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Herp Marketplace: Herp Housing as if in Nature

Posted: July 9, 2013, 4:30 p.m. EDT

By P.S. Jones

In line with the rest of the pet industry, terrariums are trending toward natural. Manufacturers are releasing habitats and accessories that add a natural look to the units, and retailers reported promoting customized options to fit their clients’ needs.

"The habitat, or terrarium, is the most important aspect of reptile and amphibian keeping. It’s the building block to creating the perfect environment,” said Steve Sotel, Exo Terra division manager for Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass.

Natural habitats are gaining ground with reptile and amphibian keepers. Courtesy of Hoffmann’s Reptiles

In addition to focusing on natural-looking habitats, some customers are creating their own custom versions.

"Natural vivariums are becoming increasingly popular, with many consumers even building their own custom backgrounds,” said Paul Demas, project manager for Penn-Plax Inc. in Hauppauge, N.Y.

Because not all hobbyists can or want to build custom backgrounds, Demas said the company’s Reptology division recently released a line of natural-looking backgrounds called the Rockies, which are designed to fit most terrariums and easily can be trimmed to fit smaller sizes.

"These backgrounds instantly transform a boring, sterile environment into a natural one,” he said. "They also make impressive waterfalls or drip walls perfect for high-humidity environments.”

Another way retailers help consumers achieve a natural look with their terrariums is through lighting.

"Many herp keepers enjoy designing and building large, naturalistic habitats for their pets, and lighting is an essential part of the habitat for many species,” said Ashley Rademacher, animal care and education coordinator for Zoo Med Laboratories Inc. in San Luis Obispo, Calif. "To provide sufficient UVB for vitamin D3 synthesis in very large enclosures, a higher output UVB lamp is necessary. Proper exposure to UVB can prevent and even reverse metabolic bone disease in reptiles.”

Inspire Sales With In-Store Displays
Most retailers of herp habitats rely on eye-catching displays to move product.

Jade Jocelyn, owner of Aquarium World in Lafayette, Ind., said that with all the modern tools available to retailers, displays remain the most persuasive.

"They seem to work better than anything else,” she said.

It’s easier to sell to terrarium consumers when they can picture what the environment will look like when set up properly, according to Nick Kornblith, senior brand manager for Cincinnati-based Tetrafauna.

"When possible, it is best to showcase the habitat with an inspirational display, ideally featuring live animals and attractive décor,” he said. "Then the consumer can picture for themselves how the habitat might look in their home.”

Terrarium displays can work in several places on the retail floor, but a prominent position near the front of the store can be very effective, said Paul Demas, project manager for Penn-Plax Inc. in Hauppauge, N.Y.

"I always recommend a big display that ‘hits’ customers as soon as they walk in,” he said. "For example, the Tortoise Palace makes a great interactive store display. The Palace allows consumers to get up close to the tortoises and shows them how their animals should be housed and taken care of.”

Ashley Rademacher, animal care and education coordinator for Zoo Med Laboratories Inc. in San Luis Obispo, Calif., also said retailers should put the displays near the registers, which can inspire the interest of a customer who wouldn’t normally buy a herp habitat.

"The front counter of a pet store is a great place to put an inspirational enclosure,” she said. "These beautiful habitats can inspire someone who hasn’t even considered keeping herps. Customers that come in to purchase dog food or bird seed might see a terrarium with a low-maintenance tree frog and decide to try keeping one in their homes. Placing a terrarium on a nice-looking stand can help people envision this ‘piece’ in their homes. People see these habitats set up and ready for an animal, and they can imagine it as a focal point in their homes.” —PSJ


The company’s Reptisun HO T5 lighting is designed to provide high output and deep UVB penetration, she said, adding, "These lamps also provide bright visible light to illuminate an enclosure and UVA to promote natural behaviors. These bulbs are made in Germany to the highest standard for longevity and light quality.”

Combining Form and Function
In addition to the habitat’s appearance, consumers want to know that the maintenance and setups will fit with their lifestyles. In response, manufacturers continue to improve maintenance methods.

"We looked at ways of improving methods of maintenance,” said Rolf C. Hagen’s Sotel. "Ultimately we came up with a true Natural Terrarium that was not only functional and healthier for reptiles and amphibians, but also significantly more aesthetically pleasing.”

He reported that the company’s 12-inch-tall Low series of terrariums, which is designed to benefit some of the more common species of reptiles—such as bearded dragons and ball pythons—that do not need extended height in their habitats, have been a success.

"They exhibit all the same features our existing line of terrariums have … and because they are lower profile, avid reptile hobbyists and keepers can have multiple units in their homes,” he said.

With the help of renowned reptile breeder Ron Tremper and his associates, Cincinnati-based Tetrafauna reported coming up with new habitat ideas for making reptile keepers more successful.

"We are very excited about our innovative line of Tetrafauna Deluxe ReptoHabitats,” said Nick Kornblith, Tetrafauna’s senior brand manager. "These sliding-door habitats are optimized for aquatic denizens … and work well for terrestrial animals.”

Customizing the Experience
One size does not necessarily fit all with herp habitats. Manufacturers, such as Zoo Med, reported keeping the individual customer’s experience in mind when designing products.

"It is essential for herp keepers, especially beginners, to have a great experience,” Rademacher said. "Starting out with a new reptile or amphibian pet can sometimes be confusing, so we are trying to take out some of the guesswork and make sure that people can be successful with their pets.”

Zoo Med recently released several starter kits made inside 40-gallon tanks with split, sliding screen tops and customized for bearded dragons, aquatic turtles and tortoises, Rademacher said. Each kit includes a care book for the species, heating, lighting, foods, supplements and other species-appropriate items, she added.

"These starter kits are designed to provide the essentials for care of these animals so a new pet owner can bring an animal home and feel confident that they have everything that they really need to begin taking care of it,” she said.

Some retailers go one step further in customizing for customers. Liam Grin, a reptile specialist for Menagerie Pet Shop in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, said customers come in with a variety of industry knowledge, and it’s the staff’s job to fill in the gaps for them.

"We don’t sell a lot of kits here,” Grin said. "We like to talk to our customers about what they will need for their specific pet. It’s more about the long-term needs of that pet and owner. We want them to have the supplies they will need after it grows into an adult, not just for the short time it’s going to be a baby.”

According to Penn-Plax’s Demas, the pets that fill these terrariums aren’t the only thing that will continue to grow.

"The herp habitat market still is growing and will get even better,” he said. "The future is bright; stay tuned.” <HOME>


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