Knowing everything about the animals behavior and physical needs is the most imprtant building block when you start to design an enclosure for a reptile you want to buy. The enclosure should be setup, tested and running consistantly before you bring home your new pet.
There are a number of things to consider before you purchase or build an enclosure for your new reptile pet If you are planning on getting a baby, the enclosure should be small. Starting with a small enclosure with numerous hides will make a baby or juvenile feel safe and secure. Placing a baby in an enclosure that is too large can lead to stress due to it being an improper environment and that together with improper nutrition make up 90% of illness seen in captive reptiles. Reptiles are creatures of habit, and once a routine is put in place they thrive. Any changes in their routine can be stressful, and stress contributes to illness in reptiles.
A stressed snake will have a poor feeding response, and a snake that doesn't eat wil become weak and even dehydrated, which in turn can lead to kidney disease. Raising the humidty in an enclosure of an animal that is dehydrated is important for hydroregulation. Being able to reduce the amount of water loss from the reptiles body will improve overall health.
Understanding their basic biology is important,. Why? Knowing that reptiles are ectothermic for example, (which means that ouside sources are responsible for most of their body heat), valuable information when it comes to designing an enclosure. Reptiles are not all the same, they have preferred optimal temperature range, which are spesific temperatures they require to be kept at in order to stay happy and healthy. They are able to thermoregulate, and a thermal gradient inside their enclosre is important. Meaning the one end of the enclosre must be warm and the other side cold. This will enable the animal to move around if it is too hot it can cool down on the other side of the cage.
If the animal requires special lights for calcium absorbsion for example, you have to consider that a reptile will curl around a light bulb and burn. The same goes for heatpad if they are not installed correctly. I have seen images of animals that basked directly on exposed heatpads untill they were cooked inside and died. Please ensure that you protect the animal and prevent them form ever being able to go and lay directly on a heat source. If you cannot install it under the enclosre on the outside cover it with a floor tile and any substrate you use can be place on top.
With babies you would want to use kitchen towling, news paper, butchers paper. Its easier to clean regularly. It makes feeding easier because they still learn and could bite into woodchip substate and swllow it and become compacted. Aspin or kenuf can be introduced once they are yearlings and are moved to bigger enclosures. Cypress woodchips are more bulky and would better be suited for adults.
The intermediate stage or the medium sized enclosure stage is when you can start entoducing decorations, but don't overdo it, Very important is the placing of decor. It must be secure and should not fall over and harm the animal. They will climb on everything and will try to move things, so do a good job when placing your decor.
Animals that require high humidty and daily showers are best kept in glass enclosures. The thing with glass enclosures are ventilation and there are specialised cages out there that work very well as they are designed to circulate air. Air becomes stangant inside a traditional fish tank type enclosre, plus they are difficult to secure and snakes are escape artist. So there is another thing to consider, your enclosre must be escape proof.
From all this you should understand that it is not difficult but necessary to do things a certain way in order to keep a reptile happy. If you are not prepaired to do the research and provide the correct environment to meet their basic needs, then please for the love of reptiles, do not bring one home.
Lets look at a few examples of what we discussed.