You have chosen the species of lizard you wish to breed in captivity? Find out how to properly design your future lizard’s terrarium to ensure a long and peaceful life. Terrarium size, accessories, lighting, heating… We tell you everything about the essential equipment for your terrarium!

What size and shape of terrarium to choose?

The size and shape of your terrarium depends exclusively on the species of lizard you choose. Remember to ask a breeder beforehand to get as much information as possible about your lizard and its natural living conditions. Note that your terrarium should be spacious, but not too large either: it must be adapted to the morphology of your lizard.

If your lizard is a so-called crawling species, then its terrarium should be rather long and low. If, on the other hand, it is an arboreal species, i.e. one that lives in trees, then you will need a high terrarium in which you can place branches and other decorations on which your lizard can climb and perch.

Another point to take into account when choosing your terrarium is the original environment of your lizard. Does it live in a natural desert, tropical or aquatic environment? The choice of the terrarium and its layout will be different.

Finally, be aware that terrariums are available in glass, wood or plastic. Not all of them are suitable for the same species, so it is important to find out beforehand.

How to set up your terrarium or vivarium?

1 – Substrate to compose the floor of your terrarium
The terrarium of your lizard should contain a substrate on the ground. Different choices are available: wood chips, sand, coconut fibre, synthetic grass, etc. It is important to choose the substrate best suited to your lizard and its natural environment in order to avoid any danger to it, especially the risk of ingestion which can be fatal. The thermal and absorbent capacities of the substrate are also to be taken into account according to the type of terrarium (desert, tropical, etc.).

2 – Hiding places to create a feeling of security
Your terrarium should also have at least two hiding places, one located in the hot zone of the terrarium, and the other in the cold zone. Again, find out about your lizard’s natural habitat to provide similar shelters close to what it might have had in the wild.

3 – Decorative elements to reproduce its natural environment
You can also place some decorative elements to decorate your terrarium: branches, roots, stones, plants, etc… Be sure to press these elements very lightly into the substrate to keep them in place and add more substrate if necessary so that the terrarium floor is never exposed.

4 – A water point where your lizard will be able to refresh itself.
Finally, don’t forget to install a water point at your lizard. This water bowl will have to be changed every day to avoid any risk of infection.

5 – A heating system to reproduce its living conditions

Lizards are so-called cold-blooded animals. That is, they do not produce internal heat and their internal temperature is determined by the temperature of their external environment. In nature, their temperature is therefore regulated according to the seasons and the sun. In a terrarium, you will have to create a warm zone (32°C maximum) and a cold zone (26°C maximum) by installing a heating system adapted to reproduce as well as possible the living conditions of your lizard in a natural environment:

if your lizard lives in desert conditions, its terrarium will have to be heated both from the ground via heating cables and in the air using heat lamps;
if your lizard lives in a tropical environment (humid and hot), the heating should be concentrated on the floor, using a heating mat for example, if possible under a pond or near a watering trough in order to promote evaporation and ensure a good level of humidity in the air. The installation of a mister or a humidifier may also be indicated depending on the species;
if your lizard lives in an aquatic or semi-aquatic environment, then you will have to pay attention to the water temperature as well as to the areas surrounding the pond.
Your terrarium should also include a warmer spot located either on the ground, on a terrace or on a high branch depending on the species (terrestrial, rocky or arboreal).

Finally, the installation of one or more thermostats as well as thermal probes will be unavoidable in order to be able to control temperature variations during the day or according to the seasons.

6 – Adapted lighting to provide UVB and UVA to your lizard

The lighting of the terrarium is an important step, since it will generally have to fulfill 3 functions: lighting, heating and providing the necessary supply of ultraviolet UVA and UVB rays, which are essential for the synthesis of calcium and vitamin D.

Your terrarium must therefore be equipped with suitable lamps to provide a quality lighting environment:

heating lamps, as seen previously, essential to maintain the right temperature in your terrarium. It should be noted that they exist in “moonlight” version which simulate night lighting, in infrared version or in ceramic which do not offer any lighting so as not to disturb the cycle of your lizard during the night. Some heating lamps also include the diffusion of UVB rays and can therefore have a double function in the terrarium. Make sure to place these lamps at a good distance to avoid any risk of burning your lizard or to install a protective grid;
UVB lamps, heated or not, which will bring its dose of ultraviolet rays to your lizard. You can place only one of them in a strategic place in the terrarium where your lizard will be able to come and take its dose every day;
UV-free lamps whose sole function is to illuminate and reproduce a daily cycle within the terrarium.
Finally, here again, it may be interesting to set up a timer system in order to regulate the lighting times within the terrarium. The length of the day/night cycles varies from one species to another, always ask the breeder for advice.

Where to place your terrarium?

For its tranquility, avoid placing your lizard’s terrarium in a place where people are passing by. Ideally, place it on a piece of furniture halfway up, and never on the ground so as not to stress it by the vibrations of the ground when someone walks by.

Terrarium furniture is ideal for supporting the weight of your terrarium and ensuring its stability and safety on a daily basis. This furniture generally includes storage space, which is very useful for storing all the material necessary for the maintenance of your terrarium and lizard.

Finally, also pay attention to drafts and natural exposure if there is a window nearby.