Sometimes, purchasing a bearded dragon terrarium could be not so pocket friendly for you. Or you’re thinking how you’ll have to change out the tanks as soon as your beardie gets a little bigger. If that’s you then your best solution is making a vivarium yourself.
The major advantage of DIY projects is the ability to challenge your creativity. What’s more, you can use cost-effective equipment you have improvised or made yourself. There are ideas and plans you can execute on your tank starting with the material, substrate, and decor ideas.
Below is a step by step guidel on how you can make a terrarium by yourself. The important factors to plan for, and decorative ideas you can implement. Feel free to also play around with your ideas until you get something you like.
Enclosure Out of Wood (Plywood)
One cost-effective equipment you’re going to use is Plywood. You have the choice of other materials as you will read about in the next section, but plywood is readily available and easy to manipulate for this purpose.
- Sheets of plywood – enough to fit the panels, beams, framing, and extra scrap, if and when you need it. ½ or ¾ inch thick is a good size.
- Drywall screws
- Wood glue or silicone to seal the edges
- Any other material you need for the construction – glass, mesh, or aluminum.
- Extra tools like handles, latch, and ventilation panels.
- Cordless drill and cordless screw-gun
- Crosscut sled
- You will need to sketch out how you desire the tank to look like. What are the measurements you need? Are there other materials you need? What features will be in the tank? The tank size is very essential to consider. A small size may be limited as the beardie will outgrow it so a medium-sized tank of about 50 to 70 gallons is a good choice. It will fit a baby, juvenile, and adult bearded size so no need to build another tank. Measurements are limitless too, you can go up to 120 gallons or more if you have the space for it.
- Measure, mark, and cut the plywood panels for all the sides. Cut the bottom and back panel first, measure their degrees, if they’re perpendicular to each other drill through the drywall screws to hold them together.
- Assemble the other panels with the screws and seal the edges with silicone.
- You should now have a rectangular enclosure, well-drilled together. Mark new markings for where you need spaces for the windows, door or doors, ventilation spaces, and if you’ll be adding basking light and UVA light.
- For the front, you can shape out the entire front panel to replace with glass or divide it into a window and a door. Cut out the measurements and remove the wood.
- Fit in the spaces with glass and seal over with an aluminum finish to hold the glass in place.
- Drill holes in the side and back for additional ventilation. Ensure you use thin enough ventilators that won’t allow tiny creatures to escape.
- You could also remove the entire upper beam to replace it with glass or a mesh opening. Mesh will increase air circulation while allowing you to hang any heat regulators and lamps.Screen covers/ lids are the best as they can regulate humidity in the tank. Plus, they can withstand heavy weights unlike glass and plastic lids.
- Add any additional items like a latch to lock the door when need be, handles for easy opening and closing.
- Add substrate in the tank. Flooring is essential and you have a choice between the loose and non-loose particle-based substrate. Loose substrate like wood shavings, sand, millet, or gravel isn’t healthy for your pet as they could ingest the dust particles risking impaction.The better choice is a non-particle substrate like a carpet, ceramic tiles, or newspapers as they are safer. Besides, they are easy to clean up.
- Finishing up – the rest of the work majorly has to do with decoration and other interior plans. Take a look at the last section as we look at different ideas you can use for your enclosure.
Out of Any Other Materials
Your tank can also be made with either of these four materials;
- Glass Aquariums
- PVC or ABS
- Vision cages
You would use the same procedure as above however, each of these materials has their requirements to ensure optimal usage.
- Glass – it’s also inexpensive and aesthetically pleasing but doesn’t retain heat as good as other materials. This means you need to add insulators and more heating equipment.
- Melamine – made from melamine wood, they’re also very beautiful seeing that they’re white and will reflect maximum light inside the tank. However, they are very heavy and the wood itself is expensive to purchase. Probably not the best material if you’re on a budget.
- Pvc – they’re lightweight and easy to clean. Very good for DIY but more expensive than melamine boards. Plus, they have a strong plastic scent so if you’re fixated on using plastic, go for abs.
- ABS- very light, strong, and stackable. The better choice for plastics.
- Vision Cages – more professional cages that are chemical resistant, easy to clean, and have inbuilt heat lamp shrouds but it’s the most expensive material you can use.
Ideas and Plans
Lighting and Humidity
Bearded dragons love well lit rooms with adequate UV lighting stretching up to 12 to 14 hours a day. They also need close proximity to the light, say six to eight inches from the source for additional warmth. You can two types of lighting;
- UVA/UVB light – this is a full spectrum lighting that’s needed to illuminate the tank so the beardie can clearly see inside the tank. This lighting will not be emitting any heat to the tank as its sole purpose is to provide your dragon with UVA and UVB rays to help keep them healthy.
- Basking light – this light aims to provide heat to the dragon. They’re white lights fitted on the top of the tank to allow for the heat to radiate well and evenly in the tank. You can keep it facing one direction or in the middle of the tank.
Another very crucial element you have to plan for your dragon’s enclosure is the interior temperatures. The tank should be regulated between hot temperatures of 95 F° to 110 F° and cool temperatures of around 85 F°. This is why you need two thermometers to keep the two temperatures in check. Automatic or analogies temperatures depend on your preference.
In the tank, the beardie should have an allocated basking spot where they can absorb the much-needed heat. The basking spot should be 95 F° for adults and 110 F° for juveniles. Don’t go for hot items like a heated rock as they can easily burn your pet.
For additional heat, invest and anyone if these three items;
- Ceramic heater
- Reptile basking light
- A household light bulb that emits heat
Temperatures change at night and during the day so you have to be able to regulate the tank using a thermometer. Larger tanks will need two thermometers for the cold and hot sides while smaller versions can have one thermometer. If your tank isn’t warm enough especially at night, you will have to invest in an under the tank heater.
Lastly, you will need a humidity gauge. Bearded dragons are desert reptiles who are used to a low humidity environment. To ensure the tank offers these same conditions.
The final item you have to include in the tank are accessories. These are furniture, backgrounds, hammocks, and hides. They spare the enclosure from looking all bare and seems more natural. Here are great accessories you can include in the tank;
- Hammocks that easily stick to the side of the tanks
- Branches they can use to climb up and down. Place them close to the basking light.
- Hides – an enclosure that can also be around the basking light where the bearded dragon can hide from peeping eyes. It’s good to allow your beardie to have a quiet, peaceful, and private resting place.
- Basking platforms – you can add more furniture in the tank if there’s plenty of space. Especially around the basking light as the beardie will surely spend a great deal of time there. These platforms can be rocks and tiny caves with a height of about eight inches so it’s closer to the light.
Your DIY projects would be incomplete if you didn’t add a few decorations here and there, plus some essentials. You know about the backgrounds, basking spots like logs, rocks, and branches. How about you add some greenery?
Plants give the terrarium more color, making it eye-catching and a natural feel as if you’re in the wild. The bearded dragon will surely appreciate this. You can choose between real and artificial plants. Artificial plants are great since you don’t have to check on it now and then.
Water bowls and waterfalls can also be a great idea unless you live in a highly humid area as this would only be extenuating the circumstances.
For other decorative features, add plastic balls, bridges, and all types of wood including dogwood, oak, Tulip Tree, maple, and Crepe Myrtle.
Finally, themes. Adding themes is great to keep the natural feeling alive. Examples can be,
- Desert themes – add a bit of shrubbery, wood, dried excavator clay mounds, and all other sorts of different textures. Ensure what you add be it plants and wood is safe for your pet.
- Jungle themes – focus on climbing parts like branches and faux leaf vines. You can also add lush foliage, a green reptile carpet, and rock staircases.
More about Bearded Dragons