How to Customize Your Reptile's Tank

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By: Ellen Sever

Howdy folks! For this week’s blog, I decided to give you guys some pointers on how to create a custom, natural look for a tank and share our experience with customizing our tank for reference. 

So say you just got a new tank and you want to make it nice and pretty for your reptile. There are pre-made background options on the market, but these can either be a little pricey or err on the side of fake (sorry). So another option that will ensure the vision in your head becomes a reality is to do it yourself! Ahh, the old DIY, it can definitely sound daunting as there are plenty of horror stories out there but don’t fret, this one actually isn’t bad. 

So in our case, we got a super nice 40-gallon tank for cheap off of Facebook marketplace and decided it was going to house a ball python (we didn’t have our snake yet but we had a reptile show in mind where we planned to get him). We also had a bit of an idea in our mind on what we wanted so we decided to do it ourselves. This customization can be done with any size tank, although I imagine it would be easier the bigger it is (you’ll get why later). So without further ado, I’ll jump right in!

Step 1: Find your vision

The first step in this process is to come up with your vision on how you want your tank to look. Do you want sticks protruding around the tank? Do you want plants growing out of the back? Consider what kind of reptile you will be housing in it, is it arboreal? Maybe you want a bunch of sticks in that case. Just play around with ideas. We decided to do a rough sketch of how we wanted the setup to look and I would definitely recommend this as it helps put your image into perspective. Once you’ve decided what you want and where (generally), it’s time for step two.

Step 2: Gather your supplies

So now that you know what decorations you want for your tank, it’s time to go get them, along with the rest of your supplies. If you’ve decided to include sticks in your design, you have a couple of options. Most reptile stores and pet stores in general sell decorative sticks for tanks, however, these cost a bit of money and there’s always a cheaper way to do it...forage for your own sticks. Yep, this is what we did and we found some awesome ones for our tank. HOWEVER, finding your own sticks takes significantly more effort than buying them because you have to strip them of their bark and sanitize them before they are safe for your reptile. Although stripping them of their bark is not too hard and sanitizing them just includes baking them in a 250-300 degree oven for an hour. Also, make sure the wood you find is safe as some types of trees are toxic to reptiles. Now I know that sounds like a lot but If you do your research, you can find some beautiful sticks for free! Once you have collected your decorations, you can get the supplies for creating the back of the tank. 

  1. Sprayable foam for the back. We used the brand “Great Stuff” and got their “Big Gap Filler” option. You can find this at your local hardware store

  2. 100% all-purpose silicone and a caulk gun. Make sure the silicone DOES NOT say “mold-resistant” as these chemicals can be harmful to reptiles. You can also find this at your hardware store and we used the brand GE. The caulk gun is for spreading the silicone

  3. Sticks and net pots for plants

  4. A substrate such as Coconut Fiber. This is what we used to create a natural look in the back. You can find this online or at a pet store. 

  5. Gloves and masks. The silicone is extremely sticky and messy so spreading it without gloves is a terrible idea. It also smells like strong chemicals and we were gagging and coughing while applying it so masks are a smart choice (inhaling the fumes can cause respiratory irritation so be smarter than we were).

Step 3: Apply your foam

This step is by far the most satisfying. Something about spraying the foam over every inch of the surface was oddly therapeutic for me. So all it entails is to arrange all of your decorations the way that you want them laid out for your background and spray the foam all around them. If you get a little foam on your decor, that’s ok. You can carve it out later. 

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Step 4: Carve your foam

Once you have waited for the foam to dry ( takes about 8 hours) you need to carve down all of your foam so its shinier, smoother surface is no longer there. It should have holes throughout and feel rough like styrofoam once you are done. This is because the silicone sticks better to that surface. We use a serrated kitchen knife to cut ours. We first bought a spackling knife for the job but it didn’t work very well as it wasn't sharp enough to pierce through the foam. So since you’re using knives here, it probably goes without saying but please be careful. Also, this step is why I mentioned a bigger tank being easier for this project as it could be hard to get your knife in there and manipulate it around to do your carving. 

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Step 5: Spread your silicone and apply your substrate background material

This right here is the messiest step of them all. It’s also your last step though so you’ll probably have your finished product after this. You are definitely going to want your gloves and mask at this point because, as I said before, the smell is atrocious. So you’re going to put your silicone into your caulk gun and begin spreading it around all over your foam. Make sure to really get into those little bubbles and all of the little cracks, and again don’t worry if you get some on your sticks or decor. You can scrape it off later. Now it is VERY important to act fast when spreading the silicone and getting your substrate on it because if you wait too long, your silicone will start to dry and the coconut fiber (in our case) won’t stick. You can see that this happened to us in our picture, and I circled it in the second in case it isn’t clear. After we let our silicone cure (takes 24 hours) and flipped the tank right side up, large chunks of the coconut fiber fell off (R.I.P.) and a lot of the foam was still exposed so we had to do touch-ups. Because of this, I would recommend this part as a two-person job, especially if your tank is bigger. That way one can squeeze and spread the silicone and the other can press the coconut fiber into it behind them. 

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And that’s the whole process! You should wait at least 24 hours before flipping your tank right side up so the silicone has enough time to cure. Then you can plant all of your plants and finish putting the substrate all over the bottom and VIOLA, you have a complete tank. Though we ran into some issues along the way, like the silicone choking us out and the coco fiber not sticking, all in all, the process was really fun. It’s nice to be able to make the tank whatever you want it to be for your animal. We did all of our touch-ups and let our plants take root for a couple of days and then we got a beautiful banana fire ball python to occupy it. His name is Jebediah and though he hasn’t told me himself, I’m pretty sure he rather enjoys his new home.

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So that’s it guys! I hope you found this helpful and informative. While you’re here make sure to check out the homepage and the Automatic Reptile Feeder. Pre-orders are happening now! Bye :)

Automatic Reptile Feeder: The LAUNCH

This week is a very exciting week at Verge Pets because this is the week that we finally get to bring the Automatic Reptile Feeder to you guys! It’s been a long awaited moment with trials and tribulations along the way, but we made it and it’s here. WOOHOO! 

In case you guys haven’t read the backstory to this product yet, I’m gonna give it to ya. It started a couple of years ago when Nick (the owner and creator and mastermind) struggled to find people to take care of his lizards for him when he was away on vacation or such. On one such occasion he asked his adorable grandmother to take care of them and she was… let’s say not prepared for all it entailed. She ran into a bit of an issue when trying to get the crickets into the tank and ended up spilling them all over his room, which led to them growing and chirping and doing other cricket-like things in there for weeks after. So after that, he decided that something had to be done because he did not appreciate his loud new roommates. 

So, he dove into doing some research on if there was any product on the market that would automatically feed reptiles and he discovered that there were in fact none. This led him to put his engineering brain to work and formulate an idea for a product that would do what he needed. 

Thus the Automatic Reptile Feeder was brought to life. But it took a couple years to physically create it and perfect it. But he did and now if you’re ever in need of leaving your lizard alone for a week, you don’t have to ask around to find someone willing to help you out. Also it’s super easy to use so that won’t be a problem either. Just put your batteries in, load up the cricket food and put up to 8 crickets depending on their size, and set it to your desired dispensing time (12 or 24 hours). That’s it!

So anyways, you can find all of this stuff on the website too but it was my turn to get excited (and brag a little). If you guys have any questions, Nick and his teammate Zayyan will be happy to answer them for you. I hope you guys get as excited about this as I am because these boys have put a lot of themselves into this product and I can promise you it will live up to the hype. Alrighty bye for this week! 


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Buying a Tank for your Reptile

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By: Ellen Sever

So this week I’m gonna give you guys some pointers on one of the most important basics to owning a reptile: its tank. If you’re going to have a scaly friend you’re going to need somewhere to house it because letting it roam freely around your house is a rather bad idea. But, there are lots of different tanks out there and it’s important to find one big enough for your reptile. 

When it comes to the ideal size for your tank, it really just depends on the reptile you have. Typically, smaller sized lizards and snakes such as leopard geckos or corn snakes can live comfortably in smaller tanks around the size of 10 to 20 gallons. On the other hand, large lizards or snakes such as boa constrictors or water dragons may need tanks up to 8ft x 6ft x 8ft! So it’s really important to do your research beforehand and figure out what’s ideal for your pet. However, a good rule of thumb to follow once you’ve figured out the size they need is, the bigger the better. Though they have a minimum amount of space needed, your reptile will certainly appreciate more room if you have or can find a bigger tank for them. 

So, once you’ve done the research, it’s time to actually find a tank and buy it. This is the pricey part. But, I’m gonna give you some options on where to purchase, because if you know where to look, you could get a great deal. 

  1. Buy New 

Your first option for a tank is buying new from a reptile store or chain pet store, or from websites such as Amazon or Ebay (although the price for shipping on tanks can be crazy high). This is going to be the most expensive option but it requires the least amount of effort and searching. So if you want your tank fast and you don’t mind spending the big bucks on it, this is the best option for you. 

     2. Secondhand Marketplaces

Secondhand marketplaces such as Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace are definitely the place to look if you’re searching for a deal. Now, while there isn’t a guarantee that you will find the size you need here and it can still be pricey depending on the size of the tank, you are almost guaranteed to get it cheaper than buying it new in store. Also, the prices are typically negotiable, especially if the seller has had the tank for a while and is in the mood to simply get it off their hands. The only downside to this option is that you will probably have to drive to pick it up and you will need to clean it up a little before use. However, from my experience these tanks are typically in really good condition and it is simply a case of the seller not needing it anymore. Even in great condition though, it is important to clean it out before putting your reptile in. Make sure not to use super harsh chemicals when doing this. Ideally, you should use hot water and some herp-safe terrarium cleaner and your tank will be squeaky clean. 

3. Yard Sales 

This option may be harder to find as you have to search out the garage sales in your area. And once you do find one, there is no guarantee there will be a tank there. However, garage and yard sales usually sell things super cheap and the sellers are almost always willing to negotiate a price for you.  Who knows, you could be lucky enough to stumble upon a perfectly good 35 gallon tank for $7.50 which the seller is willing to lower to $5.00 (yes this actually happened to us). So, it could be a waste of your time but it could also be a major steal, and personally I find yard sales to be fun either way because there’s always cute little trinkets to look at. 

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Well, there you are. Just in case any of you out there are overwhelmed by the prices of new tanks, it’s important that you know there are more options out there than buying it new. So take some time to browse around because you never know how much you could save.

 P.S.A. before I sign out, the Automatic Reptile Feeder is a good addition to any size tank so click on the home-page to check that out ;) Bye!


Creature Spotlight: The Tiger Keelback Snake

By: Ellen Sever

So, chances are, if you’re here checking out the Automatic Reptile Feeder, you probably have a reptile to feed or at least an interest in reptiles (or maybe not and you just stumbled across us in which case, hello and welcome). Because we’re reptile lovers over here at Verge Pets, the idea came to me that it could be fun to spotlight a reptile every couple of weeks. But instead of focusing on the common ones like bearded dragons or corn snakes, I thought it would be cool to research some weird or wacky ones many people don’t even know of. Now let me tell you, there are a LOT of cool reptiles out there and doing this research was just as fun for me as I hope it will be for you to read it. A quick disclaimer before I jump in though, this reptile is not to be kept as a pet as it is both venomous and poisonous and simply not bred for captivity, so all around not a good idea. Now without further ado, I introduce to you: The Tiger Keelback Snake.

The tiger keelback snake, or floral snake as it is known in Korea,  is found throughout various parts of East and Southeast Asia, especially islands like Japan. It has bright orange and/or yellow colorations on its body interspersed with black blocks or stripes, making it resemble a tiger. Its unique coloring isn’t what makes this snake so cool, however. What makes them cool is what they eat and what they do with it. The primary diet of the tiger keelback is frogs and toads, poisonous ones at that. This snake has an immunity to the poison of their prey and has found a way to use it to their advantage. They (are you ready for this?) absorb the poison into special glands on their necks and use it as a defense mechanism against predators! So if a potential predator approaches, they begin to secrete the poison in preparation for the animal to bite them. If the predator does, it will get a mouthful of poison which leads to some nasty breathing and heart complications. How cool is that? They simply stole the defense of their prey to use for themselves.

Due to its strong defense mechanism, the tiger keelback does not strike often. People thought this snake to be harmless for many years because of this. That was until people did get bitten and it turned out to be fatal (yikes). So yeah, they are very venomous to humans as well, not to mention highly poisonous if consumed. Therefore, if you are from or find yourself in East or Southeast Asia and stumble across a tiger keelback, it would be best to keep your distance.

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So there you have it!  I was blown away when I read about this snake. The ways in which some animals adapt to survive amazes me, and this snake was no exception. Going after an animal whose defense mechanism is typically strong enough to keep it protected, and not only making it your prey but also stealing its strong defense for yourself? I mean come on, that’s pretty hard-core.


Reptile Expos: Snakes and Lizards and Frogs, Oh My!

 
Verge Pets at St. Louis Reptile Expo

Verge Pets at St. Louis Reptile Expo

Written by: Ellen Sever

The rather obvious first step to being a successful reptile owner is, well, owning a reptile. While there are many places where you can purchase reptiles, one of the best has to be at reptile expos. Not only will you most likely be getting the best price, you will also be presented with the biggest variety of options and potentially rare or uniquely patterned reptiles. Not to mention, the animals are, on average, healthier and better cared for than the ones you might find at your local chain pet store.

So, what exactly is a reptile expo and what can you expect when attending one? Well, quite simply, a reptile expo is an event in which various reptile and amphibian breeders get together to sell their animals and products, usually in a place such as a hotel or convention center. Walking into an expo can be slightly overwhelming, however it truly is every reptile lovers’ dream. Tables upon tables, stacked with lizards, snakes, frogs, turtles, and even the occasional hedgehog or sugar glider; all while being surrounded by fellow reptile owners and lovers. While not as numerous, there may be a table or two set up for products and supplies as well, however in my experience it is predominantly animals (which is the fun stuff anyway). Each breeder will typically have their own table or two set up to display their animals, and the rest is up to you. Whether you are there to buy or just to look, expos are a good time and an awesome opportunity to see some patterns and colors you may have never seen before.

                       Now, while most of the reptiles there are babies or juveniles, there are typically some adults to choose from as well. The prices at these events can range anywhere from $10 to $1000 depending on the animal and the breeder. Personally, the fact that you can walk in and buy a baby lizard for $25 in a little clear plastic cup is something that still excites me every time I attend one. However, the danger with being presented with so many affordable and adorable options is that the urge to impulse buy can become very strong. So, going into these events, use self-control and make sure you aren’t diving in head first by purchasing an animal you are not ready or able to care for. That aside, if you are attending, ready to purchase a new little friend, I have a few tips for you.

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1. Go into it with a basic idea of what you are looking for and do some research ahead of time.

Like I mentioned before, there will be many, many options available so it would be best to get a general idea of what you want beforehand and compile a basic knowledge of the husbandry needed to care for that animal. Of course, plans do change and you may stumble across an animal you did not expect and cannot pass up, which is totally understandable. However, do try to use a level of control and make sure you do the proper amount of research before purchasing any animal. So maybe you don’t get that animal at that particular show, it’s ok! There will be more. Plus, most of the vendors have their business cards on their table, so you could even grab that and give them a call to see if they have any of what you want available when the time is right.  

2. Ask the breeder how old the animal is, what its sex is (if not stated), and ask to hold the animal if considering purchase so you get an idea of its temperament.

Typically, the containers will state the sex of the animal, however if it doesn’t, be sure to ask. Reptiles’ size, much like most animals, does differ depending on the gender so that is an important bit of info. Like I mentioned, most vendors also have business cards on their tables which could also come in handy later, whether you have a question or you want to buy from them in the future. While not all sellers will allow you to hold the animal, depending on their temperament or stress level (the animal’s or the breeder’s); if you are considering purchase and would like to get a feel for the reptile’s personality, just let the seller know and they will hopefully help you out. Keep in mind though, I am talking about animals that handle well, such as ball pythons or bearded dragons. If you are considering purchasing a more skittish animal, such as the red-eyed crocodile skink, chances are you won’t be able to hold them, which is a good call honestly. That being said, do not feel pressured to buy an animal after making the seller go through the effort of taking it out for you. If it isn’t a match, it isn’t a match.

                3. Bring cash

While most breeders do accept card, some do not, so I would recommend bringing cash as a precaution. This could also act as a bit of an anchor to stop you from going over budget with all of the tempting critters.

So that’s it folks. Those are the basics on what to expect at a reptile expo. As I mentioned, it really is one of the best places to buy reptiles, as the amount of options is unmatched. Even if you are not planning on purchasing, or don’t have any interest in ever owning a reptile, I would still recommend attending one as they really are a cool experience. So get online, search for reptile shows/expos near you, and have fun! P.S. While you’re here, check out the home page and take a look at Verge’s awesome Automatic Reptile Feeder. Who knows, maybe you’ll see them at your next expo ;).


 

Welcome to the Verge Pets Blog!

Hello!

Welcome to the Verge Pets blog! Here we will post updates on our product development (coming soon!), reptile news, and great reptiles memes! We will also occasionally post tips for reptile care and various videos we publish on YouTube. Be sure to follow us on Instagram @vergepets and like us on Facebook! Who knows maybe you’ll even get a discount on our new product once it releases 😉. In the mean time, enjoy this meme :)

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