Building your own Expanded PVC Enclosed Chamber – For Beginners

Dave CH

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Was your aquarium covered? The whole thing being enclosed makes all the difference in t;he world.
It was Yvonne, yes. Shop bought; pretty tight fitting front (glass) doors.

No vents to speak of, other than the mesh air-circulation strips, the width of the terrarium.

Dave
 

PA2019

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@Dave CH I have built 10+ PVC tanks based on @Sterant designs. We are incredibly lucky he shared the designs and building explanations! Thought I would chime in as I use heating elements in the PVC tanks.

I built a large 8' x 3' x 24" PVC tank, and actually made a 2nd story, which added another 8 sq ft! I used one central basking area, LED light bars, and a 48" UVB strip to maintain the tank during the day, and 2, 100 watt CHE bulbs to maintain an 80 degree minimum in the evening/night. To ensure the CHE's and basking bulb did not cause a fire I employed 2 safety measures.

First, I used fixtures that did not actually touch the PVC.

Here is a link to what I used. They extend down from the ceiling, mitigating a fire risk.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07YWPPLMH/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

Second, I bought heat reflective tape and covered the areas overlying the basking and CHE fixtures on the roof. Think of it as insulation against any heat that radiates upwards. You can get the tape from any Lowes/Home Depot.

One thing to mention regarding ambient heat. I purchased 2 computer fans and attached them in the corners of the tank, and directed their flow in the general direction of the CHE's. The gentle air movement helped in two major ways. First, it circulated the warmed air around, lessening cold spots in the tank, and second it reduced the risk of potential shell burning as the CHE heat was never limited to one small area.

Here is the link to my build thread:


Anyways, hope that helps regarding the heating/safety questions!
 

dd33

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Mrs.Jennifer

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For what it’s worth, I have a PVC enclosure for my Russian tortoise made by my father and husband (best birthday present EVER!). I have my basking flood, CHE and UV tube in fixtures hanging from chains. The cords are run through two 1.5” holes in the back of the enclosure. The CHE is on a thermostat. The basking flood and UV tube fixtures are on timers. I raise and lower the fixtures depending on what my temp gun and Solameter tell me. I use LED fixtures for ambient light.
 

Dave CH

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For what it’s worth, I have a PVC enclosure for my Russian tortoise made by my father and husband (best birthday present EVER!). I have my basking flood, CHE and UV tube in fixtures hanging from chains. The cords are run through two 1.5” holes in the back of the enclosure. The CHE is on a thermostat. The basking flood and UV tube fixtures are on timers. I raise and lower the fixtures depending on what my temp gun and Solameter tell me. I use LED fixtures for ambient light.
Thanks @Mrs.Jennifer. I was thinking of having an adjustable level for basking.
Do you, maybe, have a photo of your chain setup?

Dave
 

Dave CH

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Joined
Jan 1, 2022
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Location (City and/or State)
Switzerland
@Dave CH I have built 10+ PVC tanks based on @Sterant designs. We are incredibly lucky he shared the designs and building explanations! Thought I would chime in as I use heating elements in the PVC tanks.

I built a large 8' x 3' x 24" PVC tank, and actually made a 2nd story, which added another 8 sq ft! I used one central basking area, LED light bars, and a 48" UVB strip to maintain the tank during the day, and 2, 100 watt CHE bulbs to maintain an 80 degree minimum in the evening/night. To ensure the CHE's and basking bulb did not cause a fire I employed 2 safety measures.

First, I used fixtures that did not actually touch the PVC.

Here is a link to what I used. They extend down from the ceiling, mitigating a fire risk.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07YWPPLMH/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

Second, I bought heat reflective tape and covered the areas overlying the basking and CHE fixtures on the roof. Think of it as insulation against any heat that radiates upwards. You can get the tape from any Lowes/Home Depot.

One thing to mention regarding ambient heat. I purchased 2 computer fans and attached them in the corners of the tank, and directed their flow in the general direction of the CHE's. The gentle air movement helped in two major ways. First, it circulated the warmed air around, lessening cold spots in the tank, and second it reduced the risk of potential shell burning as the CHE heat was never limited to one small area.

Here is the link to my build thread:


Anyways, hope that helps regarding the heating/safety questions!
Thanks, @PA2019, for coming in.
Great news re fire (or, no fire).
And thanks for the link to the thread; very informative.

I think at this stage my main concern is the ambient temperature in the cellar: 11.5 Celsius. I can't see a way forward other than to build the tank and heat with two CHEs (100W) and assume that this will be enough. (If you're not heating at night, I guess your tank isn't in a room at 11 Celsius (52 degrees)).

I'm running a second test with the glass terrarium today. I've blocked the intake mesh and taped over the mesh in the roof. And it's currently heating up faster. Just waiting to see what it does when the sun comes around and the tank is in the shade.

I'm guessing too that the PVC will keep heat better than the glass terrarium. So perhaps I've no reason to worry.

I guess I'm doing a lot of guessing...

As it looks like I've got a basic handle on heat and basking. The only questions left are on UVB (on which I've heard a lot of conflicting advice).

One more post to follow -
Dave
 

Mrs.Jennifer

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Thanks @Mrs.Jennifer. I was thinking of having an adjustable level for basking.
Do you, maybe, have a photo of your chain setup?

Dave
These are the chains I used:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01G5SQSS8/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

You can see them in use over on this other thread:

 

Dave CH

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These are the chains I used:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01G5SQSS8/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

You can see them in use over on this other thread:

That simple. Of course.
Big, big thanks -
Dave
 

Dave CH

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Sooooo.... UV (and other fittings).

For our 0.5m2 enclosure, when in the house at around 18 Celsius (64) Fahrenheit, we have:
- A 100W CHE
- A 50W "daylight basking spot" in dome (Exo-terra) (this gives the correct temperature as per the relevant care sheet)
- A 25W (spiral) UVB bulb (Exo-terra)

We will now (or soon, hopefully) have a 2m2 (21.5 square foot) PVC enclosure, in the cellar at 11 or so Celsius (52 Fahrenheit) with
- 2 x 100W CHE
- A 50W "daylight basking spot" in dome (Exo-terra)

But I'm thinking that our UVB setup is dated (and that you all know about a billion time more than I do about this).
I'd really appreciate advice on what UVB to fit in the PVC enclosure.

The tortoise (a 5-year-old Hermann's) spends early mornings and evenings and there. The rest of the time he's outside with access to sunlight. (I'm talking one tortoise here; there are two, but we'll be building two separate enclosures).

Of course, there's the post-hibernation period and the pre-hibernation period when he will spend more time in there because of the weather; and the same applies during the usual cold snap in May. But generally, spring through autumn means outside at 10:00 am and back inside at around 5:00 to 6:00 pm.

"The store" sold me the spiral UVB bulb I mention above.
"The store" told me, when I went back there, that it was a ripoff, and doesn't emit UVB (they still sell it though).
"The store" told me to only use mercury vapor UVB lamps.
I've read elsewhere not to use mercury vapor UVB lamps.

Anyone care to enlighten me? (Write slowly though, I'm British...)
Dave
 

Dave CH

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A quick update on my "block-the-mesh" experiment of today: It worked. I can hold the (glass) terrarium at the required temperature when I block the input and output mesh.
Seems like yesterday it was just pumping out warm air through the mesh strip in the roof, and sucking in colder air through the input.
I'm happy about that...

Dave
 

PA2019

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I was just looking at these the other day. Did you find that they were too tall and positioned the CHE too close to the substrate in your 24" tall enclosure?

@dd33 Your question is tough to answer as it depends on a lot of factors.

First, what species are you housing in the tank? A high-domed radiata will have more shell burning risk vs a pancake. Second, how deep is the substrate layer? Are you planning on a 10-12" depth to allow for egg deposition or maintaining 4-6" substrate depth?

Like I mentioned, you can significantly limit the risk of shell burning/fire by placing a computer fan in the direction of the CHE. The fan drives the hot air laterally, dissipating the pinpoint heat that can cause shell burning/fire.

You can also lower the depth of the substrate around the CHE's easily to increase the contact distance 1-3" depending on how much of a divet you create.

Another option is to place an immovable object directly underneath the CHE, like a large stone/tile or even a metal mesh box, basically anything that blocks the area directly underneath the CHE from the tortoise, again negating the injury risk.

Personally, I like the fixtures quite a bit. They are safe, easy to apply/remove, the electrical cord does not get kinked, the cord components are fully insulated, and you do not have to mess with wiring the fixture yourself. I had mine connected to a temp probe so they turned on/off as needed.

There are several very experienced breeders on here who use radiant heat panels exclusively to maintain ambient temps in their tank. The panels have advantages, with zero chance of shell burning. The major disadvantage is cost. If you have a large tank, you would be looking at hundreds of $$ to buy large enough RHP's to maintain ambient temps in a large tank (based on @Sterant designs). Using a CHE and the above fixture will cost less than $30.
 

Dave CH

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After a long journey (sometimes, everything in Switzerland seems complicated), I'm expecting to assemble two new terrariums on Sunday.
Will update with total costs once the job is done (in case there are other Swiss-based tortoise "owners" who might one day read this thread).

Dave
 
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