Increasing Cage Humidity
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If you keep tropical reptiles, then you should know all about humidity. Humidity is the measure of water vapor in the air, and is read between 0% (extremely dry) and 100% (completely saturated). Many tropical herps come from microclimates (burrows, forest floors, under logs, etc) that have high ambient humidity. If you are keeping these animals in a cage, then it is imperative that you re-create their natural environment as closely as possible. Inadequate humidity is a leading cause of dehydration (no appetite, wrinkly skin) and shedding difficulties. How do you know if you have it right? First of all, know the natural history of your reptile. Some species will be fine with the humidity in your home depending on where you live. However, if you have a ball python and live in the arid southwest, you may need to take some extra steps to ensure that your pets are healthy and happy. Second, know the humidity in the cage, this can be easily measured with an analog humidity gauge available at LLLReptile.com. Lastly, know the steps to take to increase the humidity of your enclosure. (Decreasing humidity is a different subject all together, but because it is less of an issue, it will not be covered here.)
Large water dish. Most species require a water dish that at the very least they can fit into, although one they can swim in is better. The larger the water dish, the more humidity you will get. As the water evaporates from the surface of the dish, the moisture molecules flow into the air and increase the humidity. Placing the water dish in a warm (but not hot) area of the enclosure can increase the effects.
Decrease ventilation. All animals need fresh air. Reptiles included. But if you are keeping a tropical snake in a cage with a screen top, what do you think is happening to all of that humidity? Its floating right out of the cage into your home. This doesn't help your reptile any. You can decrease this loss by covering half, but no more than that, of the cage top with some water proof material. Plexiglass, treated wood, and wet towels have been used. By covering the top of the cage on the side where you have the water dish, you will greatly increase the efficiency of your setup.
Regular Misting. The best way to help keep your cage at the proper humidity levels is to spray the cage once or twice a day with room temperature water. You can used a hand held spray bottle, or a pressure sprayer with a gentle mist. Lightly mist the entire enclosure, including the animal, substrate, and cage walls. The droplets that form will evaporate and increase the humidity. Also many reptiles like to drink up little water droplets off of the cage furnishings, rather than from a dish. Here's a great tip: Use bottled water for your spraying. Because this water has no dissolved minerals in it, it won't leave any unsightly water spots on the glass of your terrarium.
Proper Substrate. The substrate, or bedding, that you use in your reptile enclosures can significantly effect the humidity in the cage. Dry substances like paper products, shavings, and sand hold very little moisture, and if anything, absorb humidity out of the air. Unsealed wooden cages will have the same effect. If you want to increase and maintain higher levels of humidity try using orchid bark. We use it alone or mixed with Bed-a-Beast as an exclusive substrate for all of the tropical animals in our stores.
We also highly reccomend using high quality terrarium moss in your tropical set-ups. This material is all natural and holds water like a sponge, slowly releasing the water into the air over a period of time. Using moss can create a more natural looking environment for your reptiles, as well as reducing the frequency of your misting.
Remember, these are only hints and guidelines. Make sure you know the specific need s of the animals in your care, as every species has different requirements.