Single Tortoise Night Box

Marcie P

New Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Sep 14, 2016
Messages
5
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:
Do you have plans available for this house?
 

vladimir

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
May 18, 2017
Messages
1,494
Location (City and/or State)
Pennsylvania
Here's some info on the larger boxes that might help:

 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,821
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Do you have plans available for this house?

 

FishingMomma

New Member
Joined
Jan 6, 2024
Messages
3
Location (City and/or State)
Linden, TN
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:
Hey Mr. Tom. I was just sent your post about your housing for your tortoise. Did you cover the heating mat with any carpet or anything? I am using a ceramic 100watt heater for my tortoise and a UVB light. It worked great last winter in Tenn(we moved from Florida. She's probably mad at 😆) but she is not having the rainy cold this season. Should I switch to a mat heater instead? She is about 50ish lbs. Any information with be greatly appreciated.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,821
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Hey Mr. Tom. I was just sent your post about your housing for your tortoise. Did you cover the heating mat with any carpet or anything? I am using a ceramic 100watt heater for my tortoise and a UVB light. It worked great last winter in Tenn(we moved from Florida. She's probably mad at 😆) but she is not having the rainy cold this season. Should I switch to a mat heater instead? She is about 50ish lbs. Any information with be greatly appreciated.
Kane Mats and other brands of farrowing pads cannot be covered with anything. No substrate, no carpet, no hay, no nothing.

CHEs should not be used over large tortoises. They are not effective at heating them, and carapace burn are very likely.

There is zero reason to run UV on a tortoise that lives outside and has access to sunshine. They can go weeks with no sun over winter cold spells with no problem at all.

The combination of a Kane mat and RHP work great in one of my 4x4 insulated night boxes in my climate here, but you need a very large heated area for a 50 pound tortoise in TN.
 

ofafeather

Member
Joined
Feb 19, 2024
Messages
54
Location (City and/or State)
Mid-Hudson Valley, NY
The combination of a Kane mat and RHP work great in one of my 4x4 insulated night boxes in my climate here, but you need a very large heated area for a 50 pound tortoise in TN.
Tom, are you currently using Kane heat mat and RHP or one of the mini oil filled heaters? Any thoughts of which is better in the East Central NY? Plan on building the single box. Also, in the single box do current plans need a fan and water? Thanks! Appreciate all of the great info you provide.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,821
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Tom, are you currently using Kane heat mat and RHP or one of the mini oil filled heaters? Any thoughts of which is better in the East Central NY? Plan on building the single box. Also, in the single box do current plans need a fan and water? Thanks! Appreciate all of the great info you provide.
I use both of those strategies. Either works. The disadvantage of the radiant oil heater is that it takes up some floor space, so for a larger tortoise in a smaller box, the Kane mat/RHP method works better. If losing a little floor space is not an issue, then the radiant oil heaters are cheap, effective and efficient.

Either strategy will work for you in late Spring through early fall, but this sort of box will not work for you in winter, unless you want to use it for brumation. You can probably make it work for that and keep it above freezing. We occasionally drop down as low as 29 on a cold winter night, and we are usually in the 30s or low 40s at night for most of winter, but with warm sunny days in the 60s or 70s most of the time. These boxes maintain temperatures in my climate, but I don't think they will work as well in colder areas.

The water tubs are necessary for humidity. All the electric heat dries everything out, even in a humid climate. Fans are optional, but I think they disperse the heat better and keep every thing more evenly heated.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,821
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Thanks again! She is an adult Sulcata so will need other winter plans but the night box should be great for maybe 8 months?
That sounds possible, but only your thermometer can answer this question definitively.

@Tom which wattage RHP do you use in the single Sulcata box?
I typically use the 80 watt panels that are approximately 12x21 inches. In your climate, I would probably go with a 120. Since its controlled by a thermostat, it won't be too much in warmer weather, but it might save your bacon in colder weather.

I like the "Sweeter Heaters" sold by Will @Kapidolo Farms for outdoor boxes too. I'm running a couple of the 100 watt versions in night boxes now for colder winter days, and they work great. They have a long heavy duty cord and are built well. I prefer the mounting system of the Vivarium Electronic RHPs from Reptile Basics for indoor closed chamber applications.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,821
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Looks like SH makes 100 and 150. The 150 might be too big at 40”. Thoughts on those bs 120 VE? Thank you!
40 inches is too long for a 4x4 box. The inside dimensions are just a little too small.

Either one of the RHP brands will work.
 

Robinbirdlady

New Member
Joined
Mar 12, 2024
Messages
28
Location (City and/or State)
CA
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:
Are there sizes like height and size of door etc for this? A shopping list with sizes to buy?
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,821
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Are there sizes like height and size of door etc for this? A shopping list with sizes to buy?
I like to measure the tortoise and make the door opening just a little bigger than they are by a couple of inches. For a giant adult male sulcata, I make the doors 16x26 inches. I want them to barely fit in. The large the door, the more heat you lose.

For Burmese stars I think my doors are around 8 inches tall and 10 inches wide. I think this would suit DT just fine. I might go 7 inches tall and 11 inches wide for a DT to accommodate one as a full size adult.

In addition to the two threads in post number 143 above, here are two more that should be helpful for any builder:

 

ofafeather

Member
Joined
Feb 19, 2024
Messages
54
Location (City and/or State)
Mid-Hudson Valley, NY
For a single 4’ x 4’ for a 20” Sulcata I am using a mini oil heater. How how do you make barrier that keeps the tort away? Do you build in clearance? I considering either putting it into a corner. Would that work?IMG_5919.jpeg
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
63,821
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
That should say “how tall should you make the barrier”. Sorry for the confusion. @Tom
Tortoises like to park in a corner, so I'd move it over a bit to give him a corner.

I generally make my heater blocking walls about 16 or 18 inches tall. I allow about 3 inches of clearance all around.
 
Top