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Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
 Issue 1   
January, 2005
In this Issue

I recently got an email from someone asking whether snake and other reptile cages can be made from pine or cedar.

Here's the email question and reply:

I need to know what kind of wood to use when constructing a reptile cage. I've been told that pine and cedar are no good,is this true?Please if you can answer.

Using them to construct the whole cage is not recommended. Making the whole reptile cage from the pine or cedar has potential health problems for the animals. They emit aromatic hydrocarbons that can damage the health of the animals and cause various symptoms.

There is probably little issue as the woods in framing as the wood has often dried out a lot and released much of the volatile material, or at the very least, the rate at which it is released is very slow.

It also is recommended that you do not use pine or cedar as a substrate. Pine and cedar wood shavings used as substrates have a very high surface area and so the hydrocarbons are released much more readily, making them potentially toxic, especially as the animals like to burrow and immerse themselves in their substrate material.

You are probably better off using plywoods, melamine and MDF types of materials for most of the cage. There does not at this stage seem to be any identifiable health issues caused by these materials.

If you paint your cage, remember to let it dry out for 2-3 days to release as much of the volatile material from the paints. 5-7 days would be even better.

I would make the base of melamine for a terrestrial snake and use Silicon to seal around the edges, to prevent moisture penetrating the melamine or plywood sheeting.

There are hint and tips on applying Silicone in the "How to Build Reptile Enclosures" booklet.


Cleaning Reptile Cages - Keeping Them Healthy (Part 1)

The previous articles on cleaning can be found at

It is important to understand the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning is the washing and removal of waste materials and unwanted matter. Disinfecting is the process of killing harmful bacteria, fungi and removing or minimizing viruses. Cleaned surfaces can still have disease causing bacteria and other harmful agents.

You also need to ensure that the disinfectant is strong enough to kill harmful bacteria and yet be safe enough for your herp.

It is important to use reptile-safe products per instruction and to thoroughly rinse disinfected items after they have been treated.

As reptiles are sensitive to fumes (this applies to humans as well) keep your reptile in another room while disinfecting their enclosure. Most of the disinfecting products will produces fumes so treat the cage materials in a well ventilated area (open the windows if you have them) and use gloves and even safety goggles.

You should clean the area thoroughly before disinfecting to remove soiled matter and allow the disinfectant to work more effectively.

Disinfectants should be given adequate time to work so allow at least 10 minutes of contact with the disinfectant.

Thoroughly rinse and dry all items are before reassembling or placing them back in the habitat.

Household bleach is one of the most inexpensive and readily available disinfectants. You can make a disinfecting bleach solution by mixing 1 part bleach to 16 parts water (or 1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water). Apply this bleach solution to the cleaned cage, decorations, and accessories for 5-10 minutes then rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Before you bring a reptile home you should ensure your cage set up and ready to house them straight away. An part of this is to make sure the cage and materials are clean and disinfected. Rocks should be boiled for 20 minutes before being put in a cage.

Similarly sand should be thoroughly rinsed with water and placed in a hot oven (200-250 degrees F) for 30 minutes and cooled down before you use it in a cage.

Branches should also be wash and heated to the same temperature to remove any organisms.

Cages should be cleaned daily of fecal matter and uneaten food.

When you clean your cages, using warm soapy water and wash areas thoroughly. You should disinfect your cages on a regular basis.

More cleaning tips in following issues.

Home Made Glass Cleaner

Many of the common household glass cleaners do not clean Plexiglass effectively and can even damage it. Here's a simple way to make a glass cleaner (which can also be used on your cars windshield)

Into a clean, empty pint container, pour:

  • 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • A few drops of liquid soap or detergent

For metric people:
To make 500ml

  • 100 ml rubbing alcohol
  • 15-20 ml vinegar
  • A few drops of liquid soap or detergent

Fill up the rest of the bottle with clean water; (distilled water is preferred but not essential). Shake or stir well. The mixed cleaner can be poured into spray bottles or empty Windex or similar bottles. Just spray it on and wipe as usual. For stubborn spots, spray some on the spots, let sit for a minute or so while you work elsewhere, then rub it out.


I've recently added a section on converting gallons to cage dimensions. I've noticed a lot of sites have reptile cage sizes quoted in gallons so I thought it may be useful to have a guide to converting gallons to different cage sizes.

This can be found at

Tell Us What You Think!!

We would love to hear what you think of this issue of Keeping Reptiles. And of course, if you have any suggestions for upcoming issues that you'd like to share with us, please send those, too! Just e-mail me at: Reptile-Cage-Plans


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