How to Make a Reptile Waterfall

Written by emmalise mac
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How to Make a Reptile Waterfall
A vivarium waterfall should mimic nature. (waterfall image by jimcox40 from

A waterfall can greatly improve the aesthetic appeal of a terrarium and the ambience that it lends to a room. In addition, a waterfall can raise humidity levels in the terrarium, enhancing the conditions for some species. Because the waterfall circulates the water in the terrarium, it can also reduce algal growth (and therefore reduce cleaning time). Waterfall design varies greatly in complexity, but even a novice can build a basic waterfall in a weekend.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Rocks (various shapes and sizes)
  • Grease pencil (available at a hardware store)
  • Clear aquarium sealant (best) or non-toxic bathroom caulk
  • Water pump
  • Plastic tubing
  • Power supply (outlet)
  • Water reservoir

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    Building a Waterfall

  1. 1

    Study photos of waterfalls and take note of the shape and placement of the rocks. Decide what type of waterfall you want to create--do you want the water to trickle over the rocks or fall dramatically to the pool below? Select rocks to use in your waterfall. Use large, flat rocks to provide a stable base and smaller, decorative rocks to form a channel to contain the water. Use thin, flat rocks to create a shelf for dramatic falls.

  2. 2

    Place the aquarium pump into the corner of the water reservoir--if your terrarium already has a pool of water, use the reservoir as a temporary working space. Build the waterfall around the pump to hide it from view.

  3. 3

    Practice building the waterfall around the pump--the structure should be fairly stable without any sealant. Remember to leave some large spaces at the base of the waterfall (below the planned water level) to allow water to flow to the pump.

  4. 4

    Test your waterfall plan in action. Add water to the reservoir (be sure the pump is covered) and hold the plastic tubing at the top of the waterfall. Watch how the water flows and experiment with the placement of the rocks and tubing until you are satisfied. Siphon out the water, and allow the rocks to dry.

  5. 5

    Number the rocks with a grease pencil, and mark the line of overlapping rocks. Disassemble the waterfall--move the rocks onto the table or workbench. Place the rocks in a logical order, facing in the same direction they will be facing in the final waterfall.

  6. 6

    Reassemble the waterfall, using aquarium sealant to fill any gaps between the rocks and bond them together. Pause occasionally to allow the sealant to dry partially. Fill any obvious gaps with sealant. Attach the water source to the top of the waterfall with aquarium sealant, and use a rock to camouflage the tubing. Allow the waterfall to cure and dry for 24 hours.

  7. 7

    Add water to the reservoir and test your waterfall again. Note any leaks that need to be sealed. Experiment with adding more rocks to adjust the water flow. When you are happy with the final set-up, allow the rocks to dry and add sealant to fill gaps and bond new rocks into place.

  8. 8

    Use mild soap and water to wash any remaining traces of grease pencil from the rocks. Install the pump and waterfall in the terrarium. If the reservoir will become your pool, place the entire reservoir into the terrarium and fill the vivarium with soil up to the level of the container. Use rocks or branches to camouflage the edge of the reservoir--attach them with aquarium sealant if needed. Fill the reservoir or pool with aged or dechlorinated water and plug in the pump.

Tips and warnings

  • Purchase a ready-made foam waterfall insert from a pet supply store for a quick alternative to building your own waterfall. Simply add water and attach a pump.
  • Keep the water reservoir filled with enough water to cover the pump at all times--do not let the water level fall or the pump may burn out.

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