In this section we look at how to set up a simple vivarium, that would be suitable for small snakes or lizzards like leopard geckos or bearded dragons.
The Temperature Gradient
Before we start, there is one important concept that you must understand. That is the temperature gradient.
As reptiles are cold blooded they do not generate their own body heat, instead they derive it from their surroundings. To attain the correct temperature they use a method called thermoregulation, which basically means they move to hotter or colder places, depending on their needs.
To allow them to do this in a vivarium, it is necessary to create a temperature gradient, one end of the tank is hotter than the other. The reptile will then choose the spot that best suits its current temperature requirements.
The Bare Vivarium
The vivarium can be made of glass, wood or a ready made one.
The Heat Mat
If you are looking to house a snake or a gecko this is an item you will need. Bearded dragons instead don't need this.
The heat mat should ideally cover one-third of the floor space,
The Basking Light
This is usually placed on top of the vivarium mesh in a ceramic holder and this will be the side where we want it to be hotter part. Most of the snakes don't need this neither leopard geckos. Leopard geckos are nocturnal so light during the day or night will annoy them.
The light serves two purposes, firstly to let you and the reptile see in the tank, but it also serves a second purpose acting as a heat source.
If you intend to place the light inside the vivarium this needs to be guarded with chicken wire or something similar so as to avoid your reptile getting burned by the heat lamp.
The next piece of equipment we have fitted is a thermostat.
You can place this anywhere convenient, but make sure that the heat setting cannot be accidentally altered, either by being knocked or by children.
The temperature probe must be secured against the vivarium wall and placed the end of the probe at the point where we want to control the temperature.
Now that we have fitted all the electrical equipment it is time to add floor cover.
The material that is used to cover the floor of a vivarium is called substrate. It is available in a few different forms, This could be Aspen bedding if for a snake, forrest terrain or sand for a leopard gecko and calcium sand if housing a bearded dragon.
Water Bowl And Hide
The vivarium needs two other pieces of essential equipment, a bowl to keep the reptiles water in and a suitable hiding place.
There are many different styles and sizes of bowls and hides available.
The one thing to note is that these will be either at the cool end of the temperature gradient or midway. We will keep the water away from the electrical equipment!
If you reptile requires ultraviolet light which in case of the bearded dragon it's a YES, then you will need to supply this via either an ultraviolet compact lamp or strip lighting.