Tips for the Naturalistic Look – March 2014

By Jennifer Greene

Often, we get requests on YouTube, Facebook, as well as in our stores and at shows for tips on how to make a nice looking vivarium, terrarium, or even just a simple cage.  When training new staff members, it is often one of the things most asked of more experienced staff – “Why do your cages always look so good?”

Vivarium designed by one of our most experienced cage builders, Jon Blakemore!

Designing a beautiful cage just isn’t something that comes easily to some people.  In fact, for most of us, it wasn’t something we were just born able to do.  Much like any other type of artistic ability, designing nice looking cages is something that you can get better at through lots of practice.

However, if you don’t have the opportunity like we do to build and take down cages every day, I’ll share with you a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years here at LLLReptile.

Tip 1: Put Tall Stuff in Back!

This might seem really, painfully obvious to you at first, but there’s more to this than simply “don’t block your own view”.  Not blocking your view is, of course, the biggest reason not to put tall stuff in the front of the cage, but hopefully you don’t need me to explain that in detail.

However, there is more to it than giving yourself an open view.  Notice it says “Put tall stuff in back!” not “IF you have tall stuff, put it in back”.  You actually WANT taller things in your cage, and especially in the back.  When building cages for climbing species, they’ll need the taller items to climb on and feel at ease, and even when building cages for terrestrial species – give them things to climb on!  That measly little 18″ of cage height is nothing compared to the bushes, rocks, and other terrain irregularities found in the natural habitat of pretty much everyreptile.

More to the point of simply making something look pretty, putting tall things in the back of the cage provides visual interest.  It gives your eyes a direction to follow, and makes the cage look deeper and fuller to have things of differing height.

Note the use of cork hollows and grapewood to use all of the vertical space in this cage.

Tip 2: Slope the bedding so that it is deeper in the back than the front.

This ties in with Tip 1, as it makes it much easier to add taller plants and items in the back snce there is already a bump in the substrate.

Tip 3: Use flat pieces of wood or corkbark to create “corner planters”

This is where you wedge a large, flat piece of wood in the back corner of a cage, fill up the space with your planting material (I prefer coconut fiber), and stick a nice plant back there.  In shorter cages (18″ or less), I’ll use a pothos or similar vine type of plant, as it’ll spill over the wood and grow out in a sort of plant waterfall.

Some types of vines will climb up a textured background, making a great natural curtain that many frog and small lizard species love to hide in.  The cage to the left uses both live plants and coconut hides to provide a pretty and functional environment for dart frogs at the LLLReptile breeding center.

The rocks and coconut hut hide the root base for both plants in the back of the cage.

Tip 4: Don’t be afraid to move things around!

Whenever staff here at LLL build a cage, we move things around pretty constantly.  Any YouTube video we’ve put up on our channel has on average, at least 10 minutes of “I hate this!  It looks awful!  Maybe if I put this here… No, how about here… No, wait, here… No, no, I’m going to put it… Nope, that looks bad too.”

It’s okay to rearrange everything you want to put in the cage at least 5 times.  You might want to rearrange it all a few more times, just in case.  For example, check out this video of me building a Crested Gecko vivarium.  It’s one of the first we ever put up on YouTube of building a vivarium, and I move everything I put in the cage at least twice before settling on where it’s going to go.  And that’s totally fine!  How else will you decide what looks good and what doesn’t?

Tip 5:  Use a nice water bowl

Nothing makes a cage look like junk quite as fast as seeing a flimsy tupperware as the water dish, or a dirty dog bowl.  Pick up a nice corner dish that you can easily clean, or for added coolness, try using a waterfall or bubbling fountain.


I am a firm believer in that there is no such thing as too much moss in a cage.  Not only does it help with humidity, but somehow a cage just doesn’t look finished until moss has been added.  Here at LLL, we’ll often keep a big orange bucket full of water and New Zealand Sphagnum Moss so that we can easily add moss to any cage we build.

You can also use green sphagnum moss to create a more natural feel to a cage.

Tip 7: Keep Practicing!

Pretty much the simplest, easiest way to get better at cage building is to keep practicing.  Try new items, move things around, add new plants if you decide you don’t like what you put in there anymore.  Your cage is not set in stone, and it doesn’t have to stay exactly the way you first set it up forever.

You’d be surprised at what items end up being preferred by your animals.  Try these neat false Mushrooms on Rocks – they’ve got perfect little depressions in them that get small puddles of water.  Dart frogs love sitting in them!


The Basking Spot: Excavator Clay – July 2013

Excavator Clay

by Jennifer Greene

If you’re like me, you enjoy setting up your animals in naturalistic, beautiful enclosures with plenty of options for them to run, climb, hide, and bask throughout their enclosure.  Creating a naturalistic display is fairly easy with tropical animals, and videos and set ups of tropical displays are common throughout online forums as well as groups on Facebook or google+.  However, it is much harder to find displays of desert vivariums, or cages that are more than just the basics for desert species.  There is a great deal of stigma with using sand and other small, dry, particle substrates, particularly with species considered desert dwellers, such as bearded dragons or leopard geckos. ‘

However, you can still set up a really neat, naturalistic vivarium with considerably reduced risk of substrate ingestion using a clay substrate made by ZooMed.  Excavator Clay is not an ideal substrate for every situation, but when used correctly, it can be used to create beautiful desert landscapes that allow your lizards the ability to burrow and dig without loose substrate everywhere.

Excavator Clay is a clay substrate that hardens once it’s been mixed with water.  You can put a simple base layer down throughout your cage and have a flat, plain, natural looking flooring, or create landscapes and burrows.  I highly recommend Excavator clay for burrow desert species that thrive in extremely low humidity, and/or come from extremely sandy areas. Steppe Runners, Frog Eyed Geckos, Dune Geckos, Berber Skinks, Uromastyx, Collared Lizards, and other similar desert species all work well in cages with Excavator as the base substrate.

You’ll want to prepare to set up the cage at least a week before putting the animal(s) inside – the clay needs a good amount of time to set and dry.  Have plenty of water on hand, and mix it little by little with the clay to create a sandy paste.  Build your landscape with it, having lots of fun as you make a huge mess putting it together. I suggest sloping the clay higher towards the back of the cage to add depth and make the cage look more visually appealing, but you can build whatever shapes you’d like.

Add the start of burrows by either using cardboard tubes or balloons to leave air pockets for your reptiles to find and dig out.

Enclosure for Tibetan Frog Eyed Geckos

Build up your cage and let the clay harden for at least 2 or 3 days.  If you used a lot of water, it may take over a week to fully dry, so plan accordingly if you are waiting to pick up the future inhabitant of the cage!  I like to add a layer of sand mixed with coconut bedding for digging purposes, as the two combined are a much lighter substrate that the animal can easily dig up and move around.  The loose substrate is also easy to clean, and leaves the excavator underneath fresh.  If you do find that your pet has defecated directly on the excavator, a little water will wash off any feces and make it easy for you to pick up the dirty part.

Just because your reptiles are desert dwellers, that doesn’t mean you should neglect to provide them with humid areas while using your clay substrate.  You can put damp moss in some of the burrows you’ve set up, and just keep a few areas moist.  When you provide at least one or two damp burrows/hiding areas, the species you can keep on excavator broadens.  I have successfully raised Leopard Geckos in an excavator/sand/coconut bedding mix, and if you want a nicer cage for your pets than just a glass box with carpet on the bottom – consider using clay!

Two leopard geckos lived in this exact cage as it is for over a year!

Mealworms were offered in a dish next to the water bowl, and there were multiple moist hides.

Again, it is not a substrate that is ideal for every pet and every situation, but when used correctly you can create beautiful, naturalistic desert set ups.  Your desert reptiles will benefit from the ability to burrow and hide in a more natural way, and the reduced amount of loose substrate (due to the clay being hardened) minimizes the risk of substrate ingestion to a negligable worry.

Want to see a video on setting up Excavator Clay?  We have one that you can see here:

Choosing the Right Bromeliad for the Tropical Vivarium – June 2013

By Bruno Magana

Among the wide variety of tropical plants suitable for the vivarium, there is arguably no other plant family more coveted than the bromeliads. As extensive as this family is, it can be quite difficult to figure out which ones will thrive in your set up. It is important to be able to distinguish between the types of bromeliads to know where the most suitable place in the vivarium is to plant them. Don’t worry, there are some interesting genera in this family that may narrow down your search.

Bromeliads are new world plants, which means they naturally come from the americas. Ranging from the east coast of the United States down into South America, you can imagine that these plants must have developed some interesting characteristics to overcome different habitats and climates. So it’s a relief to know there’s a suitable plant for almost any part of your vivarium.

The largest genus of bromeliads, Tillandsia, offers many suitable species for decorating pieces of wood and vivarium backgrounds.  More commonly referred to as “air plants”, tillandsia are probably one of the most recognizable bromeliads aside from pineapples (That’s right – pineapples are bromeliads!   Learn something new everyday huh?).  Tillandsias are mostly xerophytic epiphytes, which means they hold no water, but rather use specialized plant scales (trichomes) to collect water from the ambient air humidity. These are best suited for the top area of the tank were they get direct lighting – many of these plants will also appreciate the heat in such a placement. When you first acquire these plants, chances are they have not grown roots that would normally be used to anchor themselves to a surface. Using a small dab of non toxic adhesive, you can mount many of these species to decorate a piece of driftwood. Flexible wire can also be used to anchor tillandsia to a desired location. Many species of day geckos will even lay their eggs in mid sized tillandsia like T. Cyanea. Small species of chameleons may also appreciate T. Usneoides (commonly referred to as “Spanish moss”), as it can assist in their climb to that hard to reach basking spot.

Tillandsias in the Terrarium!

Some of the more exciting types of bromeliads are the tank epiphytes. These plants grow in such a way as to allow water to pool at the base of each leaf. To many species of frogs, this is the ideal nursery! Such a characteristic is also appealing for high strung tropical geckos in search for a water source.  Among these tank types, one of the most beautiful (in terms of color and pattern variation) genus is Neoregelia. While this genus ranges in size from small to mid sized plants, very few actually get very big. This is good news for that empty middle area of your vivarium! Many of these plants will attach themselves to wood in a similar way to members of the tillandsia genus, but they will also do fine in soil so long as it drains quickly. If you find yourself limited on space in your vivarium, these are a good choice because most Neoregelia grow flat rosettes. Not to mention many Neoregelia hybrids won’t exceed 5 inches or so! Small hybrids like “tiger pups”, “fireballs”, and “pepper” are suitable  to mount on cork branches or backgrounds going up the tank. Many species of dart frogs will readily rear tadpoles in these plants. Great news for anyone who fancies dart frogs!

Once you have your desired layout and the plants you have selected are in place, you may find yourself with a dull and rather boring patch of soil. It may take a long while before mosses thrive in this area and another plant may disturb the order of the set up. Fear not, there is a bromeliad for that! The genus Cryptanthus is a small group of bromeliads that really set themselves apart from most of the family. They are terrestrial plants that have a succulent appearance and often have wavy leaves. Cryptanthus need to be grown in soil. It is one of the few bromeliads that rely on the nutrients in the ground that can be collected with it roots (much like any other plant outside of the bromeliad family). You don’t need to dig deep for these plants, the roots grow out rather than down. This characteristic makes them good candidates for ground cover. Many smaller shy species of reptiles and amphibians will appreciate the shelters Cryptanthus will create.

Now that we have covered three genera of the bromeliad family, you should have a pretty good idea of their uses in the esthetic vivarium.

So go out and have fun with your next project. Remember that a happy plant will often result in a happy animal.

Mountain Horned Lizards: An Introduction to Acanthosauria in the Terrarium

Mountain Horned Lizards

By Jonathan Rheins


Mountain Horned lizards (Accanthosaura sp.), or Mountain Horned dragons, as they are sometimes referred, are moderately sized tropical lizards belonging to the family Agamidae.    They have an extensive range throughout much of South-East Asia, the Malay Peninsula, and adjacent island chains.  Locally abundant, these lizards are common in the pet trade, and make for incredibly fascinating and entertaining terrarium subjects.

All mountain horned lizards are of the genus Accanthosaura.  Species accounts vary from one publication to another, but it is safe to assume that as many as 10 described species exist within the genus.  Despite such a taxonomically diverse family tree, only a handful of species are ever encountered in the U.S pet trade. The most common is A. capra, with the occasional A. crucigera making its way into the hands of American hobbyists.

The vast majority of Mountain Horned lizards are collected in Asia and shipped to various markets throughout the world.  However, A. capra have proven to be quite prolific in captivity, and private breeding efforts have increased the number of domestically produced dragons available.


All species of Accanthosaura are highly arboreal in nature, spending much of their time high in the dense canopies of both primary and secondary rainforests within their range.  They are almost always encountered near permanent sources of running water.

Accanthosaura capra, the most often encountered species, seldom attain sizes of more than 12”, total length.  Their arboreal nature dictates that the tail length is often equal or greater to snout-to-vent (SVL) length.  While little is known about the longevity of wild individuals, captive born and raised animals can be expected to live in excess of 8 years, with 5-10 years being a reasonable goal.

Mountain Horned lizards typically perch motionless in the treetops, waiting for various invertebrate and vertebrate prey to cross their paths.  Insects make up much of the diet in the wild, with earthworms being a favorite food, both in nature and in the terrarium.  Some wild individuals have been reported to stalk and prey upon fish from overhanging perches.

When startled, these lizards will remain motionless until the threat has passed.  If they continue to feel threatened, they will dash to the forest floor (or bottom of the terrarium) as a last resort to evade the perpetrator.  As terrarium subjects, this behavior correlates to a very mild-mannered, easy to work with species.

Mountain Horned Lizards

“Accanthosauria capra”


There are many suitable enclosure types for Mountain Horned lizards.  The most important aspects to consider are enclosure height and the ability of the enclosure to maintain adequate heat and humidity within.

All-glass terrariums with sliding screen lids work well, although the front-opening terrariums manufactured by Zoo Med and Exo Terra may be preferable.  Front access tends to reduce stress of the inhabitants, while making feeding and maintenance less difficult.   Molded plastic enclosures with sliding glass fronts (such as those made by Vision Products shown below) are simply the best at keeping heat and humidity at optimum levels.

Although not terribly active, size should still be a consideration when selecting a Mountain Horned lizard enclosure.  A single adult should be allotted space equal to that of a standard 20-gallon “tall” terrarium, or front opening enclosure measuring 18x18x18”.   If multiple animals are to be housed together, terrarium size should be increased.

Care should be taken to avoid housing multiple mature males together.  They can become territorial overtime, which can lead to stress, lack of appetite, and occasional physical altercations.  Male-female pairs are communal, as are harem-type groups consisting of one male and multiple females.

Vision Cage

A well-designed habitat suitable for a pair or trio of Mountaini Horned Lizards


Designing any reptile habitat should be fun and exciting.  It is our opportunity to be creative and recreate a small piece of nature in our own homes. Mountain Horned lizards are not terribly picky about their surroundings, so long as multiple horizontal and vertical perches are provided.

Large pieces of grape wood, mopani wood, and vines should make up the bulk of the climbing structures within the terrarium.  These most closely mimic the natural habitat of these lizards.  Additionally, a multitude of both live and synthetic plants should be included, creating a dense, “canopy” feel in the enclosure.

The substrate used should be one that both promotes humidity and inhibits the growth of molds and fungus.  Coconut husk beddings and cypress mulch are among the best for this type of application.  Both products are available in a variety of forms and graded sizes, and both are excellent for maintaining the high levels of humidity required by these animals.

The use of planted vivaria has proven a highly successful and aesthetically pleasing means of keeping Mountain Horned lizards.  The inclusion of multiple live plants, mosses, and a significant drainage layer produce high levels of humidity as well as an environment that is as close to nature as a lizard can get!


Creative “living vivaria” are suitable for Mountain Horned Lizards of all sizes

In addition to being quite beautiful to look at, living vivaria are also much easier to maintain than standard bedding-and-water bowl setups.  When properly constructed and maintained, this type of habitat can go months, even years, without a total overhaul and cleaning.  Furthermore, a nicely put-together vivarium can easily rival any tropical fish tank as a stunning living room center piece.


Compared to other tropical herps, Mountain Horned lizards seem to be less tolerant of extreme heat.  Because they are found at high elevations, and often near bodies of water, they may simply be better adapted to cooler, more humid environments.

Ambient air temperature within the Mountain Horned lizard terrarium should be between 75 and 85 degrees, with 80 degrees being an ideal temperature.  Under tank heat pads, infrared bulbs, and ceramic heat emitters are all excellent choices for maintaining a comfortable background temperature for these animals.

A basking bulb or spot light should be positioned over a section of the enclosure to produce a basking spot of approximately 90 degrees.  This should be the absolute hottest part of the enclosure, and should not be allowed to climb much above that temperature.  A series of analog or digital thermometers within the enclosures will prove an invaluable resource when keeping this, or any species of herp.

A moderate drop in temperature at night is acceptable, and is easily achieved by shutting off the basking bulb, while leaving all other heaters as-is.  Temperatures dipping into the low 70’s or high 60’s should be considered a minimum nocturnal temperature.

In addition to being kept warm, Mountain Horned lizards also require full spectrum lighting if expected to thrive long-term.  Full spectrum lighting, specifically light in the UVB wavelength, is produced naturally by the sun.  As reptile keepers, we must rely on specially designed bulbs to mimic the sunlight.  Linear fluorescent bulbs, as well as compact fluorescent bulbs work well in this capacity.  UVB lights should be on during the same time as any light-emitting basking bulbs.  10-12 hours of daylight is recommended for these lizards year round.

Mountain Horned Lizards

“Mowgli” – a captive-hatched Mountain Horned Lizard, surveys his domain.


Proper hydration is paramount to the successful maintenance of Mountain Horned lizards.  Like many other arboreal herps, these lizards prefer to drink water directly off of leaves and other foliage, rather than seeking a pool of standing water.  That said, a large water bowl should be provided for soaking, and also for producing added humidity within the enclosure.

In addition to a water dish, mountain horned lizard terraria should be misted heavily 2-3 times daily to ensure high levels of humidity (60-80%) as well as ample drinking water.  Automated misting systems, waterfalls, and foggers all work well if manually spraying each enclosure becomes too tedious or timeconsuming. These alternate methods of providing moisture can be extra helpful if you live in an excessively hot or dry climate.


Mountain Horned lizards are not difficult to feed in captivity.  They readily accept all manner of commercially produced crickets, mealworms, superworms, and cockroaches.  Like true chameleons, these lizards have been known to become “bored” when provided a monotonous diet.

To avoid this issue, provide these lizards with the widest variety of foods possible.  In addition to insect prey, many Mountain Horned lizards will relish the occasional pinky (newborn) mouse, handful of earthworms, or even minnows and goldfish!

All food items should be “gut-loaded,” that is fed a highly nutritious diet prior to being offered as food themselves.  This maximizes the nutritional value of each individual food item, which helps to offset the relatively limited diet made available to most terrarium lizards.

In addition to variety and gut-loading, all food items offered to Mountain Horned lizards should be lightly dusted with an appropriate calcium and vitamin supplement. A high quality calcium powder with added vitamin D3 should be used at every feeding for young and growing lizards, or those suspected of carrying eggs.  This will ensure proper bone growth and skeletal integrity.

In addition to calcium, a reptile multi-vitamin should be used as well, about once a week for animals of all ages.  These products ensure that the animals are receiving all of the necessary fat and water-soluble vitamins they would normally encounter in their wild prey.


Mountain Horned lizards are in a class of their own when it comes to prehistoric-looking, yet readily available saurian companions.  They are just different enough looking to catch even the seasoned herper off guard, but easily obtained and cared for.  Their gentle disposition, range of colors, and inexpensive price make them one of the best choices for lizard keepers of all levels of experience.

When properly acclimated and housed, these lizards will no doubt provide endless hours of enjoyment and entertainment, whether it’s your first lizard, or your 50th!

10 Questions with Allen Repashy

Allen Repashy

By Scott Wesley

Allen Repashy is an author, breeder and owner of Repashy Superfoods. Superfoods are revolutionizing the way we feed not only many species of reptiles – but fish too!

1. What specific reptile got you hooked on the hobby, and is it still something you work with or breed today?

In the beginning, it was all about what I could catch in the canyon on the way home between my grade school and my house. My favorite was definitely our Coastal Horned Lizard. As far as exotics, the lizard that started it all for me was the Frilled Dragon. I was lucky enough to be the first person in North America to breed them in captivity in the late 80’s… I can’t say that I am still keeping them. The thing I enjoy most is working with species that have been challenging to keep. I enjoy “figuring out” difficult species and the challenge to reproduce them….. then moving on to something new.

2. I have heard that you are a Brazilian Jujitsu expert. Did you ever have aspirations for a career in the UFC back in the day and do you have a favorite UFC fighter today?

For me, BJJ was something I discovered when I was watching the very first UFC fight on PPV. I thought it was amazing that a guy my size (Royce Gracie) could take on all comers and defeat most of them without even throwing a punch. That was 1993. It took me ten more years to actually get in a gym and start myself at the age of 40. I don’t like getting punched in the face, so I doubt I would have has aspirations of a career in the UFC. LOL. I do have the privilege of getting to train with guys at our gym, who DO have careers in the UFC, and being able to contribute to the careers of these guys through grappling, or just being a life coach, is quite rewarding in itself. It keeps me feeling young, which is my main goal these days.

3. What gave you the idea to feed people to fish?  (aka the Repashy Soilent Green diet…).  I mean – it is people, right?  Can you also explain what this diet actually is, and why it is so cool?

Yeah, I do like to get people’s attention and have a bit of fun with my formula names. “Soilent Green” is a product in my new line of fish foods…. I actually kept and bred fish before reptiles, and now I have come full circle, and regained my passion for fish again. What’s unique about this formula is that it forms a gel that can be fed in blocks, or poured over various surfaces like rock or wood, to provide a natural grazing surface for species that naturally pick rocks or scrape for algae. There are a couple great videos o youtube that give a better idea.

4. What are some of the cooler animals you are working with / breeding right now?

For the last 10 years or more, I have been exclusively focusing on Rhacodactylus. My second passion has been the development of the Superfoods range. My keeping goals right now, are not focused so much on breeding, but developing and testing diets. I have a whole range of  Gel Based Reptile diets that I am currently testing. The first two products in the range (Meat Pie and Savory Stew) have been released, but I have some great things on the way for Omnivores and Herbivores. I am working with various species of Skinks, Tortoises, and even Uromastyx and dwarf Monitors right now. I am raising specimens exclusively on these new formulas and plan to breed them over multiple generations to prove the concept of the products.

5. Your gecko diet is certainly your most popular product. What are some of the benefits in the recent changes made to it, and what gave you the idea in the first place to develop an all in one diet for Rhacodactylus and other species?

The development of the diet came out of my desire to reduce, or eliminate the need for insects in my growing breeding colony of Rhacodactlus. I am allergic to Crickets, so that was my first thought, but then I realized that it would reduce costs, maintenance, increase sanitation, and allow the geckos to be marketed to consumers who didn’t want to buy crickets. The thought of selling the foods, was never even in the back of my mind until years later. My first thoughts about marketing the food, was that it would help sell the geckos….. now, 15 years later, my thinking has evolved from sell a gecko and make 25 bucks, to.. give the gecko away, because it will eat food for 25 years!

6. You come up with some ridiculous and funny names for your products (SuperPig, Soilent Green, SuperFly, etc). Is there a method to your madness?

I have always had a quite twisted sense of humor and enjoy plays on words. I use these crazy names, simply because I can! This is my company, and I am having fun with it. I don’t have to answer to anyone. I believe that if you come up with a funny name, that people will not easily forget it, and if it is funny enough, they will tell their friends about it……. I want a name that will easily pop into someone’s head when they decide to go shopping.

7. You work closely with Philippe deVosjoli working with some very cool reptiles, amphibians, crabs, crayfish and others. How did this partnership come about?

Bob Mailloux, who I was partners with for many years in Sandfire Dragon Ranch, introduced me to Philippe. I was already familiar with his books and of course the awesome Vivarium magazine he was publishing back then. He was, and always will be, the Godfather of modern herpetology He has been a huge inspiration to me over the years, and our friendship has become an inseparable bond.  The fact that we has such similar interests, eventually brought us together in business.

8. If you had to choose a completely different career – what would you be doing?

My second passion to reptiles, is plants. I actually have a plant tissue culture lab where we clone and propagate rare succulents. It could be a real business if I had the time for it, and maybe sometimes I will. I always wanted to breed tropical fish, but that isn’t a very far reach from reptiles. To be honest, I am totally excited about the food and supplement business because there is so much room for improvement and the introduction of new specialized products. It really is rewarding to be able to contribute to improved long term success with rare species.

9. How is your Baja racing career working out for you?

Haven’t raced in the Desert for quite a few years now, it just got too expensive, and takes huge timecommitment. Last month, I did go down to Baja and pre-ran the Baja 500 course the week before the race. The course gets marked weeks before the race so you can drive it and take notes before the race. We decided to just split it into a three day adventure and it was a blast.

Last year, I bought a Polaris RZR, which keeps me having fun in the desert on a low budget.  A few friends and I who also have RZR’s are planning on pre-running the upcoming Baja 1000 course all the way to La Paz at the end of the year.

10. If you could choose one thing to change about the reptile hobby – what would that be and why?

Coming from the point of view of someone who has been active for 30 years in the hobby, I would have to say that the diversity of interest in the hobby has gone to nearly zero. The hobby was a whole lot more interesting in my opinion, when people were excited about keeping a lot of different species, and not about keeping a bunch of different morphs of the same species. If you go to a reptile expo now days and take out the ball pythons, leopard geckos, bearded dragons, and even crested geckos, the place will be almost empty.

There are so many interesting species that are no longer available because someone decided to “invest” in a ball python or a leopard gecko instead. Back in the day, making money with your collection was a secondary goal to just keeping, learning, and enjoying it. Now days, I think the majority of people who seriously get involved in the hobby, are looking at it business venture. Exports are closing down left and right, and if we don’t breed more species, there won’t be a hobby left at all, just commercial breeders and a short list of species.

Our biggest threat to the hobby is the loss of species diversity, and of course, the threat to be regulated out of existence by all the new legislation.

The Basking Spot: The Monsoon Misting System

The Basking Spot

By Jonathan Rheins

This month’s featured product is the RS400 Monsoon high-pressure misting system from Exo Terra.  The Monsoon is an easy-to-use, self-contained unit designed to automatically spray your enclosures so you don’t have to!  The Monsoon is designed to be simple to use, reliable, and easy to expanded upon and customize to meet individual needs.


The Exo Terra Monsoon is a completely self-contained system designed to automatically mist reptile and amphibian habitats at pre-set intervals and durations.  It comes with everything you need to set up two separate spray nozzles, but the system can be expanded to feed up to six nozzles!
Dials on the unit’s electrical interface allow users to choose spray duration (how long the unit sprays) as well as interval (time between spray cycles). The wide range of settings available make the Monsoon one of the most economical and versatile products of its type available.
monsoon nozzle

Everything you will need to get the Monsoon up and running comes in the box ready to go–all you have to add is the water!  The kit is ready to go, and includes: 1 gallon water reservoir, programmable electronic control panel, AC adapter, feed hose (with replaceable filter), 2 high-pressure nozzle assemblies, 2 suction cups (for securing tubing), and complete instructions.


The Exo Terra Monsoon misting system will automatically spray water into as many as 6 separate habitats, or multiple nozzles within a single enclosure, and is easily programmable.  One dial controls “cycle,” which designates how often the unit will turn on, while a separate dial controls “duration,” or how long the unit remains on for.  Additionally, the unit may be turned on manually at the touch of a button for immediate use.

 You can set the Monsoon to cycle every 1, 2, 4 , 8, 12, 18, or 24 hours.
 Actual duration of spray can be set at 2, 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 30, 60, and 120 seconds.
 Included with the kit is all of the tubing and nozzles you will need to hook up 2 separate nozzles.  In some cases, these may both be placed within a single, large enclosure.  Or, if in the case of two side-by-side enclosures, each can have it’s own designated nozzle.
The nozzles themselves are of the highest quality, and the high pressure system provides a very fine, even mist of water.  They can be articulated in various angles to provide complete control over which areas of a habitat are sprayed most heavily.  Each individual nozzle assembly is equipped with a suction cup to allow for versatile mounting.  Additional (2) suction cups with hose clips are included in the kit as well, and allow for easy routing of the water tubing into the enclosure.
monsoon parts
Tropical herps inherently require higher levels of humidity than those found in most home settings.  Furthermore, many arboreal animals rely on rain water and dew for drinking.  For many years the method of choice was hand-misting individual animals and enclosures to ensure proper hydration.  With the Exo Terra Monsoon kit, the machine does all of the work so you don’t have to!
The ability to run up to six separate nozzles from a single unit means that multiple terrariums or vivariums can be automatically watered at once, cutting maintenance time considerably, and gives sensitive animals like chameleons ample time to get a good drink of water, without being in the prying eyes of the keeper.

In addition to vivarium applications, this unit will function well in greenhouses as a source of relative humidity and even for watering individual plants.  This unit has also been creatively implemented into “rain chamber” systems, in some cases eliciting breeding behavior of many frog species.

The Monsoon kit was designed to meet the needs of hobbyists of all levels of experience and a variety of applications.  In addition to the kit, Exo Terra offers a wide variety or accessories and parts for the RS400.

Complete expansion kits, which include a “Y” splitter, additional tubing, a nozzle, and a suction cup, provide a simple means to expand the Monsoon.  Up to 4 of these kits can be added to the base unit, allowing for the use of up to 6 nozzles.

Additional suction cups, tubing, “Y” splitters, and nozzles can all be purchased separately to allow for expansion and customization.  Replacement filters (designed to keep particulate debris from clogging the ultra-fine nozzles) are available as well.
Perhaps the coolest accessory of all should be saved for last; the RS400 remote control.  That’s right–you can control the Monsoon kit from across the room with this simple, handy remote!  This is a great way to provide drinking water to shy animals that may otherwise hide or feel uncomfortable in the presence of a person.
Overall, the Exo Terra RS400 Monsoon system is one of the most innovative and easy to use misting systems ever.  It allows entry-level herpers to keep their pets like the pros do, and it gives professionals a simple, no-nonsense means of misting multiple habitats.
If you keep chameleons, amphibians, or maintain planted vivaria, then the Monsoon kit is for you!  Make it rain when you want, as often as you want. Your herps will reap the benefits.

Poecilotheria in the Vivarium

Poecilotheria in the vivarium

By Kevin Scott

WARNING: The species of Poecilotheria described here are spiders that can be fast, aggressive and extremely dangerous to humans. They should NOT be handled.


Over the last decade or so there has been an explosion in vivarium popularity. Animals like arrow frogs, mantellas, day geckos and other small diurnal herps are a natural choice for such display cages because of their distinctive coloration and visibility during the day. Tarantulas and bird spiders have been largely neglected in this department, and not without reason. Most spiders are secretive, and will either bury themselves or spin thick, opaque webs, making it difficult to observe them. Either way this makes them difficult to be seen. In addition, most tarantulas will eat almost anything else that they are housed with.

fringed ornamental

The Fringed Ornamental Baboon Spider (Poecilotheria ornata)

Species of the genus Poecilotheria (Ornamental Baboon Spiders), however, can often be seen sprawled on pieces of wood or cork bark. While they cannot be housed with other animals (although they have been successfully kept communally), Poecilotheria species can make an unusual and decorative addition to the tropical vivarium.


Ornamental Baboon Spiders are from tropical South East Asia (India, Sri Lanka) and benefit from moderate to high humidity (50-75%), although they can go for extended dry periods if needed. Light daily misting is recommended if your vivarium is not humid enough from moss and/or plants that are established within it. As with humidity, heating situations can vary widely depending on the style and orientation of your vivarium, but a thermogradient with the warm side reaching temperatures of 78-80 degrees is recommended. Compact fluorescent lighting commonly used for vivaria usually emit sufficient heat for Ornamentals (although they normally shy away from bright light) but if this is not enough, an under-tank heater can be used as asecondary heat source.


A simplistic arboreal vivarium with a hollow piece of grapewood is ideal for any of these species.

Again, each vivarium is different and care should be taken with tropical plants when selecting a spot for a heat source.

Being arboreal (tree-dwelling) animals, Poecilotheria species prefer vertically oriented vivaria. Adequate ventilation should be provided. Although they are often seen ‘out and about,’ hide spots are necessary. Cork hollows are ideal for this, and will allow your spider to build a web to retreat to, should it want to. Live plants with broad leaves, like pothos ivy, smaller philodendron and bromeliads, also provide excellent cover in this type of environment. A small water dish with a sponge or cotton balls should be offered, for your spider to stay hydrated.

indian ornamental

The Indian Ornamental (Poecilotheria regalis)


All Poecilotheria species can feed solely upon crickets. Spiderlings and adults alike can feed weekly, with the size of the food item ranging from small to large crickets, as is appropriate. Care should be taken to provide enough food if a communal vivarium is what you have in mind. Although Ornamentals have been successfully kept together (same species, same size only), they have also been known to cannibalize. If you set up a communal vivarium, it is essential that you provide enough food for your spiders. Several appropriately sized crickets should be fed to each spider weekly, with uneaten food items being removed from the cage with tweezers. Other food items including cockroaches, locusts, meal-, super-, and wax-worms can be fed as well, but in the vivarium these have a tendency to hide or dig if not captured immediately.


In closing, I would like to note that species of Poecilotheria are not the only spiders that do well in vivaria.Brachypelma species are another excellent addition to the tropical vivarium. These terrestrial counterparts are very hardy and less aggressive than the Ornamentals, and are readily available in the pet trade. Brightly colored and not as reclusive as some other tarantulas, these fascinating animals are a subtler main feature than brightly colored frogs or geckos, but if you take the time to set up and care for these eight-legged wonders I think that you will be pleasantly surprised.

Captive Breeding of Dwarf Day Geckos – From Issue 1, May 2012

The Reptile Times

day gecko header

By Jennifer Greene

Some of the most stunning geckos available today are the geckos of the Phelsuma genus, in addition to select species of the Lygodactylus genus.  Fortunately for keepers, many of the smaller Phelsuma species such as Lined Day Geckos, Peacock Day Geckos, or even the exotic looking Klemmeri Day Geckos are readily available in the reptile hobby, making it easy to keep your very own rainforest jewels at home!  If breeding these geckos is your ultimate goal, I recommend using a cage larger than the bare minimum – for example, for my Electric Blue Geckos I use and recommend an 18 x 18 x 24” terrarium.  This can be suitable for a small group of dwarf geckos, with one male and up to 3 females, or for a single pair of Klemmeri geckos.  For the slightly larger Peacock Day Geckos or Green Day Geckos, the new larger terrariums manufactured by Exoterra are recommended whenever possible, especially if you plan on housing more than just one pair of geckos in the cage!  The large sizes of these cages allow for the use of bulbs such as the Powersun bulb, which is what I use at home.  The intense light and UVB keeps your geckos’ colors bright and vivid, and the nice, hot basking area will create zones within your cage that the females will utilize to select egg laying sites.

Day Gecko Setup

Above is a perfect example of a small day gecko setup!

Large cage sizes also allow for the female(s) to escape the attention of the amorous male.  Male geckos in nearly every species are quite determined, and will attempt to mate constantly, making it important for the health of the female to provide her with numerous places to hide and get away from him.  The male’s courtship display is distinct and somewhat comical.  When the female comes into sight, he will lift up his entire body, bobbing his head and wiggling his tail at her.  With each fit of bobbing, he will edge closer and closer to the female, until he is close enough to touch her, and then breed with her. She will either indicate readiness to mate with reciprocal head bobbing, tail wiggling, and general in-place squirming, or she will reject the male by biting him on the head or simply running away.   Mating will take place year round if the cage is kept warm enough, although this can be quite draining on the female.  A winter cool down, with nighttime temperatures dropping below 75 degrees, is usually enough to stop egg laying for a few months, which allows the female to recuperate.  I provide a heat pad on the side of the cage for my geckos, and allow nighttime temperatures to dip into the high 60s/low 70s for 3 to 4 months a year.

breeding day geckos

2 of the author’s geckos in the breeding process

You will begin to see the female swell up with eggs about a week after copulation is noted, and after about 3 to 4 weeks, she will lay a clutch of one or two eggs.  When eggs are laid, they are pasted to a surface within the cage that the female deems suitable.  In a planted vivarium, this can be anywhere, and once established in her cage the female’s choice of egg laying sites is impeccable in leading to high hatch rates.  She will lay them around the lining of the top of the cage, on plants, in wood crevices, nearly anywhere in the cage above ground.  Keep the cage humid without getting the eggs themselves wet, whenever possible – for mine at home, I run a fogger 4 times a day, for ½ an hour each time, in addition to light spraying with a mister in the morning.  Little additional maintenance is required to encourage these eggs to hatch; providing your female with a large, planted vivarium that she thrives in will also provide a suitable environment for egg development.  Females will continue to lay eggs every 3 to 4 weeks for the duration of the breeding season, which is most of the year.

fogged terrarium

An interesting note – sometimes females can and will consume eggs.  They will almost always consume the shells of hatched eggs, and often do so within the first 24 hours of the babies hatching.  My females have always consumed the eggshells, and will often eat infertile eggs as well. They seem able to detect something about the eggs that is not good, as sometimes they will leave the eggs for several weeks before consuming them.  When I have caught them in the act, the insides of the eggs have indicated that they had no embryo inside.  They will sometimes even consume freshly laid, infertile eggs – the female Electric Blue pictured here ate her own egg within minutes of laying it.  She has not been with a male in several months, and the egg was undoubtedly infertile.

gecko eating egg

One of the author’s geckos eating an egg just a few weeks ago!

Incubation time can vary wildly from as little as 2 months for eggs laid close to the heat source to up to 4 months for eggs laid further away or during cooler months of the year.  I have even had one egg laid in November hatch in March – an incubation period of about 5 months!  If you are only keeping dwarf geckos in your vivarium, it is possible to just leave the neonate geckos in the cage with the adults. All of my babies have been raised this way, and from personal communication with others who have successfully bred these geckos, this seems to be the most common way to successfully raise hatchlings. I have even observed babies watching adults feeding from the powdered gecko food placed out for them, and once the adults have left the babies will head down to the food and eat as well.  In addition to gecko food, babies will also feed on springtails, pinhead crickets, fruit flies, and other tiny invertebrates found within the cage and substrate of an established and well planted vivarium.  Supplementation should be very minimal, as these babies are tiny and need only minute amounts of vitamins to grow properly.  To be frank, I have never intentionally provided extra supplementation for my baby geckos – they get what they need from the gecko MRP (which has vitamins in it) or on the rare occasion among the small dusted crickets provided for the adults, a few pinheads that they can eat are in there as well.

baby williamsi day gecko

Once they are about 3 to 4 months of age, most geckos are well started enough to consider moving to their own enclosures.  Between 4 and 6 months of age, they begin to develop sexable characteristics, although it can still be difficult to sex them accurately until they are over a year old.    Raising the baby geckos can be one of the most rewarding aspects of keeping them, and it is difficult to think of anything more adorable than a newly hatched dwarf gecko.