Scott Borden
Aug 13, 2018 · 7 min read

Tanks, Racks, and Cages…Oh My!

I think it’s time I address one of the elephants in the room, so to speak. It’s one of maybe 3 or 4 topics that can start a hundreds of comments long thread debate. The age old argument of cages, versus rack systems, versus tanks(I know tanks are for fish, right?….stay tuned). There are not many things that can stir up a hornets nest in the hobby quite like this debate. Everybody has their preference, and of course they are all the only right one. Or are they? What if I told you there is room for all types of animal housing? They all have their uses. Your way may work best for a certain species, but….that doesn’t mean it’s the only way that works, or that it works best for everything. Things aren’t only black and white, so I welcome you to the gray(audible gasps).

First please put your pitchforks away. Now let me start with the least controversial, cages. Cages come in all shapes and sizes. Honestly there are hardly any negatives associated with cages, seeing as you can consider cages anything built custom to the animals needs specifically. So you can check off all of the necessities from heat and humidity, to enrichment and security. Basically anything you can imagine can go into making cages the all around best option when it is customized to the specific animal/species needs. Baby or nervous/high strung species can be housed in small cages, while things like large monitor lizards can be housed in massive cages, or even customized rooms. The only real draw back to cages is they can be slightly less efficient from a space standpoint, and occasionally some species can do better in a rack system where security and humidity needs can be a touch easier to stay on top of. But if we are honest with ourselves, even caging can solve any issues if they are modified to the specific needs.

How about those rack systems? A pretty ingenious idea when you think about it. Even if you’re completely anti racks, you have to be able to sit back and appreciate the concept. When it comes to space efficiency there is no better system. I myself have found that I prefer raising baby snakes, especially of humidity/hydration sensitive species like white lip pythons, in rack systems. In my opinion, however once my white lips get to a certain size, their activity level really makes caging far more suitable and necessary than rack systems. Wether or not a species can live it’s entire life cycle out in a rack system really depends on all the factors involved in that species husbandry and biology. Some can, while others need different options. Racks are an acceptable way of keeping these animals as long as size, husbandry needs, and even stimulation are taken into account. Yes…I did say stimulation. While I’m not anti rack, and even grow my snakes up in them, we do need to stop acting like racks are the best option. Snake care especially has really stalled out when it comes to advancement because of many things that have become popular opinion around racks. Mental stimulation is a good thing and healthy. Also…the idea of sterile tubs, on paper is the only way to keep snakes, is actually completely false. This way of thinking is as bad as the myth of loose substrate being bad for some lizard species. Living in a sterile environment 24/7 is actually a detriment to any animals immune system(no this does not mean to keep them in a dirty environment, it just means it does not have to be surgery room sterile). Like I said, I use rack systems and I’m not against them. But if you’re one of the people who thinks they are the only way, please open your mind and educate yourself a bit more.

“Glass aquariums are only for fish”. Boy, how often have we all seen that phrase or one similar. Glass tanks are one of the hottest red buttons you could push in some groups due to many in the hobby detest for them. The reality is, many of us who have been keeping reptiles for 10,20, or more years…remember a time where racks were not used much, caging was not where it is today, and tanks were the easiest option available. The glass tank hate in groups, is often a similar thing to the venomous/poisonous thing. What I mean by this is, it’s used by some to put down others with less experience or resources to make ones self feel superior. I’ve often seen the phrase at the beginning of this paragraph accompanied by something like “snakes should not be kept in all glass- it doesn’t hold heat, humidity, and has no security”. I actually love that moment, because there is certainly better ways to do it with some species, while for others it’s perfectly fine and they will thrive. Carpet pythons being one species that will thrive in a tank. Another thing to consider, is many of us that keep warm humid species of geckos, keep them in exo terras. Exos are all glass and screen top, but yet tropical species of geckos can thrive in them when set up right. Now while I called out the folks who talk down on glass, please realize when glass is not the option for you. For instance, I would never ever consider keeping a white lip in one(although my first white lip 15 years ago, I did and it did ok while I had it). The issue is often heat lamps are used with glass tanks, which creates the perfect environment for dehydrating an animal. So it comes down to understanding your species needs, the best way to achieve those, and most importantly how to do so in a manner that the animal thrives. If it’s a species that probably shouldn’t be kept in a glass tank and won’t thrive at the highest level, it’s probably best to explore the other options. Remember…always animal first!

So at the end of the day, the reality is these are all viable options for keeping reptiles. Why all the drama then? Well if we are honest with ourselves here, it has to do with something I already touched on. Human nature is a funny thing. We love to be right and prove others wrong. Especially in our hobbies. So much of this debate is people regurgitating things they interpret as facts from social media groups to give them selves a feeling of superiority over a peer. But if your one of those people who have berated others for their choice of caging and told them a certain animal MUST be kept the way you say, well sadly you are the one who is wrong 99% of the time. There are many ways to do this. Some work better, some shouldn’t be used for certain things. But at the end of it all, even the “lowly” fish tank has a place and it’s uses. Many of us with more than a decade in the hobby used fish tanks to keep reptiles in pretty often, and “shockingly” successfully. You’ll find that it’s actually the most skilled reptile keepers who have such a good understanding of their species husbandry needs that they can keep them in just about anything and make it work. My goal for this blog was simple…to call out and bring attention to the hypocrisy and ridiculousness of this debate. There are far better more important things you can put your energy into. Next time you see someone with a ball python in a bioactive Vivarium, maybe hold back from preaching about racks being the only way, because of a bunch of regurgitated false facts you learned from Facebook groups. Or maybe next time you see someone with a carpet python juvenile in a rack system, don’t preach on things you actually have no experience in. Instead, open a discussion with the person….NOT to teach them something, but to LEARN something yourself. After all, the best way to improve this hobby is learning from others while simultaneously thinking outside the box. As always guys and gals, it’s about the animals and what’s best for them…always!

    Scott Borden

    Written by

    Reptile keeper since 1999 Instagram:Nyherp_revolution Youtube:Reptile Revolution Project Facebook:Scott Borden

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