Outdoor container enclosure

Mark

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I’ve been meaning to have a bash at building an outdoor trough style semi-aquatic enclosure for a while and since my plastic tubs have become brittle and started to crack I made a start.

Here’s the wood I used – the container is built from decking boards which should last a few years.

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Hey presto! A container with legs. Approx 4ft X 1.5ft

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Now, I missed a few photos here because I was too busy trying to get it right. A strong wooden base was built in to the container complete with a slope and a land section. The land section is at an angle so that pipes/hides can be sunk at least 12 inches below the substrate. It’s roughly 2/3 water and 1/3 land. I then lined the container with padding and then placed a pond liner in it.

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A newt proof lid is added and some wire to stop cats and birds eating the inhabitants. There are drainage holes in the base of the land section and at the high water line in the water section. There’ll be some Ambystoma going in here when it’s finished and I’ll probably let it fill up naturally with rain water over the winter.

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I’ll post some update shots when it’s finished and inhabited.
 

Jennewt

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This is really inspiring, Mark! Brilliant! Could you take another photo of the finished product, with the lid up so I can see the land area? What substrate did you put into it? What happens during a hard freeze?

When you say "decking boards", I assume you probably mean cedar or redwood or some other rot-resistant wood? I don't know if you have our equivalent of "pressure treated lumber" for decking, but here in the USA, this stuff is highly toxic. (Your lumber does not look like pressure treated lumber, I'm just mentioning this as a warning to Americans who might see this post and want to use scraps from their decking!)
 

navaros

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Excellent work Mark! It looks like it will work wonderfully. I do have some suggestions though. Since Ambystoma wont really be doing the job of eating mosquito larvae, and fish are a no-no, I would add a layer of window screen below the hardware cloth layer. But if that's not a problem for you, it looks great how it is. If you get lucky and they breed, this will also keep out hellgramites, etc. that would eat the larvae. Only downside would be keeping out potential wild prey for the adults. I can't wait to see more pictures as you get this setup running. I have thought about building something similar for plethodontids, but burying most of the enclosure below the frost line. Also, in my opinion, that thing just screams Triturus! Good luck!
 

Mark

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Thanks for the comments and tips. I do have concerns about the wood treatment leaching chemicals into the enclosure. My understanding is that this timber is pressure treated using one of the less toxic treatments and once dry is pretty much fixed within the wood. I’m fairly certain there will be some leaching over time. The animals can’t come into contact with the wood inside the enclosure (unless they can walk upside down) as it’s lined with plastic. My main worry is that run off water from the lid will get in. I may put some edging in place to limit this. I think I’ll leave it to “weather” for a while before using it.

I’ll use a substrate of topsoil and bark chippings with a layer of clay beads at the base. On the surface will be logs, moss etc. At the far end the substrate can be ~1ft deep which should protect against frosts. I plan to sink PVC tubing down to this depth and I may put the whole container in the garage during the harshest parts of the winter.

Triturus was my initial thought too but mine are happily breeding in their current indoor set-up so I’m going to try something that refuses to breed indoors.

I’ll update with some internal photos when it’s complete.
 

Mark

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Time to update this thread....

This enclosure has been maturing for nearly two years now. There are a handful of L.helveticus and maybe vulgaris juveniles who've lived here since it was constructed. I see them almost every night hunting amongst the moss. Last winter temperatures went down to around -13C and I don't believe I lost any. The land area is made up of layers of thin cork bark which is covered in mulch and top soil. The water area is pretty much choked with algae and chick weed. It's teeming with invertebrates and I've even seen terrestrial newts sitting at the waters edge picking off aquatic hog lice that get too close.

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With the lid down.
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Mark

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I forgot to mention a funny story. A garden snail took up residence in the container soon after the newts were added. It's now too large to escape through the wire mesh and the lid is rarely opened (first time this year today). Now, if I were a tiny newt and saw a large snail crawling towards me I'd be a little afraid. Oh no, not this lot, I've actually seen a newt riding on the shell of the snail! Of course it took one look at me and crawled off before I could reach for the camera, but there was definitely a hint of smugness about that newt having a free ride. And yesterday I saw another newt with a shiny snail trail right across it's back. It must have just sat there and let the snail slither over it! These sort juvenile of stunts just affirm the need to be cautious when species mixing :D.
 

Critter Mom

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I forgot to mention a funny story. A garden snail took up residence in the container soon after the newts were added. It's now too large to escape through the wire mesh and the lid is rarely opened (first time this year today). Now, if I were a tiny newt and saw a large snail crawling towards me I'd be a little afraid. Oh no, not this lot, I've actually seen a newt riding on the shell of the snail! Of course it took one look at me and crawled off before I could reach for the camera, but there was definitely a hint of smugness about that newt having a free ride. And yesterday I saw another newt with a shiny snail trail right across it's back. It must have just sat there and let the snail slither over it! These sort juvenile of stunts just affirm the need to be cautious when species mixing :D.

I could just see my newts being lazy enough to let the snails crawl all over them!:eek: I would have loved to have seen the newt riding the giant snail into submission though!!:D:lol:
 

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There are a handful of L.helveticus and maybe vulgaris juveniles who've lived here since it was constructed.

Hi just wondering where you got your vulgaris newts from? Is there any legitamite sources to aquire this species in the UK? Or did they settle there of there own acord?
 

Mark

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Hi just wondering where you got your vulgaris newts from? Is there any legitamite sources to aquire this species in the UK? Or did they settle there of there own acord?

I must admit I feared escape and was hesitant to use non-natives in this enclosure so opted for some natives to test the water, as it were. I have Lissotriton living wild in the garden so escapees would join that population.

Lissotriton helveticus and vulgaris are not popular captives in the UK so I think you'll struggle to find a cb source. You can legally collect and keep Lissotriton in the UK which is how I obtained the newts in this container. I collected a few tiny larvae from a local pond. Use common sense - don't collect adults or collect from a pond inhabited by the protected T. cristatus. Avoid ponds in protected areas i.e. SSSIs or nature reserves etc. Your best option is to find a friendly neighbour with a garden pond and ask to take some larvae in the spring.
 

Greatwtehunter

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Mark, do you have any pictures of the Lissotriton in the container?
 

RitchieB

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Lissotriton helveticus and vulgaris are not popular captives in the UK so I think you'll struggle to find a cb source.

Ah my bad, I was under the impression it was T.Vulgaris that was protected. Then I re googled it lol. So im gussing there are no CB Great Crested Newts in the country...
 
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Azhael

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Yes there are. But as far as i know they have to be acompanied of their legal papers.
 

Mark

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I shall endeavour to get photo’s, Justin. I try not to disturb them much but I can attempt some nocturnal photography next time I see them.

Richie - I would imagine cb T. cristatus occasionally occur in the UK as some legally obtained specimens exist in collections. I think the phrase “rare as rocking horse poo” would be appropriate. When you see the amount firms are fined for disturbing T.cristatus sites you can understand why they may not be popular both legally and illegally. If you want captive Triturus there are plenty of non-native species available (which should still come with appropriate paper work).
 

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Excellent enclosure Mark - been considering building an outdoor enclosure ~ love your design. Cheers, Phil
 

Mark

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For Justin - 2 were out tonight. 3.5 - 4 cm in length.

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