Monday, June 25, 2012

Take Oxygen (O) and Iron (Fe) and You Get?

The answer is rust. And I just noticed I have something of a problem... At first I was pretty ticked with the terrarium for rusting out so much, but it's not technically a defect in the product, per se.

This is the damage. What happened is that one of my Monsoon's suction cups came loose, tilting it's angle way up, but not enough for me to really notice. It was also spraying under the canopy, which is don't move too much as Rocza likes to use its cover as his shelter. Well, I moved it last night, and found this. Not happy. There was still water droplets on it, with rusty water and all. Very unhappy, but mostly at myself.

I read up on this, obviously, found that it's not just me who's had this problem (again, obviously). And although to be fair to Exo-Terra, although their terrariums are listed as tropical, this level of moisture on this particular surface isn't really what one would normally have. This entire paragraph to say "I'm not angry at you, Exo-Terra, just disappointed". I've seen other companies paint their mesh with a sealing coat of paint, so I wonder why Exo-Terra couldn't also do this, even if these pieces are out-sourced.

So some solutions I found range from temporary and simple to complex.
The most basic, which I have begrudgingly done for the time, is to slide a sheet of plastic-wrap between the tank and the lid to create a waterproof barrier. This will also raise the humidity and heat levels, since over half of the relatively open top is now shut off. I'm not disappointed about that though, in fact it's a plus.
The second solution, which I also utilized, was to order a new lid. I ordered through Stacey's rather than to do it independently, since they know the proper channels. I know I probably could have whined to Hagen or Exo-Terra and got a free lid, but I don't really care. This is my bad, I will pay for my own mistakes. I always have. It will take some time, so that's why I also went with the temporary solution.
Solution number three; spray your lid with hydrofuge paint. Simple enough, and I will definitely do that with my new lid, and all subsequent lids from now on.
Now, the fourth solution is kind of cool. I found a thread (where is it now... Oh yes, right here) posted on Reptile Forums UK by KJ Exotics on how to convert the Exo-Terra tops into glass tops with sliding doors. Pretty cool stuff, and easily adapted to my situation. I think once my new lid arrives, I will repair my damaged lid in this way, since I know a bunch of people in the glazing business. Props for working for general contractors!

So for now, it's the El Cheapo method whilst I wait patiently for Emily to get back to me about my lid! Once I get some of the products, I'll be sure to post exactly what I'm using. Which I should probably do sooner than later, as I ahve not updated my list of products in ages...

Side bar here; anyone in the Cornwall region who has questions regarding reptile care, go see Emily. She knows stuff! But that's just, like, my opinion, man.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Research into Custom Natural Habitats 2: Backgrounds

A little late on my idea to post more findings for making the natural habitats but with studying for my chemistry refresher courses, the heat we've been having lately, as well fretting over tuition and grant money, it kind of got back-burnered.

Anyway, I found a really decent website for Do It Yourself naturalesque backgrounds called Bamboo Zoo, which links to several threads on Reptile Forums UK.
The setup I really liked was the Reptile Habitat in Foam by Hedy S., shown below. I've been trying to get a hold of some black spray foam from a guy at work, which is an idea I found on Youtube posted by bshmerlie which I will also post below. (Note to self, don't start Youtubing Skyrim soundtrack female covers!)
 What I like about Hedy's background is the way their mopani wood seems to grow out of the backdrop, something which I feel gives natural backgrounds some credibility. I also like how they added a couple synthetic plants as accents.

Image from BambooZoo
Now before I skip ahead to the part I like the most about Hedy's setup, here's the video posted by bshmerlie on how to create a spray foam background, hosted by Sherry. It's long, but very informative.

Just to note, I've been around to a couple places, even asked some of the contractors at work, and no one has even heard of black spray foam insulation in my part of town till just now. Not sure if this black Great Stuff is strictly an American product, but I certainly can't find it. Now what I like about Sherry's technique is how it stand up to wear and tear versus the generic white spray foam background. I think I might use a bit of a mix of black and clear acrylic, using the clear around the mopani wood to avoid black spots.

Now to get back to Hedy's setup, they use a mixture of substrates which really give it a natural feel. They even use a bark background, like the one Zoo Med but which I cannot seem to find on their product site.

The end result is this stunning piece of work.

Image from BambooZoo
What I really like is the mixture of the fine-grade Eco-Earth and larger Repti-Bark, both from Zoo Med.

I'd also really like to try to find a good way to grow moss on the mopani wood. Exo-Terra has the Tree-Fern Panels, but I'd like to know if they're in any way malleable once it's soaked. Also, I'd like to see if it actually does as advertised and grows small ferns and mosses.

So my shopping list is as stands:
-Spray foam insulation (preferably black)
-Aquarium-grade black silicone (I already have clear)
-Mopani wood (you can never have enough)
-Cork bark rounds (mix things up a bit)
-Fine substrate (probably the bag format of Exo-Terra's plantation soil)
-Coarse substrate (some bark or coco husk)

And that's just for my cresty!
I'm planning a second upgrade for my leo already. He's very curious and loves to explore. unfortunately, all I have for him are aquariums which are more vertical than horizontal.
If I could get my hands on a nice-sized low and wide tank, I'd be happy. I'm also planning on introducing some greenery into his environment, like this Jade cactus.
Maybe some of my other synthetics as well, since it would be hard to keep his habitat dry like he needs it and still have nice plants. I'll work something out though. I'm also going to need some things for his hab.

-Sand (not as an actual substrate, but as a sub-substrate, jsut to hold the rocks off the tank bottom and stop crickets from hiding under them)
-Concrete grout (with which to cover my foam)
-Lizard-friendly sealant (to protect the grout)
-Large pebble substrate (to go over any sand that may be visible)

I have a lot to keep me busy, on top of all the things that currently keep me busy...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Great Escape! and Other News

Well, lesson learned, and to cut off any undue concern, I'm not talking about my geckos.

As it turns out, the Kricket Keeper I use has a slight weakness when it comes to small sized crickets.
If you leave an egg carton leading up to the air vents, they can squeeze out. I only learned this after loosing about five...

I'm not even sure of that number, but I've confirmed three kills, missed two (which I may have got later) and just assume there's one decent creeper who stayed out of sight. I bought "a dozen" but there's no point counting. The fine ladies at Stacey's are generous with the crickets. Good thing I have a cat.

Also, apparently being down in the dumps about money and all warrants one an early Christmas present? Yeah, I feel kind of foolish saying it, but that's what happened. I got my tank upgrade for Rocza. Now I'm trying to make a deal on some black foam, trying to find some more mopani, along with a canning pot since I almost ruined the good one trying to boil my new piece of wood, and also trying to find some good plants.

It will take some doing, but I think my research has served me well. I have a general idea of what I want to do. Still, it will take time and money, only one of which is at my disposal. I think in the days to come, I will start posting my research, both for my desert rock formation and for my tropical arboreal terrarium. I've found some really good ideas, or rather ideas that look really good. This could all blow up in my face, I guess.

Still, I think this will be a good learning experience!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

More Hornworms

Tried getting Bronka some more hornworms today. Again, he totally loved them. I think they were a little larger than the last one I bought. This time I got some pics though, and here are a couple of them. For the entire album, check out my Photobucket montage.

He actually came over to my hand and crawled right up into it. He's pretty social!

But enough excitement for one day.

I wish this was a video instead of a picture. Just after this, he tried to extend himself even further out, lost his grip, plopped down onto the carpet, got right back up all cool and stealthy as possible, and took out the worm. Hilariously cute!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Some New Toys and Treats

First off, I found another place to buy some tropical plants!
The local orchard and garden center carries a variety of tropical plants, but not many of the ones I need or want. They can get some in, but that will most likely take a while. They carry gold and jade pothos, so I might mix them up and get a bit of variety. They also had a nice little cactus, one without thorns, that I though would look great in Bronka's habitat, especially once I get more rocks in.

But that's just a side note.

Surfing through cable last night, I found a special on photography of small animals with Catherine Chalmers and Rosario Dawson. It was terrific and I leave a link to Catherine's website for anyone interested in some really in-depth photography and art. The point is, I saw her Catherine photographing a leopard gecko and feeding it hornworms. I'm not sure if I mentioned before, but Stacey's Pet Depot sells hornworms, and I've been curious about them since I saw them. I've even wondered, seeing as these aren't true worms but caterpillars, if it would be a good idea to let the mgrow into their moth forms and try feeding them to Rocza. This idea seems a little ill-thought out. I guess the caterpillars can reach about 10 cm in length, so the moths are probably a decent size too. Much too big for little Rocza.
Anyway, I decided that after seeing Catherine's success with hornworms, I would try one out for Bronka, who might be having trouble catching the quick, little crickets. He absolutely devoured it. What I plan on looking into now is how many of these big guys I should consider feeding Bronka per week, as they do cost about ten crickets. They're not nearly as repulsive as meal worms though.

Image from University of Nebraska's Entomology Department

I was at Big Al's this weekend and found this awesome piece of mopani wood.

It's not small either. It's about 16 inches long and weighs about 4.5 lbs. I had to pick it up; just look at the cavity! Placed as it is in the picture, it would make a terrific natural hide. But, place it vertically and it becomes a really nice spot to plant a pothos plant or some other piece of greenery. I haven't decided who it's for yet. I think both Bronka and Rocza would enjoy it, but bronka already ahs a nice piece of mopani, whereas Rocza only has synthetic stuff for now. In any even, it's kind of big for either tank. It'll have to wait till after Christmas.

In other news, I haven't progressed much on my foam rock outcropping. I still need to finalize the design, but also, I need to save up a bit and get the mortar coating. I'm really thinking I'll be upgrading Bronka's habitat size in the coming year, as I feel he'd like to explore even more. Having come to that conclusion, I want to redesign some of the rock so that even if I choose to change the size of tank, it will still fit in decently.

Now, something has been troubling me for a little while now, and I feel this is the place to bring it to light.
I was in a pet store recently (not one of my local stores, fyi) and saw an African Fat-Tailed Gecko. It did not have a fat tail. It had a bony, emaciated tail, pointy ribs and boney legs. To be honest, from the way it was laying there, I'm not even sure it was still alive. And what really got me is that, surely lacking on site veterinary services, this store was most likely not going to do anything to help this little creature, as the price tag on it was only 40$. In other words, it's not worth their time.
This really got to me, but I feel like I really can't criticize them; what did I do to help this poor creature? I didn't have the money to buy it and set up a suitable habitat for it in order to attempt to nurse it back to health, but I feel that, had I approached them and asked to take it off their hands, they wouldn't of refused me. It was not their only Fat-Tail, and it was clearly on death's doorstep. Trying to appease my guilty conscience, I said to myself that I couldn't have done anything. But is that true? I have a friend who's sister is a veterinary technician. I may have been able to have her take a look at it and see if there was any simple way of improving this gecko's health. The truth is, being from a smaller city's clinic, she probably doesn't have much herpological experience, but still, this feeling nags at me.
I'm a very shy, reserved person, but that's no excuse to stand by and watch something die. At least, that's how I feel. It's quite possible this was just the end of the gecko's life, that it had lived out a decent life, but I jsut don't have that feeling. Pet stores don't necessarily have the best care for their animals, despite the fact that many do.
I think what I took from this experience is a guilt that will drive me to more the next time I see a situation like this. I just wish I had the courage to stand up more, especially for those that can't stand up for themselves.