Viv Build Help Required

Discuss substrates, lighting, heating, enclosure building ideas, share enclosure photos, and talk about any other enclosure-related topics.

Viv Build Help Required

Postby Tarbie » Sun Jan 17, 2021 5:14 pm

I'm an experienced Bearded Dragon owner, although my ex got my last Dragon Tony when we divorced :(.

I've taken in a rescue this week. Some ***** left him in a park in the cold in a box to die. The reptile rescue place called him Bob cos he literally doesn't stop head bobbing. It's a peculiar thing, I've never seen a Beardie bob anywhere near as frequently as this guy. And there are no other pets around or anything like that to set him off.

He has very early stages of MBD and his femoral pores were a bit blocked, but that aside he's in good nick and he's very friendly. I think he's quite young, maybe not even at full maturity. It's almost like he's been cared for for a year or so and then been given up on. I think he can be nursed back to full health though.

The viv he came with is old, a bit smelly (despite the fact I've given it a deep clean), and generally an eyesore. As such both for my benefit and Bob's, I've decided a custom cage is in order. I've found one that is half built and the guy hasn't got round to finishing it. I've seen previous vivs this guy has built and they are top quality. He's a Carpenter and a Bearded Dragon owner so he knows what he's doing.

It's a fairly standard 5ft x 2ft x 2ft wooden viv that he's constructed and he's done the walls and some structures, basking spot etc. What remains to be done is basically installing doors, heating, lighting and substrate/flooring.

The glass doors are easy, my brother in law makes windows and doors so he's gonna do that for me. The rest I'm gonna do myself and I'd like it to be as high spec as possible.

I've seen some videos recently where people have used a combo of sand and grout and then covered it with sealant to create a terrain that looks authentic and can be kept clean. Could I use that instead of a substrate? I know most people favour tiles these days, but because the structures are already completed it won't be possible. I've used sand based substrate in the past (Tony liked to dig), but cos Bob has a few health issues already, I don't want to add the risk of impaction to that list. I don't like the look of just a wooden floor given it's gonna be a high spec build, so I need a solution.

I also want to go high spec with heating, lighting, thermostat etc. A basking spot and UV strip are easy, but I'm not too clued up on temperature control. In the past I've just used a temperature gun. I was living in South Africa too where the ambient temperature was a bit hotter than in the UK where I am now. For this set up I'd like something integrated to control and monitor the temperature. Does anyone have any suggestions?
Last edited by Tarbie on Sun Jan 17, 2021 5:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Viv Build Help Required

Postby KarrieRee » Sun Jan 17, 2021 5:28 pm

I can't comment on the temp control but I have a suggestion on substrate you could use textured NON adhesive shelf liner-- and add a sandbox for digging- others can help on the temp issue
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Re: Viv Build Help Required

Postby Tarbie » Sun Jan 17, 2021 5:49 pm

Thanks Karrie, but I'm really looking for an option that looks a bit more authentic. I'll add some pics when I have them but he's done a really good job of building and painting grey stone effect structures and walls. What I really want is something that looks like a sand floor and doesn't come with all the risk associated with a loose substrate.

I know you can get sand effect flooring from Exo Terra, but it's a nightmare to keep clean. A few poops on it and it gets stained and smelly.

My idea was more to mix grout, sand and maybe some small pebbles, lay that on the wooden floor and then thoroughly coat it with sealant so it can be kept sanitary. I know this is a method used for coating the polystyrene structures but I wanted to check if anyone has tried it for flooring?

I've seen it used this way as flooring in Gecko vivs, but not in many Beardie cages.
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Re: Viv Build Help Required

Postby KarrieRee » Sun Jan 17, 2021 6:03 pm

Some others will need to comment on that
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Re: Viv Build Help Required

Postby bossdragon » Mon Jan 18, 2021 8:51 am

My dad built my beardie his cage. Don't know what he did with the lights though but he made it so that the lights could be inside the tank instead of sitting on top (he made it tall). But for the flooring he just laid down some carpet and put repti-bark on top, so my beardie can dig and push the repti bark out if he wants to lay on carpet. As for the sand and the grout, sounds like it will work, just depends on what your beardie prefers. I know that some people make a sort of sand mat, and you can probably go based off of that and what they use. Also for the tank, my dad built a storage area underneath it which has been helpful if you don't have a place to put things for your beardie.
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Re: Viv Build Help Required

Postby Tarbie » Mon Jan 18, 2021 9:33 am

bossdragon wrote:My dad built my beardie his cage. Don't know what he did with the lights though but he made it so that the lights could be inside the tank instead of sitting on top (he made it tall). But for the flooring he just laid down some carpet and put repti-bark on top, so my beardie can dig and push the repti bark out if he wants to lay on carpet. As for the sand and the grout, sounds like it will work, just depends on what your beardie prefers. I know that some people make a sort of sand mat, and you can probably go based off of that and what they use. Also for the tank, my dad built a storage area underneath it which has been helpful if you don't have a place to put things for your beardie.


Thanks.

Yeah, most of the vivs over here come with the lights inside rather than hanging over a glass tank. It's a much better set up for many reasons. That part is pretty easy. It's just a case of installing fixtures for a bulb for the basking area, the UV strip and additionally, possibly a fixture for a ceramic heating lamp at the cold end if your house gets cold overnight.

I'm looking to go a step beyond that with an integrated thermostat, digital thermometers etc. But I honestly don't fully understand all the options or what is required. In South Africa (where I lived when I last owned a Beardie) the climate was much warmer but houses don't typically have central heating or air conditioning. Here in the UK all houses have central heating, so perhaps I don't need to worry so much about a ceramic bulb for night time etc. I also had less options in SA. Imported goods were subject to huge import taxes, so most viv set ups there are very basic.
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Re: Viv Build Help Required

Postby bossdragon » Mon Jan 18, 2021 9:58 am

Are you talking about placement of the lights? or wiring and stuff?
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Re: Viv Build Help Required

Postby Tarbie » Mon Jan 18, 2021 10:06 am

bossdragon wrote:Are you talking about placement of the lights? or wiring and stuff?


No all that stuff is easy. But my previous set-up was pretty basic and I just used a temperature gun to ensure that the viv temps were within an acceptable range.

For this build I'm going high spec and I don't mind spending a bit of money on it. I'd ideally like to be able to regulate and monitor the temperatures with some kind of integrated system. I'm sure the technology exists. I just need someone who has built a very high spec viv before to point me in the right direction.
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Re: Viv Build Help Required

Postby Tarbie » Mon Jan 18, 2021 10:16 am

How do I upload pics on here?

I can add a few of the current progress of the build to give a bit of context.
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Re: Viv Build Help Required

Postby bossdragon » Mon Jan 18, 2021 2:03 pm

Go to user image uploader, upload the photo, and then go to post reply, and click XIMG and choose your photo
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Re: Viv Build Help Required

Postby Tarbie » Mon Jan 18, 2021 4:16 pm

Thanks very much. Attached are pics of where the build is.

The box is much higher spec wood than you get in the shop bought ones and it has a nice polished external finish. He's made the walls and structures with polystyrene coated in cement. I'm not sure if he has also used a sealant, but if he hasn't I will. It's easier to keep clean and will generally be a bit harder wearing.

As you can see, his plan was to use a sand based substrate which I'm not prepared to do with this Beardie. I think I'm gonna go ahead and create a sand finish terrain using grout and sand then coat it with a few layers of non toxic sealant (unless anyone on here can think of a reason why this wouldn't work). I want it to look like the Exo Terra Sand Mat, but easier to clean and hard wearing. I'll try to create it in a way where there is a small pit so if Bob starts digging (not behaviour I've seen so far but maybe he will want to dig a bit when it comes to time to Brumate). That way I can add a small sand area for him to dig in if he needs it.

Think I've worked out temperature control and lighting as well. Gonna go with a Arcadia ProT5 UVB, and will install digital thermometers with sensors at each end. Actually got a reasonably old Habistat thermostat here (came with the set up from the reptile rescue place). I may use that, or might spend a few quid on upgrading to a digital one. I've seen you can get ones these days that can be monitored and controlled from your phone (i.e. I could adjust or switch off his basking light when I'm not there). Obviously I'll be installing timers too, so that might be overkill. But if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing properly! :D

[Click image to enlarge]
[Click image to enlarge]
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Re: Viv Build Help Required

Postby bossdragon » Tue Jan 19, 2021 12:05 pm

Wow that looks great! Now I understand what you are trying to do and I think that the timers will be a great add to the tank so your bearded dragon sorta has a schedule
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Re: Viv Build Help Required

Postby Drache613 » Wed Jan 20, 2021 1:23 am

Moved by Moderator from General to Enclosures
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Re: Viv Build Help Required

Postby Drache613 » Wed Jan 20, 2021 1:35 am

Hello,

Poor Bob, he is a lucky guy you brought him home. The tank looks great, it must have taken
a bit of time to complete all of those renovations.
He will love the Arcadia D3 T5 tube bulb, it is a really nice UVB light. What basking lights are
you using? The light timers are terrific & really help out a lot too.
I hope that he does well for you.

Tracie
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Re: Viv Build Help Required

Postby Tarbie » Wed Jan 20, 2021 7:15 am

Hi Tracie, thanks!

I'm thinking probably a Arcadia 100w Solar combined with a Microclimate Pulse B2 600W Hi Temp thermostat. I do have a 2nd hand Habistat dimming thermostat here, but it's not a high temp one and I have no idea how old it is and if it's still functioning well.

For the timers, I'm thinking to just get the type that attach directly to the plug sockets rather than trying to integrate that part. It's a very cheap and effective solution in my experience. I know you can get thermostats with timers built in, but the more I research all of that, the more I think a fully digital thermostat is overkill, and I'd still need a separate timer for the UV anyway.
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