Nervous first timer needs setup feedback!

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Nervous first timer needs setup feedback!

Postby zampano » Fri Jun 19, 2020 1:31 pm

Hi all!

I brought home this adorable little critter 4 days ago after falling in love with ‘him’ (just a guess) at the vivarium. He’s a translucent, possibly some leatherback I’m told, about 2 months old. Full of personality :)

[Click image to enlarge]

[Click image to enlarge]

[Click image to enlarge]


It’s my (and my whole house’s) first lizard. Based on reading a lot of other posts, seems like I would not be the first one to be worrying their ***** completely off about every little thing. I want my beardie happy and healthy and am still trying to figure out if it’s stress it shows me at times is just part of its week 1 adjustment period or something else. Honestly just watching a pet turn a color right in front of your eyes that means “I’m stressed” is a little freaky and makes me want to just dote on it all day! So, bearing in mind all dragons have different preferences and personalities, I was just hoping for some general feedback on my beginner’s set up.

I lived in Northern California in a pretty temperature controlled apartment with pretty regular humidity. Temp on my room hovers between 70 and 80 typically, doesn’t drop down too low.

I’ve handled him a couple times a day for not too long, except night 2 when we watched a movie together. Aside from the one time I took him outside and he actually leapt to the ground and almost ran off (!), he is super chill when in my hand/cuddling with me. Loves the warmth, doesn’t look stressed, and never wants to leave. In the tank, he’s got a lot more energy and the stress marks just come and go all day. And starting today the glass hugging started reaching a whole new level. Even tried to jump out once when I opened the top.

Also concerning me has been the appetite, which hasn’t been great. Last night I finally had some more luck with salad, just a coupe pieces of baby kale and a carrot strip. Easier to get it to eat a couple dusted crickets or mealworms but not as hungry as I’ve read other little ones get. So I think the stress marks would concern me less if I felt like it was eating more. Stops eating after a couple snacks and seems annoyed at any uneaten crickets sticking around for more than a couple minutes. So far one, regular looking, poop per day. At least he started eating in front of me within the first day?

I noticed his reflection in the glass was bugging him so I put up some magazine pages around the sides to stop the glare, until I get some proper wallpaper. And it seems to help because he only messes with the non-wallpapered walls now.

He can see the tv from the tank and seems to really enjoy watching it. It’s his biggest distraction by far. Kinda helping me figure out what kind of colors he’s attracted to, but also trying to figure out what kind of shows he likes )

Anyhoo, sorry for the lengthy run here. I’m starting with only a 10gal tank which was recommended to me for this size, knowing I’ll need to upgrade in a matter of months. And with the tank the viv owner suggested for me the following:

* white sand substrate (he seemed pretty adamant that the controversy over sand was overblown, correctly posted out that the dragon’s colors would look really cool against it, and it seemed that’s how they kept all their dragons as well in the shop)

* a zoo med dual lamp coverwhich he threw in for free (slightly used) to rest atop the mesh

* a Reptisun 5.0 UVB bulb for one side

* a purple heat bulb which he instructed me to leave on 24/7

* thermometer for cool end/digital probe thermometer for basking end, probing around as needed. planning to get a humidity gauge too soon.

[Click image to enlarge]
[Click image to enlarge]


And I’ve been tweaking with things throughout the day every day trying to get things just right. I’m sure this is annoying for the little guy too, though I’m doing my best. So, I guess I’m also writing for some reassurance that I can get things set, and stop messing with it’s home for a while, let him get used to the digs. The pics above show today’s set up.

The first two days I was having a hard time getting more than a 10 degree differential between the two ends, which I knew would be a problem. Also the purple bulb wasn’t really getting me much further than 95 degrees. Also, it looked like the purple light was keeping things too hot at night to leave on, and also I saw him starting at it a lot, so I decided maybe not to leave it on at night. Without it is about 75-77 degrees all night which seems fine. But I wanted hotter in the daytime, so went to Petco and picked up a ceramic heat emitter (reptisun 60w) as I read those can be on at night if needed and provided better heat. It was actually less hot than the purple bulb, so I switched back. Kinda wasted $40 there..

On day 3 I added the halogen desk lamp you can see on the right into the mix over the basking area, and the added heat from that (and the purple) have helped get the basking area up to around 105, finally. And the cool area hovers around 87-89. Seems the best differential I’ve been able to get.

Last I was having a little more shade than I wanted in parts of the tank so I decided to try out the bedroom lamp you see to the left. It’s just a regular 40w clear bulb.

So I’ve now got FOUR lamps hovering above my tiny little 10g tank. It seems a little silly but is at least stable? Anyway since I finished this set up this morning I’ve noticed a lot more energy on his part in the tank. A lot of running and jumping. Even climbing to the top perch and rubbing it’s rose around the mesh. Jumps in his water bowl from time to time, seems to get what the hideaway is for.

The crazy energy is kind of freaking me out (I’m still so nervous to take him out and handle him even though he seems to love it). However, he is spending a LOT of his day showing me his stress marks, often when just sitting there doing nothing- But when he’s running around like this, or even playing with his reflection, he’s just his normal pretty pink self! I’m hoping that that just means he’s happy and playful?)

So, not sure what all my questions are. I will have millions surely. One concern I had was the UVB light: I’ve read that the 5.0 is more appropriate for tropical lizards and maybe not strong enough for desert dwellers. Also because of the dual lamp I have it in, it is on the other side of the mesh and pointed downward vertically. So it has some reflection from the dome it’s in, but I worry the light isn’t being dispersed well enough throughout the tank and the mesh might be cutting down the UVB rays too much?

If anyone has any advice on that front I’d really appreciate it. Any general feedback on the whole thing would be amazing. If something needs fixing I’ll do the best I can on my quarantine budget. Or if someone wants to put my mind at ease and tell me I’m being a good papa, well, maybe some of MY stress marks can start to go away :)

Thanks to everyone here for all your super helpful info!

peace
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Re: Nervous first timer needs setup feedback!

Postby CooperDragon » Fri Jun 19, 2020 2:12 pm

Welcome to the forum! He is a good looking little dragon. Have you picked out a name for him yet?

I do have some suggestions that may help. A 10g tank is a bit too small. This is because it is difficult to create a good temperature gradient in such a small space as you're finding. I would use a halogen or incandescent bulb for heat. You can use the ceramic heat emitter to bump up a bit if needed. I use a halogen flood light in my enclosure and that works well, but it's a bit tougher to get the surface temps right in a smaller space. The combo of your desk halogen and the CHE may do the job. I would avoid using a purple, any other color like red, or a neodymium coated (ge reveal style blue looking) bulb because they can make things look really distorted to your dragon. Stick with bright white light and heat (the goal is to imitate the sun light). The basking lights always take some tweaking at first so keep at it. Once you have something that works you won't need to mess with it too much.

The second part is the UVB. You're right in that the 5.0 bulb is not strong enough for him. A T5 tube would be too powerful in a tank that size so for now I suggest using either an Exo Terra UVB200 compact in the fixture you have, or (probably better because of a wider beam) get an 18'' T8 fixture with a reflector (Zilla Slimline is common - be sure to remove the clear plastic cover from in front of the bulb before use) and either an 18'' T8 Arcadia 12% or ReptiSun 10.0 tube. You'll want to upgrade either of these options when you get a larger enclosure (adults use at least 4'x2'x2' in most cases) but they should do the job for now.

Since you are in CA and have warm weather and plenty of sun, once he is used to handling you can bring him outside for some natural sunlight. You could even get him a folding mesh pet playpen to keep him safe outside so he doesn't necessarily need to stay on your lap the whole time. Be aware of predators outside so stay near him and protect him.

As far as the sand substrate goes, I don't like it because it is difficult to clean and sanitize. If (when) he poops in it, it gets damp and bacteria can build up and it can really start to smell bad. I prefer using a solid substrate like tile or shelf liner because you can easily wipe them down and sanitize them (or replace) as needed. His decor looks great. I love that driftwood piece that gives him something to climb on. The habba hut is a good basking/hide combo too (I also have one).

Don't worry too much about the dark patterns he is showing. It is common with young dragons and I feel the term stress marks is misleading. He is at least partly changing color to absorb/reflect heat and manage his temperature. Color change can indicate mood, especially around the beard, but seeing the dark lines on a young dragon (in my opinion) shouldn't cause concern in itself.

Focus on getting the lighting sorted for him first. Adjust the substrate if you wish. Please let us know if you have any further questions. I look forward to hearing about his adventures with you =)
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Re: Nervous first timer needs setup feedback!

Postby KarrieRee » Fri Jun 19, 2020 2:15 pm

Ok first I want to say your little guy is beautiful---- the next thing is DO NOT LISTEN TO THE PETSHOP GUY anymore --- he has given you bad advice already---- first thing you should of bought was a 40 or bigger tank to begin w/ ---- the 10 gallon hes gonna outgrow in 3 months- so my advice is to start looking for a bigger tank if you want to keep buying tanks you can but I would get a 75-120 gallon now and save the money and time --- I put my 3 month old in a Zen 120 gallon - next DITCH THE SAND -- it causes impaction -- you dont want him impacted -- use paper towels for now --- DITCH THE PURPLE bulb -- they cause eye damage and you dont need heat at nite in the tank unless its falling below 65--- next you need to DITCH THE coil UVB if you have one --- next upgrade the Reptisun 5.0 to a 10.0 when you go to a bigger tank - the 5.0 is fine for now cuz the tank is so small -- - think bigger so I dont know what size fixture your using if its a 18 inch it would be a T 8 bulb if the fixture needs to have the plastic cover off the bulb and NO screen to block the UVB rays-- basking decor needs to be 8-10 inches directly underneath - if its longer like a 24" inch your good but I cant see it in the picture -- the 18 inch will be fine for a 40 gallon but going to a bigger tank like 75 or 120 your going to need a 24" fixture w/ reflector- next your basking temps need to be 105-110 taken in the spot where he sits and w/ that digital probe thermometer -- stick ons do not give accurate temps -- you need basking temps 105-110 and warm side 90's and cool side w/ temps in the 80's -- so there are only 2 lights you need --- a bright white basking bulb and a good UVB tube--- T 8 for now 5.0 is fine - when you go to a bigger tank if its a 40 go to a 10.0 bulb T 8-- if you get a bigger than 40 gallon go to the 24" fixture w/ the T 5 bulb
Next he will not eat if his basking temps and UVB are incorrect -- his eating will be slow but it should pick up-- if he stops eating all together there is a issue - he is going thru relocation stress --- please do not feed those crickets on the sand!!! Hang on to your ceramic heat emitter its a good investment!! Salads are good -- here is a website for nutrition http://www.beautifuldragons.com/Nutrition.html ignore the kale thing its a good staple feeder
If you have any more questions or need help please ask
Karrie
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Re: Nervous first timer needs setup feedback!

Postby zampano » Fri Jun 19, 2020 3:33 pm

You guys...are awesome! Cooper, Karrie (whomever else pours in), your really prompt and thoughtful replies are above and beyond!

First, pardon our manners, the little guy's name is Antifa and he (or she, who knows) does appreciate the compliments :)

As for the set up, most of what I've heard so far jives with other things I read. I feel bad that I went into that shop so hastily and asked them to just hook me up with all I'd need to get started. The vivarium itself has a really good reputation locally and the guy helping me was the owner, so I wanted to trust him, but to be fair he seemed really stressed and distracted at the time. Also I was hoping to transport it all to my house without a car and when he told me the 10 gal tank was big enough for the little guy I guess I just heard what I wanted to hear...I certainly could've done more research in advance but it's all a big parenting lesson I guess!

I'm going to try to synthesize what I'm hearing from y'all and head back down to the Petco down the street - and actually think this time before I pick up anything new to be sure.

1. The tank - I kind of figured the gradient was suffering due to the lack of space in the 10gal. Ok so I will definitely need to replace it, which I already knew, but maybe sooner than later. The guy told me that anything bigger than 20gal was gonna be way too much space for him to deal with, so I thought this was a good cozy starter. I'm thinking I can work on rectifying the lighting for now, let him settle into the tank for a bit, and maybe make that upgrade in 2-3 months? I'll go as big as I need to, I was just really under the impression that too much wouldn't be ideal for the guy.

* to be honest I spent a fair amount on all this and do personally want to get some use out of the tank for a bit if I can. much like that CHE i don't want to keep impetuously buying things without planning and this is one more expense I feel like I could put off for a few months, not harming his comfort too much. If I'm being selfish though and it seems like I absolutely need to upgrade this tank ASAP, I'm listening.

** already damaged the tank myself on night one so no resale value! that's on me though :D

2. The sand - points all taken. Like I said the shop guy had some points that convinced me in the moment this would work nicely, and he seems to enjoy playing around in it enough, but I can already understand the sanitary trade-offs that it can cause. And I wouldn't mind cleaning it really thoroughly every day but he really hates me trying to clean it out when he's in it, or chasing little crickets around trying to remove them. I have been feeding the crickets in the tank and allowing them to hop around the sand and will stop doing that until I've got a new substrate. I had read it was best to try getting them used to eating in the tank, and he doesn't like eating them out of tongs or anything, so if any advice on how to best feed cricks to the baby please feel free. As for salad, that's been mostly hand-fed. And I have a small dish to put worms in.

3. Lights - I'm pretty bummed I didn't get good advice on this specifically, as I knew how important of a factor it is. I didn't wanna overdo it for the little guy and figured with such a small tank that these smaller suggested bulbs were gonna be plenty sufficient. I didn't even have any idea until today that the mesh lid could cut down on the UVB! I'm going to try to take your advice and whittle this back down to just 2 lights if possible:

a) The purple bulb is going back away. I hope it hasn't been confusing him too much. At least while I still have this small tank, I can make the halogen do most of the work I think and use the CHE to get warm end up to the right temp I'm sure.

b) Ditching the coil UVB 5.0. It sounds like the ideal is an inside-the-tank fixture. If I'm understanding this OK, the 5.0 would probably be strong enough for such a small tank for now, but the fact that it's a coil bulb on the other side of the mesh that it's probably not enough? Sounds like even though the tank is so tiny, an 18" fixture with a T8 might be one of the best options I could get, and possibly enough to transfer into a larger tank later?

One follow up question - this would be my first time using one of these probe thermometers. Since my lighting set up has been so delicate I have to move it all every time I slide the top open, and the warm side/basking area loses heat rather quickly. My hope was if I suction-cupped the probe in the corner under the heat lamp, at about the same height as the branch that he sits on under it, I'd be getting a good basking reading. And my lazy assumption was that if that reading was about right, and the cool corner was in the right range, then I could assume the warm side was doing ok in the middle and he would move himself as needed to get comfortable. I guess I might need to put more effort into this?

a) is it true that I need to have the probe physically touching the basking spot?

b) I've been considering the 'basking spot' to be the broader part of the driftwood that's right under the purple/halogen lights as it's about 5 inches from the lights. I put that hideaway log in yesterday morning though and he seems to like that too, and appreciate the shade it offers. Cooper, I notice you referred to the one you have as a 'basking' spot too, and was just wondering if I ought to be consider this as the basking spot? The top of the log measures about 10 inches from the lights where they are.

I've been just assuming the basking spot by default needs to be closest to the heat source but it just occurred to me that I didn't have to have the high end of that driftwood sitting directly under the lamp. If that makes sense? In other words, would the basking spot be more ideal lower, where that log is, at a 10" distance? And if that's so, would that mean I'd need to rearrange the driftwood so it could climb that close to the lights, where it would be even hotter than the basking area?

In short just wanna make sure I'm reading my temps correctly and not baking the little guy :)

I can't tell you how much we appreciate the advice folks. Karrie - the best advice probably, "don't listen to the pet shop guy." From now on I'm coming here for feedback or nowhere! Also appreciate the food advice, as you probably know there's a lot of conflicting info out there. I'm making a list of things that are okay on occasion, and then good staple foods to try. So far his favorite salad is really just the kale and a rose petal I gave it earlier :)

And Cooper, I really needed to hear that about the 'stress marks' and I do agree with you that term could use a retooling. I don't love change much myself so his behavior isn't really that hard to understand to me, but I feel much better knowing that I'm not actually giving the little guy a heart attack, phew!

Whether he's actually upset or not, I feel like I'm on the right track and really hope a new lighting arrangement, at the very least, will help stimulate his appetite and keep him happy n stuff. I'll keep up with Antifa's progress and, of course, will surely be back with lots more questions - so again, thanks a million )))

best
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Re: Nervous first timer needs setup feedback!

Postby KarrieRee » Fri Jun 19, 2020 4:08 pm

Ok I am confused- you do not have a 18" fixture -- the 5.0 bulb is a Reptisun coil??????????? I dont think they make those -- a coil would look like this https://s7d2.scene7.com/is/image/PetSmart/5195503 a 5.0 bulb would look like this https://s7d2.scene7.com/is/image/PetSmart/5123303 you need this
https://s7d2.scene7.com/is/image/PetSmart/5142800 for a small tank a 18" will work but you would need a longer fixture for a 40+ gallon -- and yes you can leave him in the tank for another 2-3 more months - but you will need to move him soon- it depends on how fast he grows and I am thinking hes gonna be out of that tank before 2-3 months -- the basking temps need to be taken on the spot where he sits to bask - I would invest in another digital probe thermometer for a infrared heat gun - the sand I would get rid of now replace w/ paper towels and feed him in the tank - you should not need a CHE to get your temps in the tank - I would suggest you start w/ a 50 watt bright white basking bulb - make sure your probe is sitting on the place where he sits to bask leave 10 minutes get temp - those little tanks are really hard to get temps adjusted -- you can get a 24" fixture and use a 5.0 bulb T 8 that is not as strong as the 10.0 and when you upgrade to a bigger tank you can change the 5.0 to a 10.0 w/ a T 5 bulb the fixture needs to go on top of the tank - NO screen --- and you want the basking decor piece directly underneath 8-10 inches -- I am posting a pic of my 20 gallon I had Blaze in when I brought him home the fixture is a 18" w / a Reptisun 10.0 T 8 it sat width wise on the tank w/ NO screen and the basking bulb was a 75 watt clamped on the end
[Click image to enlarge]

the lamp on the far left was a heat emitter I used for 2 days cuz he was so little and I wanted him warmer over nite it kept the tank around 75 or so -- basking temps and UVB are crucial to their over all health -- you should not need that heat emitter in that small of a tank especially during the day -- you do not want him over heating --- you can use the 18" fixture in a bigger tank like a 40 but I would not recommend a 18" in a tank larger 50 gallon is pushing it anything bigger you want a 24" -- you do not want a UVB fixture the same length as the tank - he needs to be able to get out of the UVB rays if he wants to w/ out hiding from the UVB -- you can feed him in a plastic tote but then you run the risk of him getting to stressed to eat - so I would get rid of the sand -- try and keep him as quiet as possible -- minimum handling so he gets used to his surroundings and out side is risky - mine just turned a year old and I have not taken him outside -- hes still getting stressed in my LR - my oldest one is 2 1/2 and he does not like it outside - the birds terrify him -- so they sit on the back of a chair and look outside my LR window --- I have lots of websites for worms and roaches etc --- let me know if you want them but first you need to get your tank set up w/ the correct husbandry
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Re: Nervous first timer needs setup feedback!

Postby zampano » Fri Jun 19, 2020 4:26 pm

Thanks again Karrie, sorry for the confusion. Too many new terms swirling around my head the last few days to keep straight I guess )

I have the 5.0 like the one you pictured - mini compact flourescent.

I appreciate the picture and the extra details. Totally get it that he'll be needing a new tank before summer's out. As for the sand, I think I'm just going to dump it per both your advice. I don't want anything getting him in the way of eating regularly and certainly don't want to risk impaction.

I've probably been bugging the little guy too much and maybe handling more than he'd like. Even taken outside twice in 4 days, even for just a few minutes, I get it might be a lot for him.

I'd be interested in trying the terrarium hood you linked me to but you also mention that the bulb shouldn't be the length of the tank - this tank is 20" across and those long bulbs are 18", so is that gonna be too long?

I could look into something more like your example (appreciate the pics) but until I get a bigger tank I'd really feel better, if I could, leaving some kind of lid or screen on the tank. He is proving a pretty amazing jumper and an avid explorer!
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Re: Nervous first timer needs setup feedback!

Postby KarrieRee » Fri Jun 19, 2020 4:37 pm

Set the lid 1/2 across the tank put your basking light either clamped on the end or on the screen - set the lights up toward one end but you must get rid of that mini compact bulb!!!!!!! They are not any good and eventually he will quit eating all together --- you want that T 8 bulb - you can use a 5.0 bulb its more for aquarium use but you can use it for that small tank -- so this is what you need to get
a Reptisun 5.0 T 8 bulb https://s7d2.scene7.com/is/image/PetSmart/5037137 this bulb will be good for 6 months then it needs to be changed out --- this bulb is going to prevent MBD and other health issues -- it helps them absorb calcium --- are you dusting his crickets w/ calcium D3 and vitamins?
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Re: Nervous first timer needs setup feedback!

Postby zampano » Fri Jun 19, 2020 4:42 pm

Perfect- that’s what I’m hunting for then )

10-4 that the bulbs last only 6 months or so, but also that upon upgrading tanks I’ll need a stronger bulb then anyway.

As for the food I’ve been dusting both the crickets and the worms with calcium d3 & vitamins
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Re: Nervous first timer needs setup feedback!

Postby KarrieRee » Fri Jun 19, 2020 5:02 pm

Just your crickets- one time per day 5 x per week-- vitamins 2 x per week one time per day-- you don't need to dust the salads-- I am going to post some websites for worms and roaches- I recommend them-- they are a better staple feeder-- easier to keep more nutritional and last longer- use that 10 gallon aquarium when you get your new tank for your roaches-
www.dubiaroaches.com great worms like butter worms horn worms and super - the horn worms are a hydrating worm and they grow real fast so order small amounts- supers order medium and only feed like 1-3 per day or every other day-- butter worms I feed my guys around 3 per day blaze gets 1-3 supers per day hiccup won't eat them --- No mealworms- he's too young- adults or juvie ok but not babies--
www.reptilianarts.com good silk worms another great staple feeder if you order in bulk like 50 they will come small make sure you order food you will need to feed daily and clean containers out
www.coastilsilkworms.com
www.mulberryfarms.co.
www.symptonbsf.com another staple feeder do not dust order large
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Re: Nervous first timer needs setup feedback!

Postby zampano » Fri Jun 19, 2020 5:11 pm

You’re the best! Will look into all your feeding advice in depth.

So I’m at the pet shop, they don’t have the reptisun gear you shared. And the only reptisun bulbs are the compact ones :/

They do have the Zilla Slimline fixture 18” with T8 bulb (50 uvb for desert/25 tropical). This was suggested by Cooper* I think up above, any thoughts on that product instead? Or would it be worthwhile to keep shopping around tomorrow?
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Re: Nervous first timer needs setup feedback!

Postby KarrieRee » Fri Jun 19, 2020 5:34 pm

The zilla fixture is fine that is what's sitting on the 20 gallon but there is a Reptisun 10.0 T 8- you can get the fixture but I would replace the bulb it's not very good-- you can order the bulb and use the one that's in there for now but I would definitely get the Reptisun bulb I showed you--
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Re: Nervous first timer needs setup feedback!

Postby KarrieRee » Fri Jun 19, 2020 5:35 pm

And take the plastic cover off the bulb -- you want it exposed-- your gonna want basking decor piece 6-8 inches from UVB
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Re: Nervous first timer needs setup feedback!

Postby zampano » Fri Jun 19, 2020 5:46 pm

Ha, I’ve been getting the impression that that plastic cover thing must happen a lot? Appreciate the reminder ))

I will get the fixture for now and get the bulb you recommend when I can. Getting the impression this petco isn’t the best shop for all this but just closer to my house. I’m gonna get another thermometer too and start working really hard to get the temps as perfect as I can in that little space, and will make sure all those measurements are met.

Glad I found y’all!
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Re: Nervous first timer needs setup feedback!

Postby KarrieRee » Fri Jun 19, 2020 6:37 pm

Petco should have the zoo med digital probe thermometer- and yes most people don't take the cover off
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Re: Nervous first timer needs setup feedback!

Postby williamk34 » Sat Jun 20, 2020 12:14 pm

There's definitely some translucent in that and the one thing just from the photos that I looked at it looks like you found a gold mine if you found him at a pet store. Because I look like a type of purple paradox I'm jealous. They are very hard to produce let alone fine I've been looking for them for 2 years. Lol
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