The reptile keeping hobby is not as well developed as keeping dogs or cats. We’re still learning a lot about keeping reptiles, what their husbandry needs truly are, and how to give them the best life in captivity possible. Reptiles can make truly rewarding pets, I should know as we have several, but they do come with a unique set of care needs that you don’t find with many other animals.
When I started out keeping reptiles, I, like many others, watched some of the biggest reptile channels on YouTube. Most of these channels were ran by big breeders who kept their snakes in small tubes and talked for hours about how much their snakes loved their super small tubes because it made them feel secure, and that “snakes spend most of their time hiding in the wild.”
Now, we know that this is not true. Regardless of the snake’s size, they need a cage where they can, at minimum, stretch out fully. Snakes do enjoy hiding, and should have many hides and places to explore within their cage, but they also have been observed stretching out to their full length several times a day. Check out this article for more information on this behavior.
Lizards, which are often much more active, are said to require a cage that is at least 2.5 times as long as the entire length of their body from head to tail. They often require climbing height as well.
It is true that plastic tubs are amazing at keeping in humidity. Many owners who are keeping their snakes or lizards in glass tanks struggle to keep the humidity where it needs to be for their snake or lizard to have successful sheds and stay hydrated. However, just because they’re good for humidity doesn’t mean that they make amazing cages. PVC enclosures are generally a much better option.
Let’s go a little more in-depth on the pros and cons of plastic tubs for keeping reptiles.
Pros of Keeping Reptiles in Plastic Bins:
- Sanitary. The plastic tubs are very easy to clean and great for getting animals through quarantine periods or illness.
- Cheaper than buying multiple tanks or reptile cages for growing snakes or lizards.
- Good at keeping humidity levels up.
Cons to Keeping Reptiles in Plastic Bins:
- All plastic containers require modifications before you can keep a pet inside of them. Including, the first thing you should do which is drilling air holes for airflow.
- Limited height. Even the largest plastic containers I’ve found have very limited heights. If your reptile species requires a deep substrate layer or room to climb or both, you’re going to have a very hard time meeting their needs in a plastic container.
- No good way to include UVB or heat lamps. Some people have modified their containers by cutting out a section of the top lid and covering it with a screen material in order to use heat lamps or UVB lights, but this almost always make the cage less secure and runs an increased risk of not-only your reptile getting out, but a cat or young child getting into the cage. Heat bulbs also run a very high risk of accidentally melting or warping the plastic bin even when you’ve modified it.
- Overall size limitations. Even the largest sized plastic containers that I’ve found, which are for storing Christmas trees, run around four feet by 18 inches by 18 inches. This is just not big enough for many full grown reptiles. So you should most likely not think about your plastic container as a forever solution. Small snakes or lizards might do okay for their whole life in the larger bins, but medium to large snakes and lizards won’t.
- Not always secure. I’ve had several snakes worm their way out of their plastic containers back in the day. They were able to squeeze through, or even pop open, the lids. I have learned, however, that some containers are more secure than others. If you plan on buying a plastic container for your reptile, look for one that has a lip around the edge as well as latches both on the ends of the container like this: https://www.containerstore.com/s/iris-44-gal.-storage-tote-with-wheels/d?q=christmas%20tree%20storage%20bins&productId=11005991
So, here’s what it ultimately comes down to for me: I think tubs can be a good caging solution for smaller snakes that are easily able to fully stretch out along the length of the tub or for younger snakes before they are moved to their full-sized enclosure.
I think they’re trickier for keeping lizards as most lizards require room to climb as well as substrate to dig in, but smaller lizards like leopard geckos would probably do well in one.
I also think that plastic tubs make good quarantine or sick cages for both snakes and lizards as they are easy to clean, move, and monitor.
Outside of these instances, however, I don’t think plastic cages make good long-term solutions for reptiles and that you’re better off with another type of cage for a forever home.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!
Keep improving your reptile knowledge. Learn if this woman’s snake really laid next to her to see if it was big enough to eat her and why We Should Start Focusing on Keeping Reptiles Better and Not on Collecting More.