Habitat - Indoor :: Napoleon's DIY ATBA Build Thread

Turtle tank setups and other indoor configurations.

Post Posted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 8:30 pm   Napoleon's DIY ATBA Build Thread

Hello Everyone,

I finally have my new setup finished! I'm going to explain how I did everything for those of your who want some ideas and step by step details on making an out of water basking area.

Lets start with what I bought in order to do this project. I will include prices I paid and where I bought the items. Just a note...I already know many of these items are no longer on sale and I basically spent this summer price shopping everything to get the best deals I could because this is not a cheap setup.

So here we go....

Items I already had:
> 40 gallon breeder tank with hood light (This is the tank I was already using...I plan to upgrade to a 75 gallon tank within a year.)
> 100w Powersun Self-Ballasted Mercury Vapor UVB Lamp ($39.45 Amazon - no shipping cost if you have Amazon Prime)
**This light comes with a 1 year warranty. When you buy the light send in the warranty card right away. They WILL send you a new one if something goes wrong. I bought the light and a few weeks later we had a big storm and our power went out and my light got fried. I had to send my light in the original box with receipt, note specifying the defect & hours used, and original UPC (which was on the original box). I sent everything in and within 2 weeks they had sent me a new one. (I used a regular lightbulb to hold Napoleon over during that time). You can get a replacement as many times as you need within that 1 year. After the year warranty you will have to buy a new one if something happens. THIS IS GREAT! Especially since the bulbs are $40!!
> ZooMed Deep Dome ($15.38 Amazon- no shipping cost if you have Amazon Prime)
> ZooMed AquaSun Aquarium Timer ($23.42 Amazon - no shipping cost if you have Amazon Prime)
> Clear Caulking in sqeeze tube (you can buy this for less than $10.00)
> Pieces of plexiglass to use for the basking area and ramp. Basking area - 17"x8" about 1/4" inch thick. Ramp is 12"x6" (this will probably cost less than $20).

Items I had to buy:
> Fluval FX5 Canister Filter ($239.99 - Big Als Pets)
> Eheim Jager TruTemp Submersible Heater 200w ($20.99 Big Als Pets)
> Fluval Biomax Rings 500g (5 boxes) ($7.99 each Big Als Pets)
**You can use other brands...but this was on sale so I decided to get it. Cheaper does not mean lesser quality. Buy the cheapest.
> Fluval FX5 Fine Filter Polishing Pad (Blue - 3 pack) ($4.09 Big Als Pets)
> Seachem Purigen 100mL (2 boxes) ($8.09 each Big Als Pets)
> Seachem Prime 100mL ($3.89 Big Als Pets)
> API Freshwater Master Test Kit ($16.99 Big Als Pets)
> Filter Media Bag 5”x3” ($0.99 Big Als Pets)
**If you buy all these items together from Big Als you can get free shipping on $75 or more. I bought the filter first then the rest of the items together at a later date.
> Bulk Large Particle Lignite Carbon (1 gallon) ($19.99 + shipping BulkReefSupply)
> 9”x36” Clear Acrylic Plexiglass Sheet ¼” thick (2) ($11.75 each estreetplastics)
> 9”x18” Clear Acrylic Plexiglass Sheet ¼” thick (2) ($6.26 each estreetplastics)
**estreetplastics offers many different sizes of plexiglass which are great for aquariums. The shipping almost costed more than the actual plexiglass but it was still cheaper than buying at Home Depot.
> Lithonia Lighting 4 ft. Replacement Diffuser (Egg Crate) ($12.97 Home Depot)
> Pro Exotics PE1 Infrared Thermometer Temp Gun PXTPE1 ($29.50 with shipping RCGoNow.com)
> Incom Gator Grip 1-Inch by 12-Inch Anti Slip Safety Grit Tape Strip ($10.45 Amazon)

Everything was bought online except the eggcrate.

Now for the good stuff. You will not be able to do this whole project in one day. It took me 3 days over a span of 2 weeks. You will need to wait at least a week for the glue to dry before you can install. I spent a day cutting the plexiglass, day glueing everything together, & a day setting up the filter.

Tools you will need:
Image
Die grinder used to cut the plexiglass and eggcrate.

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2" hole saw used to cut the holes in plexiglass for the filter tubing.

First you will need to cut all your plexiglass according to your tank dimensions. Please actually measure and do not follow this step by step or you will probably end up with the wrong dimensions. The plexiglass comes with brown paper stuck to it. Leave it on so nothing gets ruined during the cutting and gluing process, but DO NOT glue with the brown paper on...peel back the edges for gluing. You will also want to use sandpaper to smooth out any edges you have cut.
> Ramp 12"x6" (you will also want some sort of supports under the ramp so it doesnt bend or move, especially if your turtle is heavy.)
> Basking platform 17"x8"
> (2) 9"x35" pieces
> (2) 9"x16.5" pieces
> (2) 3"x3" squares then cut diagonally to make 4 triangles.
> 2"x16.5" piece that will be a center support.

Image
Cutting the plexiglass

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Cutting the plexiglass

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Center support

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Corner triangles

Now in order to make everything flush across the top, one of the end pieces of plexiglass will need 1/4" cut off the bottom because it will be sitting on top of the basking platform plexiglass. So for my setup I cut one to 8 3/4" x 16.5", but still keeping the other end piece at 9"x16.5".

On both long pieces of plexiglass you will also have to cut out 8" long, 1/4" thick notches so they can sit on top of the basking platform plexiglass.
Image
Notice the notch cut out to the left of the filter tubing.

Also on one of the long pieces you will want to cut out (2) 2" holes (using a hole saw) for your filter tubing to run into your tank. My holes are about 18" apart.
Image
Measuring the clips that hold the filter tubing to cut out the holes.

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Cutting the holes

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Holes cut plus some tools used.

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Holes cut. Also take note of the 8" long notch cut out to the right of the 2nd hole.

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What the cut holes look like finished with filter tubing.

After everything is cut you can start to build your ramp. I glued the basking platform plexiglass to the ramp plexiglass at an angle I thought Napoleon could get up on to it. I used clear caulking. It goes on white but dries clear. Then I added in 4 supports on the back of the ramp to help hold the ramp in place. Leave the ramp sit for a week to let the caulking dry. After the ramp is dried you can place the gator grips on however you would like.

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Ramp with supports.

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Ramp with supports

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Ramp with supports

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Ramp

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More supports on the ramp.

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Finished ramp with gator grips.

Putting together the plexiglass box was somewhat difficult. You will need a big area to place it for drying and some household items to help keep the sides in place. You will also need 1 or 2 more people to help you put this together. It is nearly impossible to do on your own.

Image
Box glued together with items holding up the sides.

While the box and ramp are drying for a week you can cut the egg crate. I cut the egg crate 34.5” x 16.5”.

Image
Eggcrate being cut.

Once the box of plexiglass is mostly dry (after a couple days of drying) you can put in the triangle corner pieces and middle support piece, which will hold up the eggcrate. The triangles and support will also need a couple days to a week to dry before putting any weight on them.

Image
Triangles and support pieces glued in.

Once everything is dry you can make sure your eggcrate fits into the box.

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Eggcrate in box.

You will then want to cut a hole big enough so your basking lamp’s light will not be obstructed by anything. I also cut a hole on the other side of the eggcrate so I could put my hand down into the tank for feeding purposes, moving, & cleaning items.

Image
Eggcrate with basking light cut out.

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Basking lamp with hole cut out.

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Finished product with basking lamp in place and hole cut out for feeding.

Once everything is dry and ready to go, it is time to install your new filter! Please follow the directions on how to setup the filter. They are very specific. But before you start putting it together, you will want to prepare your media.

First rinse everything. Rinse the sponges that come with the filter, 1 blue pad, and all biomax. You will then want to fill one of your media bags full with carbon and rinse that for a few minutes to get all the dust out. Also rinse a bag of purigen. I set up my filter as follows:
Bottom tray: 2 boxes of biomax
Middle tray: 2 boxes of biomax
Top tray: 1 box of biomax, 1 bag of carbon, 1 bag of purigen, blue pad on top of that.

Once your filter is ready to go, you can install your basking platform/ramp and plexiglass box. Do not glue the plexiglass box to the basking platform/ramp so you are able to take everything apart for cleaning purposes. I also put blue cardboard on the back and side of the tank.

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Final product...missing basking lamp.

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Blue cardboard installed.

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Finished!

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The filter is off to the side but I am having a big cabinet built for me that will house the filter under the tank.

Maintenance Schedule:
> Change carbon monthly. Dispose of used carbon.
> Change purigen monthly. Regenerate the bag of purigen you are not using. Every year buy 2 new bags of purigen.
> Blue pads will need rinsed monthly and reuse. Will not need replaced very often...only when it starts to fall apart.
> Sponge in filter rinse monthly and reuse. Will not need replace very often...only when it starts to fall apart
> Biomax rings will need rinsed every so often as well. Probably every 3 months. Do not need replaced. Can be reused.
> Check water temperature and basking area temperatures at least once a week to make sure everything is still working properly.
> Check water's pH, amnonia, nitrite, & nitrate levels once a week with your freshwater master test kit as well.

If anyone has any questions at all, please let me know. I would be happy to share more information on this build. It took alot of time and money but now that it is done...it looks great! I will add more pictures when my cabinet is finished.
Last edited by krysta207 on Wed Sep 12, 2012 9:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.
1 RES:
Napoleon
8 years old

My Build Thread >> http://www.redearslider.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=33326
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krysta207
 
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Post Posted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 8:58 pm   Re: Napoleon's DIY ATBA Build Thread

looks nice man! i always just assumed that plexiglass would be hard to cut, that it would just crack and splinter. My dad has a big circlular saw in his garage, do i need a certain kind of blade to cut plexiglass?
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Post Posted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 9:09 pm   Re: Napoleon's DIY ATBA Build Thread

I like it. Looks like a lot of hard work and it really paid off.

Any ideas on tank decorations? I have the bottom of my tank empty as well (I added a lily pad for basking). I need a bigger tank before I put anything else in but I was curious.
1 RES - A girl named Sheldon
1 feeder fish - affectionately named Fishy - RIP 5/27/12
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Post Posted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 9:18 pm   Re: Napoleon's DIY ATBA Build Thread

Tokapeli I will ask my boyfriend if he used a specific blade and get back to you.


cutepanda86 It really did pay off. I wouldn't have been able to do it without the help of my boyfriend. He did all the plexiglass cutting and helped me setup the filter too. I have no clue what to do for tank decorations. I am kinda stuck on that part. I don't want to go crazy but it definitely needs something because it looks so bare. I think Napoleon would just tear apart live plants so I've stayed away from that.
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Napoleon
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My Build Thread >> http://www.redearslider.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=33326
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Post Posted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 9:19 pm   Re: Napoleon's DIY ATBA Build Thread

If anyone has any ideas for tank decorations...let me know!
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Napoleon
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My Build Thread >> http://www.redearslider.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=33326
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Post Posted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 9:43 pm   Re: Napoleon's DIY ATBA Build Thread

I know what you mean about plants. I'd still leave the bottom clear (no substrate = no cleaning hassle). I know that I've seen some cute stuff at the pets store for fish and I think Sheldon (that's my little guy) would love. Take inspiration from there. ;)
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1 feeder fish - affectionately named Fishy - RIP 5/27/12
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Post Posted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 9:49 pm   Re: Napoleon's DIY ATBA Build Thread

Tokapeli wrote:looks nice man! i always just assumed that plexiglass would be hard to cut, that it would just crack and splinter. My dad has a big circlular saw in his garage, do i need a certain kind of blade to cut plexiglass?


He said that a circular saw would work but might scratch the plexiglass...so you may want to test it out before using it on a huge piece. A table saw would be ok. We actually used a table saw for some of the longer cuts and it worked fine, but you have to go slow or it will chip it. But for most of it we actually used a die grinder. Not quite sure what type of blade it was. Just a standard die grinder blade I think. We used a 2" hole saw to do the cuts for the filter tubing (when exiting the cut, if you push too hard...it will chip the plexiglass so be careful with this too.)
1 RES:
Napoleon
8 years old

My Build Thread >> http://www.redearslider.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=33326
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krysta207
 
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Post Posted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 10:25 pm   Re: Napoleon's DIY ATBA Build Thread

Looks nice, excellent job.

Tokapeli:

For cutting sheet acrylic with a table saw, it's best if you tape the sheet with painters tape and cut through the tape. No shards. You don't want too many teeth on the saw blade as they will heat the material too much during the cut. Too few and you get chips.

The best way to cut sheet acrylic is actually with a router and a guide. Nice clean straight cuts. Same thing with the tape, cut through painters tape.

The grinder with the cut off disc works well for small cuts and if you have a steady hand. For those of us that like to have a 6 pack while we're building stuff in the garage, the router is the easiest and most forgiving option.


The key is always to practice on a scrap piece. Once you figure out the correct feed speed for the tool you're using then you can make some great looking pieces. Don't forget to run a quick torch flame across the cut edges if you're going to weld-on a joint that will be water tight.
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Post Posted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 10:54 pm   Re: Napoleon's DIY ATBA Build Thread

Since you were making all those cuts, why didn't you go right into the corner with the intake? You're going to have a dead spot, as far as currents go, in that corner. Other than that, it looks great. What caulk did you use, not much sticks to plexi for long, most people use weld-on for a permanent bond.
5 inch RES male named Jordtim
Hardware: 75 gallon tank (21"H X 48"W X 18"D), FX5 filter with veipacray media setup, pool filter sand substrat, TurtleSafe halogen heat/UVA lamp and ReptiGlo 5.0 UVB lamp in ZooMed Dual Dome Fixture.
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Post Posted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:19 pm   Re: Napoleon's DIY ATBA Build Thread

Awesome work and thread, thanks for posting this.
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steve
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Post Posted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:27 pm   Re: Napoleon's DIY ATBA Build Thread

PridgNYC wrote:Since you were making all those cuts, why didn't you go right into the corner with the intake? You're going to have a dead spot, as far as currents go, in that corner. Other than that, it looks great. What caulk did you use, not much sticks to plexi for long, most people use weld-on for a permanent bond.


I didn't really think about the current when we were making the cuts for the tubing. I didn't want to put it too close to the basking area for fear of my turtle diving off on that side and injuring himself or getting stuck. When I upgrade the tank to a 75 gallon I will have to redo the plexiglass anyhow so I will remember that for the next go around.

I'm not sure what caulk I used. When I get a chance...I'll try to find it and get back to you. This was the first time I did anything like this and didnt really know what to use for bonding. After looking at weld-on...I probably should have went with that. If things start to fall apart I will use that. I did want to be able to take apart the plexi box for my future upgrade to salvage the end pieces. But for the ramp I think weld-on would have been a better idea. Thanks for the info!



steve...No problem! I was happy to post this for everyone.
1 RES:
Napoleon
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My Build Thread >> http://www.redearslider.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=33326
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krysta207
 
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Post Posted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 1:24 am   Re: Napoleon's DIY ATBA Build Thread

It looks great, for the next build, you will also want your output near the surface, not at the bottom. This serves to break up the surface tension of the water allowing for the exchange of gasses and makes less work for the pump. I compromised and went with the top 2/3rds of the tank and directed the flow toward the surface and along the sides. This gives me room for evaporation, but still keeps the outlets near the surface.
5 inch RES male named Jordtim
Hardware: 75 gallon tank (21"H X 48"W X 18"D), FX5 filter with veipacray media setup, pool filter sand substrat, TurtleSafe halogen heat/UVA lamp and ReptiGlo 5.0 UVB lamp in ZooMed Dual Dome Fixture.
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Post Posted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 9:28 pm   Re: Napoleon's DIY ATBA Build Thread

PridgNYC:

When I set up the tank I did read that the output should be near the top however, the stand the aquarium currently sits on is temporary with the filter to the side. I plan on putting the aquarium on a stand with the filter underneath. For this reason I left the hosing longer than needed for now so I don't have to buy new hosing when I move the tank to the new stand. Thanks for your tips!
1 RES:
Napoleon
8 years old

My Build Thread >> http://www.redearslider.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=33326
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