How Zen Habitats was born: AKA My baby bearded dragon was freaking out!
One day I went into my local pet shop to pick up a couple of fish. While there I was checking out the geckos, chameleons, and bearded dragons. “I am feeling a little impulsive”, I said. The nice lady who worked there quickly pounced on that comment and $650 later I was walking out of the store with a baby bearded dragon and a “bearded dragon kit”. I got home, set up my bearded dragon kit, put my new little guy in and smiled. That night my beautiful wife to be came home and said “Awww…he’s so cute but I think he needs a friend”. Yup we went back to the pet store and bought our second beardie. We named them Reiki (our female) and Chi (our male) and they looked so cute together…yeah, yeah I now know they can’t be housed together. 😊
Then I started doing some research. (I was told once I was a “green personality” and green personalities love to do research.) I discovered that the sand they gave me in the “kit” was potentially dangerous to baby bearded dragons, I still don’t understand the reasoning to include sand if everyone knows baby bearded dragons can get impacted. I then learned that the red light for night heat wasn’t good for bearded dragons because they can see the red at night and it disrupts their sleep. Again, why include a red bulb in a ‘bearded dragon kit” and not a ceramic bulb? After a little more research and I found out bearded dragons get stressed out when they see their own reflection…umm the terrarium is made of a reflective surface called glass. Then I discovered that bearded dragons have a perennial eye and when you approach them from above it mimics the attack of a predator. The “kit” was a top-opening aquarium converted into a bearded dragon terrarium. Finally, I discovered for adult bearded dragons to be healthy and happy they need at least a 4’x2’x2’ enclosure. My kit was 1/5 the recommended size. AHHHHHH!!!! Everything about this kit was WRONG!
I quickly went to work on fixing all the problems with my kit. No sand in the terrarium- I bought repticarpet instead. I replaced the red bulb with a ceramic heat bulb. I bought butcher paper and covered three sides of my terrarium. I spent a lot of time and money on upgrading Reiki and Chi’s home. Okay much better…for now…I thought.
About two months in, Chi started freaking out! He started running around the terrarium and attacking the glass…Why on earth would he do that? Doesn’t he know I wrapped the sides with paper? When I went to approach, him he buffed up his baby beard and opened his mouth. I am not sure if he hissed or not but in my head he hissed! This behavior went on for a couple of weeks before I figured out the issues…He was stressed out. His terrarium was too small. He could still see his reflection, and he hated being attacked (I mean picked up) from above.
Time to move Reiki and Chi to a larger space. I started looking online for options and here is what I found:
- Pet stores only have glass terrariums
- Melamine vivariums are available online but look too sterile for my taste and susceptible to damage if they get wet
- Custom built vivariums are available to meet Reiki and Chi’s exact needs but cost a minimum of $900
So, I did what all red-blooded Americans would do in that situation, I declared “I am going to build my own vivarium”.
A couple weeks after building my first vivarium I noticed a couple of design flaws and had to start over from scratch. Ultimately, I redesigned the enclosure and built a 4’x2’x2’ vivarium for Reiki and Chi to run, jump and climb in. The new vivarium was made of solid wood (not particle board), which retains heat better than glass and has no reflective surfaces (bonus, since it is wood I was able to screw in shelves). I made front sliding doors, so I can approach them from a more comfortable position. Finally, I used acrylic doors to ensure Reiki and Chi didn’t get injured from shattered glass if there was an accident.
Once I moved my bearded dragons to their new enclosure Chi immediately calmed down. Not once has he puffed his beard at me and acted like he was going to attack me. Not once has he run around this vivarium freaking out. Now when he comes out he snuggles with me and rests his head on me…he is at peace…this was his Zen moment.
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