides to give your pets a wider range of choices though even then you will often find your scorpions snuggled up together under the same hide.

Light– A light certainly isn’t essential for scorpions as they are nocturnal and tend to shy away from bright light. Therefore placing the cage in a dark corner of your room is the best course of action when it comes to where to put your scorpion tank. However I mention lighting here for two reasons.

Firstly, like many other species of scorpion, imperial scorpions glow up under UV light and so it can be fun to invest in a small hand-held ultraviolet light so you can show your friends and family how they glow when the light is placed on them.

Secondly imperial scorpions are nocturnal so there is a risk that you will rarely see your pet – even when you put some food into the cage. However a useful tip is that it seems these scorpions cannot see red light. Therefore it is possible to buy a red bulb to place near their cage so that during the evening you can observe them going about their routine without your scorpion being disturbed in any way.

Setting Up Your Imperial Scorpion Housing

Place your scorpion tank so that it is half on and half off your heat mat. This will ensure that one end is warmer than the other – producing a so-called “thermal gradient” which allows your scorpions to select the temperature that is best suited to them. The warmest end should ideally be heated to around 24’C and it is a good idea to regularly check the temperature using a digital thermometer ideally or at worst placing your hand on the heater from time to time to ensure it is still producing warmth.

Into the cage place 1-2cm of your chosen substrate and place your water bowl at the cooler end (so that less water evaporates from it). Place in the hides you have purchased in such a way that your scorpion(s) can easily get under them. Then give the whole cage a good spray with a plant spray gun to add some moisture and place the lid on the cage.

Ideally within a short space of time you should find the heater has suitably warmed the cage and the water droplets are evaporating gently to produce a warm and humid environment – perfect for imperial scorpions.

At this point is is safe to introduce your new pet who will most likely spend quite some time exploring their new home before settling down to sleep under one of your hides.

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How To Clean Out Your Exotic Pet Mon, 04 Apr 2011 10:01:30 +0000 One of the benefits of exotic pets are that the vast majority make very little mess on a weekly basis. Certainly terrapins (turtles to our American readers) can quickly make a mess of their water but for those of us keeping tarantulas, snakes, lizards and the like we tend to have quite an easy life […]

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One of the benefits of exotic pets are that the vast majority make very little mess on a weekly basis. Certainly terrapins (turtles to our American readers) can quickly make a mess of their water but for those of us keeping tarantulas, snakes, lizards and the like we tend to have quite an easy life in terms of cleaning.

Cleaning out exotic pets can be broadly split into two kinds of job – the spot clean and the full clean.

The spot clean is the kind of maintenance that can and should be done on a regular basis. My royal python, for example, only defecates once every week or so and because of this my typical spot cleaning involves carefully removing the faeces as they are deposited by picking them up in a plastic bag, turning the bag the right way, tying it at the top and putting it in the bin.

Occasionally during feeding a little mess will be created – such as blood dripping on the substrate but I then just follow the same procedure to remove any obviously-soiled substrate. Every so often my snake moults and I remove the skin as soon as I see it.

That’s the full gamut of most of my cleaning routine. A couple of minutes a few times a week cleaning individual problems up and leaving the tank in a clean and hygienic state.

Doing these regular spot cleans as you see a problem will significantly cut down on the other type of cleaning necessary and will also keep your cage looking (and smelling) nicer for longer.

The other type of cleaning is the full clean where every part of the cage gets attention and that’s what I’d like to discuss in a little more detail below so you can see just how much more work this is and therefore why spot cleaning is so important to save you from this job for as long as possible.

Here is the process in detail as I do it:

1) Remove Exotic Pet

Firstly remove your exotic pet from their vivarium. Doing this ensures you can complete freedom over the rest of the process and so makes things much easier than trying to clean around your pet.

The whole cleaning process can take quite some time depending on the condition of the vivarium, the size of the housing and the time of year (which will affect drying temperatures) so you need to put your exotic pet somewhere that it will be safe and secure for a period of time.

For this purpose I generally keep a range of old vivariums, tubs and containers of assorted sizes that cover the full range of my livestock collection. I place the animal in, secure the lid, place the container in a warm place and cover it with a towel so that my movements as I go about my work won’t stress them.

2) Remove All Vivarium Decor And Clean

Once the animal is secured I remove all the vivarium decor such as rocks, wood, the water bowl, any hides, fake plants and so on. Using a new toothbrush and a bucket of reptile-safe detergent I scrub each item to within a inch of it’s life to remove any faeces, blood, dirt or bacteria that may be present, rinse them thoroughly and set them down to dry naturally.

This is an ideal point to discuss how many household chemicals can be tremendously dangerous to exotic pets and so you need to keep these as far away from your pet and it’s vivarium as possible. It is therefore a smart idea to go and buy brand new equipment the first time you clean out your exotic pet and then use a marker pen to write on the outside of them so you know that they have never been used for household chemicals.

The most important parts of your cleaning kit are going to be a plastic bucket or two, a dustpan and brush and a firm brush such as a toothbrush, together with some cloths for wiping the cage.

Never, ever try to use household chemicals for cleaning your exotic pets. No bleach. No glass polish. No washing up liquid. Use only detergents from a specialist exotic pet store designed specifically for reptiles and amphibians. OK, rant over 🙂

3) Remove Vivarium Substrate And Dispose Of

Next up I get rid of all the vivarium substrate. The easiest way I have found of doing this is to use a dustpan to scoop it up then place it into a bin bag. This can either be disposed on in the bin or put on your compost heap if you have used a natural substrate. Typically you will be left with some fine dust at the bottom of the vivarium and this can easily be removed with a vacuum cleaner.

4) Clean Inside Of Vivarium Including Glass

Next grab your clean cloths and your reptile-safe cleaning spray and get to work wiping down every surface inside the vivarium. Every bit of wall, glass, every fitting, nook and cranny. We want the anti-bacterial formula of the cleaning detergent worked into every area of the cage to fully sanitize it.

5) Allow Vivarium To Dry Thoroughly

By now you should be ready for a short break. Making yourself a cup of coffee or tea at this point is ideal because you now need to wait for the vivarium itself and all the decor which have been thoroughly washed to dry out naturally. You don’t want to be putting your exotic pet back into a cage still damp with the detergent no matter how “reptile safe” it is. Once you’re confident that everything is dry you can move onto the next step.

6) Check Vivarium For Issues

Take the opportunity while the vivarium is empty to check it over carefully for any potential problems. Is the wood warped? Are the electrical fittings in good condition and are they where they should be or have things moved? Do the doors/lid still fit securely? Are there any gaps or holes appearing anywhere? If so, resolve these issues before putting the vivarium back into use.

7) Replace Substrate

Grab a new bag of substrate and fill up the base of the vivarium so that it looks just like it did before you started.

8) Replace Vivarium Decor

Put all the decor back into the cage, changing the layout where necessary based on how your exotic pet uses the vivarium.

9) Replace Exotic Pet

Lastly when the vivarium is fully clean and has been set back up with all the heating and lighting working properly you can gently replace your exotic pet. Don’t be surprised if your pet either spends a lot of time exploring or hides away for a while. The vivarium will likely smell – and possibly even look – rather different and so your pet may behave a little strangely at first as they get used to the changes.

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Mantis Cages Tue, 20 Apr 2010 11:16:42 +0000 To the best of my knowledge, no specialist cages are made specifically for preying mantis but luckily there are a wide range of other options which are perfectly suitable for mantids. Anything which offers suitable space, the ability to add some holes to allow air circulation and is see-through so you can enjoy your pet […]

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To the best of my knowledge, no specialist cages are made specifically for preying mantis but luckily there are a wide range of other options which are perfectly suitable for mantids.

Anything which offers suitable space, the ability to add some holes to allow air circulation and is see-through so you can enjoy your pet is really suitable.

For hatchlings, some breeders use plastic or foam coffee cups with some gauze or net curtain material held over the top with an elastic band. Small pill containers, jam jars, tupperware boxes and sweet jars can all make ideal cages for a preying mantis.

As adults, the same general rules apply, though of course the cage needs to be proportionately larger so small fish tanks of 30-45cm long (with a reasonable height) work best and some specialist reptile suppliers offer aquariums with ventilation and neat glass lids for tarantulas which are perfect.

In warmer months, some people opt to use netting cages designed for butterfly breeders and these too work well. The netting means that the mantis has something firm to hold onto and these cages are typically generously proportioned. Due to the amount of air movement though these are typically only suitable in warmer months as they are difficult to keep warm in winter.

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