Thursday, February 3, 2011

Operation Waterhole - The Unveiling!!

It’s time for the unveiling of Operation Waterhole! 

As you may know, our Red-eared Slider (aquatic turtle), Plato, had long outgrown the home he “arrived” to us in. He had no room to swim – which is not good at all for an aquatic turtle. Needless to say, he was very cramped. 

I don’t know if you have priced aquariums lately, but they’re not cheap. My husband & I told the boys in November that Plato would simply have to wait a while longer. He was safe & fed, after all. Then Nana initiated a covert mission as a surprise family gift for Christmas. Code name: Operation Waterhole.

Average price of an appropriate aquarium set-up, new: $450-$700++
Our combined budget: $250
Resources: Local pet store in a rural area, internet, misc junk around the house
Ideas to run with: habitat gallery at
Best part: The boys had no clue!!

Once we gathered our ideas and made a tentative plan, we set out to find a used 55 gallon aquarium that wouldn’t break the bank. We live out in the country, and were hard-pressed to find a good used aquarium on Craigslist that didn’t defeat the savings with the cost of gas, much less any other ones nearby via the newspaper, etc… On top of that, we really couldn’t construct any of the sunning decks or other cool add-ons until we knew exactly what aquarium we were getting and had its dimensions. The week before Christmas, we were still empty-handed.

Uncle Will to the rescue! He found a perfect aquarium on Craigslist (he lives in the Knoxville area – they had a ton!) and set out with Uncle Dorran to make the exchange. Driving on perilous roads, following a misguided GPS who nearly led them off a cliff, yet ever pressing on the duo heroically obtained the aquarium (this one came with a nice stand, too, by the way! Uncle Will is awesome!!).

The next stage of the operation was for Nana and the uncles to deliver the aquarium safely 8 hours up the road to our house (Uncle Will’s neighbor asked if the giant item wrapped in carpet padding that was lying in the back of grandpa’s truck was a body! I suppose it was about the right size LOL). Snow almost delayed their trip, but all were very excited when they were able to arrive safely.

The boys were thrilled when the plan was revealed to them, and worked eagerly helping to set up Plato’s new home. With the aquarium secured, we were able to construct a sunning deck to fit as well as purchase a new filter and other items. We ended up a bit over budget at $286 – which is still really fantastic for what we got!

L to R: Bo, Nana, Rooster & Plato, Uncle Dorran, Uncle Will, and Bird
Uncle Will and Uncle Dorran bring in the new aquarium - you can see Plato's old 20 gallon aquarium on the left behind Uncle Will.

Plato had some supervised playtime while we worked on his new home
Daddy’s still making modifications to a mid-deck, but pictures of everything else are below for your enjoyment!

Plato seems very happy in his new home. It took him almost 2 days to really remember how to swim again – he seemed scared to lift his feet from the bottom of the tank - but now his tank is completely full and Plato swims back-and-forth, around, and loop-di-loop all day long! He also enjoys “diving” off the ramp to his sunning area (now dubbed “Fort Shell”) with a big splash. He tried it one day when I was home alone and really startled me!! It’s fun to watch him explore and enjoy his new home.

According to our research, a male red-eared slider like Plato can grow to a maximum shell length of about 28 inches! The average full-grown shell length is 15 to 19 inches. He’s only at about 7 inches right now! As he continues to grow, we will need to adjust his habitat again in the future. I like the indoor pond idea, personally (check out the habitat gallery on It’s just a matter of finding room on the main floor…hmm…

Thankfully, I have a few years to wait on that. For now, at least, Plato’s got it made!

Plato in his new home

Size comparison with the old aquarium

Plato climbing the ramp out of the water into Fort Shell to bask under the heatlamp

Peeking through the front window

The left end of the aquarium with Fort Shell attached...Plato insisted on painting those signs on the Fort. I guess he likes his privacy LOL =)
Close-up of Plato's signs

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