A vivarium (Latin, literally for "place of life;" plural: "vivaria" or "vivariums") is an area, usually enclosed, for keeping and raising animals or plants for observation or research. Often, a portion of the ecosystem for a particular species is simulated on a smaller scale, with controls for environmental conditions.

A vivarium may be small enough to sit on a desk or table, such as a terrarium or an aquarium, or may be a very large structure, possibly outdoors. Large vivaria, particularly those holding organisms capable of flight, typically include some sort of a dual-door mechanism such as a sally port for entry and exit, so that the outer door can be closed to prevent escape before the inner door is opened.

Flora and Fauna

There are various forms of vivarium, including:
* Aquarium, simulating a water habitat; for instance a river, lake or sea; but only the submerged area of these natural habitats. Plants in the water will use some nitrogen present within the system, and will provide areas for organisms to hide and forage.
* Insectarium, containing insects.
** Formicarium, with species of ants.
* Paludarium, simulating a rain forest or swamp environment. It also can be seen as an aquarium interconnected with a terrarium, having both the underwater area as well as the shore.
** Riparium, a paludarium with circulating current through different-leveled pools
* Terrarium, simulating a dry habitat, for instance desert or savannah.

Many kinds of plants are suitable for these habitats, including bromeliads, African Violets and Crassulaceae. Animals commonly held for observation include reptiles, amphibians, insects, spiders, and scorpions, small birds are also good.

Size and materials

It is usually made of a clear container (often plastic or glass). Unless it is an aquarium, it doesn't need to withstand the pressure of water, so it can also be made out of wood or metal, with at least one transparent side. The new fashion in vivariums are those constructed from epoxy-coated plywood and fitted with sliding glass doors. Coating the inside of a plywood vivarium helps to retain the natural effect of the environment. Epoxy-coated plywood vivariums retain heat better than glass or plastic enclosures and are able to withstand high degrees of humidity. They may be cubical, spherical, rectangular, or other shapes. The choice of materials depends on the desired size and weight of the entire ensemble, resistance to high humidity, the cost and the desired quality.

The ground surface must be calculated to be enough for the species living inside, at their adult size. The height can also be important for the larger plants, climbing plants, or for tree climbing animal species. The width must be big enough to create the sensation of depth, both for the pleasure of the spectator and the good of the species inside.

Most used substrates are : common soil, small pebbles, sand, peat, chips of various trees, wood mulch, vegetable fibres (of coconut for example), or a combination of them. The choice of the substrate depends on the needs of the plants (type of ground), or of the animals (need to dig galleries for example), moisture (resistance to mold, conservation of water), the risks involved (e.g. the risk of absorption by an animal) and aesthetic aspects. Sterile vivariums sometimes used to ensure high levels of hygiene (especially during quarantine periods), generally have very straightforward, easily removable substrates such as paper tissue, wood chips and even newspaper.

Environmental controls


A lighting system is necessary, always adapted to the requirements of the animal and plant species. For example, certain reptiles in their natural environment need to heat themselves by the sun, so various bulbs may be necessary to simulate this in a terrarium.

Also, certain plants or diurnal animals need a source of UV to help synthesize Vitamin D and assimilate calcium. Such UV can be provided by specialized fluorescent tubes.

A day/night regulator might be needed to simulate with accuracy the alternation of light and dark periods. The duration of the simulated day and night depends on the conditions in the natural habitat of the species and the season desired.


The temperature can be a very important parameter for species that cannot adapt to other conditions than those found in their natural habitat.

Heating can be provided by several means, all of which are usually controlled by a thermostat:

* heating lamps or infrared lamps
* hot plates and heat mats, providing heat at the base or sides of a terrarium
* heating cords or heat mats placed beneath the substrate
* more complex equipment generating or producing hot air to the inside of the vivarium

Similar to lighting, a decrease in temperature might be needed for the simulated night periods, thus keeping living species healthy. Such variation need to be coherent to those found in the natural habitats of the species. Thermo-control systems are often used to regulate light cycles and heating, as well as humidity (coupled to built-in misting or rain systems). Light-dependent resistors or photo-diodes connected to the lighting are frequently used to simulate daytime, evening and nighttime light cycles, as well as timers to switch lighting and heating on and off when necessary.


Many plants and animals have quite limited tolerance to the variation of moisture.

The regulation of humidity can be done by several means:

* regular water pulverization
* water evaporation inside (from a basin, or circulation of water)
* automated pulverization systems and humidifiers

Ventilation and openings

Access inside the vivarium is required for the purpose of maintenance, to take care of the plants and animals, or for the addition and withdrawal of food.In the case of some animals, a frontal opening is preferable because accessing a vivarium from the top is associated by some species with the presence of predators and can therefore cause unncessary stress.

Ventilation is not just important for circulating air, but also for preventing the growth of mold and development and spread of harmful bacteria. This is especially important in warm, humid vivariums. The traditional method consists of placing a suction fan (or ventilation slits) at a low level and another exhaust fan at a higher level, which allows the continual circulation of fresh air.

ee also

* Ecosphere
* Closed ecological system
* Ecosystem
* Biome
* Biosphere
* Wardian case

External links

* [ Vivarium pictures]
*See for an online Vivarium group.
* [ Learn How to Make a Terrarium] Basic tutorials on terrarium making

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Vivarium — Vivarium …   Deutsch Wörterbuch

  • vivarium — [ vivarjɔm ] n. m. • 1894; mot lat. « vivier », de vivere « 1. vivre » ♦ Cage vitrée où l on garde de petits animaux vivants (insectes, reptiles, etc.) en reconstituant leur milieu naturel. Des vivariums. Établissement groupant plusieurs de ces… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Vivarium — ist die Bezeichnung für: ein Kloster in Süditalien: Vivarium (Kloster) eine Anlage zur Haltung von Tieren: Vivarium (Tierhaltung) ein 1947 abgerissenes Gebäude (Biologische Versuchsanstalt) im Wiener Prater: Vivarium (Prater) eine Zeitschrift für …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Vivarium — Villa romana del Imperio romano La Floresta Estanques para la cría de peces, 100 a. C …   Wikipedia Español

  • vivarium — (n.) c.1600, game park, from L. vivarium enclosure for live game, park, warren, preserve, fish pond, neuter singular of vivarius, from vivus alive, living (see VIVID (Cf. vivid)). Meaning glass bowl for studying living creatures is from 1853 …   Etymology dictionary

  • Vivarium — Vi*va ri*um, n.; pl. E. {Vivariums}, L. {Vivaria}. [L., fr. vivarius belonging to living creatures, fr. vivus alive, living. See {Vivid}.] A place artificially arranged for keeping or raising living animals, as a park, a pond, an aquarium, a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Vivarĭum — Vivarĭum, 1) (röm. Ant.), Ort od. Behältniß, worin lebendige Thiere zur Mast od. zum Vergnügen aufbewahrt wurden; 2) ein nach Art der Aquarien construirter kleiner Krystallpalast in der Stube voll Raupen, Chrysaliden, geflügelter Psychen;… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Vivarĭum — (lat.), eine Vereinigung von Aquarium und Terrarium …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Vivarium — Vivarĭum (lat.), Behältnis für lebende Tiere …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • VIVARIUM — seu o, seu urbs Vivariensis, Galliae Narbonensis oppid. Viviers Ioh. Poldo. Alias Alba Augusta Helviorum, in Occitania, ad Rhodanum in planitie, e regione Delphinatus. Episcopalis sub Archiepiscopo Viennensi, 5. leuc. supra Pontem S. Spiritus in… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • vivarium — ► NOUN (pl. vivaria) ▪ an enclosure or structure used for keeping animals under semi natural conditions for observation or study or as pets. ORIGIN Latin, warren, fish pond …   English terms dictionary

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