How Much Does A Vivarium Cost To Run? (Cost + Expenses)

After adding the overall price range, starting an aquarium can cost you from $193 to $2,870 while starting a terrarium can cost you from $8 to $2,265. There are many different types of vivariums, which means that costs can differ. But really, how much does each and every type of vivarium cost to run?

People around the world are becoming more interested in owning a vivarium because nothing beats the idea of owning a mini-ecosystem and watching them grow. I have to admit, this is one of the most therapeutic hobbies a person can have. Growing up as a kid, my grandpa and uncle were always raising reptiles, owning micro-greens, to even an aquarium that started from a few guppies that bred to the thousands.

apple, orchard, apple trees

I came from a family of farmers that immigrated from Asia to the United States, which perfectly explains why I have my love for vivariums. I would always stare through the glass window watching these little creatures live their lives. As kids, our imaginations are limitless.

I grew up poor, we couldn’t afford games, we couldn’t afford to go out, so growing plants and raising living animals was my family’s source of entertainment. I wanted to start a vivarium of my own one day but didn’t realize the cost behind owning one. One of the questions that occurred in my mind before owning a vivarium was,

“how much does a vivarium cost to run and what do I need?”

Vivariums come in all shapes and sizes, type of tank, and whether you want a mini pond or land only. The costs all depend on the type of ecosystem that you want to raise. There’s a cost for the type of tank you want, whether it requires lights for heating, the animal that you want to raise, etc. A vivarium is just a basic term meaning that it’s a place for life. This can be broken into more specifics explaining the types of vivariums.

  • Aquarium
  • Terrarium
  • Paludarium

This is what I meant when I said that cost may vary because there are various types of a vivarium. In this article, I will help you break down the cost of maintaining each type of vivarium so that you can find one that will best fit your available budget. I will cover all of the vivariums that you can keep in the comfort of your home.

The Cost of an Aquarium

Owning a vivarium filled with ocean animals is completely different when it comes to aquarium vs. terrarium. An aquarium is a tank filled with water that rarely presents any land. Aquariums usually have a gravel bottom and can contain plants underwater. Owners usually have aquariums for fish keeping, certain aquatic frogs, salamanders, or turtles.

the cost of an aquarium
What’s the cost of an aquarium?

When it comes to budgeting for an aquarium tank, the size matters. The price for a tank is usually determined by its size.  If you’re new and planning to own an aquarium, my suggestion is to start off small. Starting small will allow you to get a better grasp of the responsibilities of owning and running your fish tank. 

The cost to maintain an aquarium has several factors to consider:

  • Aquarium Tank ($100 – $2,000) – Purchasing your own fish tank can be quite expensive. It can range from a hundred dollars to even in the thousand dollar range.
  • Freshwater Vs. Saltwater Fish ($10 – $100) – In my own personal opinion, maintaining a freshwater aquarium is twice as cheap compared to saltwater. When it comes to purchasing your fish, it can range from $1 to $10 for a freshwater fish. For saltwater fish, the cost can be twice as much ranging from $10 to $100. The running cost with a saltwater tank has a lot of costs because you would need water testing kits and having to buy salt.
  • Water Conditioner ($3 – $10) – When owning your aquarium, having the right bacteria in the water is crucial to keeping your fish alive. When you add a water conditioner, it helps break down and digest the ammonia, which is waste from your aquarium animals. When ammonia builds up, it can get extremely toxic that it’ll kill your fish. The cost of a water conditioner can range from $3 to $10 a bottle on Petco.
  • Fish Filter ($30 – $400)What does a fish filter do, you ask? When having a fish filter, it helps with removing excessive fish food and decaying organic particles. This helps remove wastes from the aquarium water. While this helps a lot, another useful info to know is that freshwater fish can survive without filter compare to saltwater fish. It is still recommended to have a filter if you want to invest in a long-lasting aquarium.
  • Air Pump ($10 – $50) – Having an air pump is another important item you should have for your fish tank because it helps with water flow. The air pump does a gas exchange between the air and the water. This will keep your water oxygenated. The price of an air pump can range from $10 to $50.
  • Lighting ($20 to $100)Amazon has a variety of lighting for your fish tank. If you’re not planning on getting the lighting, then who’s going to watch your beautifully created aquarium? There are tons of lighting options out there for an aquarium but the price all depends on the appearance and size. Buying the perfect lighting for your tank can range between $20 to $100.

Total Cost: Assuming that you purchased three fish for your aquarium, I calculated that the overall cost of maintaining an aquarium can cost from $193 to $2,870. Maintaining a saltwater tank is about twice as expensive compare to maintaining a freshwater fish tank.

The Cost of a Terrarium

If you’re into land creatures (mainly Savannah/desert habitats) and want to raise them, then you might want to read about the cost of running a terrarium. In a terrarium, there are lesser plants and as well as lower in humidity. Raising beginner species in a terrarium can be easier than an aquarium. There are many things you can grow and raise in a terrarium. Do a little research and find what creature is best for you and that you can manage in your own little jar/tank.

Owning a terrarium is becoming so popular that communities on Reddit are growing at a rapid rate. r/terrariums have over 76,000 members compare to another subreddit, r/Jarrariums with over 70,300 members. Interested? Let’s check what you need and the cost of maintaining a ‘jarrarium.’

the cost of terrarium
What’s the cost of a terrarium?

Let’s take a look at the costs for maintaining a terrarium:

  • Tank or Jar (FREE – $2,000) – Before buying/finding your tank or jar, make a list of what type of creatures you’re trying to keep as pets. Write down the type of plants and amount of soil you’re planning to add. If you’re planning on running a really tiny ecosystem, then your best bet is to use a jar. You can find jars at thrift stores or probably even one in your kitchen somewhere. If you’re planning to up your game with a bigger ecosystem, you can find tanks at your local pet stores which can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
  • Potting Soil (FREE – $15) – You can find potting soil in your garden or go to your local stores and purchase a bag of soil for around $4 to $15. Having good-quality soil can do a lot for your terrarium. You can even add sand to help improve with drainage.
  • Plants ($2 – $30) – You got to admit, having plants in your terrarium definitely makes it look nicer. It’s like a mini rain forest. It gives your pet(s) a place to hide and having a living plant helps make it less stressful for your pets. You can buy certain mini plants on Etsy for around $2 or even find them at your local stores. You can shop online to find the right plant for your ecosystem. There are many types of plants you can choose from for your little desert.
  • Animals ($3 – $200) – There are many terrarium animals to choose from. The price depends on the type of species that you decide to choose. You can have crickets, tarantulas, American chameleon, hermit crabs, land snails, salamanders, leopard gecko, and even certain frogs. Remember: If you’re going to have land animals, add a water dish!
  • Water Dish ($3 – $20) – If you’re going to have animals in your mini-ecosystem, it’s best to have a water dish. You can purchase a water dish on Amazon for $3 to $20 depending on the type of dish you want. Trust me, you do not want to forget this item if you’re going to have an animal.

Total Cost: After adding the total cost of maintaining a terrarium, the price range appears to be around $10 to $2,265. The high price range is usually for people who will heavily invest in a terrarium. Overall, the average cost for most terrarium owners is usually less than $100.

The Cost of a Paludarium

Just imagine a mixture of both aquarium and terrarium. When it comes to paludarium, it is a swamp and jungle-like environment with high humidity. Owners of paludariums are really creative because of the number of candidates you can add to your ecosystem. According to, paludarium can have both land and water animals when compared to other vivariums.

vivarium type

Paludariums can harbor many different types of plants and animals, which makes it perfect for vivarium owners that love diversity. Because of this, the price is expected to be a little more than your average vivarium. Before making the decision to invest in a paludarium tank, you should write down what type of animals and plants you’re going to have. This way, you will have a better idea of how to build your tank.

What’s the cost of a paludarium?

The cost of paludarium can vary, you will most likely need:

  • Paludarium Tank ($50 – $400) – After doing a quick search, I found that the cheapest paludarium tank goes for $50 and the most expensive sitting at $400. You could always head to your local pet store and find your own paludarium tank or create one yourself. When ordering online, most paludarium tank set-ups will likely have a waterfall. You could always improvise and find items at a thrift store or your household to use as a paludarium tank.
  • Animals ($2 – $200) – You can add a variety of animals to your paludarium tank. You can add mystery snails, certain types of shrimp, frogs, or even fiddler crabs. There are paludarium tank owners that raise turtles in their tank. You can add fish to even reptiles. It can be really diverse but you should always make sure that you do your research before adding an animal.
  • Plants ($2 – $30) – There are a variety of plants that you can add to your paludarium. You can add plants that grow in water and plants that grow on land. Remember to think of a purpose for each plant and how it can help your ecosystem. For your tank, you can add plants like ferns, mosses,  or even orchids.
  • Lighting ($20 – $100) – If you bought a tank that it’s specifically made for paludarium, chances are that you already have lighting. If not, you can purchase lights online for your tank to watch your ecosystem grow which can range from $20 to $100.

Total Cost: After adding the price range, the result comes out to be $74 to $730. Instead of buying a random tank and create your paludarium from scratch, I would recommend buying the kit that comes with the waterfall and lights.

From VivariumTips,


Before making any expensive purchases, be sure to read some tips that I have for you. After all, these tips could be useful and help you on your journey to building your vivarium.

  • Check Marketplaces – If you ever find yourself low on budget and really want to own a vivarium, my suggestion is to take a look at online marketplaces. You can find cheap tanks on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and more. You might get lucky and find a really nice tank at an affordable price.
  • Ask Questions – Always ask questions if you’re unsure of something. Making a simple mistake on your tank can do more harm than good. After all, it’s an ecosystem that you’re building. If you have questions, you can always comment on this article. You can check and read forums, join Discord groups, or join Facebook groups. There are tons of resources out there for you to get information. Don’t let one mistake ruin your precious ecosystem!
  • Plan Ahead – When you’re at the stage of buying your products for your tank, be sure to plan ahead. Write down a list of animals and how each plant can work around your tank. Can animal A live with animal B? Can plant C live with animal D? Planning and doing things correctly is crucial because you don’t want to add the wrong species together.

You finished with building your vivarium and making it look as awesome as possible, now what? Sit back and relax. You will wake up every day to an ecosystem that’s bigger than yesterday’s. You can finally share your mini-ecosystem on social media, farm those karma points on Reddit, and uploading your vivarium videos to YouTube. The nicer your vivarium is, the more internet points you will receive. Remember to take great care of your ecosystem because you’re its mother nature.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to comment below. Your comment matters. You sharing this post and helping people matters. That’s all the support that I’ll ever need. 🙂