Re: New Vivarium
The "Orchid Shower" is doing quite well. Aside from a battle with snails and slugs that I won via CO2 bombs, the tank has been very easy to maintain. You can see the attached pictures to assess the viv for yourself.
What would I do differently? That's a question I can answer quite exhaustively because I am in the process of building a replacement! I am a bit of an OCD perfectionist so the utterly non-fatal flaws of the current setup are enough to motivate me to build a new version to address them. What are the flaws?
1) Height: My metal halides are up to the job of lighting all the way to the bottom of the viv (you see the moss and ferns down there have grown very nicely) but they produce enough heat to spike the temps to over 85 degrees during the hottest days of summer. We only have a handful of weeks like that here in the cool Bay Area, but even that was enough to do-in some of the cooler preferring orchid species. A viv that wasn't 7 feet tall would not require such hot lights.
2) Verticality: The original motivation for a tall viv was to keep cats from being to enter it since I wanted an open top. That served its purpose - but a vertical viv doesn't have much horizontal space (no surprise) - and that means plants are more likely to shade each other and areas of the viv. You can see in the full-viv picture that there are dead spots, in shadow, where I have struggled to get anything (moss or plants) to grow.
3) Materials: I used all non-biodegradable materials to do most of the vivscaping. Given the size, I thought wood, rocks and soil would be very heavy and the wood would eventually decay and need replacement. What I didn't consider were the inputs to the ecosystem contributed by decaying wood. There seems to be some special sauce that real wood offers because my plants have not grown as well as in past vivs with more wood included. What little wood I have added as decoration has been the locus of the best growth of mosses and plants.
I am working on a new viv now that will be more horizontal (roughly 5' x 5' x 2.5' rather than the current viv's 3x3x7). It will also use wood for the vivscape. I have the luxury, living in California, of being able to collect manzanita wood which is very dense and decay resistant. I also considered the lifespan of such wood in past vivs and realized that most of my wood elements have outlived the vivs they were a part of anyway.
I'll post some images of the new viv build soon - I have a rough deadline of the end of February so I should have time to document and post soon...