What type of material is best for a reptile enclosure?

In an ever-evolving world, we are always looking for better ways to provide a comfortable and sustainable habitat for our cold blooded companions. Arguably one of the most important decisions you need to make when bringing a pet reptile home is the enclosure set-up it will spend its life within.

We wanted to give you an overview of the materials available out there that are most commonly used for reptile enclosures right now. Whether you’re in the market to buy a new enclosure or you are planning on building one yourself, we mention a few main pros and cons so you can get an idea of what type of enclosure will be the best fit for your reptile and your home.

Glass Aquariums/Terrariums:

The majority of starter enclosures you will find in pet shops are glass. More so, most glass enclosures that you will come across are just aquariums. These are widely available and are recommended because they have become very cost-effective for companies to produce. Small glass tanks are cheap and easy to sell to beginner reptile owners because of the low entry cost and since they have been used for so many years, deeming them a ‘classic’.

Although they provide great visibility for you, glass tanks tend to lose a lot of heat. Aquarium style reptile enclosures that are top opening can be stressful for some reptiles, since they have a natural fear and defense instinct when they see predators approaching from above.

Newer versions of glass terrariums by popular reptile brands are a better alternative to the classic aquarium. They have front-opening doors and ventilation options that make them a better fit for keeping some reptiles. This option is perfect for smaller amphibians and works for some smaller reptiles that need higher levels of humidity.


  • Full visibility for owner

  • Low entry cost

  • Hold humidity & water

  • Front opening options now more widely available

  • Available at almost any pet store


  • Usually only available in small sizes

  • Do not retain heat well

  • Visibility & reflection can stress animal out

  • Shatter on impact

  • Difficult to modify & DIY with

Although great for visibility, we urge you to research the habitat needs for the reptile you want to get. Consider all your options before buying a classic glass enclosure.

Wood/Melamine Enclosures:

Historically, wood has been one of the easiest and most versatile materials to work with. It is both an accessible and forgiving material, which has made it a very popular material to build reptile enclosures with.

Enclosures made out of wood are easy to come by and are available in many shapes and sizes. Wood is definitely the sturdiest material when it comes to building large enclosures and large habitats. Especially when a whole room conversion is required.

Wood is great if you are working with a reptile habitat that doesn’t require a lot of moisture. The main area of difficulty with wood is sanitizing it and its longevity due to cleaning and exposure to elements.

Laminated wood is a great option to make sure there is a protective layer you can sanitize, but as soon as there is damage in the layer you run an even higher risk of not seeing any rotting that happens underneath the laminate. This is especially true when using melamine or other pressed woods.


  • Potentially low entry cost

  • Variety of sizes available

  • Easy to modify

  • Strong & sturdy for large builds


  • Not suitable for high moisture environments

  • Mold & rot possible, especially if outer lining is damaged

  • Hard to sanitize

  • Flammable

PVC Enclosures:

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is a type of plastic that can be found all around us. It has been used in many instances as a replacement for wood due to its rigidity and resistance to the elements while remaining reasonably light weight.

The way this material achieves this is through its closed cell structure. This just means PVC has millions of tiny air bubbles inside it, but they are all individual and closed so air or water cannot pass through. This makes PVC a great insulator of both heat and humidity.

One of the main differences in PVC that you will find between manufacturers is the PVC thickness. Although 1/4” thick is decent at retaining heat & humidity, 1/2” thick PVC enclosures do tend to be a lot more rigid, long lasting and insulating.


  • Insulating properties, retains heat and humidity efficiently

  • Absorbs sound and other vibration that may disturb your reptile

  • Waterproof inside and out (Won’t mold even if the surface is damaged)

  • Variety of sizes available, large build possible with reinforcements

  • Easy to modify

  • Not flammable


  • Surface can dent or scratch

  • Not flammable, but can melt if direct heat applied

  • Higher entry cost

    (Psst…Since an Apex Cage can expand in size instead of having to be replaced, you will save money in the long run because you won’t have to purchase a whole new enclosure every time your pet grows out of it!)

Although PVC has a higher cost entry point than other more widely available enclosures, the ease of use, longevity and the insulating benefits for the reptile’s habitat has made it the current leader in reptile enclosure materials.

All the options and nuances make it really important to do your research about your reptile’s specific needs, pairing them with your own home environment. For example, if it is always cold in your home, you may not want a glass enclosure since the glass will have to battle the cold to try and keep the heat & humidity in. If you need an enclosure with high humidity you may not want a wood one because of the risk of rot down the road.

We hope you have fun while doing your research, there is definitely a lot of stuff to know when dealing with re-creating habitats for our cold-blooded best friends, but remember that a huge part of owning a reptile is the journey and the time you take to learn about their needs and how you can re-create them in your home, so you can both be happy and enjoy each other’s company! We encourage you to look at enclosure options and invest in the best home for your reptile family member based on their environment needs and your home nuances.

Don’t be afraid to always learn new things and adjust your reptile’s habitat down the road for the better. Reptile keeping is a journey that we are all learning new things about every day! It would be way easier if these little (and very big) creatures could explain what they want to us, but that would take half the fun out of it! ;)

So what makes an Apex Cage unlike any other?

One of the biggest benefits to an Apex PVC Cage is that unlike most other reptile enclosures where all the options you choose when you purchase your enclosure are set in stone, an Apex Cage evolves with you and your pet.

It can be easily increased in size whenever your reptile outgrows it. Instead of having to buy completely new enclosures at each step of your reptile’s growth, you can upgrade the size or use the enclosure for another reptile and change the set-up completely.

Did I also mention, it has the easiest assembly ever See for yourself, click here!

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