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Vavarium, which is Latin for “place of life,” is an enclosure for keeping and raising animals or plants for observation and research. Sometimes a vivarium will have a portion where the ecosystem for a particular species is simulated with controls for environmental conditions. Vivariums come in many different sizes and shapes. Some may be small enough to sit on a table, such as a terrarium or aquarium, or they may be a very large outdoor structure. Large vivariums, especially those for holding animals capable of flight, usually include a dual-door mechanism, called a “sally port” for entry and exit. This is so that the outer door can be closed for protection and to prevent escape before the inner door is opened. There are several different types of vivariums, each discussed in more detail below.

An aquarium simulates a water habitat, such as a lake or sea. Plants in an aquarium will use some nitrogen present within the system and will provide areas for organisms to hide and forage. Most people are very familiar with fish aquariums.

A terrarium simulates a dry habitat. Many different kinds of plants can be grown in a terrarium, including African Violets. Animals most commonly housed in terrariums for observation are reptiles, amphibians, insects, spiders and small birds.

Insectarium contains insects and a formicarium holds species of ants.

A Paludarium simulates a rain forest or swamp environment. Some also describe it as an aquarium that is interconnected with a terrarium (having both the underwater area and a “shore.”)

Riparium is a paludarium with a circulating current through multi-leveled pools.

A vivarium is usually made of clear glass or plastic and may be cubical, rectangular or spherical. If the vivarium is not to hold fish, it can be made of wood or metal with just one side transparent. It should be big enough for the species living inside (important note: research how big your herp will be at their adult size to be sure your vivarium has enough ground surface.) A bedding will be used, such as common soil, small pebbles, sand, peat, chips of various trees or vegetable fibers. The choice will depend on the type of animal living in the space. Lighting is very important. Some reptiles heat themselves by the sun, so various bulbs may be necessary to simulate this environment. Other important factors to research for your vivarium include temperature, humidity and ventilation. You will also need access inside the vivarium for maintenance and to add and withdraw food. A front opening is preferred for some animals because access from the top may cause them to recall the arrival of a predator and cause them stress. Ventilation is important for circulating air and for prevention of the growth of mold and bacteria - especially in warm, humid vivariums. An acceptable method of ventilation is to place one fan at a low level and another at a high level, thus allowing for air circulation.


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