The Fish Guru

Creating a Thriving Ecosystem: The Fascinating World of Vivariums

Vivarium – A Place of Life and Beauty

Do you love animals and plants but don’t have space for a big garden or a pet? Then a vivarium might just be what you need.

A vivarium is a place where living organisms can thrive and grow, and it can be set up in your own home, office, or research facility. Whether you’re looking to create a natural and aesthetically-pleasing environment or conducting scientific research, there’s a vivarium type for you.

Types of Vivarium


Paludariums are perfect for those who love aquatic and semi-aquatic creatures. They feature a combination of water and land environments, creating a beautiful and complex ecosystem.

Paludariums are excellent for housing fish, amphibians, and reptiles. They require a bit more effort to set up than typical tanks, but the extra work is worth it if you want a thriving ecosystem.

Some popular species for a paludarium include African dwarf frogs, red-eared sliders, and fire-bellied toads.


Terrariums are mini-ecosystems perfect for land animals and plants. Theyre great for people who love nature and have limited space.

Terrariums are easy to set up and require less maintenance than other vivariums. Theyre perfect for small animals or reptiles, and theyre a great way to create a natural environment for plants like succulents, ferns, and mosses.


Aquariums are the most popular type of vivarium because theyre easy to set up and maintain. Theyre excellent for showcasing a variety of aquatic fish species, providing mesmerizing entertainment.

Aquariums can range from small desktop tanks to large living walls, and they can be customized to fit almost any space. Popular fish species for a beginners aquarium include neon tetras, guppies, and goldfish.


Ripariums are similar to paludariums; however, they have a deeper water depth and are typically used to house tropical plants and fish.

Ripariums are great for those who want a more challenging setup, as they require more specialized equipment such as pumps and filters.

Ripariums can provide a beautiful and rewarding ecosystem with a variety of fish species, including cichlids, danios, and angelfish.


Oceanariums are the ocean at your fingertips. They are perfect for housing marine animals like sharks, dolphins, and even coral reefs.

Oceanariums require more specialized equipment, but they provide a stunning and interactive aquarium for viewing and exploring. Popular marine animals for an

Oceanarium include clownfish, lionfish, and seahorses.


Penguinariums are a specialized type of vivarium that simulates natural habitats for penguins. They feature cold temperatures and special feeding areas that create a unique environment for penguins to thrive.

Penguinariums are typically found in zoos and aquariums and offer an opportunity for visitors to see penguins behaving naturally in their habitat.


Dolphinariums are large tanks designed to simulate an ocean environment for dolphins. They offer a way for researchers to study dolphins and for visitors to watch dolphins interact socially.

Dolphinariums require more specialized equipment and are typically found in water parks and marine science centers.


Insectariums offer a unique opportunity to watch insects in a controlled environment. They are perfect for research, observation, and educational purposes.

Insectariums allow visitors to view insects up close, providing insight into their behavior and ecology. They are typically home to a variety of insects such as ants, beetles, and butterflies.


Orchidariums are specialized for growing orchids, specifically the Oncidium Hians. They are perfect for lovers of exotic and beautiful flowers.

Orchidariums provide a controlled environment for these delicate plants to flourish. They require careful attention to humidity and temperature, ensuring that your orchids are healthy and vibrant.


Aviaries are perfect for bird lovers and enthusiasts. They provide a natural environment for birds to live and thrive with ample space to fly.

Aviaries are typically large and require significant space and maintenance. They offer a peaceful and interactive environment that can be enjoyed by visitors and researchers alike.


Formicariums house ant colonies, providing a unique opportunity to watch these social insects at work. Theyre perfect for researchers or those who love observing insects up close.

Formicariums come in different sizes and designs, depending on the size of the ant colony. They are typically made of see-through materials that allow for easy viewing.


Mossariums house a variety of mosses and ferns, providing a great way to appreciate the beauty of these plants while learning about their ecology. They require minimal maintenance, making them perfect for those with a busy schedule.

Mossariums are also great for adding a natural and tranquil element to your home.


Jarrariums are small, self-contained ecosystems that can be housed in a jar, hence the name. These jarrariums typically feature moss, reptiles, fishes, and plants, creating a miniature ecosystem that’s easy to maintain.

Theyre perfect for small rooms or offices, and watching this mini-ecosystem can be very relaxing.


Vivariums offer a unique opportunity to house and observe living organisms up close. They can be set up in a variety of environments, from small apartments to large research facilities.

Different types of vivariums cater to different ecosystems, and depending on the types of animals and plants that you want to feature, you can find a vivarium that’s perfect for you. Vivariums are a great way to appreciate the natural beauty of animals and plants in your own space, and they provide an enjoyable and interactive experience for visitors and researchers alike.

How to Set Up a Vivarium

Setting up a vivarium requires careful consideration of the needs of the plants and animals that will inhabit it. While there are several types of vivariums, the basic principles of vivarium setup remain the same.

Heres a step-by-step guide on how to set up a vivarium.

Tank Size

The first consideration when setting up a vivarium is the size of the tank. The tank size will depend on the type of plants and animals you plan to house in it.

A 29-gallon tank is a good size for most small animals and plants. Larger tanks offer more space for animals to move around and allow for a more complex ecosystem.

When selecting a tank size, ensure that there’s enough space to provide a suitable environment for your plants and animals.

Vivarium Substrate

Once youve selected the right tank, the next step is to choose the appropriate substrate. The substrate is the material used to line the bottom of the tank.

It provides a foundation for the plants and animals to grow and helps to maintain the environment. A false bottom made of mesh screen and egg crate is a great way to set up the substrate.

Place a layer of clay pellets on top of the false bottom to create the drainage layer. On top of the clay pellets, add sphagnum moss, then a soil mix.

The substrate should be at least two inches deep to provide enough support for plants and animals. Background/Decoration

The background and decorations in a vivarium are essential for creating a natural environment for plants and animals to thrive.

When setting up the background, consider using gravel slate, sheet moss, cork bark, rocks, plants, and driftwood to create a natural environment. You can use cork bark to create tree-like structures, and rocks to create brush piles.

Adding live plants can help to regulate the humidity in the vivarium and provide food and shelter for animals.

Aquarium Needs/Equipment

To set up a vivarium, you’ll need some specialized equipment to ensure that the environment stays healthy. You’ll need a submersible heater, pump, drop cloth, aquarium lights, and sealant.

A submersible heater will help maintain the temperature, while a pump will keep the water circulating and prevent stagnation. Drop cloth is necessary to protect the flooring, and aquarium lights will provide the necessary light spectrum required by the plants.

When sealing the vivarium, ensure that the sealant you use is aquarium-safe to avoid contamination of the water and endanger the animals.

Building a Vivarium

Before building your vivarium, it’s essential to plan and execute your ideas correctly to ensure that the setup is successful. Start by sketching your vivarium design, then select the materials needed, and follow the steps mentioned above to set up the substrate, background, and equipment.

Place the decoration in their proper places and add in the live plants. Finally, fill the vivarium with water, and ensure that the temperature and humidity are within the required range.

Homemade Vivarium

Creating a homemade vivarium can be an exciting and rewarding process. Not only does it allow for a more customized setup, but it’s also an affordable alternative to store-bought vivariums.

Here are some tips for creating a homemade vivarium.

Building the False Vivarium Bottom

The first step in building a homemade vivarium is to create a false bottom. A false bottom consists of a mesh screen, egg crate, PVC connectors, and a powerhead.

Place the PVC connectors on the bottom of the tank, and on top of the PVC connectors, add the egg crate. Cover the egg crate with mesh screen, and add the powerhead to one end of the PVC connectors.

This setup ensures that water flows away from the substrate and prevents the water from becoming stagnant, reducing the risk of bacteria growth.

Vivarium Substrate

After setting up the false bottom, select the right substrate. Clay pellets are a common choice, because they create a drainage layer, followed by a layer of sphagnum moss, and then a soil mix.

These materials allow for good soil drainage and help retain moisture within the vivarium.

Waterfall and River

Create a waterfall and river using gravel slates, cork bark, and rocks. Place the cork bark in the rear of the tank, with the slates and rocks gradually sloping downwards from it to create a river.

Install a pump in a reservoir below the waterline to send water up the cork bark and flow it down the slates and rocks. Background/Decoration

After setting up the river, add in background decorations such as orchids, cork bark panels, and other live plants.

The layering of the cork bark and slates provides a beautiful and natural environment for the plants and animals.

Finishing Touches

To finalize your homemade vivarium, add in the last finishing touches. You can add a personalized touch by using custom backgrounds or adding ornaments that fit your personal preference.

Another way to personalize the vivarium is to add special features like a waterfall or a small bridge. The possibilities are endless and will help make the vivarium unique.


Setting up a vivarium requires careful consideration of the plants and animals that will inhabit it. Whether you choose to make a homemade vivarium or set up a store-bought one, you can create a beautiful and natural environment for the plants and animals.

Careful planning, proper execution, and attention to detail are essential to a successful setup. With patience and effort, your vivarium can become a beautiful and thriving ecosystem.

Bioactive Vivarium

A bioactive vivarium is a self-serving ecosystem that consists of a variety of living organisms, including plants, invertebrates, and microorganisms. The soil substrate in the vivarium is biodegradable and contains organisms that help provide natural cleaning and nutrient cycling.

A bioactive vivarium is an excellent way to provide a natural and complex environment for animals, while also ensuring sustainability of the vivarium. Here are the steps involved in creating a bioactive vivarium.

Description of a

Bioactive Vivarium

A bioactive vivarium is a self-sustaining ecosystem where all living things inside the enclosure rely on each other. The primary purpose of the substrate is to create an environment where microorganisms, invertebrates, and plants, work together to form a healthy and thriving ecosystem.

The substrate used in a bioactive vivarium is biodegradable and contains materials like leaves, wood chips, moss, and soil. These materials help form a natural and complex environment while providing natural cleaning and nutrient cycling.

How to Build a Bioactive

Vivarium Substrate

The first step in building a bioactive vivarium is to create the right substrate. The substrate provides the foundation for the entire ecosystem.

Its crucial to use high-quality, organic materials that are designed to promote healthy microbial and plant growth. Here are the steps to creating a bioactive substrate:


Drainage Layer Start by adding a bulk layer of drainage material (like coconut husk or perlite) at the bottom of your vivarium to ensure proper drainage. 2.

Large Leaves – On top of the drainage layer, add a layer of large leaves as a natural biofilter. 3.

Small Leaves Add a layer of small leaves for additional filtration. 4.

Bugs (such as springtails and isopods) Add clean-up crew bugs to help break down and digest the bio-waste. 5.

Forest Soil Mix in forest soil to provide organic matter and a wide variety of microorganisms. Bearded Dragon

Bioactive Vivarium Setup

A bearded dragon bioactive vivarium can be set up with a dry habitat.

The substrate can be made up of coconut husk and forest soil mixed in equal proportions. The coconut husk provides good drainage and the forest soil gives organic matter and nutrients for plants to grow.

The vivarium can be decorated with rocks, basking areas, and climbing surfaces. Beetles can be added as clean-up crew to the substrate.

Plants like spider plant and pothos that can tolerate the dry habitat can be added for aesthetics. Corn Snakes

Bioactive Vivarium Setup

Corn snakes are native to North America, and their natural habitat consists of primarily dry environments.

A corn snake bioactive vivarium should replicate this habitat with a crusty sand substrate with a depth of two inches. The crusty sand should be mixed with coconut coir and cypress mulch in an equal proportion.

Pine straws can be added as bedding material. The vivarium can be decorated as per your aesthetic preferences, and beetles can be added as clean-up crews.

Leopard Geckos

Bioactive Vivarium Setup

Leopard geckos require a damp substrate environment with a depth of 2-3 inches. The substrate can be made of a mix of coconut coir and forest soil in equal proportions.

Leaf litter can be added as substrate. The vivarium can be decorated with rocks, basking areas, and climbing surfaces.

Leaf tail geckos that can tolerate the damp environment can be added for aesthetics.


Creating a vivarium can be a fun and enjoyable experience, but setting up a bioactive vivarium can add another level of complexity. The bioactive vivarium ecosystem requires several details, including the biofilter layer, clean-up crew, plants, and more.

However, the benefits are many, including animal comfort, self-sustainability, aesthetics, and research purposes. Overall, a bioactive vivarium provides an excellent way to ensure that the animals living in your care have

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