Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ircksome Problem

I'm a little disappointed in the fake vegetation I bought so far. I was cleaning out my habitat the other day and noticed that the wire insert that keeps the plants positioned has broken out of the plastic casing. There was this fair-sized piece of jagged metal jutting from the stems of two of my three plants. What's more, these pieces were right where Rocza chills out. Obviously, I removed them from the tank. I'm thinking a small drop of acrylic on each would solve the problem. Just got to find me some and buy me some. I also though of maybe taking some of the plastic stem off and maybe melting it onto the metal shard.

I might end up getting some real plants sooner rather than later.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Research into Custom Natural Habitats 1: Plants

Ever since I started looking into crested gecko care on YouTube, I've noticed how nice natural habitats are, even when compared to high quality of the plant products by Exo-Terra and ZooMed. The look of real plants, growing as they see fit, makes for an esthetic quality that far surpasses that of the sterile setup. However, a natural habitat raises the difficulty level of keeping your habitat healthy and functional, as you now have your flora to care for as well as your fauna. The benefits aren't lost on me either; natural plants help keep a good humidity level and increase air quality.
I've recently started looking into crafting my own habitat in the hopes of creating a truly unique terrarium that will make Rocza feel more at home and that will add a nice touch of decor to my own environment.


Part 1: Plant Life

Even though I'm really excited to try my hand at foam sculpting and building, I decided to start by looking what will probably be the trickiest part of the project: the plant life. There are lots of forums and sites that talk about which plants make nice additions to a cresty's habitat, but it's never as simple as just picking out what looks good. I have to take into account what kind of lighting they need, weather or not they require special nutrients, and above all, if it's a good choice for an actively arboreal species of reptile.

To start off, I'm compiling a list of plants that other people recommend for crested geckos. Thus far, this is what I've got:

Pothos: I've noticed that both the golden and jade pothos plants are very appealing, broad of leaf, and look like a plant that could easily hang down from on high.
Jade Pothos
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Golden Pothos
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Sansevieria: I have a larger one of these in my house presently. It's a very nice colour, very sturdy leaf, and it grows in an extremely vertical fashion. It's also layered which could give my gecko a lot of shelter.
Sansevieria Black Coral (Black Coral Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law Tongue)
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Amaranthus Tricolour: This plant is more for decoration that function, as it boasts really vibrant reds and yellows. Some other species of Amaranthus have leaves of red and green.

Amaranthus Tricolour (Joseph's Coat)
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Ficus: A very leafy plant that also resembles the plants found in crested gecko natural habitat. It's thin branches and shoots are non-the-less capable of supporting the weight of an adventuring gecko.
Ficus Elastica (Rubber Fig)
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Ficus Benjamina (Weeping Fig)
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Bromeliad: A very esthetically pleasing tropical plant, bromeliads form natural hideouts for little animals. Some can even form small "ponds" in the cup-shaped center of their leaves.

Blushing Bromeliad
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These are just the most common suggestions. From what I can tell, any plant that provides shelter, can support the weight of an adult gecko, and isn't outwardly poisonous, is a viable option.
I'd also love to find ways of having real mosses in the habitat. They always add a really beautiful touch of green to any environment.

However, after a bit of initial research, I can already start ticking off certain species due to light requirements. According to the San Francisco Plant Company (from which I pulled a couple of the above pics), ficus need a lot of sunlight, which wouldn't be a problem if I was still using my UV blub. My decision to stop using the UV bulb came after talking with Emily of Pet Depot, who informed me that crested geckos can actually get sunburned. On top of that, they don't have eyelids, and I can imagine that a daily dose of UV light might cause some eye damage after extended exposure.
The amaranthus tricolour is another plant that needs a good amount of direct sunlight, so it can probably be forgotten in my case. The most my plants will be getting is a small amount of early morning direct light, but mostly they'll have indirect light, provided from my shuddered southward-facing window.\
The other plants seem to be well suited to indoor life, particularly the sansevieria, to which I can attest is a very hardy plant, capable of surviving much abuse and neglect. Even the bromeliads, some of which are really colourful, can thrive in interior conditions.

Being that I've only dipped my toe in the pond on the topic of indoor plant care, I've still got a lot to learn about plant nutrition. Again, personally, I can attest that the sansevieria is hardy enough to get by jsut fine with it's occasional watering. Then again, it was originally planted in fertilized soil, something I will really have to look into to ensure I don't end up poisoning my gecko. In any event, Crested Gecko Canada gives an idea of how I could use fertilizers or special nutrients without worrying. According to them, a bit of mesh under a layer of substrate should be enough to keep the gecko out of contact with treated soil. Still, I really want to look into organic options to feed my plants, just to be safe. I also had the idea of double potting my plants so I could remove them easily if I ever needed to give them some special care or feeding. It might interfere with the natural look of the enclosure though, but it's still an idea I had. Much more research is required on this matter.

Now, I decide to think about weather or not these plants are the right fit for my crested gecko. Luckily, since these plants were presented to me by crested gecko care forums and websites, I'm fairly confident that they fit the bill. But the reasons for that vary by plant. The pothos and the ficus have big flat leaves, perfect for a timid little gecko to hide under or to climb on. The pothos in particular interests me as I think I'll be able to plant it in a high corner and have it hang down as a good vertical access. Of course, I could always string it along something like my Exo-Terra Jungle Vine, which would make it work as a horizontal means of travel too. The sansevieria is also another means of vertical access as well as a refuge. Another refuge plant could be the bromeliad, with its long, broad leaves forming a safe little cup for something like a gecko to sleep in or draw water from. And the moss I'd like to grow would make a terrific moist bedding for any reptile or amphibian. The joseph's coat also gives nice refuge in its big leaves, which would make a great bed for my gecko, if it weren't for the light requirements.

Now, this is just the begging of my horticultural research, and as such, I hope to find new species of plants to add to my list, as well as ascertain for sure weather or not the ones I've crossed out can or can't be used.
Also, let's not leave out the idea of using some of Exo-Terra's Smart Plants or some of ZooMed's more colourfully decorative synthetic plants, either. After all, they'd be a constant source of "foliage" in a habitat that could easily fall short of expectations. After all, there's no certainty when it comes to me keeping live plants.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Product Review 4: Super Scrub by Fluker's

As promised, today I'm doing a review of Fluker's Super Scrub, which I use to clean out my tank and as well as my plants and other decorum.
What I'd also like to do if I have the time today is write up a piece about my current findings on terrarium landscaping and what I'd personally like to try in my future habitats. That piece might come a little later though, since I've only really got vague ideas and a couple (dozen) YouTube videos of knowledge so far.


Product Review 4: Super Scrub by Fluker's

Cleaning is an important part of any animal care in order to maintain good health and well-being. Not to mention the fact that a dirty tank is a smelly tank. But it's really hard to find good cleaners that are viable, non-toxic options. My family's had zebra finch die just from using a scrubber which had come into contact with some harsh cleaners a while before and had since been washed and rinsed several times. Since then, I've been super anal about what I use to clean and dry my tank and habitat objects.
Since the very beginning, I've been using Fluker's Super Scrub for my cresty, and I've had no issues. I would think it's safe for any reptile. Amphibians might be a different story, what with their extreme sensitivity to their environments.

Overall Rating: 9/10


Cleans organic off fecal matter well and leaves a nice fresh smell that isn't at all overbearing (at least to me). Also hasn't so far left any streaks on my glass.

The brush that comes with the cleaner is pretty rigid and should NOT be used on foam backgrounds. I've already damaged mine a bit by trying to give it a scrub down.

Despite the brush issue, I still really like this product so far. In truth, I don't use the brush for much else. I find just dumping a bit of the cleaner in a tub of distilled or treated water (JurassiSafe for the win) and scrubbing with my fingers to be more than adequate.

This product can be seen in lots of my images, off in the peripherals. But, in case you were wondering, this is what you get.


Flucker's Super Scrub - products page


Short and sweet, I hope this can help someone out there. I wish I would of had it before that one person searched my blog for an answer, but hind sight is 20/20.

I think I will wait for tomorrow to write up my summary of my research into custom habitat design, so that I can do a bit of research into what kind of plants would work best in my case. Also, there are some pretty good documentaries on Oasis tonight, and I have the house majoritarily to myself, so a bit of rest is what I shall have tonight.

Also, personal note, I really enjoyed the open house on enviro-tech yesterday! I'm going to make my online application either later tonight or tomorrow, but there shouldn't be any issues. I should have all the qualifying high-school courses, as least on paper. In any case, there are some refresher courses I can take. Always a possibility.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Product Review 3: Terrarium by Exo-Terra

As promised, I'm tossing up a product review today. After my last two product reviews, I realized I was waiting to get new products in order to write reviews when I should also be reviewing the products I've already got. Kind of a dumb moment on my part. So today, I'm reviewing one of the most important aspects of the habitat: the terrarium, and for anyone who's read this blog before, you know exactly which product that is.

Product Review 3: Terrarium by Exo-Terra

For this review, I'm doing more of a generalization of all Exo-Terra terrariums based solely on my mini-sized terrarium. Since most of the features I'll be noting are available on all models, I think this will be fine. Obviously, my critiques will not be size-based (because, hey... size doesn't matter).

Overall Rating: 9/10

Great front and top access, particularly because of the two door system, which makes it so you don't have to open the entire front of your habitat. The accesses secure nicely, making escape pretty much impossible.
Good ventilation from both the front grill and top screen, the later of which is a pretty strong mesh, making it tougher than screen lids I've used in the past.
The little details that really make this a great product are ones you might not even use or even realize exist. The bottom is kept just off the ground, giving sufficient room to pass cables for any under-mounted heating pads or to slide in light stand footings, like I do. The top's wire and cable inlets are really handy, and even have a sliding blocker to close off the unused inlets.
Also, probably one of the most prominent features, it works very well with the other Exo-Terra brand products, as well as those by other companies.

Not many, and I really had to dig deep to stop myself giving this product a 10, but the top lid can be temperamental to put back on. When you have an arboreal critter that likes to bolt by climbing even higher up, this can get messy. It's especially tough when you have tubes, like the ones used in the Monsoon system, tucked away up top.
Also, being that there are two doors, there's a small area in each front corner that often catches plants and other objects because of the way it opens.


Just to clarify, the utility inlets are a great idea, it's just that they're fairly tight on water tubing. I worry that each time I try to squeeze them back in, I might pinch the cable and cause some really unwanted spraying to occur. I could fix this, but I would really have to cut into the background, since the tubing obviously can't be bent at a perfect 90 degree angle. Back before I had the Monsoon system, though, it was fine.

Well, pretty much all my images I host here feature the terrarium, but I'll toss in some newer ones showing off my newest fauna.

It just so happend that my Monsoon system went off as I was taking this shot.
I think I need to clean out a nozzle again, as it's kind of in Super Soaker mode.

Exo-Terra Terrarium - products page


 So that's it for today's review. I think that tomorrow I will review the cleaning product I use, firstly because it's an important product and also because I noticed someone visiting my site after trying a Google search on weather or not the product is safe to use with crested geckos. So, to that one  Googler out there, I will make a nod, as well an any possible future hobbyists who may want to expand their knowledge. 

Oh, on a personal note, tomorrow is an open house at my local college for people interested in the video game design and environmental technician courses. It's like fate, really, I swear. So, after that, I will write up another review, since I was away for pretty much a full moth.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Welcome Back!

I've been on hiatus for the last month doing nothing of particular interest, though that doesn't mean I've lost my interest. In fact, I've been looking into new ways to improve my current setup, not to mention what I'd like to get for possible future pets.

Since it HAS been a while, I feel I need to organize my thoughts and experiences, so to begin, I'll give some status updates.

He's doing well in terms of health, so far as I can see. He's noticeably bigger than when I first got him and from what I sometimes hear at night and by the droppings left strewn around his tank, he's not shying away from exploring his habitat.

Still, though, he doesn't much like being handled yet. In all fairness, the times I have handled him involved putting him in his carrying tank to clean out his habitat, so it was probably pretty stressful. I've been interacting with him when I see he's awake, so hopefully, I'll one day be able to get him out of his shell, metaphorically speaking, because he's a gecko, not a turtle.

I fed him some crickets yesterday while I had some company over, and he's just as vicious to them as he used to be (not sure if I logged this, but I had tried giving him crickets a week ago and he didn't so much as taste it). He's also going through about 1/4 teaspoon of Repashy a night, so I'm really not worried about his diet.

And lastly, I think he's molted again, and happily, his orange colour isn't dulling! I'm fairly psyched about this. Since I started looking around online, I haven't really seen many other orange harlequins, so I guess he's something of a special little guy.

Natural Habitats
I've been looking into ways of turning my future habitat into a natural one. Or, as natural as I can. What I'm worried about though is cleaning. I don't really know how i would clean out a terrarium without having to replant the fauna each time. I figure that if I find a way to compartmentalize the substrate, I could get by this problem by being able to leave the plants rooted while cleaning out the rest of the tank. I'd have to look into this a bit more before getting a decent idea.
I also thought about stacking some rocks and branches and filling in the crevices with substrate instead, but this idea leaves me nervous about weight issues. I've seen some really nice foam-based waterfalls on YouTube (that I will post a link to presently), and that principal could really be used to make some custom backdrops, and maybe even some designated planting zones with adequate drainage. I'm even trying to think about ways to incorporate natural elements like wood and stone into the foam construction to create a hybrid natural/artificial backdrop and base combo.

I should probably draw some sketches. bitches love sketches, and so do I. While I contemplate that, boom, video. The narrator and I assume creator has what I think is so far the best YouTube review/how-to voice so far. Kind of like a Southern Jeff Goldblum. Or not. The video is put up by Lizard Landscapes. I'll definitely be looking into these guys.

I also saw the first desert habitat that blew my mind. This guy made a sort of "Temple of Doom" look with a human skull as the entrance to a burrow that had a red heat lamp behind it. Sounds cheesy but it looked super cool. I'll try to find the link and post it as well. It kind of renewed my hope of getting a bearded dragon, or maybe a leopard gecko.

Now in terms of plants, I've been told pothos are great, and I'm definitely noticin Rocza favouring his amapallo over either of his croton. I'd love to get some of Exo-Terra's big, broad-leaf plants for the sterile setup, but they're just too big for my current habitat. I'd also like to add a splash of colour. I will definitely do a little digging (haha, pun) into some live plant species that I could use. Maybe stop by one of the local nurseries. I know the daughter of the owner of Harvest, maybe I'll stop in and say "hi".

Oh, and one more video. Boom.

Future Pets
Well, I've been watching Oasis HD some more. I found this awesome doc on monitor lizards. I guess they're some of the most intelligent lizards out there. They showed this amazing dragon at the London Zoo that would actually let his handler pet him and rub him. He jsut showed no signs of hostility. If I had to compare it to something, it looked liek a big scaly dog. Now don't get me wrong, I know Komodo dragons are not pets, but there are smaller monitors out there.

Not only do I find them really cool to look at, the also climb, swim, dig, and actively hunt for food rather than waiting for it to come by. All in all, they just look like a cool pet to have. Definitely something I'm considering for a the distant future (like when I have a really large amount of space to dedicate to it).

Also looking into what I want to put in my current tank once I have my new one to contend with, and though I would love some tree frogs or poison dart frogs, I also have to take into account what my current cohabitants will allow in the house. So, I'm thinking a day gecko. Not only are they diurnal, they live in very similar habitats to my cresty. They're also really nicely coloured. So far though, they're pretty hard to find around here, from what I can tell.

So I've been contemplating my future from time to time and I'm really feeling that I'd be much happier goign for something related to the environment over video game design. The same college I was planning on attending offers an environmental technician course. I think I might shift over to that.


Well, I think I'll call it for now, but I will come back tomorrow with a product review, the promised pictures of Rocza's current habitat, and maybe even some research into further tank-scaping techniques I might look into.