Habitat - Indoor :: Help with above tank basking area

Turtle tank setups and other indoor configurations.

Post Posted: Mon Oct 11, 2021 11:11 am   Help with above tank basking area

Hello, I'm planning out an above tank basking area for my 40 gallon breeder tank (36x18x17), and I want to use a 20 gallon long tank (30x13x13) with the bottom removed as the basking enclosure. I figured I would put egg crate over nearly the entire the top of the 40 gallon tank and rest 3 corners of the 20 gallon tank on the edges of the 40 gallon tank, and the 4th corner will rest on the egg crate. The issue is that the egg crate over an 18" span tends to sag with any weight on it, so I'm looking at ways to reinforce it. Structurally it seems like it would be perfect to just glue some angle steel like this to the edge of the egg crate, but I'm assuming that isn't safe to have right over the aquarium water. Could I paint or coat the metal with something to make it safe, or is there a sturdy plastic or something else that's safe that I can use to support the egg crate? I'm hoping I'm not the first person to come across this issue.
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Post Posted: Mon Oct 11, 2021 2:40 pm   Re: Help with above tank basking area

I'm not sure if I would go the steel route, though there are probably various things you can use to seal it like polyurethane or Plastidip. Couple other things to consider is metal eggcrate, or wire shelving that has been trimmed to fit the rim of the tank.

Another thing to consider is to just get pieces of acrylic cut to your specifications. Removing the bottom of an aquarium is a pretty risky job and might not be worth the effort.
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Post Posted: Tue Oct 12, 2021 1:15 am   Re: Help with above tank basking area

steve wrote:Another thing to consider is to just get pieces of acrylic cut to your specifications. Removing the bottom of an aquarium is a pretty risky job and might not be worth the effort.

Too late! The tank I wanted was on sale at Petco for $25 so I already bought it and removed the bottom. I cut myself up a bit trying to get the silicone out and pull the bottom sheet off intact, but ultimately once I cracked it and gave up on not trying to keep it in one piece it wasn't too big of a deal.

Looking at the setup more I'm leaning towards forgoing the egg crate entirely. All I need is something to span the 18 inch depth of the 40 gallon tank that I can rest that 4th corner of the 20 gallon tank on. If Plastidip is safe for aquariums that seems like a good way to go, it won't actually be under water, but I don't want it to rust or corrode from vapor and from being splashed.
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Post Posted: Wed Oct 13, 2021 11:30 am   Re: Help with above tank basking area

Are you still going to use angle steel?
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Post Posted: Wed Oct 13, 2021 6:30 pm   Re: Help with above tank basking area

Yeah I can't find anything else that will support the weight of the 20 gal aquarium. I went ahead and cut two rails out of some angle steel and they're outside right now in plasti-dip drying. I'll take a picture when they're fully cured and I can assemble the whole thing.
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Post Posted: Wed Oct 13, 2021 8:12 pm   Re: Help with above tank basking area

When the metal rim on my tank developed a lot of rust, I wrapped that part with some aluminum foil tape until I could clean it up and repaint. Just something to consider if it becomes necessary.
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Post Posted: Wed Oct 27, 2021 12:39 pm   Re: Help with above tank basking area

Here we go, Here are the rails positioned and glued to the top of the bottom tank with silicone:
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I cut and bent over the ends of the angle steel to create bumpers both to keep the rails on the bottom tank and keep the top tank on the rails:
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Here's the full assembly:
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The ramp is an untreated 2x6 cut to size and zip tied to the ceramic tile base:
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My guys like to climb so ultimately I'd like to build up a stable rock formation for them to climb around on:
Image
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Post Posted: Wed Oct 27, 2021 11:39 pm   Re: Help with above tank basking area

Very nice work! Looks like he really enjoys it. My male RES is also pretty inquisitive and loves to roam and explore. Wood in the water probably won't last long though, you should look at alternatives.
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Post Posted: Thu Oct 28, 2021 5:12 pm   Re: Help with above tank basking area

Yeah it will be interesting seeing what happens with the wood ramp. I had an egg crate ramp at first and the turtles used it but I hated how it looked and sounded so I tried to find some cork bark that would work but everything I can find around here is too rounded to use as a ramp so I came up with this kind of drawbridge style ramp that I like.

I added a moss carpet to the basking area to make it look more natural. Here's Franklin hanging out on his rock, he seems pretty happy with himself.
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Post Posted: Thu Oct 28, 2021 7:24 pm   Re: Help with above tank basking area

I think they sell stone looking tiles that go in the background that might be suitable. I also recall some wrapping reptile carpeting around ramps for traction/looks.
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Post Posted: Mon Nov 08, 2021 5:18 pm   Re: Help with above tank basking area

I started experimenting with building styrofoam rock structures and covering them with tile grout and it's working out pretty well, this one is only half finished but I'm really happy with how it's turning out.
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Franklin seems to love it, he climbed right up and started basking like he's never basked before, even went down the slide a few times in a row, but Norman wants nothing to do with any of it.

Anyway, styrofoam floats really well, even with rocks glued to it and covered in grout, so I'm going to try to make a stone-style ramp out of styrofoam and see how well the grout holds up to their claws. If I get really good at carving styrofoam, maybe I can even make one that looks like wood and paint it with brown drylok or something .
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Post Posted: Mon Nov 08, 2021 10:20 pm   Re: Help with above tank basking area

Looks great! The first pic gave me a big smile. If you do make another, feel free to document it. I'd love to see it and I'm sure it would inspire a few others.
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Post Posted: Tue Nov 09, 2021 4:35 pm   Re: Help with above tank basking area

Yeah I should have taken more pictures during the construction process, next time I'll take more. I do have a couple though. I got this idea from bearded dragon forums, but I've seen people making aquarium backgrounds using the same method as well. I bought a sheet of 1" thick "Foamular" rigid foam insulation and a 25 pound bag of sanded grout in "Delorean Gray." I cut sections of foam into layers with each layer being a step for the turtles to climb up to an eventual flat peak, and used a utility knife to cut a slide from the peak down into the water.

I stabbed grill skewers through the layers of foam to keep everything in place, cut the ends off the skewers so nothing was poking out, and put it in the basking area to let the turtles walk around on it for a couple days, making adjustments where needed
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I added the cave area because initially the turtles didn't have room to turn around next to the rock formation. I ended up making several adjustments based on watching them interact with it including ultimately scrapping one of the layers because it seemed uncomfortably tall once Franklin was up on top of it.

After making sure it was ergonomic enough for them, I rounded all the edges and carved details like cracks and other imperfections, and glued all the layers together with Gorilla wood glue. I used a lighter to melt all the flat surfaces of the rock formation to make them more uneven, then proceeded to glue a bunch of rocks to the structure, including covering the entire surface of the slide with the flattest rocks I could find.
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Once all that dried, I started working with the grout. I thought I got the best results by mixing the grout very thin to where it would easily flow in between all the rocks on the slide surface, cover all flat surfaces and fill in all cracks, applying it with a plastic picnic spoon, using the spoon to guide it where it needs to go on flat surfaces.

The project cost about $40, but I still have 3/4 of the foam and grout left so I could make all kinds of other stuff for the basking area or even in the main tank.
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Post Posted: Wed Nov 10, 2021 5:46 am   Re: Help with above tank basking area

Thanks for the write-up! Lot of ingenious ideas in there. Did you use sanded grout? And what did you use to round off the foam?
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Post Posted: Wed Nov 10, 2021 8:37 pm   Re: Help with above tank basking area

Yep I used sanded grout, apparently it makes the surface more rough. All cutting of the foam was done with box cutter/utility blades. The blades don't stick out of the handle as far as I would have liked so eventually I ended up just using the bare blades to carve up the foam, which I do not recommend because it's very hard on your hands. Before I start another one I'm going to get some of the extendable snap-off utility knives like this, having some extra length is pretty important if you're doing any significant carving like I had to do with the slide and cave sections of my piece.
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