There have been many inquires on the forums and to me about cages, paints, sealants, wiring, lighting and many other things to be considered when housing herps. I will try to help out by offering some of the things I have learned over the years. Some worked well, some didn't. Some of the ideas were original, some were borrowed from others and adapted to my needs.
I will deal primarily with housing snakes, since that is what I keep. I do not feel qualified to talk on housing amphibians or most lizards. I will leave that to those who have experience with those animals.
There are many things to be considered in buying or building cages: the types and sizes of snakes you will be housing, how much space you have available, how much you can afford to spend, how handy you are with tools, etc.
There are many facets to building cages such as types of materials, paints, sealants, lighting, heating, door styles, plexiglass vs. glass and so forth. Because of the variety of topics, I will do separate pages for some of them
I also have some of the plastic cages, both Vision and Neodesha. I won't go into the positives and negatives of them, but I will make a suggestion: I've found it very hard to get the dried urea off the bottoms of the cages, so I now spray the cages with silicon spray before i use them. I spray the bottom and for a few inches up the sides. This makes for a very good release of sticky material when cleaning the cages.
What Type of Cage?
Glass or Plexiglass?
Paints and Sealants
Racks for Plastic Boxes
Substrates and Beddings
I started building my own cages and racks over thirty years ago. Back then there weren't that many herpers around my area, and most of them kept their animals in aquaria. I consider aquaria good for some animals, but for the most part they are too hard to clean, too easy to break and are not space efficient.
Many of the cages are designs I have come up with myself. Others are ideas which were stolen from other herpers and adapted to my needs. Don't be afraid to steal a good idea, particularly if you can refine it a bit.
My first "rack" system was built in a hurry in the late 60's. I had just returned from a collecting trip to Trinidad and had animals on the way from there, plus my existing collection, plus a shipment coming in from Thailand and more coming in from California. I spent all of my free time cutting, nailing and gluing until the wee hours of the morning. That system consisted of plywood boxes, approximately 24" deep, 16" wide and 12" high. The inside was covered with Formica for easy cleaning, and sealed in the edges. They had hinged Plexiglass fronts, with hasps and locks and the top was a removable frame covered with 1/4" hardware cloth. The tops were recessed into the box and held in place by the strips of wood which held the rack above. They actually worked quite nicely and were easy to clean. The only problem came when a 12 foot African rock python got on top of the rack and pushed it away from the wall, causing several of the boxes to fall out.
For the larger snakes I still build my own cages, mostly from 3/4" birch plywood. I like the birch plywood because it is flat, smooth, solid and light weight.
For the smaller snakes, such as colubrids and babies that I am raising up, I use various types of plastic boxes, such as Isis and rubbermaid. I have built a variety of types of racks to hold these boxes. Currently I favor using 1/4" coated pegboard for the tops, as this allows for excellent ventilation.
For the smallest babies (the "masters of escape") I have broken down and purchased a couple of racks built by ClearChoice. These are excellent racks, made of clear Lexan and using clear hard plastic boxes. Even the smallest snake will have trouble finding a way out of these racks. As much as it pains me to pay for something I can usually make for myself, the money saved in "non-escapees" has made these racks worthwhile, and the engineering on them is better than I would do.
I have stayed away from the plastic manufactured cages mainly because the sizes did not fit my needs and space. I think there are some excellent manufactured cages out there, and if they ever make them to fit my needs, I will probably buy some. Some of them I don't buy because they don't stack, but require a rack. Some I don't buy because they have too much depth to width ratio. I just don't have the space or the need for 3 or 4 feet of depth, particularly on a cage which is four feet wide.
If you can think of any more topics along these lines which I can cover, let me know. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.