Newbie Preparing Enclosure

Discussion in 'Newbies forum' started by Sinnikal, Mar 10, 2019.

  1. Sinnikal

    Sinnikal New Member

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    Hi All,

    I am in the process of planning a conversion of an old corner TV unit for a Stimson python and am looking for some clarification on a few things.

    The enclosure has a floor area of about 0.5 sq. m and a max volume around 0.3 cubic m.

    Enclosure plan.jpg

    Enclosure mod.jpg

    What would be the minimum age need to be to be able to be placed in this enclosure?

    I will be using a heat cord/tile setup on the floor. Any ideas on the size this tile would need to be? Wattage of the heat cord?

    I read elsewhere that in colder climes a heat lamp should be used (Vic. northern country here). Given the winters here can potentially hit the -ve's, any idea of what sort of heat lamp would be suitable (the room where this enclosure will be located is in a colder part of the house and has the potential to drop into the low teens, particularly at night)?

    For ventilation I am planning to have two inlets and one exhaust. Should placement of a vent over the heating tile be avoided?

    From an aesthetic point of view has anyone had experience with the LED lighting fixtures available?

    Looking forward to your responses.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2019
  2. Sdaji

    Sdaji Almost Legendary

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    The minimum is zero. However, you'll probably be best off waiting until it's a few months old, established feeding and putting on some size. It depends on various factors including how you set it up, your experience level, and the individual snake.

    Depends how you set it up, your creativity comes into play here. If it's just for a single enclosure and the entire thing will be used in it, I'd go for a fair small/low wattage heat cord.

    Your life will be easier if you don't use a heat lamp. Antaresia are nocturnal pythons which don't naturally bask. You may have issues with cold temperatures but a heat lamp isn't the issue for Antaresia. You don't want to use a lamp at night (when the temperature is coldest), and a heat cord/mat is going to do a much better job. Presumably your indoor temperatures aren't anywhere near zero degrees. Heat lamps are great (sometimes essential) for diurnal reptiles which naturally do bask, but Antaresia are not such animals.

    For a large enclosure in a cold climate you may not want too much ventilation. Yes, it's probably best to have the ventilation away from the hot area.
     
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  3. Sinnikal

    Sinnikal New Member

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    Thanks for the prompt reply. It helps a lot.

    This will be my first , so the experience level is Beginner. I was thinking something up to two yrs old would be a good start.

    I expect to be able to use the whole heat cord in a single enclosure. Will have a look at stuff around 7 - 15 watts.

    Very happy to hear about the lamp requirements. Not having to include this will make things easier.

    I read an interesting article on reptile lighting and am keen to investigate the use of LED lighting a bit more, although it's probably more a 'nice to have' than a 'need to have'. I have been looking at the Reptisun products and the 14" unit would fit nicely, however manual operation is required for the different setups.

    Thanks again for the response.
     
  4. Bluetongue1

    Bluetongue1 APS Veteran APS Veteran

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    +1 @Sdaji – very sound advice.

    A heat tile using a heat cord is definitely spot on - safe, effective and highly efficient. I’ll post some info once I locate it. Just run it 24/7 and adjust the heat cord the room gets too cold. I’ll post the info once I locate it. There should be no need for supplementary heating.

    Ventilation and why it is needed is generally not well understood. Given the atmosphere is 20% Oxygen and 0.03% Carbon Dioxide, and that reptilian breathing rates are very low, the need is not for fresh air for breathing. What is important is limiting humidity build up. This tends to result from an open water bowl in an enclosed, warmed environment. A single, moderate sized grate as a vent is therefore more than adequate.

    One can also make use of a convection current if one wants to actively draw air through the entire enclosure. The down side of this is loss of heat, so keep the vents small e.g. round cupboard vents. Given a ground level heat source, placed say in the far right, back corner, the bottom intake vent would be put diagonally opposite on the other side. The outlet vent would be located directly above this and close to the ceiling. As air above the heat source warms, it rises vertically. This draws in cooler air across the enclosure, from the inlet vent, to replace it. Once the warmed air hits the ceiling it will spread out, and move across the ceiling to the outlet vent.
    Note: That for semi-arboreal pythons one would place the outlet vent further down from the ceiling so that a layer of warmed air can accumulated at the top of the enclosure. This would have branches or shelves located there for the snakes to rest on.
     
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  5. Sinnikal

    Sinnikal New Member

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    Thanks for the feedback. I was considering ventilation from a circulation point of view but had not considered humidity control. Given this info I am considering having a couple of 40mm round vents across the front and a single grate vent as the exhaust in the back panel probably equal to, or slightly higher than, the lighting unit. I'm thinking of running the heat tile across the back and along one side, creating a cooler zone towards the front opposite side.

    Having looked at some of the heat cords I'm thinking a 3 metre (effective heat) cord @ 25-30 watts.

    Still investigating the LED options. Have found some potential DIY options which provide some flexibility. Just gotta justify the cost. The other thing to consider is the amount of heat generated by such LED lighting units, hence placing the exhaust just above the lighting unit.
     
  6. Sdaji

    Sdaji Almost Legendary

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    You'll get better results if you concentrate the heating in one area rather than spreading it out. Think more like back left corner rather than 'across the whole back and one of the sides'. It generally works best if the animal has the opportunity to get warm but has to work to do so rather than having to work hard to escape the heat, and on hot days it's dangerous. The vast majority of captive snakes these days only have a very small area of heating right at one end of the enclosure (the majority of captive snakes are in racks these days incidentally - opinions are divided on racks, but the results speak for themselves in terms of how healthy and successful snakes kept in them are). You'll extremely rarely kill or significantly harm a snake through cold, but plenty of snakes die or get permanent damage from overheating.

    Temperature is your main focus as a reptile keeper, but humidity is important and often overlooked. People generally either completely forget about the concept or they obsess over it without understanding it. You generally want higher humidity than normal household humidity (unless you're living in north QLD or something), which is pretty easy to provide. Many people use too much ventilation, which can easily dry an enclosure since enclosures have heat sources in them (stick a heat source in an enclosed space with ventilation and you basically have a dehumidifier!). The three main ways to increase the humidity are to have a larger water bowl, place the water bowl over the heat source (I would almost never suggest this other than for short periods) or to have less ventilation. You can also manually spray the enclosure with water, which is extremely time consuming, very inaccurate and prone to problems, and surprisingly popular because pet keepers love to choose the option which requires the most work for the least benefit (an interesting phenomenon). As Bluetongue said, reptiles have very low respiration rates and as far as them consuming oxygen goes you don't actually need any ventilation at all unless your enclosure is literally air tight and you don't plan on opening the enclosure for a few years, but the snake is going to take a crap once in a while and for various other reasons you need at least some. Too much ventilation is a common problem for snakes like topical pythons kept in temperate climates, although for diurnal desert species (most monitors, Bearded Dragons and many others) you can't have too much.

    Lighting is aesthetic only, I personally wouldn't use it for Antaresia, but if it makes you happy that's your thing. It sounded like you were going to install it on a wall though? Maybe I misunderstood you, but if you're going to use lighting, stick it on the cage ceiling. After working with Antaresia for 25 years, the first and last time I installed lighting in an Antaresia cage was the very first cage I ever made for them, and after a short time I stopped using the light (though I kept using the same enclosure with the unused light fitting for over 10 years... worst design of any reptile enclosure I've ever made!).
     
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  7. Sinnikal

    Sinnikal New Member

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    WRT the heat tile I was considering a relatively large tile with a specific hot spot for the cord (i.e. cord under 1/3 of the tile with the rest of the tile providing a heat gradient? Would the thermal properties of a tile allow this to occur?). This would result with the hot spot at the back of the unit as you are suggesting.

    I try not to be one of these people, although I plead guilty to overcomplicating things at times, which is why I'm sorting these concerns out prior to any construction or purchases occurring (age and wisdom can be wonderful things, although you tend not to have one without the other!).

    The lighting is purely for aesthetic reasons and I am looking at suspending it from the top of the enclosure. I am looking at a DIY setup as this will allow for a controller to simulate the day/night light cycle - more so for the audience than for the pet. Still haven't made any firm decision on this though, and no doubt there are simpler solutions. This enclosure will be located in a room in the centre of our house so there is little natural light available, and I would like it to be a focal point.

    Thanks again everyone for the feedback. Appreciated.
     
  8. Sdaji

    Sdaji Almost Legendary

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    Difficult to comment with nothing more than 'relatively large tile' etc to go on. If it's how I'm imagining it, yep, it seems really good, but I may just be imagining it how I would do it if I was to set it up in that unit with a tile, rather than however you're going to do it.

    Haha, age is inevitable, but I find that while within individual people wisdom generally increase with age, some people rapidly accumulate it starting early, and others never really get anywhere. I find it amusing when old people claim to be wise because they're old, despite clearly never having developed more wisdom than an average teenager. Other than wasting time and effort which reduces what's available for other things, overcomplicating things isn't necessarily bad, but I was saying doing things manually is bad no because it's complicated, but because it's extremely unreliable (unless taking care of the snake is your main priority in life and your life is dull and without interruption, in which case you should probably be putting more focus on changing your life to make it more full).

    I appreciate your endeavour there, but it's not something I have experience with so I'm of no help on that one. It's about 25 years since I tried to make snake enclosures look pretty, but just recently my Chondros unexpectedly inspired me to find the idea appealing. I even bought some fake plants for decorations and am starting to grow live ones to prepare! I was quite shocked that such things were possible! (for many people it's normal, but it's just so extremely out of character for me). I'd like to see your lights when you get them done... I may even borrow some ideas for my Chondro enclosures.
     
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  9. Bluetongue1

    Bluetongue1 APS Veteran APS Veteran

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    Folloing is the info promised. I'll add some other comments re: your heating and lighting ideas after

    DIY Adjustable Heat Tile
    A heat tile can be made by placing a heat cord under a slate or ceramic tile. Heat cords give out a gentle, continuous heat and used correctly are safe, effective and particularly cost efficient. Slate and ceramic materials conduct heat and so will disperse it evenly through the tile. They also absorb a fair amount of heat for each degree rise in temperature. This means a cold reptile lying on a warmed up tile can absorb a significant amount of heat for only a small drop in the tile temperature and won’t create a cool spot.

    A piece of grooved MDF, about twice the thickness of the cord (say 16mm) can be used as a base to hold the cord in place and reduce heat being lost downwards. This can be non-permanently held in place using a couple of screws, or some thin wooden edging attached to the base, into which the tile can be dropped. The temperature of the tile can be adjusted by altering how much of the cord’s heating element is placed underneath the tile. To enable this, start 1cm in from one side and saw parallel grooves at 2cm intervals across the entire base. Then cut 4 or 5 similar grooves t right angles, starting 1cm in at both ends. Cut the grooves as deep as the thickness of the cord, and wide enough to allow bending around corners without damage to the cord. A small hole in the back corner is all that is needed to thread the heat cord into the enclosure. The tile-wood sandwich is then assembled inside the enclosure. Dismantling is just as easy.

    The full heating element of a 15W heat cord under a 30cm square slate or ceramic tile will attain a stable surface temperature around 35 degrees C at a room temp of 25. To reduce this temp, simple re-route the cord further in from the end or ends and let part of the heating element take the place of the power supply section of the cord outside the enclosure. Adjust to desired temp via trial and error. Done properly and with temperature checks, particularly during hot weather, you don’t need a thermostat.

    You can also experiment with larger tiles and cords. Before making up a base for these, the temps produced can be closely estimated by temporarily sticking the cord to the tile and placing this it on a wood surface. Allow sufficient time to ensure the tile temperature has stabilised, say 2 to 3 hours, and measure the surface temp of the tile.

    Note: All wooden parts used need to be fully sealed to ensure they are water-proof.
    --- Automatic Post Merged, Mar 13, 2019, Original Post Date: Mar 13, 2019 ---
    You show a desire to understand and this being the Newbies Forum I will give you the background info to allow you to do that.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019 at 9:49 AM
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  10. Sinnikal

    Sinnikal New Member

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    Thanks guys, very helpful.

    Looking at a 60 x 60cm floor tile shaped to the back and left side with a section at the back sitting on a heat cord. This will allow an extra 30 cm or so along the left side as a (potential) heat gradient.

    This is really helpful and good to know. Means I can go back and revisit a 1.5m (effective) 15w cord set up in a 20 x 20cm space under the tile.

    Science works for me. I always enjoy the technical knowledge behind such things.

    Happy to share if my plans come to fruition. The joy about LED lighting is the ability to tune the colour temperatures. Basically set up several channels (each with different temperatures) and program them to simulate a 24 hr cycle, including nocturnal lighting. The down side is that it tends to cost a fair bit more when DIY'ing this sort of stuff.

    Thanks again.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019
  11. Bluetongue1

    Bluetongue1 APS Veteran APS Veteran

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    I forgot about double posts being melded, so I have moved the second post to here…

    The first thing you need to understand is thermoregulation. To begin with, in simple terms body chemistry is temperature dependent. With increasing cold, body chemistry slows down or stops. It speeds up with heat. However, if it gets too hot, then the chemicals involved break down and body chemistry ceases permanently. There is an optimal temperature range for each animal.

    Birds and mammals use food to release the heat required to permanently maintain their bodies at optimal temperature. As a result, they have developed very limited tolerance for temperatures outside of this. In contrast, reptiles and the rest derive nearly all their body heat from the outside environment. Only a very small amount is contributed from breaking down food for movement, growth and other body chemistry. Asa result, Mammals and birds are called endotherms while retiles etc. are called ectotherms - endo means inside; ecto means outside; and therm means heat.

    Preferred body temperature (PBT) of most pythons is around 29 degrees. They are ‘hardwired’ by Mother Nature to go somewhere they can heat themselves up to preferably around 32 or 33 degrees, before setting off on their activities or just settling for a cool to cold night in a secure place. Their body temperature may drop to as low 20, or even a little less, in the process. So they then repeat the warming up process. This ability to warm up and cool down so that they can spend most of their time in, or near their PBT, needs to be replicated for them in captivity. This is achieved by providing a thermal gradient within the enclosure. In practical terms this means a warm end at 35 to 32 degrees and a cool end at 20 to 25 degrees. Provision of several hides will allow the snake to choose its desired environmental temperature to regulate its body temperature – VERY IMPORTANT.

    You need to know about the heat conductivity and specific heat of any tile material you intend to use. You need reasonable heat conductivity. to both avoid hot spots developing on the tile surface and to allow uptake of heat stored in the tile by a cold reptilian body plonked on top of it. A medium to high specific heat determines the amount of heat the tile can store, which then becomes available to a reptile in contact with that tile (allowing it to warm to its desired temperature a lot more quickly).
    --- Automatic Post Merged, Mar 14, 2019 at 10:05 AM, Original Post Date: Mar 14, 2019 at 9:47 AM ---
    Increasing the area of the base being heated, and decreasing the distance between warmed 'end' and cool 'end', will both reduce the potential temperature gradient. In a relatively small enclosure this is undesireable and may affect the snske'd sbility to thermoregulate properly.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019 at 11:40 AM
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  12. Sinnikal

    Sinnikal New Member

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    Yeah, I started playing around with some scale diagrams to understand how much room could be potentially taken up with a tile per my original plan. Thinking things might be modified to provide a bit more balance to the space. Basically I am looking at locating the tile in the rear-left and have the heat gradient cooling towards the front-right. I guess where I'm hung up a bit is knowing the size of heat tile required for an adult snake. 30cm sq. seems to pop up a lot so planning around something equating to this size, although something a bit narrower and longer would be more suitable in the space available, hence the idea of shaping it around the back and side and using the additional length down the side to provide a gradient on the tile itself.
     
  13. Bluetongue1

    Bluetongue1 APS Veteran APS Veteran

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    Planning with scale diagrams is an excellent way to go. Using coloured paper, cut to scale and shape of potential elements, is something I have found useful for deciding on arrangement.

    The temperature gradient in a tile worries me. If you do achieve this, the snake may end up camped in the one spot all the time and get very little exercise. It is best if the snake has to move to warm up or cool down. Having one discrete basking spot above PBT, and locating the hide near the cool end, will help facilitate this behaviour.

    With respect to the required tile area for an adult snake, here are some rough figures to think about… The average Stimson’s will attain 1m in length and be about 3cm wide at mid-body. Ignoring tapering, this works out to 300cm2 area. Clearly the snake will be smaller than this, even allowing for flattening out. A 30cm by 30cm tile has an area of 900cm2. 3+ full sized Stimson’s could fit in that area. The shape of the heating tile does not have to be square. The area is what needs to be considered. Bear in mind that once you acquire a heat cord, you can easily trial different arrangements, as already described.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019 at 11:03 AM
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  14. Sinnikal

    Sinnikal New Member

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    Thanks for that info. Understanding the sizes really helps. Didn't think much about movement off the tile. That's a good point to remember.

    Looking at the plans I'm thinking the tile will take up the left side only, (hopefully) allowing a gradient to the front-right. As you say, having a scale plan certainly helps.

    Thanks again.
     
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