Vivarium Buying Guide

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Vivarium Buying Guide

Reptiles are growing in popularity as pets that are both different and interesting. It is an educational experience to create an environment inside a vivarium which will allow the inhabitant to thrive. It is important to select a vivarium that will suit the chosen species of reptile so that it has enough room and the correct temperature to be comfortable.
There are different types of vivarium that are built for each type of environment that they need to simulate. eBay is an excellent place to start looking, as the easily navigable search ability allows you to track down the specific type of vivarium needed, and price comparison is simple and accessible. The vivarium will be the reptile's home and permanent surroundings, so it is important to make sure that it will be suitable for the reptile now and when it reaches its full adult size.

Reptile Habitats

There are five basic types of habitat for most reptiles. It is necessary to know the reptile’s natural environmental conditions to select the correct vivarium. The internet is a good source of information on these vivariums, and eBay has many different styles and designs to compare.


An aquatic habitat has an entirely water based environment. This is mainly used for turtles and is usually fairly shallow. It requires filtration to ensure that the water is clean so that the reptile remains healthy. It is important that it is designed to be waterproof and that it is strong enough to accept the volume of water intended.


A desert vivarium will have a hot dry environment and usually has a sandy or rocky substrate to mimic the reptile’s natural home. This sort of habitat must be able to withstand hot temperatures up to 40 degrees centigrade. Reptiles and plants that would be at home in this vivarium do not require a lot of water. A small water dish in a shaded area will keep the reptile happy.


Semi-Aquatic vivariums have both a large area of water for the reptile to swim in, as well as an area of land where it can bask and hide. Semi-Aquatic vivariums require the same waterproofing and strength as the Aquatic vivariums but may include sectioning. This is to make it easier to keep the land area from being waterlogged. It is important to know the air and water temperatures that the reptile requires in order to assess whether water heating is required.


This type of habitat is ideal for reptiles that need a 20-30 degree centigrade and mostly dry environment. The reptile might need to be wet down every couple of days. This can be achieved with a spray bottle or the provision of a large, shallow watering dish they can use to keep themselves appropriately moist.


The tropical environment is a hot environment, usually above 32 degrees centigrade. It also is humid and requires a system to keep moisture in the air. The substrate material and plenty of plants will help to keep the humidity level high but a manual or automatic misting system might also be needed. A large flat area of water will help the reptile by having somewhere it can go to keep moist.

Size And Materials For Vivariums

Traditionally, a vivarium is a clear container that is used to house animals and plants so that they are attractive and easy to view. In modern times, a vivarium can be made from many different materials depending on the strength required and the conditions that it will be used in. While vivariums that have large amounts of water are generally made from glass or plastic, most reptile vivariums can be made from many other materials.

Metals and wood are popular materials to make vivariums and they give designers the chance to be more creative. They generally design the front in a clear plastic or glass so that the reptile and its environment can be easily viewed. A product that is popular in desert and tropical vivariums is plywood that has been coated in epoxy or polyurethane. This makes a strong material that is easily shaped and that is not affected by heat or humidity. Wood retains heat better than glass or plastic and helps to stabilise the environment in the vivarium.

The vivarium needs to have enough floor area to accommodate the reptile that will be housed in it, as well as any surface features and intended plants. If the reptile is a climber then the vivarium may need to be tall enough to accommodate the plants or apparatus for it to climb.

The materials used to line the floor of the vivarium are called substrates. They have varying function depending on the environment that vivarium will ultimately have. When selecting substrates it is important to match the reptiles preferred environment with the substrate that they will live on or in. Substrates such as sterilised sand or soil are popular particularly if plants will also be used in the vivarium. Pebbles, wood chips and mulch allow the reptile to move through the substrate and easily bury itself. Fibbers such as coconut and mats of artificial carpets are also used as substrates in vivariums. A drainage layer below the top substrate might include a false bottom, gravel or LECA stones that allow good drainage while keeping the humidity high in the vivarium. These materials and substrates can be found on eBay, where sellers have many different brands and sizes.
Types of Reptile Vivarium

Turtles are a reptile that is commonly kept in glass vivariums. They are more or less the same as an aquarium and indeed many people use second hand aquariums as an affordable and easy way to start their hobby as reptile owners. A glass vivarium is normally clear on all the sides and may come with a mesh top or a hood. Hoods normally contain a fan for ventilation and the appropriate lighting and heating system for the desired environment.

It is important to provide the reptile with areas it can be out of sight in if it is feeling stressed or frightened. The reptile can see outside as well being visible to onlookers, and can be distressed by the events and noise that trigger its flight reflex.

A melamine vivarium is made primarily from wood that has a plastic impervious coating applied. A standard configuration would use a glass or clear plastic front and melamine on the rear, sides and bottom. A side panel that allows access is also used in some designs. The melamine is a better insulator than other materials, which makes it easier to get an even temperature in vivariums made from this material. Melamine is also water resistant and will not be adversely affected by high humidity. The melamine vivarium is ideal for reptiles that are easily stressed as it allows the reptile to stay out of sight, which will help it to feel safe.

This type of vivarium is mainly aimed at the lower priced end of the market and includes many of the smaller sizes of vivariums. While plastic vivariums are suitable for small reptiles or reptiles that are young and have not grown much, care needs to be taken. A reptile in a restricted environment will be highly stressed and can quickly sicken and die. There are many plastic vivariums on eBay.

This type of vivarium is an open design using wire mesh. It provides good ventilation but relies on the local environment being similar to that of the pet reptile. It is favoured for use outside to provide a secure enclosure for a reptile. It is almost impossible to maintain temperature and humidity difference to the surrounding environment. Basking lamps can be used to provide a warm area that can help to keep the reptile heated. Wired vivariums are relative inexpensive and large sizes are available.

A wooden vivarium can be an attractive and enjoyable home for the reptile. They are recommended for lizards that have natural habitats in wooded areas. The wooden vivarium usually has a glass or plastic front with a wooden base, rear and sides. This is suitable for skittish reptiles that do not do well in clear vivariums like glass, plastic and wire vivariums. The wooden vivarium is also well insulated, so it will retain heat better that will save electricity costs. Wooden vivariums that have not been coated are not suitable for high humidity environments or moist soil.

How to Buy A Vivarium on eBay

eBay has an entire section dedicated to reptile vivariums. It can be found under the Pet Supplies category, by navigating first to Reptiles, then using the left bar menu to specify Vivarium. Here it is possible to browse through a variety of styles and designs of vivarium. If a specific type or material is desired, the search bar can be used to narrow down results.

There are also further options in the left bar menu which can be used to drill down the search, such as 'buying format' 'location' (handy if the item is large and will require pickup) and 'price'. By using these options, eBay provides an easy and simple way to find the right vivarium for your pet.


This guide to reptile vivariums has general information about each type of vivarium its construction as well as its advantages and disadvantages. It is important to gather as much information as possible about the reptile to assess any specific features to look for in the search for the right vivarium.
There are many resources on the internet that have information about the reptile and its typical environment. This can then be matched to various vivarium designs that are easily accessible on sites like eBay. Once you have the design and accessory information then you can check for the best price and delivery terms to purchase your reptile’s new home.

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