A Guide to Vivariums and Vivarium Design

Vivariums are enclosures that enable people to keep reptiles whilst being able to provide an enviroment that they can live in without stress. There are many different types of reptile species that require different needs. So depending on the reptile that is chosen depends on what vivarium is needed and how to give it a natural stress free enviroment with the oppotunity to express its natural behaviour,which is a legal requirement which must be provided under the animal welfare act. In this guide we'll also go through how to design a vivarium from substrate to decor to planning heat and light sources so when the a reptile is coming to your home providing you have researched the specific species needs you'll be able to give it a home that can as closely as possible resemble the wild. With Lizards it is important for owners to think about the attributes needed for the D3 cycle so they can design the enclosure to help the animal complete its cycle in the best way possible.







Wooden Vivariums:


Wooden vivariums are stocky well built enclosures made from 18mm thick melamine chipwood. Unlike glass vivs wooden ones can be stacked with no problems. The wood keeps the heat in much more efficiently then glass and the heat source is located inside with an electrical fitting that can often be fed through the back of the vivs in the corner grooves or through the vents. It is important to note that if water is ever being sprayed or is spilt that the inside groves be covered with a silicon base to prevent the water damaging the wood. These vivariums suit most species and come in all kinds of dimensions and custom ones can be built to cater for larger species. Humidity requiring species can be kept in wooden vivs however glass vivariums would do a better job at holding in the moisture.





Arboreal Vivarium

    Terrestrial Vivarium

Water bowls for water - make sure that the bowl is placed in the cool end to prevent the water heating up and evaporating which increases humidity. Some species like to bath in water bowls so large bowls maybe need to accomodate this. Food bowls come into play with shy snakes that won't eat out of there vivarium and lizards that eat vegetation.

Exo Terra Water Dish Large






Feeders Or Dishes

Substrate is the bedding which the reptiles "walk" on they're many different types of substrates which have different purposes for example forest bark is a good substrate choice for species that require humidity as it retains the water. Reasearch into the species of choice is important to give the most suited substrate to express natural behaviour and to suit its habitat / climate needs.

Swell Premium Natural Reptile Sand 4kg

Sand - Mainly associated with desert species the most arid type of habitat thats possible to replicate


Zoo Med Repti Bark

Bark - Best suited to woodland designs but also good for rainforest setups as the bark retains water well

Sand / Soil Mix - Is best suited to desert and scrub species very good for burrowing and what most desert species would more commonly come in contact with as apose to sand

  Komodo Tropical Terrain

Soil / Earth - Can be bought dry or wet ideal for woodland and tropical rainforest setups

Swell Premium Beech Chips Fine

Wood Chip - A savannah desert looking subsrate wood chip is often used to start off with as it clumps well for excreta - not to be used for water related plans

  Swell Premium Aspen Bedding

Aspen - This is known as the "starter" substrate, a simple, plain bedding that clumps well

Forest Floor - A versatile substrate which can suit tropical set ups as it retains water well or when dried can be associated with scrubland designs and woodlands   Swell Premium Sphagnum Moss

Moss - A jack of all trades item that can constantly be re - used, moss can be used as a substrate or is often used for humid hides to aid shedding and as a medium to incubate eggs






Heat, Lighting, Hides and decorations - First lets start with heating. They're 3 types of heat sources avaliable:heat mats, ceramic heaters and spot bulbs. All 3 should be controlled on a thermostat or timer to prevent overheating and burns and have heat guard protection. Naturally its best to have a heat source from above to mirror what reptiles would get in the wild from the sun. Spot bulbs and ceramics can provide this but only spot bulbs give out light as well as heat. Heat mats are used for species that benefit from absorbing heat from their underbelly - mainly ground burrowing species, should only cover a 1/3 of the vivarium floor however the are only a localised heat source unlike spots and ceramics. Spot bulbs come in a variation of colours such as blue to simulate moonlight and red which gives off warm infra red rays. Lighting will be covered in depth on a seperate caresheet but this can be made with the use of spot bulbs or UV flourescent tubes. Hides and decorations are what makes the vivarium look natural and gives the reptile a chance to express its natural behaviour. There are various types of decorations from branches to leaves to plants, rocks,cliffs etc. which will be chosen by whatever you as an owner takes your fancy. However hides are an essiential to have as this makes reptiles feel secure and gives them a hide away if they want to be out of sight. A minimum of 2 should be given one on each side to allow for thermoregulation. Plant decor is also a recommendation as it like hides also provides shade and shelter which is also important for completion of the UVB process in healthy reptile body maintence.

Exo Terra NightGlo Moonlight Lamp

Habistat Heat Mat Adhesive. Exo Terra Heat Wave Lamp


Swell Large Reptile Cave

Swell Trailing Abutilon Artificial PlantExo Terra Boston Fern

Lucky Reptile Compact UV Sun

Arcadia D3 Reptile Lamp, 6% UVB, T8

  ProRep Cork Oak Branch 40-60cm PPI Tree Log Hideaway Small on Animed Direct











Glass Vivariums:






A different type of enclosure to wooden vivariums


Glass Vivariums offer a completely different visual and way of keeping to wooden vivariums. They're many pros to having a glass vivarium and from a personal preference are prefered by some over wooden vivs. They're far better at holding humidity then wooden vivs and they have better air ventilation. An extra feature can be added at the back to further improve ventilation which is important for species like chameleons. Heat isn't held as well with glass vivariums compared to wooden but depending on your personal circumstances the escaping heat can be a plus. The heating hoods provided by habistat have the unique ability to hold everything you would need for a reptile. Two T8 UVB tubes and up to to bulbs or ceramics with a maximum of 60w. Alternative options only provide one or the other therefore spending more money getting seperate canopies and covering up the whole mesh section on top of the vivarium. Glass vivariums are suitable for most reptiles arboreal or terrestrial however if the species in question comes from an arid region with high temperatures a wooden vivarium would by far be the better choice.




Arboreal Glass Viv



Terrestrial Glass Viv






Heating Hoods - Versatile heat and lighting