Building a new indoor enclosure

Amanda81

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Hey everyone, I am getting ready to build a new, much larger indoor enclosure for my torts. I have put some serious thought into this build and have come up with a great floor plan and have decided that I would like to make the living environment as close to natural as possible. I have spent the last couple months gathering supplies for this new enclosure. I have gathered live plants that I wish to plant inside the enclosure and transferred them to an organic soil and have them growing very well inside a grow station for now. I have gathered the CHEs and all the UVA/UVB lighting I will need, I have gathered drift woods and river rocks, etc. I had also went and purchased a couple bags of organic top soil to plant my plants in and also thought I would use as a substrate, the problem I noticed is that the organic top soil I got is really clumpy, hard to spread out. I even attempted to dry it out and break it apart and it was still just a clumpy mess and full of like sticks and things. So I went back and got organic potting mix to plant the plants in, which worked fine for that but this wouldn't work for substrate cause it has the little styrofoam balls in it.
I am currently using a 3" layer of damp Eco earth covered with 2" of repti bark, which creates great humidity and keeps things a little cleaner then using the Eco earth alone. Now I do currently have a couple live plants in my enclosures but their potted.
My question is WHAT TYPE OF SUBSTRATE OR SUBSTRATE MIX COULD I USE IN MY NEW ENCLOSURE THAT IS SAFE FOR MY GUYS AND I CAN PLANT LIVE PLANTS IN??
Let me tell you a little about the new enclosure as well. Any suggestions or advise is greatly appreciated.
My new enclosure will be U shaped. The two sides is 8x3 and the bottom (if that's what u would call it) is 7x3 and 36" tall, I plan on using about 6" of substrate throughout (more in some areas) so I was thinking 30" was a safe amount of room for lights and such to be adjusted as needed. I plan on hanging fluorescent lights from the top so it's completely lighted, I also have the high output 10.0 UVB fluorescent lights that will be hung throughout the enclosure and run during the cold months when going outside isn't an option. Of course there will be CHEs for heat, not sure how many or what the best wattage will be just yet, I have a couple 150w gathered up just because that's what I currently use and will more then likely stick with that wattage. I also like to use the bulbs that have a tighter beam of light and produce UVA as my basking bulbs, usually in 100-150w so I can hang them higher up and still reach the 100 degree mark for my guys to bask in.
I plan to create plenty of hiding areas with the driftwood and live plants, I want to have the substrate built up in places to create hills, I gathered large flatter river rock to build caves, hides, and rocky walking areas as well. I will provide a couple humid hides throughout the enclosure as well. I have been using what I call a feeding station(a 18"x18" ceramic tile with a light grit texture placed on top of built up substrate, larger stones surround the edges not against the wall, I put their food and water dish on the tile) in my current enclosures and I find it a really easy way to keep their food and water area cleaner throughout the day and it's so much easier for me to clean and sanitize each morning that I will more then likely have a couple of them in the new enclosure too. The surrounding stones work well to grab belly junk before it gets in their water and in the mornings I simply take the water dish out, pull the tile out, scrub them both with hot water and a tooth brush and put them back, drop in whatever is on the menu for the day and I'm done. It's worked well for me so I will continue using it, I'm still trying to figure out a way to kinda blend it into since it's not the most natural looking item.
I am also thinking about an addition to this new enclosure too. I haven't got to much into this part just yet but I would like to add an area below the enclosure that is same size, same shape, and the entire area below be a grazing area. Have grasses and weeds for them to eat on days we can't go outside and get them. I like the idea but again haven't got any further then that yet.
I also forgot to mention I will b housing an Aldabra hatchling and a Leopard (70g) in this enclosure. I plan on putting in a 12" divider to keep them separate.
 

mini_max

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In answer to the planting question, I use some non-vermiculite potting soil just around the plant, and then just plant directly into the coco coir / Eco earth. So far my plants haven't complained.
 

Jodie

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This sounds like so much fun! I have also planted directly in coco coir. I have discovered that really big chuncks of bark works really well as tummy cleaners on the way to water. I just peeled bark off of firewood. It creates nice hills and ramps.
 

Prairie Mom

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Sounds like you're planning lots of fun things. :) I'm eager to see it when you have it all done. I like your "feeding station." The tile may not have a natural cut, but it will still have a natural "feel" to it with all the stones around it etc. I'm not sure you'd need to change it. Sounds like a nice idea. The plants in my enclosure are there to be eaten, so they don't always look beautiful, but I'm sure my sulcata enjoys grazing on them. Plus they're there for her more than me. I agree with the potting soil and coco-coir---that is exactly what I do for my plants. Since you're going for a really natural look, you may consider having removable grass/weed trays. You can plant the trays really densely and situate the trays next to each other, so it looks like a large plain of grass. Sinking the trays into a deep bark substrate will help hide the edges also. I have really enjoyed growing and rotating trays for my sulcata who eagerly gobbles them up.
 

Yellow Turtle01

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Coco coir :D It's actually used as a planting soil that's good for establishing roots and firm settings.
Now... you had a bit of a problem with coir backnback, right? Hmmmm...
I can't wait to see pics :D
 

Amanda81

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Coco coir :D It's actually used as a planting soil that's good for establishing roots and firm settings.
Now... you had a bit of a problem with coir backnback, right? Hmmmm...
I can't wait to see pics :D
I did. My sulcata hatchlings were a hot mess with the stuff so I covered my damp Eco earth with repti bark and that fixed the problem till they got a little older and they started digging. Now they spend their days digging all over the place and over the 6-8 months I've had them I have got use to them being covered in dirt. Lol.
But my leopard doesn't dig at anything and from what I read the aldabras don't real dig either. So I am hoping since these are what will be housed in this enclosure the Eco earth won't be such a mess.
 

Amanda81

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Sounds like you're planning lots of fun things. :) I'm eager to see it when you have it all done. I like your "feeding station." The tile may not have a natural cut, but it will still have a natural "feel" to it with all the stones around it etc. I'm not sure you'd need to change it. Sounds like a nice idea. The plants in my enclosure are there to be eaten, so they don't always look beautiful, but I'm sure my sulcata enjoys grazing on them. Plus they're there for her more than me. I agree with the potting soil and coco-coir---that is exactly what I do for my plants. Since you're going for a really natural look, you may consider having removable grass/weed trays. You can plant the trays really densely and situate the trays next to each other, so it looks like a large plain of grass. Sinking the trays into a deep bark substrate will help hide the edges also. I have really enjoyed growing and rotating trays for my sulcata who eagerly gobbles them up.

All the plants I have are going to be edible as well. I got them back at the end of the summer and transferred them from the soil they were in to organic soil that way I could plant them in the enclosure and they wouldn't be full of chemicals. I have a couple trays that contain wheat grass, dandelions, clover, wide and narrow leaf plantion that I plan on putting in the enclosure and then I can switch them in and out as needed. I am also growing 2 sets of the plants I plan on planting straight into the substrate and I plant the baby shoots so I can keep replacing if needed. Lol.
 

Amanda81

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How do you plan on keeping the humidity up?

It's a closed chamber and I plan to keep the soil damp, well as damp as I can without killing the plants in it. I also have mister systems I can set up if needed. I have played around with the idea of putting in a shallow pond as well, maybe a small stream that flows into a shallow pond, I'm not sure. I'm still playing around with the idea. Any suggestions about that would be greatly welcomed as well. I have worked on this enclosure plan all winter and I will take all the input and suggestions I can get cause I'm totally excited about building and setting this enclosure up and it being the best it can be.
 

Anyfoot

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I did. My sulcata hatchlings were a hot mess with the stuff so I covered my damp Eco earth with repti bark and that fixed the problem till they got a little older and they started digging. Now they spend their days digging all over the place and over the 6-8 months I've had them I have got use to them being covered in dirt. Lol.
But my leopard doesn't dig at anything and from what I read the aldabras don't real dig either. So I am hoping since these are what will be housed in this enclosure the Eco earth won't be such a mess.
Sounds good what you are going to do. I'm also in the planning process of a new enclosure. Slightly bigger, However the principle is the same. To gain more square foot area I am going to have hides buried to the height of the substrate so they can walk over the hides at substrate level. For example if you made caves out of rocks at 6" high then put your substrate in at 6" high, then for every square ft of cave/hide you would still get the same amount area for your tort to walk over the hide, Maybe make the cave 7" high so there is a 1" hill on top of every cave/hide to walk over. May need a fence so they don't fall off. Hope this makes sense, I'm rubbish at explaining my thoughts.

Bye

Craig
 

leigti

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I'm glad you're making it a close chamber, I guess I missed that in the initial description. I don't think I would bother with any sort of pond, it just gives them something to possibly flip into etc. I think it will be plenty moist without it. definitely provide us people without creativity some pictures along the way :)
 

Amanda81

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I forgot to say it's a closed chamber in my original post. I attempted to give details of everything so anyone giving suggestions would know what I was building and forgot that detail. I guess since I have always used closed chambers I didn't think about putting it in there, I forget some of the simplest stuff sometimes.
As for the pond thing, that is my number one concern, them flipping over into it somehow. My number two is the dirty water. Of course I would build it so I could lift out and clean it but it would still be an idea that nerves me, the whole cleanliness thing again. So I am still playing with the idea but leaning towards the no side of that. I had built a fountain that I used in my first enclosure and I might actually just stick that back in this new enclosure as well.
As for the hides, I do plan on burying the majority of them just as described earlier because I have had issues in the past with them climbing them and then flipping back off them. So I figured bury them, it solves the climbing problem, it does make that space available as walking room, and it does help create hills. I did select a couple larger rocks to create a couple above ground but their tall enough that it will create tall side walls to the hide and make it to tall to climb. Another idea I am pondering with to create more walk space is installing a 12" wide ledge all the way around the back wall of the enclosure (with an appropriate safety rail) for them to climb and walk around.
Now I am building this enclosure with the idea that it's only a housing space for 2 yrs (probably less for the Aldabra). And of course during warm weather months they will get to enjoy the great outdoors most of the day and only use this as sleeping quarters.
Is there any safe product to waterproof wood materials? My last enclosure I built out of wood I used a shower curtain as a barrier and it ended up getting holes in it and leaking. If there was something that I could apply to the wood and waterproof it I thought I would go that route this time.
 

Anyfoot

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I forgot to say it's a closed chamber in my original post. I attempted to give details of everything so anyone giving suggestions would know what I was building and forgot that detail. I guess since I have always used closed chambers I didn't think about putting it in there, I forget some of the simplest stuff sometimes.
As for the pond thing, that is my number one concern, them flipping over into it somehow. My number two is the dirty water. Of course I would build it so I could lift out and clean it but it would still be an idea that nerves me, the whole cleanliness thing again. So I am still playing with the idea but leaning towards the no side of that. I had built a fountain that I used in my first enclosure and I might actually just stick that back in this new enclosure as well.
As for the hides, I do plan on burying the majority of them just as described earlier because I have had issues in the past with them climbing them and then flipping back off them. So I figured bury them, it solves the climbing problem, it does make that space available as walking room, and it does help create hills. I did select a couple larger rocks to create a couple above ground but their tall enough that it will create tall side walls to the hide and make it to tall to climb. Another idea I am pondering with to create more walk space is installing a 12" wide ledge all the way around the back wall of the enclosure (with an appropriate safety rail) for them to climb and walk around.
Now I am building this enclosure with the idea that it's only a housing space for 2 yrs (probably less for the Aldabra). And of course during warm weather months they will get to enjoy the great outdoors most of the day and only use this as sleeping quarters.
Is there any safe product to waterproof wood materials? My last enclosure I built out of wood I used a shower curtain as a barrier and it ended up getting holes in it and leaking. If there was something that I could apply to the wood and waterproof it I thought I would go that route this time.
You need to line it with pond liner, its strong stuff, Also the ledge idea is good,I'm going to do that. This is just something else i thought of doing and I'm still in the thought process, maybe you could add to it, as for your pond why don't you have it at the top of a slight hill. So it looks a bit like a volcano. A slight incline to a pond at the top, will stop any flipping into pond, also make the incline all the way around the pond made of something that wipes there feet and plastron as they walk up it(maybe grass lets say), the soil and stuff off there feet won't roll into the pond. Obviously it doesn't want to be a steep incline. Hope you understand.
Bye
 

Amanda81

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Well I'm thinking if I put the fountain back in and keep the soil damp (as damp as the plants allow) I should be good on humidity. If not I still have the misting systems I can hook up in there. I do like the idea of a little pond at the top of a grassy hill, I will probably attempt that but just use a terra cotta saucer for the pond. I am a super worrier and even though they probably couldn't flip over into it set up that way, I would still worry all the time about it.
As for the waterproofing, I would still like to just waterproof my wood if possible, would make applying the bark a much easier task. Plus since I'm housing species that don't really dig (well they aren't going to dig like the sulcatas do) and I'm going to have an over all depth of around 6" of substrate, I don't think them digging holes in it will b an issue either. I do however have an old pond liner from where I enlarged my koi pond so I will see if it will fit, would save me from having to buy more shower curtains if I'm not able to waterproof my wood.
 

J.P.

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laminating epoxy is a good way to waterproof wood. we use it for building boats, so it's gonna last for sure. bare epoxy degrades when exposed to UV, so you need to coat it with urethane spar (if you want natural wood looks) or some kind of paint for UV protection.
if you think it's overkill, you can also use epoxy paint. if properly mixed, epoxy is inert once fuly cured, so no fear of toxic fumes.

one question, will the leopard and aldabra be in the same enclosure? i hear a lot of negative response on this issue. i myself wanted to mix species, but was advised not to.
 

Anyfoot

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I forgot to say it's a closed chamber in my original post. I attempted to give details of everything so anyone giving suggestions would know what I was building and forgot that detail. I guess since I have always used closed chambers I didn't think about putting it in there, I forget some of the simplest stuff sometimes.
As for the pond thing, that is my number one concern, them flipping over into it somehow. My number two is the dirty water. Of course I would build it so I could lift out and clean it but it would still be an idea that nerves me, the whole cleanliness thing again. So I am still playing with the idea but leaning towards the no side of that. I had built a fountain that I used in my first enclosure and I might actually just stick that back in this new enclosure as well.
As for the hides, I do plan on burying the majority of them just as described earlier because I have had issues in the past with them climbing them and then flipping back off them. So I figured bury them, it solves the climbing problem, it does make that space available as walking room, and it does help create hills. I did select a couple larger rocks to create a couple above ground but their tall enough that it will create tall side walls to the hide and make it to tall to climb. Another idea I am pondering with to create more walk space is installing a 12" wide ledge all the way around the back wall of the enclosure (with an appropriate safety rail) for them to climb and walk around.
Now I am building this enclosure with the idea that it's only a housing space for 2 yrs (probably less for the Aldabra). And of course during warm weather months they will get to enjoy the great outdoors most of the day and only use this as sleeping quarters.
Is there any safe product to waterproof wood materials? My last enclosure I built out of wood I used a shower curtain as a barrier and it ended up getting holes in it and leaking. If there was something that I could apply to the wood and waterproof it I thought I would go that route this time.
a friend of mine uses yacht varnish to protect her wooden enclosures. I assume it is animal friendly.
 

Amanda81

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Ok thanks. I will check into that. I didn't think about checking into products made for boats and such.
 

Amanda81

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laminating epoxy is a good way to waterproof wood. we use it for building boats, so it's gonna last for sure. bare epoxy degrades when exposed to UV, so you need to coat it with urethane spar (if you want natural wood looks) or some kind of paint for UV protection.
if you think it's overkill, you can also use epoxy paint. if properly mixed, epoxy is inert once fuly cured, so no fear of toxic fumes.

one question, will the leopard and aldabra be in the same enclosure? i hear a lot of negative response on this issue. i myself wanted to mix species, but was advised not to.


Sorry such a late reply, I just now seen your post, must have skipped over it.
Is the laminating epoxy available at like Home Depot or lowes?
My enclosure is going to be one large enclosure but I am planning to section it off with a 12" wall, that way I don't have to have separate heat and lighting systems but neither can get to the others space or see each other. Like you, I too would like if they could live together but it's not recommended so I will keep them separate.
 

J.P.

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i am not from the USA, but I imagine it to be available in large chain hardwares. just ask for clear epoxy(no fillers) with a long pot life, the long cure time is what makes it laminating epoxy. fast cure epoxies can't be used for laminating because it will harden before it can be applied evenly and absorbed by the wood.
 
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