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A turtle table with an integrated pond & drain


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#1 portsample

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 11:10 PM

Hey all- I moved my flock into this last January and everybody seems to be getting along quite nicely.

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It is a 3 ft x 8 ft modified turtle table that is sealed on the inside with West System Epoxy. I've created a recess near one end that holds about 20 gallons. I've also added a drain to this "pond" that routes the water outside of the house and into a flower bed. This makes for really nice and easy weekly water changes. Also in the tank is a small Coolworks Ice Probe aquarium chiller that pulls the water temp DOWN about 10-15 degrees below ambient. The right end of the tank is a bog end that stays damp to moist w/liverwort and ferns growing in it, the midsection is a drier forest type area w/local sphagnum, spruce, crowberry, dandelionand misc wild plants as well as burdock, nasturtium, alfalfa, Kentucky fescue grass and basil that we've planted. My thoughts were to try and give the plants really good growing conditions in order for them to recover from whatever bulldozing, scrabbling and other insults the turtles might impose. They've been in for nearly 3 months and the plants actually seem to be winning the battle. I'll probably add clover as soon as the seed is available.

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For lighting I've got a one MegaRay for basking and Vitamin D, as well as 2 Reptisun 10.0 compact florescents. In the (2) 48" recepticles I have generic Sylvania grow lights. I've built 5 "dens" in the habitat under logs and duff that the turtles spend most of their time in when they are not sunning or foraging for free range meal worms and earth worms.

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So far so good. No major problems yet. The turtles all seem happy. There is less tail biting and posturing, and everybody has good appetites.
Total cost was about 30$ for 1/2" plywood, 50$ for epoxy, 90$ for red oak, 90$ for chiller, 90$ for glass and about 100$ for lights, fixtures, plumbing, silicone, etc....or roughly 450$ w/a total of perhaps 20 hours of time invested.

Edited by portsample, 29 April 2009 - 11:37 PM.


#2 AGE

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 11:01 AM

That is pretty darn nice! How'd you do it?

#3 lspiderl

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 11:14 AM

what do u have in it?

#4 portsample

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 01:44 PM

what do u have in it?

Three adolescent North American Wood Turtles (NAWT) and 1 creaky old 3T BT.

#5 portsample

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 01:55 PM

That is pretty darn nice! How'd you do it?

I made the front and back pieces like a plywood I-beam w/the plywood glued and screwed into rabbets in the red oak rails. This allows the ~20gals of water (160 lbs) and dirt, rocks, etc. to be supported over the span between the legs. The floor of the tank (1/2" ACX) was screwed and glued into the bottom rail. The inside was then epoxied 4x and sanded with the outside of the box and legs coated w/spar varnish. The glass was siliconed into place.

Edited by portsample, 30 April 2009 - 01:56 PM.


#6 KTSmith

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 01:17 PM

That is an amazing set up. I like how it drains to the outside. I need some one to make me something like that. Unfortunately I'm not too handy with wood. I can do all kinda of other things, but building with wood is not my forte. *sigh* [v]

#7 portsample

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 01:40 PM

That is an amazing set up. I like how it drains to the outside. I need some one to make me something like that. Unfortunately I'm not too handy with wood. I can do all kinda of other things, but building with wood is not my forte. *sigh* [v]


Thanks. A lot of thought went into it. My favorite setup (and inspiration for this one) is here:
http://www.aboxturtl...nd/P6120001.JPG
It has lots of habitat complexity for the occupants and is something that might look nice in a corner of the living room as well.

I'm loving the floor drain in my pond. Bailing it out in the old setup every week or two for a water change got old (fast).

I'd be happy to post construction pics if there is interest.

#8 KTSmith

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 07:58 PM

I have seen that other set up to and like it as well. I want somthing cool for my turts. I would love to see construction pics.

#9 Dee Loves Boxies

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 11:43 PM

Yes! Construction pics would be much appreciated. This is a very nice set up!

#10 yesterdaymom

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 01:12 PM

I need more info on the drain construction. Very beautiful set up!

#11 portsample

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 11:43 PM

I need more info on the drain construction. Very beautiful set up!

Here are pictures of the drain from the top and bottom. The hardware just forward of the drain is the Iceprobe chiller.

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The drain is 1 &1/4" diameter for use in a wet bar and can be gotten at Home Depot. The other fittings can be found in their plumbing department as well. If I had to build it over again, I'd probably go with a standard 1 &1/2" sink drain. The hose going outside is 3/4" inside diameter hose that you can also get at Home Depot or another big box store. It would be better to go with larger hose or pipe, but I wanted this to be as visually unobtrusive as possible. That said, I suggest configuring in a way so as to allow taking the drain hose out to clear blockages when they happen. The run of hose from my tank to outside is about 16 feet.

There is no valve in the line, to drain the tank I just pull the plug.

I think that this is way easier than bailing water out periodically or maintaining a biofilter. Good luck.

#12 JGA

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 12:43 PM

Wow What a habit B) you brought the outdoors indoors with this crazy cool setup

#13 portsample

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Posted 10 May 2009 - 10:24 PM

Here are more construction pictures showing the habitat prior to the glass and last coat of spar varnish on the exterior. The glass is siliconed into a rabbet in the top oak rail and siliconed at the corners as well.

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The inside of the habitat received 4 coats of West System epoxy, both in the "pond" area and in the area where the sod is. The whitish color was pigment that I added to epoxy that I used in the pond area...some of the extra went into the sod area: it really is the same stuff, only differing in color.

...and finally a picture taken earlier today.

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The cabbage/broccoli/brussels sprout mystery plant is flowering!

The key (IMHO) to having plants in with turtles is NOT to start with bare dirt and try and grow plants from that, but to start with a nice mat of sod that has lots of cross linking roots and plants already established. Put that in your habitat AND then add seeds for whatever plants you'd like to have. The sod and existing plants will provide some cover and shelter for the seedings while they are small and fragile. Turtles are natural bulldozers and love to poke and pick at things that are new and different in their space. The plants in my tank are ALMOST in need of trimming and pruning at this point. The visual screening is excellent, in that it increases the perceived separation between the turtles, and searching out free range meal worms and earthworms keeps the turtles occupied when they are active.

#14 portsample

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 06:47 PM

Here is a picture taken this afternoon of the turtle table and one of the Wood Turtle residents.

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So far so good. One really old 3-Toed Box Turtle and 3 pre-adolescent NAWTs have been living in the habitat for about 8 months.

No catastrophes to report. Items of note include:

-The wood turtles all three actively engage in productive "worm thumping" as a part of their daily regiment.
-All of the turtles seem to prefer the "pond" as a latrine. This has simplified keeping stuff from building up in the terrestrial area and requiring periodic cleaning. I just drain the water about once per week and refill.
-None of the turtles have taken digging and burrowing to an extreme. I had originally though that this would be a problem. I attribute this to the 3 "hiding places" that I have built in the habitat. All three of these are hollowed out log rounds that are spaced out around the habitat.

I'd strongly encourage other folks to consider tables similar to mine as options for indoor turtle habitation. Mine is three feet by eight feet and cost only a few hundred dollars to build. Cheers.

#15 turtle32

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Posted 18 November 2009 - 12:01 AM

that is amazing! great job!

#16 humpy101

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 08:38 AM

Wow that is nice!

#17 Samsonite

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 11:16 AM

I love your enclosure! My favorite is the sunken pond with the drain! I hope to make something like that in the future, as I hate lifting out my boxie's wobbly litter-pan style water feature. So it looks like your "pond" is actually just wood, but epoxied well. I have a couple questions.

1. How did you attach the "grip" strips along the incline to have the turtles walk up? Glue, screws?
2. How did you make the glass "window" in the pond side without it leaking? Also, did you use any kind of sealant around the drain to stop leaking?
3. For the glass showcase looking walls around the whole enclosure, is it merely siliconed just inside the wood frame? Or did you make a slit/groove for it to sit down into to stablize it?
4. What brand/type of epoxy do you recommend as safe to use for this? Or are any of them ok as long as it fully dries before use by turts?
5. Is this stlye enclosure something that seems like it will work for adult boxies, or is this more of a hatchling/juvenile heaven?

Thanks so much for taking the time to read and answer! :)

#18 portsample

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Posted 07 March 2010 - 11:58 PM

I love your enclosure! My favorite is the sunken pond with the drain! I hope to make something like that in the future, as I hate lifting out my boxie's wobbly litter-pan style water feature. So it looks like your "pond" is actually just wood, but epoxied well. I have a couple questions.

1. How did you attach the "grip" strips along the incline to have the turtles walk up? Glue, screws?
2. How did you make the glass "window" in the pond side without it leaking? Also, did you use any kind of sealant around the drain to stop leaking?
3. For the glass showcase looking walls around the whole enclosure, is it merely siliconed just inside the wood frame? Or did you make a slit/groove for it to sit down into to stablize it?
4. What brand/type of epoxy do you recommend as safe to use for this? Or are any of them ok as long as it fully dries before use by turts?
5. Is this stlye enclosure something that seems like it will work for adult boxies, or is this more of a hatchling/juvenile heaven?

Thanks so much for taking the time to read and answer! :)


Just saw your questions- here are the answers,
1) The "grip strips" are unfinished white oak with saw cuts made in them to make them ergonomically friendly to turtle paws. They were cut to length and then bedded in West System epoxy. In addition, I sprinkled sand in the last layer of epoxy sealer on the ramped sides of the pond and on the pond "rim", this helps the turts grip as they climb out.
2) The glass window is a square piece of plate glass siliconed over a round hole. All non-glass surfaces of this habitat were coated with 3-5 layers of epoxy finish: leakage has not been an issue.
3) Yep, I cut a groove in the oak rail for the glass to set in. The glass is also siliconed into the groove.
4) There are a number of epoxy finishes out there, I used West System brand but System 3 brand would also be fine. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES USE REGULAR FIBERGLASS RESIN. The epoxy resin and with epoxy hardener combine to create a more stable and inert solid that polyester (regular fiberglass) resin + catalyst does. While polyester is about 1/4 the price of epoxy, polyester fiberglass is nasty to work with requiring respirators and a controlled space. Epoxy fiberglass does not off-gas in appreciable amounts can be worked in your basement. Polyester resin must also be sealed properly with gelcoat otherwise you will kill your turtles. If you have further questions about epoxy fiberglass, check the manufacturer webpages.
5) Currently we've got 3 pre-adolescent North American Wood Turtles and an ancient 3-toed BT that we rescued from the local HS. In my opinion, the key to increasing the "amount" of turtles in a confined space is to add as much terrain diversity as is possible. That being said, not all turtles behave alike, a habitat like this might not work out for a large active Gulf Coast BT, but would be fine for a less active turtle of the same size. The three NAWTs currently in this habitat will be upgraded to an outdoor space. I am also thinking about ways to increase the size of this habitat, or possibly create a larger one. Too bad litter training is not an option. Ciao.

#19 doodley

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Posted 06 July 2010 - 03:31 PM

That is utterly amazing! wish i could afford something that big and nice...

#20 lspiderl

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Posted 07 July 2010 - 12:48 AM

i would totaly kill for something like this wow




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