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Need To Modify Old Cage For Savannah Monitor

Discussion in 'General Construction' started by Gaflem, May 7, 2016.

  1. Gaflem

    Gaflem Member

    I have a 4 ft. x 2 ft. x 2 ft. plywood cage that I acquired 15 years ago with my first savannah monitor. I have been reading up on them alot because I want to get a new one and I have noticed a lot of information has changed since I owned my first. This cage I realize is too small for a full grown sav but it will only be temporary. I will be moving in the next year so I will begin work on an appropriate size cage when I have moved. I have some questions about the modifications I intend to make to the current cage to allow for proper living conditions.

    1. I plan to sand the inside again so I can reapply more sealant to it because I would like to use bioactive soil and due to the now suggested humidity for them. From what I have seen Minwax polycrylic is most common for above the substrate and I was planning to use FRP to line the substrate area. When I make these siding modifications to the cage, I intend to actually add 2 feet to the height of the cage to allow for a 1 foot layer of substrate for burrowing. Is this information correct and the most cost effective or is there a better way for the price or quality?

    2. This cage is also located in my garage so I intend to use 2x2's and 1/2 plywood on the top/bottom/sides to add insulation all around. I live near Amarillo, TX so the winter can and does at times reach below 40 degrees for around 4 months of the year. Do you think that doing this to the cage will add enough insulation to allow for the interior temperature to be maintained? My real concern would be the fact that the front is not insulated due to it being (planning to be) glass.

    3. Can anyone confirm that the bioactive soil is a good idea for a Sav or is there a better option?

    4. Pay no attention to the current lighting in the cage because that will be my first modification. I am curious thought whether a ceramic heat bulb would be good to have for the nights and winter to help keep the temperature appropriate. Does anyone have experience with these? I have read that if they get wet they can crack so how would the humidity level be for this?

    Thank you all for reading and any advice you can give.

    Attached Files:

  2. Gaflem

    Gaflem Member

    Sorry but I could not find an edit button so I will just add this here. I do not intend to stain the inside so that is not an issue but I do intend to stain the outside layer I will be adding. Can anyone tell me specifically what stain and sealants are safe to use? Would like to not buy the highest price product but it must be safe obviously so i guess that won't matter much.

    Also, I have never used FRP so how do I attach it to the inside wood? I have read that some things like nail glue make it bubble. Is hot glue adequate for this or do I need to screw it into the wood?

    Thanks again.
  3. Darkbird

    Darkbird Elite Member

    I'll see if I can answer your questions, but something to consider first, think about waiting until after the move. You'd then be able to start with the full size cage, and a sav could very well outgrow a cage that size in a year, in fact it's almost certain assuming it has a normal growth rate.
    1. Everything seems good with this part, except I would do at least 18" of substrate.
    2. Not sure if this will be enough insulation or not, as for the front you could make a removable front panel to cover the glass when your not accessing the cage in the winter. Also make sure to insulate the bottom, and plan to elevate the cage off the floor a bit. Cement seems to just suck heat out of stuff.
    3. There is no better option. I use bio-active substrate with all my monitors, and whenever I get off my lazy butt and find the time I'll be moving all my lizards to it.
    4. I have used CHEs in high humidity cages just fine, you just don't want them getting splashed while hot. You can also just run the primary lighting 24/7 during the colder months if needed to maintain temps. The animal will just go to it's burrow to sleep. Not really a big fan of this option myself, but have seen plenty of reports of keepers doing it without issue.
    The outside finish doesn't matter, the issues would come from any sort of fumes trapped in the sealed environment inside the cage. As for attaching the frp, I believe there is an adhesive that is safe for it, check with the supplier you get it from or even see if the manufacturer has a website, it should have that info. Hope some of this helps.
  4. kriminaal

    kriminaal HH Block Leader Staff Member Premium Member

    I run a CHE on a thermostat to keep a baseline temperature since my enclosure is in the basement. I believe it's been 3+ years now and I am very happy with it.
    Since you won't have it installed anywhere near where the monitor can touch it (wink wink) I don't think you'll have any issues with water contact.
    You won't have tropical humidity in there so that won't affect it.
    With proper substrate you will have your highest humidity levels subterranean.
  5. Gaflem

    Gaflem Member

    Thank you Darkbird and Kriminaal for you replies.

    Darkdbird, can you tell me what microfauna you have in your montior cages and any plants you might have in there? Do you feed the microfauna anything or do they just live off what is in the cage?
  6. Darkbird

    Darkbird Elite Member

    Besides naturally occurring bacteria, I have no clue. Most of my bugs come in on the branches and leaf litter I get from outside, if any. Never actually got anything specifically for the purpose. Pretty sure I have springtails in there at the least though.
  7. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Hi, a couple of points; these are indeed tropical animals and the humidity should reflect that, even above ground (a range of between approx 50 to 70%).
    You can attach the FRP with "No nails" (or the American version), once dry it`s perfectly safe.
    I agree that this enclosure even with added height will not last 12 months, even if you`re planning on getting a hatchling, because when properly supported they will grow around 5 to 7+cm per month, at least for the first year or so.
    You could stain both inside and out, I recommend using a water based stain (obviously you`ll need a water based varnish to cover that).
  8. Gaflem

    Gaflem Member

    Darkbird, for you bioactive soil substrate do you have a drainage layer? I am working on plans for a large cage to start working on but with a footprint of 8ft x 4ft I intended to make the base out of a 2 x4 frame. With there only being the space of about 4 to 5 inches from the bottom of the tank to the ground I can run a pipe out the side through the base to drain this layer but this will be a huge issue if something ever went wrong with this setup. I have seen on other forums where people did not have a drainage layer and it worked fine, and then others that did have one but reported that they might get a drop out once a month. I was thinking since the humidity required for a savannah is not more than 70% and the temperatures are kept so high that maybe a drainage layer wasn't really an issue.

    What is your experience or suggestion?
  9. kriminaal

    kriminaal HH Block Leader Staff Member Premium Member

    That's what I meant by not tropical, not rain forest type conditions which have excess moisture buildup issues.
    If you are planning on a auto watering system then you might want to plan on a fail safe drainage system. If it were to fail, then the substrate would be so waterlogged it would take an eternity to dry out on it's own.
    If you have a mostly sealed enclosure then you can add water as needed. Just setup a 2" stone layer to help with excess water collecting at the bottom. Worked for me.
  10. Gaflem

    Gaflem Member

    Didn't plan to have an automated watering system. If needed I was going to have it set up to where I could utilize a mister if needed but from what I have seen with the cages I am basing off of that won't be necessary. For clarification you are saying I shouldn't need to drain the layer but still have a drainage layer for any excess to allow the soil to dry some tho?

    The cage will be sealed and insulated due to it being in my garage.
  11. kriminaal

    kriminaal HH Block Leader Staff Member Premium Member

    I did the stone at the bottom just as a precaution. I don't believe I ever had that much moisture where it actually collected down there.
    With a sealed habitat adding water won't be a daily occurrence.
  12. Darkbird

    Darkbird Elite Member

    Hi, work didn't leave me any spare time for forums yesterday. I don't use a drainage layer in any of my setups, and haven't seen a need. In fact usually the only moisture I add is to dump the water dish into the cage, but even that could end up being too much water depending on the size of the dish. If in doubt you can always do a test dig in a corner somewhere to check for any saturation issues.
  13. Gaflem

    Gaflem Member

    Thank you guys for the info. I just want to be prepared when it is time to build.

    I have only found 1/16th or 0.09 inch thick frp. Will that be alright for the lining of a big cage?

    Also, on an 8x4x4 I have no problem making a base out of 3/4 inch plywood but wondered if since the whole structure will be 2 pieces of plywood with 2x4 supports and insulation if I could make the walls and ceiling out of 1/2 inch. If not both pieces maybe the outer or inner pieces?
  14. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Hi, I think 1/16th inch thick may be too thin once the monitor grows, an alternative would be to use 2 layers.
    Another option would be to use fiberglass resin to coat the whole of the inside (or just up to substrate level), a 3rd option is to fit a metal/sturdy plastic trough as a base to hold the substrate so you only need to build the wooden top sealed with varnish (or again the resin) meaning it`s in two halves.
    Example of trough (not suggesting you use the trough alone as an enclosure as is this one)...
    Last edited: May 12, 2016

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