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October 5, 2016

Eager to pump some visual pizzazz into an otherwise drab herp habitat? Want to feng shui your way to a more aesthetically appealing enclosure that reptiles can appreciate, too?

It’s time to multitask as an interior “pet-corator” and earn the trust of your customers by stocking and recommending the best décor products for scaly companions—because patrons are increasingly interested in decking their cages with the latest and most lively accoutrements.

Mirroring Nature
Frank Indiviglio, a New York City-based retailer consultant and herpetologist formerly with the Bronx and Staten Island Zoos, said the major décor trend he’s noticed in the past year is increasingly realistic plants, including terrestrial flora from woodland environments, desert plants like cacti and succulents, emergent vegetation native to swamps, floating plants for pond setups, and plants grouped with rocks.

“Previously, retailers were often limited to carrying fake plants designed for aquarium use,” said Indiviglio, who notes that manufacturers are also matching product look and design to a particular species needs. “But today, they’ve tweaked the plastic materials to mimic a much wider variety of plant species and there’s a greater attention to detail when it comes to plant décor.”

Case in point: Exo Terra’s Bromeliad Smart Plant retains water in a small cup-like area at its base, naturally attracting dart frogs to deposit eggs, despite being artificial.

This heightened realism isn’t limited to plants: hideouts look more like Mother Nature intended as well.

“Today’s hideaways actually have rough edges, resemble real shapes in the wild like rocks and thinkstockphotos-599977192hollow logs, and are offered in a variety of sizes,” Indiviglio added. “Some of these products are marketed as ‘retreats’ and ‘caves’ that attach to the side of the glass with suction cups.”

Pertinent examples of the aforementioned include Zilla Bark Bends terrarium decorations; A & E Cages’ Java wood hideouts; corner caves by Conceptual Creations; granite hideaways by MagNaturals (which lock in place via magnets); and Jungle Bob’s Reptile Grotto and Reptile Ravine, made of a non-toxic, hard poly resin that doesn’t tip over and which serve as preferred basking spots, secret nooks and backgrounds.

Betsey G. Moore, vice president of CaribSea, Inc., in Fort Pierce, Florida, echoed the sentiment that the indigenous look is in style.

“Natural-looking ecoscapes accurate to the native species’ habitat are popular,” Moore said. “Many hobbyists are also looking for décor that helps recreate a specific locale.”

More Ornamentation Trends
Additional merchandise movements Indiviglio has observed include:

• more diverse offerings of natural wood pieces, such as Zoo Med’s Natural Mopani Wood, a denser/harder wood that, unlike driftwood, doesn’t rot and sinks immediately in aquatic habitats or can be used as islands for turtles and frogs;

• more hanging vine products, which form a natural pathway for chameleons, arboreal lizards and other herps—Exo Terra’s line of hanging rainforest plant replicas (like Spanish Moss, Mandarin, and Abuliton Silk), and Galapagos’ new MossVine (100 percent natural vine made from real moss that bends to fit any enclosure) being good examples.

• more faux plants with suction cups, including Fluker’s Repta Vines’ line, ideal for most geckos and tree frogs that prefer to rest on tree trunks behind leaves.

Substrate can serve as décor when it’s an eye-catching product, and an infusion of color in this category can certainly help registers ring. Estes makes glow-in-the-dark calcium carbonate RepTerra sand, available in black, pink, red, white, black, purple, green and blue to liven up any enclosure. Zoo Med’s Vita Sand comes in orange, mauve or gold, and CaribSea provides Reptilite Brite calcium substrate in tan, rainforest green, gold, plum, desert rose, white and cactus blossom hues.

Au naturale bedding can also add visual appeal to a terrarium. Products featuring coconut husk, sphagnum moss and artificial moss mats, for instance, add an exotic look while also helping to retain moisture and cater to burrowing reptiles, as evidenced by CaribSea’s Coco Soft and Cypress Soft bedding, which boasts natural coconut husk and cypress bark to control odor and increase humidity.

Prompting Patrons
Bob Smith, owner of Jungle Bob’s Reptile World in Centereach, New York, said enclosure adornments need to be merchandised properly without necessarily being bundled together with repeat sale staples like food and lighting.

“Décor needs to catch the eye, and periodically moving these products to a different location in the store helps, especially if they’re not selling,” Smith said. “With this category, avoid complacency. Keep the products organized and neat, clean the shelves, and place the proper accent lighting on them.”

Using products in your own store displays is the best way to sell what’s on the shelf, Moore added.

“Placing signs on the enclosures showing hobbyists what the store is using helps to take the guesswork out of their animal’s care,” Moore said.

Smith agreed.

“We believe strongly in displaying décor items in our animal tanks and enclosures,” he said.

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