Vivarium and Fake Rock Summer Project – PICTURE HEAVY - Reptile Forums

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Old 23-09-2009, 03:28 PM
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Default Vivarium and Fake Rock Summer Project – PICTURE HEAVY

Well after a hard term at Uni I was looking for anything to distract my attention from revision… Obviously this led me to researching everything about bearded dragons! I read every care sheet, joined a forum and watched numerous videos on Youtube.

My plans were set in motion for a massive summer project of buying a baby beardie, building a new vivarium (which also stemmed into a cabinet) and constructing a fake rock habitat to finish it all off.

I started by drawing up some plans:

The first sketch is of the fake rock background. I saw so many on here and just had to give one a try!

This second sketch is of my actual vivarium and cabinet. The vivarium is4.5x2x2ft and the design for the cabinet altered to allow the fridge and cockroach colony to fit along with some shelving for other bits.

Equipment I used:
No more nails Gun
Straight edge
Set square
Sharp pencils
Craft knife
Band Saw
Belt sander
Sandpaper – Various Grit
Paint Brush
Soldering Iron
Tile cutter
Wood saw – Circle 75mm
Tape measure
Electric drill

Materials I Used:
Chipboard – Used 8 sheets 8 x 2ft
No more nails – 12 tubes
Screws – Large box
Polystyrene – 2 sheets 8 x 4ft
Modelling foam – Small amount for “Hollywood”
Piece of slate
Grout (Tile adhesive)
Paint (Acrylic)
Tiles – 10 ceramic tiles
Vents – Bought from -loobylou211
Runners – 2 x 5ft 6mm
2 x 2ft 6mm
Glass – Found in my Grandmas cellar!
Adhesive handles x 2
Cocktail Sticks
Stainless handles and Hinges

The first stage for me was the vivarium and cabinet. Luckily my dad is a Design Technology teacher so having the space and equipment was priceless along with his advice if he thought I was wrong!!

To save cash I bought the chip board in tongue and groove style. Cost around £6 a sheet. This meant that the first task was to use the router to remove all of the “tongues” Although a long process it gave me a straight edge to work from and gave me a useable sheet.

From here it was just a case of measuring twice cutting once to give me all the pieces. I used no more nails and screws for all the joints, using clamps to make sure it was dead square. I drilled all the screw holes and countersunk the surfaces to avoid any splitting. Made out of 18mm chipboard the whole unit is very stiff which it needed to be to avoid cracking in the grout when being transported.

Here is a picture of the vivarium. The gaps at the back of the viv have all been filled and from the front it looks perfect.

This is when I began to lay my tiles in the floor. Although I plan to have play sand as the substrate eventually this gives me a waterproof base layer just incase. It should also make for easy cleaning. Somehow the tiles fitted across exactly so all that was needed was to cut the back four. I used no more nails to stick them down securely and grouted the gaps as you will see later.

The next task was the cabinet for this to sit on. This was going to be a cabinet purely to house all the stuff needed for Tyrone (Named after the getaway driver from Snatch for all who have seen the film!). This included my recent purchase of 700 Dubia roaches housed in a storage box. I have left ventilation at the back of this section as well as the section containing the mini fridge for his salad.

My original plans were to have 4 doors on the front of this cabinet but once I had seen them held up to it I decided that 2 doors with exposed central shelves looked far better. I used the router tool at this point to create an edge surrounding the door panels. These next pictures show some experimenting with different styles.

I decided on a simple Cream satinwood finish starting with a couple of coats of undercoat. I added a small amount of colour to brighten things up as the pictures later will show…Haha! I also added some simple handles to finish it off.

Now that I had finished the main construction of the project I could move back home and completely cover my parents house in polystyrene!! They didn’t like that!

Building the fake rock really did take much longer than I had expected, I spent a good month individually cutting and sanding pieces and sticking them into the build.
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Old 23-09-2009, 03:28 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: West London
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Fake Rock

I started off with my original idea of having pride rock in one corner being the focal point of the habitat. I decided to use a piece of slate as the base for this basking spot as it will hold the heat far better than the polystyrene. These next few pictures show the background taking shape. I used a craft knife, jigsaw and sandpaper to carve and shape the polystyrene. I found that cocktail sticks were perfect for holding the structure together before permanently gluing it with the no more nails…

At this stage I brought the vivarium home and started to build it permanently into it. As you will see I used a wood saw to cut holes for the vents. I allowed for 6 vents but can always block them up of the temperature gradient is not right. I figured it is better to have too many than too few.

By this point the build was really starting to take shape!! Another one of my original ideas was to include some other ‘landmarks’. My next idea is purely ornamental. I used a sharp craft knife and a metal ruler.

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Old 23-09-2009, 03:29 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2009
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Once I had perfected my rock landscape, filled any holes and left it to dry for a couple of days it was time for grouting. I used some pre mixed grout that my dad had left over in the garage. I watered some down and applied 3 even coats using a stiff paintbrush. At this stage really make sure you get into every nook and cranny! This soon started to transform the look and with a light sanding after the 3rd coat gave it a windswept canyon look that I was after. I finished the grouting with a thicker layer to some of the high traffic areas to make it extra hardwearing. I have made it so that the pride rock and the shelf on the other side are removable. This will help with cleaning and made the LED lighting more accessible if something was to go wrong. Here are some shots after the grouting. I put the lid on loosely to see how it looked.

Lighting and Equipment

For the temporary viv Tyrone had a 30” Arcadia 12% tube with a 60W spot both with reflectors. He was kept on newspaper for easy cleaning and to prevent possible impaction. I am using a dual probe thermometer to measure both the cool and the hot end. I had the spot running through a Habistat dimmer stat.

With the new viv 2ft tall I was instantly met with the problem of UV. From a tube, to get sufficient levels Tyrone would have to be 6-8 inches from it. For this to happen I would have had to suspend the tube in the middle of the viv and I thought this could ruin the whole effect. I was reading through FireDragon build and noticed he used a Megaray bulb. I looked into it and found that a self ballasted 120w Magaray could provide useable UV at 12-18” which would be perfect. This would be mounted toward the hot end – Pride rock. As well as this I have a spot bulb to provide the extra heat at the basking spot running through the dimming thermostat.

I have also included an Arcadia natural sun tube to provide extra light into the vivarium. This is 36” long and is run using an Arcadia starter.

The final lighting I have is the LED’s. They are red and come on at night lighting up the two caves and HOLLYWOOD.

For the lighting sequence i was inspired by HadesDragons. All the lighting is running off 3 digital timers. At 7am the 40w spot comes on to provide enough light to wake Tyrone, at 7.30 the 40w turns off and the MVB and the sunlight tube come on. These produce temps of around 115 on the very tip of pride rock and 105 directly beneath the bulb with the cool end being 75-77. At 7pm the MVB and tube turn off and are replaced by the 40w spot to provide some gentle evening heat. At 9pm the spot turns off and the LED’s come on until 11pm.


For the painting I used acrylic paints and started with 4 coats of base colour to make sure the grout was all fully sealed beneath. After this the layers were built up to create a more natural look with plenty of different shades coming through.

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Old 23-09-2009, 03:30 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: West London
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Well that’s my project done, just thought that I would share my process with you guys and may be inspire some of you to give it a go! It wasn’t that hard, just time consuming and I’m really happy with the results. Here are some pictures of the finished viv and of Tyrone. I bought him from Fletcher off here and he is superb. As you can see he has grown up fast. He started out in a 3ft setup that I put together while I was building this.

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Old 23-09-2009, 03:54 PM
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 28

That is actually awesome!

Hat off to you, I could never make something like that!
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Old 23-09-2009, 04:05 PM
judy's Avatar
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Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 1,053

Wow wow wow wow. thats the best iv seen!!
im in the process of getting all the bits together to start my fake rock build. you make it look so easy!
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Old 23-09-2009, 04:40 PM
markmark.123's Avatar
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Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: durham
Posts: 319

that is spot on mate where did ya get the led's from and how did ya put them in i want some for my to vivs
amel corn
loonitic staffy
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Old 23-09-2009, 05:06 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: sunny balloch
Posts: 165

absolutely stuning mate, superb job.
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Old 23-09-2009, 06:11 PM
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: southampton, hampshire
Posts: 12
Talking quality viv

that viv is quality
how much in total did it cost u?
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Old 23-09-2009, 07:14 PM
lil_jo84's Avatar
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Glasgow, Scotland
Posts: 293

that is amazing... fancy doing me one?

Can I just ask what you do at uni cos I think you may be wasting your time with skills like that lol
1.1.0 Royal python
2.1.0 Corn snake
1.0.0 Bearded dragon
1.1.0 African Pygmy Hedgehog
2.5.0 Leopard geckos
0.0.19 Tropical fish
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