How To Build A Reptile Terrarium

Do you want to save some money by making your own cage for your reptile pet?

Are you looking to get crafty and creative in how you keep your pet?

For people who love keeping reptiles, making your own tank is a great way to save some cash and express creativity.

It does take some extra work, and if not done correctly, the cage may end up harming your pet.

We’re here to help with this guide on how to build a reptile terrarium.

Building a reptile terrarium is simple if you know where to begin. Essentially, you need to either find a wooden container or frame in the correct dimensions. Then, use plexiglass or real glass to close in the sides.

This simplified form of the process needs some explanation.

Check out the rest of the post for more details.

Note: This process applies to most reptiles, but not the largest ones such as iguanas and boa constrictors.

how to build a reptile terrarium

What You’ll Need To Build A Reptile Tank

When looking at how to build a reptile tank, you’ll need some materials.

This section covers what we recommend.

Wooden Container – You need a container for your pet to stay in.

A lot of crafty reptile owners will end up converting a cabinet for this purpose.

This ends up saving you some time, but if you don’t have one available (scour Facebook Marketplace or garage sales, and you’ll find one easily), it’s OK to use the next item instead.

How big do you need? It depends on the pet itself, so check out what your pet needs.

Wood Frame Pieces – If you’re not using an already-made container and converting it, use some wood framing pieces. 

The exact size depends again on the pet itself.

I recommend 1″ inch x 1″ inch pieces for size around.

Screws – You’ll want a few screws if you’re assembling your own framed container.

If you’re using a pre-made one, you probably won’t need them at all.

Screwdriver/Drill – Whether you do your own container or convert one, you’ll probably need a screwdriver or cordless drill to help with the process.

We recommend cordless drills whenever possible; it makes your life easier.

Saw – For both containers, you’ll want a small saw to help you out.

It’s needed to cut the frame wood into the correct length.

A good handsaw is also for cutting out the top of the container if it doesn’t unscrew or come apart easily.

Plexiglass – One side of your tank should include a plexiglass window to look into the tank.

Glass is the norm for most manufactured tanks, but when it comes to building your own, we recommend plexiglass because it’s easier to work with and cut to length.

Mesh Screen – This is for the top. We like mesh for the top because it allows for better air circulation and heat penetration from the basking bulbs

Adhesive – Glue the plexiglass onto the wood with an acrylic or epoxy.

This is a huge time saver when it comes to glass vs. plexiglass.

Plywood – If the framing doesn’t come with bottoms and sides already, you’ll need to cut and place plywood here.

Just make sure the material is smooth to prevent splinters (or covered).  

Staple Gun – Staples makes sticking the mesh on easier.

Hinges/Lock – If your container doesn’t already come with a door, you’ll need the hinges to make your own.

Don’t forget a locking mechanism to keep the door closed.

Step By Step Instructions On How To Build A Reptile Terrarium

In this section, we’ll walk you through one way to make a reptile cage out of wood.

Follow these steps and make sure the pieces are as secure as possible.

Here’s another way to go about it if you like to look at multiple options.

#1 Pick Your Dimensions

The first big step is to decide what dimensions you need.

Here is what is recommended for each reptile.

Use this to determine what size you’re going for.

Keep in mind the ratio needs to stay the same.

For example, a chameleon needs a taller space than wide.

ReptileDimension Requirements (at minimum)
Bearded Dragon25″ inches long x 25″ inches wide x 25″ inches tall (at least 75 gallons)
Chameleon4′ feet long x 4′ feet wide x 4′ feet tall
Leopard Gecko18″ inches long x 12″ inches wide x 12″ inches tall
Corn Snake12″ inches long x 24″ inches wide x 12″ inches tall
Ball Python4′ feet long x 2′ feet wide x 2′ feet tall

#2A Open Up The Doors And Top

If you’re using an already-assembled container, use this step.

Take the interior panel off the door if the cabinet has one. It should be open.

Also, remove the top panel to leave it open to the air.

How you go about this depends on the cabinet itself.

#2B Frame In The Container

For people learning how to make a reptile tank by framing their own space, you have some more work.

Measure and cut your frames to the right dimensions.

Reference the previous step for help.

Use screws to attach the framed pieces.

Cut and insert plywood or bottom and wall materials. 

Keep at least one side open for the plexiglass, but you may keep all sides open.

The top also needs to be open for the mesh.

Use wood glue to stick the sides and bottom down.

#3 Cut Plexiglass

With the sides open, measure how much plexiglass you’ll need to cover your open sides.

Cut the glass to the dimensions required.

A saw can do the job, but you may have a cleaner cut with a box cutter of some kind.

We recommend measuring the glass, so it sticks on the inside of the frame.

It looks more finished this way, but gluing it to the outside is far easier.

In the end, it’s up to you.

#4 Glue Plexiglass On

Use the epoxy to stick the plexiglass on where you want it to be.

Hold it on yourself or use clamps to make sure it sticks.

The exact process for gluing depends on the adhesive used.

Some require heating up or adding water before use.

Be sure to check the specific product directions before starting.

Note: If you’re making a door on the front of the tank, be sure to cut a separate piece for the door.

#5 Make Door

If the door isn’t already there, attach the hinges and door locks as recommended by the makers.

The door must fit tight, and when the locking mechanism engages, it doesn’t open at all.

Alternatively, you may wish to use the plexiglass and frame to make a smaller door or mesh door on the top.

If the container you’re using already comes with a door, skip this step, but make sure it shuts very tight.

#6 Attach Mesh Screen Top

Measure and cut your screen to match the dimensions on the top.

Staple down the mesh with your staple gun so there isn’t any opening or gaps.

Every bit needs to be held down flush with the frame. 

Note: If you preferred to make a mesh door on top, make sure the mesh piece is cut separately and attached to the door frame.

#7 Check For Sharp And Loose Edges

Now your reptile cage is essentially complete.

You’ll need to add to the habitat before it’s ready for the reptile, but the space is prepared.

Before adding anything, you’ll need to do a once over on the whole space.

Check for any sharp edges in the mesh or wood.

Splinters and cuts are bad.

You may wish to cover the wood with a liner or reptile carpet where possible.

Also, press on the mesh, wood, and plexiglass to check for loose spots.

If it’s loose now, it may come even looser later.

At best, your pet may end up getting a limb out of the tank and stuck.

At worst, it may escape completely!

Congrats! Your reptile tank is ready, and now you know how to build a reptile cage.


We hope this guide for building a reptile terrarium helps you get more involved in keeping your reptile happy and healthy.

Many people think learning how to build a reptile enclosure for cheap is too difficult for them to do, but the process doesn’t have to be.

The biggest thing to remember is the dimensions needed for each specific reptile.

The directions above will work to make a tank for any reptile, but you need to make the size specific to each reptile.

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