A well planned vivarium is the most important thing you can do for your amphibian.  A pet frog can thrive if you provide good, and as near natural living conditions as possible. 

It can be quite expensive housing your amphibian, but you will reap the rewards if you do it properly.

Setup differs for each species and so plenty of reading beforehand about what your chosen pet needs to survive in a vivarium setting will ensure that it is kept healthy and happy.

There is a huge range of supplies and suppliers nowadays as keeping amphibians grows in popularity.  Here are some tips for your vivarium setup, design, plants, supplies etc.

You will need:

  • External power filter
  • Thermometer
  • Thermostat
  • Heater pad
  • Fluorescent lighting

Vivarium Setup


Amphibians absorb the water through their skin and also the water goes straight to their bladder when they are resting in it.  It is therefore really important that in your vivarium setup they have clean, fresh water with no additives.  It is a good idea to use filtered or bottled water.

For the terrestrial (land-based) amphibians, a shallow supply of water is necessary and should be changed daily. 

For aquatic amphibians who spend most of their time in the water, they need clean pure water that is not too alkaline or acid, and not too chlorinated and not too much fluoride.  Leave water to sit for 24 hours before putting it in the vivarium setup which will help remove chlorine. You can buy test kits to see if the water is right for the amphibian.

A specialist shop will help you choose the right vivarium and pumps necessary to ensure that the water is maintained at the right level of filtration and oxygenation.


Without exception, all species of amphibians need a certain level of humidity.  This can be achieved temporarily by lightly mist spraying water into the vivarium setup.  This can be done using a plant spray mister. 

To make the humidity more permanent, you could add a constant source of running water via a pump or you could add a vivarium heater in the section of water.  Don't keep humidity levels too high for too long, consider the ventilation.  Humidity can be measured via a hygometer.


No bright lights please, but rather a more subdued lighting environment in your vivarium setup is what you're after.

Nocturnal species need a certain amount of light even though they are nocturnal as it will trigger the natural activities such as feeding.  Also, the plants for your vivarium will need exposure to light to be able to survive.  

The lighting should be provided by natural-spectrum fluorescent tubes especially suited to amphibians.  They provide the right type of light without producing excessive amounts of heat.  Your pet shop supplier will be able to advise you further on this.

Don't use black-lights that are used for keeping reptiles as these will definitely damage your amphibian.  In aquarium-type settings, the lighting can be safely mounted in hoods that are suitable and allow for ventilation.  In vivaria the fluorescent tubes can be stuck on the sides or top with special waterproof fittings.  You could also consider a time switch and set it to automatically create a schedule for light and darkness.


A lot of species are able to live at normal room temperature quite happily at around 15 - 20 degrees centigrade.  However more tropical species that prefer hot climates will need additional heating sources.  

This can be done using special heating pads that are available from vivarium suppliers and aquarium water heaters are also available.  These incorporate thermostats to make sure the right temperature is maintained to ensure your amphibian stays healthy.

It is important not to use infrared bulbs or ceramic heaters with amphibians.


On the top of most vivariums and aquariums there are ventilation areas built in and as the water inside the vivaria rises, it will rise and go out through the ventilated area and draw in fresh air from the lower vents.

Setups differ for each amphibian and it is best to create an environment that resembles the natural habitat of the species.

Plastic containers that are used for food storage can make suitable housing especially when keeping young amphibians.  They are cheap, easy to clean and maintain, but do not have the ability to use heating and lighting. Therefore not ideal for long term use.

Vivarium setup

Glass aquaria and vivaria are available in many shapes and sizes.  The very familiar fishtank is good for aquatic species of amphibians.  Care should be taken to make sure that a secure-fitting lid is used as amphibians love to try and escape!  

For terrestrial species, amphibians that spend a lot of time on land rather than in the water, they like to have areas where they can sit out of view of everyone and so rocks and bark could be provided for them to hide behind.  The substrate should be kept moist by mist-spraying.  Leaf-litter is a good choice for substrate and a shallow bowl of water should be available.

For semi-aquatic species, that spend time in water and on land, they need separate sections of land and water.  You could consider splitting an aquarium into two sections by placing a glass partition down the middle and then sealing with a silicone sealant.  

Another way of creating two areas would be to create a shelf over the water area which could be better as your pet is then able to move from one to the other easily by itself.  Create mounts of various sizes so that it is able to move in an out of each area easily.

Fully-aquatic species need very similar conditions to those provided for fish.  You could mix pebbles with the gravel to create a more natural-looking environment, and also add stones to create hiding places.  Floating plants will also offer opportunities to hide themselves and make the setup look attractive.

Semi-arid conditions will be of benefit to toads, and once again you could add pebbles and rocks as places to hide.  Overall humidity in this setup should be around 50% - allow the substrate to remain slightly moist.  By using a timer you could allow the heat to reduce slightly at night.  Once again, consider ventilation - very important to keep a healthy amphibian.

An Arboreal setup is suitable for amphibians that enjoy climbing - in particular varieties of tree frogs - and so a tall vivarium with branches and plants that offer opportunities for climbing should be considered.  This species normally needs high levels of humidity - so once again mist-spray or even a supply of running water would be excellent.  Branches should be sturdy and secure for climbing on.  Natural spectrum fluorescent lighting should be added to allow for basking and for helping the plants to grow.   Water supply depends on the size and type of amphibian being kept and it would be wise to discuss this with your vivarium supplier to see what he recommends.  They have lots of experience and expertise and so it is important to go to a specialist shop.

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