Whether you own a bearded dragon, a gecko or a snake, it’s very important to know how to clean a vivarium and to clean your pet’s tank regularly.
Reptiles are particularly susceptible to skin and bacterial infections so their homes need to be kept scrupulously clean, not to mention regular cleaning will keep your vivarium odour free and pleasant.
The easiest way to do this is to get into a daily and weekly cleaning routine. Read on to find out how to clean a vivarium, how often you should clean it and what equipment you’ll need.
Vivarium cleaning tools
Before you start, it’s worthwhile building up a kit of everything you need to clean your vivarium. Make sure you store these away from your normal set of household cleaning supplies and never use sinks or tubs that are used for human bathing or food preparation (cross-contamination should be avoided at all costs).
Your vivarium cleaning kit should include:
- A spare tank/box (to put your reptile in while you’re cleaning its tank)
- Paper towels
- Putty knife or razor blade
- An old toothbrush
- Bleach or terrarium cleaner
- Soap or dishwashing detergent
- Sand-sifter (to remove faeces and other debris from substrate)
We’d also recommend that you wear rubber gloves and protective goggles whenever you’re cleaning your vivarium. And when you’ve finished, you should always give your hands a thorough wash.
Daily vivarium cleaning routine
Certain tasks will need to be done every day to keep your vivarium clean. This mainly involved removing uneaten food, shed skin, faeces, and disinfecting the food and water dishes.
On a daily basis you’ll need to:
Remove faeces and uneaten food (especially anything that will decay).
Wipe up water spills and urates.
If you’re using a sand substrate, sift out faeces and debris to make it last longer.
Wash all food and water dishes in hot, soapy water and dry them thoroughly (it can be useful to have two sets of dishes so one can be used while the other’s being cleaned).
Weekly vivarium cleaning routine
Not all aspects of cleaning your vivarium need to be done every day. But once a week it’s important to completely empty your vivarium and disinfect everything. Here’s what your weekly cleaning routine should look like:
- Empty the vivarium
First things first, take EVERYTHING out of your vivarium including rocks, decorations, food and water dishes and accessories. You’ll also need somewhere to put your reptile while you clean its tank – we’d recommend using a box or a spare tank.
- Bag and dispose of the substrate
Next, get rid of all the substrate. It’s okay to use the same sand substrates for a couple of days (sifting it every day to remove any faeces) but once a week you should completely change it.
- Wash, rinse and disinfect the vivarium
Once your vivarium is empty, give it a thorough wash with hot, soapy water. Use an old toothbrush to scrub the corners and then rinse the tank until all residue is gone. Then spray it with a disinfectant like this and rinse it again. Don’t put your reptile back in the tank until all residue is gone.
- Clean and disinfect all food dishes, decorations and toys
You should then clean all food dishes, decorations and toys in the same way with hot, soapy water and then a disinfectant. An old toothbrush or a razor blade can come in handy for scraping off dried-on food and dirt.
- Leave everything to dry
Next, leave everything to dry. If you put the decorations and accessories back in your vivarium before they dry, you risk the spread of mould.
- Clean your cleaning materials
Once your vivarium is clean and dry and everything can be put back inside, it’s important to clean and disinfect your cleaning materials (this includes brushes, sponges, gloves, bowls and the sink). This will stop the spread of bacteria.
- Wash your hands
Finally, wash your hands in hot, soapy water and put your reptile back in its clean, dry, odour-free vivarium.
Now you know how to clean a vivarium, stay on Vivarium World for even more reptile care advice:
- Why You Shouldn’t Use Heat Mats for Bearded Dragons
- What is the Right Temperature for Bearded Dragons?
- 5 Reasons Bearded Dragons Make Great Pets