Modified Zoo Med Tortoise House build thread (Lots of pictures)

Sterling Thunder

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So we decided to get a tortoise... This began May 8 with a ton of research leading me to Tortoise Forum as the group that really had their stuff together, kind and friendly advice (always kind and patient one-on-one) with more than just anecdotal evidence on several major issues of tortoise ownership. At first we looked at Sulcatas and learned everything we could, quickly we realized this wasn't the tortoise for us, even though they appear to be awesome! Because we wouldn't just rush into anything and had some incredible guidance from Tom we found Leopards, who as it happens in PP form hold many of the same personality traits without the digging.

So... in wanting to provide a great hatchling habitat for our new forever (and likely beyond) pet I broke out the credit card and proceeded to melt it (I know there are less expensive items/methods, I didn't get/use them partly because we have plans to reuse these items later and this is a small scale test of some ideas).

This was the first time in forever that I knew what I wanted for fathers day, a laser guided digital infrared thermometer. In hindsight the laser guide was a bit over kill but it is fun to say. Amazon began delivering parts on an almost daily basis and the build began. Keep in mind, especially when commenting, this build is for a hatchling, I know it won't fit past a year to a year and a half. We are having an area of the basement built out with a permanent habitat as well as an outdoor habitat for next year.

Please let me know what you think, I still have the stainless steel shrouds and reflectors to add for the lights and CHE's but have been eager to share.


The Zoo Med Tortoise House arrives, partial assembly, and begin masking of the sections for rubberized liner. (NOTE: I let this air out for almost a month as the cheap Fir Pine out gasses considerably)





You have to mask everything you don't want this stuff on, it goes everywhere no matter how careful you are. Planning ahead is important, once sprayed it is easer to get a new tortoise house than trying to scrape that stuff off...







Let the spraying commence







Then reverse the masking and seal the exposed wood to prevent moisture damage. (NOTE: Again, it is very, very important to allow the project to out gas from the sealants, they can cause neurological damage don't rush this)

Now in my excitement to get started, I drew out the plan and laid everything out and promptly forgot to cut PRIOR to sealing requiring me to go back and reseal certain areas after cutting.



I am using a mechanical and digital set up. Both setups Salt tested for accuracy. The mechanical is simply a backup however. Next up was wiring the light controllers, foggers, thermostats, hygrometers, mist system and for the UVB's (These are the reflectors I mentioned still need to be built)







I specifically chose the RS400 instead of the mistking setup because I wanted the larger droplets of spray. The mistking system produced vapor much like the foggers and the idea for the spray was as a droplet effect on the tortoise as well as for the living plants.







You can see in this view I have added a 1/16th inch lexan top to hold the humidity in. The areas around the domes will have the stainless steel shrouds within the week. In the domes are a 50 - 75 watt basking light (depending on seasonal conditions) and two CHEs controlled by thermostats to keep the enclosure at 85 degrees. The basking light and 10.0 Reptisun UVBs are controlled by the exo terra light controller (nice and water resistant) and timers.

Next up, placing the window. I thought about doing the entire side in plexi but decided on a small window to allow the tort some privacy as well as not allowing it to see out (debatable topic).



Trying out placement first...





Time to start working on the inside.



Fogger Placement







Thinking about interior division, I knew I wanted a grass side and an eco earth side with a stone path, sunken hide with basking area and a sunken water area.



I used stone tile from the bath section because of the backing. It keeps it all together so the tortoise can't pick it up and still allows growth between the stones.





Flush mounting the controls, used the existing interior bulkheads to mount black plexi to cover and protect the electronics from mist, fog and general humidity. (all cables are run under the enclosure and any inside are covered by black plexi or tubing)





Used organic soil and eco earth to fill the enclosure. Bent grass seed (used on putting greens for it's ability to carpet) as well as several succulents and ferns (still have to triple check their safety) were added for hides as well grazing, all plants can be removed and replaced in a matter of minutes. I was truly amazed at just how quickly the grass grew in this environment (3 days growth shown).













I will be adding the shrouds and reflectors soon and the tanish areas you see in the pictures is more grass seed I just added around the pool and second hide to help keep the areas cleaner (the pool has steps in and will only be shallow filled with a pond stone bottom).

In the main stone hide the temperature stays at 85 degrees 95% humidity, on top under the basking light it stays at 105 degrees 80% humidity and the rest of the enclosure I can vary the temp and humidity and maintain those levels from 85 degrees and 90% humidity.



I will update this thread over the next week to show the finished product. Next up the soaking area and the outdoor enclosure. I look forward to any constructive input.
 

tiff3grl

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Wow, very nice!

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wellington

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Wow, you did a lot of work and a great job. Just be sure the water dish is not too deep. A saucer, the kind that goes under plant pots are what really is recommended. However, just be sure the tort can enter and exit really easy and not drown should he flip in it.
 

Team Gomberg

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That is one good looking inside!

I must say with all your modifying skills you sure could build one nice enclosure from scratch I'm sure ;)

Well done. When does the leopard baby arrive? :D

Heather
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gieseygirly

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Holy cow, you really put a lot of time and thought into this. You did an awesome job! I love it, and for sure your new little friend is going to love it too. We just purchased two of the exact same Zoo Med boxes for our Russian so he can be easily transported in and out of the house (I prefer him to be outside as much as possible). Again, very nice and fabulous job!
 

RussTort

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That is amazing! It's beautiful. I can't wait to see some pictures with the little tort in there.
 

saberfire06

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I love the stone tile idea for a hide. I purchased just one of them for a basking spot for my Russian but I love the idea of buying some more and creating a house like you did. Bravo my friend!
 

mike taylor

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Man does that tort table talk it is wired up nice . I like the humidifier and thermostat set up . Nice very nice .

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Sterling Thunder

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wellington said:
Wow, you did a lot of work and a great job. Just be sure the water dish is not too deep. A saucer, the kind that goes under plant pots are what really is recommended. However, just be sure the tort can enter and exit really easy and not drown should he flip in it.

Actually the "Lagoon" has steps in and out and the water is very shallow (less than an 1/8th of an inch) you just can't tell from the pictures and the extra stone isn't in the bottom (actually shallower than the planter bottom. I also have the saucers as seen in one of the pics. I prefer not to use them as they aren't graduated on the entry/exit. I can have the same effect but easier ingress/egress with the lagoon setup. I will be sure to keep a close eye on it though.


Team Gomberg said:
That is one good looking inside!

I must say with all your modifying skills you sure could build one nice enclosure from scratch I'm sure ;)

Well done. When does the leopard baby arrive? :D

Heather
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In a week or two. I really wanted to make sure the habitat could maintain temperature and humidity prior to bringing a little one home. Thanks for the encouragement.

I am already starting on a from scratch setup (parts arriving). This really was to test out my ability to make micro climates inside of a set up. Next up is the soaking area and the outdoor enclosure (which is partially built).


gieseygirly said:
Holy cow, you really put a lot of time and thought into this. You did an awesome job! I love it, and for sure your new little friend is going to love it too. We just purchased two of the exact same Zoo Med boxes for our Russian so he can be easily transported in and out of the house (I prefer him to be outside as much as possible). Again, very nice and fabulous job!

I have ideas for portability on one of these to make it easier to take in and out, much like you are looking to do. I look forward to seeing what you come up with. I too want my guy out as much as possible. I am lucky that we can dedicate a space for an outdoor enclosure as well. Thanks for the supportive comments!


saberfire06 said:
I love the stone tile idea for a hide. I purchased just one of them for a basking spot for my Russian but I love the idea of buying some more and creating a house like you did. Bravo my friend!

I went with the porous tile to allow some of the humidity to escape into the basking zone directly. It is probably hard to tell but the outlet for the fogger is directly below the basking spot in the hide. It works out really well and the porous tile will allow for excellent traction.
 

Greg T

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Sent you a PM also. This is VERY impressive, probably one of the best enclosures I've seen anyone build. Any tort will thrive in this enclosure. Great job!! :)
 

panda

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Absolutely beautiful! And when did you say you were taking orders ;) but in All seriousness you have done an awesome job.
 

Sterling Thunder

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panda said:
Absolutely beautiful! And when did you say you were taking orders ;) but in All seriousness you have done an awesome job.

My wife said I should sell them. I really enjoy building stuff. Thanks


CourtneyG said:
Can you do the inside of my tort table? This is a spectacular job you have done.

Sure, I've always wanted to drive out to Alabama!
 

NicoleB26

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Wow! Fabulous enclosure, you should be proud :) There is a baby tort out there who is about to hit the jackpot!
 

CourtneyG

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Sterling Thunder said:
panda said:
Absolutely beautiful! And when did you say you were taking orders ;) but in All seriousness you have done an awesome job.

My wife said I should sell them. I really enjoy building stuff. Thanks


CourtneyG said:
Can you do the inside of my tort table? This is a spectacular job you have done.

Sure, I've always wanted to drive out to Alabama!



That would be awesome. But if you did visit Auburn, it is called the loveliest village on the plains, and spring time is the best time to visit with everything in bloom.
 

Sterling Thunder

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wellington said:
Wow, you did a lot of work and a great job. Just be sure the water dish is not too deep. A saucer, the kind that goes under plant pots are what really is recommended. However, just be sure the tort can enter and exit really easy and not drown should he flip in it.

Gave some more thought to the issue you brought up and while I "think" it is as safe if not safer than a saucer I ordered a second lagoon setup that I am going to test overflow on (like on a sink or bath tub). This will allow any humidity or misting spray fill to safely drain out without danger of creating an unintentionally unsafe area. Thanks for the constructive input, it really got me thinking about a longer term safety protocol.
 

Sterling Thunder

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UPDATED: Modified Zoo Med Tortoise House build thread (Lots of pictures)

As requested: shots of Chewba in the enclosure. When I have a little more time I will add more shots and write up some of the other goings on.








Chewba being fed in his secondary feeding and viewing area by his keeper (who also gave the name)






Day three weigh in.
 
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