Sulcata Closed Chamber Build


New Member
Mar 17, 2018
Location (City and/or State)
San Diego, CA
Hello Everyone!! I hope this post helps others the same way everyone’s posts on here helped me!!

A little background. I’m a firefighter in San Diego, and a couple weeks ago I finished a long and arduous promotional exam process. To thank my wife for her support I took her to a nice lunch in Oceanside by the coast. A couple days prior we tried to take our amazing 3 year boy to a Ecovivarium museum in Escondido where you can see and interact with several reptiles and herps, but it was closed. Sooo after that nice lunch we stopped into LLLReptile for our little guy to look around. As a kid and teenager I was in love with reptiles and had nearly everyone you could think of as pets. In high school I even worked in a pet store as the reptile specialist. That was many moons ago. Long story short, on a whim we left with a baby Sulcata Tortoise, at the register my 3 year old named him/her Sam before we even owned him/her. Perfect name.

We had always talked about having a Tortoise in our yard one day. Usually I research the snot out of things before jumping in, but I was in an emotional state on this day due to work. The pet store gentleman was very sweet and thorough, gave some good info, but come to find out, some horrible info. Some bad info on diet, humidity, aaaand ENCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS!!

Anyhoo, we got Sam home, and what do I do after setting up his home (in a 10 gallon aquarium I had laying around)? I researched and read and read and read. Luckily for Sam I learned that we were way off the mark to start Sam’s life with us. My wife was not happy about how this was going as we have a baby due in May and she needed my focus on other projects. I banged out a couple projects she has been begging for and she gave me a few days this week to focus on Sam’s new home. She was not thrilled about a 5 foot by 2 foot “cage” in our son’s room, but graciously gave me a corner of the dining room.

I began planning and further research at night while at work. After the bartering was over and the fire department finally allowed me to come home for a few days, THE BUILD BEGAN!!

I will list some specs and info, then post all the pics I have. This is all to try and give back and help others plan, design and execute quality homes for their beloved additions so they grow up happy and healthy. If you like it, i may start building custom enclosures in the future when home life settles a little.

Feel free to ask any questions and if I’m doing something wrong PLEASE let me know!

I am having a slight night time heating issue on cool side. I started a thread for that you can see here:


3/4” plywood construction, kreg pocket hole joints with glue for added strength
Overall size: 5’ x 2’ x 23.5”
Mezzanine/Upper Deck: 12” x 18” (8” off the soil, ramp to be added later)

Viewing area: 59” x 12”, made from 3/16” acrylic opposing doors sliding in dado grooves in 3/4” ply. Tracks lubed with beeswax after sealing

Substrate: 2.5” deep mix of Dr. Earth organic soil (no perlite), Cyprus mulch and reptibark.

Planted with:
Safe succulents
Wig palm tree
Money tree
Spider plant
Patches of grass, clover and mallow from yard (we are organic, healthy folk, and do our best to be chemical and fertilizer free)

60W uvb bulb (Home Depot ceramic fixture)
100W CHE (Home Depot ceramic fixture)
3 patio light fixture with 2 LED grow bulbs, 1 40W equivalent LED daylight bulb
Other side has 18” UVB flouescent tube for added UV on cool side

That’s the nuts and bolts for now, stand by for pics...


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New Member
Mar 17, 2018
Location (City and/or State)
San Diego, CA
Those were the humble beginning in first post, he is the build:

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Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
May 29, 2014
Location (City and/or State)
Glenn Dale, Maryland, USA
Aaaagh, now I understand the mezzanine....

  • Mezzanine/Upper Deck: 12” x 18” (8” off the soil, ramp to be added later)

Now I understand your other post better... ramp added later!


Well-Known Member
Mar 24, 2016
Location (City and/or State)
Saginaw, Michigan, USA
I highly recommend a kreg jig to anyone looking to build simple pieces of furniture like this. It's a cheap $30 tool, but it will greatly increase the average persons ability to build a solid piece of furniture.

Good job.