“Is a bioactive reptile enclosure the best choice for me and my pet?”

That’s a great question! While I do love bioactive setups and think they’re amazing, they are not the right fit for everyone. 

The popularity of these setups is at an all-time high right now. You might be looking up how to build one. You might also be wondering if you even want or need to. Hopefully, this blog can help you out!

What Should You Know About Bioactive Reptile Enclosures?

Bioactive caging can be a very rewarding process. Your pet gets a natural environment and you get to have a beautiful piece of nature in your home. But again, this is not for everyone (and that’s okay)!

Let’s take a minute to go over the pros and cons that come with having a bioactive reptile enclosure. That way you can figure out what is best for both yourself and your scaly friend!

 The Pros

  • Minimal daily upkeep
    • Some human intervention is still needed, but it’s not much! Mainly just watering the plants/wetting the soil, trimming back overgrown plants, and spot cleaning when needed. A deep clean is only needed every 5 years or so! 
  • Enrichment
    • A reptile can live in a traditional enclosure just fine, but an enriching environment never hurts. Some love digging in the substrate, smelling the plants, or chasing down the cleaning crew.
  • Humidity
    • Often this is one of the hardest things to keep up in a bioactive reptile enclosure. The plants and substrate provide more stability here. The soil holds on to moisture and plants increase humidity through a process called evapotranspiration.
  • Odor
    • Reptiles are not known for having the most pleasant-smelling tanks. Bioactive caging can help reduce that smell long-term. It will still smell after your animal defecates, but the odor can go away quicker.

The Cons

  • Cost

This will not be the same for everyone, but a bio active enclosure can be expensive to build. You need to buy or make proper substrate, plants, microfauna, lighting for said plants, etc. It is possible to spread the cost out over time.

  • Time

Building a bioactive reptile enclosure does not happen overnight. You need to do research on what environment your reptile lives in. See what plants are safe to use and what will thrive in the tank. Even the cleaning crew requires some googling.

  • Troubleshooting

This is an off-shoot of time. Not every enclosure will be perfect from the start. Sometimes they need more help in becoming correctly established.

  • Odor

A pro if done well, but an improperly built setup can have a dank and musty odor. Too much water collecting in the substrate/poor drainage is the main cause of bad smells.

  • Spiders

This is not always going to happen, but sometimes spiders have been known to set up shop in bioactive enclosures. They are not harmful and can help with crowd control. Though, not everyone is okay with spiders.

Different Species Have Different Enclosure Needs

This is almost a given, and some species are more suited to bioactive than others. Not to mention there are different types of bioactives to mimic different climates. 

For example, a bearded dragon will have a more arid climate. Bearded Dragon Obsession has a great article on how to make a bioactive reptile enclosure for a dry climate. And here is more great information on how to tailor the bioactive for a Pacman frog! 

Really, it’s when your pet is either too big or too small that you might want to avoid bioactive tanks. These tanks will still be possible to maintain, but you might need to provide the clean-up crew with additional food or do more cleaning up yourself. (Examples of pets that may be a mismatch for bioactive caging due to size, think a millipede for the small end or a reticulated python for the large end.) 

Want To Learn More About Bioactive Setups?


Because if that’s the case, we just have the blog for you. A few weeks ago we went into more detail on what bioactive reptile enclosures are and how to get started on building one. Read all about it here!