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Vivarium vs Terrarium (What is the Difference?)

Vivariums and Terrariums are used interchangeably for lizard care. But what is the difference between these? In this article I will break this down and more.

What is the difference between a Vivarium and a Terrarium? A vivarium has animal and plant life. Where as to a Terrarium which just has plant life. Many people use this term interchangeably, but this is the correct definition.

To get more information on what should be kept in each of these, where their names comes from, how to use these and more I encourage you to keep reading.

What is a Vivarium?

Vivarium is a Latin word for place of life. It is an enclosure for keeping animals and/or plants and can be small enough for a tabletop but can get as big as a large 60+ gallon enclosure for big lizards.

A vivarium contains a portion of an ecosystem that benefits the individual animal. The point of the vivarium is that the enclosure is supposed to have a stable and controlled environment to benefit the individual animal. (Click here to see the best glass vivariums)

What is a Terrarium?

A Terrarium is a glass container that contains plants and soil, it is different to a vivarium because it does not have animals in it.

A water cycle is created by the generation of moisture from the plants and soil. This moisture creates an amazing condensing effect that is beneficial for the plants.

An interesting fact is that has a very was created by a botanist Nathanial Bagshaw Ward back in 1842.

What Maintenance is required for Terrariums and Vivariums?

Like most living conditions they will require maintenance to keep them looked after. If maintenance is neglected then you may find that you’ll start to see mould or even bacteria start to grow within the vivarium or terrarium.

The level of maintenance required largely depends on what animal or plant life you have inside of the container. At a minimum you will have to do clean the enclosure at regular interval. How regular depends largely on what animal or plants you have in there, more detail on this maintenance schedule later on.

Just to give you a rough example, if you have a bearded dragon, it is required that you clean out the closure at least on a weekly basis.

How do you clean a Lizard Vivarium?

I explained earlier it is a good idea to clean your vivarium on a weekly basis. However adopting a daily quick clean schedule as well as a more thorough weekly clean is good practice for most lizards that you decide to keep. This will also help reduce the amount of time you need to clean when you get to the weekly deep clean.

How do you clean these vivariums? The main items that you will need are the following:

  • Gloves
  • Paper towels
  • Scraping Knife
  • Sponges
  • Cleaning detergent
  • Old toothbrush

It is a good idea to keep these altogether in handy cleaning Kit, so that you are prepared to do this task on a daily basis and more thorough clean on a weekly basis.

Another important safety factor to consider is always having rubber gloves on when you are actually doing the cleaning, and also having some protective goggles to protect your eyes while you’re doing this.

The Daily clean:

The daily clean is more of a quick surface level, spring clean to get rid of obvious things. For example, cleaning out the feaces from the sand substrates if you have this, cleaning up water dishes and topping up water that may be required for your Lizard.

In addition to this is using soapy water to wash up any dishes or water dishes that may be inside of the vivarium.

The weekly clean:

This is more of a thorough clean and will involve emptying the entire vivarium. Disinfecting the glass and surrounding items and replacing any substrate such as sand.

How Do Vivariums Control Humidity?

Animals have a tolerance for humidity. This is common in humans as well, just think about it, if there is a large swing in humidity it can affect how we live, for example we may find our skin or lips become drier due to the lack of humidity, right?

Therefore vivariums have a way of controlling the humidity to allow your lizard to have an artificially catered environment.

What Maintenance is required for Terrariums?

Maintenance for a terrarium is usually a lot more simpler. The regular required maintenance is mainly what is known as “turning the terrarium”. And this simply means by rotating the terrarium so that you get a balanced amount of light-flow into the terrarium.

For example, if you have a bright flat and the sun is coming in from one particular window, you may find that only one side of your terrarium is getting the sunlight.

Therefore in that situation you would want to simply turn your terrarium so that one of the neglected sides gets the sunlight, it’s as simple as that.

In addition to this you will need to open the lid every 2 to 3 weeks, reason being you want to ventilate the terrarium. Once you open the lid for short while Close the lid back.

The idea here is to see if any condensation builds up after you have done this. If you do not see this, which is a bad sign, then you will need to leave it open for a bit longer until you do see condensation buildup after you close it back.

This condensation build up will help the plants inside get the moisture they need and keep the ecosystem of life working well.

From this there are other obvious things such as removing unwanted branches. Also you should look out for any mould that is developing inside the enclosure, if you do see this it’s important to remove these mould and to clean out the mould immediately so it doesn’t grow and become a bigger problem.

How much do Vivariums cost?

The cost varies quite a lot, but to give the typical price range, you’re looking at anywhere from $30 up to as much as 300+ dollars. This largely depends on the quality, whether or not if it is a wooden frame, or a plastic framed vivarium.

Also you need to consider how much volume (Effectively this is the physical size) that you need. The bigger the lizard, the more space that you’ll need, and therefore this will drive up the price of Bavarian.

How much do Terrariums cost?

To Terrarium cost is relatively the same as the vivariums. Reason being of the vivarium starts its life as a terrarium, by the introduction of an animal it makes the terrarium become a vivarium.

Related Questions:

What is a paludarium? A paludrium is a type of aquarium that has fish, aquatic plants, and it terrestrial plants. This type of tank has the added benefit of pretty much being self sufficient, basically low maintenance.

This is mainly because ,if you set it up correctly, it will have a self-fulfilling ecosystem. The whole idea of the paludrium is to replicate the behaviour of a natural rainforest.


The added benefit of this aquarium is that you can mix and match a larger combination of different animals. For example, you can have Fish as well as turtles in this paludrium, making it quite interesting for the pet keepers.

The word paludrium comes from the Latin word “Palus”, which effectively means and marsh and swamp. In addition to this the other syllable “arium” means location.

What type of animals can live in a vivarium? Type of animals that you typically see in a vivarium are a large combination of lizard species, and snakes. However, it is possible to have other animals in this type of environment as well.


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