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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After spending many years owning dragons and seeing many posts about fake backgrounds I decided to give it a go myself. I was inspired by a viv build by Andy (Hades dragons) and here is the link to that. http://www.reptileforums.co.uk/habitat/169742-fake-rock-enclosure-image-heavy.html

Before I get into it I would like to say thanks to Andy for him answering questions throughout his thread and hopefully my thread will help others into having a go at making their own.

I decided I was going to build the viv from scratch and that this would be a the viv I always wanted no matter what the cost. The viv would be 8ft x 4ft x 3ft to house some of my female dragons.

I started out by building a frame out of rough sawn 3” x 3” timber, as this would give me the strength that was needed due to the size and the fact I wanted to add vivs above it.

Here is a picture of the frame. As you can see it allowed me not to have any support down the middle which will allow the front to be just glass with no loss of structural integrated. The reason its 4 ft high is to enable me to have it just lifted off the floor and too allow for the 6” taken up by the framework. This ensured that the inside dimensions were 8ft x 3ft x 3ft which would allow me the size I needed.



Once the frame was built I moved on to adding 9mm OSB available from B&Q in 8ft x 4ft sheets. These were cut to fit the internal side measurements, which will create a double skin effect.





Now that the main carcass is built it was time to install the polystyrene and ventilation system. I saw this done once before and liked the idea but decided to modify it to suit my needs.

Here you can see the PVC pipe work I used for the inlet and outlet to the ventilation system. This is 1 and half inches in diameter. As you can see in the first pic the pipe comes in to the viv from the left hand side and travels to the top of the viv where it then will travel in the cavity and back into the viv. The reason for this is that I do not want the pipes visible and these can be hidden within the foam work. Also I didn’t want it to just come through the top of the viv, as I would be stacking other vivs on top of the build.




This is where the pipe work travels across through the roof of the viv



This is it entering back into the roof of the viv



The left hand pipe is to be the fresh air feed into the viv, while the right hand pipe will be the exit out of the viv. This starts at the roof travels down the pipe into a sealed box that I created in order to become a chamber for the fan to suck the air out of.





On the other side of this wall a cut out was drilled so that a large hole was created into the chamber that was attached on the inside of the viv. To this a Bathroom extractor fan was reversed and screwed and sealed. This is the fan that would suck out all the hot air once the viv had surpassed the desired temperature. I mounted it this way in order to ensure that should the fan break down for some reason all I would need to do would be remove the outer skin, I would not need to affect the inside of the viv whatsoever and this would mean I would not be disturbing the dragons. I agree with some people that if you regulate the lights with stats as most hobbyists do, then this would act in the opposite way to the dragon’s natural environment, where it is brightest at the hottest part of the day. However, by regulating lights this would plunge the viv into darkness at the hottest part of the day. This fan will be attached to a cool stat set to activate over 85 degrees if the cool zone should get much higher than this. This would then switch on until the cool zone had cooled down to the desired temperature.




Now it was time to start making the fake rock wall. I wanted to create an environment that was very 3D and the polystyrene I used was from Focus and B&Q it is the insulation boards you can buy called space boards



This is a long process for such a large viv and took me nearly 2 months of just carving and gluing foam together. Every single rock was carved separately as I wanted it to look more like a rock face. I’m hoping that when it is painted that it would look very realistic.

I also designed the rock face so that I can still use the whole footprint of the viv, as they would be able to climb on the rocks.



Each rock carved was stuck with no nails to the viv and the rock below, which made the whole thing very strong. I used a bread carving knife to cut the foam. As you can see in the next pic I have left a gap in the rockwork this will be the start of a walkway, which the dragons will be able to use right away around the entire viv. The center of the viv this walkway splits into two layers where this would give access to the upper part of the viv onto the large outcrop and the sand stone pillar.



 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Each piece gets added and they are all different sizes in order to give overhangs



You continue to build the rocks and add them as you go working around the viv changing the way its done and incorporating the pipe work and boxes behind them. It takes some time but as u can see the results is well worth the months of effort.





Once all the foam work was done it was time to turn my attention onto the lighting in order to make it easier to dry out the grout and paint when it came to that part of the build.

The lighting consists of 2 x 60 watt spots at either end, which is located to be shining at the main basking sites. Also an MVB Megaray 260 watt which should give me around 250 – 300 uw/cm2 at a distance of 2ft from the main basking site, and to balance out the lighting there is a 5ft fluorescent fitting with a tropical fish tank tube in this will supply the light colours that are missing with the MVB. Although this will not benefit the dragons whatsoever. I believe that it will help balance the light out and make the colours stand out better within the viv. You will see the lights in the next few pics. These will be the only form of heat as the entire room is heated to 80 degrees.

Next it was time to turn all this foam into rocks and to grout the entire thing with 3 coats of grout. There are many ways to grout and what to buy. Ready made or powder will do, the secret is to water it down a little to be able to apply it with a paintbrush. I bought mine at B&Q and these are the bags I used.



How much you will need will depend on your viv and the size and complexity of the rocks. This viv took 11 bags just to do 3 coats. The good thing is they are only £3 a bag so for £33 it was grouted. Here are some pics of it grouted and also the lights minus the MVB as this bulb is so expensive it will be the last thing to be added encase I break it.





 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
How much you will need will depend on your viv and the size and complexity of the rocks. This viv took 11 bags just to do 3 coats. The good thing is they are only £3 a bag so for £33 it was grouted. Here are some pics of it grouted and also the lights minus the MVB as this bulb is so expensive it will be the last thing to be added encase I break it.







Next came the painting and I did a little research into trying to get these to look sort of real. Hopefully I didn’t do to bad a job.

There are many different methods in which to paint your fake rocks and give them a realistic colour. Including acid burns and adding pigments to your grout, however the method I picked and that is the easiest for the beginner is water based paints. Usually acrylics, however I used just normal emulsions as I intend to seal this paint and no harm can come to my dragons.

The paint must be applied in many layers and the more layers you paint the better your rocks will look. The great thing is that if your not happy with the way it looks you can simply keep painting over it until you are happy and such time as you seal it. Painting a heavy base coat is also a good fundamental method to change the colour of the grout, which would be either white or grey to start with. If you wanted rocks that were red or brown in base colour then this is how you would accomplish that.

Professional quality spray equipment can cost a lot of money so the method I used was to use pressurised spray bottles like the ones below. I bought 4 in order to not have to clean them in between each colour I was able to keep the paint in them should I need it again.



You need to mix acrylics with 3 parts water to 1 part paint and if you use thicker water based paint vary the amount of water so that it flows through the bottles easily. You want to avoid massive blotches of paint and just get a fine mist. If you do get any blotches do not worry just use a sea sponge to dab it off. It will take you a little while to get used to getting a fine mist and a bucket is a must to try your spray before putting it on your rocks.

So you choose your overall base colour, it could be grey red or brown. These are the most common, with my viv I used red and the brown or grey as base colours and you also need too light colours for high lights. To get a good finish you apply layers and you must wait until each coat is fully dry before continuing.

Here I added a few plants to the base coat just to give u an idea how bright it is.





Oh and while I have these red pics I took this time to test the ventilation system actually would work as you can see from the pic it is sucking up the smoke and it would be extracted through the extraction fan out into the room.




Once you start to get many layers of paint on your rocks they should look something like this






I decided after 12 coats of paint that the colour was too light so I then added a coat of grey over the top to tone it down a little. Although it looks a little dark now the time the sand and plants are added and the sky painted in then this will look more natural
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
as there are about 8 or 9 different colours and about 20 different shades going on within the paintwork.





This is the feeding station that I built this will house 3 separate bowls and you wont see all the red when these are installed



I will update you when its finished, this should be by the end of feb. building something this size takes months and is not cheap. i will give u a breakdown and more pics of finished results to give u an idea then.

I hope this helps others to have a go

Tony
 
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
thanks hopefully it will be awesum when its finished... cant wait now as the end is in site. i just need to get paid in order to finish it
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Absolutely stunning. I'm so impressed. I'd love to do that one day. - Need more space though! Your spoilt Beardies, :)
well im hoping they will be and that the MVB will help their colours and behaviour patterns
 

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It's looking suitably awesome already! How much does that thing weight though?! I'm not sure I'd fancy trying to shift that around too much...

I love the ventilation system as well - maybe one day it will become a more mainstream way of controlling MVBs...

The beardies should love all the nooks and crannies in there (as will insects :whistling2:) - because you've gone for such a powerful MVB it should be fine for the beardies to make full use of all the little hidey holes and shaded areas.

Can't wait to see it finished - you've done a top job so far mate!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
thanks andy. if i was feeding insects in this viv then i wouldnt have made it so elloborate. but they only getting their veg in here they will be fed in a different feeding enclosure as i prefer to feed them one by one that way i can keep accurate records of what and who is eating what. also allows me to give high doses of calcium to pregnant females.... so shouldnt cause any issues but i guess time will tell..
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
It's looking suitably awesome already! How much does that thing weight though?! I'm not sure I'd fancy trying to shift that around too much...

I love the ventilation system as well - maybe one day it will become a more mainstream way of controlling MVBs...

The beardies should love all the nooks and crannies in there (as will insects :whistling2:) - because you've gone for such a powerful MVB it should be fine for the beardies to make full use of all the little hidey holes and shaded areas.

Can't wait to see it finished - you've done a top job so far mate!
oh yeah its not that heavy its just the size but 2 guys can lift it to head height if u wanted to move it any distance i guess id need 4 people but considering im a firefighter and work on a watch of 15 guys im sure i could find the help if the need ever arose. lol
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Blimey, very impressive! :2thumb:
thanks ul be able to see the completed thing by end of febuary so keep checking
 

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JESUS!! My first thoughts were HOLY :censor:!!!

You have really got some talent there! Now come and do my other 2 vivs for me when your free! Pleeeeeeaseeee! :flrt:
 

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It's looking fantastic! I greatly look forward to seeing it finished with Beardies in residence.
 

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looking great mate, iv done a similar thing but on a smaller scale and made it removeable for cleaning , are you going to seal it at all , i did mine but it made it shiny wich i didnt think lookeed so good so painted over it again ! i love the ventilation system !

oh may sound a stupid question but what a mvb is it a mercury vapour bulb? like a power sun ?

look forward to the updated pictures!
 

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wow VERY nice! i hope too do something like this one day its the rock part i think id mess up on though lol
 

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massive viv!!: victory: just drop me a pm when your ready to do mine!!!:lol2::lol2::mf_dribble:
 
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