Humidity is vital to your pet reptile's health. Too much or too little and the creature could suffer from respiratory problems, skin and shell disorders, shedding issues and other health problems. Proper humidity level varies from one species to another.
Proper humidity range for reptiles depends on the reptile in question. Each reptile has an optimal humidity range that can vary 10 to 20 percent without detriment. Chinese water dragons do best in habitats with humidity of 80 percent to 90 percent, for instance, while corn snakes thrive in environments of only 30 percent to 50 percent humidity.
Always purchase a hygrometer when setting up your reptile's tank. Just as thermometers measure temperature, hygrometers measure humidity. They're fairly inexpensive and typically secure to the inside of your reptile's enclosure with a suction cup. Hygrometers are invaluable to reptile owners; not having one puts your pal's life at risk.
Substrate contributes significantly to your enclosure's humidity level. Plenty of substrate options exist for every reptile. Make sure the substrate you choose isn't harmful to your reptile. Coconut fiber, for example, is fine for tortoises, but it can cause eye irritation in Chinese water dragons. What you choose is largely a personal preference once you determine whether you need a dry substrate or a more absorbent one. Shredded paper, aspen shavings, timothy hay and reptile carpet are dry substrates. More absorbent substrates include coconut fiber, sterilized soil, cypress bark and sphagnum moss. Some owners opt to mix substrates.
Tall and narrow enclosures, such as aquariums, don't have a lot of airflow. As a result, humidity builds up. You might think that reptiles who need less humidity would not fare well in an aquarium, but that's not always the case. Corn snakes, for example, thrive in aquariums -- they don't need misting like many other reptiles, so not a lot of moisture is lingering to boost humidity. Reptiles who need misting or require a moist substrate, but have only low to moderate humidity needs -- such as tortoises -- typically fare poorly in aquariums.
Providing your reptile with a water dish. A water dish adds humidity and enables your reptile to drink and have a nice soak if he wishes. Keeping the water dish in a warmer part of the enclosure will lead to higher humidity levels than if you place it in a cooler area. Almost all reptiles require at least a shallow water dish, but a few need a larger and deeper dish that allows them to soak.
Misting helps moisten substrate and keep humidity levels moderate to high, but isn't a good idea for certain reptiles. For some, such as tortoises and Chinese water dragons, it's a necessity. For others, such as corn snakes, regular misting increases humidity to a dangerous level and encourages fungus.
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.