What species should I keep in my new vivarium? And, is the smell of silicone safe?

“This is my first vivarium I set up and don’t know where to go next. It’s a basic ten gallon tank and I used great stuff and black silicon for my background construction. I used gravel for the bottom, then a foam “lizard pad” to separate my gravel from the potting soil and then I laid “coco soil” for the very top layer. My plants are basic from “Lowes hardware” an ivy plant and two other unknown plants.

Concerns

1. What type of top should go onto this ten gallon to provide the best humidity?

2. What type of light do you recommend?

3. What would be an ideal animal to start her off with in this setup?

4. The tank has been set up for a week and I still smell a light odor of the silicon is that safe?

5. Other Recommendations? Heat source?

What Type of Animal to Keep

The most important question is number three—what would be an ideal animal for this setup? Let me address this first, since some of the other questions relate to it.

But, before that, I want to mention it is usually best to first decide what species or reptile or amphibian you want to keep and then develop housing for it. Different species require different care and enclosure setups, so start with the species you want to keep first and then develop a terrarium to accommodate it.

A 10-gallon aquarium is not very large so you will be restricted to keeping a smaller species of amphibian or reptile. If it has a background in it that is also taking up space, so really we are thinking of the smallest amphibians or reptiles to keep.

It also sounds like the terrarium was setup for a terrestrial species and without a large water area. One of the best easy-to-keep species that can live well in a 10-gallon aquarium is the fire-bellied toad, but they would need access to a sizable water area.

Instead, some other ideas that come to mind include reed frogs, bumble bee toads, a smaller-sized true toad like oak toads or green toads, or perhaps a very small gecko, like a mourning gecko or similar sized species.

A single Asian painted frog, tomato frog, or pacman frog would live alright in a 10-gallon aquarium as well, but these species burrow and tend to disturb live plants.

You may also find people recommending to keep different tree frogs, such as North American green tree frogs or red-eyed tree frogs, but I would advise against it because of the tank size, especially if there is a background made from Great Stuff that takes up additional space.

Terrarium Top

The type of cover to use depends first on the animals and plants kept inside.

For most species suggested above, a standard screen cover should work fine. This is what I would use if keeping the toads, and it would work for the geckos or reed frogs as well.

You can also make your own to fit inside the lip of the aquarium using aluminum window frame and installing fiberglass screen in it yourself, and this is probably the best option if you choose to keep a gecko or reed frogs, which both like to fit themselves inside the gap between the aquarium lip and cover, making them especially prone to escaping.

Using custom window frame in combination with glass is another good option. Using glass for half or more of the top (having it cut so that it sits recessed within the plastic aquarium frame) and using screen for the other section is a popular option. This will help maintain high levels of humidity.

If you find you are having difficulty keeping the humidity high enough to grow plants, you can use plastic wrap to restrict ventilation over a screen cover or in especially dry areas use glass for 80-90% of the top.

Lighting

This depends on the animals kept and the temperature of the room the terrarium is within. In the simplest situation, a single 18” fluorescent tube running the length of the terrarium will be adequate. Having two or three will look even better, especially if they all have a color temperature of 5000 or 65000 Kelvin.

You could also look into LED lighting or spiral compact fluorescent bulbs. These types provide more intense light and can be beneficial to plants, though a 10 gallon aquarium is not very tall so these stronger forms of lighting are probably not needed.

It is also important to check the temperature in different parts of the terrarium. Different species have different temperature requirements. The geckos will benefit from a hot spot near the top of the terrarium, while the frogs and toads may not need as warm of an area. There is also the consideration of UVB radiation, which is important for many reptiles and amphibians, and this type of lighting will need to be placed over a screen section of the cover if used (though none of the species I suggested above require it).

Silicone Smell

After making a custom background with Great Stuff and silicone, the smell of the silicone may linger for a few days or even weeks. This should not be harmful. Set the terrarium up and let it grow in for several weeks or months and over time the smell will go away.

Other Recommendations

My only other thought is regarding your next vivarium. Choose the species you want to keep first and then afterwards construct the enclosure. This way, you can figure out what features are important for the species you want to keep before building it.

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