One of the most important factors in keeping your captive
herptiles (reptiles and amphibians) healthy, no matter the
species, is the cleanliness of the habitat you have created
for them. Herps in captivity are at the mercy of their
environment. They can't move to another location to avoid
parasites as they can in the wild, and the temperatures in
our homes are not always optimum for their health and
immunity to bacteria and fungi. Consequently, the
responsibility for their health falls on you, their keeper.
How often you will need to clean your pet's cage depends
both on the size of your herp and the type of habitat in
which it lives. Large iguanas, for example, are much messier
than frogs or snakes, and so need more frequent and thorough
cage cleaning. Research your pet and its native habitat and
find out what are the optimum conditions for its health. Be
sure also to talk to local people who keep the same species
as your pet and/or read the online pet forums, to profit
from their experiences. They can give you many good tips and
tricks for reducing the work load of caring for your pet.
Some General Rules:
Before you bring your herp home:
1. Clean and disinfect (see below) the cage and any washable
2. Boil any rocks for twenty minutes to make sure any
organisms that might be hiding in crevices are dead.
3. If you are using sand or similar material as a substrate,
thoroughly rinse it with water and dry it in a two hundred
to two hundred and fifty degrees F. (ninety-three to one
hundred twenty-one degrees C.) oven for thirty minutes or
so. Cool it down before adding it to the cage, of course.
4. Any tree branches should also be washed and heated to the
same temperature to remove any hidden parasites.
1. DAILY: Clean the food and water dishes and replace with
fresh food and water.
2. WEEKLY: Transfer your pet to a backup cage in a different
room (to protect it from cleaning product fumes) and
thoroughly clean the entire main cage. Replace or at least
clean the substrate of old food, shed skin, feces, etc.
Check any decorations and dust or rinse them if needed.
Use disinfectant that is safe for your pet (Ask someone who
knows about your species.) and thoroughly disinfect the tank
and its contents. Simply cleaning or even washing won't
remove all the disease causing bacteria and fungi, and
possibly not even all the mites or other parasites, so
disinfecting is necessary.
Note: Common household chlorine bleach is one of the most
low-cost and readily available disinfectants. You can make a
bleach disinfectant solution by mixing one cup of bleach
into one gallon of water (1:16). Brush the bleach solution
onto the clean cage and accessories and leave it there for
ten minutes, then rinse thoroughly with clean water.
Thoroughly rinsing everything after disinfecting is
necessary to make sure the residue is removed. Many herps,
especially amphibians, are very sensitive to chemicals of
any kind. Make sure the cage is completely dry and any
disinfectant fumes have dispersed before you return your
herp to its cage.
Health and Safety Factors:
* Wear rubber or latex gloves when cleaning your cages both
for your own and your pets' protection from transferred
parasites. If you are working in an enclosed space have a
window open, especially if you are using chlorine bleach,
and possibly wear goggles to protect yourself from the
cleaning products and their fumes.
* Wash your hands with soap (dish detergent kills many types
of parasite) after every cleaning or contact with your herp,
to prevent transmission of harmful bacteria.