New 4X4X1.5X1.5X3.5 corner viv... (in progress)

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New 4X4X1.5X1.5X3.5 corner viv... (in progress)

Postby charmander16 » Mon Jun 05, 2017 3:41 am

I'm about half way through the build on the new viv for our ~8 month old dragon.

I'm using 1/2" plywood. It's basically a 4'X4' by 2' high cube, but with one corner cut off. Over budget of course. Pics, then I'll discuss more below:
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Overall, this gives 16 sqft of living space, by taking the corner off and and using it as a shelf, which serves as a structural support.

I've also put in a two layer floor using 3/4" on the second layer. I debated about doing this, but it ended up that I was going to need another piece of plywood for the roof, so I went ahead and did it. The second layer serves two main purposes. #1 it let's me recess a "feeding pit" into the floor. and #2 it serves as a major structural support along the bottom, with the walls attaching to it via glue and screws. With the floor and the corner shelf, this thing is totally solid.

For glue I'm using a combination of traditional wood glue and LiquidNails for wood. The LN has VOCs in it, but they supposedly all evaporate within a week, so it seems okay.

For the flooring I'm going to be using this cork: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Heritage-Mil ... /206668316

I tried seeing if I could get opened or damaged boxes from some place, but couldn't find any, so ended up having to spring for a whole box, which sucks, but, meh. Cork will also make it easy to cut the hole for the feeding pit.

For paint I'm using all no VOC interior paint. The blue is left over from a bedroom and the other colors I was able to pick up from Home Depot for 50 cents each in their opened sample section. If you go there they will have cans of opened paints, etc., and I got lucky and they had the colors I needed. These were all the small sample size containers. Those are typically about $3.00 each, so still not too bad. And I got lucky in that they are Bear Ultra Premium no VOC :p

I painted the clouds on one side and my 8 year old is doing the rest of the painting. It's "his" pet and he really wanted to do it, so he's having fun with it.

I went to a nursery and got a good bit of flat rocks that I will use to cover the shelf and build a stairway/ramp up to it. The rock is heavy. Overall I got about 75 lbs of rock for about $20. I may not use all of it. Some of it is pretty thin tough so it should be okay. I'm not sure of the best way to affix it however. I've got some high strength cement, or maybe I should use glue and grout? Not really sure. I did some experiments and I'm not too impressed with the holding power of the cement when spread thin over wood. If I use a wire foundation over the wood it may help, but it's gonna be heavy, so still not exactly sure how I'm going to do it. We've also got some driftwood to build a ramp on the other side.

The roof will be plywood, but with holes cot for the lighting to sit on top, using wire mesh over the top. I'm going to use metal screen on the two side windows for ventilation/viewing.

On one side I'm going to make a dig box. I originally planned to recess this also, but then decided against that. The dig box will be a 14"X11" plastic box set in a custom built wood container with a rock entrance ramp.

Some decisions I still need to make:
1) Do I solidly attach the roof or do a drop-in roof? I could basically put a little ledge around the inside 3/4" down to allow the roof to be set in and be removable. I really like this option and am thinking of going for that. I was considering solidly attaching it for support, but really this thing doesn't need the support, it's plenty strong.
2) Do I permanently affix the rocks to the ledge and permanently affix the rock "staircase", or do I try to make those things removable? This thing will eventually need to be moved at some point. The rock will likely add between 50 and 100 lbs depending on how its done. I do want to use real rock, but it's a challenge.
3) Speaking of real rock, do I need to seal the rock? I'm kind of hoping not. This is like flat sandstone type stuff that would be used for pavers, etc. It's got a good bit of character and coloring to it. It's on the tan side with some light lichens and stuff on it. It's about 1/2" thick.
4) Speaking of sealing, do I need to seal the "driftwood"? It's actually an old weathered section from an apple tree. Unfortunately, apple wood is also pretty dense and heavy, but it's the perfect size and shape, so I'm using it (unless anyone knows of a problem with apple wood and dragons). But should I lacquer it?
5) How concerned do I need to be about toxicity with the outside stain? any recommendations?
6) I'm not totally sure how I'm going to do the sliding doors. I'm putting an oak boarder around the front opening. How exactly do I put the door in?

I'll let you know when it's done.
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Re: New 4X4X1.5X1.5X3.5 corner viv... (in progress)

Postby CooperDragon » Mon Jun 05, 2017 12:13 pm

That looks like plenty of space (and heavy!). You may not need a roof on it if you could rig a way to suspend the lighting and there aren't any pets/threats to get in there from above. I'd leave the rocks and furniture free standing so you can move them or take things out for cleaning more easily. You don't need to seal rocks. Just wash them and spray them down with some F10 if they get dirty. I don't seal my driftwood pieces. If they get dirty I just wash them off and bake them in the oven on low until they're completely dry to sanitize. If you put a polyurethane coat or two on the enclosure it should seal everything in nicely and provide a moisture barrier.
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Re: New 4X4X1.5X1.5X3.5 corner viv... (in progress)

Postby charmander16 » Wed Jun 07, 2017 5:01 am

Yeah, I think I'm going to start off with a less naturalistic approach. I can always go back later and re-do the interior.

I think for the top shelf what I'm going to do is cut some reptile carpet to cover the shelf and then just place the rock on top of that. It's all wide flat rock and relatively heavy so I should be able to simply just sit it on there. Then I can easily remove it whenever I want.

I've also decided to go for the removable roof, which will make maintenance and later re-modeling much easier.

And for now, instead of trying to build a rock staircase that goes up to the shelf I'm going to use a heavily weathered board. I'm not sure what type of wood it is, as I just found it on the beach. It looks like some kind of 3X4 or something that's really weathered and beat up. I'm thinking I'll just spray it down with a bleach solution and let it sit for a few days and then soak it in water for a few days after that? Is that basically how to prep wood like this?

The only real issue I still need to figure out is how to do the doors. I guess I'll just install some plastic track and get glass cut to fit? Seems like glass is really cheaper than plexiglass, the only difference I could cut the plexiglass myself. I also don't know if I should install the track inside the oak boarder or ON the oak boarder. I'll just work with it and see what makes sense.

The only other thing I'm thinking about now is lighting. This isn't a huge deal though since I can easily change that up as I go. For now I'm just going to use the same basking lights I've been using.

I'll switch from an 18" T8 to a 24" T5 and I'm also going to add an additional 24" regular light, but I'm not sure if I should go with a fluorescent or LED. I'd prefer LED of course, but I'm not sure if LEDs are appropriate for them or not.
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Re: New 4X4X1.5X1.5X3.5 corner viv... (in progress)

Postby CooperDragon » Wed Jun 07, 2017 11:30 am

I would go with a fluorescent daylight bulb for additional lighting. I think you'll also find that the T5 UVB tubes are quite bright on their own.
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Re: New 4X4X1.5X1.5X3.5 corner viv... (in progress)

Postby charmander16 » Sun Jul 09, 2017 2:55 pm

Here is an update. I'm almost done. I've been doing this at a slow pace due to other activities.

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I don't have everything "nailed down" yet, and there is still some paint touch-up to do, but for the most part, all that's left is to get the sliding glass doors in.

The little desk you see below it is a corner desk I got off Craigslist. I was thinking it was going to be the same size but it's a little smaller, but that's okay.

I'm going to do it so that the top screws down for security, but it will be removable.

I could have done a bit more work to make this more furniture quality on the outside, but this is going into a young boys room, so I'm not going to the trouble.

All the lights will go on top of course. I've got a log and a stone ramp as ways to get to the top shelf. The top shelf will have repti-carpet on it, topped with flagstone. The top shelf itself is pretty large.

Overall I'm very happy with how it turned out. I'm not sure I'd recommend the cork floor, and I'll know more after a few months of use, but the main reason I went with it was so I could easily do the cutout for the feeding pit (which will have a removable plastic liner in it).

I've got two holes in the back under the shelf for probes to go in, and I'll be able to run a probe up through a hole in the shelf to the top basking area. From corner to corner at the widest point it's about 5.5'. It's almost 4' deep from the front to the back corner.

This is birch plywood with oak front framing pieces around the door opening. It's all stained with a polyurethane stain. It will be sitting for another 2 or 3 weeks before he moves in, and the stain is only on the outside so it should be fine.
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Re: New 4X4X1.5X1.5X3.5 corner viv... (in progress)

Postby charmander16 » Sun Jul 16, 2017 4:23 am

I've staged everything up and done some lighting tests. I don't get the glass doors until Monday, but assuming the lighting works out with the glass in I'll be putting him in probably Tuesday morning.

Below was my initial pass at the setup. Actually after that I improved it a bit and have a Hens and Chicks plant to go next to the dig box. Today I'll be making a wooden box that will be grouted to put the dig box in to make it blend in more.

With the glass off I'm getting about 100 degrees at the basking spot with a 60 watt PAR38 halogen bulb at 60% after being on for 4 hours, so that seems pretty good. With the glass I may need to tune it down a little, but that will be fine.

I plan to put some loose substrate in that back corner as a bedding spot at well. I'm still debating between coarse Kritter's Crumble and Apsen shavings for the back corner. I want something that will be relatively easy to clean up and not too messy for back there.

The dig box will have a fine Kritter's Crumble and play sand mix.

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Re: New 4X4X1.5X1.5X3.5 corner viv... (in progress)

Postby charmander16 » Wed Jul 19, 2017 2:24 am

Ugg.... So I just got the glass yesterday. Despite the fact that I brought the entire viv (no small task) to the glass cutter for them to measure it themselves, they made the panels about 1/16th of an inch too tall, so they won't fit in, so I have to bring them back (the place is way out of my way) and have the re-cut them.

In the mean time, I finally got it all setup in his room and I put our guy in it for about 20 minutes to let him check it out.

OMG!

#1 He loved it. #2 He's freaking out about it!

I put him in it close to his bed time, about 6:30 and his bed time is 7:00.

After I took him out and put him back in his 40 gallon tank, he IMMEDIATELY took a dump (he never poops in the evenings!) and then ran over to the side closest to the new viv and glass surfed toward the new viv, then finally his lights went out and he fell asleep in the corner closest to the new viv, which he NEVER sleeps in because its on the cold side of the tank. Can't blame the guy, he's going from a 40 gallon tank to an approximately 190 gallon enclosure!

Now it will be at least 1 more day before he can get into his new home, more likely 2 days!
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Re: New 4X4X1.5X1.5X3.5 corner viv... (in progress)

Postby charmander16 » Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:15 am

Here are some updated pics. The lighting still isn't right because I need the lights from the current viv for the new one. Also the old viv looks bigger than it is because it's closer to the camera.

I'm still working on the case for the dig box, but I just put the plastic bin in there for now so he'll be able to try it out, and I'm going to make a custom pot for the plant that will blend in.

Notice the probe in one shot. That's the probe for the CHE, which is set to 75 degrees all day (will typically be above that temp during the day) except for 1:00 to 2:00 pm when it goes up to 110. The basking spot will be at a constant 100, and will also ramp up during that period. I'll do some testing to see how high that goes when the CHE hits 110.

I'm going o put a secondary basking bulb on the side toward the dig box up toward the front, which will likely get the temps on the ground to the upper 80s, low 90s. I'll have to mess with it.

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Re: New 4X4X1.5X1.5X3.5 corner viv... (in progress)

Postby charmander16 » Wed Jul 19, 2017 11:44 pm

Well good news. I brought the glass back yesterday and they ground them down while I waited, so he got to sleep in the new viv last night. He's sleeping in the dig box currently.

Unfortunately the TropicSun bulb I got was broken, so I won't be able to test that out yet. I think I may just scrap it and move on to using a TrueColor LED for white light. That's disappointing because I wanted to compare the two.
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Re: New 4X4X1.5X1.5X3.5 corner viv... (in progress)

Postby charmander16 » Fri Jul 21, 2017 1:59 am

Our dragon head bobbed for the first time today! I'll take a post some pics of him in his new place later, but he seems to be loving it. I have never ever seen him head bob, and today (his first day in the viv) after we gave him his evening feeding he ate and then ran up to he basking area and looked at us and head bobbed like crazy. Maybe he's really feeling like he has a territory now!

I took a 10 hour time laps (I use O.Snap on a ipad) while I was at work and he was all over the thing. He was mostly basking of course, but he explored every area of it, and made several loops going down one ramp and up the other, etc.

Somehow he got poop ALL OVER the place! Not sure what the heck he did, he even got poop on the ceiling!

I checked the video and apparently he pooped up by the glass then ran through the poop a couple of times as he looped around the viv. How it got flung up onto the walls and ceiling I cannot fathom!

I did have the mid-day temp ramp up in place, which got the basking area up a little over 110 for about an hour. I can't tell exactly how that matches up to the video (could probably figure it out with some simple math but haven't done it yet) but he appears to be basking during that ramp up. I was expecting that maybe it would drive him off the basking spot to cool off, but I think he's basking during it.

I'm going to give it a couple of weeks, then I'll post here on my lessons learned from making this viv. I want to see how a few things play out first before making design recommendations. One thing I can say now is that it's definitely got good air flow, but is actually running a little cool. Right now I'm running one 60w halogen at 60% as the main basking bulb, plus a 100w zoo med basking bulb as a secondary.

Directly under the primary it stable at about 100 F throughout the day, but goes up to about 115 when my CHE comes on at 1:00pm. The temp at the CHE probe, which is only about 10 inches away from the center of the basking light, reads about 83 degrees most of the time, so that's a pretty big fall off in temp. Under the secondary basking light it is about 85 degrees throughout the day.

Over by the far side of the dig box, right next to the plant, it stays at about 73 degrees. The cool side by the log also runs in the low 70s.

I'm eventually going to change the 100w basking light out for another halogen, which will run off a splitter do that it will be on the same timer/dimmer at the primary, which means it will also max out at 60%. I'm considering putting in even a third halogen on the "cool side", possibly a 30 PAR, to warm that space up a little, but I'm going to experiment more to see. Another option would be to put in another CHE but I don't have an independent controller for it. I dunno. I'm thinking through options and trying not to get too crazy with controllers. I could re-purpose the basking area CHE to be a more general overall CHE and bump it's daytime temp up to about 85, but then I'd lose the ability to do the mid-day spike, which I like because I think it ads variety and a dynamic aspect to the environment. I wish there was a controller that had THREE time periods instead of just two.

I may have to get into arduino programming to really get things how I like :p I think ideally I'd use LEDs to control the lighting and CHEs to control the temps, with really only 1 basking light. For now, however, I may end up with 3 halogens to control the temps. I'll have to experiment and see. I think I'll try putting a "cool side" CHE on a splitter from the the lighting controller and see what happens. That would run the CHE at 60% all day. I'll just try it and see what temps that gets. If it gets too warm I'll abandon that.

I will say already that I see the virtues in a taller viv. I'm already wishing I had made this thing 3 feet tall, but that would be insane. I don't I could have even gotten such a viv into the room as it needed to go down twisting stairs and barely made it as it is. But, for others looking at building, I can definitely see how taller is better. I'd like three feet in height, with most of the lights outside the viv, but the UVB light inside. I think that would be an ideal setup.

I think with halogen bulbs, they have enough power to really put out good heat, but in order to really get a broad area and to be able to run them at maximum power for the whitest light, you need height. You need to be able to run them up higher to let the beam spread. I think my basking area is a little too close to the lights. If I could do it again I'd have to do the same overall structure cause taller wouldn't fit, but I'd move the shelf down about 4 or 5 inches. I could move the lights up, but that would be problematic in other ways in terms of room aesthetic and light leakage into the room, especially in the mornings.
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Re: New 4X4X1.5X1.5X3.5 corner viv... (in progress)

Postby charmander16 » Tue Jul 25, 2017 6:01 am

Here are some updates on this setup.

Here is how my lighting is currently setup. At first I didn't have a diffuser under the LEDs lights, but I ended up adding one. I happened to be replacing some old diffusers on some other fluorescent lights we had in the house, so I just used one of those and cut it to size.

From back left to front right its: CHE, 60w Halogen, Reptisun T5 HO, Current USA Satellite LED+, 60w Halogen. (The double can currently only has one bulb in it).

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What the lights are sitting on is 1/2" wire screen, which is big enough that it essentially doesn't impede the light of the UVB bulb at all.

Below you can see (somewhat) the effect of the LED and the diffuser. Thee pics are all without flash, but I did have auto exposure on, so it didn't really work that well in showing the differences, but the first pic is without the LED on, the second pic is with the LED but without the diffuser and the last pic is with the LED and the diffuser.

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You can see that without the diffuser there are a bit of lines from the wire screen with the LED is on. With the diffuser it's all good.

This pic below shows where the temp probes come in.

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This shows how I attached the power strip:

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The following pics are of our dragon feeding and hanging out:

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