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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone. I have been a member of this site for a little while now.. and I really love it. This "parts and constuction" part of the forum is by far one of my favorite places to be. I've seen tons of awesome projects on here and have always been very impressed.

You guys have inspired me to make something for my leopard Geckos. I love the natural look. So I've been trying and trying to come up with some kind of cage design that gives a really cool natural look with the ease of cleaning and day to day care. Of course with every animal there comes a certain degree of specific needs.

leopard geckos must haves for this cage design Idea:
Belly heat.
Heat variant.
moist hide.
little or no loose substrate.
hiding spot.




these pictures show my finished cage sitting on top of carpet.. so please ignore the floor of the cage I will either be adding shelf liner or some other substrate.

I went with a 2 story hiding spot. Most of the hiding spot is made with a PVC pipe. I cut a 2" hole in the base of it for bottom level entry. The second story is achieved with a bowl that fits the PVC just perfect. The bowl is big enough that it won't fall into the tube and a hole is cut in the lid for top level entry. this way I can pull out the bowl to grab the gecko or removed the lid of the bowl and grab them from the bowl. Surrounding this hiding spot I have made a rock cliff of some sorts.

So no loose subrates, natural looking, but very easy to clean. I'll show you step by step how I made it with the next one I'm making.

first I covered the sides of the glass with black silicon where ever the foam would be touching. And then sprayed the GS.

also to make a heat tape probe reach the warm hiding spot without interferring with the bowl I cut a hole in the PVC lower and let a tube (straw) make a tunnel for the probe wire.


then I carved the foam to have more rock shapes.


My next step will be to cover the foam with a very runny layer of finishing cement.

Note: I wish I would have let the GS set longer between layers.. some of the GS on the bottom hasn't cured as it is cut off from air.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks everyone.

This weekend I did two layers of cement for the build. I took pictures and will post them tonight or tomorrow. I like the way it turned out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
First I put a very light layer of cement on all areas that were going to be undercut.



Then I covered all the foam with the rest of the same mix of cement.




I gave that a whole night to dry. with an occasional spritz of water.
then I made a thicker mix of cement.



during this process I added in texture and scratches.
next step will be curing with white vinegar and water.

also after adding a full coat of thicker cement I went back and mixed up a 3rd even thicker batch and added it to some of the rocks to give them more definition. Once it was a little bit dry I took a metal tool and tried to scrape in some edge definition. My next pictures will show my painting process.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hi everyone. lots of steps in the post sorry...

next step for me after all the drying and curing. I trim off the extra silicon.

after


then it was time to paint. I always start with a really runny black and apply with a spongy brush.

then I do the same thing with a redish brown color.

Then I go back with a solid brown. no water mixed in. I try to hit the spots that I know I want to look more like rocks and try to really define what each shape is going to be.

Then I do that same thing with a lighter color of tan. I try to cover the tops for sure and then move down the sides of the rocks but not as thick.

After I use the tan color I move to a highlighting yellow. This is where I try to do more dry brush technique. For those that down know... I dip the brush in, then wipe most of it off and a paper towel. now when you brush the brush across the rocks in a very light but fast fashion it will leave the yellow on only the high spots of the rock.

next I do the same step as the yellow except swap out for white. This time I'm even more careful about brushing on the tops of the rocks and not the sides as much. The white should only be where the rock is more warn down.

And finally I go back with a very runny black again... and a smaller brush and try to difine more of the rock shapes but touching only the cracks and areas that would be in shade. This picture shows it still wet.


here's a final shot of the cage before any animals go into it. Also maybe you'll notice you can't even see the straw that I stuck into it for my probe. The straw has now been camoflaged.
 

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Very nice step by step. You have an "Artists eye" for sure! This will look really great when finished(not that it doesn't already ha)
 

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theCreech, Oh my gosh ! that is a work of art:eek: I've never seen such excellent faux rock work. If you made a video on this process you could easily sell lots of copy's.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Really nice work! I think we need pics of the future inhabitants though:)
Probably Tremper Hybino. She's awesome, weighs in at a wopping 92 grams.




thanks for all the kind words everyone. I think it turned out nice. I just have to let it air out then I'll put the gecko in. I also need to finish it with some sealant.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
The cage shown at the beginning is one I did before I posted pictures for the one i made in the build. I have 5 geckos and currently 2 of them live in one of these things I made. The problem is.. these two have not really been eating, I don't know if it's because the basement is really cold and they have gone into a slow down period, or if something in cages is bothering them. It's got me kind of worried. Also one of them has gone from 49 grams to 45. Everything else these builds has gone perfect. The hot spot on the bottom of the cage sits at a great temperature, and the moist hide gets used just like I wanted.

After my concrete was dry I sprayed it numerous times with white vinegar. After that I did a lots of spray downs with water. I used water based acrylic paints.

Could it be the foam and cement and maybe even the paint is putting out a smell that is effecting the geckos? Or something else?

Maybe I'm being paranoid. I thought that since a leopard gecko skin isn't as permeable as a frogs that I would be ok with my sterylizing process. Not to mention of seen many other sets ups that could be worse.

anyone have any ideas?
 

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Can you put them in another enclosure upstairs temporarily until you can figure out what is going on? I don't know leo's very well - do they adjust to change ok?

What about poisonous acrylic paints? Some contain poisonous pigments. This is not something I've seen mentioned here but I know it from art classes (I used to have a habit of putting the back end of my paintbrush in my mouth and my instructor would scream NO YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!) and when I went to the art store to get some pigments to dye dryloc with for my last build, the gal behind the counter highly suggested non-toxic paint (and I concurred). It's obviously not a huge problem since most people don't even worry about it but because you are using yellow I have concern it was true Cadmium Yellow - Cadmium is acutely poisonous.
 

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Leos are very easy to keep...i would say you keeping them in the cold basement they went into slow phase. Remeber that these lizards are from the hot desserts....if you want them to eat get it hot for them...especially at night
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Leos are very easy to keep...i would say you keeping them in the cold basement they went into slow phase. Remeber that these lizards are from the hot desserts....if you want them to eat get it hot for them...especially at night
I know that I said it was cold in the basement, but I do have a red night light shinning on the cage 24-7 her cage should be about 80 degrees ambient.

I noticed that when I put my head in the cage it doesn't really smell like dirt or gecko.. more like chemical or cement.. but it's an open top so my hope was to air it out. The wierd thing is, eveyone seems to be painting their rocks with acrylic water based paints but I've never anyone else mention a smell.

And yes I could move her back to a different cage for awhile to make sure she's ok. I think I will tonight. The only problem is then she may not eat because of the stress of the move.
 
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