May 5, 2014

There are no more excuses for a soiled, or sloppy, herp habitat, as the market is loaded with a multitude of specialized cleaning commodities that can make the dirtiest of tasks quick and easy.

“The category has grown significantly over the years, which has allowed manufacturers to develop more products for consumers to be successful with in terms of routine cleaning,” Celine Pillu, trade marketing manager for Mars Fishcare North America, Inc., said. “Pet owners benefit by having to spend less time on routine tank maintenance and more time observing and interacting with their pets.”

Pet Cleaner Progress

Ask Frank Indiviglio, consultant zoologist for

“Nowadays, they have specific products tailored to particular reptile and amphibian species, which each have different needs and requirements,” Indiviglio said. “There are products to replace the slime coat on certain animals, products to remove chlorine and chloramines from the water, terrarium enzyme-based cleaners and disinfectants, and specialized filters for animals like water turtles. These products are not only safer for the pets but also for people, too.”

The reasons for the increase in reptile cleaning-related supplies are simple. First, consumers are better educated about the possibility of spreading diseases and pathogens. Secondly, ball pythons, geckos, bearded dragons, box turtles and other species that used to be on the periphery of popularity have gone mainstream. Both factors have led to an increased demand in tailor-made merchandise to prevent diseases and prolong pet lifespan.

Consequently, the category has seen greater differentiation and a wider variety of options in recent years.

“Consider how many different types of herp cleaning products you see today, from supplies that lower the pH in a turtle’s cage and removable terrarium liners, to extra long cleaning gloves designed to prevent mycobacteria infections and tongs that allow you to pull out waste products and dirty supplies from an aggressive animal’s cage,” Indiviglio said.

Simpler, Safer Solutions

Different types of habitats may need different kinds of cleaning, but for any habitat, care should be taken to use only reptile-safe cleaning and sanitizing products as directed, Ashley Rademacher, animal care and education coordinator for Zoo Med Labs, Inc., said.

She said pet owners desire simple and quick-acting products nowadays, such as Zoo Med’s Wipeout 1, a disinfectant, cleaner and deodorizer-in-one that kills a broad spectrum of bacteria, including Salmonella choleraesuis, in cages, furniture, dishes and other supplies.

“The product is easy to use, just spray it on, let it sit for five minutes, and wipe the surface dry,” Rademacher said.

In addition to fast and easy, today’s consumers value safe and natural features in their cleaning goods.

“Reptile owners are looking for natural cleaners because they don’t want to use products that might contain harmful ingredients,” said Vincent Hourihan, vice president of pet and home solutions for Natural Chemistry, makers of Healthy Habitat, a spray-on cleaner and deodorizer that uses special enzymes to neutralize many different odors. “Some reptile collections are very valuable, and no one wants to take a chance with a non-natural ingredient.”

Miscellaneous Needs

More mite and lice sprays are also available today for many snake, lizard and land tortoise species that kill the pests on contact, including Natural Chemistry’s Reptile Spray, Pro Products’ Provent-a-Mite and Zoo Med’s Mite Off.

“Mites are annoying to the reptiles and, if left untreated, can cause stress and result in the death of the animal,” Hourihan said.

Aquatic turtles are known to get especially dirty, creating a major challenge for owners to keep their habitats clean. API Turtle Sludge Destroyer is one of several solutions pet retailers can offer that cuts through the grime by using beneficial bacteria to break down organic waste and debris, while helping to eliminate odors, too.

Lastly, manufacturers offer an array of terrarium scoopers that are designed to sift out and remove waste matter from substrate. Two prime examples are Zilla’s Corner Litter Scooper, which boasts a right-angle design meant to wedge easily into cage corners and crevices; and Exo Terra’s durable stainless steel scooper, which features a fine mesh basket to capture more debris.

Capitalizing on Clean

The proliferation of cleaning products in recent years provides an opportunity for retailers to add to their offerings, and educate patrons on the need to clean and maintain cages regularly with appropriate merchandise.

“Try setting up displays in your store featuring crystal clear habitats and the new, recommended cleaning products that can be used to produce those sparkling cages,” Indiviglio said. “And use proper signage and word-of-mouth recommendations from your workers to enlighten shoppers about the benefits of these products.”

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