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My Vivarium

      Just in case you want some ideas for a great vivarium I have written a complete description of the type of vivarium that I am using for my dragons. :)

      Click on the pictures to see a larger version. If you would like to see more pictures of my vivarium please visit Tricia's Water Dragons and from there click on my individual dragons pages. Yes my dragons each have their own page, except for Bob, my newest dragon.

      My vivarium is 6H x 3W x 2.5 deep. If I were doing it all over again I'd make it 6H X 6W X 3D. The vivarium is made of plywood and has sliding glass doors.

      When we were finished building the vivarium we used an aquarium safe silicone to seal all of the wood joints to make it more air-tight and water proof. Then we put about 5 coats of water based polyurethane on the viv as waterproofing. We then aired the viv out for more than a month to be sure any toxic fumes were gone. We also used a water based latex paint on the outside of the vivarium. The vivarium is a nice Forest green colour.

      Heat: I have a 150 Watt ceramic heater at the top of the viv it mostly goes on at night (it is my only night time heat source). This Ceramic heater is hooked up to a BioStat Dp thermostat that is programmed for day and night time temps.

      Ventilation: I have a small computer fan at the top of the viv blowing the air downward (hot air rises so we push it back down), there is a 2 foot L x 6 inch wide screened vent hole at the top of the viv as well, and we have another computer fan at mid level blowing the air across the vivarium.

      Lighting: One 24 inch UVB fluorescent light at the top back, over a shelf that is 17" below the light, another 24 inch UVB fluorescent light that is attached to the bottom of the top shelf at the back. There is another shelf 13" below that light. Fluorescent lights don't really heat up much so they don't really count for heating. Each fluorescent fixture is covered so that the light mostly shines downward and not outward. This cuts down on the glare when we are looking into the viv. We made the fluorescent fixture covers out of eaves-troughing material. We cut a length long enough to go over the back of the fixture, painted a nice forest green colour, screwed it into place, attached the fluorescent fixtures, added some eaves-trough end caps to either side of the fixture cover and ta'da' we had ourselves a nice light shade.

      Basking lights and heat: Directly below the middle shelf we have attached two ceramic light fixtures. Currently we have one 75 watt and one 50 watt incandescent bulb in each fixture. The lights are angled at a nice basking spot. We put the lights on the underside of the shelf so that the dragons wouldn't touch them or jump on them. We use nice metal shields around the lights to reflect the light downward and to protect any dragon tails that hang over the edge of the shelf that might touch a hot light. These two lights are my only day time heat source and the viv is always at the right temps. The thermostat doesn't usually turn the ceramic heater on during the day unless the temp manages to drop.

      The temp in the room that the viv is in is approx 75F so maybe that's why I don't need too much of a heat source. :) You'll have to play with what wattages of lights you use to get the temps right.

      Substrate, pool and decorations: The dragons pool is 3 feet long, 2.5 feet wide and 12 inches deep. The pool is actually a black plastic molded pond that we bought at White Rose (most garden centres carry these ponds in various sizes). At the deepest end we have the intake and outake tubes from our Fluval 203 canister filter. The tubes come into the vivarium from the back wall. The intake tube is of course in the water, and the output tube is about 4 inches above the water and splashes onto some large flat rocks in the pool, creating a nice moving water effect. We also have a Fluval 303 canister filter. The intake tube is actually hooked up into an external drain at the bottom of the center of the pool. The output tube is beside the fluval 203 canisters output tube in the back wall of the vivarium. In the pool we have some large flat rocks placed in layers (and siliconed together with aquarium safe silicone for stability) so that the dragons will have different depths of water to soak in. The water runs over the rocks and the dragons love it. :) We also have a large sunken log in the water area beside the rocks for basking. Basically one end of the pool has the rocks and the log and the other half of the pool is just water for swimming in. This allows our dragons to have different depths of water to enjoy in different areas of the pool. I've also placed four plastic water plants in the water area around the rocks and the log to try to create a more natural looking pond. The black pool looks very nice in our vivarium, especially with some fish swimming around in it and one or two dragons bathing. :)

      The dragons swim in the deep end occasionally but they mostly bathe, clean themselves, soak, and defecate in the shallow end. We have some gold fish in the pool too, the dragons just won't eat them but they look nice. :)

      We drilled a hole in the bottom of the deep end of the pool, and through the viv too. We bought a special drain at an aquarium store and hooked it up. Now we can empty the pool by opening the facet outside the viv, clean the pool, and dump more water in. No problem. :)

      The rest of the bottom of the viv is substrate and plants. We use a substrate of soil that is approx 9 inches deep. We have dracenae and Philodendrons plants planted around the edges of the viv. and we put lattice at the back of the viv. for the plants to grow up as well. It looks very nice. But the crickets that occasionally get loose in the cage hide behind the trellis and it's hard to get them out of there!

      I also have some fake vines in the viv on the back of the shelves to add some greenery.

      If you are going to set up your vivarium with earth substrate, live plants, and a pool with flowing water as we did you may want to take the extra time to line the whole bottom of the viv and at least 6 to 8 inches up the sides with a very thick plastic. We lined the viv the first time with a blue tarp Unfortunately our largest dragon, Rogue, discovered a way to create a whirlpool and splash water directly from the filter (When we had a fluval 2 filter in there) onto the substrate outside of their pool. The result was a soggy mess, a leaking viv, and ruined parquay flooring below the viv! :( So we dismantled the whole bottom of the viv and put a heavy coat of plastic in the land area and the pool area. It seems to be working wonderfully now. We also rearranged the pool area so Rogue can't have a whirlpool bath anymore! :)

      There is a nice log for them to bask on or hide in, a thick branch that leads up to the second shelf, a thick branch that runs across the pool and substrate that the dragons bask on or jump into the water from. We have a huge sheet of cork bark that runs up one side of the viv from the lower shelf to the higher shelf so that the dragons can get up there easily. We also have a branch that stands straight that goes from the substrate up to the second shelf. The dragons use this branch to come down from the top shelf. My smallest dragon puff used to sleep on a little crook in it. :) There is a half log on each shelf for lying on or under.

      The two basking shelves are L-shaped. Originally we had them just plain wood only, but with the polyurethane coating on the shelves we found that the dragons were slipping about and there was always the possibility of a serious accident happening. We purchased a nice green indoor outdoor carpet and cut it to fit each shelf. Then I got some velcro and used a hot glue gun to glue some velcro strips to the top of the shelves. Then I glued some velcro strips to the carpet pieces. Popped the carpet pieces onto the shelves carefully aligning the velcro stripes and voila! carpeted basking areas that are easily cleanable and slip-free! :)

      I've probably forgotten something but I think the description pretty much covers all of the important areas. Oh yeah the plants and the half logs etc. make great hiding areas. :)

     You can get some great ideas on how to build your own enclosure at Herp Habitats.

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
Mar, 19, 2010

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