Vivariums Layers 101

Vivariums Layers 101

Not only are vivariums more aesthetically pleasing than a standard animal enclosure, they also require less upkeep and offer the inhabitants and more natural environment. When built correctly, upkeep should involve minimal cleaning of the glass, misting, and plant trimming.

Vivarium Layers

Vivariums consist of several layers; from bottom to top the layers are as follows - drainage layer, screen separator, substrate, and leaf litter. This may seem confusing at first, but stick with us as we describe each layer and their purpose.

Drainage Layer

The drainage layer is used to catch any excess water that passes through the substrate. Its purpose is to keep the substrate layer from becoming saturated and to maintain proper humidity. Common media used for a drainage layer can include LECA/hydroballs/clay balls or gravel. Keep in mind gravel is quite heavy. This layer should be between 2-3 inches deep. Standing water in your vivarium should only be in your drainage layer, and not be so full as to reach the substrate layer. You can remove standing water with a pipette, drainage port, or pump.

Screen Separator

The purpose of a screen separator is to allow air and water to pass through, while stopping the substrate from reaching the drainage layer and absorbing the excess water. Media for screen separators typically include a non-toxic fine screen mesh or weed-blocking fabric.

Substrate Layer

A proper vivarium substrate must be able to sustain plants, microfauna, resist breaking down too quickly, and hold the correct humidity. Our substrates are designed with all of this in mind!

Leaf Litter

Leaf litter provides many important benefits to a vivarium. It offers a realistic ground cover that provides ample hiding places. For many animals this can be the difference between never seeing your animal(s), and having them actively exploring. Over time leaf litter will beging to break down, which adds nutrients back into the substrate for plant life. Leaf litter also is digested by microfauna such as isopods and springtails.



Vivariums can be overwhelming when you are trying to undertake bioactive for the first time. However, the steps are not as complicated as they initially seem. After the initial investment and research, you will be left with a natural biome in your home!

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