One of the most overlooked parts of a reptile enclosure is the cover. While everyone usually spends time thinking about all the features of the terrarium (as they should), they forget about the importance of the top!
We’ve heard from countless owners who have had mishaps in their cage because of a low-quality cover. And each one of them was taken completely by surprise.
So that’s why we’re writing this guide.
While it may seem like a silly, small thing to focus on, we want to spread the word about the importance of getting a cover that you can rely on.
We believe that as an owner you should take every element of reptile care seriously, even the little things.
Table of Contents
Why They’re Important
So why in the world is it so important to get the right cover for your terrarium? Surely it’s not nearly as important as some of the other components of an enclosure, right?
In some ways that makes complete sense. There are a ton of highly impactful factors to consider when setting up an enclosure, and most are of higher importance than the cover.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not important.
Good care requires addressing every element, no matter how small it might be. The combined impact of a few low-priority items can add up to make a big impact!
We view the cover of an enclosure or terrarium as an extension of the tank itself. It should live up to the standards of the rest of your equipment.
After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
You could have the most impressive terrarium known to man, but if the cover is poorly made you’re going to have issues. This can lead to things like:
- Bad ventilation
- A lack of sufficient light
- A reptile break-out
- An accident
We’ll address all of these in the section below, but this is why it matters. If you set up everything the right way from day one, you won’t have to worry about any issues later on.
Why You Might Need An Upgrade
Here’s where things can get a bit confusing. A lot of the covers out there are screened and look roughly the same.
So how do you know if you need an upgrade?
While there isn’t a perfect system for this, we recommend a mixture of the eyeball test and some common sense.
As a general rule, if you purchased a kit terrarium we would recommend upgrading your cover. This is especially common with bearded dragon terrarium kits since they’re so common. Unfortunately, kits are notorious for providing the bare minimum and skimping on quality.
It’s quite likely that the screen cover that came with your kit is not sufficient. It could be weak, poorly ventilated, blocking light, or a combination of each.
Simply take your tank dimensions and look for a cover that’s sold by itself. These will always be a bit more robust and allow you to check for feedback from people who’ve purchased it in the past.
Expert Tip: This goes for lights and other components as well. If you already have a kit, make sure the equipment it comes with is doing the job.
As for the eyeball test, this is where it becomes less of an exact science. If your cover seems to be flexing or not staying in place securely, upgrade it.
If you’re having trouble getting enough light into your tank or things tend to run hotter than they should, consider the possibility that your cover is sabotaging your efforts.
We’re not saying that you should run out and change your cover just for kicks. However, take an honest look at what you currently have and spend some time to determine if it’s really suitable.
After all, high-quality terrarium covers really don’t cost much!
What Makes A Good Cover
When it comes to identifying a “good” terrarium cover, there are a few factors you want to consider. While it can be a little challenging to tell the difference at first, when you get your hands on one it becomes a whole lot easier.
As long as you stick to the following foundational traits of a good cover, you’ll be all set.
Security is something that matters a great deal when it comes to a cover. After all, that’s the main reason it’s there!
You want a cover that can fit snugly at the top of the enclosure without being moved too easily. This will prevent any unexpected escapes from occurring.
The mesh should be robust as well. Anything too weak and flimsy can be prone to tearing over time. A lot of the reliable covers use a metal mesh or other durable materials to ensure it stays intact for a while (this will be obvious to you when you get your hands on it).
Reliability & Durability
You want the rest of the frame to be durable and long-lasting as well. If the frame surrounding the mesh is weak, you’ll end up having to replace it a whole lot sooner.
Look for a firm steel frame that won’t bend, break, or rust over time. These are still quite cheap and will last for quite a while.
It’s very important that your cover allows air to flow easily in and out. This will make it far easier to manage heat and humidity in the enclosure.
This is where choosing the right materials and manufacturers comes in handy. Making an extremely durable cover isn’t that challenging, it’s doing it while allowing for proper ventilation that’s the real trick!
As long as the screen mesh has enough space in each gap, everything should be fine.
The Ability To Let Light In
As you know, providing the right amount (and right kind) of light for your pet reptile is a crucial part of their care. It allows them to stay healthy and get the proper vitamins in their system.
So if your cover is preventing the right light from reaching your pet, that’s a problem.
Let’s say you’re a bearded dragon owner who has one of the best UVB lights out there. If you have a cover with gaps in the mesh that are too small your pet won’t see the benefits (this will likely mean there’s poor ventilation as well).
Hopefully, you now have a full appreciation of why enclosure covers matter so much. They can indirectly influence a number of different elements when it comes to care, and really impact the health of your reptile.
The great thing is that high-quality covers are affordable and easy to find. This means there isn’t a reason not to get one!
We recommend buying them from a reputable brand online or getting your hands on them in your local pet store. This will allow you to have confidence in the quality of what you’re buying.