How to Convert an Aquarium to a Vivarium in 5 Simple Steps: Tips and Tricks

Are you tired of your aquarium, and want to shake things up a bit? Converting an aquarium to a vivarium can be an exciting new endeavor that will not only change up the look of your aquarium but will provide a new, vibrant environment for your pets to thrive in. Vivariums are natural habitats that mimic the living conditions of reptiles, amphibians, and other small animals. They are typically created to house species that require humid, tropical conditions, and they can be a great addition to your home or office.

In this blog, we’ll explore the steps and considerations necessary to convert your aquarium into a vivarium, so you can create a stunning and stimulating environment for your pets to enjoy.

Assess Your Aquarium

If you’re looking to convert your aquarium into a vivarium, assessing your current setup is the first step. Take note of the fish and other aquatic life you currently have, and research whether or not they would thrive in a land-based habitat. Determine what type of plants and animals you want to incorporate into your vivarium, and ensure that they are compatible with one another.

Consider the size of your enclosure and how it will affect the humidity and temperature levels, as well as the lighting necessary for your new inhabitants. With a clear understanding of your existing setup, you can then begin to make the necessary changes to create a thriving vivarium. By taking the time to assess your aquarium and plan accordingly, you can create a unique and beautiful ecosystem that both you and your new animals will love.

Measure dimensions

When it comes to setting up an aquarium, the dimensions of your tank are crucial to consider. It’s important to choose the right size of the aquarium that suits your preferences and the type of fish you plan to keep. Assessing your aquarium’s dimensions will help determine the amount of water capacity it can hold, the space inside for fish and aquatic plants, and what type of equipment you can use.

Before deciding on an aquarium, consider the width, length, and height. A deeper aquarium provides more vertical swimming space for fish, but it may also require more powerful lighting and filtration. Additionally, the width provides enough space for fish to swim freely, while the length determines the number of fish you can keep.

Consider your current space and the amount of maintenance you’re willing to take on before settling on an aquarium. By measuring the dimensions of your aquarium, you can choose the perfect size to create a healthy and thriving aquatic environment for your fish.

how to convert an aquarium to a vivarium

Check for leaks

If you’re an aquarium lover, you’ll know how important it is to keep your aquarium in top-notch condition. One important aspect of maintaining a healthy aquarium is to frequently check for leaks. Leaks can lead to a whole host of problems such as water damage and disruption to your aquatic ecosystem.

To assess your aquarium, start by examining the tank itself, checking the edges and corners for any visible cracks or chips. Next, inspect the seams and joints to ensure they are properly sealed. A common sign of a leak is water running down the sides of the tank, so keep an eye out for any dampness or puddles around or beneath your aquarium.

It’s also essential to check all pipes, hoses, and valves for any signs of leaks or damage. Regular assessments will help you catch any issues before they get out of hand, ensuring the longevity and health of your aquarium. So, take the time to assess your aquarium regularly and protect your aquatic pets from any potential harm!

Examine filtration and lighting systems

As a responsible aquarium owner, it’s essential to assess your aquarium regularly, including its filtration and lighting systems. Filtration is vital because it helps maintain a healthy living environment for your aquatic friends. There are various types of filter systems available in the market, including mechanical filters, biological filters, and chemical filters.

You can choose a combination of these filters depending on your aquarium’s size and the type of fish you have. Regular cleaning of the filtration system is also essential to ensure its optimal function. Lighting is equally important because it helps sustain plants in the aquarium and supports fish’s natural body clock.

Fish require a balance of darkness and light to maintain their optimal health and functioning. Ensure to choose the right type of lighting for your aquarium depending on your tank’s dimensions and the fish and plants you have. In summary, regularly assessing your aquarium’s filtration and lighting systems is crucial to providing your aquarium buddies with a healthy living environment.

Choose the Right Substrate

One of the crucial steps in converting an aquarium into a vivarium is choosing the right substrate. Unlike aquariums that usually use gravel or sand, vivariums require a substrate that mimics the natural habitat of the animal you’re keeping. For example, if you’re creating a rainforest vivarium for tree frogs, you’ll need a substrate that retains moisture, such as coconut coir or sphagnum moss.

If you’re creating a desert vivarium for a bearded dragon, you’ll need a substrate that promotes burrowing, such as play sand or reptile sand. Don’t forget to research the specific needs of your animal and choose a substrate that supports their health and well-being. A well-chosen substrate not only provides a comfortable living environment but also enhances the natural aesthetic of your vivarium.

Make sure to prioritize the substrate choice in your conversion process.

Select appropriate substrate

Choosing the right substrate is a crucial step when it comes to creating a healthy and thriving environment for your plants. A substrate is essentially the material that you place at the bottom of your planting container, which will act as the growing medium for your plants. With so many options available in the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one.

But, it’s important to ensure that you pick a substrate that has good drainage, aeration, and nutrient holding capacity. Coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss are all popular choices as they are relatively lightweight, provide great drainage, and are rich in nutrients. However, it’s important to consider factors such as the type of plants you’re growing, the size of your container, and the climate you live in before making a decision.

Remember, when it comes to substrates, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so choose wisely based on your unique requirements.

Add drainage layer

When adding plants to your garden or indoor space, it’s crucial to choose the right substrate. The substrate, commonly known as potting soil, serves as a foundation for your plants to thrive and grow in. A good substrate should provide support, nutrients, and water retention, all in the right proportions.

One important component to consider when choosing the right substrate is the drainage layer. This layer plays a vital role in preventing overwatering and root rot, two common problems that can hinder plant growth. When picking a drainage layer, choose a material like gravel or perlite that allows water to pass through quickly but still holds its shape.

This will help prevent water from pooling at the bottom of the container, which can cause standing water and lead to root rot. Remember, choosing the right substrate can make all the difference in the health and happiness of your plants!

Place hardscape elements

When planning to place hardscape elements in your outdoor space, it’s vital to choose the right substrate. The substrate is the material that lines the bottom of your hardscape, providing support and stability to your outdoor features. When selecting your substrate, look for materials that are durable and can withstand the elements.

Crushed stone and gravel are commonly used as substrates, as they allow for proper drainage and prevent water from pooling around your hardscape. Additionally, consider the aesthetic of your outdoor space. You may opt for a colored substrate to match the color of your hardscape, or a neutral-colored substrate for a more natural look.

By choosing the right substrate for your hardscape, you can ensure both its stability and aesthetic appeal.

Add Plants and Decorations

When converting an aquarium to a vivarium, adding plants and decorations is a crucial step. One of the main differences between an aquarium and a vivarium is the presence of live vegetation. Adding plants to your vivarium can greatly increase the overall aesthetic and create a more natural environment for your creatures.

When selecting plants, choose those that thrive in a humid environment, as vivariums tend to have higher humidity levels. Mosses, ferns, and bromeliads are great options for vivariums since they can cope with varying levels of light and moisture. Additionally, decorations such as rocks, caves, and branches can provide hiding spots for your pets and add to the visual appeal of your vivarium.

By adding plants and decorations, you can create a unique and captivating environment for your beloved creatures in your converted aquarium vivarium.

Choose plants suitable for vivariums

When adding plants and decorations to your vivarium, it’s important to choose species that are suitable for this unique environment. Not all plants thrive in the humid conditions of a vivarium, and some can even harm your reptile or amphibian. The good news is that there are plenty of options available, from mosses and ferns to vines and succulents.

Some popular choices include pothos, bromeliads, and spider plants. These plants not only look great, but they also provide important benefits to your pets. They can serve as hiding places, climbing structures, and even food sources for some species.

Just make sure to research the specific needs of each plant before adding it to your vivarium. By choosing the right plants and decorations, you can create a beautiful and functional environment for your pets to thrive in.

Add decorations for humidity and hiding places

Adding plants and decorations to your pet’s habitat can help create a more natural and enjoyable environment for them. Apart from their aesthetic value, plants serve functional purposes, such as improving the humidity levels in the enclosure and providing hiding places for shy pets. Adding live plants or fake ones can help regulate the humidity levels in your pet’s enclosure, especially if you have a reptile or amphibian.

Live plants not only look good, but they also help eliminate toxins from the air and provide an extra oxygen source for your pet. Hiding places such as logs, rocks, or artificial caves will provide a sense of security for your pets and prevent them from feeling too exposed. Keep in mind that when adding decorations, you should avoid overcrowding the enclosure and ensure everything is secure and safe for your pet.

By adding plants and decorations, you can not only create a comfortable and beautiful environment but also improve the wellbeing of your furry or scaly friend.

Adjust Heating and Lighting

One of the key steps to converting an aquarium to a vivarium is adjusting the heating and lighting to meet the needs of the new inhabitant(s). Most aquariums are designed to maintain a consistent temperature for fish, which may not be suitable for plants or reptiles. A heat lamp or ceramic heat emitter can be used to provide warmth to the vivarium, while a UVB light is needed for reptiles to stimulate vitamin D production.

It’s important to research the specific temperature and lighting needs of your vivarium’s inhabitants to ensure they thrive in their new home. Don’t forget to include a timer to ensure the lights turn on and off at the appropriate times, mimicking a natural day and night cycle for your pets. By making these adjustments, your aquarium can be transformed into a healthy and thriving vivarium for your new pets.

Install appropriate heating source

Installing an appropriate heating source in your home or workspace can make a huge difference in your comfort level during the colder months. There are various heating options available, such as space heaters, radiators, and central heating systems, that can be tailored to fit your specific needs. For instance, if you have a larger space, a central heating system may be the best fit, while a smaller space may only require a reliable space heater.

Additionally, consider the energy source you’ll use for heating, whether it’s gas, electric, or oil, and how efficient it is. By investing in a reliable heating source, you can keep your space warm and comfortable without breaking the bank. Remember, when adjusting your heating, it’s also important to assess your lighting situation and consider any changes you can make in order to optimize your space’s energy efficiency.

Add lighting suitable for plants

When it comes to creating the perfect environment for your indoor plants, adjusting both the heating and lighting is essential. Adding lighting that is suitable for your plants’ needs can make all the difference in their growth and overall health. Different plants require different levels and types of light, so it’s important to do your research beforehand.

For example, succulents and cacti need bright and direct light, while ferns thrive in low to medium light. Consider investing in grow lights or LED lights to provide your plants with the specific lighting they need. These types of lights emit the wavelengths that plants need to grow and flourish.

Adjustable height stands for your lighting is an even better option as they allow you to adjust the height of the light to match the plant’s growth. By providing proper lighting for your indoor plants, you’ll ensure they get the essential nutrients they need for a happier, healthier life.

Maintain Your Vivarium

Converting an aquarium to a vivarium can be a fun and easy project to undertake if you’re looking to create a unique display that showcases exotic plants and animals. However, it’s important to take the time to properly maintain your vivarium to ensure that all of its inhabitants are happy and healthy. Start by choosing the right plants for your vivarium based on the needs of the animals you plan to keep.

Add a layer of substrate to provide a natural environment for your plants and animals to thrive in. Additionally, you’ll need to create an appropriate lighting and heating system to mimic their natural habitat. Be sure to regularly monitor and maintain the humidity levels and temperature in your vivarium to prevent any unnecessary stress to its inhabitants.

By following these simple steps, you’ll be able to successfully convert your aquarium into a beautiful and thriving vivarium.

Perform regular water changes

Maintaining your vivarium is crucial to ensure the health and happiness of your plants and animals. One key element of vivarium maintenance is performing regular water changes. This involves replacing a portion of the water in your vivarium with fresh, clean water.

This process helps remove any buildup of waste or toxins, ensuring the water conditions remain optimal for your vivarium inhabitants. How often you should perform water changes depends on the specific setup of your vivarium. Generally, smaller vivariums require more frequent water changes while larger setups can afford to have water changed less frequently.

However, it’s important to monitor the water conditions and adjust your routine accordingly. Neglecting to perform regular water changes can lead to a buildup of harmful bacteria or algae, ultimately harming your vivarium inhabitants. So, keep an eye on your water conditions and perform regular water changes to keep your vivarium thriving!

Trim and replace plants

Maintaining your vivarium can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it requires some effort to keep a thriving ecosystem. One important step in vivarium maintenance is trimming and replacing plants. Overgrown or dying foliage can negatively impact the balance of your vivarium, so it’s crucial to cut back any unhealthy growth and replace it when necessary.

This not only helps keep your vivarium looking neat and visually appealing, but it also promotes healthy plant growth and prevents potentially harmful plant decay. Regularly inspecting and adjusting the plant life in your vivarium will go a long way in ensuring that your animals and plants thrive in their habitat. So, next time you’re pruning your plants, remember that you’re not only maintaining a beautiful display but improving the overall health of your vivarium as well.

Monitor humidity and temperature levels

Maintaining the ideal conditions in your vivarium is vital for the health of your reptile or amphibian pets. One of the crucial factors to monitor is the humidity and temperature levels, as they directly affect the comfort and well-being of your pets. Reptiles and amphibians have particular humidity and temperature needs, which vary by species.

That’s why it is crucial to research and understand the specific needs of your pets and provide them with the appropriate living conditions. For instance, if the humidity level in your vivarium is too high, it can cause respiratory diseases or skin infections in your pets. Conversely, if the humidity is low, it can lead to dehydration, shedding difficulties, and other health problems.

Using a reliable hygrometer and thermometer to monitor your vivarium’s temperature and humidity levels can ensure that you maintain the conditions necessary for your pets’ healthy living. It’s also important to note that the humidity and temperature in your vivarium can fluctuate depending on the time of day, with humidity being higher in the evenings, and temperature higher during the day. By carefully monitoring and maintaining proper humidity and temperature levels in your vivarium, you can ensure your pets thrive and remain healthy.


Congratulations! You’ve successfully converted your aquarium into a vivarium, giving your new pets a happy and healthy home. With some careful planning, a bit of creativity, and a willingness to adapt, you’ve transformed a simple glass box into a thriving ecosystem. So, grab a chair, sit back, and enjoy the marvelous pastime of observing nature unfold before your eyes.


What is the difference between an aquarium and a vivarium?
An aquarium is designed for aquatic animals, while a vivarium is designed for terrestrial animals.

Why would someone want to convert their aquarium to a vivarium?
Someone might want to convert their aquarium to a vivarium if they want to keep a terrestrial animal that requires more land space than water.

What steps should I take to convert my aquarium to a vivarium?
To convert an aquarium to a vivarium, you will need to remove the water, install a substrate suitable for your animal, and add appropriate decorations for climbing and hiding.

Can I keep fish in a vivarium?
Generally, fish are not kept in vivariums as they require a more aquatic environment than a vivarium can provide.

What kind of animals can I keep in a vivarium?
You can keep a wide variety of animals in a vivarium such as reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals like mice or rats.

Is it necessary to provide heating for a vivarium?
Depending on the species you keep, you may need to provide heating or lighting to create a suitable environment, but it’s important to research specific requirements for your animals.

How often do I need to clean a vivarium?
The frequency of cleaning depends on the animal you keep, but generally, a vivarium should be spot-cleaned daily and deep-cleaned periodically to maintain a healthy environment for your animal.