Firefly Encyclopedia of the Vivarium: Keeping Amphibians, Reptiles, and Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates in Terraria, Aquaterraria, and Aquaria

Firefly Encyclopedia of the Vivarium: Keeping Amphibians, Reptiles, and Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates in Terraria, Aquaterraria, and Aquaria

by David Alderton


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781554073009
Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
Publication date: 09/14/2007
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 8.70(w) x 11.20(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

David Alderton is internationally well known for his books on pet care, which have sold over six million copies worldwide. He has also written extensively for both specialist and general magazines.

Table of Contents


The Natural History of Vivarium Animals
  • Invertebrates
  • Amphibians
  • Reptiles
Vivarium Setup and Maintenance
  • Vivarium Housing
  • Food and Feeding
  • General Care
  • Breeding
  • Hibernation
  • Health Care
  • Snakes
    • Boas and Pythons
    • Colubrid Snakes
  • Lizards
    • Geckos
    • Chameleons
    • Tegus and Monitors
    • Agamids
    • Skinks
    • Iguanids
    • Other
  • Tortoises and Turtles
    • Tortoises
    • Turtles and Terrapins
  • Newts and Salamanders
    • Newts
    • Salamanders
    • Amphiumas, Mudpuppies, and Sirens
  • Frogs and Toads
    • Tree Frogs
    • Ground-Dwelling Frogs
    • Dart Frogs and Mantellas
    • Aquatic Frogs
    • Toads
  • Walking Sticks (Stick Insects)
  • Leaf Insects
  • Praying Mantids
  • Beetles
  • Centipedes and Millipedes
  • Tarantulas and Other Spiders
  • Scorpions
  • Hermit Land Crabs
  • Giant Land Snails

Further Reading/Web Sites
Picture Credits



Interest in keeping reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates in the home has grown greatly over recent years. This is partly a reflection of our changing lifestyles. Increasingly, we live in smaller homes, particularly in cities, where keeping traditional pets such as dogs and cats can be very difficult and even unfair on the animals. Fewer of us tend to be living in family units, and more people now live alone. Organizing a regular routine to care for pets can be difficult, especially if you have to work long or unpredictable hours.

Caring for reptiles, amphibians or invertebrates is straightforward by comparison. You do not need a large space to accommodate many species adequately, nor will it generally matter if you do not always feed them at exactly the same time each day. Looking after them is relatively simple, and cleaning their quarters is not particularly time-consuming.

Most species are not noisy by nature and will therefore not annoy the neighbors; nor do they have to be taken out for exercise. There is, however, plenty of scope for interaction with some of these creatures. The Bearded Dragon has become the most popular pet lizard for this reason, with hundreds of thousands bred annually in the United States alone. Especially if you obtain them as hatchlings, these lizards can become very tame and learn to interact with their owner, proving to be true companions. The same is true of tortoises and turtles. It is even possible to tame many amphibians sufficiently to feed from your hand.

As far as accommodation is concerned, it is not just possible but also often desirable to create a naturalistic setting for these animals, and a vivarium can become an attractive focal point in a room. This group of creatures has an undeniable appeal, linked to their exotic and often colorful appearance. You may even be able to persuade many species to breed successfully, gaining a fascinating insight into their varied lifestyles.

Selecting an Animal

There are certain guidelines to follow when deciding which species you want to keep. One of the most critical is its likely adult size. This needs careful consideration. In particular, certain reptiles can become very large, and accommodating them in the average home can be difficult. Amphibians and invertebrates, on the other hand, will attain a much smaller adult size.

Another aspect to consider is behavioral needs. Some species burrow, remaining hidden for long periods, while others are nocturnal and appeal essentially to the specialist. Some live in water, and others live mainly off the ground. These behaviors have led to a range of different terms being used to describe their housing.

"Vivarium" has become the umbrella description for housing used for reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. "Terrarium," meaning earth enclosure, is generally a subdivision that relates to the needs of those living on or below the land. Other groups include semiaquatic species, for example, many turtles; they therefore live in what is known as an "aquaterrarium." There is also a relatively small number of popular species in the hobby that are totally aquatic — notably amphibians — and they require an "aquarium."

Reptiles and amphibians are sometimes known collectively as herptiles, and their care and breeding as herpetoculture. These names stem from "herpetology," the term used for many years to describe the study of these animals in the wild.

Modern equipment has now simplified all aspects of keeping these creatures in the home. With little difficulty you will be able to create conditions that replicate those of a variety of natural habitats, from a dry desert environment through to a lush tropical rain forest with a correspondingly high level of relative humidity.

Dietary requirements may be another significant factor in deciding which animals to keep — a number of species need to be fed on invertebrates, while others are essentially herbivorous or will happily be kept on prepared diets. Studies of the dietary needs of this group of creatures have led to the development of a range of specially formulated foods, particularly for the most widely kept species. The availability of such foods has greatly simplified their care.

Precautions in the Home

You will probably have to change certain aspects of your domestic routine, however, when opting to keep herptiles or invertebrates in the home. Be particularly careful with sprays of any kind, and avoid using them in the room in which the animals are housed, because some chemicals can be potentially fatal to them. Bug killers of any kind are likely to cause death to invertebrates that are exposed to them, and amphibians are also at risk. Furniture polish sprays and carpet cleaners or fresheners may prove equally dangerous.

The domestic environment can become dry, particularly when central heating is operating, and this can endanger the health of land-dwelling amphibians in particular. Be prepared to mist their vivarium regularly, keeping a close eye on the relative humidity in the tank.

When you go on vacation it can be easier to find a carer for herptiles or invertebrates than for other pets. The easiest thing is to move the vivarium to your friend's home. Leave sufficient food, along with detailed written care instructions and the name of your veterinarian in case of an emergency while you are away.

Herptiles and the Law

Laws controlling the keeping of various species can be complex. They are governed by international, national and local regulations, and the situation changes frequently. Regulations tend to fall into three broad categories: prevention of smuggling; control of the removal of wild specimens from their native habitats; and prevention of the release of non-native species into an alien eco-system. The keeping of reptiles that are considered dangerous, such as crocodilians and venomous snakes (which are not covered in this book), may require a special license.

Your local supplier should be a valuable source of information on such matters, but remember that ignorance of the law is no defense. Ensure that where necessary — for example, when dealing with specimens listed on CITES Appendix I — you obtain proof at the time of purchase that animals are being sold legally.


Naming the creatures covered in this book has been problematic, since many have several different common and scientific names. You will find in many cases that we give both the newest scientific name currently accepted by scientists and the historically well established name. This is because it can often be easier to find more information about these particular species by using the well established scientific nomenclature rather than the newest. In any event, the introduction of a new name does not necessarily invalidate the old one, and many suppliers still use the older names.

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