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Custom Platforms (DIY)

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Since many commercial basking areas cannot hold adult RES or multiple-medium sized turtles, many keepers will choose to build their own. As with any other basking platform, it is important that they are easy to climb, non-toxic, stable, and have a textured surface. The cost will obviously depend on the materials you choose to use. In most cases, these platforms will cost very little and will require some creativity and effort. A basking area does not need to be complicated, so a simple and straightforward concept usually works best.

Brick, cinderblock and rock formations

It is common for people to pile up rocks/gravel inside their tank to build up a basking area at one end of the tank. This not only requires a large amount of rocks that take away swimming space, but it reduces filter efficiency and makes cleaning more hazardous and intensive. The weight, instability and space consumption makes this a bad choice.

A slightly improved version of this concept is the use of bricks and cinderblocks to provide a solid foundation. These are very heavy and can be stable if assembled correctly but will obstruct and reduce the swimming area. These will put a lot of pressure on the bottoms of glass and acrylic tanks. A safe surface material such as cork bark, slate or ceramic tile is still necessary to provide an incline for easy access and to prevent abrasions on the plastron. Some bricks and cinderblocks contain material the will leech and affect the water quality.

Cork bark, driftwood and grapevine

Basking area Bark and wood can create a natural-looking basking platform of varying shapes and sizes. They are also less abrasive and will provide a unique look. New, unused pieces will release some amount of tannin into the water, altering the color. It is not harmful, but nevertheless should be presoaked as much as possible prior to use.

Cork bark is a popular choice as it is moisture resistant, can be retrofitted and still provides swimming room underneath. A large piece can be trimmed so it is wedged between the sides of your tank. When used with large or multiple turtles, additional support may be required. The less abrasive surface also means they can be used to cover rougher surfaced basking platforms.

Driftwood and grapevine can also be used but might be used in a different manner from cork bark. They may not provide adequate support for most turtles, though that can be addressed with additional effort and support. They can also be used as a decoration inside a larger habitat. They may change water quality and color, although artificial driftwood is available.

Article: Austin's Turtle Page - Building a Driftwood Basking Platform

Fixed and above tank platforms

Basking area A suspended platform near or above the top of the tank is another way to maximize tank space. This is similar to a divided tank but would allow swimming room underneath. As a section near the top portion of the tank is horizontally sealed off, a semi-permanent suspended area is created. However, this area and beneath it will be difficult to clean and access.

Platforms that reside at the top and above the tank are gaining popularity. If a simple design is utilized, they can be built with common materials and are very effective. They preserve the maximum amount of swimming space and offer a semi-private basking area. Another key benefit is its detachability and capability to remain relatively dry. They should be easier to clean and hold multiple turtles.

Above tank basking areas are usually made of wood and have an acrylic or plastic ramp. A textured surface such as reptile cage carpet or a non-slip material (e.g., non-slip cabinet liner) will be needed to provide traction. Stainless steel screws and untreated wood are recommended to avoid any rust or leeched chemicals. A basking heat lamp and any type of security to prevent escape are still required.

Wiki DIY guides available soon.

PVC supported platforms

Basking area A low-cost solution that is highly customizable is building a supporting platform using PVC pipe. PVC pipe and related fittings are widely available and very inexpensive. Nearly any shape can be formed, including a basking area with multiple levels. Water can be used to fill the pipe to weigh it down but a material such as cork bark, slate or ceramic tile still needs to provide the actual ramp and basking area. If constructed properly, a PVC platform will be very stable, durable and easy to disassemble.

Slate and ceramic tile are heavy and should be carefully used when inside the tank. Avoid bumping the glass or any delicate surface when you are setting up or arranging this type of basking area. There are varieties of tile that have a textured surface that would allow your turtle’s plastron to dry. Tile and slate can also be broken and used to create an even more textured area. Smaller pieces of tile can be held together with aquarium safe silicone. Be careful of small, sharp pieces.

Wiki DIY guides available soon.
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This page updated: 2011/01/28 Copyright © 2005-2011 Red Ear Slider. All rights reserved.