Enclosures, Tanks, Boxes, and Aquariums for Our Turtles and Tortoises
Just a few of the things we have, and are working on, to give our turtles and tortoises a bit of room to live and move, both outdoors and indoors.
Al Ruscelli Photography
League City, Texas
Alternate E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
All Photographs Al Ruscelli Photography
A Look at Some of Our Turtle and Tortoise Housing
How About Some Uses for a Hospital Overbed Table?
We found a local industrial surplus company that had a bunch of old hospital bedside/overbed tables for sale and pickup up a couple of them. Our plan is to use them for holding small turtle/tortoise tanks, with one being used inside and one outside. Nothing very big can be kept on them, but these tables have a lot of neat features that will make them very useful. They raise and lower from 28 inches to 43 inches, have castors that allow them to be rolled in any direction very easily, have small drawers to hold a few items underneath the table top. All in all, pretty cool little tables. At present, we are having unseasonably warm days here for the December/January time frame, and I'm using one of these tables when I take the baby sulcatas out for some sun. I can set their small tank on top of one of the tables, roll it to an area where they can get some filtered sunlight (or even direct sun, with some caution) and they're all set to soak up some healthy sunshine.
(Note: with the glass tank, even with this extreme low-rise tank style of only 7 inches tall, we're very cautious about not keeping it in any spot where the temperatures can rise to an extreme. Glass tanks, tortoises, and direct sunshine can be a dangerous combination (for the tortoises, of course), but with careful planning and placement, this little setup is working out nicely for us. We keep a temperature gauge in the tank at all times and never leave it set up outside in direct sunlight for very long unless we're there to keep a close eye on temperature levels. If we need to move the tank and table, we just roll it a few feet one direction or the other and adjust its placement as necessary.)
In any case, these little overbed tables would seem to have many uses, perhaps even as a rolling utility table for use in whatever manner for part of the tortoise and turtle care routine.
Some Experimenting with Adding a Moisture Zone to the Temporary Sulcata Tank
I have experimented around with adding some rocks to one end of the temporary sulcata tank to enable me to pour water into that end of the tank to soak in to the dirt/sand mixture beneath. I placed a small wood barrier between the "soak" area and the dry areas of the tank. The piece of wood does not keep all of the water from leaching somewhat into the dry end of the substrate, but it keeps most of it out. Thus, I have a sort of water "gradient" of one wet end covered with rocks and one dry end covered with Timothy hay under the heat/UVB lamp. The interesting thing is that this setup actually works to keep not only the soil very moist on one end of the tank, but it keeps the air immediately in the vicinity of the "watery" end more humid (this finding based on the readings I get from the combo temperature/humidity gauge I keep in the tank). There is actually as much as a 15 to 20 percent difference in the air humidity as measured by the humidity gauge from one end of the tank to the other. And given that this tank is only a couple of feet long, that's quite amazing to me. As far as the sulcata's behavior with the tank set up this way, they seem to like it. Sometimes they'll stay on the Timothy hay beneath the lamp, sometimes they'll crawl onto the rocks for a while. Admittedly, it's crowded in this small tank, but this is only temporary. Soon, their enclosure will be much larger.
A Wal-Mart "Holiday Tree Storage Box"
To Be Converted to a Baby Tortoise Enclosure for Indoor/Outdoor Use
(Wal-Mart model number 461683, made by a company named Iris USA, Inc., Iris model number VE-175)
(Measurements: 52" x 21" x 14" -or- 134 cm x 54 cm x 36 cm)
I found this thing at Wal-Mart for slightly less than $20, before tax (not the car, the box).
I'm going to cut the top out and glue in a screen cover and make the screen part hinged so that the it can be raised from either end without needing to take the actual top off (for times when I might want to leave the top on and still get into the box).
As I lugged this big box from the car to the house, I paused to take photos of it next to a few ordinary objects to give its size a nice sense of perspective. Sure, I went overboard on the photography. But, I didn't have anything else to photograph that day, and I needed my daily dose of photography. And you, the viewer, will gain such benefit from viewing all these nice angles and comparisons.
This is one of the nicest, largest storage boxes of its kind I have seen. Likely only available, I'd think, during the holiday season.
Next to the car that it barely fit in for the ride
On top of a table above a 45-quart cooler and on
top of a 55-gallon aquarium.
Next to the current holding tank where the little
sulcatas are spending their first fall/winter season.
On top of my grandmother's old couch. Argh, she
might have something to say to me about that!
Being modeled by my private Vanna White stand-in.
With a 4-year-old daughter and 7-month-old Cavalier King
Charles Spaniel trying it on for size.
With an actual baby sulcata or two crawling around in it (hey,
now there's a concept!)
Just trying it out for size, though. Wait 'til we pretty the place up a bit.
Please Note: Because of my photographic license to use ultra-wide-angle lenses to do some of these "tortoise-eye view" shots, the enclosure may appear to be larger than it is in real life. It's still pretty dang big, though. Just not the size of a football field like it looks in some of these last shots.
How Did Our First Tank for Baby Sulcatas Evolve?
This was our quick-and-dirty enclosure for our baby sulcata tortoises when we first got them. It's actually an old Metaframe tank made for small water turtles. They'll be fine here for a little while, as long as we provide proper lighting, heat, and nourishment. This enclosure evolved over a couple of day's time from plain glass tank to having a layer of sand, to a sand and topsoil mix (topped with Timothy hay) with a small cardboard "cave" for the tortoises to hide under. Next up was a UV lamp to provide extra heat and UVB rays to help the sulcatas stay healthy in the indoor environment. We keep a small dish of water in the tank in case they want a drink or a dip. Their food is also sprinkled on occasion with a bit of extra powdered calcium for strong shell and bone growth. The young sulcatas are also given soaking and a spraying in a shallow bath (about a half-inch of water) every couple of days or so.
The Evolution of the Temporary Home
Whoa, a Hi-Rise...(well, sort of)
Our Hurricane Rita Evacuation "Crate"
During the Hurricane Rita threat along the Texas Gulf Coast from Sept. 21-21, 2005 I took our two sulcatas on the road, along with my dog and all the belongings I could stuff into a Toyota Camry (not much, compared to a lifetime's accumulations). This is what the sulcatas got by in for the few days that we were gone. Small Sterilite container with Timothy hay as a combination substrate and food source, a small lamp for warmth only, and a water bowl. The blue lid (shown under the container, and not airtight when used on the container) was used to cover the container while riding in our vehicle.
Next up will be a proper tortoise table. But we're still working on that.
Want to see the proposed long-term home?
Please scroll toward the bottom of this page to see
the potential future home.
(But don't scroll too fast, or you might miss something important...or not.)
The Eventual Outdoor Home
This is an old dog house on our property that could potentially house our sulcatas during much of the year. It's currently fenced in by our regular yard fence, but we'd be putting a smaller, reinforced wood and wire fence that would actually serve as their pen and enclosure. The structure needs a bit of work, but it's basically sound, complete with a concrete foundation.
For some perspective on size, the photos below shows our 4-year-old daughter sitting outside the house, 12-week-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel leaping out of the house, and a 7-month-old sulcata wandering around in the house -- each in the vicinity of the entrance. Can you even spot the sulcata?
More Than You Need to Know: Our proposed sulcata enclosure is currently surrounded by St. Augustine grass. St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum), which grows well in the Houston area, and is used to sod most lawns here. St. Augustine is really a creeping perennial that is established via sod "plugs" or sheets. St. Augustine grass is not established from seeds (at least, not for general use in the average home yard). Rather, sand and topsoil are generally laid down (sometimes just sand right on top of our "gumbo" soil that we have on the Texas Gulf coast), and pallets of St. Augustine squares (or rectangles) are brought in, usually in 1-ft by 2-ft segments. The St. Augustine squares are generally laid on top of the soil and watered in until the root system can tie in to the soil below. St. Augustine is sometimes referred to as buffalo grass. Why all this about St. Augustine grass? Because of its abundance here, St. Augustine will likely be at least part of the sulcata diet in our yard.
The Proposed Enclosure from the Young Sulcata's Perspective.
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Al Ruscelli Photography
League City, TX
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