Two Tanks: Bearded Dragon and Ball Python

Both of these tanks have the same cork panel 3D background that I did for my Leopard Gecko tank as shown in this video. The only difference is this time, I used hot glue. I’ve tested this out on several background including the repurposed cork, foam, and coco-fiber background in my fire-belly toad paludarium (much heavier than cork panels), and it has held up well for about a year at this point. I also used hot glue to put panels in my Whites Tree Frog viv about a year and half ago and they are still holding well.

The reason for using hot glue is that it enables me to do both tanks from background to planting all in one day. The only downside besides the inevitable burn or two is that you have to work very fast, especially on the larger pieces or you won’t get good adhesion and may have to do touch up work. So work fast, press the panels for about 15-30 seconds each on the big ones, and then come back after they have cooled and double check the adhesion. You can always drop some more glue down between the tile and the glass if one section cooled too fast and didn’t stick all they way.

100 gallon tank my client purchases used, with the stand for about $250 off Facebook marketplace. Used tanks are great for vivs especially arid setups as they don’t have to be water-tight anymore. This one’s seals have seen better days and I wouldn’t fill it with water, but it’ll last a long long time as an arid viv. Saves hundrends of dollars to do it this way.
Forty gallon breeder purchased for $50 at Petco’s dollar per gallon sale. For this sale just search for your local sales flyer. It generally runs for 4-6 weeks at a time on rotation about every 6 weeks. Ten to twenty-nine gallon tanks are $1 per gallon (plus sales tax on the original price), and 40-75 (75 gallon availability varies by location) are 50% off. The stand is the Imaginatrium stand available from Petco or via Amazon and it regularly goes on sale.

Here you can see I’ve started to attach the cork tiles. These are 3/8 of a inch and can be cut with regular scissors, just don’t use your good ones as it does blunt them after a half dozen tanks or so.
Finished background and drainage layer added. Note because both of these tanks ended up essentially being in corners, I put background on the back and the side that was towards the wall so they are both viewable from two panes. I positioned the basking lights for each on the side with the cork because glass doesn’t insulate well, and the ambiant tank temperature will hold better if the heat it on that side.

Also, because they are towards the wall, I didn’t paint or cover the outside because the glue work isn’t visible. If you choose to do background on a side panel that is visible, you can cover it with black window cling, fastest option as it’s instantly ready, or you can paint it with acrylic craft paint. I’ve done both, and at this time prefer the window cling. NOTE: you don’t have to buy the applicating spray for the cling. A little dish soap in water in a spray bottle, or for smaller applications, I’ve literally just used a drop of dish soap on wad of wet paper towels, wiped it on the glass and applied the cling.
Like my leopard gecko tanks (see build videos part one here and part two here), I have two layers of substrate in this tank and no drainage layer. There is a humid underlayer that is deeper on the right side and comes up under the water bowl to allow the isopods and springtails a humid hide. Then the arid mix is on top.
And both are planted! This one has the moderate humidity mix over the screen and the hydro balls, topped with generous portions of leaf litter.

Bearded Dragon Supply List

  1. 1 bag of Scott’s premium topsoil (Lowes or other_
  2. 1 bag of play sand (Lowes)
  3. 1 light timers at (Lowes)
  4. Large food dish (beardie): you can just get a new terra cotta saucer at Lowes for about $3
  5. 1 power strips (Lowes) 
  6. Orchid bark or reptile bark (shop around and see what price is best, just don’t buy an orchid mix because you don’t want the perlite. My client actually purchased coco husk and we used that in the humid mix instead. It’s bigger than most orchid bark, but serves the same function, but I still prefer the bark).
  7. Spagnum moss
  8. 1 eco earth bricks pet store or amazon (it expands in water) 
  9. 4 bags of excavator clay pet store or amazon Zoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate, 10 Pounds each so 40 pounds total. I used all of it for the 100 gallon tank.
  10. Thermostats: Century Digital Heat Mat Thermostat Controller for Seed Germination, Reptiles and Brewing, 40-108°F
  11. 1 150 watt ceramic heat emitter Reptile Heat Lamp Bulb
  12. 1 uvb heat/basking bulb for beardie: Fixture, UVB Light, Heat Lamp (Both the UVB bulb and the heat bulb attach to that fixture.
  13. 1 regular ceramic socket heat dome (for CHE) Zilla Premium Reflector Dome, Black 8.5″
  14. 1 LED light for plants NICREW ClassicLED Plus LED Aquarium Light, Full Spectrum Fish Tank Light for Freshwater, 18 to 24-Inch
  15. Background tiles: I used 16 (so 4 four packs) on the 100 gallon. Frameless Dark Brown Cork Squares, 12″ x 12″ 0.5″, Pack of 16  Squares
  16. 1 Large water dish beardie: Exo Terra Water Dish, Large
  17. Temp gun, to spot check temps in vivs: Etekcity Lasergrip 774 Non-contact Digital Laser Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun
  18. Humidity gauge. I don’t leave this generally in the tanks with the animals, I just put it in during setup until I have my humidity sorted.

Bearded Dragon Substrate Recipe

Top Layer: 3 parts sand, 1 part topsoil, 1 part coco fiber, 1/2-1 part excavator clay. These are parts by volume and not weight. I just mix it up in a big tub and eye the proportions, it doesn’t have to be perfect, just generally this amount. You can cut the excavator clay down as mentioned above, but it will hold burrows better if the proportion is higher.

Bottom Layer: 5 parts topsoil, 1 part coco fiber, 1 part sand, 1 part reptile bark, 1/2 to 1 part chopped spagnum moss.

Bearded Dragon Plant/Clean-up CrewList

In this tank I used one sansevieria (Snake plant), 2-3 Aloe veras, 2 jade “shrek’s ears” plants, 1 pot of watch chain succulents, 2 echeveria plants, 2 haworthias. All of these are non-toxic, which is especially important as beardies may nibble on any plants you plants.

For a clean-up crew (CUC), I added springtails and Giant Canyon Isopods because they do better in lower humidity environments than many species of isopods. I also recommend adding darkling beetles (mealworm beetles) or morio beetles (superworm beetles) as part of the clean-up crew. It’s simple enough to do after you get your feeders going.

Ball Python Supplies List

  1. 1 bag of Scott’s premium topsoil (Lowes or other)
  2. 1 bag of play sand (Lowes)
  3. 1 light timers at (Lowes)
  4. 1 power strips (Lowes) 
  5. Orchid bark or reptile bark (shop around and see what price is best, just don’t buy an orchid mix because you don’t want the perlite. My client actually purchased coco husk and we used that in the humid mix instead. It’s bigger than most orchid bark, but serves the same function, but I still prefer the bark).
  6. Spagnum moss
  7. 1 eco earth bricks pet store or amazon (it expands in water) 
  8. Hydroballs for drainage layer (I used about 2/3 of a 25 liter bag)
  9. Fiberglass window screen for drainage layer barrier.
  10. Thermostats: Century Digital Heat Mat Thermostat Controller for Seed Germination, Reptiles and Brewing
  11. 1 60 watt ceramic heat emitter Reptile Heat Lamp Bulb -60W Ceramic Heat Emitter
  12.  1 regular ceramic socket heat dome Zilla Premium Reflector Dome, Black 8.5″
  13. LED lights for plants NICREW ClassicLED Plus LED Aquarium Light, Full Spectrum
  14. Hinged lid for 40 breeder Exo Terra Screen Cover for Hinged Door
  15. Background tiles: I used 11 or 12 (so 3-four packs) on the 40 gallon. Frameless Dark Brown Cork Squares, 12″ x 12″ 0.5″, Pack of 16  Squares
  16. 1 extra large dish Exo Terra Water Dish XLarge
  17. 1 tank stand for the snake cage. Petco will price match this if it’s in stock or it can be ordered.
  18. Cage clips for snake: (2 Pack) Zilla Reptile Terrarium Covers Heavty Duty Screen Clips, Large 30Gallon or Larger
  19. Temp gun, to spot check temps in vivs: Etekcity Lasergrip 774 Non-contact Digital Laser Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun
  20. Humidity gauge. I don’t leave this generally in the tanks with the animals, I just put it in during setup until I have my humidity sorted.

Ball Python Substrate Recipe

This is a good general moderate humid to very humid mix. It’s a simplified version of my dart frog mix, but I’ve also used it in dart frog tanks for the past 6-8 months and it’s doing well. I suspect in very high humidity environments it may need to have more added or be partially swapped out, as opposed to my dart frog mix that has been going strong for years with no maintence.

5 parts topsoil, 1 part coco fiber, 1 part sand, 1 part reptile bark, 1/2 to 1 part chopped spagnum moss.

Ball Python Plant/Clean-up Crew List

This tank has 2 sansevieria plants (snake plants), 6 small schefflera arboricolas, a pot of “dragon tongue” (Hemigraphis repanda), and some pothos cuttings. The snake plants will outgrow the tank eventually, but make a nice, full start to it. The schefferas can be trimmed back regularly and do great in tanks because they can be bonsai’d.

For a clean-up crew in this tank I added springtails, dwarf white isopods, and captive-bred native, A. Nasatum isopods.

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