Single Tortoise Night Box

Wpagey

New Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2021
Messages
24
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I like my larger tortoises to live outside full time. My climate permits this year round with a little help. For people who live where it snows all winter, this type of box is still good for warmer weather, getting them out earlier in Spring, and keeping them out a bit later into fall. You'll need something else for the dead of winter. Or you can move South! :)

The top of this box is half a sheet of plywood, insulated and sealed, so 4x4 feet. The inside of the box ends up being around 40x40 inches when its all done. I use an 18x28 inch Kane heat mat on the floor, and a 21" radiant heat panel on the top. Both are controlled by the same thermostat: https://www.lllreptile.com/products/13883-zilla-1000-watt-temperature-controller
I lower the RHP so that it is within 6-8 inches of the tortoises carapace that lives in the box. I like to screw a plastic shoe box to the back of the box to contain all the extra wires and thermostat. Weather strip seals the top where the hinged lid meets it, and I use plastic freezer stripping across the door to hold in heat when the door is open. The door drops down like a drawbridge and makes a ramp fro the tortoise to get in and out easier. I latch the door shut every night and open the door every morning.

In summer our daytime highs are usually right around 100, with night time lows around 65. I unplug the boxes during this time and temps stay between 70 and 90 in them. In Fall, we have warm sunny days usually into December, so I set the thermostat to 80. As soon as the weather turns cold in winter, I bump the thermostat up to 86, so they always have an area to get warmer in on a cold rainy day here. Spring time brings back warmer sunny days, so I lower the box temp back down to 80. This routine works great for any tropical species like Stars, radiata, sulcatas and leopards.

Here is the box during construction. I frame the plywood walls with 2x4s and use 1.5" rigid foam as insulation. Then I seal it with silicone caulking and cover the walls with plywood inside.
View attachment 291639

Here is all the electrical stuff going into it:
View attachment 291640

View attachment 291641

Here I want to show the weather stripping in place, and the drip loop. The drip loop is simply draping the cord down a bit so that when it rains, the water drips down the cord to the ground instead of following the cord downhill right into the box.
View attachment 291642

Ready to keep a tortoise warm and safe at night:
View attachment 291643

This is a great way to house a large leopard or sulcata in a relatively warm climate. We get cold winter nights in the 20s and this box, built and heated this way, keeps them in the 80s. Because my climate is so dry, I usually add a 5 gallon bucket or some tubs of water to generate some ambient humidity inside the box. People in the South East US wouldn't need to do this.

Questions and conversation are welcome! :)

For larger tortoises, multiple tortoises, and a different heating strategy, see this thread:
How big is the opening of that single tort nightbox? Thanks for sharing these pics, my box is being modeled after this for our single 11yr old sulcata, and I don’t want to be widening it in 10 years!😝
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
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Jan 9, 2010
Messages
57,961
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
How big is the opening of that single tort nightbox? Thanks for sharing these pics, my box is being modeled after this for our single 11yr old sulcata, and I don’t want to be widening it in 10 years!😝
For an adult sulcata, I make the door 16 inches tall and 26 inches wide. This will accommodate all except the super huge Sudan males.
 

billiondollars

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Joined
Apr 14, 2022
Messages
21
Location (City and/or State)
USA
For sulcatas I put down a layer of dry dirt to make clean up easier. For some species I make the boxes waterproof with Pond Shield and use damp orchid bark substrate.

Thank you!
Would the layer of dry bark work?
 

Violanna

Active Member
Joined
Sep 26, 2018
Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
Texas
So hubby and I already have all the materials we need except the insulation and caulk. But we were wondering if we should start with a smaller opening since our Sully is only 6lbs right now, and cut it out larger as he grows? Obviously keeping the door/ramp itself and the freezer sheets still at the correct size? Or just go with the larger doorway right away?

Also thanks to whoever linked the kane mats on tort supply! They are 1/3 of the price of Amazon! I’ve been dreading the cost and now I’m not!
 

billiondollars

New Member
Joined
Apr 14, 2022
Messages
21
Location (City and/or State)
USA
So hubby and I already have all the materials we need except the insulation and caulk. But we were wondering if we should start with a smaller opening since our Sully is only 6lbs right now, and cut it out larger as he grows? Obviously keeping the door/ramp itself and the freezer sheets still at the correct size? Or just go with the larger doorway right away?

Also thanks to whoever linked the kane mats on tort supply! They are 1/3 of the price of Amazon! I’ve been dreading the cost and now I’m not!

That’s what I did - a smaller door now with an option to cut it larger later.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
57,961
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
So hubby and I already have all the materials we need except the insulation and caulk. But we were wondering if we should start with a smaller opening since our Sully is only 6lbs right now, and cut it out larger as he grows? Obviously keeping the door/ramp itself and the freezer sheets still at the correct size? Or just go with the larger doorway right away?

Also thanks to whoever linked the kane mats on tort supply! They are 1/3 of the price of Amazon! I’ve been dreading the cost and now I’m not!
Build the door the full 26x16 inches. This way you are all set for later as the tortoise grows and the box is framed correctly and structurally sound. Then simply cut out a rectangle of plywood a little larger than your door that will be screwed in and cover the whole door entry way. Then cut a rectangle out of your fitted plywood piece just a little bit larger than your tortoise. As the tortoise grows, you can periodically remove that plywood piece and keep cutting ever larger openings until the tortoise is finally large enough to just need the whole larger door. Works like a charm and it is MUCH easier than trying to enlarge the door hole on a previously built box.

Now... Ask me how I know all this... :)
 

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