180 gallon Box Turtle Enclosure

Boundava

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Bought a 180 used for aquatic use, movers drooped it and cracked all of the trim caring it so its not safe to hold water. Decided to upgrade my turtle's old enclosure ( a recycled bookshelf) and add a water feature to 1/3 of it.

This is going to be my journal on how to figure out how to make a waterfall feature, get a filter and water area in the tank and get a cork background with turtle safe plants in the tank.

My materials are:

  1. One three toed box turtle named Hippie. She is somewhere over 35 years of age but I think under 40.
  2. One busted 180 gallon tank
  3. Recycled DIY lid from my old turtle enclosure which will work until/if I want to redo the lid.
  4. Tons of cork
  5. Gorilla glue-a LOT of Gorilla glue!
  6. Recycled foam sheets from my last fishroom
  7. Bags and bags of Terra Firma
  8. Assorted other reptile substrate such as coco noir bricks/blocks in varying consistencies (fine, fibrous, with coco chunks)
  9. A large brick of sphagnum moss (like 8"x8"x4")
  10. Huge 2 cu ft bag of orchid bark
  11. Scrap glass (lids from the 180) to use as the divider from land and sea
  12. Silicone to glue glass and background to tank
  13. Plastic twinwall board for forming the waterfall feature
  14. Eggcrate to make the box for the filter and pump to hid in and stay away from any mess the turtle brings into the water
  15. Cable ties
  16. Screening as first barrier to previously mentioned mess
  17. Small pump to make the waterfall work
  18. Greatstuff pond and stone to make the waterfall as well as the ramp in/out of the water feature
  19. Fluval U3 internal filter to filter the water
  20. Some leftover Matten (sponge) foam as a barrier between previously mentioned mess turtle brings to water feature
  21. Assorted plants (orchids and ferns with possible addition of moss (aquatic and terrestrial) and a vine plant) to fill background and water feature
  22. 100+ isopods and hundreds of springtails to make terrarium bio active (small white and blue isopods and common gray). Also addition of 50+ earthworms for the tank as well as an extra snack
  23. Mister for tank
  24. Fogger for water feature
  25. Radiant panel for heat (from old enclosure)
  26. Various lights for the plants and turtle (UVA/B) (from old enclosure)
  27. Assorted blades, brushes and buckets for assembling, trimming and cleaning DIY features created with supplies listed above.
  28. Missing at least a dozen other items...
So I have been looking at turtle enclosures for many years. She spent a lot of her youth in a 40 breeder, I upgraded her to a 100 gallon Rubbermaid tote which she hated as she could not see out. Then I upgraded her to the (at that time new) 50 gallon low boy reptile enclosure/frag tank. She liked that but a fault in the glass caused the bottom to crack (unknown to me until we emptied it to move years ago). In the meantime she spent a couple months in an underbed storage box while I altered a 3'x4'x12" bookcase into a turtle enclosure (i.e. added a sturdy back, siliconed all of the edges to waterproof, painted it 4 times with Drylock to waterproof, cut ventilation and made a screened lid) This was her favorite enclosure but I was looking to add to it by making a water feature with a filtered pond since she loves water so much. Then the fiasco with the 180 occurred (mover's went NC and their lawyer is also NC) so I decided to take a lemon situation and make lemon chiffon.

Tank is so big I am able to take 1/3 of it and make a water feature and still have a lot of space for her, recommended to have at least 2'x4' for a (1) box turtle enclosure. Plus I can give her a very deep substrate layer this time, about 6" to burrow in, since she loves to dig as well. I have made a couple DIY 3-D backgrounds for my aquariums and one for this turtle before so I wanted to give her a nice background with a lot of plants to help make it more natural since I have the space. Finding videos/guides for doing this is hard as the box turtle isn't a gecko or frog, she will rampage and destroy/eat plants and is not arboreal, lol. Looking around I was impressed with the waterfall features with Ferret Wonderland and Clint's Reptiles vivarium background You Tube videos. So I adapted and am hoping that my altered plans will work in the 180. The background is easier than the water feature (which I am still working out as I go).

So I have gotten the background figured out and started getting it glued down to the foam.


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Boundava

Boundava

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First panel done the other day:

BTW Hippie was the name my brother chose thinking the turtle was a male when he got him as a child. He left the turtle when he moved out of the house and I adopted him. Turned out he is a she, but Hippie works either way and she knows her name after decades of being called that.
 
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Boundava

Boundava

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Another video on the progress, still waiting on the background to dry fully. Didn't get anything else done on the tank/waterfall as the weather was nice enough to go through some more moving boxes in my detached garage.


I did trim the edges and any large foam escape areas, also removed some of the areas with the looser substrate, got about 1/4 bucket of fill back. Should be dry enough today to see if any more will come of the background.
 
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PheonixKingZ

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Looks like a cool project! Keep us posted.

(Any pictures of the turtles by chance?)
 
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Boundava

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Well it's been slow, but I have made some progress on the different elements of the terrarium/reptarium.

I went outside the house and grabbed some moss just lying around ?

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I had to get a sheet of acrylic as the glass didn't work. I wound up cutting some extra strips for additional support on the sides and went a bit crazy with the silicone. It wasn't easy using a caulk gun and being over the edge and trying to keep it level while holding the caulk gun. Not so concerned about it, just may clean up the front.


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Also finally got the waterfall feature done. I wound up scrapping the first design and rethinking it. I finished cutting up the foam yesterday and decided to make it about 4" taller. I gave it a test run in the laundry tub and tweaked it a little more to change some of the flow/drainage. I am satisfied with it right now. Hope the moss will be ok with it more on the wet side, lol.
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I am doing this post on mobile as my video card died on my PC and the video cards are out of stock nationwide so I pre-ordered one that will be here end of April. Mobile doesn't have an option to upload videos...at least not one I see. The tool bar has icons for hyperlinks, pictures then : : undo and no other options (like upload video).
 
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PheonixKingZ

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That waterfall wall looks really good.

The moss may over-hydrate, so just be aware of that, if you plan to put it in direct water flow.

You may be able to glue it to the side or something, where it is in contact with just a little but of water.
 
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Boundava

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Thank you for the advice. I may stick some aquatic moss in the more heavily hydrated areas.
 
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Boundava

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Progress has been slow and steady. I don't have a working computer right now as there was a power surge and my video card died. For some reason all of the new video cards are either out of stock or selling for close to/over 1K, and that isn't even the current 3000 line! so I have been going through some computer withdrawal. I have a spare tower that is old and is very limited on WIFI so it cannot pickup on the internet which is even more frustrating. I have an old laptop with the same issues but my parakeet Petra uses it to stay sane. I play budgie sounds/videos for her as she is the last of our flock of 5 and we aren't going to add to the group. The videos help her feel safe and socialized in a way.

Back to the enclosure, lol. I have been slowly working on trying to get this finished. Main issues are giving the glues/silicone time to dry before doing anything else. I have all of the corkboard glued on, the waterfall feature is now glued in as well. I was working on a DIY ramp for Hippie to get into/out of the waterfall feature. I has to have a slope that she can climb and be wide enough where she can maneuver a bit but not so overwhelmingly huge it takes the enclosure over. I did the best I could and have had to tweak it a bit by adding some supports to the bottom. I got the first coat of Drylok on it today and have to wait until it dries so I can get the next coat on. If it was a background in a tank I would put about 4 solid coats of drylock before decoratively painting it. Since its not going to be in a tank, half of the ramp will be sitting in about 9" of water so I think I will just put another solid coat on and then decoratively paint it. Then after it dries I can glue it into the enclosure. After waiting another day or so for the silicone to cure I can fill the substrate side and possibly add the plants.

Anyway here are some photos and a link to a video. I didn't have time to upload to YouTube.


Here is the test run on the waterfall. I did a little more carving as while the pump was on to add some water flow to other parts of the feature.
waterfall.jpg

The ramp is a little blocky, but I didn't want something that would take up a lot of space-just be functional. I wanted to do a fan shape ramp, but it would have eaten more space than I wanted to give up.
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Boundava

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Well rather than do nothing whilst the paint dried on the ramp I decided to do some planting.

The majority of plants are Orchids with a few ferns and couple philodendrons. I spread a little of the moss I collected as well.

From top clockwise are two philodendrons, a fern and a variegated orchid.
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Omitting the plants I mentioned before from right to left there are two more orchids (the variegated and green leaf).
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The two orchids in the center (with the neat leaves) are slipper orchids; one flowered (its heavy, lol). To the left of them are another two orchids. Below both sets of orchids are ferns.
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On the top is the last orchid- a vanilla orchid and below it is a smaller version of the fern from the first photo.
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Have to make a late but quick dinner and then the paint is dry enough where I can put another coat on the ramp if I feel like it tonight.

Oops I forgot the slipper orchid's flower.
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Boundava

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Well it 98% done. Done enough that my turtle is going in tomorrow.
 
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Boundava

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Was going to add my turtle but am driving down to a Greenwater Aquarist Society meeting in Joliet,IL(about 1.5 hour drive) and didn't want to put her in and not be able to check on her for a few hours. So will be adding her and the fish/shrimp till later this afternoon. Also will be picking up some cull neocardinia for the water portion as well as a bunch of crypts from a member who has some great plants for a good $. Some of the badly damaged swords in my 120 SA will be removed and the crypts (yes not SA) will take their place.
 
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Boundava

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Got her in this morning and she did exactly what I was hoping she would not do...find the closest wall and climb as high as she could, almost pulling out the fern (and breaking a few of its stems in the process). ?‍♀️ I know her and knew she would try, she did the same thing as soon as she found the water portion.

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I wound up moving the fern to another spot on the other side of her food dish and removing the rock closest to the waterfall feature and putting it under the waterfall feature. She was so thrilled when she saw the water, she just sat there and watched the 3 endlers and some cull orange shrimp swim by. Then she tested out the "deep" end and tried to climb up the waterfall feature that way. Lol, I knew she would try to climb wherever she thought she could. This is why I wanted to be home when I out her in for the first day. She has settled down and already has made a track along the front for her walkway.

I thought this would be her first shot and she would just hide for a bit, but she walked over and said boring and proceeded to go to the other side and try some rock climbing, lol. Glad she has a lot of enrichment, both on the dry and wet side.
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Boundava

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Hippie is 100% enjoying her new digs. I did add 6 more (4 female/2male) endlers to the water portion and they are all also enjoying their digs. I have removed the radient heat pannel and added a deep penetrating heat lamp. Works well and takes up a lot less space, but it is hard to position it where it doesn't burn the plants, won't melt my MistKing nozzles and is secure but still provides heat. After burning some leaves on two of my plants, I hung it from a chain a few inches above the tank. Temp is still in a good range for her and she is active and eating.
 

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