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Thread: New Vivarium
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Old 03-10-2016, 08:27 AM
kimcmich kimcmich is offline
Join Date: Jan 2016
Location: Berkeley CA
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Default The Build

As I mentioned before, this isn't my first viv. I've kept aquaria for 30+ years, select herps for nearly that long, and orchids for the latest 12 or so. A couple of years ago, I built a half-cylinder polycarbonate terrarium for my small box turtle. Sadly, an ill-considered repair of one of the seams in the terrarium resulted in my dear turtle suffocating from the fumes

So what had been intended as a habitat for Mr. Turtle became the Mr. Turtle Memorial Orchid Terrarium. That tank, an open top terrarium with a small misting system, was so easy to maintain for such lush growth that I wanted a larger space... and one from which my partners' cats could be excluded (they too "appreciated" the lush growth of my open-top terrarium).

In planning the upgrade I wanted to go big but I also had to deal with an already furnished house without any long walls for a giant horizontal terrarium. I wanted another open-top for ventilation - only this one had to be cat proof. Those constraints allowed only a tall, vertically oriented terrarium.

The political realities of adding an appliance-sized vivarium to an already well 'riumed household meant I needed to give up something - and a 90 gallon corner tank in the dining room was the perfect sacrifice as well as opening a great location for the new viv. I also wanted a viv with at least 2 dimensions wider than the doorways of my house. This meant whatever I got would need to assembled in-place.

So with the geometry and location settled, I next had to build it out of something. The corner placement meant 2 walls didn't need to be transparent. The back/side walls would also need to be strong enough to support decor and the hardware for the doors. I settled on water-proofed plywood for the back walls/bottom and then turned my attention to the front of the vivarium.

In a perfect world, the orchid terrarium would have no front walls at all - and I wanted to get as close to that as possible. Also, I really liked the curved front of the aquarium this vivarium replaced and the corner shape meant a curved front gave me more interior space as well. After finding that custom-curved acrylic and glass in the sizes I needed were prohibitively expensive (both to fabricate and to ship), I turned to what pre-fabbed items I might re-purpose for my doors.

In short order I discovered the curved-glass wonders of mass-market "frameless" shower enclosures. The problem, however, is that most of these doors are of the sliding type and thus I would have problems cleaning the non-sliding panel as well as detritus in the sliding track. A little more sleuthing uncovered a perfect set of tempered-glass, curved-front shower doors on hinges - at a clearance price with free shipping!

So I ordered the doors and headed to home depot for some wood. I came home with 3/4" walnut plywood, some metal fasteners and a ton of liquid nails. I first attached the back walls and then the floor (a double layer of plywood for added rigidity). Liquid nails was the main joiner - with metal braces in the interior corners for additional warping/torsion resistance.

I did alot of research to choose the right water-proofing method for my wood components. I settled on a potable-water-storage approved epoxy paint for covering all the plywood surfaces. I applied multiple coats and let it all dry over 2 weeks.

Whew - I didn't mean to write a book (though I suppose this is still only a chapter ) so I'll take the rest of this up tomorrow...
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