So there I was, talking to one of my employees about my two new Ball Pythons. I hadn't picked them up yet and only had a month to prepare a new enclosure. Now I have a few other Ball Pythons and got taken to the cleaners by the Pet Store on things they don't need. So this time I decided to tackle the project in hopes to make it a little cheaper and less cheesy than most ready made snake kits. Any way back on track. So I was telling my guy that I needed a new enclosure and he said his roommate had a 70 gallon tank for sale. I told him I would look at it. The tank was in great condition and came with extras for 100 bucks. So I picked it up still not knowing what to do with it. Ball Pythons can be very picky when it comes to habitat. They require belly heat between 85 and 95 degrees and a humidity between 50 and 60. BP's are not great housed together and they don't like huge areas as babies. Glass aquariums are not known to be great insulators of heat and are not ideal for BP's. So I had to figure out a way to insulate the glass and divide the tank into two separate habitats.
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Step 1: Take Inventory and Clean Everything.
The tank came with extras. One large piece of drift wood, one water bowl and one large hide. Reptiles bread in captivity, in my opinion, are much more susceptible to infections and parasites than ones bread in the wild. That being said I bleach everything. My daughter and I began by completely cleaning the inside of the tank. In addition we soaked the drift wood, water bowl and hide in the tub in a bleach and dish soap mixture. Do not add too much bleach if you plan on using that bathroom for other business. No need to pass out from fumes while you are leaving a number two. If you do not use wood from a pet store that has been sanitized and treated please ensure you take precautions to protect your reptile. There are literally dozens of videos on www.youtube.com. O left my wood to soak through the night and did several rinse/soaks with fresh water the next day.
Step 2: Splitting Hairs?
So I thought it would be cool to quarter the log vertically. Yea easier said than done. Sure I was able to cut a lot on the table saw but had to complete the job by hand as I do not own a band saw. Pictures show the wood halved.
Step 3: Treating the Wood.
Once I had it all quartered I decided to treat/seal the wood with SEVERAL coats of polyurethane. Ensure you let this dry completely before placing inside of tank. Curing fumes probably aren't the best for your very expensive exotic pets.
Step 4: Let It Begin
While I waited for the polyurethane to cure I divided the tank. Take the time to measure this a few times as tempered glass can be expensive (I found a cheap place online. Message me for the website). Once the glass came in it was relatively easy to install. I simply cut a few 1x1 to fit snugly, one on each side of the glass to hold it in place. Then I used clear silicone on both sides of the glass. leave the wood in place till the silicone has cured. Again please allow time for the silicone to cure as the fumes could be harmful. I think the brand I used took 12 hours and was intended for bathrooms.
Step 5: Topping It Off.
While I waited for silicone to cure I made a top. I used peg board to give adequate ventilation and originally used regular 3/16th inch glass from a home store. The hinge can be purchased from any online aquarium store or if you have an awesome local pet store like me they may have used hinges.
Step 6: Treat the Wood.
Can't say this enough. The inside of some reptile cages needs to have a certain amount of humidity. Wood + Humidity over time = "Rot".
Step 7: Handle With Ease!
I added a nice little handle to make opening and closing easier. Second picture is a close up of the hinge. Notice the top is split like the tank. One final note: If you are using any heat lamp above 70 watts you might wanna save yourself a headache and use tempered glass. The cooling from day to night caused my first piece of glass to crack.
Step 8: Fit the Wood.
This next step involved a bit of artistic touch. Thank God my daughter was there to lend a hand. So I basically had several pieces of the quartered/treated drift wood. Take the time to "jigsaw" these pieces into different places in the tank. Look at them from different angles. This will help you to ensure you place them just where you want. I used the same silicone to adhere the wood to the tank wall. Once again allow it to cure.
Step 9: Build a Cliff or Plateau.
So basically a buddie of mine that also keeps reptiles told me about this cheap and easy way to make custom backgrounds for your habitat. With the use of a hot knife, Styrofoam, grout and a little paint you too can do this. Basically you want to use the hot knife to melt the Styrofoam into interesting shapes. I didn't have a hot knife so I used my soldering iron and a piece of copper wire. Warning: Using a soldering iron as a hot knife is not recommended and can damage the iron. That being said, it is what I had on hand. Make sure you fit your carved pieces where they will eventually end up.
Step 10: Get Yo Grout On...
After you have the pieced carved and to your liking. Do one last dry fitting before applying grout. Keep in mind that you may add up to a 1/4 inch of grout. So if the fit was tight before grout, it may not fit after. The first layer of grout should me some what thin. Allow to completely dry between applications. You can also dye your grout. Make sure you completely cover every exposed surface of foam. Paint and styro do not play well together.
Step 11: Heat
So my habitat will be housing Ball Pythons. They require belly heat. So why I was waiting on the grout to dry, I went ahead and installed this. Remember heat tape never goes directly in your tank. You can cause serious damage and even kill your pet. Please be safe. You may notice that I used @Tyvek tape. I read an article somewhere dealing with electrical connectors shorting out on aluminum tape and causing fire. Is this true? I don't know but I thought it would be better to be safe than sorry. Also remember that you should never plug one of these UTH directly into the wall socket. Always use a thermostat or dimmer.
Step 12: Getting Closer
So the job is finally coming together. Daughter helping out with last min paint. The foam pieces are held in place with silicone. and I sprayed in foam to fill the dead spaces. While this foam is still somewhat gooey, it is a good time to place any plants or whatever into place to they will be firmly held once the foam is dry. Get everything in place and do touch up paint as needed. Note; when you are removing hides and water bowls be careful not to bump the Styrofoam backgrounds. You can damage your creation.
Step 13: Put It All Together.
Lights are in, substrate is in hides are in. So where are all the snakes? Please allow your tank to completely cure and dry. It took around 4 weeks to completely clear this tank. Your reptiles safety should always come first.
Step 14: Welcome Home
And finally the kids are home. Meet Amy Pond and Rory the Roman. They are very happy in the new house. Enjoy. Feel free to message me with questions. This was my first Instructable so be gentle....