I decided to build a DIY reptile enclosure for my pet because I wanted something good for my lizard, and I wanted it to be healthy, comfortable, and safe.

I like that this type of enclosure is more natural than other enclosures I saw for sale. It also means that it’s easier to clean up after them, and they’re less likely to get dirty in the first place- because I was able to customize to how I knew he’d like it.

A reptile enclosure can also be a great addition to an office or living room, as they are easy to maintain and look good with any decor.

Well, if you’re a bearded dragon owner and of a DIY bent, you can build your own enclosure. Sure, pet stores sell ready-made enclosures, costing anywhere from $20-100- but you can really customize the habitat if you decide to construct it yourself. 

Let’s take a look at some DIY reptile enclosure plans:

Free DIY Reptile Enclosure Plans

  1. Automated Reptile Enclosure

Automated Reptile Enclosure

View plans

2. Reptile Enclosure Entertainment Center

Reptile Enclosure Entertaiment Center!

View plans

3. Easy DIY Plywood Reptile Enclosures

4. How To Build Your Own Reptile Enclosure

5. DIY Reptile Cage Shelves With Home Depot Tough Totes

6. Homemade DIY Plywood Reptile Enclosure

7. Creative DIY Plywood Reptile Enclosure

8. Easy Bearded Dragon Enclosure

9. Large & Cheap Reptile Enclosures

10. DIY Reptile Terrarium Plan

11. Upcycled Option

How To Build A Reptile Enclosure: Tips & Types

The Vivarium

A vivarium is a glass enclosure that provides the amphibian or reptile with a heated, humid environment. If you are going to use this method, it is best to obtain a specialized background so that your pet does not see the inside of your home.

Building a Vivarium Step By Step

reptile

  • Make sure that the background is high enough to accommodate your pet over its entire lifetime.
  • It is recommended that you place 3-4 layers of plain white paper on the bottom so that it does not come into direct contact with your pet’s waste. If this is impossible, then newspaper can be used as a substitute.
  • After laying the paper, spread a layer of potting soil over it and place your plant or plants on top.
      1. If you are using live plants, be careful with the type of bulb/lamp you use, as this could cause your plant to die. Constantly research beforehand to prevent fatalities from occurring! If you are not inclined to have live plants in your vivarium, you are encouraged to decorate with silk flora or rocks.
      2. Ensure that you do not block any of the ventilation points mentioned earlier when placing the objects inside the enclosure. Also, make sure that there are no gaps where your pet can escape/hide because this could be dangerous.
  • Fill in any gaps with more dirt and add a layer of mulch to the top. Top it all off with a final layer of mulch or bark, whichever one looks better aesthetically inside your vivarium. If the bulb you’re using provides high UVA/UVB light levels, you can leave the enclosure open. Otherwise, you will have to keep it closed.

If you are only using your reptile as an “inside pet” or housing small amphibians in it, then this is the best option for you to go with. Although not necessary, a background can be used for decoration purposes.

The Terrarium

brown and black bearded dragon on black surface

A terrarium is similar to a vivarium. It provides the animal with both heat and humidity; however, this enclosure does not necessarily need glass. Many materials can successfully hold moisture (such as plastic) while still providing the animal with heat.

Building a Terrarium Step By Step

  • Place a substrate down to prevent the animal from directly touching/eating any rocks/gravel.
  • Add gravel or stones for decoration, once again making it so your pet cannot eat them. If you are using live plants, make sure to place them further away from your lamp’s source of UVB/UVA light so that they don’t get damaged.
  • Add your desired plants, and again, if you are using live plants, do not block any ventilation points with them. Ensure that there is no physical way for the animal to escape the enclosure as well!
  • Fill in gaps with more dirt/sand and add a thin layer of mulch to the top.

This enclosure can be used for any animal, whether amphibious, reptilian, or simply crawling. The only downside is that depending on where you live, there might not be a supply of these enclosures, making it hard to build. However, even if you are only housing an “inside pet,” this is a viable option for housing.

The Fish Tank/Aquarium

Although not the most ideal, this method can be used for amphibians who like to live in water (i.e., axolotls). You will need all of the materials mentioned previously (i.e., substrate, background), but the enclosure itself must be watertight (excluding any drainage holes).

Building an Aquarium Step by Step

Place your layer of substrate down first, and make sure to place some rocks/gravel over it so that the animal cannot dig into it and ingest the substrate. Fill in any gaps with more substrate.

Place your plants inside the tank and arrange them how you would like them to look. If you want live plants, they should be planted in a piece of driftwood or something similar so that the roots aren’t touching the water/substrate (this will prevent any rot).

If you are using silk plants, they should be attached to the wall of the tank somehow.

Fill in any gaps with more substrate and add a layer of mulch to the top. Top it all off with a final layer of mulch or bark, whichever one looks better aesthetically inside your aquarium.

Unless you’re using a UVB/UVA bulb over the land portion of the aquarium, there’s no need to cover it. This enclosure is only suitable for amphibians who like to spend their entire lives in water. There is no interaction between other animals and the amphibian (i.e., water dragon with axolotl).

The Custom Enclosure

This type of enclosure is best used for lizards that are not arboreal. For example, if you have a Savannah Monitor, this might be the kit for making your enclosure.

Building a Custom Enclosure Step by Step

First, decide what size enclosure you would like. The size of your animal usually determines this. You should then cut out an appropriately sized hole to fit your screen top (this is done to keep your pet inside the enclosure).

If you are using a background on the outside of your enclosure, place it down first and attach it to the sides (wire, staples, etc.). If you put any wallpaper on the outside of your enclosure, make sure to smooth it down so that your animal cannot eat it.

Place your substrate down and place some rocks/gravel over this substrate layer.

*Note: You should put your gravel/rocks on first as it is harder for you to place them over the background otherwise*

If you are using live plants, then ensure that they do not block any ventilation points and that there is no way for your animal to escape the enclosure.

Place your desired plants in desired locations and fill in any gaps with more substrate, whatever looks best aesthetically to you.

Place your background material over the outside of the enclosure and secure it with staples/wire etc. That is done so that if your animal chews on it, it will not be able to reach any other part of your home (i.e., electrical wires).

What To Consider Before Getting Started

  • Make sure that there is enough space for your animal to move around and feel comfortable in.
  • Ensure that your animal cannot escape by making sure any gaps are sealed shut with electrical tape, wire mesh, etc.
  • Ensure that all of the materials used in your enclosure are non-toxic for your pet to come into contact with (i.e., substrate, rocks, mulch, etc.).
  • Try to make sure that your animal cannot escape by chewing at any poly-carbonate/plexiglass.
  • If you are using live plants, then ensure that they are non-toxic. Not all plants are safe for reptiles to contact because many contain calcium oxalates which can be very dangerous if ingested.
  • Ensure that your enclosure is safe for you to clean.
  • Make sure that you put in an appropriate substrate layer, rocks/gravel, etc., into any gaps between two pieces of wood or something similar where the animal cannot get through the cracks.
  • Make sure to consider how big your animal gets when it reaches adult size.
  • Remember that it’s much easier to use screen material than poly-carbonate/plexiglass because if your animal chews through the screen, you can quickly patch it up with more screen, whereas poly-carbonate (for example) is very difficult to repair if chewed through.
  • Use lots of staples and wire mesh. They are invaluable when it comes to making sure that your enclosure does not fall apart.
  • Use waterproof sealant for any parts of the enclosure that get wet (i.e., water bowl).
  • Make sure all electrical connectors can’t be chewed through by using wire or something similar over them in an enclosure.
  • If you are using live plants, make sure there is enough ventilation around the base of the enclosure to stay healthy (i.e., small holes in between wood).
  • Always secure your background material with staples/wire mesh etc., so that it cannot be chewed through by your animal and provide a barrier between them and the rest of your home.
  • If you are using live plants, make sure that they are not toxic to your pet because they will eat them at some point if their poisonous parts are close enough to the surface/rim of the pot.
  • Consider how much light you want to shine into your enclosure and ensure sufficient to sustain healthy plant life.
  • Clean your enclosure daily by removing any uneaten food and soiled substrate, replacing them with fresh items.
  • Reptiles are ectothermic creatures which means that they rely on external heat to warm their bodies up, so you must provide them with an appropriate source of warmth to achieve this; otherwise, they will become very ill.
  • Make sure that you put it in a water bowl because without it your animal could dehydrate to the point of death; reptiles are not adapted to survive without water for extended periods.
  • Secure any substrate/decoration/toys, etc., by using wire mesh or something similar because baby reptiles often try and chew on everything.
  • Make sure to allow your reptiles a place of security (i.e., hide box) where they can go and feel safe, as well as bask in the heat of the sun if you are providing external heat for them.

In Summary

These are just some specific, general things that you can follow to ensure that your enclosure is safe for your reptile/animal. Also, remember that reptiles often get stressed by changes, so keep them in their enclosure as long as possible before re-homing if you think something isn’t right, always better to be safe than sorry! Enjoy, and remember that these are only general guidelines. Good luck with your enclosure.

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