Bioactive Vivarium Project – Part 2 | Ted’s Fishroom

Ted Judy: I am still waiting on a lot of materials that we need to finish out this enclosure. In the meantime, I have a side project which is getting this Universal Rocks log prepared to go into it. That’s what we’re going to work on today. What I want to do is I want to install this background in this enclosure but I want to do it up kind of high. I’ll show you how I can prop it in place. I don’t want it to be dead center. I want to lock over to the side. I’ve got a vent over here. I want it above the vent.

The other challenge is that the back of this is hollow. If I leave it hollow, and I can’t easily get it in and out, then animals can get up inside the back of this and that’s going to be a pain in the butt. I’ve got to find a way to flatten this out and, of course, that’s going to take spray foam. At the same time, I put spray foam in it, I’ve got to have a way to attach it to the back of the cage. What I’m going to do is I’m going to install a two by four right here and that two by four I’m going to use to put bolts in, that I can then drill to the back of the cage and hold it in place. What’s going to happen up here. This is a pretty cool spot. I’m going to create enclosures up here that I can then fill with substrate and have plants growing out of the tops of these branches on either side.

It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day, so I thought I’d move this project outside, a little better light. Here are some challenges I’ve got. This is the piece of board that I want to put across the middle of this. I’ve got to determine exactly where on the back of this I’m going to put this board. You’ll notice that this whole background actually curves away. It’s not perfectly flat.

I’ve got another one here. I don’t think I’m going to need two blocks, but I’m going to go ahead and put another block in the bottom. I’d rather have it in there if I need it than not have it. So, I’m going to put them both in there. There is some foam already in the back of this block. The first thing that I really need to do is to dig out some of the existing foam so that I can get this board in there and then build it back up with spray foam, so that I can get this board perfectly flat with the edge of this. Sounds easy enough.

This stuff that’s in here is pretty tough. I found that a bigger heavier knife is easier just to pry it out. Cut it off a little bit at a time. The channel is cut out for the larger of the two boards and it fits in there just fine. It is slightly lower than the edge here which is okay because I’m going to refill this with spray foam and then I’m going to set this into the spray foam as it seals and then put spray foam all the way around it, and eventually, carve the spray foam away so this is flat across the top.

One thing I’m a little worried about is this latex paint, whatever the substance is they have sprayed in the back of this thing, it’s so smooth. I’m a little worried about it keeping that spray foam from sticking to it. I’m going to go ahead and I’m going to pull as much of that out as possible. At least enough to where there’s enough surface area inside of it that the spray from I’m going to put it here is going to stick to it well.

Another piece to this puzzle is I want the top sections which are going to be accessible from the tops here to be planters. I want to be able to put plants in and have them come out. To do that, I also want to protect the back of the enclosure. I don’t really want water to spend a lot of time sitting up against it. Not that it’s really going to harm it, but why do it if you don’t have to?

I’ve got this piece of PVC and I’m going to trace out a way to insert a piece of PVC right along here. We’ll take this whole section and leave it hollow. I’ll glue it in and then everything in here is going to be hollow. There’s another problem with that because if I leave this hollow and the spray foam and stuff in here, how does water get out? I’m going to have to put in drains. I’m going to do that with just some hose. All I’m going to do is, before I put the spray foam in, I want to insert the hose here like this, probably tape it down or clamp it down. Then I’m going to spray foam over all of it. Now there’s going to be channels that will drain water from the planters all the way down to the bottom of the piece. That will just drop into the bottom of the cage where it’s going to be a substrate that can drain water down anyway.

First, I use some pieces of cardboard to make a rough template to cover the back of the piece where I want the planters to be. Then I trace that template on my piece of PVC board. I have purposely made the template larger than it needs to be. After the rough shape is traced, I cut it out with a jigsaw. Test fit the piece in the back of the log, mark places where the board needs to be trimmed. Use the saw to trim it and then repeat until the board fits the way I want it to. That looks pretty good. What I’m going to do is I’m going to fill this space in here with paper, so there’s some support. I’m going to glue these edges down.

One of the disadvantages of living in a modern digital society is I don’t actually have a newspaper anymore. I was going to fill the space with newspaper to get this some support, but I didn’t. I’m going to use these shopping bags instead. All I’m going to do is use this adhesive to tack along the edges here. Eventually, I’m going to fill the rest of the gaps with spray foam, but I’m a little worried about the expanding spray foam picking this thing up out of it, so I want to have something that’s secured.

M-1 is a pretty good adhesive. This one isn’t the M-1 Marine though, and it’s also white. Luckily, it’s not going to be anywhere where it can be seen. I want the M-1 adhesive on both sides of the joint, so I apply a bead to the underside of the PVC plate. Then I set the plane in place so that the glue is in contact with the inside of the log. Then apply more M-1 to the outside of the joint and spread it out. M-1 is very thick and sticky. Then I let the glue cure for about three hours, checking in every now and then to see how firm it is. While the M-1 was curing, I decided to put a flat bottom on the planters, so after the first application of glue is secure enough to work with, I glue a piece of PVC to it.

The next step is to tack the drain hoses into position with a little bit of M-1 and then clamp the bottom piece and hoses into place while the glue cures. Now the M-1 glue is set enough that I can start putting in the spray foam. I’m going to start up here on top where I just want to put it in very small amounts of foam and work my way towards the back. Once we get back here, I’ve got to put in the block of woods, one there. I want to make sure that the block of wood is coming up to the right height. It’s going to take a little bit of finesse.

The wind really picked up and was overpowering the microphones. I will describe the rest of this project in voice-over. I start the process of applying the spray foam at the top of the log to fill in the remaining gaps around the planters. Be careful not to cover the ends of the drain hoses. I don’t want to cover up the end. Next, I apply a base of foam under the large two by four hanging support and use what’s left of this can of foam to totally cover the board and the space around it.

I needed a lot more spray foam than I anticipated and had to go by the DAP equivalent of Great Stuff. That is why the lower section of foam is gray, but it’ll still work just fine. Then I left it overnight to harden. The foam expanded and hardened overnight. Now the task is to remove the excess foam and flatten the back of the log. I like to use an electric fillet knife. It cuts foam quickly, easily, and with precision. As the foam is removed, I start to uncover some problems.

What it looks like is that this board actually ended up getting angled. Eventually, I’m going to have to flatten that off. I’ve got a problem. The foam pushed this tubing up too high and I actually just cut it. I’m not exactly sure where I’m going to do with that yet. I might just glue a piece of plastic over the top of that hole. That will be just fine as [unintelligible 00:09:59] pressure. All it is is a drip tube. I haven’t decided yet, but I’ve got to be careful not to cut the rest of this. Probably a little more disturbing is I just uncovered a section of foam that’s not completely hardened yet. Let’s try this. Wouldn’t that be cool? Now that this is open to the air, I think I might let this sit for a little while to see if it actually hardens or not. It turns out that the Great Stuff also has a section where it’s not completely set. I’m going to stop what I’m doing right now and give all this area over here and that a chance to cure, I hope that it does. The bigger problem is this two by four, that’s been pushed up out by the bag, it is a good three-quarter inch [unintelligible 00:11:02] a quarter higher than I need it to be.

I’m going to have to cut that off now.

It ended up that a chisel and a hammer were the easiest tools to cut that board down to the right level and then a belt sander to smooth it all up. Now that the back of the log is flat, the last job is to install the hanger bolts. I want the piece to hang straight, so I use a level to align it and then mark where the bolts will go. Holes are drilled, strong hanger bolts are installed and now the log is ready to hang in the vivarium. But first I need to figure out where to drill holes in the cage for the hanger bolts, so I use a piece of cardboard to make a template.

Then I take it all inside and cut out the rough shape of the log on the whole template. I use the template to mark where on the enclosure back wall I want the holes to be, and then I drill the holes and hope I get it right. I did, the log fits. The finishing touch is to secure the log into place with some wide washers and wing nuts.

That’s it for this episode. The Universal Rocks tree background is installed inside the CustomCage’s majestic reptile enclosure. I’m excited about this piece. I think it’s going to do exactly what I want it to do. The whole thing is removable, yet nothing can get up behind it and get away from me. There is a gap up here at the very top, but I’ve already tested it. I can get my hand back there and scoot anything out. If I need to get an animal off of behind it, it’s not going to be a problem. The top corners of it are actually planters, so I’ll be able to fill them full of substrate and grow plants out the top and have them draping down into the enclosure. I think it’s going to look great.

While I was actually filming this, I was also filming how I make fake vines. In the next episode of this series, I’m going to show you how I do that and how I’m going to attach them to this tree. If you don’t want to miss that video, please subscribe and hit the bell button, so you get notifications. Then you won’t miss anything here on Ted’s Fishroom. Thanks for watching.

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