Vivarium vs terrarium: Which is the best option for your pet?

A vivarium is an enclosed space that is designed to mimic a specific natural habitat for plants, reptiles, or amphibians. It typically includes live plants, soil, and other organic matter to create a more naturalistic environment. The goal of a vivarium is to recreate the conditions that these animals would experience in the wild, allowing them to exhibit their natural behaviors and live a healthier life.

On the other hand, a terrarium is a more general term that can refer to any enclosed container used to house plants or animals. Unlike a vivarium, a terrarium may not include live plants or attempt to recreate a natural habitat. Instead, it may focus more on aesthetics, using artificial plants or decorations to create an attractive display. While a terrarium can still provide a suitable habitat for some reptiles or amphibians, it may not offer the same level of environmental enrichment as a vivarium.

Comparing vivariums and terrariums, it becomes clear that the choice depends on the specific needs of your pet. If you have reptiles or amphibians that require a more naturalistic environment with live plants and soil, a vivarium is likely the best option. However, if you have pets that don’t require as much environmental enrichment or if you simply prefer a more decorative setup, a terrarium may be more suitable. Ultimately, the well-being and happiness of your pet should be the most important consideration when choosing between a vivarium and a terrarium.

Housing options for reptiles and amphibians: A comparison of vivariums and terrariums

What is a vivarium?

A vivarium is a specialized type of enclosure that provides a habitat for reptiles and amphibians. It typically mimics the natural environment of these animals, complete with live plants, soil, and other elements. Vivariums are designed to create a more natural and dynamic living space for your pet.

What is a terrarium?

Let’s explore the key factors to consider when choosing between a vivarium and a terrarium:


Temperature control

Reptiles and amphibians are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature. Both vivariums and terrariums can be equipped with heating elements such as heat lamps or heat mats to provide the necessary temperature gradients for your pet’s well-being.

Lighting options

Proper lighting is essential for reptiles and amphibians to thrive. Vivariums often have more options for customizing lighting setups, including UVB and plant-specific lights to support photosynthesis in live plants. Terrariums may have simpler lighting options, usually consisting of a heat lamp and a basic light source.

Substrate choices

The substrate, or bedding material, in the enclosure plays a crucial role in maintaining proper humidity levels and facilitating natural behaviors. Vivariums allow for a wider range of substrate choices, including natural soils, coco fiber, and moss. Terrariums typically utilize simpler substrates such as reptile carpet or paper towels.

Humidity levels

Many reptiles and amphibians require specific humidity levels to thrive. Vivariums, with their live plants and moisture-retaining substrates, are generally better at maintaining higher humidity compared to terrariums. However, terrariums can be equipped with humidifiers or misting systems to meet the needs of humidity-loving species.

Cleaning and maintenance

Vivariums, with their live plants and more complex setups, may require more frequent cleaning and maintenance compared to terrariums. However, both options can be kept clean and odor-free with regular spot cleaning, substrate changes, and disinfection of surfaces.

Compatibility with different species

Ease of setup

Cost considerations

Environmental impact

Environmental impact

Both vivariums and terrariums have their environmental impact. Vivariums, with their focus on providing a natural habitat, can contribute to conservation efforts by promoting the growth of native plants and supporting natural behaviors. Terrariums, on the other hand, may have a smaller ecological footprint due to their simplified design and reduced resource consumption.


Benefits of Vivariums

Vivariums are specially designed enclosures that provide a controlled environment for plants, reptiles, and amphibians. They offer a unique habitat that mimics the natural environment of these animals, allowing them to thrive and stay healthy.

One of the main advantages of vivariums is their ability to support the growth of plants. Vivariums often contain live plants that not only add beauty to the enclosure but also help create a more natural and dynamic environment for the inhabitants. The plants improve air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, creating a healthier and more pleasant living space.

Another benefit of vivariums is that they allow for an immersive and interactive experience for both the pets and their owners. The enclosure can be designed to include features such as rocks, branches, and hiding spots, giving the pets opportunities for exploration and stimulation. Pet owners can observe and interact with their pets more closely, enhancing the bond between them.

  • Vivariums provide a controlled environment for plants, reptiles, and amphibians.
  • Live plants in vivariums improve air quality and create a more natural environment.
  • Vivariums offer secure and controlled conditions for the well-being of pets.
  • Vivariums allow for an interactive and immersive experience for pets and owners.

Advantages of Terrariums

Terrariums are a popular choice for creating a suitable habitat for reptiles, amphibians, and other small animals. These enclosures offer several advantages for both the pets and their owners.

Advantage Description
1. Versatility Terrariums come in various shapes and sizes, allowing pet owners to customize the habitat according to the needs of their pets. Whether it’s a small enclosure for a gecko or a larger one for a python, terrariums can accommodate a wide range of animals.
2. Containment Terrariums provide a secure environment for pets, preventing them from escaping and getting lost or injured. The glass or acrylic walls of a terrarium offer excellent visibility while keeping the animals safely contained.
3. Visual Appeal Terrariums are aesthetically pleasing and can add a touch of nature to any room. With the addition of live plants, rocks, and other decorative elements, terrariums can create a beautiful and natural-looking environment for pets.
4. Controlled Environment Terrariums allow for better control of the pet’s environment, including temperature, humidity, and lighting. This is especially important for reptiles and amphibians, which require specific conditions to thrive.
5. Easy Maintenance Terrariums are relatively easy to clean and maintain. Regular spot cleaning, changing of substrate, and maintaining proper humidity levels are essential, but overall, terrariums require less maintenance compared to other types of enclosures.
6. Interaction Terrariums provide an opportunity for owners to observe and interact with their pets. The transparent walls of the enclosure allow for easy viewing, which can be educational and entertaining for both children and adults.

Overall, terrariums offer a safe and attractive environment for reptiles, amphibians, and other small animals. With their versatility, visual appeal, and ability to create a controlled environment, terrariums are an excellent choice for pet owners looking to provide the best habitat for their beloved pets.

Vivarium and Terrarium Sizes: Finding the Perfect Habitat for Your Pets

A vivarium is an enclosure that mimics the natural environment of a particular species, complete with live plants, soil, and even water features. The size of a vivarium will depend on the type of animal you are keeping and their specific requirements. For example, arboreal species such as tree-dwelling frogs or geckos will need a taller vivarium with plenty of climbing opportunities. On the other hand, terrestrial species like tortoises or snakes will require a larger floor space to move around comfortably.

A terrarium, on the other hand, is typically a glass or plastic enclosure without live plants. It is usually easier to maintain and clean compared to vivariums. The size of a terrarium can vary depending on the needs of your pets. Arboreal reptiles will benefit from a taller terrarium with vertical branches for climbing, while terrestrial species will require a larger floor area for exploration.

Choosing the Right Size

Keep in mind that the size of the enclosure should allow for the inclusion of appropriate furnishings and enrichments. This includes hiding spots, water features, and any other items necessary for your pet’s well-being. The habitat should be spacious enough to accommodate these additions comfortably.

Considerations for Amphibians and Reptiles

In general, it is recommended to provide a habitat that is at least 1.5 times the length of your reptile or amphibian. This will ensure that they have enough room to move around and express their natural behaviors.

  • For smaller reptiles or amphibians, a vivarium or terrarium with dimensions of 18x18x24 inches (46x46x61 cm) can be sufficient.
  • Medium-sized species may require a habitat measuring around 36x18x36 inches (91x46x91 cm).
  • Larger reptiles or amphibians, such as iguanas or larger snakes, will need an even larger enclosure, preferably one that allows for vertical climbing opportunities.

Creating the Perfect Environment

Temperature control in vivariums and terrariums

Temperature is a crucial factor to consider when creating an ideal enclosure environment for reptiles, amphibians, and other pets. Both vivariums and terrariums offer ways to regulate and maintain suitable temperatures for the inhabitants.

On the other hand, terrariums also provide various methods of temperature control. Heat lamps and heating pads can be utilized in terrariums as well, along with the option of under-tank heating. The choice of heat source may depend on the specific needs of the pets and the size of the enclosure. It is essential to maintain the proper temperature gradient to support the well-being of the animals.

Regardless of whether you choose a vivarium or a terrarium, it is crucial to research the temperature requirements of the species you plan to keep as pets. Different reptiles and amphibians have specific temperature preferences, and providing the suitable habitat conditions can contribute to their overall health and happiness.

Monitoring the enclosure temperature can be achieved using thermometers or digital temperature controllers. These tools enable pet owners to accurately measure and adjust the temperature as needed. Regular temperature checks should be performed to ensure the well-being of the animals.

Lighting options for vivariums and terrariums

Lighting options for vivariums and terrariums

When creating a habitat for your reptiles or amphibians, it is crucial to consider the lighting options for their vivarium or terrarium. The right lighting can have a significant impact on the health and well-being of your pets, as it can provide the necessary heat and light for their survival.

Vivarium Lighting

In a vivarium, the lighting should mimic the natural environment of the animals you are housing. This means providing a full spectrum of light that includes both UVB and UVA rays. UVB light is essential for reptiles as it allows them to synthesize vitamin D3, which is necessary for proper calcium metabolism. UVA light, on the other hand, helps to stimulate natural behaviors and enhance the overall well-being of the animals.

Terrarium Lighting

In a terrarium, lighting requirements may vary depending on the type of animals or plants you are housing. While some reptiles may still require UVB and UVA light, others may thrive with just regular fluorescent or incandescent lighting. It is essential to research the specific lighting needs of your pets or plants and choose the appropriate bulbs or fixtures accordingly.

Similar to vivariums, a timer can be used in a terrarium to ensure a consistent light cycle. This is particularly important for reptiles that require a specific day and night pattern to maintain their biological rhythms.


In terms of lighting options, both vivariums and terrariums offer a wide range of choices to create an ideal environment for your pets or plants. Vivariums, with their focus on replicating a natural habitat, typically require full spectrum lighting that includes UVB and UVA rays. On the other hand, in terrariums, the lighting needs can vary depending on the specific species being kept.

Ultimately, the lighting options for vivariums and terrariums will depend on the specific requirements of your pets or plants. It is essential to research and understand the lighting needs of the animals or plants you are keeping to provide them with the best possible environment for their health and well-being.

Substrate choices for vivariums and terrariums

Substrate for vivariums

Another substrate option for vivariums is sphagnum moss. Sphagnum moss is often used in conjunction with other substrates, as it helps to increase moisture retention and provides a natural-looking environment for the pets. It can also be used as a nesting material for certain reptiles.

Substrate for terrariums

Terrariums, which can house a variety of plants and animals, offer different substrate options depending on the type of habitat being created. Some common choices for terrarium substrates include potting soil, gravel, sand, and moss.

Gravel and sand can be used as a decorative substrate in terrariums, but they are not suitable for all types of animals. These substrates may be more appropriate for dry environments or species that require a more abrasive surface for digging or burrowing.

Humidity levels in vivariums and terrariums

Comparison between vivariums and terrariums

In a vivarium, which is typically designed specifically for plants and animals, it is easier to control and maintain the required humidity levels. This is achieved by incorporating features such as misting systems, water pools or streams, and the use of specific substrates that hold moisture. Vivariums often have a higher humidity range, as many tropical plants and amphibians require high moisture levels to thrive.

In contrast, a terrarium, which is generally more focused on displaying the animal rather than creating a full ecosystem, may require additional measures to maintain adequate humidity. This can include misting the enclosure with water, using a water dish, or adding a humidifier. The humidity levels in a terrarium depend on the specific needs of the species kept inside, as some reptiles prefer drier conditions.

Importance of proper humidity

Proper humidity is essential for the health and well-being of amphibians and reptiles. It helps to maintain their respiratory system, skin hydration, shedding process, and overall physiological functions. Insufficient humidity levels can lead to dehydration, respiratory infections, and other health issues, while excessive humidity can promote the growth of mold and bacteria.

Cleaning and Maintenance of Vivariums and Terrariums

Proper cleaning and maintenance are essential for ensuring the health and well-being of the pets living in vivariums and terrariums. Regular cleaning helps to eliminate bacteria, fungi, and parasites that can thrive in the humid and enclosed environments of these enclosures. Additionally, maintaining a clean and well-kept habitat will promote a healthier living environment for the pets.


1. Remove the Pet: Before starting the cleaning process, carefully remove the pet from the enclosure and place them in a temporary habitat to ensure their safety and prevent stress.

2. Remove Debris: Begin by removing any visible debris, such as uneaten food, feces, shed skin, and dead plants. Use gloves or a suitable tool to avoid direct contact with waste material.

3. Wipe the Surfaces: Thoroughly clean the walls, floor, and any other surfaces inside the enclosure using a mild disinfectant solution. Be sure to follow the instructions on the product and rinse with clean water afterward to remove any residue.

4. Clean Decorations: Take this opportunity to clean any decorations, such as rocks, branches, and hiding spots. Scrub them with a brush to remove any dirt or algae buildup.

5. Replace Substrate: If necessary, replace the substrate with a fresh and clean one. This will help maintain a hygienic environment for the pets.


Regular maintenance is key to keeping vivariums and terrariums in optimal condition:

1. Temperature and Humidity Control: Monitor and adjust the temperature and humidity levels according to the specific needs of the pets living in the enclosure. This may involve using heating devices, misters, or humidifiers.

2. Lighting: Provide the necessary lighting for the pets, which may include UVB lights for reptiles to aid in their vitamin D synthesis.

3. Water and Food: Ensure that the pets always have access to fresh water and a suitable diet. Clean and refill water dishes regularly to prevent contamination.

4. Plant Care: If the enclosure contains live plants, ensure they are properly cared for. Trim dead leaves and provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth.

5. Regular Inspection: Regularly inspect the enclosure for any signs of damage, wear, or malfunctioning equipment. Replace or repair any damaged components to maintain the safety and functionality of the enclosure.

Cleaning and maintenance should be carried out on a regular basis to promote a healthy and thriving environment for the pets living in vivariums and terrariums. By following these steps, pet owners can ensure the longevity and well-being of their reptiles, amphibians, and other pets.

Compatibility with different species of pets

Terrariums, on the other hand, may be a better option for species that require a drier environment. Animals like desert-dwelling reptiles, such as bearded dragons and certain snake species, prefer a dry and arid habitat with limited vegetation. Terrariums provide the necessary space and conditions for these animals to thrive, with the focus being on creating a suitable temperature gradient and maintaining the appropriate levels of humidity.

Consideration should also be given to the size of the enclosure when considering compatibility. Some species may require larger spaces to accommodate their natural behaviors and movements, while others may prefer smaller and more secure environments.

Overall, both vivariums and terrariums can provide a suitable home for a variety of reptile and amphibian species. The decision ultimately depends on the specific needs and preferences of your pet, as well as your own personal preferences in terms of aesthetic design.

Ease of setup for vivariums and terrariums

When considering vivariums and terrariums as housing options for reptiles and amphibians, one important aspect to consider is the ease of setup. Setting up a vivarium or terrarium correctly is crucial to creating a suitable habitat and environment for your pets.

Terrariums are often designed and marketed specifically for housing reptiles and amphibians, which means they often come with built-in features that make setup easier. These features may include pre-installed lighting fixtures, access points for feeding or cleaning, and ventilation systems.

Additionally, terrariums usually come with detailed instructions or guidelines on how to set up the enclosure properly. This can be especially helpful for beginners or those new to keeping reptiles or amphibians as pets.

Cost considerations for vivariums and terrariums

Cost considerations for vivariums and terrariums

When deciding between a vivarium and a terrarium for your pet, cost is an important factor to consider. Both options have associated costs, and it’s essential to understand the expenses involved in setting up and maintaining these types of enclosures.

Long-term maintenance costs: Both vivariums and terrariums require ongoing maintenance, such as cleaning, feeding, and replacing supplies. Vivariums may incur higher long-term costs due to the need to maintain specific environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity, for the benefit of the plants and animals inside. Terrariums, while still requiring regular maintenance, may be less costly to maintain compared to vivariums.

Cost of accessories and decorations: Both vivariums and terrariums offer opportunities to create a visually appealing and enriching habitat for your pet. However, the costs of plants, rocks, branches, and other decorative elements can vary. Consider the cost of accessories and decorations when planning your budget for either a vivarium or a terrarium.

Species-specific requirements: Some species of plants and animals have specific habitat requirements that may influence the overall cost of setting up and maintaining a vivarium or a terrarium. For example, certain reptiles or amphibians may require specialized lighting or heating systems, which can increase the overall cost.

Environmental impact: Consider the environmental impact of the materials used in constructing both vivariums and terrariums. Some materials may be more sustainable and eco-friendly than others, but they may also come at a higher cost. Balance your budget considerations with your desire to minimize your environmental footprint.

Cost considerations Vivarium Terrarium
Initial setup costs Higher Lower
Long-term maintenance costs Potentially higher Potentially lower
Cost of accessories and decorations Varies Varies
Species-specific requirements Potentially higher Potentially lower
Environmental impact Potentially higher Potentially higher

Ultimately, the cost considerations associated with vivariums and terrariums will depend on your specific needs and the species of plants and animals you plan to house. It’s essential to consider both upfront expenses and long-term maintenance costs to make an informed decision that fits within your budget.

The environmental impact of vivariums and terrariums

Vivariums and terrariums are artificial environments that aim to replicate the natural habitats of amphibians and reptiles. However, they differ in terms of their design and functionality. Vivariums typically have a more complex setup, with the inclusion of plants, water features, and landscaping elements that closely resemble the natural environment of the animal. Terrariums, on the other hand, are simpler in design and focus more on providing the necessary essentials for the animal, such as a suitable substrate and temperature control.

The choice of materials used in the construction of vivariums and terrariums is another aspect that can affect the environment. Many enclosures are made from plastic or glass, which can contribute to the production of greenhouse gases during their manufacturing process. Opting for materials that are eco-friendly, such as recycled plastic or sustainably sourced glass, can help reduce the environmental footprint.

Lastly, the maintenance and cleaning of vivariums and terrariums also play a role in their environmental impact. The use of harsh chemical cleaners can be harmful to the environment, especially if they are washed down the drain and enter the water system. Opting for natural, eco-friendly cleaning products is a more environmentally conscious choice.

Personal preferences in choosing between vivariums and terrariums

Consideration for Plants and Reptiles

If you are looking to create a natural habitat for plants or reptiles, both vivariums and terrariums can be suitable options. Vivariums, which are specifically designed for reptiles and amphibians, provide a more realistic and natural environment. They often incorporate live plants and various elements to mimic the natural habitat of the pet. On the other hand, terrariums offer more flexibility in terms of the choice of plants and arrangements, making them a popular choice for plant enthusiasts.

Comparison in Environment and Enclosure

When considering the environment and enclosure for your pet, both vivariums and terrariums have their advantages. Vivariums typically have a solid construction with proper insulation, which helps maintain a stable temperature and humidity level. They are designed to create a controlled environment for sensitive species. On the other hand, terrariums are often made of glass, allowing for better visibility and showcasing the beauty of the plants or reptiles. They also provide a more open and spacious feeling.

Amphibians and Habitat Preferences

For pet owners with amphibians, vivariums are often the preferred option. Amphibians have unique habitat requirements, including the need for both land and water areas. Vivariums offer the ability to create a suitable environment with proper water features and land areas for amphibians to thrive. Terrariums can still be used for amphibians, but additional modifications may be required to meet their specific needs.