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Is It Really That Hard to Keep Live Plants in Your Reptile Enclosure?

Tree python

Have you been holding out on starting a bioactive terrarium? Maybe you know all the benefits going bioactive has for your exotic pet, but you’ve never grown plants before. It can be intimidating to start something new, especially if the setup you currently have seems to be working just fine.

The truth, however, is that it doesn’t have to be difficult to grow live plants in your reptile enclosure. You can make a bioactive setup as simple or as complex as you like, and some plants are easier to grow than others. There’s no reason to make it hard if you don’t want to.

Here’s what you need to know about the easy way to keep live plants in a reptile enclosure…

The benefits of bioactive

Let’s start with a brief overview of the benefits of having live plants in a reptile terrarium. Live plants create a miniature natural biome for your animal. It makes their indoor environment a little closer to what they would experience in nature.

Lizard in leaves

Of course, it’s never going to be exactly the same as living in the wild, but plants increase oxygen, provide enrichment, and may supplement the diet of some species. They also help to maintain adequate humidity levels in the enclosure.

Additionally, many reptiles prefer drinking water from droplets that collect on plants to drinking from a dish.

Plants also provide additional hiding spots and make the terrarium look better.

Keeping plants alive

Most of us who try growing plants kill at least a few of them (or maybe all of them), but that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed with a bioactive terrarium. The number one tip for keeping plants alive is to create a plant care routine and stick with it.

A bonus to this is that if the plants still die, you know exactly what you did and can change the part of the routine that seems to be the problem. It’s not much different from keeping a reptile alive, really. You just need to know the plant’s needs and provide for them.

To start, select plants that have the same natural habitat as your reptile. That way their needs will be similar. Then, pick a substrate that works for the kind of plants you want. For instance, rainforest plants will need a substrate that retains water. Desert plants may need sand or something that drains well.


No matter what kind of plant you get, don’t overwater it. Overwatering is one of the most common causes of plant death. It can cause mold and root rot. Most plants only need watering once a week, even if they are tropical. The big difference for rainforest plants is that you’ll want to keep the humidity levels high inside the enclosure.

The other big tip is to get lights specifically for the plants in the terrarium. They may not thrive only on the lights your reptile needs. You may also want to start the plants in pots separate from the enclosure so that they can get big enough that your animal won’t destroy them.

Come into The Tye-Dyed Iguana in Fairview Heights to check out the plants we have available and ask our staff which ones are easiest to care for.