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Inexpensive ways to make a great reptile enclosure!

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      I receive several letters from people asking me for plans or idea's for making a large vivarium or enclosure for their reptiles. I have recently added a page to my site called My Vivarium where you can find a complete description of our dragons large 6 ft x 3 ft x 2.5 ft vivarium.

      We are planning on building another large vivarium in the near future, and since I do get some many letters asking me for idea's on how to cut down on the expense of setting up a new enclosure I thought I'd list some of my ideas here.:

      We've been hitting:

  • garage sales,
  • and flea markets
  • and checking the newspapers for contents sales etc....

      We are looking for large used furniture (cheap) that could be converted into large vivariums. If we cant find a piece of furniture that is large enough for them we will make them a home made vivarium, but if we can find a nice piece of furniture we will be able to start out with more than half the makings for a viv!

Furniture ideas

  • large dressers
  • or armoire's,
  • entertainment units,
  • china cabinets,
  • wardrobes,
  • Large jewellery display cases...

      Most of these items have drawers. We could remove the drawers and use the wood to make basking shelves or re-enforce the back of the furniture. Then add the lights, nice pool with drain, water proof, add heating items and basking lights, substrate, put in some plants and voila! instant viv. and if we find a nice piece of furniture, say an oak, maple or cherry wood china cabinet with glass doors we'd really have a nice new viv wouldn't we? :)

      We just haven't found a piece of furniture large enough yet. We want something made of wood because Canadian winters are cold and wood is a great insulator- save on heating costs and problems.

Flea Markets and Garage sales

      The best thing about going to flea markets and garage sales is that most of the items are very inexpensive- less than $100 for a large piece of used furniture. We've also seen some other interesting items that we might be able to use in the future:

Flea market and garage sale items that can be used for vivs:

  • Panes of glass,
  • Screen doors,
  • Utility sinks
    • drill a hole in the bottom of the viv, add a pcv pipe for a drain and ta da you have a drainable pool!
  • Electrical equipment
  • shields for basking lights,
  • clamp lamps,
  • ceramic fixtures...
  • Furniture that could be used for herps
    • old TV housing,
    • large bookshelves,
    • entertainment units,
    • china cabinets and buffets,
    • dressers and armoirs...
  • Large incubator
    •       we found a huge incubator- must have been 4 feet long, by 2.5 feet high, standing on a shelving unit ... temps went from like 60 to 300F.. for $200 of course we didn't buy it.. but a breeder might be interested in something like that. It had fixtures for UVB fluorescent lights, heat lamps, built in fan, thermostat... Bargain hunters could probably find smaller incubators at country flea markets..

Lighting ideas:

      Basking lights bought in pet stores can be very expensive. If you need a lot of basking lights for your collection go to the hard ware store and look at the indoor tract lighting reflector bulbs. They have the metal reflector near the base that helps reflect the light and heat downward, they come in several different wattages, and they cost sometimes as much as 75% less than basking bulbs sold in pet stores!

      If you like using Vitalights (Duratest) as your UVB fluorescent tube- Try looking for these tubes in garden centres, nurseries, and health food stores. Sometimes the prices are better in those kind of stores compared to pet stores.


      Visit garden centres and plant nurseries to pick up orchid bark, wood chips (make sure they aren't cedar!), top soil, sterile soil, moss, and playground sand.

      If you like to use repti-carpet or astroturf, look in hardware stores and even dept. stores for low pile inexpensive dark green carpeting and or astroturf. Keep in mind that the edges of the astroturf should be melted to prevent fraying after you cut it to size!

      I could go on listing stuff but those are just a few of the potentially useful items we've found and sometimes used. It's spring cleaning time and the time for people to start having garage sales selling all their old furniture and other items that they have no use for, but perhaps us herpers could use some of them? :) Just a few ideas for those looking to make a large vivarium or for new reptile owners looking for inexpensive short-cuts to help them get set up right. Lets get creative. :)

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Water Dragon Books

Green Water Dragons, Sailfin Lizards and Basilisks (General Care and Maintenance of Series) by Philippe De Vosjoli

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      Basic but detailed information about the care, diet, and health of green water dragons, sailfin lizards and basilisks.

Anoles, Basilisks, and Water Dragons Anoles, Basilisks and Water Dragons : A Complete Pet Care Manual (More Complete Pet Owner's Manuals) by Richard D. Bartlett, Patricia P. Bartlett (Contributor)

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     Discussion of the general care of many species of anole, basilisks and water dragons. Excellent information regarding enclosures, cage building, and insect care and breeding.

Eat this Bug Eat This Bug : A Guide to Invertebrate Live Foods for Reptiles and Amphibians by Lynn Davis

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      This book is a guide for owners of reptiles and amphibians who feed insects and other live foods to their pets. Advice is offered for selecting , ordering and raising your own supply of live invertebrate foods. More than a dozen species of live foods are discussed. The book includes instructions on keeping cultures of insects, and recipes & diets for insects.

Last updated
April, 10, 2012

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