All the information listed here is based on my own experience, please carry out your own research before attempting to replicate anything on this site.
I decided to bite the bullet this week, and attempt to upgrade both my Common Musk Turtles (Sternotherus odoratus) and my Chinese Softshell Turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis) into enclosures with a bigger footprint - as if I haven't got enough projects to finish already!
I've been needing to upgrade the Softshell for quite some time, and after giving my Axolotl an underbed storage box with the footprint similar to that of a ~30gallon aquarium, I decided it was probably a good idea to do something similar. Both the Musks and the Softshell have been in aquariums up to now, and although placing them in plastic storage reduces the underwater-viewing potential, it is a cheap, lightweight alternative to aquariums, and the less-transparent sides could help them feel more secure and give them more privacy.
For now, I have only upgraded the Musk turtles, as the new tubs are 70x50x20cm (roughly equivalent to the footprint of a 40G aquarium), and I think the Softshell will manage to climb over such a low wall. The sides are more transparent than I expected, although I may fix together a wooden frame for the tubs to prevent the sides bowing.
They're not much to look at yet, I know, but once I frame them and get some plant life growing in there, I think I'll have a couple of great table-top ponds! The musks still have some duckweed floating around, but hopefully I can get some marginal plants to grow too.
My Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi) also recieved little update to his enclosure this week, as I finally got around to sawing up some driftwood I collected months ago. It seems to have sparked an interest anyway, as he spend a good hour crawling around and sniffing at it.
I'm currently using aspen bedding in his vivarium, although I'm looking to replace that at some point with a soil mix and some live grasses. Bullsnakes sometimes use rabbit holes and other animal burrows as hiding places, so I'm looking forward to incorporating a similar structure in his habitat. The enclosure is starting to look more natural now that the wood and rockwork have been added, but it still has a long way to go.
Still no progress with the Congo Green Praying Mantis breeding, but hopefully I'll manage to pair them up this week, and figure out a way to make another plastic tub Softshell-proof.
The plants growing in my Red Eared Slider enclosure are showing signs of recovery and I might feature them soon, and hopefully I'll secure some more Mexico-native plant species for my axolotl's enclosure.
Anyway, happy halloween to everyone, I do have some photos of a cockroach outfit I fashioned together for a party this weekend, but I'm doing my best to stop them seeing the light of day!
Reptiles are annoying. To be more specific, Red Eared Sliders are annoying, in particular, the one I look after! I had hoped to include some photos of a naturalistic Slider setup, complete with live plants, in this update, but apparently she had other ideas.
My female Slider has always enjoyed having plants in her enclosure, and takes delight in biting and tearing them up, clogging the filter with the leafy remains, and making her aquarium water look like vegetable soup. After several years of trying to find a turtle-proof plant species, I've resorted to creating a "planter" inside the aquarium, just out of her reach (or so I thought), where I could grow some bog plants.
Needless to say, I have been outsmarted by this particular turtle again, and what was starting to look like a marginal pond-forest, is now a muddy mess, with nothing but the roots and a few dead stalks left. I've made some changes to the design, but I'm afraid I won't be showing any progress of this now until the plants recover.
The Papaya (Carica papaya) and the Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) seedlings which I've introduced to the Honduran Wood Turtle enclosure still seem to be acclimatising, and haven't started to grow in yet, but the new Swiss Cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa) has put down lots of new roots. As always, research any live plants before using them in your own enclosures, please do not assume that the ones I use are safe, often I use plants with known toxins, as long as I can be sure the animal has no way of ingesting them.
Hopefully you can see in the pictures that this enclosure is really starting to come together. The new Compact Fluorescent bulb which I am trialling seems to be boosting the growth of most of the plants, although I've had a few ferns in this enclosure perish recently, which I have chalked up to waterlogging.
All the floor space in this three-metre enclosure is lined with waterproof pond-liner to protect the plywood structure from moisture damage. This, combined with a substrate layer which is only a few inches thick, and mainly composed of top soil, cocopeat and sphagnum moss, makes waterlogging pretty easy, and I may have to look at adding some building sand to the mix to help drainage.
The new water bowl seems to be a big improvement, with a custom built-in ramp making getting in and out of the swimming space a lot easier on the turtles. I've also been trying to find a suitable pellet food to give these turtles, including ZooMed Box Turtle Food, and Forest Tortoise pellets, although neither have been a big bit and they seem to ignore both unless Reptomin or another aquatic turtle pellet is mixed in.
As promised, my Golden Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) has been upgraded, and is now set up in a very basic underbed storage tub, and I've added a few live plants from their native range for the time being while I put together the final design.
Everything else seems to be doing well. My two young Common Musks (Sternotherus odoratus) are showing signs of growth, and I've invested in some new livefood cultures, which may be available in the shop soon!
With the weather growing colder, I've tried to make the most of Autumn over the past few weeks, and the rush is on to get most of my enclosures nearing completion before the New Year.
My two male Honduran Wood Turtles (Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima incisa) recieved further enclosure updates this week, as I upgraded their swimming area to a large plastic storage box, with custom-made ramp for easy access, and covered the plastic with some spare black pondliner, to camoflage it into the environment. This also allows me to use the old plastic swimming area as an enclosure for my Golden Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), which I shall be working on in the next couple of weeks.
In addition to a larger water area, they also received a big bag of dried leaf litter (oh the joys of autumn!) to rummage around in, to mimic their natural forest-floor environment. This in particular seems to have sparked an interest in foraging, which, combined with the various inverts which have begun breeding in the soil, has made quite an enriching substrate layer.
Continuing from my last update, I have added two Virginia Creeper plants (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), and two young papaya plants (Carica papaya) to this Central/South American habitat. Papayas are apparently a very sensitive plant, and so it remains to be seen whether they will thrive in the enclosure, but the Virginia Creeper should look especially impressive if I can train it to grow up the back wall.
Before using any plants in a vivarium please research them for potential toxins or irritants. Please do not assume that the ones I use are safe, often I use plants with known toxins, as long as I can be sure the animal has no way of ingesting them.
I also managed so get my hands on a variety of Central/South American plant seeds, including the Canna Lily and two palm tree species. If I can successfully culture a few of these plants and find them suitable for vivariums, I may look at offering them or their seeds in the shop, but for now it's just another project to play around with!
Finally, I am also trialing the effects of a full-spectrum compact fluorescent, after reading a scientific paper in which they compared preferably to commercial UVB bulbs. The colour of the light is quite different compared to a regular compact fluorescent, which you can hopefully see in the photo to the right. I shall include a report of the trial as I post more updates.
All the other residents are doing well, with my Red Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) receiving new live plants to her enclosure which will feature in a couple of weeks time.
Any questions, just pop me an email,