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How to Clean a Vivarium

If you are serious about keeping lizards, cleaning out your vivarium is a must if you want to keep them happy. Personally growing up I was always a tidy person, fortunately I am a man of habit. So I will share with you some habitual practices needed to clean and care for your vivarium.

How do you clean a Vivarium? You need to clean it daily as well as more in-depth weekly clean. Weekly tasks includes removing all items, temporarily moving your lizard to a temporary tank or box, disinfecting the glass of the tank and replacing the substate.

As they say the devil is in the detail, so let’s look more in detail into these activities so you can understand how to do this starting immediately. But first let’s discuss why you even need to do this.

Why Should You be Cleaning Your Tank Regular?

If you are not a person who naturally feels the urge to clean regularly, you may even question, why even bother to clean it? Or maybe, why so often? Good question, in a nutshell, here are the main benefits:

  • Prevent bacteria
  • remove unwanted smells in your home
  • keep your lizard happy
  • Remove any chances of salmonella

Firstly, if you leave the tank unclean, there can dead plants, faeces, etc. These things can start to grow bacteria, which in turn can lead to infection and may in some cases affect the health of your lizard.

Another thing is the smell. If you have an average sized house, it won’t take long for a neglected lizard tank to turn into something smelling like rotten sewage.

Happy tank, happy lizard. If you keep it clean, your lizard will feel more happy there, and in turn will be more likely to stay there longer.

The faeces of these lizards can contain salmonella. Therefore it is within your interest to clear out the mess as soon as possible to stop this spreading to you or your family.

Why Should You Be Cleaning Out the Vivarium Plants too?

Clean vivarium Plants

Vivarium plants are great for decoration and keeping your lizard happy. However, they need to be maintained as much as the tank itself.

But why? Here are some reasons:

  • Can make your pet sick
  • parasites can be attracted to rotting plants
  • Rotting leaves can leave unwanted odours.

If the plants start to rot, not only can they smell like a baby has just filled its stinky nappy, they can start to attract parasites that can cause you and your lizard some problems.

How often should you clean a lizard tank?

As briefly mentioned earlier, there are two major intervals to consider. Daily as well as weekly. In the coming paragraphs I will explain why and what you need to do during these cleaning schedules to get it right.

What Should Do on The Daily Clean?

The Daily clean is more of a quick check up and tidy of essentials. The main things you need are as follows:

  • Empty and replenish Water Bowls
  • Remove lizard waste from substrate
  • Clean and food mess and re-stock as required.
  • Remove any debris in the substrate

The idea is to deal with urgent things that cannot wait for an entire week. When it comes to food and drink, you can’t wait a week to check, replenish and tidy these.

What Should You Do on The Weekly Clean?

The weekly clean is more in depth and should essentially bring the vivarium back to the same standard you started with, within reason.

Here are the key things that need to be done:

  • Completely empty the tank
  • Place lizards in another spare tank/box
  • Replace the substrate
  • Disinfect the glass enclosure.
  • Sterilise the rocks (3)

Some of these tasks will sound obvious, whereas, others, such as sterilising the rocks might not. So let me explain:

Completely empty the tank

Remove all the items from the tank. including plants, rocks, etc. This is so you can clean the glass later, don’t be lazy, empty the tank!

Place lizards in another spare tank/box

Move the lizards into another temporary vivarium or box to keep them safe while you clean out the tank.

Replace the substrate

Even if you have followed the daily steps above and cleaned the substrate on a daily basis. You will need to replace it on a weekly basis to keep it fresh.

Disinfect the glass enclosure.

One of the most important tasks is disinfecting the glass of the tank, assuming you are using glass tank. Firstly you need to wipe it down with warm soapy water and use something like a toothbrush to clean the hard to reach parts, such as the corners.

You then need to spray disinfectant on the glass and wipe it down to get rid of all the bacteria. Make sure that you choose a disinfectant solution that is powerful enough to clean the bacteria, but at the same time not enough to harm the lizard.

Things to Look out For on A Daily Basis

As well as the more thorough clean we just went through above, I need to explain the daily clean you will need to do, which is no where near as in-depth, but very important for you to keep on top of.

Here are the main things you need to do each day:

  • Amount of  food eaten
  • Temperature
  • Does the waste look normal?
  • Any unwanted parasites? (Mites, ticks, etc)
  • Do accessories look weathered and need replacing?
  • Does the cage look in good working order.

Let me break down each of these points for your convenience.

Amount of  food eaten

Check the food left over, is it ok or is it decaying? If its the later clean it up and replace it right away. We don’t want your lizard getting sick.


Check the temperature to make sure that it is at the desired level for your lizard. This is not strictly a cleaning activity, but important to do while you are checking the tank.

Does the waste look normal?

Check your lizards waste to make sure that it looks normal. If it does not look normal to you, this is an opportunity to get your lizard checked out. Or just to flag up an issue that you can correct early.

Any unwanted parasites?

It is possible that your tank mite attract little unwanted parasites that could harm your pet. Look out for parasites such as mites and ticks. Sometimes you will see some warning signs in the feaces of your pet, hence the reason why it’s important to check that daily too, as discussed earlier.

Do accessories look weathered and need replacing?

You might find that the accessories you have in the tank start to look weathered and in need of replacement. This is an opportunity to get these replaced.

Does the cage look in good working order.

Are there any signs of damage to the actual tank itself? If yes, then it is a chance to get that replaced as well.

Related Questions:

How do you disinfect a bearded dragon tank? Disinfecting a bearded dragon tank, is the same as disinfecting a tank for any other lizard. As discussed earlier, you need to wipe it down with soapy water first, then spray disinfectant around the glass of the tank and clean off. Do not place the bearded dragon . back in until all smears are gone and tank is dry.

Can I use vinegar to clean my bearded dragons tank? According to petlifetoday, they say you can use a solution of vinegar and water. However this is something that I have not personally tried.


Hi, this is me with my daughter and my Lizard friend. I hope you enjoy my research. Please feel free to check out my "About Me" page to find out more about me.