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How to set up a vivarium: maintaining the health and welfare of reptiles

01 May 2012
9 mins read
Volume 3 · Issue 4


The class Reptilia consists of over 7780 species distributed throughout the world, with warmer regions being home to more species than cooler regions. However certain species of reptile, the common adder and European lizard for example, can be found as far north as the Arctic Circle. Given this incredible diversity of biomes, it is impractical to do justice to the husbandry needs of this class of animal in one article. The focus of this article, therefore, will be on the key concepts of setting up a standard vivarium in order to maintain the health and welfare of its occupants.

As captive reptiles are entirely dependent on the environment in which their owners place them, the root cause of many reptile clinical conditions is inappropriate housing, often caused by owner ignorance. As such, the veterinary nurse must have a sound understanding of the basic housing and husbandry needs of the more commonly kept species. Ascertaining the geographical origin of an individual species is essential in order to create as near a natural environment as possible. Texts should therefore be consulted for individual species’ requirements prior to purchasing and setting up a vivarium.

The design and construction material of a vivarium varies greatly. The essentials of a good vivarium for captive reptiles, apart from obviously being appropriately sized and escape proof, are that it should allow for easy heating, lighting and ventilation. Commonly used materials include Perspex, fiberglass and reinforced glass. Wooden vivariums do exist and are good at retaining heat, however these should be covered with a water-resistant finish to prevent them harbouring bacteria.

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