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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-07-2012, 07:52 PM Thread Starter
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The 'Why Pay More' Reptile Supply Thread

Keeping reptiles isn't horribly expensive in most cases (though it can be, sometimes), but considering how many of us are tightening our belts in this economy, why pay more for 'name brand' reptile supplies, when you can get the same things (or better) for much less money?
Here's a list of money-saving tips and supplies I have found:

1) For lightweight goods, you can usually find them online for less money than you will pay at a local pet store. It may take a week to reach you, so plan ahead. Online stores also typically have equipment and goods you can't find at all, locally.

2) Cricket water gel. This is great if you are gutloading crickets, keeping them for a week, or are breeding your own crickets or roaches. It's got a crazy price tag, doesn't it? Pick up the exact same polymer crystals in bulk on Ebay or some reptile supply sites. It'll cost you a few bucks for a 1 oz packet. It only takes ONE TEASPOON of the stuff to refill a 16 oz jar. You'll be amazed, watching the stuff expand, and that 1 oz packet makes an entire gallon of the stuff, so this is a truly huge savings.

3) Bulk rodents. Most pet stores charge an arm and a leg for frozen rodents. You can get them for about .30 apiece for pinkie mice, or a $1.50 for big rats, from online suppliers. Even when you factor in the $60 shipping charge, you still wind up saving boatloads of money by buying an entire box full at once. Store them in your freezer for up to 6 months.

4) The nifty thermometers with remote probes that they sell in pet stores can be of questionable quality, and phenomenal price. Get the same gadget, that works more reliably, from Walmart for $12.

5) Coconut fiber bedding is a good choice for a few high humidity species, especially arboreal ones. Look at plant growing supply companies online to find a brick of it for $2.45 plus shipping, or less.

6) Rodent chow. When you're breeding feeders, you have a few options. 'Doggy Bag' brand dog food from Tractor Supply company works fine, but you can pick up 50 pounds of actual laboratory rodent food blocks for about $30, if you call around and hunt it down. It's a complete, healthy food for rats and mice.

7) Heat Tape and heat cords. You could use undertank heat pads, but they're not exactly stellar for reliability, and they're very expensive. You can purchase pre-wired lengths of FlexWatt from companies like Pro Exotics, or flexible heat cord in various lengths from places like Big Apple Herp, and they're really quite cheap. They require a thermostat to control them...but, so do the heat pads (which few realize, leading to burns and fires).

8) The best and most reliable thermostats. Ok, they are NOT the cheapest, but when it comes to a thermostat, you want reliable first, and cost is your second concern. Malfunctioning thermostats are a disaster...and there are some bad brands out there. Spyder robotics makes the Herpstat thermostats. Helix are also an old and reliable name in the business. If you are ok with not having the best proportional thermostats, Ranco and Johnson's thermostats have good reputations, and are a more economical analog thermostat. You can find them online, but chances are, you'll never see one in a pet store.

9) Van Ness makes dog and cat dishes. Their 'Pure Ness' plastic dishes are smooth, and free of rough edges, and have fingerholds that make the area under the bowl accessible, since the design is tip-proof. These dishes are perfect for snakes, because they double as both water bowl, and hide box. They cost a few bucks. Sure, they don't look like they're made out of rock, but they make the snake very happy indeed, so if you're ok with that, they're a much better choice. Oh, and they have a size that fits perfectly in hatchling sized snake racks.

If anyone else has additions for this list, feel free to post 'em. I'm always looking for better alternatives as well.
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-07-2012, 08:48 PM
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To add to the list...

10) There's no need for expensive, heavy glass aquariums when keeping turtles. Just pick up a large plastic storage bin for less than half the price . A bonus is that it'll be much easier to clean.

11) If you DO need a glass aquarium for your pet, check Freecycle and Craigslist before shelling out tons of cash at a pet store. You can often find used aquariums for cheap...or even free.

12) If you feed turtle pellets as a staple diet, consider koi pellets. They tend to have the same ingredients yet are much cheaper and can easily be bought in bulk.

13) Bulk rabbit feed (pellets only) makes a great "bedding" for raising crickets on. It's cheap, absorbent, smells fresh, and the crickets will nibble on it...meaning it doubles as a healthy gut load.

14) If you keep a tortoise and need to buy hay, call local farms and see how much a bale will be. The savings compared to pet store hay are phenomenal and the hay will be fresher.

15) Lids from drink containers (and similar things) make good shallow water or food dishes for many herps, such as crested geckos and dart frogs.

16) Don't buy sand from the pet store, simply get a bag of children's play sand. It needs to be washed but the same goes for pet store sand anyway...and the play sand will be much cheaper.

17) Home improvement stores tend to have good deals on rocks and pebbles...especially compared to the crazy prices at pet stores.




~Stephanie

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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-07-2012, 08:52 PM Thread Starter
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Do koi pellets have equitable levels of calcium and D3? (Turtles have very high calcium needs).
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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-08-2012, 06:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WingedWolfPsion View Post
Do koi pellets have equitable levels of calcium and D3? (Turtles have very high calcium needs).
Yup, similar ingredients, too...take a look:

Wheat Starch, Corn Flour, Fish Meal, Feeding Oat Meal, De-hulled Soybean Meal, Wheat Gluten, Wheat Germ Meal, Soybean Oil, Algae Meal, Mono-basic Calcium Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid (Source of Vitamin C), Inositol, Niacin, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Stabilized Vitamin C), D-Calcium Pantothenate, A-Tocopherol-Acetate, Riboflavin-5-Phosphate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin A Palmitate, Cyanocobalamin, Cholecalciferol, Manganese Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Cobalt Nitrate. Color: Yellow 5 Lake, Ethoxyquin (antioxidant) as a preservative.


Fish meal, wheat starch, dried yeast, corn flour, shrimp meal, wheat gluten, potato protein, dehulled soybean meal, soybean oil, monobasic calcium phosphate, L-lysine monohydrochloride, lecithin, algae meal, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), inositol, niacin, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (stabilized Vitamin C), D-calcium pantothenate, A-tocopherol-acetate, riboflavin-5-phosphate, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, Vitamin A palmitate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex, cyanocobalamin, cholecalciferol, manganese sulfate, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, cobalt nitrate, artificial colors, blue 2 lake, yellow 6 lake, and ethoxyquin as a preservative.

Fish Meal, Ground Corn, Dehulled Soybean Meal, Wheat Flour, Corn Gluten Meal, Fish Oil, Wheat Germ Meal, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Potassium Sulfate, DL-Methionine, L-Lysine, Propionic Acid (a preservative), L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), Vitamin A Supplement, Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Zinc Oxide, Ferrous Carbonate, Manganous Oxide, Menadione Dimethylpyrimidinol Bisulfite (source of vitamin K activity), Niacin, Ethoxyquin (a preservative), Calcium Pantothenate, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Cholecalciferol (source of vitamin D3), Cobalt Carbonate, Folic Acid, Calcium Iodate, Biotin, Sodium Selenite.


White Fish Meal, Wheat Flour, Defatted Soybean Meal, Defatted Wheat Germ Meal, Dried Brewers Yeast, Mono Dicalcium Phosphate, Vitamin A, Vitamin D3, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Niacin, Biotin, Choline Chloride, Vitamin C, Inositol, Folic Acid, Calcium Pantothenat e, Cyanocobalamine, P-Aminobenonic Acid, Manganese Sulfate, Iron Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Cobalt Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Magnesium Sulfate, Disodium Hydrogen Phosphate, Potassium Dihydrogen Phosphate.


Wheat Middlings, Soybean Meal, Wheat Flour, Fish Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Spirulina, Fish Oil, Soy Lecithin, Dicalcium Phosphate, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Biotin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Manganese Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Potassium Iodate, Propionic Acid (a natural preservative)

That's a mixture of turtle and koi foods. You might notice some ingredient patterns but of course there's some variation (between turtle foods, too, anyway).

I'm not happy with any of them but I tend to be rather obsessive about nutrition. There are breeders who literally just feed turtle or koi pellets and the turtles don't have any problems...I suppose they're adaptable.




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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-08-2012, 11:54 PM
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Let me add a caveat here.


Owning a pet is not a smart financial decision. So with that premise, be prepared to pay a little more for some things. Buying name brands from a good local store can be a better investment than getting cheap crap off the internet.


Pet stores do not subsist on the revenue generated by the animals they sell. They need to sell supplies to get by.


If you enjoy having a good pet store near you, one where he folks are knowledgeable, the animals are healthy and you feel comfortable shopping, then you should buy from them. And I mean buy supplies from them. Sure, you can usually get stuff cheaper over the internet, but look around and see how many folks on the boards bemoan the fact that there are no good, close pet stores.


If you find a good one, especially if they sell locally, captive bred livestock, buy from them! ...even if it costs a little more.


Otherwise, you may one day find that the only "pet store" within driving distance is a Wal-mart or some giant pet chain that supports puppy mills and environmental devastation by puchasing cheap wild caught animals. This kind of result hurts us all, from the owners to the breeders.



In this situation, you may find that you very much get what you pay for. Find a good pet store and think of the extra money you might have to pay, as an investment in the future of your hobby.


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The problem is, pet stores often choose big name suppliers for their goods exclusively, and a lot of those big name suppliers make a whole bunch of low-quality trash. The goods we're discussing here aren't low-quality trash--they're good quality alternatives to overpriced low-quality trash. For example, when I talk about getting a $12 indoor/outdoor thermometer with a remote probe from WalMart, it's because it's the same quality...or better (usually better) than the $24 name brand one from a pet store. A lot of the garbage some of the big manufacturers make is criminally defective. For example, those round stick-on thermometers and hygrometers--they don't give accurate readings, and often, they don't actually work correctly at all.

The heat pads have a higher failure rate than the much less expensive FlexWatt and the heat cords I mentioned, and by failure rate, I mean 'things caught on fire'. FlexWatt can do that if you use a faulty thermostat, too, but it tends to work flawlessly if you use it correctly.

If you find a local pet store that has actually bothered to do its research, and find out what people who know what they're doing prefer to use, and stock THAT...then by all means, buy from them, because it will be cheaper--you won't have to pay shipping costs.

But, buying inferior equipment with a high failure rate, just to patronize a local store? That's not helping anyone, except the store's owner, and at the expense of you and your pets, and everyone else who winds up buying the shoddy equipment.

We aren't talking chump change here. We're talking items usually priced twice what they should be if they weren't branded 'for reptiles'. If that is all your local store stocks, really, what value are they to you anyhow? If they're a truly knowledgeable reptile specialty store, then they'll have quality thermostats, and they'll have Flexwatt and heat cords, temp guns and frozen rodents priced at $1.25 apiece instead of $5.00. If they don't, then they aren't truly knowledgeable, and the last thing we need are more semi-ignorant 'specialty' stores selling reptiles to people who don't know how to care for them, because the store owners can't give proper advice.

If I can find coco fiber bricks for a buck fifty, then so can a store owner. I'm a business owner, and I know that while there's generally a minimum order requirement for wholesale orders, if you're clever, you can get these supplies for bunches less, and pass the savings on. I know, because I've seen real specialty stores that do exactly that. They're rather rare, but they are out there.

Don't get me wrong--some reptile-exclusive goods are made by big name manufacturers, and are actually good. It's just that there are a lot that aren't. A good store will know the difference. If you see heat rocks in a store? Not a good store. No reason to support them. I don't feel bad for someone who opens a pet store, and has not done sufficient research to be able to tell the difference between decent products, and dangerous or useless ones.

In conclusion, if the only pet stores around you are giants like PetCo or PetsMart, what difference does that make if you aren't buying anything from them, anyhow? Don't quality online pet supply stores deserve your support just as much as local storefront types?

I say, reward the ones who carry the proper supplies, wherever they are. For every one good local pet store I've found, there've been at least 5 that should've been shut down.
All the good ones carried a lot of the stuff I mentioned...and if they didn't carry one of the items, then they didn't carry any expensive alternatives to it either, because they know you can get it cheaper elsewhere. Things like bedding, they buy in bulk, and repackage it smaller and make a profit, and you still get it cheaper.

Most of their money still comes from things like dog and cat food. Running a pet store looks less attractive when you find out the bottom line, and the hassles those folks have to go through. Still, that's no reason to support them JUST because they're small, or local.
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-09-2012, 11:02 AM
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If anyone is ever going to buy a used aquarium and intending to have water in it, they should be sure to water-test it outside, before setting it up in their house with their pet in it. All too often older, used aquariums have been stored incorrectly, and the silicone seals end up all dried out and leaky. Sometimes the leaks are just a very slow drip, that you may not notice right away, but still more than enough to result in a big mess. Personally, aquariums are one of the things that I really don't trust second hand - even though I get a ton of them via rescues. You get what you pay for.

I know aquatic turtle breeders that feed exclusively koi or trout chow. Whether it is entirely nutritionally complete, I can't imagine any pellet is, really... but I use them, along with Reptomin, sinking shrimp pellets, feeder fish, and few other 'treats' for my turtles. I've always felt better giving a variety to make sure their diet was more rounded, than feed a single pellet solely.

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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-09-2012, 11:09 AM Thread Starter
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True, though of course, if you get an aquarium for free, and it leaks, you can just get another.

I would never recommend a glass tank for turtles anyhow, though. They're simply too heavy and fragile, which makes them too difficult to clean. People try to set them up like a fish tank, when what they really need is a good weekly scrubbing and bleaching.

One of the best setups I saw, a person constructed a wheeled table to hold a Waterland tub, then drilled a hole straight through the tub, and a larger one in the table. Then he plugged the hole in the tub with a rubber stopper. To clean, he can just put a big bucket under it, and pull the stopper. Or, wheel it outside and drain it there.

But, I digress.
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-09-2012, 12:08 PM
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I use the $12 Walmart thermometers for my lizards, and they are awesome.

I have a couple to add:

18. If you have a reptile that uses reptile carpet, get non-adhesive shelf liner instead, or linoleum flooring for larger cages. They are much cheaper and easier to clean, and are more attractive than paper towels.


19. Make your own decorations. www.lizard-landscapes.com and www.beautifuldragons.com have great instructions on how to make DIY rocks out of styrofoam and grout. I made some large platforms for my beardie for about $30.


20. For fluorescent tube UVB lights, buy the under-the-counter fixtures from Walmart or Home Depot. They are easy to mount inside of cages.



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"For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.They are not brethen, they are not underlings; they are other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth."
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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-09-2012, 12:33 PM Thread Starter
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I don't recommend mounting ANY fixtures inside of cages, where animals can potentially reach them. If you do, use a wire mesh guard with holes too small for the animal to get through, to enclose the entire thing. However, I use the same $6 fixtures, I just put them on top of the cage. With aquarium light fixtures running around $25 or more, it's a pretty substantial savings.

For those who want to keep patronizing the pet stores--you still have to buy the UVB light bulbs from an actual pet store, and the prices locally will probably be better, since shipping is expensive for those.

Also, while you can get dome light fixtures for under $15 from a hardware store, be careful--higher wattage bulbs and heat bulbs of many types require a ceramic fixture for safety! The cheap dome fixtures are usually plastic. They work fine for lower wattage bulbs, though.

Plastic storage bins--Rubbermaid and Sterilite, and Iris, all make good cages. Choose one of the right size, with a tight-latching lid. Use strong clamps to secure the long sides of the lid. Use a soldering iron to make ventilation holes along the upper edges.
The bins are sturdy, easy to clean, and they hold heat and humidity far better than a glass tank. The downside is visibility, but if you have something like a ball python, you wouldn't see much of them anyhow, other than when you take them out.
So, you can have an $8 cage with a $10 heat cord controlled by a $100 thermostat. This is far superior, and better for the animal, than doing it the other way around.
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post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-09-2012, 02:19 PM
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I've always mounted my UVB fixtures inside of my beardie's cages, so he gets more UVB exposure. It works well for desert reptiles who need higher levels of UVB, but probably not for snakes or herps who climb or need a lot of humidity. Plus, if you have a wooden custom cage like I do, you kind of have to mount all the fixture in the cage.



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post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-09-2012, 04:33 PM Thread Starter
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Well, the fluorescent UVB lights don't get very hot, and if they can't reach it, that's not too horrible. I know a lot of folks now are using the Mercury-Vapor lights for beardies--they have penetration up to a few feet, I believe, instead of just 6 inches, and they last for 3 years instead of 6 months. They get very hot, so not the best choice for all species, but for larger enclosures, they're a lot better and more economical. Not cheap, though, some of those bulbs cost $80.
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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-09-2012, 06:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ravnos View Post
If anyone is ever going to buy a used aquarium and intending to have water in it, they should be sure to water-test it outside, before setting it up in their house with their pet in it. All too often older, used aquariums have been stored incorrectly, and the silicone seals end up all dried out and leaky. Sometimes the leaks are just a very slow drip, that you may not notice right away, but still more than enough to result in a big mess. Personally, aquariums are one of the things that I really don't trust second hand - even though I get a ton of them via rescues. You get what you pay for.
Good point but honestly, everyone should leak test ANY new aquarium...used or not. Out of the couple dozen aquariums I've acquired, none of the used ones leaked (that was of course luck)...yet THREE brand new aquariums (from different stores/manufacturers at different times) did. Two were acrylic which probably played a role but the other was a standard All-Glass. I leak test every new tank I get, free or not.

Quote:
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I know aquatic turtle breeders that feed exclusively koi or trout chow. Whether it is entirely nutritionally complete, I can't imagine any pellet is, really... but I use them, along with Reptomin, sinking shrimp pellets, feeder fish, and few other 'treats' for my turtles. I've always felt better giving a variety to make sure their diet was more rounded, than feed a single pellet solely.
That's how I feel (minus the feeder fish right now because I'm no longer breeding feeder guppies and don't trust the stores' stock).

I actually wish I knew more about my turtle's wild diet so I could avoid pellets completely. Seems weird to give him pellets with wheat, corn, etc. when my other animals don't get processed foods like that. But the only diet information easily found on my turtle species is with captive turtles .


As for local pet stores, I don't really have a great one in the area to support. There's one semi-close (I wouldn't say local) that's OK but not amazing enough to want to support all the time (but I buy things there if I know I'll be in the area). I think the same is true for most people on this forum...we'll support good pet stores, there just aren't many. My "local" pet store is PetCo .




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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-09-2012, 07:05 PM Thread Starter
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Stephanie, what species of turtle is it? Most turtles are omnivores, and there are plenty of keepers who don't feed pellets. Most turtle care sites recommend that pellets not be more than 25% of the diet.

RES, for example, can be fed calcium-dusted insects (crickets, etc), chopped earth worms, a bit of beef heart, bits of tilapia fish, chopped mustard, collard, dandelion, and turnip greens, and anacharis (a water plant).
If you feed them a good mix of that, and use plenty of calcium on the animal food items, they don't need pellets.

The key for turtles, as with tortoises, is variety.
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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-09-2012, 07:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WingedWolfPsion View Post
Stephanie, what species of turtle is it? Most turtles are omnivores, and there are plenty of keepers who don't feed pellets. Most turtle care sites recommend that pellets not be more than 25% of the diet.

RES, for example, can be fed calcium-dusted insects (crickets, etc), chopped earth worms, a bit of beef heart, bits of tilapia fish, chopped mustard, collard, dandelion, and turnip greens, and anacharis (a water plant).
If you feed them a good mix of that, and use plenty of calcium on the animal food items, they don't need pellets.

The key for turtles, as with tortoises, is variety.
Red-cheeked mud turtle. There isn't anything published on their wild diet so I haven't felt comfortable enough to design a diet. They do seem carnivorous, though, and won't touch greens (as opposed to common pet store turtles like RES). So I can't exactly do a mix like the one you wrote (if I kept RES I'd do something similar...avoiding beef heart and certain terrestrial greens).




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