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DIY red tail enclosure heating questions

Discussion in 'Common/Red Tail Boa' started by Ejmj30, Feb 22, 2015.

  1. Ejmj30

    Ejmj30 New Member


    First post and first diy snake enclosure. Actually first any project of this kind. I'm so excited. I have a ~7' (haven't measured her in over a year) red tail, Stella. She's awesome but has long outgrown her tank, so I've decided to repurpose a tv cabinet to be her new home. I'll include pics. There's a shelf (like for a DVD player at the top where I'd like to put a heating element above her and then a drawer under the main unit where I plan on putting another heat spot then lights in the main section to maintain warmth.

    Thoughts on best way to heat those two spots? The one in the drawer I'm a little nervous to place a heat mat right on the wood shelf so I was thinking of outting down some tiles then the heat Matt, and then covering it with tiles as well. So it's a tile sandwich. Good idea?

    For the top I was thinking I would place screen or chicken wire over the top and then lay a heat Matt onto that. I will be detaching and then hinging the top of the unit for access purposes so the heating element won't touch the wood, but it will be in the vicinity of it. Maybe line that with tiles too, which may also radiate more heat down? Or some sort of reflective surface?

    Thanks all and great forums from what little I've overused in my 5 minutes of joining. image.jpg

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  2. Ejmj30

    Ejmj30 New Member

    Oh and don't worry, I'm going to seal and caulk and ventilate and put sliders on the front and a sweet backdrop in too, my main concern is the heating elements.
  3. CTU2fan

    CTU2fan Elite Member

    I haven't used heat mats on wood before, but I've seen the heat mat and tile combo used before so I know that works well.

    As for the top why not a radiant heat panel? I have one in my boa enclosure ant it does a fantastic job. I would probably remove the shelf and just mount the panel and whatever lighting you want to use directly to the top of the cabinet and just go with front access either by swing doors or sliders. Keeping a closed top will help maintain humidity and reduce heat loss.

    What are the dimensions of the cabinet? Is she a climber? Would be too bad if you got this thing all set up and she just laid around on the bottom.
  4. toddnbecka

    toddnbecka Well Established Member

    That cabinet looks like particleboard, not solid wood. Humidity will make it swell and warp, so it's not going to be useful unless the inside is sealed with something to make it completely waterproof. You could use a ceramic heat bulb instead of lights inside, I'd cover it though. I've seen small wire cages to cover the ceramic heaters for sale online. A couple small vents covered with screen would be good, chicken wire would leave too much open to maintain temp and humidity.
  5. Darkbird

    Darkbird Elite Member

    What are the dimensions on this thing? To be honest, this looks way short on floor space for a boa. They tend to be much more terrestrial once they get the size yours has reached, though they still climb some. And yes, if this is any sort of press or particle board, the slightest nick or scratch in the coating will eventually destroy it. Also, DO NOT USE CHICKEN WIRE. It's not a matter of if, but rather how soon and how badly they will hurt themselves on it. And a heat mat at the top will do almost nothing for ambient temps, Or was it for some other purpose? Better to use a radient heat panel or ceramic heat emitter.
  6. Ejmj30

    Ejmj30 New Member

    It's solid wood. Though the back panel may be particle board I can't remember and its in my garage but I am going to use the expandable foam all along the back for a more realistic backdrop. It's 72" high x 35" wide by 22" deep. I don't have a ton of floor space so wanted to take advantage of the vertical space as best I could. She will have the two shelves upper and lower to relax on and the main level will have a soaker tub and a big hide that she can basket on top of as well. So while it's not a lot of stretch out space she will be able to have several spots to rest on. I want her to have options and figure two warm spots for her to relax on, one dark covered by the lower doors and one lighter but not super bright cause it's above the lights and one under the lights gives her some variety to choose where to relax.

    I don't know what the radiant heat panel is. Please explain. Thanks!

    No chicken wire. I have screen that I am going to put between the interior of her enclosure and whatever heating element I use on the top. Im interested in learning about this radiant heat panel.
  7. CTU2fan

    CTU2fan Elite Member

    RBI Radiant Heat Panels

    These are the RHP's I bought, I bought the 80w ones. Right now I have them heating a 4x2x1 PVC cage and it does a fantastic job. I also have them installed in 2 6x3x2 Vision cages (cages aren't in use yet) and they look like they'll get the job done in those too. I'd wanted to get larger ones but the way the cages are designed I couldn't mount the larger ones.

    I like that they're a lot more efficient than light bulbs. If I wanted to heat those Vision cages with light bulbs I'd probably be looking at a couple 75-100 watt bulbs on all day vs. the 80w panel controlled with a thermostat. Also I'm finding they don't dry the cage out nearly as much as bulbs or the ceramic heat emitters.

    Not sure how well they'll do in a taller cage, hopefully somebody can chime in who's tried them. I suspect they'd be fine if your boa is a climber; the snake would thermoregulate vertically instead of horizontally in a lower wider cage with a hot end and a cool end.
  8. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    To be honest that enclosure is not going to be suitable for an adult boa. There just is not enough floor space.
    Not only is this going to be a long snake, it is going to be bulky. As they get heavier, they tend to be more terrestrial.
    Darkbird likes this.
  9. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    I agree with what has been said above - most adult boas will benefit more from a long and low enclosure than a tall one. Though that would be great for an arboreal snake, such as one of the "green meanies" of even a JCP, it is not a great layout for a boa.

    Chicken wire is not only a bad idea because it will cause injury, but also because vents are your worst enemy when it comes to maintaining heat or humidity in any enclosure. Most enclosures will get more than adequate ventilation just from airflow around the doors. It's really all you need.

    As for heating, I am absolutely in love with radiant heat panels. They are a low-profile panel that simply screws to the cage ceiling, and heats the whole cage with relatively little energy, creating a warm basking spot, and a good heat gradient. Best used with a thermostat.

    I just installed one in my boa cage with some recent upgrades. It uses only 65 watts, and keeps his basking spot toasty warm, and the whole cage at a good ambient temp. The cage it heats is 48"x24"x24"

    The heat panel is on the left, with the red power light indicating it is currently running.

    3.22.15 092sm.JPG
    Darkbird likes this.

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