Raising Baby Turtles
Tour Fourteen
Using Brass and Copper

    We are at it again. We are inventing new ways to build environments for small water turtles. This time the challenge was to utilize more of our aquarium while only using several inches of water. We wanted to add lots of plants and utilize more of the volume of the aquarium without filling the aquarium with water, rocks, and concrete structures. And we wanted to use a material that like concrete is very versatile, durable, inexpensive, and easy enough for anyone to work with. We decided to try brass and copper.

    Why brass and copper? Remember using copper pennies in your aquarium reduces the growth of algae. That is important as we make the environment more complicated and harder to clean. We also wanted a material and method we could easily start, stop, add to, and alter as we develop it. And along the way we had some good luck.

    A cardboard model of the aquarium floor was made as a gage of size. Our first try was to take an inexpensive brass bucket for a planter. We drilled holes around the top to attach copper wire. We stripped and flattened scraps of 12 and 14 gage copper wires. We attached the wires to the bucket and built an extensive horizontal wire trellis for the turtles to climb on. It was big. Too big! Then we cut it down but the bucket was too big. It was ultimately scraped.

    Then while out shopping we found two small flat sided brass buckets in a Goodwill store for less than a dollar each. They were a great find. We sealed them with aquarium sealant and created one hanging wire trellis. We flattened 14 gage copper wire to about half its original thickness for the trellis. The trellis hooks over the brass bucket. A bracket to hang the bucket on was made from a piece of brass and was attached to the glass with aquarium sealant. The bucket was planted with club moss and baby tears. Check it out.

| pic 1 | pic 2 | pic 3 | pic 4 | pic 5 |

    We were pleased with the first hanging bucket so we fabricated a trellis for the second bucket. This trellis was designed to allow the turtles to go under and inside it as a hiding place. It was planted with club moss and ivy and hung on the other end of the aquarium. Both hanging buckets were positioned to be directly under the aquarium light.

| pic 6 | pic 7 | pic 8 |

    Both hanging bucket trellises are designed to permit the turtles to climb on them. The plants will do better if they don't climb on them, but turtles do climb branches overhanging water. So we expect our turtles to climb on them from time to time.

    Similar brass buckets can be found in craft stores. They are intended for use with artificial plants. If you don't want to mess with live plants, artificial plants will work. Some variation of this design should also be good for use with lizards and small snakes.

    It only took about two weeks for our turtles to dump the bucket shown in pic 2 into the water which made a big mess. The hooks as shown in pic 3  and pic 7 need to be longer. The trellis is also being modified to let the turtles go under and inside it rather than push up on it. This is all part of the fun of building things for turtles. The turtles will prove what works and what needs improvement.

    Then we took out the flower pot we used as a planter in Tour Two and created a trellis for it. The idea was to create something for the turtles to climb up on and hide under and to provide some protection for the plants. This trellis took the shape of an upside down cowboy hat that fits snugly in the pot. The pot was then filled with plants.

| pic 9 | pic 10 | pic 11 | pic 12 | pic 13 |

    The trellis holds most of the plants out of the water when the turtles climb on them. It is also enjoyed as cover to hide under. Of course the turtles use it to avoid being captured at feeding time. Again its all part of the fun.

Construction details:

    The copper wire was scraps of ordinary 14 gage and 12 gage electrical wire. After the outer sheath was removed, the insulation was removed by striking it with a hammer in the same manor as used to flatten the wire. This splits the insulation for removal. Flattening gives the wire more stiffness than round wire and changes its appearance. Round wire will work too. The wire was shaped and placed using a basket weave. Ends were filed smooth and folded under. Some places were soldered using a solder that does not contain lead. Excess solder was removed and the remaining solder was painted. The copper and brass will tarnish in time and develop a pleasing patina.

    Copper wire and copper tubing are readily available. Brass shapes, strips, and small sheets are available in hardware stores and hobby shops for model making. You can also find brass items at yard sales and second hand stores. This is very inexpensive material to work with.

To be continued.....

Added to 3/4/2005

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