Reptile Supplies You Wont Find in a Pet Store
Pet Stores mostly cater to mammals and fish, and the reptile section often leaves us with a few poor choices. Here's some ideas for getting your herp all set up with great products their makers didn't even realize were great for pets!
Most reptile owners know that the herp section of the pet store is slim pickings. There are a few useful things there - a decorative climbing tree perhaps, crickets of course, light bulbs for lizard lamps - but by and large we need to be creative and look elsewhere. I'd like get you brainstorming and give new herp owners -and perhaps a few old ones- some ideas and suggestions that may work better for you and your pets than the generic and often expensive junk you see on the shelves.
Substrate is a big one. I've tried a bunch of different sorts, trying to figure out what works best both for me and for my animals. The best snake substrate I've found isn't sold in any pet store that I've ever seen. It's found with shipping supplies: Indented Kraft Paper. It's not fancy, but if you have a bunch of cages to clean it's a godsend both for your pocketbook and how easy it is to change. You can get a bundle of these delightfully absorbent sheets for around $60 that will literally last a couple of years.
I do like a nice decorative cage too though, and I can just see some of the other artsy types like myself wincing at the thought of ugly old Kraft Paper in their lovely snake's enclosure. The earthy brown shade of it -however- suits nice natural looking hides and green leafy basking spots. It doesn't draw the eye and distract from the beautiful animal or decor either. All in all, it's very good stuff.
Stores like Home Depot and Lowes can be a big help as well. Those little temp gauges in the Pet Store are rarely accurate or durable. When I tried out the indoor-outdoor Acu-Rite on someone's advice, I promptly equipped all of my reptiles' enclosures with it. It tells you the temperature on both the hot and cold side of the cages (just place the probe on the hot side and the screen part on the cool side) as well as the humidity with great accuracy and easy readability. They tend to run about $20 each, probably a little less, and are well worth it in what you'll save on vet bills for a chilly or overheated reptile!
Hides are easy, you can really use your imagination there. Anything a reptile can fit in and/or under comfortably they will happily use. So long as there's no chemical residue on it, or sharp edges and too small holes they can hurt themselves on, feel free to use it as a hide or decoration. I've seen everything from plastic bowls, sculpted caverns, to even an old hollowed out NES system! Clay flower pots are nice too, because they hold water and help out with humidity.
When it comes to our scaled companions, there are not a whole lot of options out there in the mainstream pet market. Get creative; look at everyday things and different kinds of stores in a new light. There's a whole world of goodies out there! All it takes is an open mind and a discerning eye to find them.