Behind a chain-link fence on an industrial road in Turners Falls, the sounds and smells of a rain forest greet visitors to the Black Jungle Terrarium Supply, a small shop filled with amazing flora and fauna. Upon entering the building, you will come face to face with dozens of vivariums—glass tanks teeming with plant and animal life. Some tanks are covered in algae, and some present charming landscapes of moss and tiny flowering ferns. All of the tanks boast unusual inhabitants: poison dart frogs.
Black Jungle owners Richard and Michael claim that theirs is the biggest terrarium and vivarium supply store of its kind in the country. Most of their business is done online, but that doesn’t stop them from keeping their storefront open occasionally for local customers and curious passersby.
Their original passion is poison dart frogs, who (as they’ll be quick to point out) are only poisonous when they eat poisonous insects in the wild. These frogs, bred in captivity (in the “tadpole room” in the back of the building), are as harmless as a common toad. They come in every color of the rainbow and crouch awkwardly in the nooks and crannies of the tanks.
Either Richard or Mike will be more than happy to guide you around the store, rustle up frogs from their hiding spots, and show off the latest additions to their menagerie. Here, tropical birds flap around in cages eight feet tall, flat translucent glass frogs hide secretly on the undersides of leaves, and fountains or terrariums are tucked into all corners of the store.
As if this weren’t enough, the main treat is to be found in the giant greenhouse next door. Hundreds of tiny pots house tropical plants of every color, texture, and size imaginable. Wild weeds reach up to the ceiling and wrap themselves around their neighbors. Established palms and vines drip moisture onto the insects and flowering plants below. Two chameleons and a handful of other amphibians hide in cages half covered with vegetation. The air is thick and fragrant, and it’s easy to lose yourself for the better part of an afternoon marveling at the diversity of plant life for sale in this small town in Western Massachusetts.
If you see Richard or Mike, they may have time to teach you about the species they breed, requirements for building a vivarium, and tips for keeping your pet amphibians moist and warm. By the end of your visit, you probably won’t be able to resist buying some sort of lifeform, be it plant or animal. It’s probably a good idea, too—consider it the admission price for a visit to a one-of-a-kind greenhouse and zoo.
Update March 2017: Unfortunately this business is now closed.
Know Before You Go
Black Jungle Terrarium Supply is a low-lying gray building behind a chain link fence, across the side street from a gas station. A small sign on the building reads "Black Jungle."