Reptile Humidity: Does it really matter?

Reptile Humidity

‘Humidity, what is it good for? Absolutely, everything! Say it again!’

So, that’s a horrible reference showing my penchant for song lyric tie-ins. In all seriousness, many keepers are  unaware of the benefits of properly humidifying a reptile or invertebrate’s enclosure. In today’s article, ‘Reptile Humidity: Does it really matter?,’ we not only discuss what humidity is, but also, how to measure it, creating and maintaining a properly humidified environment, and of course the benefits of it all. The tools we discuss today are those we have used in the past and still using today. We will also provide affiliate links* to those tools throughout this piece.

Benefits of Humidity for Reptiles

Direct Benefits

Shedding: The number one benefit most associated with proper humidity is shedding (ecdysis). This goes for all of our reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates as well. They may not all shed the same way, but most, if not all, do in fact shed. Proper humidity is a key element of the environment to make sure this happens properly.

Temperature regulation: Moisture within the air is what we and our reptiles experience as humidity. This in turn directly impacts the temperature regulation of reptiles and invertebrates as they are “poikilothermic”, meaning their internal temperature varies with the temperature of its surroundings.

Respiratory health: Humidity is linked to overall respiratory health because with a properly humidified environment, your reptile or invertebrate is able to breathe easier. This is because the moisture found within the lungs is not being used to correct the imbalance of relative humidity.

Electrolyte balance: This is also more commonly known as dehydration. When there is no humidity or water available to lubricate the mucous membranes, these dry out and draw electrolytes from the body in an attempt to correct the deficiency.

Amphibian Eggs: All amphibian eggs are laid in moist environs

Indirect Benefits

I think it’s safe to say that most, if not all of our readers would agree. Reptiles and invertebrates may be capable of some type of emotions and invariably have a psychological disposition. Proper environment plays a significant role in the psychological health, which in turn impacts the physical health of the animal as well.


As we had discussed in “Reptile Thermometer: Analog versus Digital” (Linked above), there’s a definite difference when it comes to measuring certain aspects of herpetoculture. One is temperature and the other is humidity. Whether you use analog or digital is, in the end, your decision. Below are the suggestions that we have arrived at through reviews and personal experiences.

Analog: These are the dial type of thermometer that come with a sticky side, to be stuck permanently to the side of the enclosure. We recommend avoiding this adhesive, and instead, purchasing a few squares of velcro with tape on the back. This allows you to place small velcro squares throughout the enclosure in various places and move the hygrometer to different areas of the tank as needed.

Digital: This is the type that has a “localized read-out,” meaning you place the display  where it can be read easily, and the sensor is able to be placed at various locations throughout the enclosure itself.

Hygometer Review

When comparing hygrometers side-by-side, there would seemingly be some immediate benefits to going for the digital aspect of technology. According to the average customer review we’ve seen, believe it or not, analog seems to be the best, and most popular option. We went a little outside the realm of reptiles and looked into other industries (humidors, etc.) which might be concerned with accurate humidity for their input as well. We discovered that for the most part, analog hygrometers are the more widely chosen design when accuracy is of the essence.

This isn’t exact but, 0-30% would be considered desert, 30%-50% would be considered grasslands, 50%-80% would be considered tropical. 80%-100% is, in our estimation, rainforest type locality.

The hygrometer that has gotten the best reviews so far is a surprise to us here, as we tend to use a hygrometer separately from the thermometer. Either way Zoo Med Economy Analog Dual Thermometer and Humidity Gauge is the number one reviewed. In second place for analog hygrometers, we have Exo Terra Hygrometer. When it came to the digital side of the hygrometers, it was the Exo Terra Digital Hygrometer with Probe which won out over the other available digital hygrometers.

How to create Humidity in a Reptile Enclosure

Creating humidity in a reptile enclosure is the easy part…so to speak. Getting it to stay at the same humidity can be a challenge at times. When you have an animal whom requires a humid environment, there are numerous ways to go about providing humidity. The essential choice delegating the route you take, is whether you want to go with a mechanical or organic solution to provide humidity.

“Mechanical vs. Organic” What in the world could that possibly mean?

When we speak of mechanical, it’s not some dramatic Steam Punk Technology although that might be very cool.

Steampunk Vivarium

Courtesy of Apartment Therapy

Speaking of Steampunk Terrariums, here’s one for you to see. Mechanical humidity is done with, as one might imagine, mechanics. In other words, a ‘machine operation’ induces increased humidity. As with all things, there are some general options we have listed below.

Rainfall SystemExo Terra Mini Fogger, and surprisingly, the most popular solution is good old elbow grease! Pumping up one of the  Exo Terra Spray Bottle, 2 quarts a few times a day. They are the best solution, in our opinion, as they allow for easier control of moisture because you can adjust the flow directly.

Organic humidity is produced by non-mechanical means, through the use of various materials for substrates, decor, etc., which hold moisture when applied, then slowly releasing it back into the environment as humidity. Natural substrates are those that would be found in the animal’s natural environment, such as live plants, (non-toxic of course) and decor such as cork tubes _ mosses. Believe or not, even just a water bowl placed on the warm end of the cage can dramatically change the environment of a reptile or invertebrate. The best way to integrate organic humidity is in the decor and substrate chosen. Speaking in broad terms, for the most part, everything outside of some ‘desert’ species will require some humidity. (Yes, there’s humidity in a Desert.) It has been our experience that the best way to provide humidity is with the use of natural devices.


When we refer to ‘organic’ substrates, we are referring to a material that would allow for the planting and growth of various species of plants, while being non-toxic to the animal being kept. With that stated, we prefer the following substrates for use in tropical vivariums:

Earth Gro Organic Potting Soil

Exo Terra Plantation Soil, 8 Quarts, 3-Pack

Desert _ Grasslands

This particular biome can be difficult to replicate without some knowledge of plants and soil mixtures. Because of this, we’re not going to get in-depth with it, and instead, recommend a few resources well suited assisting you.

There’s some debate whether certain desert species require a humid hide area in order to facilitate shedding (ecdysis). There’s also some debate over what constitutes a desert habitat. I’m specifically referring to Uromastyx, Bearded Dragons, and Leopard Geckos. When we speak of these animals being desert species, it doesn’t mean the blowing and swirling sands of a National Geographic sequence of the Sahara.

Creating Reptile Hide Moisture

Bearded Dragons, Leopard Geckos, and a few other desert species will benefit from having access to a humid hide.. In our experience, Uromastyx are not one of the species who benefit from a humid hide area, except for the U. geryi and U. benti.

A “moist hide” is different that a “wet hide.” This is a point where many keepers make an error in judgement that may unintentionally cause harm to the animal using it. If we want to create a moist hide area, the very best way we’ve found is using Irish Peat moss. This specific peat moss was recommended by our colleague in the United Kingdom, Dave L Johnson. Irish peat moss is a great substrate, if you can find it. This type of moss is very fungi-resistant and somewhat pest-resistant. In other words, fungus and bugs don’t seem to care for it much, and it holds moisture well, in addition to releasing enough water vapor to keep a balanced level of humidity. With regular intervals of spraying, you will eventually find the right balance of moisture and drying time. We’ve found it to work very well for our needs. If you cannot find this specific variety then there are some options, don’t fret.

Using Moss in the Reptile Hide

The key to using  moss is that there’s a huge difference between damp and wet. Take the moss from its packaging, then soak it in warm water overnight. The next day, take the moss and wring it thoroughly, to the point no water can be squeezed out. If the moss is still dripping water after being wrung out, it is considered “moist.” If the moss is further wrung out and doesn’t drip when squeezed again, the moss is “Damp”. Understanding the two will make the difference between a healthy lizard and a full-blown fungal infection.

We hope that we’ve given some helpful tips and options, and we of course would be interested in your own experiences with maintaining humidity. Let us know in the comments below what you’ve seen in the past, either work or not work.

Before you jump to another article we wanted to let you know. If you can accurately identify the song ‘tie-in’ with this article then you will be entered to win a FREE 2014 Subscription to Herpetoculture House Digital Magazine! Jump over here and let us know your guess Reptile Apartment Canada Facebook.
*We get a small percentage of the sale when you shop using our links, whether that’s to purchase reptile supplies or not.

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