Building A Bioactive Vivarium From An IKEA Shelf

Pets are often worth a labour of love. [leftthegan] — in want of a corn snake — found that Sweden’s laws governing terrarium sizes made all the commercial options to too small for a fully-grown snake. So they took matters into their own hands, building a bioactive vivarium for their pet!

[leftthegan] found an IKEA Kallax 4×4 shelving unit for a fair price, and after a few design iterations — some due to the aforementioned regulations — it was modified by adding a shelf extension onto the front and cutting interior channels for cabling. For the vivarium’s window, they settled on plexiglass but strongly recommend glass for anyone else building their own as the former scratches and bends easily — not great if their snake turns out to be an escape artist! In the interim, a 3D printed handle works to keep the window closed and locked.

Throughout this build, [leftthegan] has kept the potential of future disassembly in mind, so all the interior surfaces have been individually coated in a layer of vinyl to keep moisture away from the MDF, and the heat lamp and LED lighting has connectors for easy separation.

After coating the bottom of the vivarium with pond liner and a generous amount of silicone, they added leca pebbles as a drainage layer with insect netting over top to keep the custom mix of soil substrate separated. They also added oak leaves — which are reptile safe — and some assorted plants alongside the branches and rocks from their snake’s previous habitat to make it feel like home. The waste cleanup crew for this vivarium is two cultures of springtails and a collection of tropical isopods to minimize the maintenance of the enclosure. The vivarium’s various electronics rest inside one of the shelf’s cubbies, while the rest are filled with storage boxes.

[leftthegan]’s snake seems happy for now, so the next logical step is to automate all the things.

[Via /r/DIY]

15 thoughts on “Building A Bioactive Vivarium From An IKEA Shelf

  1. Wait. “Laws governing terrarium size”? Can anyone elaborate? Is it an animal-welfare thing? An attempt to curtail the “had 12 pythons and 18 mixed venomous snakes when discovered” guys?

    1. It must be an animal welfare thing. If I read the guy’s site correctly, for a fully grown corn snake the legal requirements are that the base of the enclosure needs to be at least 6.8 square feet and it must be at least 17.7″ high.

    2. It sounds as if the laws have some sort of minimum size restriction for specific animals, to prevent somebody from keeping a corn snake in a pickle jar or something similarly absurd. This one seems a little bit on the large size for what a corn snake needs, but it may be larger than the laws require.

      1. Yes, the laws are only there to make sure people are not stuffing a snake into a too small living space.
        And the requirement for snakes is purely based on their length and if they are native tree climbers or not.

        Tree climbing snakes are required to have a taller living space then non tree climbing ones. (And preferably something to climb on too. (But there is no laws requiring this.))

        But the typical fully grown Corn snake (125-150 cm in length) needs a living space of at least 0.63 square meters.
        But if one is having more then one snake, then they only need 0.3 square meters each.

        This means that if we have a space for 3 snakes, then it needs to be at least 0.9 square meters.
        While a space for 1 or 2 snakes needs to be a minimum of 0.63 square meters.

        Here is a handy guide from the ones setting up the rules for it in Sweden: http://www.jordbruksverket.se/amnesomraden/djur/olikaslagsdjur/ormarochodlor.4.62af51191240430af4d80002653.html (It is though in Swedish.)

  2. ALL snakes are escape artists. As these folks will soon learn. Containing a live snake is challenging enough that institutions that have been doing it for over a hundred years still have breakouts every once in a while.

    I’ve spent more than a few hours on the job searching for an escaped eight-foot snake, only to find it wrapped around a basement steam pipe with a belly full of rats.

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