t.q. gracilior bioactive enclosure build

KRGEE21

Avid Member
I have been following the various threads on everyone's bioactive builds and decided to post a step by step thread on the process on the one I just completed. Any critiques or suggestions on how to improve it, or improve future builds are encouraged.
Step one: If you are modifying a current enclosure have a suitable alternative cage for long term home. I built an outdoor enclosure of similar size to his DS atrium, and used to opportunity to practice building the planter base. If you are doing a completely new build you're ahead of the game.
20190729_135220.jpg


Step 2: Plan your base, drainage, and soil depth. Take height of the room into account and leave enough space for whatever light you are choosing to use. Measure 3 times before you cut to be sure dimensions are where you want them. I built this 1/2-3/4" big and added a lip on the inside of the planter for the cage to sit on. 23-3/4" depth, and 45" wide. The planter itself is framed using 2"x12" lumber, so roughly 11-1/2" of soil/drainage. Completely waterproof the inside with flex seal, or something similar. Allow at least 3-4 days for the flex seal to completely cure if you are putting it on thicker in areas for drainage. Then finish off the exterior of the base to make it look good if you feel the need. I am not 100% happy with my finish carpentry work.


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Step 3: If you are going to be adding living walls build them up at the same time. I chose to only do one wall for a couple reasons. 1. Expense 2. Size...you loose about 4-6" of cage space per side when attaching to the dragon ledges. I used light diffuser panels as the structure. You can get a 2 pack(2'x4') at Lowes for about $20. If using the dragon strand ledges plan on marking out where the ledges are before setting any of the pots, or branches so you aren't trying to attach through them. The great stuff pond and stone works awesome, but you have to use a little bit at a time, so it can cure properly. I set the post first. Then the branch stubs, and then coated the entire thing in phases. If using lightweight pots, or something similar stuff them with newspaper so they don't compress. Some people use little pieces of hose set into the bottom of the pots for drainage. I chose to just keep the bottoms open. Let is cure a couple days, then go back and start shaping the foam. Small hand saw, dremel tool, sanders all will work. For the covering I used a mix of tree fern, peat, and coconut fiber substrate and the silicone to adhere it. Again work in small areas so the silicone doesn't skin over before you get the cover mix into it. Cover the silicone heavily with the mix, and press it in. This will help some of the contours of the foam below show through. After you finish go back and touch up any areas that got missed. Give the silicone at least 6 days to completely gas off. The panel did curl a little bit when curing even though it was left completely flat. Placed some weight where it was curling up and left for a couple days, and it went back to flat.



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Step 4: Move said cham to alternate house, move the base into it's spot and start the bio. Used 1.5-2" of the expanded clay pebbles for drainage. Cover the pebbles with a layer of window screen to hold the soil, and start filling it up. I used mostly the Sunshine #4 mix, and added 1 bag of ABG mix about every three inches.

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Step 5: Set cage, and main branches in place before adding in the plants. Set plants and top off the soil then add your leaf litter, and CUC.

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Step 6: Add the rest of the branches, and vines. Provide multiple pathways throughout the enclosure both vertical and horizontal. Also add any additional potted plants at this time. Get you lighting, and misters set. Ultimately you would want to monitor at this point for a few weeks to make sure temps, and humidity are where you want them. I was up against a time crunch, so only had a week.
Step 7: Add Cham and watch him enjoy new home.

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Thanks for reading...Hope you all have a great day
 

Beman

Chameleon Enthusiast
Ok first off... I am Jelly! So awesome looking. Second where did you get the poster you used behind the cage? And would you be willing to take more pics of the outdoor one for me :) I want to build a 5 foot wide by 2 deep by 4 high for an indoor enclosure for Beman... I would not be going Bio active. But it would be helpful to see how you built the wood frame and added the screening :)
 
Last edited:

AnamCara

Chameleon Enthusiast
I have been following the various threads on everyone's bioactive builds and decided to post a step by step thread on the process on the one I just completed. Any critiques or suggestions on how to improve it, or improve future builds are encouraged.
Step one: If you are modifying a current enclosure have a suitable alternative cage for long term home. I built an outdoor enclosure of similar size to his DS atrium, and used to opportunity to practice building the planter base. If you are doing a completely new build you're ahead of the game.
View attachment 241404

Step 2: Plan your base, drainage, and soil depth. Take height of the room into account and leave enough space for whatever light you are choosing to use. Measure 3 times before you cut to be sure dimensions are where you want them. I built this 1/2-3/4" big and added a lip on the inside of the planter for the cage to sit on. 23-3/4" depth, and 45" wide. The planter itself is framed using 2"x12" lumber, so roughly 11-1/2" of soil/drainage. Completely waterproof the inside with flex seal, or something similar. Allow at least 3-4 days for the flex seal to completely cure if you are putting it on thicker in areas for drainage. Then finish off the exterior of the base to make it look good if you feel the need. I am not 100% happy with my finish carpentry work.


View attachment 241423

View attachment 241424

Step 3: If you are going to be adding living walls build them up at the same time. I chose to only do one wall for a couple reasons. 1. Expense 2. Size...you loose about 4-6" of cage space per side when attaching to the dragon ledges. I used light diffuser panels as the structure. You can get a 2 pack(2'x4') at Lowes for about $20. If using the dragon strand ledges plan on marking out where the ledges are before setting any of the pots, or branches so you aren't trying to attach through them. The great stuff pond and stone works awesome, but you have to use a little bit at a time, so it can cure properly. I set the post first. Then the branch stubs, and then coated the entire thing in phases. If using lightweight pots, or something similar stuff them with newspaper so they don't compress. Some people use little pieces of hose set into the bottom of the pots for drainage. I chose to just keep the bottoms open. Let is cure a couple days, then go back and start shaping the foam. Small hand saw, dremel tool, sanders all will work. For the covering I used a mix of tree fern, peat, and coconut fiber substrate and the silicone to adhere it. Again work in small areas so the silicone doesn't skin over before you get the cover mix into it. Cover the silicone heavily with the mix, and press it in. This will help some of the contours of the foam below show through. After you finish go back and touch up any areas that got missed. Give the silicone at least 6 days to completely gas off. The panel did curl a little bit when curing even though it was left completely flat. Placed some weight where it was curling up and left for a couple days, and it went back to flat.



View attachment 241426



View attachment 241427

View attachment 241429

Step 4: Move said cham to alternate house, move the base into it's spot and start the bio. Used 1.5-2" of the expanded clay pebbles for drainage. Cover the pebbles with a layer of window screen to hold the soil, and start filling it up. I used mostly the Sunshine #4 mix, and added 1 bag of ABG mix about every three inches.

View attachment 241432

View attachment 241433

Step 5: Set cage, and main branches in place before adding in the plants. Set plants and top off the soil then add your leaf litter, and CUC.

View attachment 241435

Step 6: Add the rest of the branches, and vines. Provide multiple pathways throughout the enclosure both vertical and horizontal. Also add any additional potted plants at this time. Get you lighting, and misters set. Ultimately you would want to monitor at this point for a few weeks to make sure temps, and humidity are where you want them. I was up against a time crunch, so only had a week.
Step 7: Add Cham and watch him enjoy new home.

View attachment 241436

Thanks for reading...Hope you all have a great day
SHUT UP THIS IS SO BEAUTIFUL. This is exactly what I want to do. HELL YEAH!
 

KRGEE21

Avid Member
Ok first off... I am Jelly! So awesome looking. Second where did you get the poster you used behind the cage? And would you be willing to take more pics of the outdoor one for me :) I want to build a 5 foot wide by 2 deep by 4 high for an indoor enclosure for Beman... I would not be going Bio active. But it would be helpful to see how you built the wood frame and added the screening :)
Thanks.
Sure...I will take some pics when I get home this afternoon. The posters I got from
https://www.petbackdrops.com

They have all kinds of different scenes, and you can get them custom sized.
 

KRGEE21

Avid Member
Ok first off... I am Jelly! So awesome looking. Second where did you get the poster you used behind the cage? And would you be willing to take more pics of the outdoor one for me :) I want to build a 5 foot wide by 2 deep by 4 high for an indoor enclosure for Beman... I would not be going Bio active. But it would be helpful to see how you built the wood frame and added the screening :)

Here's some more photos of the outdoor cage. I am really into re-purposing where possible, so the side panels and the bottom half of the front are from an old futon frame. I just checked craigslist in my area and there are literally 15 of them for free right now. Some of them already finished/stained. If I was going to do a DIY indoor enclosure with screen walls that's probably what I would used.

I used 1x2's for the rest. The screen is sandwiched in between 2 pieces of "x" lumber, and then walls screwed together. Just make sure to pre-drill the holes before setting the screws otherwise the 1x2's will end up splitting out.
All the wood was sealed with Polyurethane clear spray can.
 

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Beman

Chameleon Enthusiast
Here's some more photos of the outdoor cage. I am really into re-purposing where possible, so the side panels and the bottom half of the front are from an old futon frame. I just checked craigslist in my area and there are literally 15 of them for free right now. Some of them already finished/stained. If I was going to do a DIY indoor enclosure with screen walls that's probably what I would used.

I used 1x2's for the rest. The screen is sandwiched in between 2 pieces of "x" lumber, and then walls screwed together. Just make sure to pre-drill the holes before setting the screws otherwise the 1x2's will end up splitting out.
All the wood was sealed with Polyurethane clear spray can.
Omg thank you so much! that is soooo helpful. Is there a reason for using the screws that have the star head to them?
 

Beman

Chameleon Enthusiast
Yes. They are wood decking screws that will not rust. The bit should come in the box when you purchase.:)
I totally showed my I am a female and I know nothing about what I am about to take on side lol. Thank you I will look into getting those as well. What length are they?
 

cyberlocc

Chameleon Enthusiast
Good job!

You don't really need 2x12s, for future reference. 1x12s would have worked fine :). They would be not as big sticking out, and weighted alot less. Then I don't know how rigid the atrium is, but if it would support the weight you could make a light cover top out of 1x6s too!.
 

cyberlocc

Chameleon Enthusiast
Oh and lumber isn't the actual dimensions. A 1x12 is 3/4 x 11.5 nominal (actual) and a 2x12 is 1.5 x 11.5. so you have 11inches of soil. :p. It's helpful to know that when planning.
 

Beman

Chameleon Enthusiast
Oh and lumber isn't the actual dimensions. A 1x12 is 3/4 x 11.5 nominal (actual) and a 2x12 is 1.5 x 11.5. so you have 11inches of soil. :p. It's helpful to know that when planning.
I hate that lumber is not the exact dimensions. This has messed me up on two other things I have built. Like why???? Why??? lol
 

cyberlocc

Chameleon Enthusiast
I hate that lumber is not the exact dimensions. This has messed me up on two other things I have built. Like why???? Why??? lol

Why is it starts as a 1x12, then they have to shave off wood to make it flat and not bowed and nasty on the nicer woods. This takes off material, and thus gives you that issue. The boards like dimensional lumber, (2x12s) just do it to match all the good wood.
 

KRGEE21

Avid Member
Good job!

You don't really need 2x12s, for future reference. 1x12s would have worked fine :). They would be not as big sticking out, and weighted alot less. Then I don't know how rigid the atrium is, but if it would support the weight you could make a light cover top out of 1x6s too!.

Thanks..
I considered using the 1x12(or 3/4 x 11.5 :)), but wanted the extra stability with the lip I have fastened to the inside for the cage to rest on. Didn't know how much weight it would be carrying, and was worried about the possibility of the screws eventually pulling out. It is a heavy sucker though.
 

KRGEE21

Avid Member
Ok possibly my last question... How many coats of flex seal is that for reference :)

I used 1 thin coat at all the corners/base of the lumber where the plywood is attached, and around the drain. Then 1 thicker coat over the entire thing. Let is cure out, and touched up any small voids. Then used whatever was left in the 1 gallon can to build up the corners to help promote drainage.
 
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