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I Need Help Building Crested Gecko Enclosure

Discussion in 'HH General Discussion' started by reverendworm, Oct 11, 2008.

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  1. reverendworm

    reverendworm Active Member

    Ok, here goes. I am in the planning phase of building a showcase / terrarium from scratch for my two crested geckos and am looking for input on how to best accomplish this.

    I have an empty space in my living room underneath a staircase in which I plan on building this enclosure. I plan on putting a ficus or some other -preferably hardy- gecko friendly shrub/plant/small tree/whatever, with a bioactive substrate (plain peat moss or non fertilized potting soil).

    The rough external dimensions will be 3 feet deep by 5 feet long and 6 feet high at the highest point. There will be a 45 degree angle on the staircase side, accompanied by a cabinet in which to house climate control equipment (humidity control, thermostat, and misting equipment). This might seem a little extreme for two cresties, but I figure a lot of internal room will have to be taken up by the adequate amount of soil to support the plant(s), and lighting equipment, ect. I also figure that I'll have to keep this enclosure raised off of the floor at least a little bit to preserve the carpet and allow for some air the get under there so that nothing too creepy evolves under the stairs.

    A little bit more about my tentative plan. The general idea is to pick up some high quality acrylic glass replacement from home depot for the front and exposed side of the terrarium. The back and interior side will be rough plexi-glass covered in either non toxic foam or a fiberglass product (with appropriate sealant/covering if necessary) that could be used to simulate a rock wall. The "floor" will also be plexiglass all sealed with aquarium adhesive or possibly silicone (as with the rest of the enclosure). Underneath the plexiglass floor, I plan on building a support structure of 2x4s and 4x4s with a wood facade routed and made to look all "purrty."

    For the front, I plan on having a raised acrylic panel to accommodate the probably deep layer of substrate, then have an access door (think Exo-terra on steroids).

    Since I intend for this to be a sealed enclosure, for ventilation, I figure an exhaust hole will be placed somewhere inconspicuous and covered with screen. Alas, I am a smoker, so I figure I need an air pump/filter with the input also covered with screen.

    Through this site and resource books by Adam Black Crested Geckos: A Complete Guide to Rhacodactylus and by Philippe de Vosjoli, Frank Fast, and Allen Repashy Rhacodactylus: the Complete Guide to Their Selection and Care, I know that African Millipedes are a good pairing for Cresties in living vivariums, but what else would work?

    As I have said, this is just the planning phase and once I have compiled all of my components, I will begin construction. That being said, if I have written something that is a very bad idea, don't panic. This will be well thought out and only after extensive research will I start(read I ain't killin the geckos). With your help, I intend to build a gecko palace.

    If you have made it this far into this very lengthy posting, I say thank you. Any questions, comments, suggestions, and/or suggested products that will be helpful would be appreciated.

    I'll keep you guys posted.
  2. fire2225ems

    fire2225ems Subscribed User Premium Member

    I personally think that you should use wood for all the sides except the front. It will end up being more sturdy and less expensive. This will also work better for you if you plan on using the greatstuff method for a fake rockwall background.

    I personally don't think that there is any such thing as too big. The only time that might be an issue is with tiny babies (they can sometimes have problems finding where food is and whatnot).

    You shouldn't need to much lighting for heat, they actually like temps right around 60-70. I have a light on my tank for 2 reasons, 1. for the plants and 2. so he can have an actual day/night period since he is in an area that doesn't get a lot of ambient light.

    If you put the tank flat on the carpet that is actually probably going to allow for fewer creepy crawlies than having a bit of space under it.

    Pothos seems to be doing the best out of all the plants I have tried so far. And I also keep some isopods in the tank as well. I don't know what to tell ya about the ventilation except maybe stop smoking... ;) That would be best for YOU and your cresties.

    I have found that if you mix a bit of EcoEarth in with organic potting soil it seems to be the best consistency for vivs. It helps hold humidity in, and doesn't seem to get packed down real bad. ummm that's all the questions I can remember. Hope it helps.
    Oh and I also just read something from Allen about his research in phoenix worms and cresties, apparently a diet consisting of pw and cgd is ideal.
  3. Rich

    Rich Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    The idea itself is solid Josh.Ventilation can be accomplished with computer fans blowing in and out. That will keep a steady stream of air running through If one were actually aimed at the front pane, it would also deter the acrylic from fogging up after a misting.

    Have you made any mock-ups on paper yet to "see" your idea?
  4. kriminaal

    kriminaal HH Block Leader Staff Member Premium Member

    I guess because glass is denser than plexi, it is a better insulator. Not to say though that glass is a good insulator.
    Having said that glass tends to condensate faster than plexi.
    Having a large panel for viewing I would try to go glass. The clarity is better.
  5. Rich

    Rich Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    I was also thinking about vibrations from the stairs, if the the noise levels may stress the crested geckos. I was wondering, were you intent on building directly to the staircase, or will this unit be able to be moved in and out?
  6. titus

    titus Elite Member Premium Member

    The Idea sounds great. I would make the cage from wood with a glass front, it will be a lot more stable and cheaper, since you'll be sealing it anyway. A foam insulation between the stairs and the cage would be a good idea. You could also look into putting some screen panels in the front for ventilation. This isn't hard to do with a framework of 2x3's. Other helpful inverts for cages are springtails. I've been doing some work with Rino beetle larve in caging (only with non burrowing animals) and they seem to be doing well.
  7. reverendworm

    reverendworm Active Member

    here is what I've got so far, as far as the back and right side goes, it is pretty straight forward. Although I am not opposed to using wood, I am leery of potential rot/mildew over time, given that this is going to be a humid environment. Also, with the flooring, since there will be plants directly placed in the substrate, I need it to be non-decomposable. I figure this could be accomplished with fiberglass, but I would like the easiest and most cost effective way to waterproof the whole thing. I am still designing the habitat control cabinet, but essentially it will house all of the unattractive components conveniently out of the way.

    Attached Files:

  8. Mala

    Mala Member

    Awesome idea!

    I remembered one post in another forum about this guy who built his own fish tanks out of plywood. I went back and found the post ( second post in this thread--You may need to be a member to view though.). This guy would build his framework out of plywood and glass, and assemble the entire thing. He then took a two part epoxy paint (that brand specifically) and painted the interior with 4 coats. He then used a normal silicone caulk to seal all the seams. Would certainly make your interior waterproof. I would assume that since its safe for aquariums it would be ok for reptiles, but probably a good idea to check with the manufacturer.

    According to the product description, it has a 2 year shelf life, not sure if they mean in the cans it lasts for 2 years or if in application its guaranteed for 2 years. Also, they say it develops a chalky surface if exposed to UV light, so might want to check if the chalky-whatever will rub off or be toxic to animals. The fish keeper said he had used this method many times and has had tanks set up with this stuff for years with no problems. Worth looking into at least.

    As far as what to put in the front panels where the substrate is, I'd go with acrylic. I think it would be cool to see the roots of the plants, and whatever buggies you have to help clean up. Plus you'll be able to look at the water levels and if you have standing water at the bottom of the tank.

    I'd suggest not embedding any wiring or cording within spray foam or anything that is not easily removable. If the fixture breaks or you decide to upgrade, it would be a pain in the bum to have to cut it out and then patch it up.
  9. kriminaal

    kriminaal HH Block Leader Staff Member Premium Member

    I think the front pc would look better as wood. It would be a cleaner appearance without seeing through the plexi and viewing the substrate.

    Plywood is a great material all around. With an epoxy coating it would last a very, very long time.
    That's what I use. A thin coating is all you need.
  10. reverendworm

    reverendworm Active Member

    Thanks for your input everyone, I'm assuming that those who have replied since my last post have had a chance to look at my design. One note, I made a slight error on my math. This doesn't affect the design too much, only the dimensions of the cabinet and placement of the diagonal wall. I'm thinking about going wood around the substrate. I honestly would rather see exposed acrylic, but I don't know how cost effective it would be. I have been researching the price of acrylic paneling, and increasing the thickness greatly affects the price. I have been thinking of going 3/8" or possibly 1/2," but I'm afraid that although I have the resources to accomplish this, I'd be eating ramen noodles for a while. I haven't really looked too much into glass (too easy to mess up), but I am wondering if this might be the way to go.

    My next questions are:
    1) specific feedback on the design? great input thus far, but I am looking for criticism and possible design flaws, suggestions about the appropriate thickness of the acrylic, run wild with it... I have thick skin and won't be insulted I promise.

    2) Cabinetry components?

    a) I currently have 2 tropic aire terrarium humidifiers pumped by a 60 gallon aquarium air pump. Depending on the temperature inside of the terrarium, (fluxuates between 68 and 79 degrees fahrenheit depending on the time of day / ambient room temp) relative humidity ranges roughly from 50% to 85%) I am prepared to incorporate a similar feature into the cabinet. This will be a custom designed plastic water resivoir that accomplishes the same thing, except it will be approx 3 gallons, and have a refill feature. (those of you that have had experience with tropic aire humidifiers know that it is a pain refilling these things, because they have their hoses routed through the lids, thus meaning you have to partially disassemble this product to refill). Is this still necessary given the fact that I will be adding plantlife to the terrarium?

    b)Because of the fact that I am probably going to be using fluorescent grow lights for the flora, supplementary heat will probably be needed. I know that CGs thrive at room temp, but I don't want to risk having them constantly in the lower 60 degree range in the coming winter.

    Also on the topic, i still need to know about night lighting that will allow for viewing, yet not mess with the photocycle of the plants and not harmful... suggetsions?

    3) There ARE design issues which I haven't thought of. PLEASE sharpshoot my design so that I can have this thing right on th first go. I love my little monsters, and don't want to experiment my ideas with their lives.

    Thanks again for all of your input. If you have any questions, shoot me a message or post on my thread. Also, if you know anybody who is as big of a geek about this as I am an the haven't read this thread, encourage them to throw their two cents in.

    If you want to look at my current setup, I have posted pictures that should be accessible through my profile.

    Gotta go, girlfriend calls (she's jealous of my "compoootr").
  11. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    As long as you frame the acrylic you really shouldn't need that thick. 0.93 thick should be sufficient. The soil isn't going to have the "Pushing power" that water would have. This is the thickness I used in the double doors (24x43 each) of my iguana cage and it has stood up to tail wacks (Zok is 5 ft long!) scratching, the occassional leap against the door,....
    as well as the thumping of unattended grandchildren!
    And from what I have read you probably won't need additional heating if the flourescent lights are inside the enclosure. The ballasts and the bulbs themselves will generate a little heat. It wouldn't be enough for a high temperature animal but the cresteds should do fine with it.
    And dim lights should not bother the photoperiod of the plants. Take a look outside under a full moon!
  12. fire2225ems

    fire2225ems Subscribed User Premium Member

    If you are looking for a furniture type look to the piece, frame out the doors in wood and inset the glass/plexi. That would give it more of a display cabinet look...

    I still think you will find that you won't need much if anything in the way of heat. Cresties do also like a cool season, (just be warned that it might cause them to think it's breeding time) I used to have a 25 watt bulb on my tank and had to take it down because the temp was staying at 80.
  13. Rich

    Rich Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    I agree with Merlin. So long as you frame everything out of wood, there should be no problems in regards to plexi thickness.

    The base of the unit, which will be holding the substrate, should be constructed of wood. If you wish to place acrylic over it for waterproofing, you still could. The base is going to depict the integrity of the enclosure and how sturdy it is.

    If you are going to be cutting the plexi yourself, you will need masking tape and a jigsaw. While some will say that it can be scored with a razor knife and then snapped off the edge of a table, you will quickly learn that the knife method works only partially, and will likely leave cracks. (If it doesn't just break.)

    I use plexi alot and have found that taking masking tape and literally taping both sides where you will be cutting, and then drawing the line on the tape itself, prevents cracking and melting.

    Using a metal edge blade on the jigsaw, cut in burst (opposed to holding the trigger). The metal blade has smaller, closely spaced teeth (than a wood blade), so it will cut cleaner. The bursts will prevent friction heat from building, which could cause the cut edges to fuse together once cut. This is how I cut plexi for my projects, and it has been fool proof so far! (You will be cutting through the tape you put on both sides. Don't skimp on the tape, and use 2.5 inch wide stuff if you have it.)

    If you have specific questions about the design, you should post them. I know Mike (Kriminaal) does cabinetry for a living (unless I am mistaken) and I am a carpenter by trade. The design, from what I see and how i would build it, would work. Thats not to say though that we are not looking at it the same way. ;)
  14. reverendworm

    reverendworm Active Member

    Ok, so I went to home depot and wandered aimlessly for what seemed like a (blissful) eternity. I have a few questions. Some of my design calls for 4x4s. The problem is that although I have been to ace, Lowes, HD, everywhere I could think of and it seems that nobody carries 4x4s that are not pressure treated. I cornered an employee at HD, and he said that they carry 4x4s that are pressure treated with a different chemical. Instead of containing arsenic -which is what makes pressure treatment a no - they carry products that are treated with a copper based compound. Is this acceptable, and if not does anybody have ideas as to where good old fashioned lumber - the kind that grand pappy used to use?

    Another question is whether or not this copper containing wood product would be safe if properly sealed?

    Also, I recently found out that I have access to cedar 4x4s (thanks to my packrat / contractor brother). I know generally that aromatic woods are not the best idea, but are cedar safe to use? If so, you can't beat freebies.

    On another note, during my odyssey through the jungle that is known as Home Depot, I decided to explore sealant options for the base of enclosure. The general consensus with the guys I talked to is that fiberglass resin would be the most effective and cheapest way to go for ensuring waterproofing. Since I was planning to spray on "great stuff" and cut it to simulate rock walls anyway (as I understand it, this would require applying fiberglass resin also), why not just go wild with the stuff.

    If you guys have any input or better ideas, let me know. I appreciate all of the help thus far.

    Next up... Lighting / ceiling. I'm thinking about building a light box that is sealed to be humidity resistant. Any ideas on the type of fixtures and hardware I should use? (Off the top of my head, the dimensions would be about 30" x 30” recessed by the 4x4s that support the structure)....

    I think I'm about to spend a crapload... lol
  15. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Copper is still toxic in large amounts. Thats why it is used, to deter fungus and insects.
    I would stay away from anything pressure treated in any way!

    The cedar, and pine, are fine to use since it will be sealed. The problem with cedar and pine is in use of shavings that have a large surface area to release fumes.
    And 2x4s will be sufficient. If you are intent on a 4x4 support just bolt two 2x4s together.
    The problem with a light box, if I understand your intent, is that you will be closing it off. UVB does not penetrate ordinary glass or plastic.
  16. kriminaal

    kriminaal HH Block Leader Staff Member Premium Member

    Yep, I've been a cabinetmaker for nearly 20 yrs now.
    It doesn't make me rich but I sure do enjoy it.

    I don't think you really require 4 x 4's.
    A 2 x 4 frame is plenty to support a 30 x 30 enclosure.
    One of my monitor habitats is 50 x 30 x 30 high. It also contains 12" of damp substrate. I would say it is in excess of 500 pounds. All supported with a 2 x 4 frame.
    We've also made an enclosure for a 6 ft saltwater tank at work, supported also by 2 x 4's. That was about 4 yrs ago and all seems fine.

    Unless I'm misunderstanding your design. 2 x 4"s are plenty.
    Plus on their edge it's the 4" holding power of a 4 x 4 anyway.
  17. reverendworm

    reverendworm Active Member

    I have a general design posted on this thread as a .ppt attachment. actually, this is a 6' wide by 30" deep and 7' tall enclosure. The top of the enclosure is roughly 30"x30" because this enclosure is going under a stairway. As I understand it, through the books I have read crested geckos have very little UV requirements (the resources are cited earlier in this thread also).

    I'm fairly handy, but by no means am I a carpenter. I'm just concerned because I am planning on placing about 9" of vivarium substrate in the bottom. I will also be putting a tree - probably a ficus, but who knows- as well as several other plants. Because of dimensional and structural restrictions, I can't use 2x6 or anything larger. Because of the height, I am concerned that even with glass walls it won't be stable enough using 2x4s. There are spots where 2x4s will be used, but the flooring substructure and front right post might need them. Again, I am not a carpenter, so I may be wrong. It would be far cheaper to use 2x4s, so I'd love to do that if I could get away with it. If push came to shove, I could attach two 2x's together to use for a post, because there will be a wood overlay placed on the exterior corner.

    I'm not trying to sharpshoot you, I am just trying to do my research as thoroughly as possible before I build anything. I appreciate your input though, and if you say that it'll go, then I'll do that.

    Another issue is the lightbox... This is more for the plants than the geckos (although it will be used to give them a normal day/night cycle). My main concern is that there will be a misting system in place, and I want to avoid water exposure to the lights and prevent my little ones from crawling on the grow lights. If I could find lighting fixtures that would be adequate and mist/water/humidity resistant, I could always use a screen. Also, aside from day lighting, I want to install some lights for night viewing that won't mess with the plants photoperiod.

    Any input would be great and thanks again for your help. This is the first really complex thing that I have tried to build, and since my pets' safety are involved, I want to make this right.
  18. kriminaal

    kriminaal HH Block Leader Staff Member Premium Member

    That is bigger. If you have any doubts about the stability then by all means beef it up. Better to overdo it.

    For the ceiling and light box I would do a drop false ceiling.
    Install the lights and misting system and then build a mesh barrier below it.
  19. fire2225ems

    fire2225ems Subscribed User Premium Member

    This is the light that I use for my crested tank. It is specifically made as a plant grow light. It comes with a cover and doesn't really produce any heat. This could actually go directly on to the top of your tank (as long as the sprinkler is below) and you wouldn't have to worry about the critters burning themselves or anything. I think the only suggestion I would make is to get some velcro straps to put around it so that the cover stays in place. (Sometimes when the cats jump on top of my tank, the cover starts to fall down)

    21" Plant Grow Light

    But the point is that while it isn't an indoor/outdoor light that can be exposed directly to water, it can handle a humid environment, and with the guard over the bulb, mist shouldn't bother it either.
  20. reverendworm

    reverendworm Active Member

    As far as the light box is concerned, I was kind of leaning that way, but I was not so sure about whether or not I could find the right kind of grow lights to be trusted in an enclosure where it may possibly get wet. There will be (as long as design allows) a plywood ceiling, with a 4" drop where the lighting hardware will be installed. A screen would definitely go well there. Because of the shape of the enclosure, I'm thinking about placing some type of reflective surface on the ceiling so that light can hit the far end of the enclosure. For a misting system, I was tentatively planning on using some type of tubing run along the possble false ceiling with either well aimed pinholes or maybe some atomizers (like the ones you find in the grocery store produce section).

    Any suggestions on exact products/methods to

    1) Properly light this large of an enclosure

    2) install an effective but relatively inexpensive misting system. I can fabricate if need be.

    3) Fiberglass resin application. I have never worked with this stuff before.

    4) and finally, Great stuff as a background material. There are two types, blue (flexible) or red (rigid). Which is more appropriate. Also, what do I use to seal this stuff do I also use fiberglass resin, or something else

    Also, I have been thinking about it, and I think that I could get away with something other than 4x4s for the floor, it'll just change the design a little bit. (maybe 2x6 set 16" or 12" oc)

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