DIY Custom Built Vivarium - The Moors Themed - Pic Heavy

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Gpaint

Member
Hi everyone! I have an extensive background in fine art painting and sculpture and have truly enjoyed experimenting with materials and techniques I have never tried for this project (Sadly no experience with carpentry but tried my best). During this month long project I have fallen in love with reptiles and plan to explore the reptile hobby and may apply my art background toward designing backgrounds and props for sale at reptile shows.

I will post a lot of pictures of how this project progressed and do my best to explain materials and techniques used. I am new to Beardies and would appreciate feedback on the design and safety for the dragon. (Sorry for the pic quality, camera phone only)

Maleficent the Movie Theme - "The Moors"

f41d2a7d-bab1-4caa-af0d-d5debda92d4f.jpg

Click the link to see a tour on YouTube. http://youtu.be/5xlOndjWOMA



Vivarium:
Size: 4' x 3' x 2'
Hood size: 4 x 10" x 2'
Vents: 4 x 4" Circular vents with insect screens
Lighting:

Materials used:
Wood is from Home Depot
Basic Polystyrene 4 x 8 sheets in 1" and 2" thickness
1/4" Tempered Glass
1/4" Glass rail kit
3 x Ceramic Light sockets & Junction boxes
1 x Flood lamp fixture
3 x dimming light switches
Liquid Nails flooring adhesive (Not recommended)
Loctite Power Grab (Recommended)
Folk Art Acrylic paints
Unsanded tile grout
Great Stuff Expanding foam
Loctite Super glue (for adding pebbles/stones/moss details)
Mod Podge matte sealer
Etc....

sitting-inside-the-vivarium.jpg

Sitting inside the basic frame with my wonderful daughter, Autumn. I will build a matching stand in the future.



The lighting hood was redone a few times as I became aware of problems with lighting locations related to structure below. The wood was sealed with loctite power grab around the seams. It is important to use a caulk that does NOT have mold and mildew protection as that can be toxic (So I'm told).

Carving Polystyrene

I do not have a lot of in progress pictures of the carving process. The general idea is pretty simple though. Use your imagination and have fun with it. I personally did not do significant planning on paper before hand and relied on trial and error. The beauty of the process is you can always add more to your basic structures if you remove too much and vice versa. There were many parts I made that in the end were removed due to spacing or I found it too unnatural looking so do not be afraid to experiment. I found toothpicks to VERY VERY helpful to hold things together as you are gluing everything together. I can't stress enough how much easier it becomes when you use toothpicks in a method similar to rebar with concrete.

creating-faux-rock-with-styrofoam-1.jpg
carved-foam-and-great-stuff-background-1-1.jpg



Polystyrene particles get everywhere!! Advanced tutorial on removing it from yourself below :idea:
http://youtu.be/fY75K_Fk6OI

Vivarium-cliffs-and-valley-polystyrene.jpg
vivarium-ghostwood-installed-with-great-stuff.jpg

My daughter was in charge of scribbling on the foam:p
vivarium-ghostwood-detail.jpg
vivarium-ghostwood-detail-2.jpg
vivarium-waterfall-cliffs-added.jpg
vivarium-waterfall-basin-first-attempt.jpg

This waterfall basin attempt was partially scrapped later on, because it sucked.

Applying Grout

I started with some watered down layers to begin with and increased the thickness for later layers. Most areas were coated with 4-7 layers of unsanded grout. In hindsight I learned that Great Stuff foam and grout do not adhere well and in future builds I will use the expanding foam far more sparingly and only for its original intention...gap filling. I had to go through and carve out a ton of great foam later due to the cracking and adhesion of the grout. Quick video below describing the problem

Great stuff and grout...not fun :banghead: http://youtu.be/Eb5w_VU0WtI

vivarium-mixing-grout.jpg
vivarium-starting-grout-layers.jpg
vivarium-grout-detail-on-steps.jpg
vivarium-grout-application-overview.jpg
vivarium-first-layer-grout-detail.jpg
vivarium-grout-on-cliffs.jpg
Bottom-vent-vivarium.jpg

It takes many layers and thicker mixes to start smoothing out the appearance of the foam. I used some very heavy mixes and a knife to apply thick grout and use it like a moldable putty to add or smooth out detail as needed. You can use a fine grit sandpaper on dried coats to smooth things further. As mentioned above the expanding foam made this process take so much longer than was needed.

There is differing opinions online about curing the grout. I personally think it is somewhat irrelevant for a vivarium meant for dry desert heat but I did spray down the grout several times a day for a week to allow it time to cure and harden.

Painting! Bringing everything to life!

My favorite part of the process was painting. I used acrylic paint which is water based and non-toxic for our upcoming resident. I painted a majority of it in a deep shade of black to start with so the cracks and details will have depth. Then its a process of adding layers upon layers upon layers of color to bring depth into the rocks. The primary colors used were: Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Cinnamon Brown, Burnt Umber, Slate Gray, Antique White, Viridian Green, Sage Green, Yellow Light, and Bright White. To get a realistic effect mix your own colors between these to get more variations.

Applying the paint can be done with any brush, I used bristle brushes of various sizes and some finer detail synthetic brushes for detail. Using a dry brush effect is the best way to create layers without affecting the underlying deeper shades between cracks and crevices. Load your brush then wipe the excess off and lightly brush and rub the brush over the textures, get creative. I also use a spray bottle with water to shoot a quick mist of water onto paint I applied in various areas. This allows the paint to slightly run and disperse naturally into the textures depending on how much water you use. Using some pictures of rocks or mountain scenes is very helpful to get an idea how many colors are in a rock formation.

vivarium-starting-acrylic-base-coat.jpg
vivarium-adding-wood-for-sliding-glass-rail.jpg

I discovered the sliding glass rail will need a wider base and added trim around the opening.
overview-painting-vivarium.jpg

highlighting-crevices-vivarium.jpg

basking-area-detail-first-layers-vivarium.jpg
vivarium-deep-crevice-highlighting.jpg
vivarium-top-view-beginning-painting.jpg
vivarium-steps-detail-painting.jpg
vivarium-painting-steps-1.jpg
vivarium-basking-areas-painting-1.jpg
vivarium-front-cliff-painting-halfway.jpg
vivarium-cavern-detail-2.jpg
vivariium-painting-waterfall-wall-1.jpg
front-cliff-vivarium-detail-2.jpg
vivarium-ghostwood-painting-detail-1.jpg
vivarium-full-view-painting-started.jpg
vivarium-painting-cavern-1.jpg


Advanced Details and Painting

Continuing with the painting I began using glazing techniques to add transparent layers of color tints over some of the rocks and background areas. I also used the super advanced technique of "flicking" paint with such randomness and purposeful clumsiness that only an experienced bystander would realize I am not in fact having a mental breakdown. Flicking paint is the easiest technique and is highly effective using an old toothbrush with wet paint. Changing the degree of wetness will affect how prominent the paint shows. Speckles of color is very common on rock and this is an easy way to give this effect and its fun too. If it gets somewhere you don't want it just dab it with a wet sponge and it disappears or spray water on it and it will fade downwards.

I also begin gluing in details such as pebbles, sand, moss, and sticks and twigs. I used Loctite super glue liberally. Use gloves!!! Even with the best efforts my fingers were a terrible sight to behold for a number of days. During this stage I had a technical problem with screwing in a board and had to literally tear a section out because I couldn't angle the drill to get at it. The beauty of foam is I gutted a large section and re-glued it back in which caused a whole bunch of new cracks and crevices and only added to the drama of the rock structures rather than detract so don't be afraid to cut if needed.

vivarium-painting-upper-right-ghostwood.jpg
vivarium-waterfall-cliff.jpg
vivarium-waterfall-background-wall-detail.jpg
vivarium-painting-waterfall-wall-detail.jpg
vivarium-painting-steps-and-detail.jpg
vivarium-painting-rear-cave-entrance.jpg
vivarium-painting-under-throne-hide.jpg
vivarium-painting-front-side-cliff-detail.jpg
vivarium-painting-cliff-side.jpg
vivarium-painting-mountain-cave.jpg
vivarium-painting-and-adding-roots-throne.jpg
vivarium-left-side-basking-dead-tree.jpg
vivarium-leftside-detailing.jpg
vivarium-inspiration-in-hand.jpg


Final Result!

Here is what everything finally turned out like. I stopped taking pictures at a later point but it isn't too large a jump from previous pics. I will add one last section detailing the lighting effects which will show what the dusk to dawn lighting will look like. You will not see glass in these photos for clarity of pictures. Maleficent, our Dragon is in a few of the pics, she has been very helpful in testing for safety and where to add better footing. She always finds ways to get around I never anticipated:p

I hate how sometimes threads don't have pics I wanted to see so I took a large amount. Hopefully loadtime is good I cut the size down a bunch.

vivarium-the-moors-theme-maleficent.jpg

vivarium-waterfall-peak.jpg

vivarium-waterfall-view-below.jpg

vivarium-waterfall.jpg

vivarium-water-basin-droplet-landing.jpg

vivarium-waterfall-texures-and-details.jpg

vivarium-waterfall-in-the-background.jpg

vivarium-secret-forest-view.jpg

vivarium-split-rock-detail.jpg

vivarium-strutting-dragon-maleficent.jpg

vivarium-waterbasin-details.jpg

vivarium-view-of-backside-cave.jpg

vivarium-top-of-cliff-areas.jpg

vivarium-rotting-tree.jpg

vivarium-secret-forest-up-close.jpg

vivarium-right-side-forest-view.jpg

vivarium-moors-rock-detail.jpg

vivarium-front-cliff.jpg

vivarium-looking-over-the-forest.jpg

vivarium-looking-up-the-cavern.jpg

vivarium-maleficent-the-bearded-dragon.jpg

vivarium-maleficents-throne.jpg

vivarium-details-on-frontside-cliff.jpg

vivarium-dragons-point-of-view.jpg

vivarium-excavator-details.jpg

vivarium-excavator-and-ecoearth.jpg

vivarium-bearded-dragon-peeks-above.jpg

vivarium-cave-entrance-close-up.jpg

vivarium-bearded-dragon-first-rays-of-sunlight.jpg

vivarium-cliffside-and-caverns.jpg

vivarium-bearded-dragon-exploring.jpg

vivarium-climbing-to-secondary-platform.jpg

vivarium-artsy-shot.jpg


Lighting Setup!

soon...




*****Will be adding more pics and information throughout the day*******
 

djwang

Member
Fantastic!! I'm guessing you are spot-lighting certain areas? What wattage bulbs are you using and what's the distance between the light and the lighted area?
 

Gpaint

Member
Original Poster
Taterbug":122awwex said:
Great looking build!!
Thanks!

djwang":122awwex said:
Fantastic!! I'm guessing you are spot-lighting certain areas? What wattage bulbs are you using and what's the distance between the light and the lighted area?
Thanks! Yes I have a couple spots that will have more focused lighting. I am using an 100w Mega Ray for the primary basking cliff. Beside the Mega Ray is a 72w Flood with a warm tone to it, I keep it half dimmed to keep the temp under control but can crank it higher or lower as needed. There's some more bulbs but I'll add that in some of the final posts. I'm working on getting some good final shots with my phone. Ill probably make a section just about lightning as it's such an important part :D
 

Nyreeh

New member
Necroing as I am looking for ideas.

This is AMAZING. Wow!

Can't believe you didn't have more responses to this!!
 

groan

Member
Nyreeh":2lrlxn5e said:
Necroing as I am looking for ideas.

This is AMAZING. Wow!

Can't believe you didn't have more responses to this!!

No kidding!
I'm going to be building one for my Anubis in an Egyptian theme so this gives me some great ideas. Amazing.
 

Derz13

Member
:notworthy: :notworthy: :notworthy: :notworthy: :notworthy: :notworthy: :notworthy:


So wonderful. Fantastic job and THANK YOU for all of the pictures!!! SO much inspiration!
Is that excavator clay on the bottom as a substrate?!?
 

leslie179

Member
Can you adopt me? Lol MAN THIS TERRARIUM LOOKS SICK great job such a beautiful house for a dragon i bet he loves it to death <3
 
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