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Fish Tank Incubator Design

How To Build A Fish Tank Incubator

Fish Tank Incubator Design

There are a number of different ways to create an incubator. The most common methods are with the use of Styrofoam boxes or spare fish tanks.

Here is a simple plan that would allow you to create an incubator out of a spare fish tank that would suffice until you have decided to purchase one.

Fishtank Incubator Supplies

A fish tank
1 fish tank heater
1 digital thermometer with external probe
1 hygrometer
Some stainless steel wire mesh
2-4 bricks
An incubation tray (plastic container)
Sphagnum moss/perlite/vermiculite
Saran wrap
Tape (for securing saran wrap)

The fish tank will act as an excellent temporary incubator if it is set up correctly.

Incubator - Step 1

You will need to cut the wire mesh to fit within the fish tank. This will be the platform that the incubation tray is set upon. Cut the wire so that it fits snug in the tank. As babies hatch, you would not want them to fall through an opening and drown. (I actually suggest containing them in their incubation trays. then there is a zero chance of them drowning.)
You may also need to cut a slight notch in the mesh to allow the wire from the heater to run through.

Incubator - Step 2

Take the 2-4 bricks and place them in the fish tank on the bottom. The wire mesh will rest upon these. I am using glass blocks that are designed for basement windows.

Incubator - Step 3

Fill the tank with water so that the level is below the height of the bricks.

Incubator - Step 4

Place the heater in the tank. It should be placed on the bottom of the tank as depicted in the illustration.

Incubator - Step 5

Prepare your incubation tray(s) by utilizing one of the methods below, or if you prefer, your own method.

Incubation Tray - Sphagnum Moss

Fill the incubation tray with the sphagnum moss and wet slightly. The substrate should not be so wet that water is evident. It also must not be dry. The best way to get a good consistency is too hold the medium in your hand and add water. Now squeeze out the excess moisture. This will leave a safe medium for you to use.

Incubation Tray - Perlite - Vermiculite

These mediums are best used when a scale is present. It will allow you to get an accurate reading so that the amount of medium to water is roughly 2:1. Begin by taking the tray you will be using and placing it on the scale. Once the weight of the container is present, tare out the scale so it again reads zero. Now add some perlite/vermiculite to the container. Write down the weight of the container with the perlite/vermiculite. Now divide that number by 2 and that is the amount of water you would want to add to the container. That would equal out to an exact 2:1 ratio of medium to water.

Incubator - Step 6

Now place the mesh over the bricks and heater and place the incubation tray upon it. Make sure that it is sturdy. You may need to adjust the bricks.

Incubator - Step 7

Place the humidity gauge within the incubation tray.

Incubator - Step 8

If everything appears to be in order, you now need to take the cover to the tank and cover all the openings with saran wrap. This will help to keep humidity within the enclosure. Leave a small opening on one side so that some humidity can escape. A 2-inch by 2 inch opening is sufficient but you will need to base this on your needs.

Incubator - Step 9

Place the probe from the digital thermometer through the opening so it aligns with the incubation tray.

Hovabator 1602N
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Hovabator 1602N

Little Giant 9200
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Little Giant 9200 Still Air Incubator

Incubator - Step 10

Now turn on the tank heater and allow it to regulate. You will need to play with it to get the desired temperatures.

Natural evaporation from the heater will keep the humidity up and the waters temperature will heat the incubator as a unit.
This method of incubation is not 100% effective. The temperatures will fluctuate. This is an easy way to create a temporary incubator while a more permanent solution is acquired.
Commercial incubators can be purchased relatively inexpensively. Most chicken hatcheries or farm supply stores carry them. They can also be purchased at online herp retail shops or at the links above. I personally use the Hovabators for my leopard gecko eggs in addition to my refridgerbator.

Fish Tank Incubator

The above example is not a running incubator. It was set-up to show you how it would appear. I currently use Hovabator Incubators as well as my Refridgerbator.


Author: Richard Brooks
Images - © Richard Brooks