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Greenhouse/tortoise table build

Discussion in 'Tortoise Enclosures' started by MIReptilian, Jul 26, 2019.

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  1. MIReptilian

    MIReptilian Member

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    I have been researching, reading, and trying to figure out my best case scenario for an enclosure for 3 baby Hermanns I have coming in the next month or so. I'm all over the map with this stuff and super indecisive. Initially I was going to build a closed chamber, then I thought about buying a closed chamber, then I was going to build a smaller one and a lager one making them modular and able to connect to one another... Use the smaller one to house the babies and then connect the larger and smaller one together when they need more space. I think I have finally decided on what I'm doing and think it's going to work awesome

    My problem is that I'm in MI and there is really no way the tortoises can stay outside (full time) from October until April. I will need a comfortable indoor solution for the torts. A closed chamber seemed to make the most sense, but in order to build a big enough closed chamber, it would be costly and still not offer enough room IMO. The Large closed chamber would also take a bit of time to design and build. I don't have a ton of time right now and need something that will be ready when the tortoises arrive in the beginning of September.

    The tortoises will live in my 2000sf basement with an ambient temp 65 degrees. This is also an issue and why I was considering a closed chamber in the first place. Being mostly concrete, the basement is cool and remains that way throughout the year. But it does have two things going for it. It's very large and has 10 foot ceilings!

    I started thinking outside the box and determined that I could easily set up a small greenhouse in my basement that would be easy to heat and humidity could be monitored with no issues. . So I started searching and found a suitable Greenhouse on craigslist for a good price.

    Greenhouse.jpg

    Greenhouse1.jpg

    I found the above greenhouse, new in box, for $300.00. I pick it up tomorrow morning and will start assembling it in the coming days.

    Ideally, I would like to either build or buy something for the greenhouse to sit on. The basement floor is concrete and will suck the heat out of the greenhouse pretty easily. I was thinking about a sub floor made out 2x4s and plywood, but I'm not sure that I have the time to build it. Then I was thinking about thick rubber "stall" mats that are used for horses but those aren't cheap either at $35.00 a piece for 6'x4" (I would need 4). I'm still trying to figure out what I'm going to use as an insulating barrier.. Rubber backed area rugs? .. Suggestions welcome.

    The plan is to build an L-shaped tortoise table that fits inside the greenhouse or rather, that the greenhouse is built around. Something that's approximately 4 foot wide and then follows the perimeter side wall and back wall. So approximately 8-10 foot long on one side and 6- 8 foot long on the back wall by 4 foot wide to form an L. I'll put a divider in the table to make a smaller area for the torts while they're babies and then pull the divider out when they're juveniles. The divider could also be used if I need to separate any of the tortoises due to fighting, bullying etc.

    My only concern with this design is spending a small fortune on proper lighting for a table so large. Also, i'm debating how the greenhouse would be heated. Initially I was thinking of an oil filled radiator type space heater but then was considering several CHEs, Still not sure on this either. Suggestions welcome! Is there something else I should consider?

    Do I need UVB for the entire length of the table and will two large Florescent fixtures hung at the proper height above the table be enough for a table of this size? I plan on growing plants in the tortoise table so I will want daylight bulbs as well. I noticed that there are several fixtures available that have dual bulbs (one 12% UVB next to a 6500k daylight tube). Any issues with these? Again, trying to light and heat this enclosure by means that are as cost effective as possible.

    I will update this thread with photos and commentary as I build this greenhouse and huge tortoise table.
    stay tuned.

    any and all opinions, advice, suggestions are welcomed!

    Sorry for being so long winded.

    Jeff
  2. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I have this one from Harbor Freight with a night box inside.

    new greenhouse 08-11-14.jpg New Greenhouse 09-08-14.jpg New Greenhouse 10-15-14 day 5.jpg new greenhouse 12-4-18 a.jpg

    It's too hot in the summer, but I keep the door open and they go in and out. In the winter, on sunny days, it's much warmer in the GH than the outside temp. It has worked well for two years now. The night box is one of Tom's recipes, with three RHP to heat it up inside.
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  3. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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  4. NorCal tortoise guy

    NorCal tortoise guy Well-Known Member

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    I like the idea though I think an insulated room might serve you better then the green house indoors. The size of the table sounds amazing! I would guess with a couple LED shop lights and a couple spot lights for basking spots and a couple UVB fixtures you would be all set. you could set the back round temp with ether an oil filled heater or several CHEs controlled by a thermostat. I'm looking forward to seeing pictures of how it turns out!
  5. MIReptilian

    MIReptilian Member

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    Thanks. I thought about building a room in the basement but that would get pretty expensive quick. Lumber, insulation, electrical, lighting, floor covering etc

    I might do that eventually but like the greenhouse idea for the time being. I can always line the interior of the greenhouse with foam insulation board if necessary. If I ever decide to build a room, I can use the greenhouse as intended outdoors for vegetables and such.

    I am thinking an oil radiator space heater is probably the best way to heat the greenhouse. I dont know how much heat the CHEs put out or how much energy they use but I cant imagine they would heat the 8x10 area better than a space heater.
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  6. Maro2Bear

    Maro2Bear Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Definitely oil filled heater, maybe coupled with a few Radiant Heat Panels.

    Good luck.

    I think i would build a simple platform to keep your gh off the floor. A simple 2x4 frame with cross braces, topped with some plywood.
  7. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Sorry, I misunderstood. I didn't realize it wold be an indoor greenhouse. I don't see the benefit of having it indoors
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  8. MIReptilian

    MIReptilian Member

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    Yeah, I''ll probably just bite the bullet and build a sub floor for the greenhouse.
  9. MIReptilian

    MIReptilian Member

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    It's essentially a self contained 8x10ft tortoise habitat room that isn't permanent and can be taken down in an hour if necessary. My basement has an ambient temp of around 65 F which is too cold for an open type tort table. By setting up the greenhouse in the basement, I will only have to heat and monitor humidity inside the 8x10 area. It also offers much more space for the torts compared to a closed chamber. I would have to spend big $$$, and waste a lot of time, to build a closed chamber that would have any where near the square footage. Think of it as a mini tortoise room that will not only house the torts, but be a place to store supplies etc that's completely out of the way. Plus, with the greenhouse already being heated and humid, I could easily grow a bunch of plants in it as well with a few grow lights. I'm going to give it a shot. We'll see how it works. Like i mentioned in a previous post, If it doesn't work as intended, i can always use the greenhouse outside to grow veggies or use it as part of the torts outdoor enclosure.
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  10. Maro2Bear

    Maro2Bear Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Much smaller area to heat and maintsin humidity.
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  11. MIReptilian

    MIReptilian Member

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    @Markw84. I hate to bother you again but i need your expert advice. As you can see, I'm going a different route for my enclosure build.

    I plan on using an oil radiator inside my indoor greenhouse to keep ambient temps around 80.

    I'm still confused about UVB lighting. I'd like to grow plants in the tortoise table and have both UVB tubes and some sort of ambient lighting suspended above it. The problem is I'm not sure how many lights I would need and if the dual fixtures (loaded with one t5 HO 12% and one grow tube) would be a good idea? Given my tort table size, how would you lay out the lighting?

    I owe you one for all the help you've given me over the past two weeks.

    Here's the tort table layout looking from above. I plan to hand the lights over it.

    Suggestions on how many uvb and how many grow lights? Should I use LED grow lights?

    20190727_142408.jpg
  12. Toddrickfl1

    Toddrickfl1 Well-Known Member Tortoise Club

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  13. MIReptilian

    MIReptilian Member

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  14. Maro2Bear

    Maro2Bear Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Last edited: Jul 27, 2019
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  15. Kapidolo Farms

    Kapidolo Farms Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    I think you only need one UV unit, and place it where they can easily access it, they will go there. The rest can be panel LED. Day time 'lighted times of the day' can be lighted with 50 watt incandescent floods in an array of two or three bulbs - set on a timer. The whole greenhouse can be heated with any efficient room space heater on a thermostat. The greenhouse can be set upon 4 x 8 sheets of hard foam insulation panels, joined at the edge with duct tape, then on top of these the cheapest plywood, painted once or twice with a dry-lock type paint. You could secure where they have a seam with staples.

    I have over thought many projects and end up in a corner, the idea of keeping it simple serves me better.
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  16. Kapidolo Farms

    Kapidolo Farms Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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  17. MIReptilian

    MIReptilian Member

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    Legal here in Michigan :)
  18. MIReptilian

    MIReptilian Member

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    Thank you.

    I think you mentioned these in another thread some time ago. Any reason I shouldnt get one or two 4 footers and put one uvb bulb and one 6500k bulb in each?

    https://www.zenhydro.com/sun-blaze-t5-ho-42-4-ft-2-lamp.html
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  19. Kapidolo Farms

    Kapidolo Farms Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    I could be mistaken, but I don't believe there are suitable LED UV lamps. But there are very good 'general' illumination and plant LED lamps. So if you're going to have one tube fixture, I'd go for a 4 foot two tube and use both tubes for UV emitting tubes, and have the other general illumination be LEDs. If you use light for day time higher heat - that's when the 50watt incandescent flood would come into play.
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  20. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    sorry for the delay, Jeff, but was not "onlne" since yesterday AM.

    I agree with William that you only need UVB in one location. I would go central for that with a 4 foot T5 HO UVB. A double tube T5 HO using 12% HO tubes. You would then mount that higher - probably 30" +- or so and it would give a large effective UVI zone over probably a 3' x 5' area of the enclosure. The HO tubes also give off quite a bit of heat and would definitely help in the ambient heating of that greenhouse. I would also use Two double T5 4 foot fixtures for ambient. I would use grow lights in those. Great for ambient lighting and for growing plants. The T5s will also add heat to your room.

    I feel the oil filled heaters would not be sufficient for your basement in a large/taller area. They work great in a night box, but that is a confined space. I would go with a space heater of about 1000-1500 watts that is controlled on a built in thermostat. Very common everywhere for heating individual rooms. You might not find it needs to go on much at all as the 6 T5 tubes plus the two 65 watt incandescents will provide a decent amount of heat in that greenhouse during the daytime. You will set the space heater for the desired minimmum ambient heat.

    This will create a nice, bright enclosure with a good basking zone they can move towards or away from at will. I would definitely also use lots of plants. Pothos Ivy will do great. Spider plants. Boston ferns. Give them lots of natural light gradients and hiding spots with natural plants.

    Here's how I would do that layout:

    Jeff's lighting.jpg
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2019
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