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Crafting Decor for Vivarium

Discussion in 'Snakes - General' started by DonGordleone, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. DonGordleone

    DonGordleone Member

    So I am a relatively new snake owner, just a wee Amel Cornsnake I believe called Betty that I got from the local reptile shop. Trying to break myself in gently!

    I recently decided my snakes tank is really crap, and that if I were my snake, I would hate me for giving me such a crap place to live with like 2 bits of wood and some plastic plants. So I decided to look into getting some snake decor for it. However, all the snake decor I found online was, well to put it lightly, **********! And to be honest, pretty much anything that wasn't a standard rock with a hole in it, looked like it had been crafted by children from primary school. Which led me to my next epiphany! Hey, when I was in school, I made a really ugly psychadelic face out of clay. Why the **** can I not make my own decor out of clay I thought?

    Being aware that contaminants can kill snakes very easily, (or by taking the pet shops word for it) I thought, maybe this isn't a good idea. But I went and bought 4.5kg of modelling clay anyway. So now I am sitting here, with my huge mound of clay, wondering if this is all I need. Should I put hardener on it? Or some sort of varnish to protect it from falling apart or melting in the tank? And again I have the same questions, will these contaminants kill my snake?

    And just to make a point, I am not some pansy who wants to feng shui the crap out of my snakes tank or make a pretty background, I basically want to make the object a 2 part cavern corner-piece with a hole for the ventilation and the snake to enter/leave. It could be the ugliest piece of crap ever and I wouldn't care as long as it functioned properly. The 2 parts being for a shedding cave, and a potential egg laying thingymajobber. Again, would I need 2 separate compartments, or would a snake prepare to shed, and also lay its eggs in the same place? I am also aware that I will sever the top so that it sets on and I can lift it to access the snake or observe when it is inside should the need arise.

    Also any advice on living plants that I could put in my snakes tank would be very helpful too! As I was thinking of building a little plant pot/bed into the construction as well.

    In case I wasn't clear, I want all/any/every bit of advice you have on the matter, good, bad or ugly.

    And I thank anyone who contributes to my boggle in advance! Thank you!

    (This started as one simple question)
  2. DonGordleone

    DonGordleone Member

    And just before any one pipes in with the old, "Aren't you just making a rock with a hole in it?" Yes, yes, I am, but its MY rock and it will have not one, but TWO holes in it!!
  3. Thalatte

    Thalatte Elite Member

    If I was to make a rock with two holes in it using clay I would mould it and once t looked how I wanted it I would then seal it with polyurethane so it was easier to clean and didn't crumble. Also I would make another one so that there was a hide on the warm side and one on the cool side. And just for my OCD I would make a third one for use as a water bowl that I would seal with an epoxy. But that's me.
    Either way you will want to use a water based sealer to prevent it from crumbling and make it easier to clean. Once the poly sealant has dried and the smell gone away completely it will be safe and non toxic.
  4. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    First question,...what type of clay is it? There are clays that are air dried some that can be cured in the oven and some that needs to be fired in a kiln. The treatment of each will vary.

    Live plants and snakes are generally not a good mix. The snake crawling around on them usually demolishes them.
  5. cassicat4

    cassicat4 Subscribed User Premium Member

    I agree with regards to live plants^. My roommate has a Cali Kingsnake and he (the snake) flattens everything plant-like in the enclosure. He (my roommate) spends a lot of time discussing snakes with breeders and such, and interacting on the snake forums, and they've all advised against using real plants simply because the snake will just destroy it, so it will be a sunk cost.

    There are plenty of places that sell a variety of plastic plants to give the tank a more interesting look. Craft stores (e.g. Michaels), department stores (e.g. Walmart), and dollar stores all sell many different types of plastic plants. For myself, I don't even buy fake plants from pet stores anymore because the selection and price is so much better everywhere else, and it's easy to DIY them to your liking.
  6. pandorasbox

    pandorasbox Elite Member

    My concerns with modeling clay would be that it's porous (I'm thinking sculpty or like the crayola modeling clay here) even when it has been cooked. This would make a great place for bacteria to grow and also I could see a potential for the water seeking properties of clay to dehydrate your snake. Of course, the solution would be to seal it as suggested above.
  7. DonGordleone

    DonGordleone Member

    Testing... I typed a reply yesterday and have been unable to post it in this thread. I saved it and tried pasting it in again today and its still not working. But I was able to post on someone elses thread. So I am just testing if this works.

    Wow, ok the next post was what I meant to say. It finally posted after about 30 attempts! lol!
  8. DonGordleone

    DonGordleone Member

    I also like the idea of building 2 hides but my main concern was that on the warm side the bulb is near the top and one morning I had woken up to find the bulb socket unscrewed and hanging loose! I couldn't fathom exactly how it had happened, but she does seem to climb up the wall and push out along to top to the base of the bulb a lot! I am going to get a mesh cover for it anyway I think, so maybe that wont be an issue.
    She really enjoys burrowing around as well, I would like to perhaps make something with a hole in the top, and no bottom which I could raise about an extra inch of substrate under it so she can go in and come out underneath if she should so decide, more of a mobile object that isn't as stationary, she does enjoy a good thrash about in the night as I have been woken many a time by the walloping when she falls over or starts bumping her log about!

    Lastly, regarding the type of clay I purchased, it was mainly down to the lack of options without ordering online. I bought NewClay which says it is air drying, but also can be fired in a kiln. Due to the slightly badly printed packaging on the stretched bag, I did not notice until right now that it is actually Nylon reinforced. I am not sure if this is a deal breaker or not. I might consider practicing with it but not using it if that could be a problem. Though Nylon does seem harmless to me, I don't want to make any assumptions that could end up making her sick. Also after investigating the online instruction manual, it claims the nylon reinforcement burns away when fired in a kiln. I mean, would a regular oven do instead of a kiln? Maybe I should register on a pottery forum as well! :D

    And thanks again for the input, I am glad I asked now! I also will watch my language as a few of the words I used have been blanked out and look much worse than they actually were! :) I am going to hopefully start my arts and crafts tomorrow after work. I will post some photo's to give an idea of what I am doing in case there are any fundamental flaws I am missing!
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2012
  9. Thalatte

    Thalatte Elite Member

    Yep a regular oven can work but you have to be careful to make puncture holes for air to escape the clay or it will explode and damage your oven.
  10. DonGordleone

    DonGordleone Member

    Good tip, I had to chop the first 4 lines off that post as I keep getting errors even though they are just normal sentences. Is there a character limit I am going over or something?
  11. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    A regular oven is not going to reach anywhere near the temperatures needed for Kiln firing. Think about 1000+ degrees!

    Since it is approved for children I think that it would be safe to use,..but,...You will need to seal it after drying with polyurethane.

    Air dried clays are water permeable and any moisture will be absorbed by the clay making it soft again. That means that snake poo is going to be absorbed into the clay and you can imagine wht your artistic creation will begin to smell like. The waterbased polyurethane will prevent this.
  12. Thalatte

    Thalatte Elite Member

    Probably. I had that problem with a really long post I did once. Never figured out why but character limit makes sense.

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