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So I've actually typed this entry up in its entirety several times, only to have it disappear completely when it's time to post. Every single time, I turn off the computer and crawl into bed, defeated. Then the next day, some inevitable life complication arises, and it's weeks before I have the time and the energy to try again. As always, thumbnails link to full-size pictures.

PhotobucketSo here's both halves after I've sprayed the Great Stuff foam.  I've had to trim them down slightly to fit in the tank.  As it happens, this is the 20 gallon long tank before it broke.  Cheeto's now in a 29 gallon that's been laid on its back to give him even more space.  The only difference between the two sizes is height, and that's wasted on a mostly terrestrial gecko.  The alien skull is visible on the right side, but the party cup that will become the moist hide is completely buried in foam.

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This is the right side shortly after I started cutting the foam away.  Now the party cup is visible.  I kept carving, trying to make it look like stacked rocks. 

PhotobucketThis is the left side, after I've finished carving and applied several coats of thinset mortar.  I've cut a path leading to the skull so it can be used as the cool hide.  This angle gives a pretty good idea of how I've made it so he can climb all over.  Oh yeah.  Cheeto's been growing like crazy and now has definite pre-anal pores, so there's no question anymore.  My little dude's a man. 

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The first color spray paint I used was a dark brown.  It took a few coats to get everything covered from every angle and to get down into the corners of the "steps" I carved.  In the future, I'd probably use brush on paint.  I can't remember how many coats of paint before I switched to a lighter shade of brown, but that only went on some parts of the background.  After that, I used Krylon's "Make It Stone" for a bit of texture and a sandstone effect.  Once that dried, it was at least a half dozen coats of clear coat to seal it all up.

PhotobucketThis time, I had the foresight to get a picture outside in daylight, so you can actually see the colors.  At the thinset stage, I really wasn't impressed with my work.  I was pretty much ready to junk it and start over.  I'm actually rather pleased with how well it ended up, though.  I guess once again, I owe my mother thanks.  She got on my case to just finish it, she thought it looked good.  I'm glad she was right again.

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Here's the two pieces installed.  Please excuse the large reflector in the foreground.  With the tank on its side, I have to aim the ceramic heat emitter in the screen side, so it's clipped to the top drawer of my dresser.  This means that drawer is open a bit, and Cheeto's discovered that there's lots of soft clothes down there to poop on.  Twice now, he's come streaking out as soon as I open the door to feed him and spot clean.  I've got some flexwatt heating tape on order, as soon as it arrives, I'm going to prop the tank up on some lumber and install the heat tape.  Then I should be able to ditch the CHE entirely. 

PhotobucketDespite being in shed here, Cheeto really enjoys the new background. I think it took all of four hours for him to figure out how to get behind it.  I really don't want to encourage that, so I took some paper towel and crammed it along the top.  I keep meaning to replace it with something better, perhaps burlap or even some nice remnant fabric, but I really haven't had the time to go to the craft store. 


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If you look closely, you can see a damp spot in front of the skull hide.  That's where I had to wet the excavator clay and re-mold it.  For the most part, it holds up rather well.  However, Cheeto's turned out to be a digger, so all the excavator clay at the base of the background is now loose sand.  I'd like to pull the excavator clay out or mix it with some chemical free soil and up the substrate depth to four inches or so, since he genuinely seems to like digging.  I'm aware that particulate substrate is considered by some as an impaction risk, but the more I read and research, the more I'm starting to side with those who say that healthy animals kept properly can pass small amounts of soil and sand.  I'm still anti-calcium sand, but the more I read about natural burrowing substrate, the more I really think it's a good idea.  The fact of the matter is that since I put him in the tank with the excavator clay and proper hides, he's been far more active and has had a fantastic appetite.  His sheds and fecal movements are regular, and he's stopped screaming at the rats.  He's also coming into his adult colors.
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He appears to be a hypomelanistic, but the spots on his head mean he's not a baldy.  He's getting quite the carrot tail, though.  The orange spreads and gets more vibrant with every shed.  Although the poor lighting in my bedroom makes him look like an eclipse morph, he isn't actually.  His eyes are the normal grey.   Fantastic appetite.  He'll gladly eat mealworms, crickets, roaches, phoenix worms, waxworms, meal pupae, and even the rare meal beetle.  He's not so fond of me, but we're working on that.  Maybe someday, he and I will actually be friends.  Not yet, though.

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