[HOW TO] False bottom Emperor Enclosure with poolIntroduction
I thought I'd share how I built my second 10 gallon Emperor enclosure. This one features a nylon rope wick false bottom and pool. The wick false bottom consists of a piece of egg crate (plastic light diffuser panel) covered in nylon window screen that is supported over a water reservoir. Wicks made of nylon rope are used to transfer water from the reservoir into the substrate. The pool bank is formed out of Great Stuff insulating foam covered with silicon calk and aquarium gravel. The pool and the false bottom share the same water reservoir. The Wick False Bottom
The egg crate is supported over the reservoir with PVC risers. The height of the risers determines the maximum depth of the pool. I used 1/2 inch PVC pipe cut to 1.75 inch lengths for the risers. The risers are secured to the bottom of the tank with silicon caulk.
Tank with risers.
The egg crate is cut about 1/8 inch smaller than the inside dimensions of the tank. (I screwed up and cut mine too small length wise. Not a big deal--you don't make mistakes, you make changes.) The egg crate is removed in the area of the pool. Keep in mind that the larger the pool area, the less room you have for substrate. For the wicks, I decided to attach the rope to the bottom of the egg crate, rather than have them hang down into the reservoir. This allows you to control how much water is pulled into the substrate as the wicks will only be submerged when the reservoir is completely full.
Egg crate with wicks, top view.
Egg crate with wicks, bottom view.
Nylon rope wicks, close up. The rope is attached to the egg crate with nylon wire ties.
The egg crate and wicks are covered with nylon window screen held in place with nylon wire ties. The egg crate sits on the risers and is held in place by the substrate.
False bottom installed in tank.
False bottom, top view.
False bottom, close up.The Pool Bank
The pool bank was formed out of Great Stuff expanding foam insulation. The dart frog folks have been using Great Stuff in their enclosures for years. After curing for 24 hours, it's non-toxic and animal safe. Be sure to use gloves when working with Great Stuff and cover anything you don't want it on with cling wrap--it will stick to everything
. Once it's cured, Great Stuff can be easily cut with a serrated knife.
To build the pool bank, I cut the nylon screen out of the pool area and covered the pool depression and the sides of the tank with cling wrap. I wanted to be able to remove the pool bank after it cured so I could sculpt it and coat it with silicon calk and gravel.
Pool bank after curing, top view. The cling wrap protecting the egg crate and tank walls has been removed.
Pool bank after curing, front view.
Pool bank after curing, side view.
After the pool bank was trimmed into the desired shape and the front and side edges trued to fit the walls of the tank, it was coated with silicon caulk and a layer of gravel. I just used my fingers to spread the caulk and press it into any nooks and crannies. Again, use gloves. I found it was easier to coat half of the bank with caulk and gravel, let it dry overnight, then coat the other half. This way you always had a surface to hold that wasn't covered with caulk. To attach the gravel, place the caulk coated bank into a Tupperware container and dump the gravel over it, press into place and let dry overnight.
Caulk applied to pool bank. The left hand side has dried overnight.
Caulk smeared into place.
Completed pool bank after drying.
Completed pool bank installed in tank, front view. The gravel provides enough weight to hold it in place.
Completed pool bank installed in tank, top view.Adding Substrate
From this point on, it's simply a matter of adding substrate, hides and decorations. I prefer to use eco-earth for substrate. It's very good at absorbing and holding moisture, and, you can immediately tell from the color if it's moist enough. Plus, you don't have to worry about any added pesticides.
First layer of eco-earth, tamped into place. The gap between the left hand wall and the egg crate (remember I cut it too small) was covered with a small piece of acrylic.
Second layer of eco-earth tamped into place and a layer of gravel added to pool bottom.
I'll spare you more photos of substrate being added, you get the idea. Add a layer, tamp it down, repeat until you reach the desired depth. 4 to 5 inches is recommended as a minimum, but the deeper the better. Emperors are obligate burrowers so give them what they need.The Finished Enclosure
To finish off my enclosure, I added a drift wood hide, a couple of fake plants, some leaf litter for the isopods, and jungle scene background to the back and left side of the tank. As I was adding the remaining substrate and deciding on the hide placement, I realized that any excavated substrate would probably end up filling the pool due to the steep incline. I remedied this by add a vertical piece of cork bark to the right side of the pool to act as a retaining wall. Remember, you don't make mistakes, you make changes. It's a good thing I added the retaining wall because my gal started burrowing the day after I placed her in the tank and soon filled the empty space in front of the cork with substrate.
Malaysian driftwood hide. I'll probably add a piece of jungle scene background to the right wall. It looks naked without it.
My gal made herself right at home.
My girl taking a dip.
Enclosure with top in place. Packing tape covers most of the screen top to retain heat and moisture. I replaced the IR bulb in the lamp with a CFL bulb for most of the photos.Closing Remarks
This enclosure has a couple drawbacks. I fell into the trap of trying to cram too many features into too small a tank. The pool and the area behind it take up 1/3 of the floor space. This leaves only enough room for one hide and no way to create the heat gradient often recommended for Emperor scorpions. I plan to keep the enclosure around 85F and don't expect this will be a big problem. Still, it would have been nice to have two hides with a warm side and a cool side. A larger (longer) tank would have made this possible by placing the pool in the middle.
I'm not sure if using the standing water in the false bottom for the pool will be a problem. I add fresh water twice a week to keep the level up, but it's not a replacement, just a topping off. The false bottom holds about 1.5 gallons. I may have to add a small circulation pump to prevent stagnation.