The Beginning of Gecko Condo

In the 14 years that I have been keeping and working with reptiles I have accumulated quite the mish-mash of cages and other housing   What I really want to do is reduce some clutter and build an atheistically pleasing housing that can be broken down into separate parts, has some ability to change its capacity, is easy to clean, can hold its humidity fairly well, and can hold multiple animals at once. Systems like this exist to be purchased but are crazy expensive. See these two samples:

Cages by Design

Zoo Med Euro Cage Unit

Surly I can build something that meets my needs without spending $3,000 or more? Lets find out!

I want to try making a nearly all 1/4" thick acrylic gecko condo. I have built several custom and display cages in the past, and I have worked with acrylic piece meal, but never on something of this scale. I am more used to working with wood and wire. This thread will track my progress on the project, and I want to start on getting some design advice. I have a few concerns that need to be worked out, and depending on their resolution I may have to alter the project or scrap it as-is and go back to a more wood and wire design.

Last night I fired up Google Sketchup and drew out a preliminary design. It is lacking a couple of details like hinges, clasps to hold the door shuts, and some side shims to screw onto the different levels for stability, but this is the jist of it:

What we have here is a 3 section housing with removable inner walls. The bottom two sections are 18" tall and can be divided into up-to 4 separate tanks. The top section is 24" tall and can be divided into up-to 2 separate tanks. There is a 6 inch gap between each section so there is room for lighting, when necessary, and a misting system.

Here is a closer view of one of the lower two sections (the top is similar but less complex):

There are 4 doors for each section which open outwards. There is a middle support piece for the two inner doors to attach to and to make it more even. The wall dividers inside can be slid in place between some permanently attached guides. The doors and these dividers are not supposed to match up evenly.

It is kind of difficult to tell from the image, but there is an offset shelf in the cage to hold the lid. The lid itself is two pieces of acrylic with a sheet of wire mesh sealed between them.

The issues I need to solve before I finalize dimensions and order some plastic are:

1. Overall strength. This should be strong enough to support itself but I don't know for certain. Does anyone more familiar with working with acrylic have an opinion or know how I can find out? The main weight of this is itself, what goes in the tank does not weigh very much overall.

2. The best way to securely connect the 3 sections. There are 12 2"x2"x6" supports between each section. I am not sure what I should use for these yet. Aesthetically an extruded acrylic rod or box would be best, but I don't know if I should look at something else for cost or strength. Additionally, not pictured in the diagram, I was thinking of using 2"x16" strips of acrylic with holes drilled into them to bolt the lower section, the support, and the upper section together.

3. The lids. What I have planned will work, but it seems like a waste. Anyone have a better idea? Here is an image of what the 3 lids essentially are, wire meshed sandwiched between 2 layers of acrylic.

4. The base. I don't really want to just set this on the floor. Ideas for a base that is attractive? I could just use painted wood on casters if I need to.

5. Cost and cutting. I know I can get a plastic supplier to do at least the major cuts for me, but if the sheets of acrylic and cutting fees are more than I am expecting I may have to alter things.

 I haven't made an enclosure in a while and this should be fun! When it is finished I am also going to make naturalistic backgrounds which I will post in here as well. Lets get this thing built first, though!

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