Building A Lizard Vivarium
Ask anyone who’s built and maintained a lizard vivarium, and they will tell you that this is the best way to care for and learn about the most fascinating of all the reptiles.
A vivarium is best described as an enclosed living area for reptiles and amphibians that is made up of a combination of land and water habitat with plants included as needed, the ratio of land to water being 70-30%. Designed to keep animals safe while also being escape-proof, the containers are made of glass or plastic. Before deciding to raise lizards, realize that there are more than 4,000 species and subspecies. Do some research to figure out which lizard is best for you. Take into consideration the fact that some lizards are more aggressive than others. For this reason, experts advise that the beginning herpetologist purchase a quieter, more easy-going lizard. It is less apt to bite or attack, and will serve as a good learning experience to build upon before moving on to the more challenging species.
The following is a short list of creatures that do well in a lizard vivarium:
- Green Anole (Tropical)
- House Gecko (Tropical)
- Fence Lizard (Woodland)
- Swift Lizard (Woodland)
- Skink (Woodland)
- Newts (Woodland)
- Salamanders (Woodland)
- Small Iguana (Tropical)
Your decision will in turn determine which type of habitat is best for the animal. Habitats are of four general types:
Once you decide to go with either an acrylic or glass tank, locate it where suitable, understanding that once it is in place, you’ll not want to, or be able to, move it, due to its size, weight and the disruption it may cause your pet. Once the tank is in place, thoroughly wash it with a vinegar-water solution, not detergent. Then let it dry for 24 hours. Keep in mind that with some species it will be better to have a frontal opening in the tank, since some lizards associate movement from above with predator behavior, which may cause your pet undue stress on a daily basis. While making allowances for sufficient ventilation, use a tight-fitting screen cover that will keep critters in. To minimize odors, bacteria and mold growth (and circulate air), install a suction fan or ventilation slots near the tank base, and another near the top for exhaust purposes. The type of lighting used will depend on the animal’s needs, while also promoting plant growth. Full-spectrum (UV-A or B) bulbs simulate warm sunlight for some lizards, while the UV rays provide a way for plants to synthesize and assimilate Vitamin D and calcium. A regulator may be needed to simulate light and dark periods, since some species are nocturnal.
Install a heater with timer settings. Then monitor the tank’s ambient temperature to ensure it is not too hot or cold, depending on the lizard’s environmental needs:
- Woodland: 65-75° F, with moderate humidity.
- Desert: 85-95° F, with little or no humidity.
- Tropical: 75-95° F, and very humid.
Having chosen appropriate plants for your lizard, wash them with warm water to remove any traces of fertilizer or other possible contaminants, as well as dead leaves.
Next, place up to 5 cm of potting soil in the bottom of the tank. Then set up the tank according to the needs of the lizard. Desert, woodland and tropical setups all need specialized plants, wood to climb up and down, or rocks to sun on. Some setups require more sand, while others need water bowls for drinking and swimming, or rocks to hide under. Include a mister for those species that prefer that as their water source. Then install a filter in the water area, and position the plants.
With everything in place, allow the system to run for one month before introducing the lizard into the tank. This will allow the environment to stabilize and give you time to work out any bugs.
With patience and care, your lizard vivarium will provide you with years or rewarding experiences, and give you a better insight into the world we are all part of.