What Can I Plant in a Terrarium That Houses Reptiles or Amphibians?

Chameleon, Chamaeleonidae, sitting in terrarium
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Choosing live plants for your reptile or amphibian enclosure is not as simple as it might seem. It is important to choose plants that will survive in the environmental conditions that the reptile or amphibian requires. Before selecting the plants, it's important to recognize that your reptile or amphibian may damage, uproot, eat, or otherwise destroy live plants. And most importantly, if you have a herbivore or omnivore, or your pet just likes to sample the plants, you must choose non-toxic plants. Where the reptiles and amphibians do not eat the vegetation, some plants that are often recommended for terrariums include:

  • Pothos
  • Spider Plants
  • Bromeliads
  • Snake Plants (Sanseveria sp.)
  • Ficus
  • Dwarf Schefflera
  • Orchids
  • Peperomia
  • Ponytail Palms
  • African Violets

Are the Plants Edible?

This is not as simple a question as it seems. Different references tend to list different plants that might be safe for reptiles and amphibians. Additionally, tolerance and safety vary with each species. There are some plants listed above that are considered safe for reptiles and amphibians to eat, but if you have a herbivore or omnivore, it is a good idea to double check any live plant choices against a list of toxic plants.

Some plants may be classified as toxic if their sap is an irritant. With these types of plants, it's best to use your discretion. For reptiles and amphibians that don't nibble on plants these might be okay, though some pet owners prefer to avoid them altogether (e.g. in case broken branches lead to skin or eye irritation). The safest option is to speak with a veterinarian or pet store where you purchased your specific reptile or amphibian. They will be able to guide you on the right plants for your pet. 

Decorative Additions to a Habitat

In addition to live plants, you may want to add some decorative elements to your reptile or amphibian's habitat. Creating a territory for the animal to live in is essential. This can be achieved by adding plants (live or fake), short sections of branches, bark, or even a "hide box." This is a pre-made box that is essentially a dark plastic box with a small entrance on one side, allowing your pet to hide. You can also outfit your cage with a variety of climbing surfaces. Depending on your reptile or amphibian, they may prefer to climb on live plants or man-made devices like ladders, ramps, and even hammocks. Make sure any item you add to the cage is very secure. Climbing devices should be anchored in the bottom of the cage to avoid falling and injuring your pet. Branches and bark should be wedged against the walls of the tank to avoid breaking or falling.

It is always best to speak with experts at a pet store to help determine what kind of cage accessories are best for your pet. In addition to accessories and decoration, these experts will know the right amount of water and food your pet requires for proper care.