Building A Bioactive Vivarium From An IKEA Shelf

Pets are often worth a labour of love. [leftthegan] — in want of a corn snake — found that Sweden’s laws governing terrarium sizes made all the commercial options to too small for a fully-grown snake. So they took matters into their own hands, building a bioactive vivarium for their pet!

[leftthegan] found an IKEA Kallax 4×4 shelving unit for a fair price, and after a few design iterations — some due to the aforementioned regulations — it was modified by adding a shelf extension onto the front and cutting interior channels for cabling. For the vivarium’s window, they settled on plexiglass but strongly recommend glass for anyone else building their own as the former scratches and bends easily — not great if their snake turns out to be an escape artist! In the interim, a 3D printed handle works to keep the window closed and locked.

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Python Keeps A Gecko Happy: Terrarium Automation With Raspberry Pi

For better or worse, pets often serve as inspiration and test subjects for hardware hacks: smarten up that hamster wheel, tweet the squirrel hunting adventures from a dog’s point of view, or automate and remote control a reptile enclosure. [TheYOSH], a gecko breeder from the Netherlands, chose the latter and wrote TerrariumPi for the Raspberry Pi to control and monitor his exotic companion’s home through a convenient web interface.

The right ecosystem is crucial to the health and happiness of any animal that isn’t native to its involuntarily chosen surroundings. Simulating temperature, humidity and lighting of its natural habitat should therefore be the number one priority for any pet owner. The more that simulation process is reliably automated, the less anyone needs to worry.

TerrariumPi supports all the common temperature/humidity sensors and relay boards you will find for the Raspberry Pi out of the box, and can utilize heating and cooling, watering and spraying, as well as lighting based on fixed time intervals or sensor feedback. It even supports location based sunrise and sunset simulation — your critter might just think it never left Madagascar, New Caledonia or Brazil. All the configuration and monitoring happens in the browser, as demonstrated in [TheYOSH]’s live system with public read access (in Dutch).

It only seems natural that Python was the language of choice for a reptile-related system. On the other hand, it doesn’t have to be strictly used for reptiles or even terrariums; TerrariumPi will take care of aquariums and any other type of vivarium equally well. After all, we have seen the Raspberry Pi handling greenhouses and automating mushroom cultivation before.

Growing Plants On Mars… On Earth

One of the biggest challenges of traveling to Mars is that it’s far away. That might seem obvious, but that comes with its own set of problems when compared to traveling to something relatively close like the Moon. The core issue is weight, and this becomes a big deal when you have to feed several astronauts for months or years. If food could be grown on Mars, however, this would make the trip easier to make. This is exactly the problem that [Clinton] is working on with his Martian terrarium, or “marsarium”.

The first task was to obtain some soil that would be a good analog of Martian soil. Obtaining the real thing was out of the question, as was getting similar dirt from Hawaii. [Clinton] decided to make his own by mixing various compounds from the hardware store in the appropriate amounts. From there he turned to creating the enclosure and filling it with the appropriate atmosphere. Various gas canisters controlled by gas solenoid valves mixed up the analog to Martian atmosphere: 96% dioxide, 2% argon, and 2% nitrogen. The entire experiment was controlled by an Intel Edison with custom circuits for all of the sensors and regulating equipment. Check out the appropriately dramatic video of the process after the break.

While the fern that [Clinton] planted did survive the 30-day experiment in the marsarium, it wasn’t doing too well. There’s an apparent lack of nitrogen in Martian soil which is crucial for plants to survive. Normally this is accomplished when another life form “fixes” nitrogen to the soil, but Mars probably doesn’t have any of that. Future experiments would need something that could do this for the other plants, but [Clinton] notes that he’ll need a larger marsarium for that. And, if you’re not interested in plants or Mars, there are some other interesting ramifications of nitrogen-fixing as well.

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Alexa Keeps Pet Snake Thermoregulated

[Chris Grill] got his hands on a pet boa constrictor, which requires a fairly strict temperature controlled environment. Its enclosure needs to have a consistent temperature throughout, or the snake could have trouble regulating its body temperature. [Chris] wanted to keep tabs on the temp and grabbed a few TTF-103 thermistors and an Arduino Yun, which allowed him to log the temperature on each side of the enclosure. He used some code to get the temp reading to the linux side of an Arduino Yun, and then used jpgraph, a PHP graphing library, to display the results.

snakemainBut that wasn’t good enough. Why not get a little fancy and have Amazon’s Echo read the temps back when you ask! Getting it setup was not so bad thanks to Amazon’s well documented steps to get custom commands set up.

He eventually lost the battle to get the Echo to talk to the web server on the Yun due to SSL issues, but he found an existing workaround by using a proxy.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Vertical Aeroponics

For his Hackaday Prize entry, [MIPS ARMSTRONG] is working on an open-source terrarium that will be one of the fastest way to grow foodstuffs or other edible greens. He’s calling it Project EDEN, and it’s shaping up to be one of the most advanced homebrew horticultural devices ever made.

There are a few things that make this indoor greenhouse unique. The most obvious is the incredible number of LEDs used as grow lights. [MIPS] is using 900 Watts worth of Royal Blue and Deep Red LEDs. To water these plants, [MIPS] is taking a cue from NASA and building a High Pressure Aeroponics system – a device that shoots droplets of water only 50 microns in diameter directly onto the roots of the plants.

One of the more interesting aspects of EDEN is the CO2 system. The bulk of plant biomass – like humans – comes from carbon, and plants get their carbon from the atmosphere. Studies have shown that increasing the concentration of CO2 in a grow chamber can increase plant growth. There is a limit before CO2 becomes toxic to plants, so [MIPS] will have to keep a close eye on the CO2 levels with gas sensors.

With high-pressure watering, a CO2 system, and an amazing array of LEDs, this is one of the most advanced homebrew horticulture projects on the planet. It’s also a great fit for this year’s Hackaday prize theme of ‘build something that matters’, and we can’t wait to see [MIPS]’s future developments of his awesome aeroponic terrarium.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Fixing A Product Design Flaw In A Misting System

[Xerxes3rd] works at a place where they raise reptiles in terrariums. Such enclosures require controlled lighting, temperature and humidity. Humidity is maintained using “misting” devices. These are usually water containers with a pump whose outlet ends in a series of very fine spray nozzles which create the mist. A timer controls the pump’s on and off cycles.

[Xerxes3rd] purchased an Exo Terra Monsoon RS400 misting system – a low-cost misting device and soon discovered that it had a serious design flaw. The built-in timer malfunctions, and it mists a hundred times more than it should! A lot of folks who buy a product and discover it has an inherent design flaw will return it back for a refund. Instead,  [Xerxes3rd] decided to break in and fix it instead –  “warranty void if tampered” be damned.

To start with, he needed to figure out what the problem was. He went about it in clinical fashion, eventually creating a slick document (PDF) outlining his observations and diagnosis. The timer controller board has a PIC micro, some buttons, potentiometers, LED’s and an IR receiver. The misting cycles are set using the two potentiometers – Off time and On time for the pump. His analysis and resolution makes for interesting reading.

What he found was that the PIC micro was reading inconsistent values from the potentiometers. More specifically, the software isn’t doing any smoothing on the analog values it reads from the potentiometers. Since the PIC that controls the system wasn’t easily re-programmable, he opted to replace it with an Arduino Nano. At the same time, he got rid of the potentiometers that were used to set the misting frequency and duration, and added a 16×2 LCD. Time setting is now done using the three on board buttons. He removed the PIC micro and replaced it with two female header sockets, onto which he plugged a small board containing an Arduino Nano and a few components. He also cut the original PCB in half, removing the potentiometers and crystal oscillator in order to make room for the 16×2 character LCD.

The lizards are now probably thanking him for their perfectly timed doses of moisture. Having done this, he could probably add in more features such as a temperature-humidity sensor, a water level sensor or maybe even throw in an ESP8266 module and have the Lizards tweet when they need to be hydrated. Because that’s another thing hackers love – feature creep.