Double Door Night Box

Chuck_Roberts

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Thanks for the feedback! I ordered the Inkbird ITC-308 WiFi Thermostat and will get to making the insulated door. I still have a lot to learn. I always thought it was normal for them to hibernate through the winter. I noticed that they aren't eating as much now either. With the shelter heat set to 80-85, will they continue to eat as normal, or eat less through the Arizona "Winter"?
 

Tolis

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Thanks for the feedback! I ordered the Inkbird ITC-308 WiFi Thermostat and will get to making the insulated door. I still have a lot to learn. I always thought it was normal for them to hibernate through the winter. I noticed that they aren't eating as much now either. With the shelter heat set to 80-85, will they continue to eat as normal, or eat less through the Arizona "Winter"?
The lower the temps, the lower their metabolism, the less they move and eat. Sulcatas do not hibernate, they need temps always above 80F or they will develop health issues.
 
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Tom

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Thanks for the feedback! I ordered the Inkbird ITC-308 WiFi Thermostat and will get to making the insulated door. I still have a lot to learn. I always thought it was normal for them to hibernate through the winter. I noticed that they aren't eating as much now either. With the shelter heat set to 80-85, will they continue to eat as normal, or eat less through the Arizona "Winter"?
Sulcatas come from tropical Africa. If you look at geological data from the region, underground temps, where the sulcatas live, never drop below 80, and don't rise above 85. Can they survive temps outside of this range? Yes. But its not good for them. Cold temps also kill some of the gut flora and fauna, which is not good either. Many tortoises die when allowed to spend the winter outside in a burrow in AZ or here in CA. Some survive some of the time, but its not right. Think of the conditions that a human could "survive" vs. what conditions are "good" for a human. Same thing for tortoises. Do you want survivable (maybe) conditions, or do you want to provide optimal conditions for your tortoises health and well being?

I unplug my boxes during the hot summer months. I run the boxes at 80 when we have warm sunny days in spring and fall. I run the boxes at 86 in winter when we have cold overcast days and rain some of the time. They have to be able to warm up every day. Most days in our climates, they can warm up in the sun. On days when they can't, we need to provide them with artificially generated warmth.
 

Tolis

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Sulcatas come from tropical Africa. If you look at geological data from the region, underground temps, where the sulcatas live, never drop below 80, and don't rise above 85. Can they survive temps outside of this range? Yes. But its not good for them. Cold temps also kill some of the gut flora and fauna, which is not good either. Many tortoises die when allowed to spend the winter outside in a burrow in AZ or here in CA. Some survive some of the time, but its not right. Think of the conditions that a human could "survive" vs. what conditions are "good" for a human. Same thing for tortoises. Do you want survivable (maybe) conditions, or do you want to provide optimal conditions for your tortoises health and well being?

I unplug my boxes during the hot summer months. I run the boxes at 80 when we have warm sunny days in spring and fall. I run the boxes at 86 in winter when we have cold overcast days and rain some of the time. They have to be able to warm up every day. Most days in our climates, they can warm up in the sun. On days when they can't, we need to provide them with artificially generated warmth.
Why run them at 86F and not 80F which is the minimum they feel comfortable at? Won't that just make them active and frustrated trying to escape the box? Do you keep all your species boxes at the same temp 86F?
 

Tom

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Why run them at 86F and not 80F which is the minimum they feel comfortable at? Won't that just make them active and frustrated trying to escape the box? Do you keep all your species boxes at the same temp 86F?
Because on a cold winter day, they have no other way to warm up. I think 80 all day and all night is too cool. 85 is good enough for them to function and digest their food. 86 gives me just a little extra insurance. They are free to come out and walk around or graze on a cold day too, so 86 in the box allows them to warm up nicely after a cold winter walk about. They don't get frustrated and try to escape the box, because the door is open all day and they can come and go as they please. Some days they don't even come out of the box when its cold and overcast. In the wild, the ground temps fluctuate between 80-85 all year, but remember that almost every day has ambient temps near 100 for morning or evening basking when they want to warm up above 80-85. We don't have that in North America in winter. Even southern AZ has cold winter spells with night temps in the 30s and daytime temps only reaching the 50s.

I've been experimenting with temps for years, and this is what I've found to work the best. Other people who've tried it this way also prefer the results.

In some of my boxes, like the stars, I've installed basking lamps for winter. I leave the thermostat set at 80 to maintain ambient day and night, but the basking bulbs on timers heat the enclosure into the high 80s or low 90s during the day. This simulates what they grew up in when they were little and housed indoors, and it works great. It gives them and area to bask and get their body temps up, even when its cold and overcast outside in winter.
 

Tolis

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Just only after 1 month of use, there is mold accumulating in one of the box's corners. I guess I am doing a good job keeping the humidity high. It troubles me because when the tort goes to bed he usually parks in that corner right in front of the mold. I did a quick search and found 3 ''natural'' remedies to combat the mold by mixing them in a spraying bottle.

1) White distilled vinegar + soda
2) 3% Hydrogen peroxide + Water
3) Borax + water

Which of the 3 do you think is less likely to harm the tort?

0-02-0b-0e570ef76653daca8daf06a6e6bfe4cca294b5854eea1417e1f1c3e38e71c3bf_ef67f57.jpg
0-02-0b-56f713e49652db909f23eb4abadfd53a14f77cd0d91a9c3841eb35e01f081982_8e7232c7.jpg
 

Hyndesyte

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Sulcatas come from tropical Africa. If you look at geological data from the region, underground temps, where the sulcatas live, never drop below 80, and don't rise above 85. Can they survive temps outside of this range? Yes. But its not good for them. Cold temps also kill some of the gut flora and fauna, which is not good either. Many tortoises die when allowed to spend the winter outside in a burrow in AZ or here in CA. Some survive some of the time, but its not right. Think of the conditions that a human could "survive" vs. what conditions are "good" for a human. Same thing for tortoises. Do you want survivable (maybe) conditions, or do you want to provide optimal conditions for your tortoises health and well being?

I unplug my boxes during the hot summer months. I run the boxes at 80 when we have warm sunny days in spring and fall. I run the boxes at 86 in winter when we have cold overcast days and rain some of the time. They have to be able to warm up every day. Most days in our climates, they can warm up in the sun. On days when they can't, we need to provide them with artificially generated warmth.
Hi Tom, I’ve had my sulcatas for 2 yrs, never expected them to grow as fast as they did. They’ve grown exponentially in the past 6-8 mo’s. One now weighs ~32lb and the other is ~21lb. I built an enclosure last fall. It is ~3’x4’x3’ high,with a 2x2 “patio/entry” with a closed door. Every wall is double ply with foam insulation. I currently have a double lamp- UV/heat with a standard shape 75W heat bulb and the UV lightbulb you mentioned in an older post that is not good. I’m keeping the heat between 80-90, but am concerned about the height of the lamp. I’m not sure how to use a heat gun to measure temps at various heights. I am in the process of adding on to my tortoise “Winchester” house to get me through this colder seaso. I am in the San Fernando Valley, CA. In the addition I am adding 3’x3’ and try to figure out the proper height and type of heat lamp to use. I don’t have a picture at the moment. Would appreciate any advice. Thank you
 

Tom

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Hi Tom, I’ve had my sulcatas for 2 yrs, never expected them to grow as fast as they did. They’ve grown exponentially in the past 6-8 mo’s. One now weighs ~32lb and the other is ~21lb. I built an enclosure last fall. It is ~3’x4’x3’ high,with a 2x2 “patio/entry” with a closed door. Every wall is double ply with foam insulation. I currently have a double lamp- UV/heat with a standard shape 75W heat bulb and the UV lightbulb you mentioned in an older post that is not good. I’m keeping the heat between 80-90, but am concerned about the height of the lamp. I’m not sure how to use a heat gun to measure temps at various heights. I am in the process of adding on to my tortoise “Winchester” house to get me through this colder seaso. I am in the San Fernando Valley, CA. In the addition I am adding 3’x3’ and try to figure out the proper height and type of heat lamp to use. I don’t have a picture at the moment. Would appreciate any advice. Thank you
Yours is a perfect example of why they should never be housed in pairs. One is now more than 50% bigger than the other.

That house is too small for two of them, too tall inside, the door way is too large, and you don't need heat lamps and UV for tortoises that live outside.

My preferred method of measuring heat at a given height is to get a brick, a block, or box or something of the approximate height I am trying to measure at, and placing that directly under the heat lamp. I let it cook for an hour or more, then place my digital thermometer directly on top of it and let that cook directly under the lamp for an hour or more. This will give you an idea of the temps your tortoise's carapaces are being subjected too. You can skip this step entirely, because both of yours are already too large for heat lamps. There isn't a way to do it safely and effectively at their size with heat lamps.

The box that is the subject of this thread is exactly what you need. You can try to retro-fit your existing box, but you are going to be wasting a lot of electricity that way due to the previously mentioned design flaws.

Don't skip the caulking on the new box construction. That's an important step in keeping heat in and cold and ants out. Same with the weather stripping around the top, and door flaps for when the door is open. Each of these details, along with all the others is what makes this whole thing work. Change the dimensions, or skip some steps, and the box doesn't work as well.
 

SasquatchTortoise

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As the years have gone by and I build more of these boxes, I learn more and more each time. This one is the latest and I incorporated everything I've learned over the years. I also tried to take lots of pics so I can explain in more detail some of what is going on. It will take multiple posts to show all the pics.

This box will house my two 16 inch 2010 South African Leopard tortoise males. They had to be separated for aggression years ago and they cannot live together. Their enclosures are side by side and share a common wall, so this box will straddle the dividing line. Each tortoise will have its own 4x4' section with a removable divider in the middle, but I only have to run one heater.

I start by screwing the 2x4s that make the lip that keeps rain out to the top. The top is a full, uncut, 4x8' sheet of thin plywood. I started using thinner plywood because the 1.5" rigid foam insulation inside keeps the heat in and thinner plywood weighs less. Accordingly, since I have to lift the top open to clean, I want things as light as possible, so I make the frame inside the lid out of 2x2s to save weight on the lid. I use 2x3s and 2x4 everywhere else.

Here is the floor. I make it so that it fits inside the lid. I end up having to cut some off of the full 4x8' sheet of plywood to allow room for the top to fit over the bottom and keep out the rain. You can see that I have framed around the outside and middle. The insulation fits inside this frame and the floor rests on top of this framing so the weight of the tortoises doesn't squash my foam insulation. You can see the completed lid in the background. Also notice the cut outs for the doors.
View attachment 150094


Here is the insulation cut to size:
View attachment 150095


And dropped into place:
View attachment 150096


I've installed the floor on top of the insulation and frame here. I seal all the way around the frame and then again between the floor and frame with plain silicone sealant:
View attachment 150097


Next I attach the sides and back and begin framing:
View attachment 150098


Then I put the front on.
View attachment 150099


Inside view of the front, not all framed yet. I will frame the inside, cut and fit insulation, run a bead of silicone all the way around, and then put the inside plywood wall on.:
View attachment 150100


Too many pics for one post, so on to the next...
Hey @Tom I'm shortly going to build a hide for my tort in our greenhouse. What is a material you would recommend that doesn't rot when exposed to moist earth? I was thinking a plastic, but I was afraid it couldn't handle a CHE. Anyways what do you think I should use?
 

Tom

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Hey @Tom I'm shortly going to build a hide for my tort in our greenhouse. What is a material you would recommend that doesn't rot when exposed to moist earth? I was thinking a plastic, but I was afraid it couldn't handle a CHE. Anyways what do you think I should use?
For a sulcata? I use plywood. I prime and paint the outside and leave the inside untreated.

CHEs shouldn't be used over larger tortoises. Fine for Testudo, but not anything larger than that.
 

SasquatchTortoise

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For a sulcata? I use plywood. I prime and paint the outside and leave the inside untreated.

CHEs shouldn't be used over larger tortoises. Fine for Testudo, but not anything larger than that.
Ok. How do you recommend I heat it? Or, where do you get a tiny radiator? Can I still use the CHEs for overall warmth in the greenhouse? She is not too big right now either
 

Tom

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Ok. How do you recommend I heat it? Or, where do you get a tiny radiator? Can I still use the CHEs for overall warmth in the greenhouse? She is not too big right now either
You can get the mini oil filled radiators from many places. I get them from Walmart most of the time. You could also use a Kane heat mat and an overhead RHP combo if the box is small enough.

As long as the CHE is not throwing heat directly onto the carapace at fairly close range, say closer than 24 inches, they should be safe to use. Your thermometer will tell you if they are effective or not.
 

SasquatchTortoise

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You can get the mini oil filled radiators from many places. I get them from Walmart most of the time. You could also use a Kane heat mat and an overhead RHP combo if the box is small enough.

As long as the CHE is not throwing heat directly onto the carapace at fairly close range, say closer than 24 inches, they should be safe to use. Your thermometer will tell you if they are effective or not.
What does RHP stand for? I do not know if I am familiar with that
 

Tom

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What does RHP stand for? I do not know if I am familiar with that
Radiant heat panel. You can see it here:

This box is 4x4. The RHP and Kane mat are able to maintain 80 degrees when outside night temps are in the high 20s.
 
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