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I have been with SmugMug for three years now and I feel it’s about time I spread the word!

Prior to this I had been uploading my photos to free databases like photobucket which I was happy enough with until the ads got so prevalent and using the system became complicated and difficult. At that point, I figured it was time to switch.

Easier said than done! I honestly thought I would be able to find a system I liked well enough, that was free. It turns out they were all like photobucket – slow loading, full of ads, and not user friendly. I resigned myself to having to pay for the privilege of uploading my photos and that is when I came across SmugMug.

I haven’t looked back! I got my first year at a discount, for $20 for the year. The regular, standard annual cost is $40 which works out to a whopping $3.33 per month. This package is perfect for the casual user or photographer who wants to keep his/her photos all in one place. They do have a “Pro” package that is more expensive but, of course, allows you to do more – you can even sell your prints directly through SmugMug! But since I’ve been using the standard SmugMug account, that’s what I’m reviewing.

First of all, the interface is intuitive and user friendly. Set up your galleries (such as “pythons”, “lizards”, “family” and so on), pick the look of each gallery (I use the classy, dark Carbonite layout on each of my galleries, but there are many more to choose from, or make your own), and upload your photos! Uploading is easy and you can use any one of several interfaces, such as drag-and-drop, flash, HTML5, photo apps, uploading from other sites, and more.

You can upload your photos right off your camera, at full size. SmugMug conveniently displays the photo as a small thumbnail and gives you the option to view and download (or let others do so – or not!) a photo in a variety of sizes including thumbnail, small, medium (for online forums), large, original (for printing).

If you allow it, users can comment on your photos or simply give a thumbs-up or -down. You can connect directly with Facebook and other social accounts to “show off” your photos. Your photos can be shared, tweeted or liked.

Customer support is excellent. SmugMug heros (staff) typically respond within a few hours and are helpful and courteous.

Stats are available so you can track who is looking at what.

SmugMug does all I want and much, much more. Not a single “con” comes to mind.

So try it for free! If the free trial doesn’t convince you that SmugMug is worth paying for, nothing will.

I won’t lie to you; all of my Solomon Island Ground Boas are in wood cages which preclude any real possibility of planted tanks (I’d like my cages to last more than a year, thank-you-very-much). But, as I was setting up a cage for a green tree python (that was actually supposed to be for a SITB, but then I decided I’d rather have another GTP, hah), and re-jigging a cage for my jeweled Lacerta this weekend, I got to thinking that a lot of what I was doing could be applied to a planted Candoia cage.

Planting is a good way to run with your imagination and bring some wild back into your home (albeit in a glass box!). There are a few things to keep in mind, but for the most part, just be creative. Or play it safe. Whatever makes ya happy!

Randomly inserted into this post are pictures of tanks I’ve planted over the years. Most of them would work well for Solomon Island Tree Boas with a little tweaking, or for Ground Boas if you consider their larger size.

So, we start with – obv – the cage itself.

If you have a ground boa, you’re probably going to go with a large aquarium or maybe a plastic cage with sliding doors. If you have a tree boa, you might want to consider something like an Exo-Terra, or just a taller aquarium. Either way, it’s probably best to make sure it holds water, at least for the first few inches, and that damp soil will not corrode or warp the material.

Tree Python Cage

Background

A nice background can really make a cage, but a poorly installed one can be a death trap. If there are any gaps or pockets between the glass and the background, your snake will find a way into it, so if you do go with a background, go with something straight and flush and silicone it to the tank properly. Zoomed makes a nice cork bark background, and you can also get rolls of coco fibre that are pressed together. Both look pretty natural and certain plants will climb them. Alternatively, you could simply paint the back of the tank (the outside) in a neutral colour, or even paint a scene (just remember, you are seeing it from the other side, so if you paint a blue sky with a green bush on top of it, you won’t see the bush from the other side; you have to paint the bush first).

Planted Exo-Terra

This one actually has a water fall and a pond, but you can't see it in the photo.

Substrate

Before we go into substrate itself, consider whether you’d like to put in a drainage layer. This is essentially a 1-2″ layer of something, such as gravel or expanded clay pellets, under the dirt, that holds water and wicks it up into the soil to keep it damp but not water-logged. If you have a tree snake, do it. Drainage layers are awesome. Top the drainage layer with a layer of poly fill or plastic window screen so dirt doesn’t get into it.
If you’re making a cage for a ground boa, don’t use a drainage layer. My snakes burrow given half a chance and that would be bad news.

So, back to the substrate. I’ve used lots of substrates over the years and I don’t have an exact formula, I just sort of mix different ingredients together until I get what I like.

  • Black earth (makes up probably 1/3 of the total substrate)
  • Coconut mulch – dirt style, not chunky (makes up about 1/3 of the total substrate)
  • Sand
  • Dried leaves
  • Orchid bark
  • Just mix it up in a bucket until you get the consistence you like. I’m happy with it when it sort of holds its shape when I squeeze it in a ball, but also kind of falls apart.

    I will then add some springtails and other buggies from the forest, a worm composting bin, or another tank. The dried leaves help with this, too. And voila, you have bio-active substrate. You still need to spot clean, of course, but the buggies will help break down fecal matter.

    Just Pothos

    Lighting and Plants

    Before you can pick out plants, you have to decide on your light. Is the tank getting some light from a window (which I don’t advise anyway since a tank can overheat in sunlight)? Or just room light? Or are you going to put a fluorescent light fixture over the tank? If you are in a low-light scenario, you will have to limit yourself to low-light plants:

  • Pothos – lovely, impossible to kill. Trim regularly. It comes in many varieties including neon and silken.
  • Zamioculcas Zamiifolia – aka ZZ plant – very nice, sturdy, but gets very big and will eventually need to be transplanted.
  • Philodendron – A nice, dark green vine.
  • If you have higher light, you can pick from many other plants such as:

  • Snake plant – very sturdy.
  • And the following, which will get squished by ground boas but should hold up well to tree boas:

  • Jewel Orchid – tough, and gorgeous, if you can find it.
  • Bromeliad and air plant – you can silicone air plants to the tank background
  • Orchids (and mini orchids) – they may even flower
  • Lipstick plant
  • Small fern
  • Spider plant
  • Maintenance

    The easy part is setting it up, the hard part is keeping it going.

  • Do not use chemical fertilisers. If you have a fresh water aquarium, use the water from your water changes to water. You can also use the water left over when you boil or steam spinach, artichokes, etc. Use monthly or so, depending on the plants you have.
  • Spot clean feces and urates as you see them.
  • Spray daily.
  • Trim your plants as they get too big.
  • D├ęcor

    Cork tubes and half rounds look great and I find my snakes really use them. Driftwood works great too, and you can also use plastic ornaments if you want.

    Planted Exo-Terras on Wood Cages