Evolution of a Lizard Room Part II: Maintaining Humidity

As Julienne mentioned in the introductory post in our series on lab anole husbandry, we’ve been through a lot of trial and error over the past few years.  One fairly persistent issue has been maintaining our lizard rooms temperature and humidity.  Without humidification, our room’s humidity fluctuated from lows of around 5% in the winter months to highs around 30 or 40% during the summer months.  We’ve used a number of different techniques to introduce more humidity into the room, with varying degrees of success.  A brief recap of our experiences is below.

The Moist AIR whole home humidifier from Home Depot that proved to be completely ineffective.

We started by picking up the biggest and most expensive humidifier at the local Home Depot – a 5.25 gallon Moist AIR whole home humidifier that cost around $150.  The design of this evaporative unit couldn’t have been any simpler, with two fans at the top being used to draw humid air up from a water-filled basin.  One problem was immediately apparent: the construction was shoddy and the plastic was cracking before we even got it out of the box.  Worse still, this unit was almost completely ineffective at raising the room’s humidity.  If the basin was full of water and the fans were running at their highest speed, the best we could do was to bump the humidity up a few percent.  To enjoy even this marginal benefit, we would have had to manually refill the water reservoirs at least once or twice a daily.  We returned this unit within a week of purchase, but we learned two important lessons from its use: (1) we needed an industrial unit, not some rinky-dink home humidifier and (2) we needed something that hooked directly into the water supply to avoid the need to manually fill water reservoirs.

Our second attempt to humidify our lizard room involved a model that looked identical to this one (photo from http://tobacconistu.blogspot.com).

Our next step was to try a humidifier that actively vaporizes and disperses a cool mist.  By tapping directly into the water line (see photo below), we were able to avoid the need to refill a reservoir in this device.  We installed this humidifier in the winter of 2011, but it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t going to be a long term solution.  Even when running constantly, we were only able to bump humidity in January from 8-9% to around 15%.  The fact that it was running constantly also led to corrosion within the first few weeks and lots of nasty rusty water dripping all over our counter and floors.  By the time spring arrived we were tearing this unit out and installing a new humidifier that remains in use to this day.

The Skuttle humidifier we are currently using is on the top right. Inset illustrates where we tapped a pipe to provide water for this unit.

Our current humidifier is just a heavy-duty, heated version of the evaporation-based system that we tried previously.  The unit we have is the Skuttle 60-BC1 steam humidifier which uses a fan adjacent to a small basin of heated water to disperse humid air (although its called a steam unit, it produces no visible steam).  This unit runs more or less constantly and has proven much more effective than anything we’ve used previously.  When it was installed in May, the percent humidity in the room jumped from the 20s to the 40s.  It remained in the 40s throughout most of the summer, but is now dropping back down into the 20s as the dry winter air returns.  The unit seems well made, but we definitely need to get a water filter installed to slow-down the build-up of gunk in the evaporation tank.  We have yet to see how it will do in the driest months, but we’re optimistic that this unit is part of our long-term solution.

We’ve looked into lots of other options, but haven’t yet come across anything that’s made us consider replacing our current humidifier.  I’d love to learn more about how others are trying to maintain humidity in lizard rooms.

About Rich Glor

Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester and longtime anole enthusiast.
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3 Responses to Evolution of a Lizard Room Part II: Maintaining Humidity

  1. Yoel Stuart says:

    For the breeding experiment I’ve been working on, we’ve been humidifying the room with Home Depot style humidifiers. It was okay during the summer (reaching around 40%) humidity but already this fall we’ve dropped down to around 30%, as you described happening to your room. Looks like we may have to go the same route as your lab, or mist the cages more often.

    Did you ever put any humidity gauges inside the lizard cages? It’d be interesting to know how low the humidity gets in the cages, which hold humidity better than the room itself.

  2. julienneng says:

    We have had log tags recording both temperature and humidity in the cages, and it fluctuates between 40-100% between each cage misting. I’d have to look back on our records to see how much the minimum humidity has changed pre- and post- humidifier.

  3. Rich Glor says:

    As Juilenne said, the cages definitely hold more humidity than the room, but not as much as you might expect. There is often a big spike in humidity immediately after spraying, but this can be relatively short-lived.

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