Reptile Tank: Maintaining Your Reptile Tank's Ecosystem

By: Evan Scoboria, Last updated: June 17, 2023

As the guardians of our unique and beloved reptilian pets, we strive to mimic their natural habitats as closely as possible within our homes. A crucial aspect of these environments is humidity. Being cold-blooded animals, reptiles depend heavily on external environmental conditions, with humidity playing a pivotal role in their health and well-being. From shedding skin to respiratory health, the correct humidity level can significantly impact the life of your pet reptile. However, controlling this essential factor can be tricky. This is where a dehumidifier for your reptile tank comes in handy. This article will delve into the importance of humidity for reptiles, how a dehumidifier can help control it, types of dehumidifiers suitable for reptile tanks, and guide you through installing and maintaining these devices. By the end of this comprehensive guide, you will have gained valuable knowledge to help you create the most comfortable and healthiest habitat for your reptile.

Bearded Dragon

Understanding the Importance of Humidity in Reptile Tanks

Humidity levels play a pivotal role in maintaining the well-being of reptiles, but understanding why requires a dive into the science of these fascinating creatures and their natural environments. The specific humidity requirements vary widely among different reptile species due to the diversity of their native habitats. For instance, certain geckos and snakes, native to lush tropical rainforests, flourish in environments with high humidity. On the other end of the spectrum, desert-dwelling reptiles like the bearded dragons prefer much drier surroundings.

The crucial role of humidity continues beyond merely simulating a reptile's natural habitat. It plays a fundamental role in many biological processes and is directly linked to the overall health of these animals. One key area impacted by humidity is the shedding process. Reptiles periodically shed their skin, a process known as ecdysis. Proper humidity levels can ensure this process happens effectively and without complications, facilitating a more effortless, complete shed. Conversely, insufficient humidity can lead to a condition known as dysecdysis, where pieces of old skin fail to detach, leading to discomfort and a risk of infection.

Hydration is another aspect heavily influenced by humidity. Reptiles from humid climates, in particular, rely on the moisture in their environment to prevent dehydration, absorbing water through their skin or consuming it from droplets on leaves or their enclosure walls. Meanwhile, excessive humidity can pose health risks, promoting the growth of harmful bacteria or fungi and contributing to respiratory problems.

To truly comprehend the importance of humidity in a reptile's enclosure, it's helpful to understand the underlying science. Reptiles, as ectotherms, rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature and metabolic processes, including water balance. The humidity level in their environment can impact everything from their skin health and hydration status to their respiratory health and microbial exposure. Therefore, the correct humidity regulation within your reptile's enclosure isn't just a matter of comfort—it's essential for their health and longevity.

Correct Humidity for Common Reptilian Pets

Different reptile species require different humidity levels in their tanks to replicate their natural habitats and keep them healthy. Here are some of the commonly held reptilian pets and the correct humidity for each:

  1. Bearded Dragons: Native to the arid regions of Australia, bearded dragons require a lower humidity level, around 20-40%. Overly humid environments can lead to respiratory infections in these reptiles.

  2. Anoles: Anoles are from humid rainforest environments and require high humidity levels, often between 70-80%. It's essential to frequently mist the tank and provide plenty of water-drenched foliage to maintain these levels.

  3. Ball Pythons: These popular snakes originate from Africa, where the humidity can vary considerably. However, in captivity, they do well with a humidity level of around 50-60%. During shedding, it can be increased to about 70%.

  4. Leopard Geckos: From desert environments, leopard geckos thrive in a tank with low humidity, around 20-40%. Like bearded dragons, high humidity can cause respiratory problems for these animals.

  5. Red-Eared Sliders: These aquatic turtles require a different approach to humidity. While they spend much time in the water, they also need a dry basking area. Their tank water should be kept clean and fresh, while the air in the tank should have a humidity level close to a normal household level, around 30-50%.

  6. Chameleons: Depending on the species of chameleon, humidity levels can vary. However, many popular species, like the Veiled or Panther Chameleons, require around 70-80% high humidity.

Remember, the above humidity levels are estimates, and individual needs can vary. Always do thorough research about your pet's specific needs or consult a reptile expert. Providing the correct humidity level for your reptilian pet is crucial to their overall health and well-being.

How Dehumidifiers for Reptile Tanks Work

Dehumidifiers for reptile tanks operate on a straightforward principle - they extract excess moisture from the air within the enclosure, ensuring that humidity levels remain optimal for the resident species. These specialized dehumidifiers are tailored to manage the distinct requirements of different reptile species, providing an environment that is neither too damp nor too dry.

While there are several types of dehumidifiers, most used in reptile tanks are refrigeration-based dehumidifiers. These devices use a fan to draw moist air into the unit, cooled by a refrigerated coil, causing the water vapor to condense into liquid form. This condensed water is collected into a tank, which is periodically emptied, and the drier air is then re-circulated back into the enclosure. The resultant environment offers the appropriate humidity level for the reptile's health and comfort.

In addition to the basic operational procedure, some dehumidifiers may come equipped with humidity controllers or hygrostats. These additional components can preset desired humidity levels, automating the process and maintaining an ideal environment within the enclosure.

However, it's essential to remember that while dehumidifiers can effectively manage high humidity levels, they should be used judiciously. Different species have different humidity requirements, and maintaining an accurate balance is critical for the reptile's health and well-being. Always refer to species-specific guidelines when setting up and managing the climate within a reptile tank.

Types of Dehumidifiers for Reptile Tanks

Dehumidifiers for reptile tanks come in various forms, each suited to different needs, types of enclosures, and species of reptiles. Here are a few common types you might encounter:

  1. Refrigerant Dehumidifiers: Also known as compressor dehumidifiers, these are perhaps the most common type. They work by drawing moist air over a refrigerated coil with a fan. The cold coil condenses the moisture, which is then collected into a tank. The dry air is re-circulated back into the reptile tank.

  2. Desiccant Dehumidifiers: These use a desiccant material that naturally absorbs and holds moisture. Once the desiccant is saturated with moisture, the dehumidifier uses heat to remove it and exhaust it outside the reptile tank. Because they can function at lower temperatures, these dehumidifiers can be particularly effective for reptile tanks that require cooler climates.

  3. Mini Dehumidifiers: These smaller dehumidifiers are suitable for smaller reptile tanks or terrariums. They usually operate on the same principles as the larger dehumidifiers as refrigerant or desiccant models.

  4. Thermo-Electric Dehumidifiers: Also known as Peltier dehumidifiers, these units use a Peltier heat pump to create a temperature difference, condensing moisture from the air. These devices are usually quieter and more energy-efficient but might be less effective at removing moisture than the other types.

  5. Rechargeable Dehumidifiers: These dehumidifiers are ideal for smaller enclosures or those requiring less frequent dehumidification. They work by absorbing moisture from the environment into a desiccant. Once saturated, the unit is plugged into a power source to heat and evaporate the water, 'recharging' the dehumidifier.

Each type of dehumidifier has pros and cons, and the choice of which to use will depend on the specific requirements of your reptile tank, including the species you're keeping, the size of the enclosure, and the typical humidity levels in your area. Consider these factors and consult with a reptile care expert when choosing a reptile tank dehumidifier.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Dehumidifier for a Reptile Tank

Selecting the appropriate dehumidifier for your reptile tank is essential to maintain the ideal habitat for your reptile. Here are a few key factors you should consider when making your choice:

  1. Size of the Enclosure: The size of your reptile tank directly impacts the type and size of the dehumidifier you need. Larger tanks require dehumidifiers with higher capacity, while smaller enclosures might do well with mini or portable dehumidifiers.

  2. Species of Reptiles: Different species have different humidity needs. Research the specific requirements of your reptile species to understand the ideal humidity levels. This knowledge will guide you in choosing the right type and capacity of the dehumidifier.

  3. Climate and Room Conditions: The environment where your reptile tank is located also plays a significant role in your choice. If your room has high humidity levels, you may need a higher moisture removal capacity dehumidifier.

  4. Ease of Maintenance: Dehumidifiers need regular cleaning and maintenance to work effectively. Consider how easy it is to clean the device, empty the water tank, and replace filters or desiccants if necessary.

  5. Noise Levels: Some dehumidifiers can be noisy, which might disturb your reptile's peace. Look for models that are known for quiet operation.

  6. Energy Efficiency: Running a dehumidifier can consume a significant amount of energy. Choose an energy-efficient model to keep your electricity bills in check.

  7. Reliability and Durability: As with any device, you'll want to choose a dehumidifier that's known for its durability and reliability. Read reviews and research different brands and models to ensure you're getting a lasting product.

By keeping these factors in mind, you can ensure that you select a dehumidifier that will maintain a healthy and comfortable environment for your reptile.

How to Install and Maintain a Dehumidifier in a Reptile Tank

Installing and maintaining a dehumidifier in a reptile tank is a straightforward process, but it requires careful attention to detail. The first step is finding the right location inside the tank for your dehumidifier. Ideally, it should be situated in a place that allows for optimal airflow and humidity control, unobstructed by objects, and, if possible, near the center of the tank for even distribution of dehumidified air.

The installation procedure will vary depending on the model of the dehumidifier, so it's essential to read and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. Some dehumidifiers may need to be fixed to the side of the tank, while others can be placed freely within the tank.

Once installed, make sure to connect the dehumidifier to a power source. You’ll also need to ensure the dehumidifier is easy to access for regular cleaning and maintenance.

When it comes to maintenance, regular cleaning of the dehumidifier is crucial to ensure its longevity and performance. This generally involves emptying and cleaning the water tank and checking for any signs of damage or wear. Depending on the specific model, you may also need to periodically replace filters or other components.

Please remember it's essential to monitor the humidity levels in your reptile tank carefully. You might need to adjust the settings of the dehumidifier or relocate it within the tank to achieve optimal humidity conditions for your specific species of reptile. This is a crucial aspect of ensuring the health and well-being of your pet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do all reptiles need a dehumidifier in their tank? Not all reptiles require a dehumidifier in their tank. The need for a dehumidifier depends on the reptile species and their specific humidity requirements. Some reptiles thrive in drier environments, while others need more humid conditions.

Can I use a household dehumidifier for my reptile tank? Household dehumidifiers are generally too powerful for use in reptile tanks. They can drastically reduce the humidity levels and create an environment that is too dry for most reptiles. It's recommended to use a dehumidifier designed explicitly for reptile tanks.

How often should I clean the dehumidifier in my reptile tank? The frequency of cleaning depends on the specific dehumidifier model and the conditions within the tank. Generally, the dehumidifier should be cleaned at least once every month. If the tank is particularly humid or the dehumidifier works harder than usual, more frequent cleaning may be required.

What happens if my reptile tank's humidity is too low or too high? Incorrect humidity levels can lead to health issues for your reptile. If the humidity is too low, it can cause dehydration and shedding problems. If it's too high, it can lead to respiratory infections and mold growth in the tank.

How do I monitor the humidity levels in my reptile tank? The best way to monitor humidity levels in a reptile tank is by using a hygrometer. This device measures the amount of moisture in the air and can help you ensure the humidity levels are kept within the optimal range for your specific species of reptile.

Can I use a humidifier and a dehumidifier in the same reptile tank? Yes, it's possible to use both in the same tank, especially in cases where you need to regulate humidity levels carefully. You may use a humidifier to increase humidity during specific periods and a dehumidifier to lower it when necessary. However, it's essential to closely monitor the humidity levels to ensure they remain within the ideal range for your reptile.

What is the ideal humidity level for my reptile? The ideal humidity level depends on the species of your reptile. For example, desert reptiles like bearded dragons require lower humidity levels, around 20-40%, while tropical reptiles like anoles or tree pythons need higher humidity levels, between 70-90%. Always research the specific needs of your reptile or consult with a vet or a professional herpetologist to ensure you are providing the proper environment for your pet.


Maintaining the proper humidity level is vital for your reptile's overall health, comfort, and longevity. Dehumidifiers explicitly designed for reptile tanks are a great way to ensure that the conditions in your reptile's habitat remain stable and within their species-specific optimal range. Understanding how these dehumidifiers work, the various types available, and how to correctly install and maintain them will allow you to create the best environment for your pet. Consider factors such as the tank size, your pet's specific humidity requirements, and the dehumidifier's capacity and functionality when choosing a suitable model for your reptile tank. And continuously monitor the humidity levels to ensure they're kept within the correct range for your pet's species. Investing time and care in correctly setting up your pet's habitat contributes significantly to their overall well-being.