Turning a Bookshelf Into a Lizard Habitat.





Introduction: Turning a Bookshelf Into a Lizard Habitat.

My son wanted a bearded dragon lizard for his birthday. After much research into habitats we decided we would make our own (for a fraction of the cost!)

Here's what you will need:

A bookshelf! (we purchased a cheap 5 shelf bookshelf for $32)

Window screen material

Staples/Staple gun



Sand (we used specialty sand made for lizard habitats)

Heat lamps and other lizard supplies

Jig saw

Hook and eye closures


Step 1: Prepping the Shelf

We built the bookshelf following the manufacturing instructions. Instead of putting the back on right away, I chose to paint it with a fun jungle scene. We are pretty sure Ditto (the lizard) is glad that I took the time to do this!

We took one of the shelves that came with the bookshelf, and attached it across the front bottom of the case. We sealed the cracks inside and out with caulk. This acts as the bottom of the habitat, holding in the sand so we wanted to seal it well to avoid sand leaks.

We used the jigsaw to cut holes in another shelf to match the shape of the heat lamps. Screen material was stapled to the bottom side of the holes to prevent the lizard from escaping and injuring himself on the hot lamps.

We also used the saw to cut out a portion of the middle fixed shelf to create passage for the large branches and a perch mid cage.

We also used the saw to cut two holes into the side of the book case. We used hinges to attach the hole pieces back into place and hook and eye pieces to keep the new doors closed. These small doors (one on the top half, and one on the bottom) allow easy access to the habitat for feeding, interacting, and cleaning.

Step 2: Setting Up the Enclosure

Next we laid the shelf down and nailed the back into place with the nails provided by the shelf manufacturer. After the back was in place we sealed it with caulk around the edges for extra security.

Then we found the perfect branches (the large branch is from a very big honeysuckle vine!). We needed to clean the branches well, sand off any rough spots, and then let them dry completely. The branches are nailed and caulked into place on the shelf walls and floor for stability.

Step 3: Adding the Screen

With everything else in place we could lay down the enclosure and staple the window screening to the front. We used lots and lots of staples for a nice tight fit all the way around the front of the enclosure. Pulling the screen tight enough while stapling it down required two people.

Step 4: Finishing Up!

After your screen is on, move the habitat to where you will keep it before you add the sand, rocks and decorations. adding the sand first will make it heavier, and awkward to move. We poured the sand in through the lower door in the side.

Mr Ditto loves his enclosure. In the year he has lived there he has more than tripled in size! He spends a lot of his time climbing the actual screen material, or enjoying his heat lamps on the branches.

This was the perfect enclosure for a bearded dragon because extra humidity was not required to keep him comfortable. Adding in humidity would not work very well with the wood enclosure I think. Also screen material should not be used for a snake habitat as they can injure themselves by rubbing against it.



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    15 Discussions

    This is not good for a bearded dragon. they don't like to climb and sand can kill them. Switch to reptile carpet and put the enclosure on it's side and maybe it's ok

    Sand kills bearded dragons. It causes impaction. I reccomend reptile carpet.

    I am impressed. You can expand this into a ebook!

    While this is definitely a nice lizard habitat, it's not at all suitable for a bearded dragon. It's nice that you did your research on a terrarium, but next time maybe do some extensive research on the animal you're planning to keep as well? Bearded dragons are not climby lizards, so I would really not recommend this for them. This would however be perfect for iguana's and other climby lizards :)

    i was just asking to see if you know how to build iguana cages

    just an idea but why not try putting a shelf to splitting the middle with the upper part a uv lite and the lower heat to make him feel like he is going underground and upper . and love the set up

    I don't wanna look like an expert, but you're missing some important steps:
    1) pogona spp. need hot and dry terrariums cause they live in the desert
    2) furthermore they need a high UVB emitting light (5+%) to avoid metabolic bone disease not further than 30cm in every spot
    3) given 1&2, a high, narrow terrarium is not good for them. Better use a low and wide one

    here's the terrarium in which I grow my little Doc (pogona vitticeps).


    Is this wide enough for a bearded dragon? looks more like a jungle setup for some tropical geckos. <--- which is what i plan on doing with this awesome idea. Thanks for the instructable. definitely beats buying an exo terra or vision master for a few hundred bucks. Also, just an idea, you can turn the shelf and give your beardie more floor space if it outgrows this.

    Nicely done. I made something very similar this for my iguana "spot" several years ago. He loved it, until he out grew it. :)

    Great instructable!

    1 reply

    This is amazing! What a lucky lizard. That's cool that he tripled in size in one year, I bet that was due to having so much space.

    1 reply

    I'm not here to comment on the instructable, since it is very good, but to comment on your choice of substrate for your beardie. Sand/Crushed Shells are a huge no-no for them, it can cause impaction when injested which can lead to death, or a very high vet bill. You should use carpet/tile/newspaper, or even paper towels. Never use loose substrate that can be ingested, even if the sand says it's made for reptile use. It's like letting your toddler play with small legos: If you are not supervising them, they can eat them. The same goes for beardies: They investigate things by licking or "tasting" them, and loose substrate is interesting to them, which makes them lick it. And the sand made out of calcium: that is very bad for them. It encourages them to eat it, which will result in a belly full of sand that cannot be digested.

    1 reply