People opt to install plants in their terrarium tank or enclosure for many reasons. Often, the reptiles or amphibians that live in the enclosure require the plants to climb about for exercise, as a place to retreat from the heat lamps, or to simulate their natural environment.
Vivarium plants are also necessary for cleansing the air in the tank through their natural processes, and they help reptile owners keep a constant humidity level in the enclosure.
And, of course, there’s always the argument that vivariums with plants in them look much more lively and natural!
Not all reptiles need plants in their tanks, and some have very specific needs when it comes to what kinds of plants you can include.
In this guide, we’ll give you all the details you need to know about keeping vivarium plants, as well as provide information about:
- What Reptiles Need Vivarium Plants
- Safe and Easy Vivarium Plants to Choose From
- Where to Buy the Best Vivarium Plants
- Vivarium Plants FAQs
What Reptiles Need Vivarium Plants?
Reptiles that require plants in their enclosure generally fall into one of two categories: those that need the plants for exercise, and those that need the plants for environmental purposes.
Reptiles that need plants for exercise often require the plants to climb about in order to get their needed physical activity. This includes lizards such as chameleons, iguanas, and geckos. While some of these reptiles may enjoy basking in the heat lamps, they also need to be able to climb and explore their environment in order to stay healthy.
Reptiles that require plants for environmental purposes often come from tropical or subtropical climates where the humidity is high. These reptiles need the plants in their enclosure to help maintain a high humidity level. This includes snakes, frogs, and some lizards.
Some animals, such as turtles, can benefit from both types of plants. The plants provide them with a place to climb and explore, as well as help maintain the proper humidity levels in their enclosure.
Safe and Easy Vivarium Plants
Any plants you include in your vivarium have to not only be easy to care for but safe for your pets. All animals are naturally curious, and reptiles love to nibble on leaves, stems, and flowers. Your vivarium plants should be non-toxic for reptiles and amphibians you keep in the tank.
Here are a few different plants you can use to accessorize your vivarium, to be used for various different environments:
Setting Up A Tropical Terrain
When setting up a tropical terrarium, you will want to use plants that can thrive in a humid environment. One option is to use pothos vines, as they are easy to care for and can withstand high humidity levels. For a more jungle-like feel, try using philodendron or ferns. Both of these plants do well in shady areas and can add some dimension to your terrarium.
Other tropical plants you might consider using for a tropical environment include:
- Ficus pumila (creeping fig)
- Epiphytic bromeliads
- Boston fern
- Philodendron selloum
- Golden pothos
Setting Up An Arid Climate
When setting up an arid climate terrarium, you will want to use plants that can thrive in a dry environment. One option is to use cactus plants, as they are easy to care for and can withstand high levels of drought. You can also use succulents, such as aloe vera plants, to help maintain a low level of humidity in your terrarium.
Other arid plants you might consider using for a desert environment include:
- Hens and chicks
- Ponytail palm
- Burro’s tail
- Bear’s breeches
Bearded dragons and monitor lizards hail from very hot, dry climates, so these kinds of plants are great additions to their enclosures.
Where To Buy The Best Vivarium Plants
Typically, you won’t need to find a special retailer where you can buy vivarium plants. Most of the plants we’ve recommended here are available at greenhouses, home improvement stores, and pet stores.
Plus, shipping plants is kind of a risky business, simply because they require light to survive!
Spider plants, ferns, and succulents are common staples of greenhouse stock, so find your local grower and pop in. Tell them you’re working on a reptile terrarium, and they might even be able to provide some suggestions about building your specific terrain type.
And vivarium plants aren’t that expensive, either. You can purchase spider plants, aloe vera, ferns, and orchids for fairly cheap (around $5 per plant, sometimes less). This makes it easy for you to outfit your reptile tank with the right terrarium plants for next to nothing.
Vivarium Plants FAQs
All the plants listed on this page are non-toxic and safe for reptiles and amphibians. We always advise doing a quick Google search to see if a specific plant is safe for your pet before purchasing it.
Most terrarium plants don’t need a lot of maintenance, since your tank will likely already have ample lighting, all you have to do is water your plants regularly. Ferns, creeping vines, and bromeliads are all good tropical plants. Cacti and succulents require less water.
Tropical enclosures normally require a lid on the tank to help retain moisture, but adding some plants can help with maintaining that environment as well. Ferns, spider plants, and pothos are all humidity-loving plants. It’s worth noting that the more foliage you have in your vivarium, the higher your humidity levels will be, since plants release oxygen.
Chameleons in particular like to climb, and their habitats tend to be vertically oriented. As such, you should make sure you include sturdy branches and wood fixtures for them to climb on, and trailing vines or tall fig plants tend to work well in tall enclosures.
Safe plants that thrive in a tropical or rainforest environment include pothos vines, philodendrons, and ferns.
Cactus plants, succulents, and hen and chicks tend to thrive in arid environments. You can also buy artificial plants to use in your terrarium, but they have to be safe for animals.
You can purchase vivarium plants at most greenhouses, hardware stores, and reptile supply stores.