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East Bay Vivarium

1827 Fifth Street C, Berkeley, California 94710, United States

The East Bay Vivarium is a shop in the United States, based in Berkeley , California. About forty years old, the store is the oldest and largest store of its kind in the United States. It sells snakes, lizards, various other reptiles and amphibians, as well as the supplies for their maintenance and care. The shop is available to enthusiasts of reptiles, hobbyists, and the general public. The store was known by the Disney family as a "must-see" and by The New York Times as the "strangest attraction" in Berkeley.


It was Ron Cauble who owned the Vivarium. In 1970, he opened the company in its Oakland, California basement. The first storefront was located in Oakland on MacArthur Blvd., then in 1979 he relocated the store to an 8,000-square-foot (740 m2) storefront in Emeryville Market. He sold the store in 1988, and opened Albany's The Bone Room. In 1989, during the Loma Prieta earthquake, the building was destroyed. The damage was so bad that it was necessary to relocate the store. The insurance company rejected the claim for damage which required the store to move. The owners had to pay $10,000 to make their lease split.Β 

On moving to their current location on Fifth Street in Berkeley, by getting shatterproof plastic cages and securing the shelves, through straps, to the walls, they made efforts to stabilize the store to prevent potential earthquake damage. 6,000 square feet (560 m2) of the Fifth Street site. The front is the shop, and the back is the breeding center which is closed to the public. Cliff Moser and Owen Maercks were co-owners of the Vivarium as of 2001.

Parking worries threatened to shutter the Vivarium in 2008. Owen Maercks spoke at a meeting of the zoning board, opposing the development of a 22-unit, three-story building next to the Vivarium, which would cause parking loss. The Vivarium only offers guests approximately five parking spaces. The New York Times called the Vivarium and Moe's Books the only two "must-see" places in Berkeley the same year.

Animals and breeding

During any given time, the store holds between 5,000 and 8,000 pets for sale. They sell animals like spiders, fish, snakes , lizards, chameleons, crawfish, frogs, and turtles. Different breeds include rattlesnakes, iguanas, reticulated pythons, tarantulas, pythons from Burma and tortoises from crates. Much of their stock they breed in a back room. Prices range from $3.50 for a tree frog and $25 to $50 for a rat, to $1,000 for a Chinese crocodile lizard. They sell snakes that are venomous to small amphibians, not necessarily to individuals; in California, snakes that are venomous to individuals are illegal to sell. The Vivarium also breeds crickets, rats and mice for food in a specific private space on the premises. They also sell rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, and chickens for food. Customers can also pay a small fee to pet animals in the store.

This amazing dog-friendly location is just one of the many must-see pet-related stores you don’t want to miss near Berkeley, California:

  • Holistic Hound
  • Pet Food Express 6398 Telegraph Ave
  • Animal Farm Discount Pet Foods
  • Your Basic Bird
  • Paco Collars
  • Paws & Claws: A Natural Pet Food Store & Grooming Spa
  • Alpha Pet Supply & The Wild Bird's Nest
  • Healthy Spot

All of these wonderful locations are situated just a short distance from our location at 1647 Hopkins St, in Berkeley! Stop by for a visit anytime!