DIY Tort Table Build for MEP Hatchlings

FridayGt

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Joined
Oct 7, 2021
Messages
21
Location (City and/or State)
Altus, OK
Hello all, it's been quite a while! I've been busy with life, work and projects, but wanted to come on here to detail a build I recently "finished." I say it like that because I keep thinking of different ways to improve the build so I'll update this thread as I add on to my Tort Table.



I recently went back to the breeder that I got my recent hatchling from and picked up another. I know, most are of the opinion that under no circumstances should you ever house two together based mostly on hearing it repeated from others or personal experiences with a different species. I get it, there are inherent risks, but before you lambast, please understand that I evaluated those risks and felt they were worth taking provided multiple safeguards and mitigation factors were in place. First, monitoring; but I'll get into that in the build. Second, health; I would only get one from the same breeder to reduce parasite/ pathogen risk and if he had none, I would wait. Third, safe spaces; both an entirely separate and equally adequate enclosure to separate them/ multiple levels of brush to break up sight lines/ multiple hides throughout the enclosure/ multiple feeding locations. Finally, research; I read as much as I could find, spoke to multiple individuals active with the promotion of this species and read a few papers from reputable sources. Conclusion, manouria emys tends toward a more social cohabitation while not being strictly a communal species. Provided with a proper environment, even two males tend to not combat. I made the decision to try, knowing the worst case was housing them separately and I was prepared and happy to do so. So, let's leave the topic alone there please, this far thing's are going great and their social interactions have been amazing and well worth the continued monitoring.



This build was accomplished with scrap lumber, a few new pieces of lumber and hardware, a few odds and ends leftover from creating my monitor lizards substrate and a couple gadgets from Amazon.



Lumber/ hardware (adjust to your dimensions) ;

(1) 8'x3"x3" solid wood for the legs

(1) 4'x6'x3/4" sheet plywood for shelf, lids, table top

(2) 6'x1"x12" solid wood for walls

(1) 4' wide roll of pond liner

(1) can of stain of preference

(1) can of sealant of choice. MAKE SURE YOU GET NON-TOXIC, or at least follow the instructions and allow to fully cure. Fumes can be brutal.

(4) hinges

(2) cabinet door pulls

(1) 2'x2' section of chicken wire

(1) assortment weather resistant screws

(4) 90* L-brackets for screen top border

(4) large corner brackets for shelf support

(8) medium corner brackets to secure walls



Tools;

Circular Saw (hand saw if you must)

Miter Saw (or miter box)

Drill

Drill Bits

Sander (or sand paper)

Staple Gun


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I started off with a 2'x4' section of a higher grade 3/4" plywood for the shelf and table top. Then cut four 2' sections of my 3"x3" for the legs and made cutouts in the shelf to match. I mocked up the walls with 45*angles cut on the ends and assembled the table portion by drilling screws through the tabletop into the legs and attaching the shelf with the four large corner brackets (always pre-drill before you screw folks!). I would recommend not skipping the shelf or otherwise reinforcing the legs. As I drilled the tabletop in the manner I did, I am relying on the shelf for lateral rigidity.

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I then took the mocked up walls, marked, pre-drilled and and secured with the 8 medium corner brackets. As a note, I placed my brackets lower as that space was to be covered by my pond liner. Further note, because lumber pickings were slim and the nature of board at those dimensions, the walls took a spirited volume of sanding to true up the corners. I also cut four pieces of 3/4" board in 1.5" width segments with 45*angles cut on the corners. I used the L- brackets to create a 2'x2' window and sandwiched the chicken wire between the board and brackets for a mesh screen top. I then used a staple gun to tighten the mesh top up and eliminate sag.


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I then cut a 2'x2' section of 3/4" board for the solid door and sanded and stained until I was satisfied. Then I waited. And waited. And waited some more until I could no longer smell the stain.

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Once I was satisfied that the stain was done off-gasing, I sealed the unassembled pieces and let them sit in a well ventilated area to cure per the manufacturer's specifications and then honestly waited even longer until I could no longer smell it. Then I assembled it and lined the interior with pond liner six inches up the interior sides of the walls.

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I then made a simple bracket and attached a heart pad with adjustment wheel to the solid lid and filled with coco fiber, repti bark, top soil, springtails and isopods. I put in multiple hides, some live dandelions and live carpet moss along with a bunch of leaf litter, water tub, sticks, rocks, slate slabs and more.

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Then, I hooked up a Wyze wifi camera with night vision and motion notifications. I adjusted the motion sensitivity to notify me with as little motion as wiggling feet from a tipped tort. My baby Tippy was the test subject for this and she was promptly rewarded for her sacrifice with some bok Choi. After Tippy finished cussing me out and flipping me off, I installeded a wireless temp/ humidity sensor, wifi outlet and reptile fogger.

Screenshot 20220119 160753 Govee Home
So now I can can monitor visually from anywhere in the world, and turn the fogger on and off to adjust humidity from anywhere in the world. What's also great about this is that it data logs the temp and humidity readings over time as well, so I can compare that to witnessed activity and draw conclusions from that. For example, I now know that my torts become most active around 64*F and about 74% relative humidity.


There are definitely things I wished I'd done differently as well as things I intend to do in the future. For example, the temp/ humidity sensor I purchased Issa bluetooth only, not wifi, so I can't see real time readings unless I'm within bluetooth range of my house. This is overcome with the data logging feature showing when the humidity eventually drops lower then I want and then setting multiple scheduled times throughout the day for the fogger to turn on accordingly. Now my humidity stays right where I want it all day long, but would have preferred wifi for peace of mind. Also a planned improvement is a gas piston strut on order to act as a lid stay to keep it open and make it self closing.



I hope you all enjoyed my build thread. I tried to keep it as short and simple as possible while still allowing for enough detail for someone coming across this on Google to follow. That being said, please ask any questions you have or make any suggestions you can think of for improvement! I'm really happy with how this turned out for so little money invested and I'd love to talk about it! Lol



P.S. What's a tort table build without a tort picture!?
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Last edited:

FridayGt

New Member
Joined
Oct 7, 2021
Messages
21
Location (City and/or State)
Altus, OK
I should note that well that all in, I'm into this project for under $200. Between using leftover lumber from my garage and a friend's, buying lumber and hardware, substrate and even the gadgets. When you consider the cost of the typical tortoise hutch, of which I bought initially as well, this can be such an economical deal. I was able to build it to the exact maximum dimensions that I could fit in my house, so happy with this!
 

everyday

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Oct 12, 2021
Messages
36
Location (City and/or State)
Europe
I like the build and effort! It looks very nice. I don't know anything about this species so I can't comment if things are done right or wrong. I see two things that I would change regardless of species.
1. Other water bowl. Looks like a drowning hazard.
2. The humidifier. I would not use one personally. I would make it more "air tight" to raise humidity.

Those two points are not to criticize u I'm just concerned it could do harm. Again I don't know anything about this species.

:)
 

FridayGt

New Member
Joined
Oct 7, 2021
Messages
21
Location (City and/or State)
Altus, OK
I like the build and effort! It looks very nice. I don't know anything about this species so I can't comment if things are done right or wrong. I see two things that I would change regardless of species.
1. Other water bowl. Looks like a drowning hazard.
2. The humidifier. I would not use one personally. I would make it more "air tight" to raise humidity.

Those two points are not to criticize u I'm just concerned it could do harm. Again I don't know anything about this species.

:)
Thanks for your input! Really the humidifier was an effort to maintain a more stable humidity range without actively misting and the humidity dropping between. I like the idea of sealing it up a bit more and I may take a look at applying some door seal around the lids and then data log the results and see if it makes a discernable difference.

The water bowl seems deeper than it really is from this perspective, but I do need a bigger one. They are currently the max size for soaking in that bowl. It's shallow enough that with the plastron flush on the bottom, their chins rest comfortably on the rim.
 

Yvonne G

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Humidifier is not good for tortoises. They shouldn't be breathing in air with water droplets. Cover the wire section and keep the substrate damp and your table will have the humidity it needs.
 

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