5. Simple vs. Naturalistic Setups
A simple setup might contain 2 or 3 perches, a heat source (with a connected thermostat), water bowl, and substrate. People with larger collections tend to choose simple setups since they require less maintenance. What a simple setup lacks in visual appeal is made up for in practicality. In addition to requiring less maintenance, simple setups enable a more thorough cleaning/disinfecting than more elaborate setups.
Simple setups are easy to clean and disinfect, provide a clean/healthy environment for the chondro, and they are economical/ more cost-effective. Another benefit is that defecations are easily spotted and removed. On the other hand, simple setups are visually less appealing, have potentially lower air quality due to the absence of plants, and are more likely to harbor higher bacterial loads when “spot-cleaning” is performed (if using mulch as a substrate).
A naturalistic setup can be as basic as just adding live potted plants to an enclosure, or as complex as having plants rooted directly into a bio-active substrate where isopods and microorganisms help break down waste matter that hasn’t been removed. The primary issue with adding potted plants is that gnats often accompany them. If you do select a bio-active substrate, make sure you research it to ensure you do it correctly. If not, over time a closed system vivarium can build up dangerous levels of pathogens, which can be harmful to your snake.
The upside of naturalistic setups is that they are visually appealing, have potentially better air quality, and provide a more enriched environment. And if set up correctly, they can actually require less cleaning than a simple setup. A downside to a natural setup includes the pesky gnats that are often attracted to plants and woodchip substrates. Also, if given a lot of cover (hide areas), some animals may choose to stay hidden at the expense of seeking an appropriate basking spot. This has the potential to interfere with proper thermoregulation and can lead to illness such as respiratory infections. Naturalistic setups are also less practical for larger collections. And despite the fact that isopods help break down waste, naturalistic setups can be more difficult to clean and disinfect since defecations are not as easily spotted. In other words, there is a higher potential for the environment to develop an unhealthy level of pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria.
Whatever cage design you decide to use you will need to make sure that it has: Proper temp gradient, proper humidity and good ventilation/air flow. These are very important elements to keeping your animal healthy!