How to Make Your Own Vivarium: A Step-by-Step Guide

Diy vivarium

Are you a nature enthusiast looking to bring a piece of the wild into your home? Creating your own vivarium is the perfect DIY project for you! A vivarium is a self-contained ecosystem that replicates the natural habitat of plants and animals, allowing you to enjoy the beauty of nature up close and personal.

Once you have all your materials ready, it’s time to start setting up your vivarium. Begin by adding a layer of substrate to the bottom of the container. This will provide a solid base for your plants to grow and anchor themselves. Next, carefully arrange your plants in the container, considering their size and growth habits. Create different levels and textures by layering plants of varying heights and leaf shapes. Not only will this create a visually appealing vivarium, but it will also provide a more natural habitat for the animals.

Choosing the Perfect Container for Your Vivarium

There are various options to consider when selecting a container for your vivarium. Glass tanks or terrariums are popular choices due to their transparency, allowing for clear viewing of the plants and animals inside. Glass also provides excellent insulation and helps maintain temperature and humidity levels. Additionally, the smooth surface of glass is easy to clean and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria.

Another option to consider is a plastic container or bin. Plastic containers are lightweight, making them easy to move or transport if needed. They also come in a variety of sizes and shapes, allowing for customization and flexibility in designing your vivarium landscape.

Furthermore, consider the accessibility of the container. Some vivariums may require frequent maintenance or monitoring, such as misting or feeding. In such cases, it is essential to choose a container that allows easy access to the inside without causing disruption to the plants and animals.

Lastly, consider the overall aesthetic appeal of the container. The container should complement the design and theme of your vivarium, enhancing its visual appeal. Whether you prefer a sleek and modern look or a natural and rustic vibe, there are containers available in various styles and colors to suit your preferences.

Overall, choosing the perfect container for your vivarium is a critical step in creating a successful and visually appealing habitat. Consider the material, size, shape, accessibility, and aesthetic appeal when making your decision. With the right container, you can provide a suitable environment for your plants and animals while creating a stunning display piece for your home or office.

Choosing the Ideal Size and Shape for Your Vivarium

Determining the space available

The first thing you should consider is the space available in your home or office for the vivarium. Measure the area where you plan to place it and keep in mind any restrictions in terms of height, width, and depth. This will give you a clear idea of the maximum dimensions that your vivarium can have.

Considering the needs of your plants and animals

Next, think about the plants and animals you plan to include in your vivarium. Different species have different space requirements, so you’ll need to research the specific needs of your chosen plants and animals. Some reptiles, for example, require more vertical space for climbing, while certain amphibians prefer a wider, shallow enclosure.

Optimal size for a vivarium

Optimal size for a vivarium

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to what size vivarium is ideal, as it depends on the specific plants and animals you choose. However, as a general guideline, a larger vivarium will provide more opportunities for your plants and animals to explore, hide, and thrive. It will also be easier for you to maintain stable humidity and temperature levels.

On the other hand, a smaller vivarium can be a good choice if you’re limited on space or budget, or if you’re planning to keep smaller species that don’t require much room to roam. Just make sure that the enclosure is still large enough to provide a comfortable and stimulating environment for your plants and animals.

Choosing the shape of your vivarium

The shape of your vivarium is another important consideration. While rectangular or square enclosures are the most common and versatile options, you can also find vivariums with rounded or curved edges for a more unique and aesthetic look. Consider the space available and the needs of your plants and animals when deciding on the shape of your vivarium.

Ultimately, the size and shape of your vivarium should be a balance between the available space, the needs of your plants and animals, and your personal preferences. Take your time to research and plan carefully, and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful and thriving vivarium that brings joy and tranquility to your space.

Gathering the Essential Materials and Tools for Your DIY Vivarium

Creating your own vivarium is an exciting project that allows you to design a unique and customized habitat for your plants and animals. To ensure a successful DIY vivarium, it’s essential to gather all the necessary materials and tools before getting started. Here is a list of the essential items you’ll need:

Glass or acrylic container Gloves
Vivarium substrate Scissors
Drainage layer (pebbles or activated charcoal) Measuring tape
Screen or mesh for ventilation Marker or pencil
Decorative elements (rocks, branches, etc.) Drill or hot glue gun
Live plants Brush or sponge
Mist spray bottle Watering can or spray bottle

In order to create proper ventilation, you’ll need a drill or a hot glue gun to secure the screen or mesh on the container. The ventilation will ensure fresh airflow for the plants and animals inside.

Finally, select and place live plants that are suitable for the environment you are creating. Make sure to choose plants that thrive in the conditions you can provide, whether it’s high humidity or low light. A brush or sponge can help you clean leaves and remove any dirt from the plants before placing them in the vivarium.

With all these materials and tools gathered, you are now ready to move on to the next steps in creating your ideal DIY vivarium. Remember to take your time, follow the steps carefully, and enjoy the process of designing and building your own unique habitat for your plants and animals.

Ensuring Proper Ventilation and Drainage

Ensuring Proper Ventilation and Drainage

When creating a vivarium, it is crucial to ensure proper ventilation and drainage to maintain a healthy and thriving environment for your plants and animals. Ventilation allows for the exchange of air, preventing the build-up of excess moisture and ensuring adequate oxygen levels. Drainage helps to prevent waterlogged substrate and promotes the removal of excess water.


Adequate ventilation is vital in a vivarium to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria, which can harm your plants and animals. You can achieve proper ventilation by incorporating vents or small holes in the sides or top of the enclosure. These openings allow fresh air to circulate while allowing stagnant air to escape.

When selecting or designing a vivarium container, opt for one that provides sufficient ventilation by default, or one that can be easily modified with additional ventilation openings. Ensure that the ventilation holes or vents are small enough to prevent any inhabitants from escaping, but large enough to allow for proper air circulation.


In addition to ventilation, proper drainage is essential to prevent water from accumulating in the vivarium. Excess water can lead to root rot in plants and can create an unhealthy environment for animals. To achieve effective drainage, there are a few steps you can follow:

  1. Add drainage layers: Create a layer of gravel or small stones at the bottom of the vivarium. This layer will allow excess water to collect and drain away from the substrate and plant roots. Make sure the layer is thick enough to provide adequate drainage, but not so thick that it takes up too much space.
  2. Use a porous substrate: Choose a substrate that is porous, allowing water to flow through it easily. Avoid dense substrates that can trap moisture and lead to waterlogged conditions.

By following these steps, you can ensure proper ventilation and drainage in your vivarium, creating a healthy and thriving environment for your plants and animals.

Creating the Foundation of Your Vivarium

When creating your own vivarium, it is essential to start with a solid foundation. This will provide a stable base for your plants, as well as promote proper drainage and prevent water damage. Here are the steps to create the foundation of your vivarium:

1. Choose the Right Container

2. Prepare the Surface

3. Install a Drainage Layer

To prevent waterlogging and improve drainage, add a layer of small pebbles or gravel at the bottom of your vivarium. This layer will create a space for excess water to accumulate without saturating the soil. It will also act as a barrier between the substrate and the container, helping to prevent root rot.

4. Add a Mesh or Screen Barrier

Next, place a mesh or screen barrier over the layer of pebbles. This will separate the substrate from the drainage layer, preventing soil from falling through and clogging the drainage system. It will also prevent pests from entering your vivarium through the bottom.

5. Add the Substrate

5. Add the Substrate

Now it’s time to add the substrate to your vivarium. Choose a substrate that is suitable for the types of plants you will be growing. Good options include a mix of potting soil, sand, and sphagnum moss. Spread the substrate evenly across the bottom of the container, making sure it is at the desired depth for your plants.

6. Smooth and Level

Use a small gardening tool or your hands to smooth and level the substrate. Make sure there are no uneven areas or large mounds that could cause water to pool in certain areas. A smooth and level substrate will provide a stable surface for your plants to root and grow.

By following these steps, you can create a solid foundation for your vivarium that will support the growth of your plants and provide a healthy environment for your pets. Remember to choose the right container, prepare the surface, install a drainage layer, add a mesh or screen barrier, and finally, add and smooth the substrate. With a strong foundation, your diy vivarium will thrive for years to come.

Layering the Substrate

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to layer the substrate in your vivarium:

  1. Drainage Layer: Start by creating a drainage layer at the bottom of the vivarium. This layer will help to prevent water from pooling and causing root rot. You can use materials such as stones, gravel, or activated charcoal for this layer.
  2. Moss Layer: On top of the drainage layer, add a layer of moss. Moss can help to retain moisture and provide a natural habitat for small invertebrates.
  3. Substrate Layer: Next, add a layer of substrate that is suitable for the plants and animals in your vivarium. This layer should be deep enough for the roots of the plants to establish and should provide nutrients for them to grow.
  4. Leaf Litter Layer: Adding a layer of leaf litter can provide additional nutrients for the plants and create a more natural-looking environment. Make sure to use dried leaves that have been sterilized to prevent the introduction of harmful bacteria or pests.
  5. Moss or Soil Layer: Depending on the specific needs of your vivarium, you may choose to add another layer of moss or soil on top of the leaf litter. This layer can help to retain moisture and provide additional nutrients.

By properly layering the substrate in your vivarium, you can create a healthy and natural environment that will promote the growth and well-being of your plants and animals.

Designing Your Ideal Vivarium Landscape

Designing the landscape of your vivarium is an exciting and creative process that will bring your miniature ecosystem to life. The landscape not only adds aesthetic appeal to your vivarium but also provides a functional and natural environment for the plants and animals that inhabit it.

Consider the Natural Habitat

For example: If you’re creating a tropical vivarium, you’ll want to include lush greenery, flowing water features, and dense soil. On the other hand, if you’re designing a desert vivarium, you would focus on incorporating sand, rocks, and drought-tolerant plants.

Use Different Layers

Creating different layers within your vivarium landscape is key to achieving a realistic and visually appealing design.

Layer 1: The Ground Layer: Start by layering the bottom of the vivarium with a drainage material like small rocks or gravel. This will help prevent waterlogging and ensure proper drainage.

Layer 2: The Substrate: Add a layer of substrate on top of the drainage material. The type of substrate will depend on the plants and animals in your vivarium. For example, if you have reptiles, you can use a combination of soil, sand, and coconut fiber.

Layer 3: The Plant Layer: Carefully select and place live plants in your vivarium. Choose plants that are suitable for the lighting conditions and humidity levels of your vivarium and arrange them in a visually pleasing way.

Layer 4: The Hardscape: Add various hardscape elements such as rocks, branches, and logs to create a natural and lifelike look. These elements can also provide hiding spots and climbing opportunities for the animals in your vivarium.

Consider Functionality and Maintenance

Accessibility: Make sure your vivarium is easily accessible for cleaning and maintenance. Consider leaving enough space for your hand to reach all corners of the enclosure.

Compatibility: Ensure that all the elements in your vivarium, such as plants and animals, are compatible with each other’s needs. Avoid pairing species that have conflicting temperature, humidity, or territorial requirements.

Maintenance: Plan for how you will maintain and care for your vivarium. Consider the watering needs of your plants, the cleaning requirements of your animals, and the replacement of any decaying or dead plants.

By following these guidelines and letting your creativity flow, you can design a stunning and functional vivarium landscape that will provide a natural and thriving habitat for the plants and animals within.

DIY: Selecting and Placing Live Plants for Your Vivarium

Here are some tips to help you select and place live plants in your vivarium:

  • Choose plants that are suitable for the specific conditions of your vivarium. Consider factors such as light levels, temperature, and humidity. Research different plant species and their requirements to ensure you make the right choices.
  • Consider the size and growth habits of the plants. Make sure the plants you select will fit well within the available space in your vivarium and won’t outgrow the container too quickly. Avoid plants with aggressive growth habits that may overtake the other plants in your vivarium.
  • Think about the aesthetic you want to achieve. Different plants have different shapes, colors, and textures. Consider how they will complement each other and the overall design of your vivarium.
  • Arrange the plants in a way that creates visual interest and mimics a natural environment. Place taller plants towards the back and shorter plants towards the front to create depth and perspective. Consider using a variety of plant heights and arranging them in groups or clusters.
  • Provide proper support for climbing plants. If you have climbing or vining plants, make sure you provide them with suitable structures to climb on, such as branches or other sturdy materials.
  • Monitor and adjust as needed. Keep an eye on the health of your plants and make adjustments as necessary. If a plant is not thriving or outgrowing the space, consider repositioning or replacing it.

Remember, selecting and placing live plants in your vivarium is a creative and personal process. Experiment with different combinations and arrangements to find the perfect balance for your unique ecosystem. With a bit of research and attention to detail, you can create a stunning vivarium filled with lush greenery.

Adding the Perfect Decorative Elements

1. Rocks and Branches

Start by selecting rocks and branches that are safe for your vivarium. Avoid using anything that may release chemicals into the environment. Make sure the rocks and branches are cleaned and sterilized before adding them to the vivarium. Arrange them in a way that creates natural hiding spots and climbing structures for the animals.

2. Driftwood

Driftwood can add a natural and unique touch to your vivarium. Make sure to choose driftwood that is safe for your specific animals and has been properly prepared. It should not release tannins or any harmful substances into the vivarium. Place the driftwood strategically to create visual interest and provide additional climbing surfaces.

3. Moss and Lichens

Moss and lichens can bring a lush and natural feel to your vivarium. They not only add visual appeal but also provide a soft and comfortable surface for the animals to rest on. Choose moss and lichens that are suitable for the humidity levels and lighting conditions in your vivarium. You can attach them to rocks, branches, or the substrate to create a more natural look.

4. Decorative Plants and Flowers

Adding small decorative plants and flowers can enhance the overall beauty of your vivarium. Choose plants that are compatible with the humidity and lighting requirements of your vivarium. Look for plants with interesting foliage or colorful flowers to add visual interest. Make sure to research each plant’s specific care requirements to ensure they thrive in the vivarium.

5. Hides and Shelters

Create hiding spots and shelters for your vivarium inhabitants by adding hollow logs, caves, or specially designed hides. These provide a safe and secure place for animals to retreat to when they feel stressed or want privacy. Make sure the hides are appropriately sized for your animals and positioned in areas where they can easily access them.

Remember, when adding decorative elements to your vivarium, it’s essential to consider the natural habitat and needs of your specific animals. Aim for a balanced and visually appealing arrangement that provides both functional and aesthetic benefits. With the right selection and placement of decorative elements, your vivarium will become a captivating and thriving mini-ecosystem.