Status Update! 

The removal of the old enclosure was a far more cumbersome task than the building is  proving to be.  About 5 hours of hauling substrate with a bucket really reinforced my decision to make an elevated enclosure. 

Currently, the base and frame are put together. I covered the slatted base that came with the bed with a nontoxic outdoor flooring on sale at home depot (yay sales) I got 3 pieces of wood to create the upper-level frame. 

Zoya is extremely displeased with her current daytime home and she managed to give me a quality grumpy look while basking. 

More to come! 

Finally responding to soundingthefalsealarm and petitetortue in regards to Zoya’s enclosure. Sincerest apologies for the slow response.

I’m guessing this will sound far more complicated than it is but the bold steps are the short answer and a little more description is after that (trust me I could go on forever. send me any questions you have and stay tuned for part 2 with more details about the upper level)

1. I connected the wire shelves together using the little circle things it comes with, along with some zip ties here and there for added security.
     Note: you need to make sure the connector thingies are all facing the same way or it won’t stay and it’ll come apart ( i.e. all the flat circle parts facing down or the X you use to connect facing down. One going the wrong direction will just float there and fall apart).

2. Line the whole thing with shower curtain liners or tarps ( you’ll need two at least to get it to fold in the right places and fit odd shapes )

3. Attach these to the enclosure frame. I used binder clips and duct tape, making sure you don’t have duct tape (especially sticky side) accessible to the inside of the terrarium.

4. Line the inside and the sides of the outside with linoleum tiles. You can get all kinds but I know they’ve got a cheap box full at Family Dollar. Try and get things as close together as possible. Those trouble making shells can very easily rip that down if they see any edges up. You don’t want the glue accessible to them. I used some binder clips I had around the top to secure the curtain liner and the tiles on the sides because they don’t always stay the way you want them to. Get crafty (I used the clips because I’d moved and didn’t have other supplies and really wanted Z to get into an enclosure asap.

5. After that I just lined the outside with black textured contact paper for more security and to match my couch hah.

6. Let it sit for a bit, make sure it feels secure, nothing sticky, poking out, etc.  I added a 2 bags of play sand and about 8 bricks of coconut coir substrate inside. Placed the water bowl, a log hide (Z out grew that and now I have a faux log hide thats XL and made of ceramic). Added some plants (that no matter how many times you try and replace them they’ll die within 1/2 days) and an added hide on one of the cooler ends as well.

7. Set up your UVB/UVA lamps so that you have a basking spot of 95 with cooler end(s) of about 70. I use a lamp stand for uvb/uva bulbs, power sun uvb/uva bulb , added daylight bulb to get the temperature gradient right (especially in winter).  The best way to test this is a temp gun. you can get them at a hardware store and reasonably priced. Its in my top 5 most necessary tortoise owner supplies.

8. Next I added the upper level, Zoya’s castle,  which is a rebuild of a previous version. I built it out of two wooden picture frames and a combo of pieces of wood I found all in the as in bin at Michaels nailed/ glued together to make a box.  The castle top was found at micheals in the wood section as well.  Once the box was made I attached it to 4 legs (in my case they were wooden banister parts I had laying around and cut to size, you can find wood table legs at any hardware store for cheap, just wood sticks that you secure.) nail em in with and you’ve got the castle. The ramp is actually a plastic drain pipe runoff I saw at home depot (and didn’t know what it was) but sparked this whole idea. I like the one I have because its got dents to look like rocks, but actually helps zoya have some  grip when climbing in and out. I’ll go into more but she loves the heck out of that thing. Just make sure you don’t make it to easy to climb up and then over the edge of the terrarium. Spidey torts will love that.

9. In the winter I add a warm mist humidifier to the room to maintain humidity (and it helps me not get nose bleeds!) and a ceramic heat emitter. I have this on a zoo med thermostat that maintains the temperature of the basking spot reasonably well, not letting the temp get overly hot and getting it warmer if needed. It has a set up for a night time temperature drop so the ceramic heater can help keep the enclosure ‘night time cold’ but not winter in Massachusetts at night cold.

Lessons from this enclosure:

So I’ve used this method twice (moved 3 times but used something else when in the UK) and it’s been affordable and customizable (important in a strangely shaped studio) and maintained temps and humidity ..,.until recently. The larger the enclosure has become, the harder it’s been to maintain humidity levels (especially in the winter). This isn’t unusual but something that definitely needs to be addressed. The warm mist humidifier near the terrarium, and taking cleaning the substrate by pouring boiling water onto it and mixing it all together then letting it cool, before putting her back in, works pretty well.

The next thing I’d say about this method is that it makes changing out the substrate completely really difficult. This isn’t simply because there’s a lot, it’s also due to the lack of sturdy support underneath the enclosure to grip and help dump out.  This has become a big issue lately as well. Cheap shower liners are no match for little trouble makers like Zoya that work hard to dig or climb every nook and crany in their enclosure. Any little tear that exists becomes a giant disaster when you try and lift pounds of substrate with it. At this point I wish I had a more mobile (wooden pretty much) enclosure but I think this one is doing ok for her.

Don’t get me wrong,  I am pleased with the way these wire shelves have worked so far, allowed me to make a large enough enclosure for a really low price, adjust it (with effort) as Zoya grows, and that fits my apartment well when not much else does (including MY bed).

Sorry to be so wordy again but figured my ‘lessons learned’ could help someone else improve upon this DIY.  If you’ve made it this far you get a gold star at tortoises, turtles, Zoya, and a shot of something for not unfollowing 🙂 

Hi :D, My names Colleen and I have a almost 5 year old Russian Tortoise. I recently got a new dog and he’s a little crazy so I cant let my tortoise out to run around the floor. He needs a bigger home and me and my mom have been looking around for one lately. We live in NJ so it’s cold in the winter and hot in the summer so we cant really have a house outside. What can I do? Thanks, Colleen :D

(found this pic online. not mine)

So you have a few options as far as enclosures go. if you have the ability, there are a few pretty decent enclosures out there that you can buy ready made. 

The Repti Palace, new on the market, is one that has a pretty great set up for russians and similar sized breeds. I will say, however, its incredibly expensive and not as big as it should be for longterm housing with no outdoor time. 

Check it out here: http://www.amazon.com/Tortoise-Palace-Black-Frame-Terrarium/dp/B0070RYV42

I’d say if you’re at all comfortable with an electric screw driver and some wood, or any interest in DIY/ furniture hacking, you can create a much better enclosure for your tort (for much less money! )

One of the best ideas I’ve seen is turning a bookcase into a tortoise table. 

A bookcase hack (a brief explanation) 

Get yourself a bookcase, new or even try craigslist and goodwill. Remove the center shelves (or don’t install them either way). You can either use bathtub calking to seal it before lining it with a tarp, or even better try lining the whole thing with vinyl flooring. Linoleum style roll of flouring can be cheap, found in scraps, and its a secure way of sealing the whole thing.

From there you can get creative. You can use one of the shelves to create a hide at one end. Cut a hole in the shelf wide enough for your tort to crawl in and then use one of the extra shelves with hinges as the top of the hide. that way you can clean out the hide easily.

The big issue with this (and a lot of the inexpensive DIY ideas I’ve tried) is that they generally sit directly on the floor. In order to put them up higher you’ll have to make sure the bottom is extra secure.  That means target bookshelf won’t work since the back (what will be the bottom) is pretty much a big piece of cardboard. You can either replace that with some wood you find at a hardware store and then set the whole thing on a “stand” (try some end tables at matching heights). 

You’ll want to have a top for your enclosure (since you’re making sure the pup doesn’t get in there and your little shell friend doesn’t get out). Screens are pretty easy to get ahold of at the hardware store. Depending on the size you might even find an old screen door frame can be used as a top thats easy to open. 

Heres a pretty good how to guide for bookshelf hacks: http://red-footed-tortoise.com/red-footed-tortoise-tortoise-table.html This is for a red footed tortoise not a russian so don’t go by the care guidelines, just a good schematic for building the enclosure. 

Lighting stands can be easily made out of PVC pipes or even some plywood nailed together. 

Wire cube hack enclosure:

like this:http://www.walmart.com/ip/Whitmor-White-Wire-Storage-Cubes-Four-Cubes-Interlocked/5005200

Im on a strict budget and am in a very oddly shaped studio apartment so I couldn’t figure out a way to get a bookshelf to work. I used those wire cube units you can buy pretty much anywhere. the kind that snap together at the ends with the circles? 

This worked better for me because I was having the enclosure on the floor, wanted her to have as much space as possible, but couldn’t fit a singular bookshelf in the right place. These shelves allowed me to make an enclosure that spanned two walls and could be wider or thinner in spots they needed to be. 

I’ll tell you its a big pain in the ass to clean. I lined the whole thing with two shower curtain liners and then used linoleum tiles along the sides. Its not mobile in any way, since the substrate weighs down through the wire shelves. Add enough substrate, however, and some vertical hides and it does the job nicely. If I ever have the chance, however, I’ll definitely be building her a more secure, mobile enclosure (mobile in that I can clean it and take it apart and rebuild it easily). 

Elevated Hides add Space too! 

Whatever idea you decide to go with, don’t forget you can add up as well as out. Build a box out of some wood, find a box at Michael’s that fits the corner, create a nice ramp, and your tort will happily climb up and in once they decide to do some exploring. 

I had a few pieces of wood and some picture frames that were more wood than hole. I nailed them into a box, found some table legs at home depot, attached them to a drainage run off you can find in the garden section, and bam. Up stairs castle for zoya. It adds space and character to any enclosure. I even gave her a castle top and a Z to mark it as hers. The outside is painted but not the inside as I don’t want her to come in contact with the paint, scratch it off, bite it, or whatever and accidentally ingest it. She’s a big fan of it, though sometimes she just likes to climb it, look around at the world, climb back down and start over. 

I would check out this link for inspiration if you’re thinking of constructing/ creating your own. 

Take some time to look at these pics. There are some fantastic ideas here:

A collection of DIY enclosures by other russian tortoise owners:

http://www.russiantortoisepictures.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=965

bunion-onion:

Hi :D, My names Colleen and I have a almost 5 year old Russian Tortoise. I recently got a new dog and he’s a little crazy so I cant let my tortoise out to run around the floor. He needs a bigger home and me and my mom have been looking around for one lately. We live in NJ so it’s cold in the winter and hot in the summer so we cant really have a house outside. What can I do? Thanks, Colleen 😀

(found this pic online. not mine)

So you have a few options as far as enclosures go. if you have the ability, there are a few pretty decent enclosures out there that you can buy ready made. 

The Repti Palace, new on the market, is one that has a pretty great set up for russians and similar sized breeds. I will say, however, its incredibly expensive and not as big as it should be for longterm housing with no outdoor time. 

Check it out here: http://www.amazon.com/Tortoise-Palace-Black-Frame-Terrarium/dp/B0070RYV42

I’d say if you’re at all comfortable with an electric screw driver and some wood, or any interest in DIY/ furniture hacking, you can create a much better enclosure for your tort (for much less money! )

One of the best ideas I’ve seen is turning a bookcase into a tortoise table. 

A bookcase hack (a brief explanation) 

Get yourself a bookcase, new or even try craigslist and goodwill. Remove the center shelves (or don’t install them either way). You can either use bathtub calking to seal it before lining it with a tarp, or even better try lining the whole thing with vinyl flooring. Linoleum style roll of flouring can be cheap, found in scraps, and its a secure way of sealing the whole thing.

From there you can get creative. You can use one of the shelves to create a hide at one end. Cut a hole in the shelf wide enough for your tort to crawl in and then use one of the extra shelves with hinges as the top of the hide. that way you can clean out the hide easily.

The big issue with this (and a lot of the inexpensive DIY ideas I’ve tried) is that they generally sit directly on the floor. In order to put them up higher you’ll have to make sure the bottom is extra secure.  That means target bookshelf won’t work since the back (what will be the bottom) is pretty much a big piece of cardboard. You can either replace that with some wood you find at a hardware store and then set the whole thing on a “stand” (try some end tables at matching heights). 

You’ll want to have a top for your enclosure (since you’re making sure the pup doesn’t get in there and your little shell friend doesn’t get out). Screens are pretty easy to get ahold of at the hardware store. Depending on the size you might even find an old screen door frame can be used as a top thats easy to open. 

Heres a pretty good how to guide for bookshelf hacks: http://red-footed-tortoise.com/red-footed-tortoise-tortoise-table.html This is for a red footed tortoise not a russian so don’t go by the care guidelines, just a good schematic for building the enclosure. 

Lighting stands can be easily made out of PVC pipes or even some plywood nailed together. 

Wire cube hack enclosure:

like this:http://www.walmart.com/ip/Whitmor-White-Wire-Storage-Cubes-Four-Cubes-Interlocked/5005200

Im on a strict budget and am in a very oddly shaped studio apartment so I couldn’t figure out a way to get a bookshelf to work. I used those wire cube units you can buy pretty much anywhere. the kind that snap together at the ends with the circles? 

This worked better for me because I was having the enclosure on the floor, wanted her to have as much space as possible, but couldn’t fit a singular bookshelf in the right place. These shelves allowed me to make an enclosure that spanned two walls and could be wider or thinner in spots they needed to be. 

I’ll tell you its a big pain in the ass to clean. I lined the whole thing with two shower curtain liners and then used linoleum tiles along the sides. Its not mobile in any way, since the substrate weighs down through the wire shelves. Add enough substrate, however, and some vertical hides and it does the job nicely. If I ever have the chance, however, I’ll definitely be building her a more secure, mobile enclosure (mobile in that I can clean it and take it apart and rebuild it easily). 

Elevated Hides add Space too! 

Whatever idea you decide to go with, don’t forget you can add up as well as out. Build a box out of some wood, find a box at Michael’s that fits the corner, create a nice ramp, and your tort will happily climb up and in once they decide to do some exploring. 

I had a few pieces of wood and some picture frames that were more wood than hole. I nailed them into a box, found some table legs at home depot, attached them to a drainage run off you can find in the garden section, and bam. Up stairs castle for zoya. It adds space and character to any enclosure. I even gave her a castle top and a Z to mark it as hers. The outside is painted but not the inside as I don’t want her to come in contact with the paint, scratch it off, bite it, or whatever and accidentally ingest it. She’s a big fan of it, though sometimes she just likes to climb it, look around at the world, climb back down and start over. 

I would check out this link for inspiration if you’re thinking of constructing/ creating your own. 

Take some time to look at these pics. There are some fantastic ideas here:

A collection of DIY enclosures by other russian tortoise owners:

http://www.russiantortoisepictures.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=965