Housing your pet will never be as fun or rewarding as when you create its perfect home.
Each animal has its particular habitat needs and a vivarium setup is a re-creation of its natural home. There are as many unique virarium arrangements as there are exotic pets.
A vivarium is an enclosure where selected plants and animal species are kept or raised. The concept of vivariums started initially as a medium to study and research selected flora and fauna. Literally, vivarium means “a place of life”.
The ecosystem inside a vivarium is created to simulate, on a smaller scale, the environment conditions, which are favorable to the species. Vivariums can range from small enclosures that can sit on a table to a very large structure that houses bigger animals and are placed outdoors.
Types of Vivariums
There are several types of vivarium depending on the habitat that you wish to simulate and the accompanying flora and fauna that will be used. These include:
- Aquarium: These are water habitats that can house freshwater fish, saltwater fish, and coral reef inhabitants.
- Insectarium: These habitats are for housing insects and arachnids.
- Terrarium: This is generally a dry habitat for housing reptiles
- Paludarium: The paludarium simulates a semi-aquatic habitat such as in rainforests or swamps. Other setups of a paludarium combine a terrarium and an aquarium, sometimes known as a viquarium
- Riparium. A riparium recreates the wet habitats near lakes, rivers, and ponds. The setup is suitable for marginal plants that thrive best in the water-saturated soil along the water’s edge.
- Penguinarium: A unique habitat for housing penguins
Materials for a vivarium
Vivariums are commonly made of clear plastic or glass containers. Wood or metal can also be used as long as there’s a side, which is transparent. There are also vivariums made from plywood with built-in sliding glass doors.
The material that you will use depends on what flora and fauna you plan to put in, the desired size, height and weight, cost, desired quality, as well as the ability of the materials to simulate the natural environment and provide protection against extreme environment conditions.
Coated plywood can retain heat better compared to glass or plastic vivariums. These types of enclosures can also withstand high humidity. When making a vivarium, it is recommended to place a high-drainage substrate on top of a layer of stones to help retain humidity without the substrate surface being saturated.
The type of substrate will depend on several factors including what is favorable for the plants and/or animals, the benefits, and the aesthetic value. The most common substrates used include soil, wood chips, pebbles, peat, sand, coconut coir, and wood mulch. There are also vivariums that use tissue paper and newspaper.
These are the recommended methods to effectively regulate humidity inside the vivarium:
- Regular pulverization of water
- Enhanced water evaporation by placing a basin inside
- Use of humidifiers and automated pulverization systems
The lighting system is always designed to meet the requirements of the animal and plant species. Various types of bulbs are needed to simulate specific natural environments. There are also certain flora and fauna that require a good source of ultraviolet rays for vitamin D synthesis and assimilation of calcium. Specialized bulbs are available which can emit a more natural sunlight effect.
You may also need to put in a day/night regulator to mimic the change between light and dark periods. The regulator is set depending on the natural habitat of the species including the season that you desire to achieve.
Heat inside a vivarium can be provided in several ways:
- Heat rocks
- Infrared lamps
- Heating lamps
- Hot plates
- Heat mats
- Heating cords
- Equipment that can generate hot air inside the vivarium
The heat inside the enclosure is controlled by a thermostat. Thermo-control systems are often employed to regulate not only heat but also light cycles and humidity.
Aside from promoting proper air circulation, ventilation can also prevent the growth and development of pathogenic molds and bacteria. This is particularly true in vivariums that maintain a warm and humid environment.
Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Leopard Gecko!
Leopard Geckos are awesome lizards to keep as pets! They are good for beginner reptile keepers and are a good “staple” lizards for seasoned reptile keepers! The Leopard Gecko Eublepharis macularius is one of the easiest lizards to care for, and they are quite hardy. Pet stores almost always carry them as regular stock. If they don’t have one on site they can almost always special order one for you with no problem!
These geckos don’t require much of a time commitment other than basic maintenance and food. Biting is a rare occurrence with Leopard Geckos which makes them ideal lizards for children. (Remember to still supervise young children however!) They are also easy to tame and train. Many people like to walk around with their pet gecko clinging to their shirt! Breeding them in captivity is also generally easy.
Leopard Geckos are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night and sleep or rest during the day. They originate from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Blyth described them and gave them a name in 1854. North America imported these lizards regularly until sometime in the 1970’s when importation became illegal. Today they are a very popular pet lizard and readily available in the pet industry. Leopard Geckos often have a ton of spots (hence their name!) but can also have no spots at all. Juvenile Leopard Geckos have no spots and do not get them until they mature a little. There are many variations in the colors and spots of these geckos. They can even come in albino and tangerine colors! Full grown size for these guys is only around 8 inches long. If you take exceptional care of your gecko he/she may live up to 20 years! Average lifespans are around 5 to 7 years however.
After you have the initial habitat set up for your gecko, they are easy to care for! For one leopard gecko, you can start out with a simple 10 gallon terrarium. You should purchase a larger one if you would like to keep more than one lizard. On the bottom, you can put paper towels, walnut-shell bedding or carpet. Be careful not to use any type of sand because sometimes geckos will ingest it as a source of calcium and too much sand can impact their intestines. Each gecko should be provided with their own hiding place (such as a log). They also love to climb, so branches or other decorations can be added. You should also purchase a lighting source. Put the light source (40-60 watt bulb) on one side of the terrarium so that your gecko can go in and out from it as it wants.
The ongoing maintenance is relatively simple and does not require too much time. Feed your Leopard Gecko mostly crickets and mealworms pretty much on a daily basis. It is suggested that you coat them a commercial calcium powder and/or gut loaded powder to make sure your lizard is taking in enough calcium, vitamins, and minerals. In particular make sure the powder you purchase has the vitamin D3. Or you could provide a UV fluorescent bulb to help provide the vitamin D3. Also give your gecko fresh dechlorinated water daily. Make sure to clean out any uneaten food on a daily basis, and wash their dishes and cage out thoroughly on a weekly basis.
Most Leopard Geckos do fantastic in a captive home environment, especially when well-cared for. One of the most common problems is vitamin deficiency, which can be easily remedied with the proper lighting and food powders. They can also acquire parasites if their cage is not kept clean. Again, this is easily remedied with a proper environment.
Leopard Geckos breed quite readily in captivity. I won’t go into all the details, however, if you are interesting in breeding them read more here on Leopard Gecko Reproduction.
Have you determined that a Leopard Gecko is the perfect pet lizard for you? That’s great! Make sure to read even more on Leopard Geckos before you bring one home!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
World of Reptiles, Amphibians,
Everything to help you keep reptiles, amphibians, and land invertebrates is contained here!
Herptiles and arthropods have been around for approximately 350 million years!
The World of Reptiles, Amphibians and Arthropods (land invertebrates) includes a diverse group of creatures. They come in all shapes and colors and can live in a variety of habitats. Learning all about them can be fun and interesting as well as informative.
The types of reptiles you will find here include snakes, lizards, turtles, and tortoises. Amphibians include toads, frogs, salamanders and newts. Arthropods, or land invertebrates, include arachnids such as spiders, scorpions, and tarantulas and myriapods such as centipedes and millipedes. All of these species guides include the animals background, behaviors, habitat and care. For identification purposes pictures are included of each as well… Read More