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.
It's been just over a year since I last upgraded 'Pancake', my Chinese softshell turtle into a larger setup. He certainly appreciated it, and has spent the last year having another growth-spurt, leaving me no choice but to put together something even larger!
After switiching him into an underbed storage box setup last November from a glass aquarium, I wanted to stick to a plastic setup, since not only are they lightweight, can take a few knocks without shattering, and easier on the pocket, but they insulate the water and keep the temperatures much more stable. I opted for the largest tray I could find, a cement-mixing tray from Homebase, with a footprint of 915x600mm; equivalent to that of a 80 gallon (330 litre) aquarium.
As you can see from the pictures, I wasted no time in getting it set up. Following my experiments with sponge basket-filters for my Musk turtles, and my realisation that asiatic softshells inhabit shallow waterways as well as rivers, I attached a pond-planting basket to the back edge using a hot-glue gun above the intended water line. An airstone was cable-tied to the bottom of this basket, and covered in various sponges to act as a biological sponge filter. Live plants (Marsilea quadrifolia and Houttuynia cordata) are planted directly into the sponges and water, and should aid nitrate removal, and a corkbark cover and ramp double as a basking area for the turtle.
I have to say I'm really pleased with the way this has turned out. Following these photos, the tub was filled up with more water, and I constructed a wooden surround from skirting boards to hide the edges and neaten it up. Some readers may have doubts about the filter, but I have a very similar model constructed in my adult Sternotherus odoratus setup which is working brilliantly. The basket also provides a basking area, a planter, and a shaded hide spot underneath for the turtle to rest; a winner all round!
Finally, without saying too much, I've placed an order for quite an unusual animal, as a sort of early Christmas present to myself. Definitely reptilian, almost prehistoric, and widely misunderstood, it should be a fascinating animal to work with, and I plan to document my care of it thoroughly, including fortnightly diet and weight changes, and full enclosure plans. I won't spoil the surprise just yet, but I'm very, very excited!
Always happy to answer questions, just pop me an email at the address below!
I've always been fascinated by micro aquariums however I've never been able to find a suitable vessel to try one myself. Whilst aquatic shops sell ready-made 'nano kits', I've always wanted to try and create one from something more unusual, like a large, clear bottle, or an unusually shaped vase.
As luck would have it, I came across something just right a few months ago; a metal lantern frame, with a glass cylinder inside. It's not built for holding water at all, but the idea of creating a nano aquarium of it is just too appealing, and should look fantastic if I can pull it off. I finally got around to waterproofing it last week by sealing the inside of the lantern with aquarium-safe silicone, and fixing the glass cylinder on top. The silicone had to cure for a week first, but as you can see, it seems to be holding water so far! I'll be keeping it topped up until Christmas to make sure, at which point I'll be looking at planting it up, and maybe introducing some small shrimp species (Neocaridina or Caridina sp.)
I've had some good luck with plants too, with some Bromeliads in my Honduran Wood Turtle setup multiplying and a Calathea sp. plant I thought was pretty much withered and finished making a surprising comeback. Eventually I hope to cover the walls of this enclosure with live plants from the Central/South American region, but this is something of a slow process. I have quite a few cuttings of Tradescantia zebrina going spare and might look at including them in this setup, they make a great trailing ground cover, and have vividly coloured foliage.
I've also ordered a tripod so hopefully I can get some clearer photographs of the animals and their habitats for the website. It won't arrive for a few days yet, but I'll be spending quite a while trying it out when it does, so expect some fancy pictures in the next update.
Lastly, I thought I'd better show off a fantastic turtle I recieved this week, although not the type I'm used to! I've no idea how it was made, but it looks great. So far I haven't had the heart to try and eat it, but we'll see how long that lasts!
If you have any questions feel free to email me at the address below!