Archive for February 16, 2014

[GUIDE] Make your own Turtle Dock

plan1First of all, I would like to thank everybody for the kind words,
I received a lot of emails concerning the dock and since I get a lot of questions, I finally decided to write a step-by-step guide.
What I’m posting here is a reply I wrote to one reader, hoping it will help some of you guys out:

It would be my pleasure to try and help you out.
I don’t want you to pay me, but thanks for offering.
Instead, Send me some pics of your dock if you get around to making one! :)

English is my second language so If I’m not clear about a certain point, let me know.
see attachments: I have drawn a quick plan, unfortunatly I don’t have the original one.
The measurements are there for reference only. do not use those as this needs to be custom to your tank.

There are basically 5 pieces needed for the job.
I used a sheet of 1/4″ PlexiGlass (Acrylic) and cut* the necessary pieces.
Though I have to say, I wish I did the base a little thicker as it start to bow down from the weight of my fat turtle hehe.

First of all, I took the measures of the top opening of my aquarium. (the top is separated in 2, and I choose the left side because is was better with the aquarium location but could have been the other side)
Now, it is important to measure the inside of the opening but not inside the little lip on witch the cover normally sits on. that will assure you that the box will never slide off or move from side to side.
This will be your base.
Note: I subtracted about 2 inches from the back to be able to put my filter tubes and other stuff. but if you have a drilled tank, you may not need that opening.

This measurement is the base. (say, #Piece1)

I have lights that sit on the aquarium so I couldn’t use all of that space to make the dock. I measures the depth of my fixture and subtracted that to the base.
This gives you the measurements for the actual closed off dock. (#dock) But again, if you have lights that hang from the ceiling, you can use the whole surface.

Now, the idea is to make sides for that. you will need 4 pieces. (2 small ones for the sides and 2 long ones for the front and back.)
Use the (#dock) measurements for the length of your long pieces and choose the desired height. (in my case, 6″)
Take the same height for the side pieces, *but don’t forget to subtract the plexi’s width from the dock’s measurements.* since the sides will be glued inside/between the front and back.
(for my 23″x10 closed dock, the sides are 9.5″…not 10″)

To make the ramp, you only need take the Base (#Piece1) and the cut a strait line from one side edge to about the middle of the platform. maybe a little less. depends on your tank.
The width of the ramp is up to you but if you have a large turtle, make sure it’ll fit haha. Also. I almost forgot… you need to shave off the width for the aquarium lip, from the front side of else it won’t fit.

The rest is pretty easy.

You have to heat up the plexi where the ramp will start bending (#bending line). I used a propane torch but there are ways to do that in the oven or maybe event with a heat gun…may take a while though.
Don’t heat it too much or it will bubble, mine did a little. as you can see on the following pictures, I used the side of a table at the right spot to bend the ramp. you don’t need force. If you have to force it, it’s not hot enough.

Once the ramp is bent into shape, let it cool a few minutes. and you’re ready to glue the sides. I say glue but it’s more like welding. you have to use acrylic cement. (Weld-on 16 or Weld-on 4) and clamp them in place.
Be sure to “weld” the pieces ONTO the base, with the sides inside the front and back wall.
Let it dry overnight.

You can then use silicone, around all the inside edges. I don’t think this is mandatory but I did it.
I also ended up drilling a few small holes in the base just to help water dry / drain from the fake grass.

The next step is pretty obvious, I bought fake grass, cut it to size and dropped it in place. I didn’t glue it of anything because I want to be able to wash it once in a while.
I used plastic mesh (found in crafts stores…You can also use gutterguard) to make some sort of GRIP on the ramp because acrylic alone was to slippery for my turtle.
I originally siliconed it in place but it was a pain to wash.
it is now held in place with small aquarium magnets, I have yet to find a better solution.

That’s about it.

*Actually, I had the acrylic cut by a small company, they charged me 25 bucks I think.
I tried cutting it my self but didn’t have the right tools and the plastic was melting on the blades. it was a mess.