Sunday, November 23, 2014

Artificial lagoon!

So, I've been thinking about how to expand beyond the aquarium. Not much will fit in there, and some people (rightfully imo) question what the point is of putting a habitat into an aquarium not much larger than it is.

What I really need is a body of water under my control. Very close by, so I can supply grid power and wifi for a webcam. But also with ideal visibility. The ponds near me are all muddy as hell. Then the solution hit me like a ton of ballast. Inflatable pool!

This is the biggest (on a budget) one I can find. It's 18 feet across by 48 inches/4 feet deep.

This is the next biggest. 15 feet across by 42 inches deep.

There's a big price difference between the two. The second biggest is $175. The biggest is just over $300. I'm not sure that jump in cost is worth it for 3 more feet of diameter and 6 more inches of depth. But if I can talk one or more of you crazy bastards into paying for it, I'd prefer the biggest one. Why bother unless you're gonna give it 110%, right?

This completely solves the problem of where to put the increasingly large (and soon modular) habitats. The depth is respectable but does not require anything beyond a snorkel and mask to work in. There will be a distance of nearly three feet between the top of Hambase Delta and the water's surface, and the curved blue outer wall should help create the illusion that the habitats are in open water. Maybe some fake coral here and there? And LED illumination at night.

Whereas livestreaming the existing habitat in the aquarium involves pointing a laptop camera at it from outside (in air), livestreaming the modular habitat complex I could finally establish in a pool like this would involve a webcam on a long USB cord, housed in a watertight weighted container. I could periodically move it around to view the growing colony from different angles.

Because all of this would be right outside, there would be no need for complex, failure prone solutions to power (like solar panels and lead acid batteries) or connectivity (like mifi or tethering, as if I can afford the data plan that would require anyway.) This is in all ways (I think) the ideal solution for how to continue building bigger, more ambitious habitats than will fit in the aquarium and still being able to stream video to my supporters.

But as usual I don't have the resources to make this happen on my own. I'll need some funding. We can call it "art" if that helps you justify donating this kind of dosh to such a project without feeling weird. }:3 I never enjoy soliciting money so brazenly but this is something I need your help for. It represents a revolutionary step beyond the restrictive confines of the aquarium, a much cooler environment to put habitats in (and film/stream them) and a testbed for eventual Summertime lake deployments. More than any other addition, this one in particular will drastically improve your experience as a spectator and make possible all kinds of future developments there's simply not space for right now.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Weights arrive!

Holy hell. I will tell you one thing right now. Hambase Delta is the largest single module I will ever build, because the amount of weight needed to sink this fuckin' thing very nearly exceeds what I consider to be realistically man portable. Any larger than this and we get into "requires a crane" territory.

Even with 60lbs of weight, it's just barely negatively buoyant. I haven't accounted for the air displaced by the weights (they sat inside the enclosure for the buoyancy test) so all told, it's probably still not quite negatively buoyant, but that's easily solved by pouring some lead shot into the spaces around the weights when they're inside the ballast pods. I really don't want this to be much heavier than it already is because I have to fuckin' carry it, but it also shouldn't be *barely* negatively buoyant because then even a gentle current can knock it around when it's underwater. A minimum of a few extra pounds to keep it in place will be added.

I am not pleased with the size of the skylight I purchased, which is why I've been holding off on installing it. I want the window to take up as much of the lid as possible. I've heard Home Depot will custom cut lexan to any dimensions you like. That seems like the way to go. When I have more money to spend on this project I'll head back there and have them cut a custom skylight for me.

The other thing is, this habitat doesn't make a lot of sense for use in the aquarium. It will (just barely) fit, but the roof will be no more than an inch from the surface. And there's less than an inch of clearance on either side of it, depthwise. It's looking like the only place it will make sense to deploy this huge motherfucker is in an aboveground pool (one of those blue inflatable ones maybe?) or a natural body of water.

There's always the pond I put Hampture Mk.III into that one Summer, but it's murky as fuck and there's no access to grid power or wifi to livestream. So I'm thinking once I finish the habitat itself, the next big purchase will be one of those blue inflatable pools to stick it in. Maybe with some sand poured in as a simulated ocean floor.

This way it's close enough I can still use grid power and livestream the habitat. Speaking of which I am getting ready to livestream the aquarium again for the first time in ages, now that Hambase Alpha is finally kitted out for year-round use. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 21, 2014

New heater successfully installed in Hambase Alpha

It is now fit for all season use. It fogs up a little inside from the condensation but the silica gel prevents it from getting too bad. (EDIT: A few hours later the condensation is gone. The silica litter just needed time to absorb the moisture I guess.) The important thing is comfort though. And not having to spend the money to heat 100 gallons of water 24/7. 

I really do prefer this habitat, it's about as good as it gets for something that's a reasonable size to use in aquariums. I urge you to copy this one if you build you own, including using a reptile heater pad like I have as it did turn out to be vastly better than those little USB pads I was using before.

Cousteau lookin' cozy as fuck:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New heater for Hambase Alpha

Since the old heaters stopped working (water got into the plug ports in back before I figured out I needed to seal those with silicone) I haven't been able to use Hambase Alpha in the winter as the aquarium's out in the garage and I don't feel like spending the $$$ to keep a hundred gallons of water warm all the time.

So I've ripped out as much of the old heaters and wiring as I could (cyanoacrylate glue doesn't fuck around) and this time did not make the mistake of trying to use the chemical spray that's supposed to un-cure the glue as that doesn't work for shit and basically ruined one of the old habitats I tried it on, such that it had to be tossed out. Instead I worked at it with a chisel and hammer until as much was removed as possible. Soon I'll drill a new hole for the (110v!) power cord for the new 5 watt heater pad. There will also be a layer of cardboard under it to insulate it from the habitat floor. I figure this will keep me busy while I wait for the lead weights to arrive.

I couldn't find one the exact size of the habitat floor by the way. Besides which, I don't really think heating the entire floor is a good idea. If I heat up the spot where they do their business, it'll cause the urine to evaporate into the air and all kinds of related nastiness. Also don't wanna heat the food as it accelerates decomposition. So just the center of the habitat should be fine. It's plenty of surface area for 1-3 hams and it gets very comfortably warm. I've tested it out already in the land cage and it's quite the popular place to sleep. :3

If you're building your own Ham hab at home, learn from my mistakes and use a heater pad of this type to begin with. It'll be a lot less messy than the gradual additive, subtractive, evolutionary process of designing and redesigning Hambase Alpha that I've been through so far.

At right: Bonus pic of a hambro testing out the heater pad under his travel carrier. :'3 :'3

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Some bad news, some good.

Bad news: The ballast containers aren't coming. The website I ordered them from listed them as in stock but the guy didn't actually have any. They're discontinued and hard to find, so he refunded the money.

The good news: I used that money instead to buy all of the lead weights I'll need. So, barring some problem with the order, all I need now is to find an affordable source for 3x Otterbox 3500 in black.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ballast pods ordered!

Thanks to an astonishingly generous $100 donation I was able to purchase three black Otterbox 3500s needed to hold the lead block weights, which will weigh down the new habitat. The leftover amount will be used to buy the water bottle and running saucer. I still need money for the weights, but I'm sure that'll happen at some point.

Anyway, thanks for enabling my flagrant mental illness which for whatever reason manifests as the urge to build functioning scale model underwater cities for rodents! You know who you are. I really appreciate every donation, big or small. This is a weird hobby but very fun to do and evidently fun to spectate. I'll keep doing it as long as I am able to.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Going nowhere fast unless something changes

I'm about to put in the skylight. A bunch of real life shit got in the way, sorry for the delay. But in the process of figuring out what order to do the steps in, I've realized a couple things.

1. This thing is going to be very hard to weigh down. It is likely to need three ballast pods, each twice the depth of the ones Hambase Alpha uses so I can pack in 4 lead block weights per pod. That's 60lbs total.

2. This hobby stays affordable only when the habitats are small. Cost increases non-linearly with habitat interior volume mostly due to the cost of lead. The current habitat is likely to be the largest single module I ever build. I'm also gonna need help buying the ballast pods and block weights in particular. If you're on the fence about funding this weird shit, now's the time.

3. It will not fit in the aquarium. I mean, if I saw away all the acrylic around the top I can get it in there but the roof of the thing will be just inches from the water's surface. Really not much point then. I will need to find either a very clear natural body of water to deploy this into, with access to grid power nearby or get one of those big partially inflatable above ground pools to stick it in.

At some point I'd like to build a new Hambase Alpha as well. Learning from the handful of small mistakes I made with the design of the first one. And this time I'd document every step of construction, for the purpose of publishing an instructable so you guys can build you own. This comes after the completion of the new huge habitat however. That's really sucking up resources atm.

Bonus render of Ham colony to the right. The running saucer will fit on the top floor, I think. If not, it'll go on floor 2 and the top floor will have a sort of crescent cut out of it to accommodate the tallest part of the saucer. The black thing on the bottom floor is the heater pad. Oversized water bottle because this thing will eventually be intended for very long submersions, at depths up to 8 feet. If hamsters could coexist (they can't) I'd rate this for between 6 and 10 of 'em. Mice would do a lot better in those numbers.