The Best Small Terrarium Pets (10+ Exotic Animals to Keep)

Looking for terrarium pets that are full of character and short on size? 

You’re in luck! I’ve scanned YouTube to find the top recommendations by expert herpetologists and keepers. 

These exotic micro terrarium animals can all comfortably enjoy life in modest spaces, and they’re perfect for smaller terrariums (like a 10 gallon container).

Let’s see them!

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Quick Tips for Choosing a Terrarium Animal

Before we dive into the list, we have just a few points to consider.

Remember, the health and well-being of the animal is the top priority here – and every species on this list requires different care and terrarium conditions. 

Don’t worry; many of them are incredibly straightforward.

But here are some prompts to get you thinking.

  • Do you have the right terrarium biome for your chosen animal? (i.e., tropical or arid).
  • Do you need specialized lighting or heating? Or can you simply add the animals to a basic terrarium?
  • Are any of your existing plants or materials toxic to terrarium animals?
  • Will the animal stay small? 
  • Does your terrarium container have ventilation? (It’ll need it!)

With those out of the way, let’s get into it!

The Top 10 Small Terrarium Pets

1 | Mourning Geckos

Mourning Geckos
Mourning Geckos are cute, easy, and super rewarding.

These little lizards are tiny!

Often smaller than a finger, they’re fast and jittery.

Thankfully, despite being mostly nocturnal, they are often active through the day, too – and they’re not too shy either.

They’re also very straightforward in terms of care conditions. Needing just household temperatures, general lighting, and humidities that are easily achieved in a closed container.

If I were to use one of my existing plant terrariums for animals, Mourning Geckos would be my first choice.

Just remember to add some ventilation if you do!

Also, these (exclusively female, by the way) tropical lizards can and will reproduce on their own if you have a group of them.

2 | Poison Dart Frogs

Poison Dart Frogs
Poison Dart Frogs are always the brightest things in the room.

There really is something for everyone when it comes to dart frogs.

From electric blues and acid greens, there’s a huge diversity in color and pattern.

They’re living breathing neon dreams.

Besides just looking fabulous, their bright markings give them the confidence to be active and visible during the day. No predator is going to be stupid enough to eat one when they look like that.

Seriously, don’t try it. Though they’re only typically poisonous in the wild, it’s a terrible idea to put one in your mouth… or put your hands in your mouth after handling them.

They’re pretty small on a whole and aren’t particularly good climbers – so you don’t need a big container. They’ll do well in a typical tank-style terrarium with naturalistic features. 

3 | Praying Mantis

Ghost Mantis
This Ghost Mantis looks like something from another world.

If you’re looking for a fearsome killer (that’s also terribly small and harmless to humans) a praying mantis could be the right choice for you.

Being very much the predator, these are fun to keep and feed… if not a little gruesome. 

Honestly, a mantis is easily one of the coolest insect pets out there today. With their serrated claws, giant eyes and all-round alien features – they’re mesmerizing to see.

They’re also pretty easy to keep, not needing any special conditions or a whole lot of space to be happy. 

You could easily adapt a smaller tabletop terrarium to house a mantis. They’re arguably one of the best nano terrarium pets. It’s best to give them some driftwood to hang from, though.

They also don’t live very long (roughly a year), so they’re a low-commitment introduction to the world of terrarium pets!

4 | Isopods

Zebra isopods on cork bark
Zebra Isopods are a popular option.

Briefly moving away from insects to crustaceans now, we’re looking at the isopods.

Otherwise known as pill bugs or woodlice, you may be surprised by the diversity of tropical isopod species.

They come with an enormous range of artistic colors and styles, and best of all – they’re functional.

Whilst isopods make great terrarium pets in their own right, they’re also a valuable addition to any terrarium.

As one of the core members of the bioactive cleanup crew, isopods play a key function in consuming and recycling dead plant material.

Some species are better than others for function, so it’s worth doing a little research. But, if you’re just going for style… have you seen the Rubber Ducky Isopods?

๐Ÿ‘‰ Did you know we have an online store? Shop our hand-picked range of isopods for sale.

5 | Pacman Frogs

Pacman Frogs
Honestly, I can’t help but laugh at Pacman Frogs.

What you see is what you get with these chunky fellows.

This terrestrial frog species is pretty docile on a whole, and they’ll spend most of their time lounging around on a terrarium floor.

It’s best to give them some natural surroundings – like moss and foliage – so they can hide if they want, but they don’t tend to move much besides when they’re eating.

Speaking of which, they’re actually named after the famous retro video game character because of their big mouths and round bodies. They look just like Pacman when they’re gobbling up some lunch.

Arguably not the most exciting species to have around (or the cutest), but they are one of the easiest to look after. They do come in lots of colors, though!

6 | Web Footed Geckos

Web Footed Gecko
Look at those eyes! Web Footed Geckos are insanely cute.

Though bigger than the Mourning Geckos (to be fair, almost everything in the world is) they’re still very small on a whole. Only reaching a tank-busting 3 or 4 inches long at maturity.

As a desert species, they do need higher temperatures 

They’re stunning little creatures but a little harder to source. Typical…

๐Ÿ‘‰ Check out my terrarium lizard guide for more gecko inspiration!

7 | Tree Frogs

Green Tree Frogs
Green Tree Frogs are the most quintessential frogs.

Green Tree Frogs are a great choice for smaller terrariums.

Talk about character; they’re very active and can be pretty vocal, too!

As the “tree” part of the name suggests, these species do enjoy having something to climb. So they’re best suited to taller tanks that can fit a variety of branches.

They’ll also do best in naturalistic planted enclosures – so it’s a good excuse to level up one of your plant terrariums!

8 | Tarantulas

Chilean Rose Tarantula
The Chilean Rose Tarantula looking… terrifying.

Though not to everyone’s taste (we’re all scared of something, right?), tarantulas are a popular choice for small containers. 

They might look big and scary, but there are plenty of smaller species. 

The baby dwarf ones are even… dare I say… cute?

Honestly, tarantulas are often argued to be the easiest terrarium pets to keep.

They generally keep to themselves and really don’t care about having much space to have around. They don’t need any fancy equipment, and they’ll generally be happy in the super small containers.

This is another pet option that can often be added straight to a suitable tropical plant terrarium. Just make sure to do a little research on your chosen species and make sure it has everything it needs (e.g., sufficient substrate depth to burrow in, etc).

9 | Millipedes

African Giant Millipede
The African Giant Millipede living up to its name.

Giant Millipedes are the literal gentle giants of the invertebrate world. 

They have more legs than you can shake a stick at but none of the venom or pincers of their carnivorous centipede cousins.

Millipedes do come in all sizes, to be fair, but in this case, bigger is definitely better.

Much like isopods, they also feed on decomposing organic material – making them a valuable custodian in a terrarium and not a mere freeloader.

Though they’re much bigger than isopods and millipedes in terrariums will need an environment that’s actively creating food for them. A nice deep substrate with lots of organic material (like leaf litter) is best.

They’re also surprisingly prone to drying out and dying and, therefore, need consistent moisture. So a nice wet tropical terrarium is ideal.

10 | Scorpions

Emperor Scorpion
The popular Emperor Scorpion in all their glory.

Scorpions are a diverse lot, too.

Not for the faint of heart, these walking armories carry a variety of natural weapons on their bodies.

Though some of the more popular species, like the Emperor Scorpion, are known for their docile temperament and general low threat to people. Still, you wouldn’t enjoy a sting or nip to the finger.

They don’t need a lot of volume in their tank, but as they’re predominantly on the ground, they do need some space to roam.

A broad, shallow container is best. Though you can bet both tropical and arid species, so you’ll have to do your research on how best to kit it out.

Also, did I mention they glow in UV light?!

Other Terrarium Animals – Honorary Mentions

We’ve been looking at the best pets for a 10 gallon terrarium, but our list is by no means exhaustive.

On the smaller terrarium size, you can also try these:

  • Beetles – The Blue Death-Feigning Beetle appears to be the main recommendation on the beetle front. With a sky-blue body and a silvery sheen, it really is something to see!
  • Snails – Snails come in all colors and sizes, ranging from the tiny ones you find in your garden right up to the giant African Land Snail. Check out my easy snail terrarium guide.

But the fun doesn’t stop there!

As you get into 20 gallon containers and bigger, a wide range of species becomes available to you.

  • Snakes – From Corn Snakes to Dwarf Boas, we’re spoilt for choice on the snake front.
  • Geckos – Both the Leopard Gecko and House Gecko can happily live in 20 gallon terrariums.

Over to You

Which of these exotic terrarium animals has caught your eye?

Or has your favorite terrarium pet been missed from the list?

Let me know in the comments!

If you’ve already selected a reptile pet, check out our list of plants safe for reptiles too.


4 thoughts on “The Best Small Terrarium Pets (10+ Exotic Animals to Keep)”

  1. Hi Dan! just wondering, how easy is it to clean a vivarium (I’m talking animal waste and such) with live plants in the mix? I imagine it can be quite difficult to maintain, or do they typically just self-sustain? Thanks!

    1. Hi Andrew, they can be pretty self-sustaining if you get yourself a cleanup crew of isopods and springtails (which I’d definitely recommend)!

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