Zen Habitats 4’x2’x4′ review

We purchased a 4’x2’x4′ Zen Habitat PVC enclosure for our tree monitors in the summer of 2020. We had been looking for an enclosure system that provided the ability to create a habitat with specific characteristics:

  • dimensions of 4’x2’x6′
  • PVC enclosure
  • sturdy & monitor-proof
  • available with a reasonable lead time

We looked at a variety of enclosures, but most of the custom built PVC vendors had very long lead times of 6 months or more, or their online reputations were a bit sketchy.

We stumbled across Zen Habitats and started reading reviews and watching videos. The system seemed intriguing, and though they didn’t have a kit with a full 6′ height requirement, I could stack two enclosures and combine them into a single one that fit my dimensional requirements.

I did consider building my own PVC enclosure, but when I started sourcing materials, and given the target dimensions, I was a bit concerned about bowing and the quality of the bond I would get working with a new material. I thought I would need to reinforce my build with some kind of metal frame, which would add to the complexity of the build and the cost. After adding up a potential material list and calculating my time requirements, I decided to invest in a set of Zen Habitat enclosures for this build.

My thoughts

The good:

  • The aluminum frame is sturdy, and the rail system is high quality.
  • It’s light! The weight of the unit (or lack of weight) is really impressive. It is much nicer than working with all-glass vivs. My 120 gallon glass vivarium was a bear to move, and given it’s fragility, quite nerve-wracking. This viv, with it’s solid aluminum frame was easy to move, and I was confident we were not going to break anything.
  • Assembly is quite simple and fast. A rubber mallet is a must, as well as padding or a moving blanket to protect the frame as you assemble it.
  • Extra key parts that allow you to customize the build to your critter are included. For me, this was the extra acrylic cover to trap humidity, and the clear front 6″ dam. I appreciate they included the screen dam alternative and the full screen top for other keepers that are housing arid species. Mine require 70% RH, so I could setup the viv to support that.
  • The top screen seems to be quite rugged, and has already withstood some good abuse from one of our exuberant monitors that enjoys using the screen as another path to transit across the viv, upside-down.
  • I find the dimensions of the doors and dam visually pleasing. The viv looks clean and modern.

The not so good in order from most concern to least concern:

  • The biggest flaw for me are the stock acrylic doors. The 4’x2’x4′ Zen Habitat system does not have the option for glass doors. I knew this going in, but figured I’d get my own glass cut at some point to replace the stock acrylic. They lasted about two weeks. I replaced them with tempered glass from the local shop, and didn’t look back. If you are buying one of these larger enclosures, just plan on spending another $150 on your own to replace the doors. More on this below.
  • The PVC panels appear to be two thin layers of PVC sandwiching some kind of alternate material. I’m not sure what the core material is, or how waterproof it is. I did drill the material in several areas to add bulkheads, so we will see how it holds up over time.
  • Low on the list, but I don’t like bamboo. So the bamboo print was not aesthetically pleasing to me, but that’s nothing some contact paper and a little bit of time cannot fix.

The acrylic doors 🙁

Within a few days of having the vivarium fully operational, I noticed the gap in the acrylic doors was significant. The resting gap in my doors was 1/4 of an inch. If I applied slight pressure on the middle of the rear door, I could expand the opening to 3/4 of an inch.

You may not think that is significant, but if you are housing arboreal monitor lizards with prehensile tails that can hang from a branch and utilize all four limbs to solve a problem, you would be worried too.

After that gap test I immediately called the local glass shop and ordered three replacement doors. Three? I wanted a spare…just in case. Funny story – at pickup, they brought out two doors – one had shattered as they were trying to bring it out to the car.

I applied UHMW tape to the horizontal edges of the doors as well as adhesive pulls, centered. This allowed me to rotate the glass doors and use them as either left or right panels. The UHMW tape was necessary to ensure the much heavier doors still slid from side to side with ease.

The new gap with the glass doors was less than 1/8 inch and stable.

I consider this flaw a pretty big deal. When you are getting in the range of a 4’x2’x4′ PVC enclosure, you are targeting high humidity environments (paying for PVC) where acrylic will warp. You are likely also considering larger animals based on the dimensions. I don’t see how this design is going to stand up over time with the selection of Acrylic as the door material.

My guess is Zen Habitats will eventually offer a tempered glass door option like they do for the 4’x2’x2′ enclosure. I’d like to see Zen Habitats either offer a kit with glass doors, or ship a kit at a lower cost without the acrylic doors, as they are of very low utility to any tropical keepers setup.

Here are links to the materials I used for my door upgrades:

Final thoughts

Overall, I’m quite happy with the Zen Habitats 4’x2’x4′ enclosure. I’d like to see Zen Habitats drop the acrylic doors for tempered glass, as they are simply not functional for arboreal lizard keeping (IMO of course), but that is my only major complaint. I was a bit disappointed in the thin PVC veneer on the panels, but we’ll see how they hold up over time.

I really like the frame, and the modular system Zen Habitats is putting together. I think this is a really promising system, and a nice large scale viv that can serve as a flexible basis for housing a variety of larger animals.