Natural is in with hobbyists looking to bring some of the outside world in to their homes in the form of a terrarium or paludarium, and manufacturers, mindful of this growing consumer demand, are offering an array of products to help shoppers meet the goal.
Damian Hall, senior marketing manager for the Hagen Group in Mansfield, Mass., said the company’s Exo Terra brand is constantly researching materials and manufacturing processes to create its line of nature-inspired terrariums and paludariums, and accessories.
"More and more, we are seeing hobbyists looking to create fuller and more biologically diverse environments; we see this in the burgeoning popularity of paludariums," Hall said.
Exo Terra produces a variety of naturalistic functional décor pieces that promote the health and welfare of reptiles, from smart watering plants to misting systems to hideouts and feeding dishes, Hall said.
"The key to maintaining successful habitats is to make your reptiles feel at home, in your home," Hall said. "We all know that consumers need proper lighting, heating and habitats to be successful; we should not forget about the proper décor pieces either."
Daniel Thomas, owner of Animal House in Mukwonago, Wis., said customers are going for a more natural look in their terrariums and paludariums and want to replicate the natural environment as closely as possible.
"Everyone is starting to go bio-active—creating an ecosystem in the terrarium in which we don’t have to interfere—and using live plants, real woods and live cleanup crews, such as isopods and springtails, to take care of organic waste," he said. "Customers are looking for the easiest and most natural way to get these animals into their house, along with a small piece of their natural habitat to make the animals feel at home."
As the popularity of naturalistic live planted terrariums continues to rise—a trend Justin Kreller, manager of Rare Exotic Pets in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, continues to see—more manufacturers have noticed and begun to fill the demand, and that includes an increasing availability of the supplies necessary to maintain them.
"There are finally products available that make setting up these types of enclosures easy and practical for beginners, with the equipment to keep them up and running," he said.
Angel Huang, owner of Angels Exotic Pets and Supplies in Glendora, Calif., said a lot of customers prefer the more basic setups, such as the plug-and-play Biopod paludariums and Zilla’s vertical terrariums, which have a lid that can easily be removed to give owners access to the inside of the enclosure more efficiently.
Ryan McVeigh, brand manager for Zilla, a brand of Franklin, Wis.-based Central Garden & Pet, said front-opening terrariums are definitely trending upward as they are more widely available, are easily accessible and provide more options for creating a naturalistic vivarium.
"More people want natural habitats with live plants as not only a better environment for their animals, but also a more aesthetic piece in their home," he said. "Paludariums seem to come and go every few years. They are unique habitats, but many times, they require just the right person to care for and set them up properly, keeping [paludariums] more in the field of the expert hobbyist."
Creating enviable terrarium or paludarium displays, complete with all the available accessories, is among the most effective ways to inspire hobbyists and boost sales in the category, said industry participants.
According to Angel Huang, owner of Angels Exotic Pets and Supplies in Glendora, Calif., setting up samples on the sales floor so people can get ideas on how to build their own terrariums or paludariums is a sure way to encourage sales. These displays also highlight all the add-ons shoppers can purchase to improve their setups.
"The more supplies you highlight, the more interest there will be in these products," Huang said. "Customers like to see them in action."
Daniel Thomas, owner of Animal House in Mukwonago, Wis., suggests displaying the terrariums and paludariums with lighting, thermometers, humidifiers and other accessories.
"Have live plants, have varying natural woods, and have the substrate they need to ensure proper humidity levels and long life for not only the animal but the bio organisms in the setup, too," he said. "We carry live plants, tons of woods, your cleanup crew—such as springtails—varying substrates depending on the animals’ needs, and much more for these live and natural setups. You want to offer it all."
Damian Hall, senior marketing manager for the Hagen Group in Mansfield, Mass., agreed that it’s all about seeing product out of the box on the store floor.
"We recommend that retailers set up and display terrariums so consumers can see the products in action," he said.
Ashley Rademacher, animal care and education director for Zoo Med Laboratories in San Luis Obispo, Calif., noted that the impact of a beautiful habitat is hard to describe in a sales pitch, so having a living display is extremely valuable.
"These habitats are meant to be a little piece of nature in your home, so why not put one together in your store to show customers what they could have in their homes?" she said. "An important thing to remember about paludariums is that they appeal to so many different people. Aquatic hobbyists, reptile enthusiasts, amphibian keepers … these are all potential customers."
On the Market
Manufacturers of paludariums, terrariums and the necessary accessories are striving to deliver on customer demand for versatile, easy-to-use products that closely mimic natural habitats.
Damian Hall, senior marketing manager for the Hagen Group in Mansfield, Mass., noted that Exo Terra’s mission is to create reptile and amphibian habitats that allow hobbyists to replicate natural environments.
"Our latest creation—the Exo Terra Paludarium—features a watertight base that allows for the integration of compatible aquatic or burrowing species [in a] traditional rainforest environment," he said.
Ryan McVeigh, brand manager for Zilla, a brand of Franklin, Wis.-based Central Garden & Pet, said front-opening terrariums and paludariums can make it difficult to get décor and climbing surfaces higher up in the enclosure without cluttering the bottom. For this reason, Zilla recently launched its line of Vertical Décor, which uses a vacuum-levered suction cup to securely mount décor items to the glass.
"This allows the consumer the ability to get feeding dishes, perches and hide boxes higher up in the enclosure without using needed floor space," McVeigh said. "The new Spring Cave also creates a more natural water feature and drinking spot for many species, while blending into a natural habitat easily."
Ashley Rademacher, animal care and education director for Zoo Med Laboratories in San Luis Obispo, Calif., said the company has spent the past couple of years perfecting its paludarium and putting together a cohesive line of products that are meant to be used with paludarium enclosures.
"Zoo Med was proud to actually bring the first paludarium to the reptile market last year," she said. "Along with the tank, we have developed products such as heaters, filters, a platform shelf and a specialty lighting kit that support a healthy paludarium."
The Paludarium Heater is a compact, programmable, submersible heater that will help maintain a warm water feature for tropical aquatic pets, and features a digital temperature display, suction-cup mounting and an extra-long cord to make application easy. The new Paludarium Filter is a low-profile, submersible, corner filter that keeps the water feature clean and clear. This filter also features an exclusive easy-open door that allows for simple filter cleaning and maintenance without having to remove the filter and disturb the tank, Rademacher said.
"The Paludarium UVB and Plant Growth Lighting Kit will light up a display and provide the correct lighting for reptiles and plants," Rademacher said. "The included Reptisun 5.0 lamp provides UVB, which will help reptiles build and maintain strong bones, and UVA, which will support normal feeding and breeding behaviors."