Setting up an enclosure

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Katrina
The Daredevil
The Daredevil
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Setting up an enclosure

Postby Katrina » Tue Apr 03, 2012 7:36 pm

What do you need to do before your bring your new BTS home to make sure its future home is perfect?

First - start with an enclosure. Generally, 36 x 18 inches or 90 x 45 cm, would be the smallest recommended enclosure for a Blue Tongue Skink. Bigger is better, keeping in mind that floor space is more important than height as they are ground dwelling. This site recommends trying for at least 48 x 24 inches or 120 x 60 cm of floor space. Size of the BTS will vary by species and individual. Front opening enclosures are preferable as the BTS can see you coming rather than you reaching in from the top similar to a predator swooping down. It is also better to have only on glass or clear side with the other three sides being covered by a background or not glass. Babies will do fine in an adult sized enclosure providing you give them plenty of snug hides that allow them to feel safe, so there is no need to have a smaller enclosure for babies or juveniles. Enclosures can be built or purchased, often for good prices second hand from places like craigslist or kijiji.

So you have an enclosure.... what else?

- heat lamp (doesn't matter what kind, you just need to get the surface temperature of a basking spot to about 95 - 100 F or 35 - 38 C).
- temperature gun (some sort of way to measure the surface temperature - a temp gun is great because you can get a digital read out of the basking spot and cool end in seconds) - get them at hardware stores for much cheaper than pet stores.
- hides - anything will do as long as they can hide in there and feel snug, secure and not exposed at all. Anything from reptile hides to cardboard boxes or handtowels work, as long as they can hide, feel snug and not be seen.
- basking spot /rock - any kind of rock or surface that holds heat will do. It can be a broken tile you got for free from Home Depot, a clean rock from your yard or a reptile basking rock from a pet store (not the plug in, self heated kind!). Any flat surface that holds heat, even ceramic or slate tiles from hardware stores.
- water dish - any sturdy, large water dish that they can fit most of their body in and can't tip over easily. Pie plates, dollar store specials or reptile specific ones work equally well.
- substrate - there are MANY substrates that work well - paper towel or newpaper is fine for new acquisitions or ill BTS, aspen, carefresh, repti-bark, cypress mulch etc are all ok. For Australian species such as Northerns a drier substrate such as carefresh or aspen might be better and for more equatorial species such as all the Indonesian species, something that holds moisture such as barks or mulch might be preferable (or add a humid hide). Options not mentioned will likely work just as well, just avoid cedar products due to the aromatic compounds.
- decorations - any sort of wood, rock etc features to decorate the enclosure will work well. They aren't great climbers, so don't make ledges or anything too high above the ground and make sure they can't touch the heat lamp or get out of the enclosure.
- supplements / UVB - a calcium and / or calcium + vitamin D3 supplement is recommended to add to every other meal as well as a multivitamin supplement for every 3 -5 meals. Do a search and read up on calcium and UVB or ask questions on the General Discussion Forum for more information.

How to set the enclosure up?

You need a basking / warm side with the heat lamp and a cool side without the heat lamp. The surface temperature of the basking rock should be 95 - 100 F or 35 - 38 C. The cool end should be low 70s to low 80s or 22 - 28 C. This will give your BTS a gradient so it can choose its preferred body temperature. Give it hides on both the warm and cool end, so it can be at its preferred body temperature and still feel safe. Add a couple inches of substrate so that it can burrow and cover its body. Add the water dish on the cool end, a good idea is to raise it up (perhaps on a tile) and provide a hide underneath to avoid getting substrate in. A food dish isn't needed in the enclosure, just put it in whenever you offer food and remove several hours later. Decorations can be placed wherever space allows.

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