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Old 19-11-2013, 08:44 PM
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Red face New Leopard Gecko Build.

Hi folks,

It's been a while since I've done a build, the last being a couple of custom RUBs I did for my two new babies but I've had this build waiting to be done for quite some time now. I've finally managed to get it started and I thought I'd share the step by step process as this is going to be one of my more complex builds as it also involves work on the vivarium itself as well as the build inside.

It's a new build for my 2 year old leo 'Happy Face'. She's currently in a 2ft vivarium that was my very first custom build. It's still perfectly adequate, if verging on a touch small, but having now done a couple of builds I've come to realise that there are better ways I can utilise the floor space in a vivarium to ensure maximum use of all the space available.

Currently, this is Happy Face's house:


It's a nice little viv, but my inner perfectionist is now not happy with it and I decided to give her a brand new lair.

Several months ago I picked up a homemade viv for a bargain. However, it needed a bit of work on it to make it look nice and tidy. The veneer was chipped in places and there were a few superficial cracks. Things like the vents and runners would also need replacing and the whole thing would require a really good clean. So, I decided that when I began this build, the whole viv would be tidied up as well.

This is how the viv looked to begin with:


I decided that the whole exterior needed sprucing up so I invested in a couple of rolls of sticky back plastic (also known as Fablon) from the range and have started by covering most of the exterior of the panels. Some of the panels such as the lid and small struts will be entirely covered whilst I will be using smaller pieces to tidy the inside of the side panels that will still be visible.


More to come over the next few days!
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 25-11-2013, 07:24 PM
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Just an update.

Started with the interior of the vivarium today after getting some new runners onto the vivarium, replacing some horrible, sticky on things. Had to fight with the suckers, but it's now sporting some smart clip-on runners instead.

So, today I did a couple of things. First was to make a new feeding station for my gecko where she will be able to find her water and her calcium supplement. I picked up a couple of TINY ashtrays from The Range (49p each) and smashed up a slate tile (£2.50 from Wickes) to make a smart little platform. I used aquarium silicone to stick it all together.

TOP TIP! When using silicone, use a wet cotton bud to neaten all your edges after applying it. This lets you mold the silicone whilst it's still wet without pulling it off.


After that, I made a start on the interior build itself. My main objective is to try and keep the ground level as neat and clear as possible. I use Celotex/Kingspan for my 'rocks' and shape them using an electric rotary tool (one with an adjustable speed allows for better control). This lets me shape rocks quite quickly and with considerable detail. However, you DO need to use goggles and a mask for this as by sanding it down generates very fine dust. It's probably not good for you. I use a mixture of adhesive and kebab sticks to secure my rocks, particularly if I've stuck pieces together.


I also made a the basic construction of the main hide. This will be for the warm side and was built to allow for my gecko to move from front to back of the viv whilst completely under cover, should she so wish. The underside was hollowed out to allow for more headroom, whilst keeping entrances fairly small.




The only other thing I did was to make a cover for my heat mat. This was done using a piece of corrugated cardboard glued onto a piece of leftover tile that will match the bottom of the viv. This will hopefully allow for airflow under the mat, keep the gecko off the mat itself and give me a place to glue my probes.

Hopefully more to come tomorrow
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  #3 (permalink)  
Old 26-11-2013, 08:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Recluso View Post
Just an update.

Started with the interior of the vivarium today after getting some new runners onto the vivarium, replacing some horrible, sticky on things. Had to fight with the suckers, but it's now sporting some smart clip-on runners instead.

So, today I did a couple of things. First was to make a new feeding station for my gecko where she will be able to find her water and her calcium supplement. I picked up a couple of TINY ashtrays from The Range (49p each) and smashed up a slate tile (£2.50 from Wickes) to make a smart little platform. I used aquarium silicone to stick it all together.

TOP TIP! When using silicone, use a wet cotton bud to neaten all your edges after applying it. This lets you mold the silicone whilst it's still wet without pulling it off.


After that, I made a start on the interior build itself. My main objective is to try and keep the ground level as neat and clear as possible. I use Celotex/Kingspan for my 'rocks' and shape them using an electric rotary tool (one with an adjustable speed allows for better control). This lets me shape rocks quite quickly and with considerable detail. However, you DO need to use goggles and a mask for this as by sanding it down generates very fine dust. It's probably not good for you. I use a mixture of adhesive and kebab sticks to secure my rocks, particularly if I've stuck pieces together.


I also made a the basic construction of the main hide. This will be for the warm side and was built to allow for my gecko to move from front to back of the viv whilst completely under cover, should she so wish. The underside was hollowed out to allow for more headroom, whilst keeping entrances fairly small.


The only other thing I did was to make a cover for my heat mat. This was done using a piece of corrugated cardboard glued onto a piece of leftover tile that will match the bottom of the viv. This will hopefully allow for airflow under the mat, keep the gecko off the mat itself and give me a place to glue my probes.

Hopefully more to come tomorrow
Wicked thread. I absolutely love what you're creating can't wait to see more.


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Old 26-11-2013, 08:54 PM
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Just another update.

Not done a huge amount but here's another update. Today I was focussing mainly on finishing up the shape of the hot hide level and adding the moist hide area on the top of that. Although it will be heavily camouflaged using the build, I am using a small lunchbox with an entry cut out for the moist hide.


Using expanding foam, I also sank a piece of mopani wood (£1.99 at The Range) into the wall which will act as the cool hide. Although this particular hide cannot be removed, it was hollowed out smoothly to give a surface that could still be cleaned relatively easily. When this was done, I covered the underside of the foam in the cool hide with PVA and sand. This will take a couple of layers to build up a nice firm layer that is also waterproof and aesthetically in keeping with the rest of the build.


I managed to get a couple more pieces of Celotex added onto the walls, but here's a rough idea of how the build will look toward completion with some artificial, grassy plants in there. Although the left side is considerably more built up, the right hand side will be left as open as possible by comparison to help prevent the viv looking cramped.

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Old 26-11-2013, 09:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Recluso View Post
Just another update.

Not done a huge amount but here's another update. Today I was focussing mainly on finishing up the shape of the hot hide level and adding the moist hide area on the top of that. Although it will be heavily camouflaged using the build, I am using a small lunchbox with an entry cut out for the moist hide.


Using expanding foam, I also sank a piece of mopani wood (£1.99 at The Range) into the wall which will act as the cool hide. Although this particular hide cannot be removed, it was hollowed out smoothly to give a surface that could still be cleaned relatively easily. When this was done, I covered the underside of the foam in the cool hide with PVA and sand. This will take a couple of layers to build up a nice firm layer that is also waterproof and aesthetically in keeping with the rest of the build.


I managed to get a couple more pieces of Celotex added onto the walls, but here's a rough idea of how the build will look toward completion with some artificial, grassy plants in there. Although the left side is considerably more built up, the right hand side will be left as open as possible by comparison to help prevent the viv looking cramped.

When you finish if you want feel free to email me a breakdown and some pictures and I will submit to my blog. I'm always trying to get other people involved.


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Old 27-11-2013, 05:49 PM
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Update time!

Today's efforts focused on started building up the wall structure around the hides as well as putting more shape into the cool hide. Although it currently looks like there is a LOT of space between the stone pieces, it is important to remember that a lot of this gap will close up once the pieces have been grouted.

Having shaped the underside of the cool hide with expanding foam, I started applying the layers of PVA and sand. This will take a few layers in order to get the finish I want so it was a good way to fill up time in between shaping/gluing rocks.


I also spent some time starting to fill in the gaps on the hot/moist hide structure. I generally use a cheap tub of ready made filler and add a drop of water where necessary. Ideally, you want a consistency of warm butter, easy to spread but won't drag or tear along the styrofoam.

Top Tip! When applying filler into crevices, consider using a small rubber spatula. The flexibility of the 'blade' really helps with smoothing filler evenly and without big blobs.

Remember that filler can usually be sanded down, so I generally don't get TOO stressed if I have any runaway filler at this point as I will be tidying up any messy bits before I start grouting.


Before I started gluing anything to the sides, I put my hide back in and used a marker to indicate where it would come up to. The important thing was to remember to leave a good space (I left around 1.5cm) more than the actual size as I'm going to lose several mm all round once I grout it all.


And here's how it's looking with the hide in place. As you can see there's some shelves and steps in there now and the walls are starting to be built up. I've used lots of different shapes and sizes of 'stones' which I'm hoping will make it look more natural and not too uniform. I also used a squirt of expanding foam under the ledge on the cool side in order to fill in the gap between the ledge and the hide. This will make for easier grouting down the line.


Hope people are enjoying the updates!! Hopefully there'll be some more tomorrow.
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  #7 (permalink)  
Old 28-11-2013, 10:02 PM
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Update time!

Didn't get a vast amount done today as unfortunately I had other errands to run. However, I did manage to get a good chunk done on the walls, meaning that all I need to do is a few more pieces on the sides as well as redoing the level on the back wall (as I'm now not convinced it won't be too small now I have the wall pieces in place). I also need to use some expanding foam in a few places to fill a couple of gaps in between rocks that have been stuck down (particularly in the upper left corner) as I'm not not sure I'll be able to grout it as efficiently as I would like.

The main task was cutting the foam that would still allow me to accommodate the vents. Although I used bigger pieces for this, I'm happy it still looks reasonable.

Once all the 'stones' are in place, it'll be relatively easy work from then on in. Less dusty for sure!

So here's now it's looking now. As you can see it's taking more shape, something that will hopefully be tied altogether once I start layering up the grout, making those deep crevices disappear.



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Old 29-11-2013, 04:26 PM
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Time for another update!!

Nothing too fancy today as today was more about finishing up the walls and then filling in some of the gaps. As the glue needs a good few hours to dry, I can't start grouting until tomorrow.

I also used some of the pieces of broken slate I had left over to build a small wall that sits in front of the cool hide. This means that the majority of the hide is hidden from view and will hopefully give my gecko a bit more security.


The large shelf on the back needed to be replaced and I used a generous smear of filler under the cool hide to fill in some cracks that had hadn't been filled by the expanding foam.

So this is how it's looking so far:


Hopefully this weekend I'll be able to crack on and start grouting which will start bringing it all together. I hope you're enjoying the build so far!
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Old 27-06-2014, 07:52 AM
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It's been a while since I've updated this but I've been able to crack on and get the build finished so I thought I'd share some pictures of the final stages.

Before putting it into storage for a while when I was unable to immediately work on it, I had covered it in several layers of grout and a base colour of dark brown. This was then built up on using several different colours of paint to build up a rocky effect that had lots of different colours within it.















At this point it was time to add the plants. I'm a huge fan of the vanilla grass spray you can buy from Dunelm. It's about 50p per stem and is fantastic for creating a grassy looking plant. Using a fine drill bit on an adjustable rotary tool, each stem was sunk into the 'rock' before being sealed off with some aquarium silicon. This acted as both an adhesive and also as a means to reseal the hole that was made.



After getting the 'rocks' to a point I was happy with, it was time to focus on the base. As this is for a gecko, I didn't want to use loose substrate but at the same time wanted to use something that complimented the aesthetics of the whole piece. So using a waterproof PVA glue and sand, I was able to create a solid, concrete-like base that was waterproof AND still in keeping with the look of the whole piece.

It took a couple of layers to create a suitably solid base but was also able to use my tools to create some texturing in the sand, hopefully giving a packed sand/clay-like appearance for a bit of interest.



Now that the fun part was over, it was time to get into the more tedious stuff. The wiring. One thing that always annoyed me about the heatmat and stat combos was that you always end up with excess wire just trailing about. This time I was determined to change that and after carefully taping the wires together at the back of the viv (after drilling through, sanding and resealing the hole), they were secured and the flex was shortened on both the mat and the stat. This isn't something I'd recommend unless you're reasonably confident rewiring plugs and stripping wire etc. In this instance, I've been left with two neat, short cables going to into the power with no excess wire trailing about.

After many, many hours and one sliced finger later, it was time to add the feeding station, turn on the power and hit the lights....



Top Tip! At this stage it's not yet safe to add anything. As the heat built up, residual fumes in the PVA were released. After a few hours the smell had significantly dissipated (likely due to being left to dry for several days in the sun before turning on) but if you use the sand/PVA mix, be sure to give it plenty of time to allow fumes to dissipate after turning the viv on.

Fumes aside, at this stage all I needed to do was add the food and water to the feeding station, fill the moss box in the humid hide and let the temperature settle. This took a couple of hours and in this case, by this stage there was little to no aroma in the tank and the temperature on the hot side was sitting comfortably around 34 degrees. All I needed to do was add the occupant.

The only thing you can't see is that this also has blue LED night lighting as well as the day lighting (LED energy bulb).

So there you have it. A rags to riches refurbishment of what was a very basic viv in need of sprucing up to a glammed up home for a leopard gecko complete with 3 hides and still retaining a good chunk of floor space as well as providing ledges at different height to offer climbing opportunities.

All being well, some better pictures of the finished article will be coming up soon
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Old 27-06-2014, 07:15 PM
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Wow......stunning...we'll done
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