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 Post subject: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: October 19th, 2014, 5:00 pm 

Joined: June 17th, 2010, 4:51 am
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Location: CT
I just used zoo med's excavator clay for the first time. I was pretty excited to try it out for a bearded dragon. I thought it would look very natural, and solve the problem of possible ingestion because it is supposed to harden similar to concrete. I am happy with the first goal, it looks great. However, after a couple days, the surface has become pretty loose, almost sand like. And because it is a clay substrate that is supposed to harden, it is even more worrisome from an ingestion standpoint. I'm not sure if I didn't pack it down well enough, dried it too fast or incorrectly (I left all heat lights on to speed the process), or if that just happens from lizard nails. I think I am going to try again and really pack it down tight.

Anyone have any good or bad experiences with it?

I realize this post would have been much better with pics, but the tank is at a shop I work at only a couple days a week, and I am home now :?


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: October 19th, 2014, 5:10 pm 
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Interesting. I have no experience with it, but I will be curious to see if others have, and what they've got to say. I've always thought it was a product I would like to try sometime, just haven't had the opportunity yet.

--Berkeley


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: October 19th, 2014, 7:25 pm 
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Its interesting this should be brought up, as I have been working with Mexican red clay - conventional, bought in a malleable cube at art and hardware supply stores.

I have been using it to seat rock and slate structure that is going into a new enclosure for my zonata, and also used it for some caves for a gallotia that I also moved, again as an adhesive and to create pillars between slate. I like it.

I am toying with using it alone on wall to make texture and aperture.

I suspect the excavator clay is the same thing as the regular clay, only in reconstitute-able form.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: October 20th, 2014, 4:05 am 
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If you are concerned about loose floor matter, having a little shop vac to go over it regularly may help, but vacuums can blow micro particulate into the common air shared by collection just to note.

I have found it beneficial to convert bearded dragons to thawed dubia and crickets, and ask clients if they would like their dragons converted as a service during their board stay. They convert to the method easily and it doesn't matter how long they have been feeding on live. That way you can use whatever sub you like, and the windowpane of parasite transmission is narrowed considerably.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: October 20th, 2014, 6:23 am 

Joined: March 30th, 2014, 12:16 pm
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Location: Okaloosa ca, Fla.
You could try mixing it. I purchased 2 bags a while back. I didn't like the first bag because it had particles that were too fine to be used with my Heterodon nascius. I mixed the 2'nd bag with field collected sand that I know to be safe 2 years running (this sand is used at work for everything from tortoises and snakes to soft-shell turtles and crayfish). I washed the excavator clay first to remove fine dust and mixed it with natural sand. I made it nice and damp to hold shape and let my Heterodon nascius have at it. Worked great, burrows held shape. I say held because I eventually did a change of substrate and tossed the old stuff out. I didn't';t buy more excavator as it is a costly substrate in my opinion. I didn't have issues with crumbling, but that could be because my nascius is a male - they don't get big, and also he doesn't have legs to scrape it up.

I think the crumbling may be a result of the bearded dragons running around, and also that they sometimes will attempt to dig a burrow, especially if you have a gravid female. Even males will though - one of my friends has a male beardy that seems to dig an unusual amount.

You could try mixing the excavator clay with something else to try and make the crumbling less "chunky" and more "grainy." You could also try alternatives to sand, carpet, or newspaper. I use landscaping rocks that are large, flat, and rough but smooth on the edges. I had to fracture and sand some to shape them to my bearded dragons enclosure, but I like it much better than any alternative. It makes cleaning easy as I can remove just the dirty rocks and clean them, then put them back. With newspaper I have to get new newspaper, the reptile carpets soak up feces and get soiled thoroughly, and sand needs a full replacement periodically. The rocks also keep my beardy from in-taking substrate when feeding, and help keep her nails from growing too long.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: October 20th, 2014, 8:20 am 
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Rocks, Rock. The original great stuff of the planet. Animals recognize them, have evolved on top of them, beneath them, against them.

I like my environments to smell like Outside when I mist them in the morning, and at nightfall.

Some things you just cant spray out of a can.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: October 21st, 2014, 7:07 am 
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I would try mixing the clay with Torpedo Sand. Torpedo sand will pack very tight, and it's thoroughly washed. This might work out really well for making a foundation that you're looking for.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: October 28th, 2014, 5:37 pm 
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Clay mixes well with long fiber sphagnum as well.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: October 29th, 2014, 11:20 am 
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pete wrote:
Clay mixes well with long fiber sphagnum as well.



That sounds interesting, and even delicious from a tactility standpoint.


I think surfaces are important. The working laws of the materials, and the neuroethology of the animal itself, in a closed system.

Its just Fun. Its fun to design and build and think about what to do. I think every one on this thread for instance, looks at items and materials wherever we go, differently than all the other people that are in the hardware store, or gardening dept while we are picking up a birthday card at walgreens.
Even walking around looking at the ground, or at branches and stones, driveway sand. Doing a double take at discarded cabinets, ceramic pots, yards with magnolia trees.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 2nd, 2014, 6:57 pm 
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So I have some mixed feelings about using the real clay so far.

Im not going to use it alone on the wall and my test runs have shown that the red clay will bleed, with misting, which I mist most, if not all of my enclosures in the morning and at nightfall. The shale and rock structures will shift seat with time, just as rock peices these sizes would naturally. Im not interested in coating it with anything to "cure" it.

It is a good rock seater and dries solid. I just dont want the entire character of the cages dominated by red clay run off and bits.

Thats my review so far. Again, Im not using the zoo med escv stuff, mine is solid form, plain red clay.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 5th, 2014, 11:54 am 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
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The word of the day is Epoxy.

Here's where you get it:
https://www.polygem.com/products/zoopox ... poxy-putty

Been there, done that, I'm stickin'. No more mortar or grout, no more silicone, no more acrylic copolymer or white glue, no more clay to coat my naturalistic backgrounds. I still use polyurethane foam underneath to build up my outcrops, ledges, stream courses, etc, just as under all the aforementioned coating agents.

This epoxy is good as a waterproof sealer, an adhesive, accepts dry tints (mixed in) as well as acrylic (& presumably other) paints when cured. Seems damned tough - like a super-hard plastic. Zero ingestion hazard, there is no loose material. Non toxic when cured, and very low fumes during the brief curing period. Surface texture of the final unadulterated product is very easily manipulated during application and curing. Can incorporate moss, sand, gravel, wood chips etc into a final surface coat if you like. Or you can just cover in Drylok if you like that degree and kind of texture. You don't need to do the whole background, can just use it to e.g. cover a feeding area, water feature, misting zone, etc.

When you mix the 2 parts you have a super-sticky, peanut butter-consistency goo. Takes a little getting used to working it, like anything. Google it or ask me or someone else who's used it. It's all about the fact that the uncured stuff doesn't stick to wet things.

Don't be scared of the price, it's kind of a psychological trick. First, a little can be stretched a long way. And second, when you look at full life-cycle cost, convenience, efficiency, longevity, and overall service-delivery or problem-solution - it's really cheap. And no, they don't pay me anything, I just really dig this goop.

I read somewhere that other sculpting-epoxy formulations are not non-toxic. So be careful and do your research if you find an alternative to Zoopxy that seems good.

cheers,
Jimi


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 5th, 2014, 1:32 pm 

Joined: June 11th, 2010, 9:42 am
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Jimi I know you are not one for pictures but I would love to see an example of what you have created with this stuff.

-Thomas Wilder


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 5th, 2014, 2:41 pm 
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I second that - but in my circumstance I have no where to work presently with those kinds of materials, as far as ventilation and separate build space, so I turned the limitation into a pleasant pursuit of using all earth material, but i really like your descriptions of feature Jimi - Im digging the page your on, and I always do.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 5th, 2014, 7:55 pm 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
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Quote:
Jimi I know you are not one for pictures but I would love to see an example of what you have created with this stuff.

-Thomas Wilder


Yeah I think I have posted exactly one pic online, ever (here in FHF). Not my cup of tea.

I've set up a cloud photo account a few times over the years and the damn things are moving targets, always "improving the user experience" or whatever (NOT!). The longer time goes between looking at those targets, the further they have moved...I'm just not photographically-oriented, so my motivation to keep up with its "material culture" is just about zero.

I'll see about creating another account somewhere. What's good right now? Perhaps more importantly - what sucks?

Quote:
those kinds of materials, as far as ventilation and separate build space


Man, with the epoxy I swear you could use a cardboard box as a hull (coat its inside with the epoxy, and make cutouts for ventilation & access ports - the latter you could frame in something rot-proof & easily worked (with small, cheap, easy-to-use power tools) like aluminum, HDPE, PVC, or polycarbonate stock, the former you could just screen over, adhering the screen with the epoxy). You could definitely just use styro coolers or packaging trash as hulls - glue up your bits with the epoxy, or hot glue if you wanted something that sets up quick. And again, coat the inside with the epoxy. But if you had a rigid hull and needed no "bomber" adhesives you could skip the epoxy and just use Drylok. A rigid hull like one of those old TV cabinets, or a recycled chest of drawers or armoire. All these options would save a lot of cutting, sawdust, etc.

A little job (a 2' cube or so) could probably be done on a newspaper-covered kitchen table over a few nights, if you're a little handy, and efficient.

cheers
Jimi


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 5th, 2014, 10:01 pm 
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Great information, again Jimi :thumb:

ive got a pretty good hand and yah buddy I loves to tinker, but ive come to believe that nothing I could create could be better than real rock and wood. Cork bark especially is so diversely formed - from tubes, gnarled stumps to convexes to broad shards. Easy to work, too, with the right collection of rasps and files almost any wood, matter or mineral shapes easy, and I like finessing natural forms for specific spatial, animal purposes.

I also suspect there are subtleties of earth formed surfaces that we ourselves may not perceive with the acuity of an evolved scute or lamella, and I like the potential of providing its enrichment.

An integrated approach and case by case attack of each project is always exciting :beer:


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 6th, 2014, 8:31 am 

Joined: June 11th, 2010, 9:42 am
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Jimi you could always just email them to me. No need for those third party sites if you do that.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 6th, 2014, 9:01 am 
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Sometimes for some of us, and Jimi may be one - I cant speak for him but he may agree, that some of the best work we have ever done we have never photographed. The only ones that knew about it were mostly the animals that lived there.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 6th, 2014, 11:31 am 

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Quote:
Jimi you could always just email them to me


that is a fine offer, will do, thank you Thomas

Quote:
some of the best work we have ever done we have never photographed


couldn't agree more Kelly, I've built and renovated or torn down more enclosure boxes and decor than I care to think about...all virtually picture-free

Quote:
nothing I could create could be better than real rock and wood. Cork bark especially is so diversely formed - from tubes, gnarled stumps to convexes to broad shards. Easy to work, too, with the right collection of rasps and files almost any wood, matter or mineral shapes easy, and I like finessing natural forms for specific spatial, animal purposes


mostly I agree with this - my only quibbles or retorts are that:

1) It's often much easier to make and use fake rock than to find and use (as-is or modified) exactly what you need. For example, I just can't anymore justify putting dozens of pounds of rock in a cage, but 15 or more square feet of fake-rock cliffs and ledges and caves? Yeah buddy!. I used to have cages with nothing but natural rock. Hell, for years I had four 20-gal totes full of sandstone slabs (when they weren't deployed in cages). They stayed put the last time I moved across the country...didn't hurt much! Now I live in the land of sandstone and the only reason I ever take any home is for stepping stones in my garden.

2) As for wood, I've only tried "faux bois" once and it turned out...OK. A hollow log, built up out of foam, covered in painted mortar, and coated in acrylic. Very functional but rather heavy and just too shiny. It's gone now, chucked out. But real wood (cork, or stuff dragged out of creek flood-driftwood) is easily integrated into a foam & epoxy background. (I still have three 20-gal totes full of small and medium driftwood and manzanita pieces.) And I could easily build another fake hollow log from foam and sculpting epoxy. Real-wood hollow logs are pretty hard to keep decently clean...but some critters really like that nearly 360-degree tactile security. An old butter tub will serve, but...I like something more attractive.

cheers,
Jimi


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 7th, 2014, 2:45 pm 
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Jimi wrote:
Quote:
some of the best work we have ever done we have never photographed

couldn't agree more Kelly, I've built and renovated or torn down more enclosure boxes and decor than I care to think about...all virtually picture-free

Indeed! My wife and I let nearly the entire three years we spent living and working in Tikal National Park, Guatemala go by before we started photographing things - and then we discovered that the film advance on my camera was no longer fully functional and the lenses for my wife's camera (not interchangeable with mine) were all mildewed on the inside. :shock: We had our photographic equipment in a dry box, but I guess it wasn't dry enough. As a result we have astonishingly few pictures of our time there, mostly just touristy pictures that we took right at the start, and most of the pictures we do have of our actual work are of poor quality (with various kinds of ghosting, etc.).

I love threads like this! We should try to organize a get-together for folks in our hobby who like to manufacture their own enclosures and enclosure settings, to trade tips, teach/learn techniques, etc. Maybe we could piggyback onto a gathering with some broader purpose?...

Or I tell you what, if/when I ever get to visit any of you guys, I will definitely bring my camera and if you want to put a project together and have me photograph it for you from start to finish, it would be my genuine pleasure. I'd likewise be happy to perform for you and your camera.

Hey, after such a meeting or visits, maybe then we could put together a multi-author book on this stuff! I'm not personally aware of any existing titles on it, are you?

Gerry


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 7th, 2014, 3:44 pm 

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Quote:
maybe then we could put together a multi-author book on this stuff! I'm not personally aware of any existing titles on it, are you?


I am not. Certainly not anything hard copy. There's plenty of stuff (pdfs & webpages, maybe some blogs) online, for free or for sale. Mostly hull templates, with materials and cut lists, etc. I've also gotten some good ideas for approaches and solutions, and also tools and materials, from home renovation forums.

On the old KS forums there was a subforum on cage-building. (Still there???) There were a couple guys there who did / do GREAT work. I particularly remember a guy named BigHurt. I think he was in somewhere cold, dark, buggy, flat, windy and overall just awful - like North Dakota. (No offense to anyone from there, ha ha.) Anyway, man, that dude had mad skills. I believe he's a real carpenter or plumber or something (not a make-believe one like me, ha ha). He definitely had a real shop with real shop tools ("floor tools"), not just the cheesy little hand-helds like I've got (got ghetto table saw? check!). I think I've seen him pop in here once or twice. He would be a treasure for this community. There were a couple other standouts on that KS forum but I forget their handles. Like most forum communities, those old guys have probably moved on, replaced by enthusiastic newcomers talking about exactly the same stuff. Hey, it's cool, whatever. Everything changes. Nothing changes.

For decor, there's a de Vosjoli title on naturalistic terraria. It's a decent starter book, with some plant lists etc. There's way more on all the various forums. And I mean ALL and VARIOUS. Some of my best "fake-rock" inspirations have come from model railroaders and marine aquarists forums (I don't do either hobby). Also there's some info - e.g. on good LED lights for plants, and sources of LECA pellets - on dope-growing forums (no, I don't do that either).

But there is also a ton of info on a few herpetoculture forums. Dendroboard, for example, has a lot of great threads, build logs, and stickies. (But you have to be aware that those guys are into a very specific & esoteric thing, and are as vulnerable to fads and distractions as anyone. They, for example, have led the charge - big time - on clay backgrounds. Many have discovered those backgrounds only last a year or two. Buh-mer! Ha ha. Also, any fool knows - right? - that you'll kill most any snake if you try to keep it like a dart frog. Hello respiratory issues!

Anyway, probably / IMO the best source of direct "how to" info is You Tube nowadays. You have to wade through a lot of crap, e.g., 3 minutes of heavy breathing and shaky panning around a fogged-up 10-gal aquarium, brimming with pothos, with off-the-shelf poorly designed & built, overpriced lighting & water-feature gadgets, all providing questionable environmental quality for the captives. But there are some gems. What I would like to see more of, is time-lapse enclosure builds from start to finish.

So.....I'm not really interested in writing a book, or having people in my basement, but would be happy to discuss enclosure/habitat principles, building materials & techniques, decor, etc. And pass photos or sketched images to Thomas if he'll post them. I'm always tinkering with something, I can take more pictures if someone wanted to see how I do anything I've mentioned.

cheers,
Jimi


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 7th, 2014, 9:16 pm 
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I think a very interesting aspect of vivaria would be the investigation and provision of principles in a closed system and how it can engage the neuroethology of the subject within it.

Often the term Naturalistic Vivaria is translated as a look or style of enclosure genre, and that the aim is decorative display.

But there are other more compelling levels than what it looks like. This was what I was broaching in the thread Quality Of Life and Captive Reptiles. It was quickly and surprisingly turned into an abstract of aesthetic that wasnt what it was about.

It is natural for the human eye to see natural materials, or faux natural materials in composition and percieve it as attractive.

But I believe that for many taxa, providing a cultured equation of what is reality for them is the more important potential, and the closer we come to that ideal the more a closed system can be used as a close range lens.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 8th, 2014, 1:42 pm 

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Quote:
Often the term Naturalistic Vivaria is translated as a look or style of enclosure genre, and that the aim is decorative display.
But there are other more compelling levels than what it looks like.


Indeed. I was telling Thomas (offline) that in my builds I'm way better at achieving environmental control and systems engineering, and tend to fall short on (probably because I'm not hung up on achieving) artistic or final-finish excellence. I build for the animals, not the living room, the delight of visitors, or to make a coffee-table book. I do try to get things "looking nice" but I don't tweak out on it. I'm just a hard-nosed functionalist I guess.

I think the current or recent vogue among the frog & fish guys, to develop for e.g. Panamanian PDFs or hill stream loaches, enclosures that "can only" use sympatric plants, is a prime example of "going WAY over the top on appearance".

Quote:
But I believe that for many taxa, providing a cultured equation of what is reality for them is the more important potential,


Couldn't agree more. But I wonder if (my interpretation of) your ideal of a closed system might be another flavor of aesthetic exaggeration or fixation? I have tried a number of closed systems for water, and have gotten a good ways down that road, but man - it'd be a lot easier to provision the animals with an open system.

I have never even bothered trying to go closed with air - wide open it is. "Blow baby blow, this ain't no Biosphere 2". Ha ha.

Finally -
Quote:
It was quickly and surprisingly turned into an abstract of aesthetic that wasnt what it was about.

No! On the internet!?!?!? Ha ha, yeah that happens. I need to go back and have a look at that, I vaguely remember it. Sometimes you go way over my head.

cheers,
Jimi


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 8th, 2014, 2:45 pm 
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Oh please don't. It started out fun but nobody wanted to play really. I'm weird.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 8th, 2014, 2:49 pm 
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Oh hey say Jimi we need to talk more. I'm on this phone can't, but about Air, many thoughts on air and its under estimation in captive situ.

Truly I would love convo with you . You say such things that stop me in my tracks

Closed System, not a term meaning closed as in some biosphere sense as you mention. No I mean it in a simple way of removed, independent from native ecologies.

An environment not in the natural system, but as accurate as possible in resources and principles


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 9th, 2014, 9:32 am 
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Jimi wrote:
... I build for the animals, not the living room, the delight of visitors, or to make a coffee-table book...

I was thinking more along the lines of a how-to guide - partly meant to emphasize the importance of building for the animals, which virtually all the tutorials I've seen online seem to ignore - than a coffee table book, but whatever... :?

Parallel to this discussion, I've often talked with other scientists about how much and what kind of effort should be put into presentations. Many times I've heard them express such disdain (yes, that's how you're coming off to me, Jimi, as disdainful) toward those who try hard to make their presentations attractive. "Being informative is the most important thing!" they say, and of course they're right so far as it goes. But information can all too easily be presented in such a manner that it's actually wasted, (e.g. in a bare, extensive table of data that no one will bother to try to decipher, and sometimes such that they couldn't decipher it even if they were inclined to try), and the more attractive something is the more easy it is to get people to pay attention to it, too. When arguments over form versus function arise, I always say "Why not strive for both?"

Bringing this back to the topic at hand, I've certainly noticed that I myself spent much more time with/gave much more attention to my aquarium and terrarium pets when I started out by setting them up in something I thought beautiful than when I simply went with something utilitarian. It's not that I neglected them in the latter case, I guess I just didn't find them quite as interesting and so didn't expend quite as much effort on them. I really don't think that's just me, either.

I feel fortunate when it comes to enclosure and setting design that I grew up in the fish hobby, as they have long been leaders in this kind of stuff. I've certainly borrowed heavily from my work with captive fish in working with captive herps, and I think there's a lot more still to be shared across these hobbies.

Gerry


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 9th, 2014, 10:02 am 
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Hi Gerry your cross over points re aquaria/vivaria is good, and the point earlier made by Jimi about exploration in other genres of materials work and fabrication.

There is this thing I have noticed about when something is Good, really good, its good in many if not all applicable ways.

Ive noticed how inadvertently beautiful balance is, and how rocks finessing out a water feature, creating segway and graduation look beautiful. So many things that are sound and true and functional, are also just inherently lovely.

One thing I have found pleasant is, for some of the rock and woods I have, I like their forms and character, and when I have a niche in an enclosure for stone or wood that will work , it is pleasant to see it in there, having purpose. Its like Im "keeping" that great grotto chunk, branch, or shank of petrified wood as well. Ever since I was a kid happiness was always finding a good stick or rock.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 9th, 2014, 10:49 am 
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Kelly Mc wrote:
So many things that are sound and true and functional, are also just inherently lovely.


You probably wouldn't like what I use for my little geckos' hide boxes, then:

Image

But they're PERFECT for them. And I like "repurposing" items like this, which I only recently found out was one of the marketing points of this packaging in the first place.

:thumb:


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 9th, 2014, 11:14 am 
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If you glue gun some bark on that tub, your geckos will climb on it, and over it, actually creating more surface/activity opportunity in the space. You can also use carpet. Anything toothy. I do this for my Leo humidly stations. When they aren't in it, often they are on top.

Levels.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 9th, 2014, 11:54 am 
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"You probably wouldnt like what I use for my little geckos hide boxes then.."

Please not this again. Ive got nothing "against plastic" so please dont corral my comments into some Purist Manifesto that I dont entertain, just because Im aware that traction is useful and encouraging for alot of animals to locomote.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 9th, 2014, 2:10 pm 

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Alright Chris, Kelly, Gerry - let's not go all pissing match here. It's almost hopelessly easy to take things the wrong way here in the land of kitten videos and arguing with strangers. It's hard to express nuance, humor, etc when you don't have any nonverbal communication to work with. And if you don't want to write "a book" that nobody will read anyway, it's hard to use verbal.

Like for example, I seem to have totally misinterpreted Kelly's "closed system". I just dove for what's familiar to me, with that term. So my thinking it was possibly "another manifestation of aesthetic fixation" was a dead-end mistake. OK, cool, I think I get it. Sorry Kelly.

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Jimi wrote:
... I build for the animals, not the living room, the delight of visitors, or to make a coffee-table book...

I was thinking more along the lines of a how-to guide - partly meant to emphasize the importance of building for the animals, which virtually all the tutorials I've seen online seem to ignore - than a coffee table book, but whatever... :?


Hmm, bit of a hair trigger there Gerry. Have a care, please, and I will do same, and we can keep this rapprochement going. My comment wasn't actually about you or your entry into this thread, instead my mind was on how the internet seems to have enabled & catalyzed today's pop culture into a whole bunch of one-upmanship. I see and hear a lot of it with e.g. sport hunters, their wanting to "kill monster bucks" and so on. You also see it with all the "selfies". And you can see it on Dendroboard, and here on FHF, and all over the internet. To me just looks like a lot of bragging, and gross consumerism, and jockeying for social dominance. None of which I understand. Yes, I hold those things in contempt, I disdain them.

Anyway, I suppose I could get behind a how-to guide. I guess I'm just a little conflicted though - leery of not merely improving herpetocultural practice for animal welfare and human satisfaction, but of increasing demand (not that I think keeping is inherently bad (obviously, I hope), just...the Internet scares me; or rather, people's ability to overdo things scares me). Anyway, seems like building on de Vosjoli's Art of Keeping Snakes would be a worthy tack.

Chris - there is one of those restaurants awfully close to my office. I have several of those containers I've saved as "mini tuppers". Have also thought about how to use them for humid hides. You're gonna love some of the pics I sent Thomas (see below). I'm a garbage man too. My wife hates it. She calls me "the gleaner". Too funny.

Looping back to when I jumped on this thread, evangelizing for what I think is the coolest thing going right now in 3-D naturalistic backgrounds for DIY'ers - I've sent Thomas some pics from my very first epoxy-build. I chose the first one, because I hope it shows how flat the learning curve is for this material. Presumably, if he wants to (and I'm not asking, he just offered) Thomas will either post them up, or ask me for some commentary/explanation to go with.

cheers,
Jimi


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 9th, 2014, 2:56 pm 
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Don't worry, Jimi, I'm not interested in fighting and I didn't think you were either. I just offered my thoughts that appear counter to yours, and took the opportunity to point out that the way you expressed your thoughts came off with me in a manner that perhaps you didn't intend. And I couldn't agree more about how difficult this medium is for communication. ;)

I meant to mention previously but forgot: I'm not personally familiar with Polygem's Sculpting Epoxy Putty, but I know and very much like Aves' Apoxie Sculpt. These are some very cool products for DIYers!

Chris, I found that 2 oz condiment cups with lids (turned upside-down with a small hole cut in the bottom and loosely stuffed with a bit of damp sphagnum) worked wonderfully for humidity/hide boxes for hatchling scarlet kingsnakes, too - so much so that when I saw them for sale at Sam's Club years ago I bought a box of 1000, as we never ate out or got take-out food often enough to satisfy the need I had for them. ;) I've spent more time and money than I care to mention at The Container Store and had my wife poke fun of me for it, too. Doing what works best for the animals is certainly more important than doing what's most attractive; I just prefer to do both whenever possible. Or at least I did when I was keeping animals.

(Correct that. I only have cats now but I guess I'm still that way. I've presently plans to make some of my own cat furniture because I don't like the quality or looks of the vast majority of stuff that's available and I've a few ideas of my own that I want to try out. I guess it gets in your blood or something.)

Gerry


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 9th, 2014, 5:51 pm 
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Kelly Mc wrote:
"You probably wouldnt like what I use for my little geckos hide boxes then.."

Please not this again. Ive got nothing "against plastic" so please dont corral my comments into some Purist Manifesto that I dont entertain, just because Im aware that traction is useful and encouraging for alot of animals to locomote.


That wasn't my intent...didn't you see the guy grinning ear-to-ear, and giving a hearty thumbs-up? :P


Getting back to the tactile-enrichment aspect--perhaps I shouldn't have eaten the mashed potatoes before offering the hides to the geckos! :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 9th, 2014, 7:36 pm 
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Ok then, :lol: must have been a tag team flash back


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 10th, 2014, 4:30 pm 

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I start the thread, don't check for a few days, (ok maybe weeks), and wham! Come back to all sorts of discussions. Glad to see this forum is alive.

I meant to take a pic of the original tank I mentioned, but we sold the dragon and cleaned it out before a got a chance. A coworker had just sprayed the excavator clay down and packed it, and it did become somewhat hard again. So maybe I needed to pack it down better when originally constructing it, or maybe it is just a product that will need regular maintenance with certain lizards- the jury is still out.

Jimi mentioned epoxy, and here is a similar product, but maybe a little easier to work with. I haven't personally used it, but know someone who swears by it, even waterproofing basically a concrete block box to hold fish:
http://pentairaes.com/plumbing-electrical-paint/electrical-paint-safety/epoxy-paint

Anyone know where to buy small totally opaque plastic containers? I am tired of duct-taping, painting, or spray-foaming clear or translucent ones to make little, dark, moist hide boxes. Ideally the top will by opaque as well.

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I think every one on this thread for instance, looks at items and materials wherever we go, differently than all the other people that are in the hardware store, or gardening dept while we are picking up a birthday card at walgreens.
Even walking around looking at the ground, or at branches and stones, driveway sand. Doing a double take at discarded cabinets, ceramic pots, yards with magnolia trees.

Kelly- this is so true.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 10th, 2014, 6:49 pm 

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Quote:
Jimi mentioned epoxy, and here is a similar product, but maybe a little easier to work with. I haven't personally used it, but know someone who swears by it, even waterproofing basically a concrete block box to hold fish:
http://pentairaes.com/plumbing-electric ... poxy-paint


Funny you should cite that stuff - I'm sitting on a gallon of it. Haven't popped it yet so can't speak much to its working properties, or its performance.

I can say it isn't really a similar product - that's an epoxy paint. It's a very runny liquid that sets up super shiny. Waterproof. Might need a respirator to work with it, not sure. Sticks to anything and not much sticks to it. Does not like UV radiation. Apparently best used with cheap throw-away brushes, cleanup looks...possibly impossible. (Love that vendor BTW, they have zillions of useful products and also AWESOME customer service. They will sit on the phone with you as long as it takes, and brainstorm solutions to anything you throw their way. I have worked out some funky plumbing issues with their help.) This epoxy paint is used for, e.g., waterproofing huge plywood marine tanks. Without the use of glass cloth - just glued & screwed. I thought I'd use it for some traditional (non-3D naturalistic) hulls. Hasn't happened.

The stuff I mentioned is sculpting epoxy. Like I said it has more of a sticky peanut butter consistency. Also sticks to anything, but it's very easy to adhere things to it, at least while it's still tacky (I haven't tried adhering anything to the cured product. With some scuffing I expect that you could at least use more of the same goop as your "glue"). Real mellow fumes (but I have the respirator, so I just wear it). Easy tool cleanup - wipe with a series of damp paper towels. With the pigment, I expect it would hold up to UV just fine.

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Anyone know where to buy small totally opaque plastic containers?

Nope, sorry. The old film canisters used to be that way. Those things just aren't around like they used to be. Too bad, they were good for storing all kinds of goodies.

Would inverted craft-store mini terra cotta pots work for you? Size of a shot glass. I once dremeled (with a tile bit) a bunch of those - cut a semicircle out of the rim and flipped them over. Had a bunch of little baby tropical-terrestrial vipers to keep secure and humid but not stagnant. The pots keep a nice humidity but don't sweat, they breathe. You can spritz the outside and the moisture wicks in. Just a thought, good hunting, happy crafting.

cheers,
Jimi


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 11th, 2014, 1:02 am 
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Ok on with the show ...

Im really digging that all this Exact information (product names and materials behavior) bubbling, popping and seething in one thread...

I have nothing against using synthetics builds (trying to think of a catch all phrase) if they cure really inert, as i personally think residuals are underestimated. Silicone and other "safe" adhesives and paints come immediently to mind.

Toxicity - Dont know for sure. But I do know that chemical scents can be supressive and distractive. And I strongly believe we constantly underestimate the sensate acuities of other organisms.

I just prefer their activites to have novel adverse stimuli out of the equation. They do have a sense of smell. And they do have avoidance behavior in trek and impetus.

Some people I have heard will even use strong "Orange Power" or fresh "Lavender ' wipes in their bins etc, because they will say or look like a "green' product. Yet they are repellent in character, by nature and design, even if they werent combined with various other household clean agents.

Which brings to the table the subject of Cleaning Methods, which with animal husbandry is a diverse subject, and science in itself.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 11th, 2014, 6:26 am 
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Jimi wrote:
The stuff I mentioned is sculpting epoxy...

Jimi, do I recall correctly from past discussions that you've also tried the Apoxie Sculpt that I mentioned? If so, how would you say the two products compare? Apoxie Sculpt works much like putty, whereas the stuff you're talking about sounds wetter and stickier (which I reckon would work better in some applications and less well in others). I guess maybe your stuff is equivalent to another product in Aves' Apoxie line, their Apoxie Paste (which I haven't used). They also have one that works like modeling clay, predictably named Apoxie Clay (which I haven't used, either). Besides the texture of Apoxie Sculpt, the reason I went with it rather than the other Aves products is because it's available in a wide variety of base colors - and of course an infinite variety of other colors can be achieved by mixing - so that if one is creative and careful s/he can achieve just the effect s/he desires with little or no painting.

I miss those old film canisters, too. They certainly had all kinds of uses in their day.

Gerry


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 11th, 2014, 12:04 pm 

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Quote:
Jimi, do I recall correctly from past discussions that you've also tried the Apoxie Sculpt that I mentioned?


Nope, sorry I have not, your link was the first I've heard of it. I liked the colors immediately.

However Kelly brings up something (toxicity) that I recollect being discussed somewhere in all my online research into sculpting materials and coatings. Apparently in some of the modeling/sculpting epoxies, there's something really nasty. The original poster there mentioned looking at the MSDS, page 2, to see if whatever you were looking at had the nasty in it. My description is vague as hell, I know, but I took one look and just decided "Zoopoxy looks great!" because it lacks the nasty. Not knowing Apoxie, and having settled on Zoopoxy, I haven't gone looking. I could probably dig up a link to that discussion.

As far as the texture, yeah the peanut butter thing is a little weird, something more like clay would be better for certain applications (like rolling thin-diameter faux bois? making elevated custom-shape water bowls? free-sculpting hides?). However there is a thickening agent that polygem sells. I went ahead and bought some but haven't yet used it yet for my backgrounds. For that work I just putty-knife the goop onto my foam "rock", and as curing time elapses & the goop sets up I come back and press or drag impressions into it, use (mostly, drag or push) a wet paintbrush to knock down or tone down any undesired knife marks, and finish (usually a while later, returning after a beer or whatever - these are pretty tiring crafting bouts!) with a stippling action of the wet brush to wipe out my brush strokes.

For coloring sculpting epoxy, I have tried 3 things: 2 involve dry pigment (e.g., Sakcrete's 1-pounders; I have seen and bought 4 colors), the third is just topical paint application, after curing. The dry pigments can go in/on 2 ways: 1) stirred in as you're combining epoxy parts A and B, and 2) sprinkled lightly onto the curing surface. Using a damp paintbrush, use the stippling motion to push the pigment firmly onto the surface, and spread it around some, and blend different colors of pigment. When fully cured give it all a good hard scrub and rinse - the pigment that sticks appears to be there for good. Good enough for me anyway.

Quickcrete has a liquid color additive which I haven't used.

Anyway to say one last thing here about toxicity - I don't sweat it that much. I mean, I take some care, but if for example institutional (zoo, university, etc) aquaculturists report no bad experiences with Drylok or epoxy tank coatings - I figure "huh, works for me". (And you know, it actually does - "proof's in the pudding" so to speak - hypotheticals can't touch empiricals in my book.) To each their own though - live as you want to and I'll do the same, it doesn't last forever anyway.

cheers
Jimi


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 11th, 2014, 12:48 pm 
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Ive worked around and done repair on zoo enclosures, herp shop display cases, and I am not overly worried by toxicity of the shells.

I especially like using/appropriating ex aqua culture stuff, as the canaries have already flitted through the coal mine - ad infinitum

my curiousity is focused on the things we don't conventionally examine as behavior altering, or discomforting. Especially in newly minted works.

Ignoring subject discomfort in herpetoculture once seemed jaded pro and scientifically stoic, but I think that view is becoming outdated. Nothing is more scientific if it requires less investigation.


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PostPosted: November 11th, 2014, 2:10 pm 
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**Not to say that you do Jimi - or anything in direct response to your input (the internet trans again)

but just expressing a peep hole I am fascinated in with work and ponder


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PostPosted: November 11th, 2014, 2:26 pm 

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Quote:
Which brings to the table the subject of Cleaning Methods, which with animal husbandry is a diverse subject, and science in itself.


This was one of my motivations or concerns that led to my enthusiasm for naturalistic enclosures, especially ones with low-maintenance or self-cleaning aspects. So for example a scoop-and-stir of de Vosjoli's "bioactive substrate" looks much better to me, than pulling the animal out weekly for a paper change and a chemical wipe-down.

- partly I just don't like bugging the animals - even with harmless ones I got to the point of not ever really touching them unless necessary for husbandry

- I also got to worry a bit about disrupting their chemosensory environment

- partly it's a result of my lifelong interest in venomous-keeping, and my general approach to risk management in that inherently risky avocation (which includes minimizing all unnecessary close interaction; a habit which is best not limited to venomous, if one has a mixed collection or switches back and forth due to internal or external circumstances)

Anyway, re: subject discomfort - I got to the point (partly as a result of the big, naturalistic vivaria which hog herp-room real estate, and partly again due to the venomous thing which is best done 1 animal per cage!) where I had so few animals I really couldn't discern group treatment effect, from individual variability. I just try to see "is Bobby looking happy, or depressed, or freaked out?" I've got a thing - an aversion - about managing by anecdote, or at least about masquerading anecdote as scientific. But at home, I tend to just fly by the seat of my pants. I figure the human brain is still the world's best supercomputer - I just go with it. While trying to remember we're all subject to the same cognitive biases, you just have to try to be aware and alert to them.

cheers,
Jimi


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PostPosted: November 11th, 2014, 3:13 pm 
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Jimi wrote:
Quote:
Which brings to the table the subject of Cleaning Methods, which with animal husbandry is a diverse subject, and science in itself.


This was one of my motivations or concerns that led to my enthusiasm for naturalistic enclosures, especially ones with low-maintenance or self-cleaning aspects. So for example a scoop-and-stir of de Vosjoli's "bioactive substrate" looks much better to me, than pulling the animal out weekly for a paper change and a chemical wipe-down.

- partly I just don't like bugging the animals - even with harmless ones I got to the point of not ever really touching them unless necessary for husbandry

- I also got to worry a bit about disrupting their chemosensory environment

- partly it's a result of my lifelong interest in venomous-keeping, and my general approach to risk management in that inherently risky avocation (which includes minimizing all unnecessary close interaction; a habit which is best not limited to venomous, if one has a mixed collection or switches back and forth due to internal or external circumstances)

Anyway, re: subject discomfort - I got to the point (partly as a result of the big, naturalistic vivaria which hog herp-room real estate, and partly again due to the venomous thing which is best done 1 animal per cage!) where I had so few animals I really couldn't discern group treatment effect, from individual variability. I just try to see "is Bobby looking happy, or depressed, or freaked out?" I've got a thing - an aversion - about managing by anecdote, or at least about masquerading anecdote as scientific. But at home, I tend to just fly by the seat of my pants. I figure the human brain is still the world's best supercomputer - I just go with it. While trying to remember we're all subject to the same cognitive biases, you just have to try to be aware and alert to them.

cheers,
Jimi


although I don't have any venomous, I very much can relate to the Switch Protocol thing. Its exhausting sometimes Jimi, but I weigh it against the stress (for ME) of mishap and so here I go, undressing in the garage when I come home etc etc etc.

Its also exhausting watchdogging others i work with but it becomes a second nature not everyone acquires, little details that are not little. mantras that ingrain, in how water is handled, buckets are filled, gloves are removed and when. My peeve is people who wear the gloves - but use the same pair all over the place - whats the point,jeez.

A disaster avoided is never rewarded.

Really relate with so much you share, and enjoy it thoroughly


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 11th, 2014, 4:36 pm 
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Everyone here, this has been a wonderful round table, I hope it continues to grow.


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 Post subject: Re: zoo med excavator clay
PostPosted: November 11th, 2014, 5:00 pm 
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Jimi wrote:
... Kelly brings up something (toxicity) that I recollect being discussed somewhere in all my online research into sculpting materials and coatings. Apparently in some of the modeling/sculpting epoxies, there's something really nasty. The original poster there mentioned looking at the MSDS, page 2, to see if whatever you were looking at had the nasty in it. My description is vague as hell, I know, but I took one look and just decided "Zoopoxy looks great!" because it lacks the nasty. Not knowing Apoxie, and having settled on Zoopoxy, I haven't gone looking. I could probably dig up a link to that discussion.

I first learned of Apoxie Sculpt in the fish-keeping hobby, and Aves indicates in their FAQs that it is (along with their other 2-part "clay" products) safe to use for that purpose. They also describe them as "permanent" and "UV resistant, waterproof, weather proof, and incredibly durable." These products have already been in use for quite some time in zoos and public aquariums, too. But I understand sticking to what you're used to... ;)

On a more general note for those interested... I've spent a great deal - too much, really! - of my career in one or another laboratory, including the one I created and directed for the last zoo for which I worked. You can believe me when I say that I've spent way too much time reading and applying what I've learned from MSDSs. They are indeed the ultimate guide as to what is and isn't safe to use for a given purpose, if you are capable of fully understanding them (which isn't always easy), but there's a simple rule one can follow short of delving into all that chemistry, too: Call the manufacturer and ask! If they tell you their product's not safe for the use to which you want to put it then it might or might not be, as their fear of liability will prompt them to tell you "No!" even if they simply haven't tested it for your use, but if they tell you it is safe then that's pretty trustworthy.

Gerry


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PostPosted: November 11th, 2014, 5:14 pm 
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Hey Gerry :thumb:

What facebook is to some people, the MSDS is to others.

Everyone should know it, use it, and this includes products sold for reptile use, and for tropical fish.

Or - research the ingredients of the products (if they are even listed) being sold for reptile and fish use.

Break it down and find the data. A picture and text on a bag, box, or bottle actually means nothing at all. Its an unregulated industry.


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PostPosted: November 11th, 2014, 5:52 pm 
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There has been a kind of shift in my own outlook that has happened over time, where I have come to prefer items from scratch origins, even :o from Outdoors, to much of the materials and offerings of retail.

I know I have picked on Coco fiber a lot, but its a great example of successful marketing, there is a huge audience of reptile keeping people, whom have been led to believe that Coco Fiber is a substrate specifically conceived and created for the healthy, happy husbandry of herps, when the fact is it is nothing but a clever bulk appropriation off of another industry. Just like Corn Cob Bedding was in the 70's & 80s, and ground Walnut Shell was in the 90s. All marketing.

When it comes to pet 'meds' 'aids' 'conditioners' the MSDS is very useful, if only to reveal how biologically incongruent and useless some of these actually are.


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PostPosted: November 11th, 2014, 6:07 pm 
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HerpNation Real Reptile Stuff.

Think about it.


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PostPosted: November 11th, 2014, 6:26 pm 
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Hey, Kel. I've been meaning to tell you that I like your new avatar! :thumb:

Yeah, I actually used to enjoy reading MSDSs, too, until I regularly had to read many tens of them at a time and assiduously apply what I learned from them to ensure the safety not only of myself but also a variety of students, interns, volunteers and staff. I always required the folks who worked for me to read and understand the MSDSs of the particular chemicals they worked with, but that wasn't always sufficient. Most memorably, I had one college student intern who despite not only the MSDS but also repeated, intense instruction from me was so sloppy with picric acid (which can easily go "Ka-BOOM!") so many times that I finally had to evict her from the lab for her own good; I debated the idea of tattooing the chemical's MSDS warnings and my instructions onto her forearms, but knowing her she would have just used that as an excuse to forgo wearing a lab coat and gloves while working with the stuff. :roll:

And yeah, looking over the MSDSs of various products you do quickly find that some of them don't really do anything, or at least not anything you can't also do with safe, simple products you undoubtedly already have in your home. But that's the American way, eh? If you can't build a better mousetrap then just come up with another way to package and market it.

Gerry


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PostPosted: November 12th, 2014, 4:01 am 
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Kelly Mc wrote:
I know I have picked on Coco fiber a lot, but its a great example of successful marketing, there is a huge audience of reptile keeping people, whom have been led to believe that Coco Fiber is a substrate specifically conceived and created for the healthy, happy husbandry of herps, when the fact is it is nothing but a clever bulk appropriation off of another industry. Just like Corn Cob Bedding was in the 70's & 80s, and ground Walnut Shell was in the 90s. All marketing.


Same thing with Repashy Super Hatch incubation medium. It's great in that role, but it's really just repackaged stuff that is primarily/originally used as the "dirt" on baseball fields--and we herp folks pay something like 20 times the bulk rate!

We can probably safely assume the subject of this thread ("excavator clay") is another similarly-repurposed product.


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PostPosted: November 12th, 2014, 7:44 am 

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As Jimi noted the KS forums on cage building that reminded me of a different topic, in my area of Ophidian interest, Hognose Snakes. One of the KS members when I was there, FR, spends much of his time studying Heterodon nascius, and I believe Heterodon kennerlyi as well, in the wild in order to better understand their health and well being in captivity. He uses all arrangements of enclosures from basic rack systems to advanced systems to cover wide ranged of temps and humidity. His goal is to compare basic industry, basic keeping, and advanced keeping, to see how the Heterodons compare under the given enclosed environments. From what I understand based on what I have read from him, his caging studies goal is to recreate the natural conditions as best as humanly possible on which Heterodon thrive under, instead of the basic captive conditions on which Heterodon survive under.
I will say that if anyone decided to read through some of FRs posts, he does tread boldly into areas of "conditions management" that most snake keepers dare not go.

As Gbin said before, why note strive for both the utmost benefit of the animal at hand as well as what is pleasing to the human eye? I know I do. An easy way for it to be done is first consider the animal, then consider visual appeal after-words. It may not be a fancy zoo setup, but most people are not running a serpentarium in their homes.

FR occasionally posts his pictures of cages to reinforce points that he is trying to explain to other Heterodon keepers. Based off of these pictures, both extreme utility for the herp as well as extremely pleasing to the human eye enclosures can be built if thought is given to the setup.

I have also seen other cages produced without background for WC Amphibians, specifically Plethodon grobmani, where substrate is collected from the same site as the Plethodon grobmani to provide the correct consistency for them to burrow. By simply adding some Sphagnum teres transplants, packed "Frog Moss" and a some decaying tree as a centerpiece, the enclosure was might very slightly.

Another material I have seen used to create background is Great Stuff foam. On an old forum that is dead except for spam bots, I was inquiring as to how to build backgrounds and a member there suggested Great Stuff foam, which he uses for his bearded dragons. The results were amazing. A backboard was taken, a design blueprinted. Small potted plants were added into openings designed from the foam.

One thing though that must be noted obviously, is that what may be slightly to one person, may not be so to another. I myself use construction cloth, wood, and metal debris from construction sites and abandoned lots in my cages. Some of my friends and family don't like the looks but based off of positioning in the cage and heating provided, the said materials provide excellent humidity retention that does not exceed healthy levels as well as good thermoregulation gradients - and I rather enjoy the looks because they remind me of some of my best field herping spots around my area haha.


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