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Vivarium Design and build ..


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We Need to know how to install the glass rack with it's rail system : 

New Carpet Python Caging, How to make Sliding Glass Doors!

How to Add Glass Sliding Doors to a Reptile Vivarium - CUSTOM ENCLOSURE

How to Install Sliding Glass Doors Tecno Instructional 

How to Make Glass Doors for Vivariums:


Reptile enthusiasts use wooden vivariums to house snakes, as well as lizards such as bearded dragons and geckos. The front of a standard shop-bought wooden vivarium has two glass sliding doors with a plinth above and below. You can make your own glass doors for a self-build vivarium project or replace damaged doors on a prefabricated enclosure, using items from a do-it-yourself store and glass merchant.




1-Measure the internal width of the vivarium along the bottom plinth, and multiply by two. This is the combined length of runner that you require for the top and bottom.


2-Decide what type of glass you require for your vivarium doors, and buy the same gauge of runner track from a do-it-yourself store. Standard 3/16-inch glass is fine for most reptile enclosures, but you may wish to use tempered safety glass if the vivarium is in a high traffic area or where children are present. Tortoises bang their shells against vivarium glass, so you may decide on toughened glass as a precaution if your tortoise is particularly large and prone to this type of behaviour.


3-Cut the runner to size and snap it into place over the bottom plinth. Repeat for the top plinth. Runners grip in place and do not require glue, but you can add a spot of silicone adhesive to keep them secure if you wish.


4-Place the tape measure inside the top runner's groove and measure the vertical distance down to the inside of the bottom runner for the door height.


5-Measure the internal width of the vivarium, divide the measurement by two and add 1 inch to the total for one door's width. Each door must be slightly wider than half the vivarium's width, allowing an overlap in the middle where the doors slide past each other. The overlap allows you to add an optional wedge or locking mechanism.


6-Go to a glass merchant and have two sheets of glass cut to your required size. Ask the glazier to finish the raw edges. If the edges are not smooth and corners rounded, the doors will not slide correctly in the runners.


7-Position the doors in the runners and slide shut. Stick a finger grip on each door, about an inch from the outside edge. These are self-adhesive and no additional glue is required.


8-Install the optional wedge or lock between the doors, according to the manufacturer's instructions.

custom terrarium, w / Sliding Front Doors

DIY 3- Do It Yourself Vivarium!


In an effort to assist people who would like to create their own naturalistic looking habitat for their animals on a limited budget we have decided to photograph and review step-by-step how we went about making one of our own.  There are many great sites and resources on the internet.  


Specifically we suggest checking out the vivarium forum online for photos, general questions, and great ideas.


If you are trying out a vivarium for the first time and have any questions, or feel we were unclear in a certain part of the building process, feel free to email us with any comments using the contact section of the site.  Thanks!

Step 1.  Acquire basic structure & plan for selected species needs:


We were lucky enough to stumble across a curio cabinet for free on  There are many types of cabinets, entertainment centers, and even bookshelves that are commonly discarded online and even at tag sales.  Keeping an eye out for good deals at the end of tag sales and on the free section of online forums can prove to be the perfect cost effective way to find a suitable basic structure for your new vivarium(assuming you don't already have an unused structure you're interested in modifying laying around!).  If you already have a specific species in mind, plan for the type of orientation it's cage will require.  If you have an arboreal species, look for something vertically oriented, terrestrial will require more floor space and not necessarily as much height so low but long and horizontally oriented may fit your animals needs best (bookshelves work great for terrestrial species).  Our two target species were known before acquiring the curio cabinet, and both are small arboreal species (cyrtodactylus elok and eurydactoles agricolae).  The curio cabinet we found came with 4 glass shelves and plastic pegs to adjust the number and height of the shelves, as well as one center frame made of wood to rest a shelf on.  This center wooden frame gave the tall narrow cabinet more strength but also provided us with the perfect base to separate the two cages within the one cabinet.  The only issues with the free cabinet were a missing piece of glass from the bottom right side, a weak water damaged particle board backing that was barely stapled in place, and it was missing handles. 

Step 2.  Gut, repair, and add stability :


Our first task was to remove the unstable particle board backing and replace it with a sheet of plywood.  We also removed the doors, plastic pegs for the glass shelves, light fixture, and a mirror in the bottom.  Next, we needed to put a piece of glass or Plexiglas in the frame where the original piece was missing.  We chose Plexiglas instead of glass because it was easier to cut it ourselves at home, it is also lighter in weight and more resistant to breaking.  The plywood was screwed in at each corner, across the center support, and along all of the edges of the frame.

Step 3. Seal and waterproofing:


After the plywood backing was secured we needed to seal the bottom 4" to prevent dirt, animals, bugs, plant roots, and water from destroying the wood and escaping.  There was a hole cut out in the center of the middle wooden support that was originally intended for a glass shelf.  The glass may not have been strong enough to support the dirt and plants so we cut a piece of plywood to fit over the hole.  This piece of plywood was first siliconed in place using clear silicone II.  Any time you use silicone in an animal enclosure make sure it does NOT contain mildicides as this can be toxic to the animals.  


After the wooden floor was secured we cut two 4" tall strips of Plexiglas to be a front lip to hold in the substrate and plants.  This lip was inserted at an angle with the bottom being further inside than the top so the lip gave good clearance and allowed for easy cleaning of the magnetic lock that connected to the doors.


Once the lip was set we mixed a batch of fiberglass resin and painted two thick coats all over the bottom wood, edges where the wood met the glass (so water could not drip down the glass and contact unprotected wood) and 4" up the back wall where the substrate would touch.



Step 4.  Background foundation


Once your fiberglass and silicone seal is dry it's time to start sculpting your background.  Many vivarium artists use a foam insulation called Greatstuff.  It is yellow, comes in a can, is messy sticky stuff when it comes out, but swells and dries as a hard foam.  This foam can be carved, chipped, smoothed, and sculpted into whatever shapes you desire.  Because it looks so random and lumpy when it first sets it is very easy to make it look natural.  Other base background materials that can be used are various types of Styrofoam, insulation foam, screen, tile mortar, clay.  This was our first time trying clay in one of our vivaria.  With this particular vivarium we built I decided to try using DAS air dry clay to create shelf mushrooms.  The first step in creating the background and base for the mushrooms was to cover the entire back with Greatstuff, and attach pieces of flat half circle cut Styrofoam for the tops of the mushrooms and spray a blob of Greatstuff beneath.  



Step 5.  Carving


After the Greatstuff has dried and completely puffed out, we used a steak knife to cut away the pieces that were not shaped the way we wanted.  For this particular vivarium that was mostly the bottom of what would be the shelf mushrooms, but sometimes Greatstuff expands more than you think.  If it's your first time working with it don't be concerned if it becomes much larger than you expected.  While it may be a sticky mess when it comes out of the can, it is super easy to clean up and scrape off when it's dry.



Step 6. Naturalistic transformation


Obviously a lumpy backing of yellow and white foams does not give a very natural feel.  While some people choose to paint their backgrounds, a method we prefer for our forest type vivaria is silicone and coco fiber.  This gives the background a more natural textured look that allows vines to easily climb it, and can add to the humidity level of the enclosure.  You'll definitely want to wear gloves when applying your black silicone II!  A good tip is to spray paint (make sure it's not rustoleum or containing mildicides) your dry foam background with black, green, or brown paint first, just in case you miss any small spots.  I forgot to do this with mine and wish I hadn't, so be smarter than me and try to remember to do it!  Spread the silicone II into every place you can on your background, if you can have your vivarium on it's back for this process it makes it much easier to reach and see into every nook and cranny.  Make sure you put an ample amount on as this needs to securely hold your cocofiber.  You should have a bucket of loose coco fiber next to you while you are spreading your silicone.  Most coco fiber is sold in brick form, this means you will need to wet it and let it dry again to loosen it up so it is spreadable.  As soon as you finish spreading your silicone you will want to spread at least 1" thick coco fiber on top, and lightly press down with your hands to get the coco fiber firmly into the silicone.  Leave this alone and let it dry for a day.

Step 7.  Sculpting (optional)


If you choose to try sculpting something like we did, now is when you would apply your DAS air dry clay over the protruding Styrofoam shelves we previously made.  Make sure you get it close to the background so it appears to be growing out of it.  Before the clay dries take a toothpick to create lines in the bottom of the mushroom to resemble the gills of a real mushroom.  The top edges should be pinched and fanned out with a slight wave that protrudes farther than your bottom gills, again this is to resemble the real thing.  There are many different types of lichen and shelf mushrooms that can be mimicked with this clay sculpture concept.  If you're unsure of what exact mushroom you want to make, or what colors look realistic you can try google searching for shelf mushrooms.  


After your clay has dried you will need to use an acrylic base primer to protect the clay from getting too much water contact and eventually melting away.  Make sure to put at least 2 good coats on every part you can to prevent water contact directly with the clay.  It takes quite a bit of water for this type of clay to soften up again once it is cured, but you also do not want it running in the water the animals will drink if you can help it.  Running a thin bead of clear silicone along the very back edge of each mushroom will also help ensure there is no water contact.  

Step 8.  Painting:


Depending on what types of added features you've put into your particular tank now may be the best time to paint.  If you are making lots of rocks, or a different object that requires mortar you will want to paint before putting silicone and coco fiber on, but we suggest taping or putting bags over objects you do not want the silicone on.  Silicone is easy to clean off glass, and fairly easy to get off smooth surfaces like wood and Plexiglas, but it is a real pain to get off rough surfaces.   If you can keep your cage oriented flat on it's back through all the above processes through this final one it helps keep everything clean and utilizes gravity to keep objects in place until silicone, clay, and Greatstuff has dried.  Because of the type of shelf mushroom we were trying to mimic we felt a water color paint would work best to make the colors look and blend naturally.  We applied our colors in this order on the top of the mushrooms:  Yellow, yellowish orange, orange, rust red.  Each darker color was applied further and further towards the center of the mushroom as they are on the Sulphur Shelf Mushroom - Laetiporus sulphureus which was our model mushroom species.  After the watercolor paint dried we used a clear paint-able epoxy resin to seal the paint and give the mushroom top a shiny wet look.

Step 9. Plants, branches, and interior design


Below are photos of some of the materials we used in our vivarium to bring it to life.  All of the vines were cut from outside, they are fairly large, woody, and strangle many trees in our area.  Anything you bring in from outside should be either baked at 200*F for no less than a half hour (we do 1 hour), or soaked and washed in a mild bleach solution and rinsed very well to ensure there are no parasites, bacteria, and harmful foreign objects going into your vivarium.  A good list of vivarium plants we have tried for forest-type vivaria are: small ficus, ferns, creeping fig, bromeliads, Philodendron, dracaena, and cryptanthus.  The best place to shop online for specific species, good prices, and lots of vivarium planting advice is The Black Jungle.  Mosses can be found at your local plant or garden center, we used sphagnum moss that was hot glued onto the background in any deep crevasses to prevent animals and insects from hiding, and in random places we felt looked natural.  The Spanish moss we purchased was hung to create natural hiding places on the vines.  Home Depot and Lowes also carry moss and plants but we suggest avoiding their plants as they can carry many pests and are not necessarily in the best condition.  The plants we chose were a bromeliad, pothos vine, small fern, orchid, and a variegated ivy.  Always make sure your plants match the humidity and light level you can provide and that meet your animals needs.  If your enclosure is for a larger animal like a crested gecko, make sure you pick a strong plant that can handle the abuse of being climbed!  

Step 10.  Electrical and other fixtures


This particular step can be tricky to place when building your vivarium.  I chose to put it here because this is when we actually added the light outlets to ours.  Most people choose to do this in the beginning, which is probably the best time, especially if it is difficult to maneuver in your tank around branches and vines.  Our cabinet came with a light fixture which we found out was not efficient and not as safe as we'd like, so we removed it after the vines were put in place.  Luckily the way we oriented our vines allowed for ample room to place the light in the lower tank, and the entire top of the curio cabinet was easily removed to install a light with power cables and a screen so the fixture was not actually in the tank itself but above it.  To install the lights we used one extension cord because we wanted both tanks to be on the same light timer, which is much easier with just one plug.  We purchased the basic fixtures at Home Depot, and picked up a cheap extension cord at the dollar store.  We used a galvanized aluminum mesh screen that has holes large enough to let the light through well, but small enough to keep bugs and geckos inside the vivarium.  For the bottom tank all we needed to do was drill a hole that securely fit the light fixture through, then just wired the back of it on the outside of the back of the vivarium to the extension cord.  The top fixture required removing the top of the cabinet, measuring a hole large enough to fit both our hands and a light bulb since this is where bulbs will need to be changed, and cutting the hole.  Once the top hole was cut we cut another circular hole in the top panel of the actual tank for the light to shine through.  Then, we cut a piece of the galvanized aluminum screen slightly larger than the hole itself so it would have 1/2" all the way around the circle that came up into the wood panel.  This 1/2" edge was siliconed in place to hold the entire screen tightly in the hole.  Once the silicone dried, we screwed the light fixture into place and wired the back of it to the modified extension cord, and put in the bulb.  Electrical tape was used on the back of the top fixture to make sure the wires were well insulated and would not move.  Because the curio cabinet is wood, it is very important to make sure there is good ventilation around the lights and wires to prevent any fire hazards.  After testing that our lights worked we put temperature gauges in near the lights and kept the lights on for a few hours at a time while we were home to ensure nothing was over heating.  Once we were sure all the important parts were together and good to go, we screwed on some nice leaf patterned knobs from an old dresser for the final touch.

Step 11. Insert animals and enjoy!


 Once your sure everything is safe and ready to go, put your animals in and enjoy!  

Total costs :


This is a list of all the materials we used, and how much they cost.
Black Silicone II 3 tubes:  $16.00
A pack of 20 Small glue gun sticks (used 5):  $1.00
Extension cord: $2.00
2 light fixtures: $1.50
Greatstuff 3 cans:  $4.20
Bag of Spanish moss (used 1/2): $9.00
Bag of Sphagnum moss (used 1/2): $3.00
Bromeliad, small fern, orchid, ivy, pothos: $17.00
Plexiglass 24"x8": $12.00
Coco fiber 1 brick: $3.50
Vines: Free
Organic potting soil 2lb bag: $1.00
Light bulbs: $2.00
DAS air dry clay (used 1/3 of bag): $7.00
Water color paints: $2.00
Spray paint (brown): $1.50
Fiberglass resin (used maybe 1/16 of can): $11.00
Clear epoxy paint top coat (used 1/8 of bottle): $6.00
Curio cabinet: Free
Sheet of plywood 6'x2': $10.00
Total: $109.70
When calculating out the cost of building one of these for your own home, keep in mind many supplies are left over to create more vivaria!  Also, we did not shop around a whole lot so it is possible to get good deals on many of these items if you are a wise shopper.  Many of these items may already be in your home, sitting...unused...waiting to make some geckos life a brighter place! :)

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