This enclosure houses one adult male Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko), although it has housed a breeding pair in the past, and hopefully will in the near future.
Like most aboreal geckos, Tokays are adept climbers, and make ample use of any vertical space in their enclosure. Their highly evolved feet allow them to climb most surfaces, including glass. However, glass is not very good at insulating heat, and being transparent, offers very little sense of security to a gecko.
Exo Terra vivariums do come with a rock-effect polystyrene background, however this offers the opposite problem; polystyrene is an excellent insulator, and so there is very little in the way of a temperature gradient. Whilst they are reasonable looking, and easy to install, I eventually got tired of the fake looking rock-effect, and decided to construct a sturdier, more natural background of my own.
The idea for my background came from what is commonly known in the reptile hobby today as a Retes' stack, developed by Varanus breeder Frank Retes for Monitor lizard species. A Retes' stack works by providing a pile of plywood shelves, from the substrate up to near the basking bulb. The lizard can bask and hide at any level, from cool and humid at the base, to hot and dry near the basking area.
From this, I designed a background where a large sheet of plywood, covering a side of the tank, was divided vertically by thin slats of more plywood, each 1-2" in width. Whilst the background doesn't hold heat and humidity like a Retes' stack, it provides a range of temperatures and light levels, allowing the Tokay to seek out an area most comfortable to it. It can bask in bright light, close to the bulb, or in an artificial "crevice" to either side, at any distance. Whilst this doesn't look entirely natural, it is merged in areas with sections of driftwood, which I collected locally, and provide an even greater range of hide/basking spots.
Planting and Substrate
For a long time, I used cocopeat and compost directly in the bottom of the vivarium, without a drainage layer, however this caused problems with growing live plants, and regulating the amount of water that was available to them. To solve this, I removed all the plants and reconstructed the substrate layer, with a base of hydrolecca (expanded clay pebbles) which drain excess water, and act as a reservoir when plants and soil start to dry out. Hydrolecca also has the advantage of being lightweight, as opposed to gravel or large rocks, which could also have been used.
Once the hydrolecca was in place (approximately a 1 inch deep layer), a synthetic weed fabric was placed over the top to form a barrier between the drainage layer and the substrate on top. This is to stop the substrate and drainage layer mixing together, and will make it easy for me to remove the substrate and hydrolecca if I want to use them in another project later. This is also to prevent critters from the bioactive substrate drowning in the drainage water.
The substrate layer is a mixture of orchid bark, cocopeat, building sand and fertiliser-free compost. My earlier attempts at this habitat used mainly cocopeat, which is great for keeping humidity high, but is difficult to rehydrate once it dries. Sand and bark have been added to increase soil drainage, and compost provides both the plants and bioactive substrate with nutrition.
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