Housing Your Lizard-Choosing a VivariumDr. Bobby Ortiz M.V.B
One of the most important things to do before you even bring home your new pet lizard to ensure they have a place to live. Lizards need adequate housing that meets their physical and emotional needs. You want your lizard to feel safe and comfortable, while also keeping their enclosure the correct temperature and humidity.
In this blog post, I will explain how to house your lizard, why heating and lighting is important, and what to include in his enclosure.
Dr. Bobby Ortiz, M.V.B.
Dr Bobby Ortiz, aka 'Dogtor Bob', is a small animal and exotic veterinarian based in Dublin. He has a strong interest in Small Mammal (rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets) and Reptile medicine and surgery.
He grew up in a family of avid animal lovers, which led him to work as an Aquarist at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific in California. It was there he decided he wanted to become a vet, and specialise in exotic animals, that needed the same care and medical attention that dogs and cats are given.
He lives with his wife and Brittany Spaniel Bodhi, and has dreams to build a new tropical marine fish tank in the near future!
Choosing a Vivarium for your Lizard
A vivarium is an indoor glass enclosure that is ideal for housing your lizard. With a vivarium, you can recreate the lizard’s natural habitat under controlled environmental conditions. Make sure it has a secure top, as they make excellent escape artists. Choose glass or plastic enclosures that are completely escape-proof.
Vivariums allow for easy lighting, heating, and ventilation. It is important to recreate their natural habitat, as without it, your pet lizard could become fatally ill as their bodies cannot adapt.
When choosing a vivarium, one of the first questions you’ll ask yourself is, ‘what size?’ This depends on your type of lizard; if you own a bearded dragon, or ‘beardie’ as they are lovingly known, A 120cm long x 60cm high x 60 cm wide vivarium is the minimum size needed for one adult dragon. Consider how big he will grow when he is an adult.
For geckos, the best vivarium is one which is long and shallow. Geckos must be housed in glass vivarium for their safety and to prevent them from escaping. An adult gecko requires a tank at least 60cm long, 40cm high and 30cm deep.
What To Include in the Vivarium
Lizards like to live in a vivarium with plenty of climbing rocks and branches to keep them occupied. Your lizard will leap and climb around so choose a vivarium with plenty of space. Additional accessories, background or artificial plants help make the habitat look more natural and make your pet feel at home. A hiding area, hide boxes, overlapping rocks, or sections of curved bark, are also recommended. There should be at least two hiding areas; and the more lizards you house together, the more hiding spots you will need.
Recreating a Natural Environment
Lighting and heat are important for reptiles, who are outdoor creatures that generally live in hot climates. In order to thrive as indoor pets, it is necessary to recreate their natural environment through the use of specialist lighting and heat equipment. Without recreating the features of natural light, your reptile may become fatally ill.
Why Lighting and Heat Is Important
UVB is needed to enable Vitamin D production in your reptile’s skin. This vitamin controls calcium metabolism, and the body’s ability to maintain calcium levels. Calcium deficiency will lead to the development of Metabolic Bone Disease in less than six months. You can check out Petmania’s range of suitable light bulbs here.
UVA light isn’t visible to humans, but it is a part of the colour spectrum that reptiles can see. Therefore, without it, they will be colour-blind. UVA is also important to maintain your reptile’s physiological health; simulating feeding, breeding and other natural behaviours.
Reptiles and Amphibians are ectotherms, or coldblooded, which means that they must move in and out of the heat in order to maintain their ideal body temperature. Without a proper heat gradient, their bodies cannot thermoregulate (heat up); and they will become ill. Heat mats and basking lights should be used as heat sources in your vivarium to help your reptile maintain its temperature.
Day and Night
In short, while some reptiles are active during the day (diurnal); some are at night time (nocturnal); and others at dawn and dusk (crepuscular). All reptiles need a proper photoperiod or day/night cycle to stimulate their normal activities. Day and night light bulbs are used to regulate this.
Bedding and Substrates
Bedding and substrates are the ground matter that you will use to set up your vivarium, There are different types available, depending on the type of environment you are seeking to recreate. Recreating your reptile’s natural habitat is important to ensure a healthy and happy lifestyle.
Bark is used to recreate natural set-ups required for humidity-loving reptiles. It stimulates natural digging and burrowing behavior, and is the perfect substrate in which to grow plants.
Compressed Coconut Fibre offers high moisture absorbency with little decay. This makes it an ideal substrate for reptile and amphibian’s that live in a tropical habitat. Its naturally expandable composition makes it soft and safe for jumping species like frogs and toads; while it makes an excellent substrate for nesting and burrowing.
Sand has a loose grain structure which stimulates natural digging and burrowing behaviours in your reptiles and amphibians. It can be used for a variety of pets including bearded dragons, leopard gecko, tarantulas and scorpions.
Sphagnum Moss is used in humid environments; retaining water and does not decompose in humid conditions.