How to Make Faux Rocks for a Reptile Habitat

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After much pleading, you gave in and agreed to let the kids have a salamander. You looked at reptiles and learned what to feed them. Then you priced habitats and realized the reptile’s house might require a second mortgage on yours. Make faux rocks for the reptile’s habitat. They are easy and inexpensive to construct; best of all, it is a fun weekend project for the whole family.

Things You'll Need

  • ¾-inch polystyrene sheets
  • Plastic sheeting or tarp
  • All-purpose liquid construction adhesive
  • Canned foam insulator
  • File
  • Colored powdered sand tile grout
  • Spatula
  • Grout sealer
  • Utility knife
  • Paint Brush

Study natural flat rock formations, like slate and sandstone, to create a more realistic environment. Make a sketch of your design before beginning to form your faux rocks; building is less chaotic if you have a clear plan.

Shape your rocks. Use a utility knife to cut the polystyrene sheets or break them for a more jagged edge. Glue multiple sheets together to achieve desired thickness. Use foam insulator and a file to shape and customize your habitat. Be creative; caves and ledges are a reptile's favorite hangouts.

Mix the grout according to manufacturer’s directions, but add extra water slowly until the mixture is not quite runny. Paint your faux rock formation with the grout; ensure the cracks and crevices are thoroughly covered. Let dry for 24 hours.

The second layer of grout is thicker; it gives strength and stability to your rocks. Mix it the consistency of peanut butter. Spread the grout on your reptile habitat with a spatula or use your hands to create surfaces that are more realistic. Take special care with the clefts and cracks. Set your faux rock formation aside to cure for a week.

Make sure your habitat is completely dry and apply grout sealer. Follow the package directions and ensure the formation is thoroughly covered. The sealant protects your faux rocks from peeling and flaking. Allow to cure 48 hours before use.

Tips & Warnings

  • Work on a plastic sheet or tarp to protect surfaces and simplify clean up. The liquid adhesive slips when wet; allow it to dry at least 15 minutes between steps.
  • Faux rocks for terrestrial habitat only; not suitable for aquatic use. The rocks may not support the weight of reptiles over 5 pounds.

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