Saturday, March 30, 2013

Building a naturalistic vivarium

In my first post about snakes I mentioned that building a complex enclosure was one of the potential challenges an owner can take on, and recently I did just that. My old enclosure was a 10 gallon aquarium with a screen lid, aspen shavings, a skull, a heat mat, and a half log hide.

This is her enclosure now:

I'm gonna walk you through the steps and costs of building an enclosure like this from scratch, and where you can save some money!

Cage: $30, 30 gallon (36x12x18) aquarium, brand unknown, Craigslist (store price $200+)
I got this cage cheap from craigslist from a guy downsizing his fish collection. I had to scrub it out for awhile but once it was clean it was perfect. I converted a bookshelf into a lid, but for better airflow you could also get a screen lid from Amazon, they run about $10. If you don't have an atypical size (like a 30 gallon) you can also pick these lids up at your local pet shop. New tanks are not cheap, craigslist/thrift stores are your friend.

Hides: $20, Half Log / Rock Cave, All Living Things, Petco
Picked these up at Petco, again you could probably find some on craigslist. You could also use an old box or something. Just enough so the snake feels secure, doesn't have to be fancy.

Water Bowl: Free! Zoo-Med Repti-Rock, free from my partner (store cost $11)
I actually got this from my wonderful partner, who could not use it for her tortoise (who I'll be basing my Why a Russian Tortoise? piece on). Easy to clean, cheap, looks great.

Branch: $14, All Living Things Small Branch, Petco
Petco runs a bit of a racket. There's really no reason to buy something like this, River likes it but you can make something yourself cheaper and suction cup it in. What can I say, I'm a sucker

Thermometers: $13, Zoo-Med Digital Thermometer, Zoo-Med Combination Thermometer and Hydrometer, Petco
Picked these up in Petco, Digital thermometers really are the way to go on the warm side of the tank. There is a small difference between proper heat and cooking your pet.

Plant: $5, Jade Plant, Lowes
It's a plant, it looks pretty, and it helps my airflow issue. Before you get a plant ensure it is safe for your reptile and pesticide free.

Rocks: Free, collected from outdoors (store price, fucking insane)
Seriously, don't buy rocks in petco, anything more than free is not what you want to pay for rocks. Collect smooth ones from outside, scrub them with your cage cleaner (I recommend Flukers) and boil them off for an hour.

Heating: $120, Flukers overheat dome with dimmer, Zoo-Med Ceramic Heat Emitter, Zoo-Med Under Tank Heater, Zilla Analog Thermostat, Petco
Let me start my saying my home is very cold. This is not necessary for most snakes, most can get buy with a dome and heat emitter / heat light OR a thermostat and heatmat. A quick note on cost, a dome and heat emitter/heat light will run you maybe $40, a thermostat and heatmat will run you about $70, however long term the mat uses much less power. It's also better for controlling temperatures.

Substrate: $7, Zoo-Med Eco Earth, Playsand, Home Depot & Petco
I mentioned before that substrate is a personal choice. I use a 60/40 mix of coco fiber and playsand. Holds humidity great without risking RI, looks amazing, and cheap (that price is for at least a months worth). If you remove feces regularly and completely, it should last you a couple months. Coco fiber comes in $4 bricks, or $10 bags, you have to rehydrate the bricks yourself, but it's pretty easy. Playsand is sold in hardware stores, toy stores, and walmart, $3 for a 50 lb bag. You won't run out quickly. If you use this substrate please please please feed outside of the enclosure, this stuff does have an impactation risk if ingested.

So there you go, cut the right corners and you can build something similar for around $150. Keep in mind this is NOT NECESSARY. You don't need to drop this kind of money on a snakes home, but if you're looking for a new challenge, or want a pretty cool looking set up, it's not crazy expensive.

Keep Flying,

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