Monday, March 18, 2013

Beginning the design phase of a new habitat.

The feedback on the current Hampture has been mixed. The average viewer doesn't understand why it's so "small" or why I can't connect the various habitats, as it seems simple in their mind. Attempts to explain issues with ballast weight versus habitat size/buoyancy, and how connecting multiple habitats makes it impossible to remove them without putting all the stress of the weights on the spot where the tunnels penetrate the habitat hulls just kinda falls on deaf ears and is met with exasperation and impatience. "This is what I want to see you do. I don't care about the details of how you do it, that's for you to figure out."

Fair enough, I will. Gotta give the people what they want, right? So, from what I can tell, this is what the people want:

#1. More living space
#2. Multiple habitats connected by tunnels

That informs the new design. It will need to be several enclosures joined by tunnels. But, because they cannot be separate structures or the tunnels will break if I ever try to lift it, this means the enclosures will need to be bolted to a very strong, rigid platform to take stress off the tunnels. So in effect it will be a single structure, but with multiple enclosures. I'll be using the tried and proven X-Large lexan drybox for the enclosures.

The next question is, how many enclosures will satisfy viewers? My initial inclination was two, but why even bother if the improvement will only be incremental? Just one tunnel and two rooms isn't much of a step up. So, there will be three large enclosures in total, joined by two transparent acrylic tunnels. They will be mounted perhaps six inches apart on a one foot by 3.5 foot (or so) platform, either custom milled metal or waterproofed wood. On the underside, I'll bolt six of the standard ballast pods; shallow dry cases each containing two 5lb lead divers' block weights, for a total structure ballast weight of 60lbs, which conveniently is at the upper limit of what I can comfortably lift while hunched over an aquarium.

This leaves a bit of excess weight in case I want to add something like smaller clear drybox "lofts" atop the large enclosures accessible by vertical climbing tunnel. I'll experiment and see whether or not that looks too cluttered. The completed habitat will be ideal in a number of ways:

#1. It's the maximum size it can feasibly be and still fit into the fish tank, and be easily removable from it
#2. It's the maximum practical weight for easy placement, removal, and every day stuff like having to turn it over to empty out the soiled litter while cleaning and resupplying it
#3. It's the minimum number of enclosures and tunnels, I think, needed to satisfy people who want several linked habitats and excess living space for the hamsters.
#4. The excess space means more room for food and additional water bottles, which means they'll be able to stay down much longer than before.

I estimate the completed habitat should come in between $300 and $500. While it's an exciting and extremely practical/feasible design that I can absolutely build, it's also outside of my budget. If you'd like to see it get built in time for the weather to warm up and live streaming of the fish tank to resume, you know where the donation button is.