The Difference Between a Vivarium and Terrarium
Although vivarium is the correct term to describe any reptile enclosure, you will often see glass reptile homes described as a terrarium (a type of container for glowing plants in).
This is to help distinguish between the two different styles of vivarium explained below:
A reptile terrarium is usually a tall, glass or plastic container, which can contain and care for plants. Much like a fish tank, it is accessed from its roof and is usually most suitable for smaller lizards and amphibians.
A reptile vivarium usually comes in the form of a long wooden cabinet with a glass or plastic screen door for viewing and accessing your pet. Unlike a terrarium, these are not designed to be able to grow plants and are usually more suitable for large lizards like Bearded Dragons, as well as snakes.
You may also consider purchasing a paludarium for certain amphibians, a kind of terrarium which also features aquatic elements.
Choosing Between a Vivarium or Terrarium
Technically, if your housing a reptile, you can happily choose between a glass terrarium or a wooden vivarium, as the size of the enclosure and what you put inside it is probably more crucial in helping your pet thrive.
It’s when housing amphibians or tropical reptiles that it becomes crucial to choose a terrarium. This is because they may require aquatic elements or misting devices to provide rainforest-like moisture. A glass structure will, therefore, be far more waterproof than a wooden cabinet!
Vivariums are also far easier to insulate, so for desert reptiles who enjoy basking, they can often make the better option.
Before You Buy
Reptile Type & Size
Naturally, the most important thing when purchasing your reptile enclosure is understanding the full adult size your reptile can grow too, and making sure your vivarium is of sufficient size to accommodate it!
The natural behaviour of your reptile also makes it easier to pick between typically low ceilinged vivariums and tall terrariums!
Here is a guide to some of the most common reptile pets, and the amount of space they’ll need:
Bearded Dragons – Requires a vivarium of around 4 feet in length.
Leopard Gecko – Need medium 3ft vivarium for good insulation.
Crested Gecko – Prefer terrariums of minimum 45cm height, for climbing.
Chameleon – Largest terrariums available to provide moisture and climbing
Terrestrial Snakes – Terrarium or vivarium, roughly just over half their total length in size to provide a small cosy space.
Royal Python – Terrarium or vivarium, roughly just over half their total length in size to provide a small cosy space. This is usually 4ft for a python.
Boa – Arboreal vivarium, provides extra height for climbing.
Rainforest Frogs – Although differing between species, in general, they require a terrarium of 30 x 30 x 45cm at least
Blue Tongue Skink – A vivarium of 4ft
Tortoise – Tortoise table is usually more suitable than a vivarium, although a 4ft vivarium would still be suitable
Make sure to thoroughly research your species of reptile to make sure the housing your considering will suitably support their needs!