Skip to content
Home » Retes Stacks for Reptiles: What are they and how to build one

Retes Stacks for Reptiles: What are they and how to build one

A Retes stack, also known as a basking stack, is a term commonly used in the reptile-keeping community, particularly for monitor lizards such as the Ackie monitor.

A Retes stack is a multi-tiered, elevated basking unit designed to provide a gradient of heat and hiding spots for the monitor lizard.

The concept was developed by Frank Retes and has gained popularity among reptile enthusiasts, particurarly owners of Ackie monitor lizards.

As an Amazon affiliate, we may earn commissions on purchases of eligible products.

Retes Stack for lizard basking
Retes stack for lizards

The main purpose of a Retes stack is to offer the monitor lizard a range of temperature options and secure hiding places.

It consists of stacked flat wood or stone pieces with spacers in between, creating crevices and platforms for the lizard to climb on and bask.

By having multiple levels, each with different temperatures, the monitor lizard can choose the preferred basking spot while being partially obscured.

Constructing a Retes stack requires careful planning and consideration. Plywood is often recommended over stone for safety reasons, as stone stacks can potentially harm the lizards.

The layers of the stack are usually angled to create tight crevices for the lizards to wedge into, providing a sense of security. The goal is to create a graduated temperature range and offer the lizards ample choices for basking.

When building a Retes stack, it is essential to ensure it rests on the floor of the enclosure to prevent the monitor lizard from burrowing underneath and potentially getting injured. The stack should be sturdy and securely assembled to avoid any accidents.

Reptile owners who have implemented Retes stacks in their enclosures report positive experiences, with their monitors frequently utilizing the various levels and gaps provided.

However, it’s important to note that the specific design and construction of a Retes stack can vary based on individual preferences and the needs of the particular species being kept.

Building a Retes stack requires some basic supplies and tools.

While there are variations in design and materials, here’s a general overview of the construction process:

  • Choose the material: Frank Retes, a respected reptile enthusiast and creator of the concept, recommends using plywood sheets instead of stone due to safety concerns. Stone stacks can pose a risk of injury or crushing for the reptiles. If you do opt for stones, try to get flat stone slates and make sure they are secured tightly.
  • Cut the material: Measure and cut the plywood or other chosen material into rectangular pieces. The size and thickness of the layers can vary depending on your preference and the size of your reptile.
  • Create angled layers: To maximize the available space and create tight crevices for the lizards to wedge into, angle each layer slightly. This helps create graduated temperature zones and enhances the hiding experience for the reptiles.
  • Secure the stack: Connect the layers together using screws, brackets, or a strong adhesive (e.g. liquid nails). Ensure the stack is stable and won’t collapse. You can also anchor the stack to the enclosure’s floor to prevent it from shifting or falling.
  • Add finishing touches: If desired, you can paint or weather the stack to make it look more natural. However, ensure the paint is non-toxic and safe for reptiles.
  • Check the temperature at different levels: consider investing in multiple thermometers and hygrometers to keep an eye of both temperature and humidity in different areas of your enclosure.

Benefits and Considerations

Retes stacks provide several benefits for reptiles in terms of environmental enrichment: they offer a sense of security, mimic natural hiding spots, and create a range of temperature gradients.

The layered design allows lizards to choose their preferred microclimate, promoting thermoregulation and overall well-being.

When building a Retes stack, consider the size and species of your reptile. Ackie monitors, for instance, prefer narrower spaces, so you might want to create gaps that allow them to squeeze in comfortably.

Additionally, ensure the stack is securely anchored to prevent accidental collapse.

Remember, when setting up a Retes stack the goal is to create a safe and comfortable environment for your reptile.

Make sure to check your pet’s husbandry requirements, ideal temperature ranges and humidity levels, and keep them in a large enough enclosure for them to be able to thermoregulate their own body temperature.

Basking stones for bearded dragon

Magtara Ledge Hideout Rainforest Series

The Magtara Ledge Hideout Rainforest Series serves as a valid alternative to a reptile stack, particularly for smaller pet lizards such as bearded dragons. Its naturalistic design and secure interior provide an appealing and safe environment for these reptiles to hide and bask comfortably.

What is a Retes stack?

A Retes stack is a multi-layered hide that emulates rock crevices.

It is a popular choice for reptile owners because it provides a secure and comfortable hiding place for their pets.

What are the benefits of Retes stacks for reptiles?

Retes stacks offer a number of benefits for reptiles, including:

  • Security: Retes stacks provide a secure hiding place for reptiles to feel safe and secure. This is especially important for shy or stressed reptiles.
  • Temperature regulation: Retes stacks can help to regulate the temperature in the enclosure. The different layers of the stack can provide a range of temperatures, so that the reptile can choose a spot that is comfortable for them.
  • Enrichment: Retes stacks provide enrichment for reptiles. They can climb on the stacks, explore the different levels, and hide in the crevices. This helps to keep them active and engaged.

What materials can be used to make Retes stacks?

There are three main materials that can be used to make Retes stacks:

  • Wood: Wood is a relatively easy material to work with, and it is readily available. However, wood is not a good conductor of heat, so it is important to seal the stack with a waterproof sealant.
  • Stone: Stone is a good conductor of heat, but it can be heavy and difficult to work with. It is also important to choose a type of stone that is inert, meaning that it does not contain any harmful chemicals.
  • Foam: Foam is a lightweight and easy-to-work-with material. It is also a good conductor of heat, and it can be easily sealed with a waterproof sealant.

What size should a Retes stack be for my reptile?

The size of the Retes stack should be based on the size of your reptile.

The stack should be large enough for the reptile to fully fit inside, and it should have enough ventilation to prevent overheating.

How do I make a Retes stack?

To make a Retes stack, you will need the following materials:

  • Wood, stone, or foam
  • A sharp knife or saw
  • A waterproof sealant
  • A drill (optional)


  1. Cut the materials to the desired size.
  2. If using wood, seal the stack with a waterproof sealant.
  3. If using stone, make sure the stone is inert.
  4. If using foam, you can optionally drill holes in the stack to allow for ventilation.
  5. Stack the materials together to create the desired shape.
  6. Secure the stack with glue or screws.

Where should I place a Retes stack in my reptile’s enclosure?

The Retes stack should be placed in a secure location in the enclosure.

It should be away from any heat sources, and it should not block any of the ventilation holes.

Retes Stack – Ackie Monitor Bioactive Setup

Read also: How to Build a Retes Stack with Rocks for Bearded Dragons

Leave a Reply