Hello everyone! -WARNING- This initial post may contain long, boring, unnessecary descriptions of my tanks journey to becoming the terrarium you currently will see. Please bear with me as I explain in some detail, all the incarnations of this system. It deserves it!
So… I know that has been a while since I posted any updates on the 180gallon paludarium build. And again thank you to everyone that had followed the original thread on here. While it was short lived, and not updated very regularly, I hope that some people were able to pull some inspiration. Over the past four years, the system has seen many changes. Most notably, it became and additional support tank for my 350gal reef aquarium as pictured below. Reef enthusiasts that follow Reef Central may have seen this.
As you can see, this system was used as more of a coral holding tank for customers and new additions to the larger system. Many of the organism that made up this portion of the tanks life were some seagrasses, macro algae, soft corals in genus zoanthidae, large polyp stony corals and tridacna clams. For a while it also held a prized red mangrove specimen around the eight-year-old mark. Unfortunately, one of the support roots split killing the tree. As I was utilizing this tank for saltwater, I had to get my dendrobatid fix in other ways. Thankfully down in Arizona I was close with the owner of a LFS that wanted to display some of his freshwater plants in their immersed state. I helped him along with the scaping of a pretty spectacular tinctorius sp. paludarium.
My time in Arizona ended and I moved up to Colorado where I am currently living. During my move, I knew that I wanted to turn the 180gal into something a little more unique than what I had currently had it set up as. Once I decided to remove it from the 350 reef, I figured it was time to set it up as a freshwater paludarium with an extremely majestic water feature. I began designing out a plateau that would double as a “top” pond, draining successively down “smaller” ponds until ultimately reaching the lowest level “stream”.
Sorry for the poor quality, I’m not sure why I didn’t take any early pictures of the early build, but this screen shot should work. I used blue foam as the main structure of the elevated ponds, and covered it with a special cement that has been used for not only vertical projects like bridges, and tunnels, but also zoo enclosures for its close to neutral Ph thanks to a plastic polymer that is added to the mix. I will try to find the name of the brand if anybody is interested. As I added hard scape into the system it quickly became apparent that the 30x30x48 dimensions, were still a little too small for the vision that I had, allowing larger pieces of wood to protrude out into space while still leaving enough light space for the ponds to grow aquatic stem plants like bacopa, hygrophila, and bucephalandra submerged and immersed like the paludarium in Az. The wood, was just too much however.
Another issue I ran into was the realization that even though I was going to have plenty of space for epiphytic plants to grow on the wood, I really didn’t have much terrestrial space, and whilst the water was a cool feature, it was probably too dangerous for dendrobatids. NOW WHAT DO I PUT IN HERE! As I was searching potential candidates for the system, I began to parse through the pros and cons. Pro- I had enough water space for some really cool micro fish like celestial pearl danios, whiteclouds, butterfly loaches, badis, or even a small school of green neons. Con- I wasn’t ready to have a small space for fish and then add in an amphibian that was nocturnal that would only be active at well…night. So I thought I made a compromise with getting some guppies and then a few geosesarma crabs. They would occupy both land and water, and while they may eat some guppies, oh well. As time went by, schedules filled up, and the tank was left on autopilot. Plants filled in nicely, and the whole thing just became a fixture. But it was lacking any mobile creatures. I hadn’t gotten any crabs or fish yet.
It was about 7mo after the reincarnation of the paludarium that I noticed a friend staring at my tank when I was throwing a party. Others had looked in and moved to the other tanks because, “fish are more interesting than plants”. But he was just starring… starring as if he had seen something. He then asked my what was in there. “Nothing” I answered, well that is except for plants. And just as I was about to show how impressively blooming my pleurothallis picta “gigi” was, I noticed his face drop. “Why do you have a box of plants in your house?” And that’s when another realization hit me. People like action. Movement. Something other than cool orchids to look at! And then it me. It was time to go back to my roots. What had started my passion nearly twenty years prior. I needed some frogs. But how could I tear down something I thought was turning into a true piece of art.
When the day came I knew that I had to get some more material to make it more compatible with a terrarium. False bottoms were always how I easy maintained a healthy substrate in my other systems, but because this one was setup for multiple closed loop pumps, I had the luxury of turning the bulk heads into drains for waste water. The soil that makes up the bulk of the system is a coco fiber, aqua soil mix. Hopefully with time, the floor of the terrarium will get covered with a lush layer of moss. Of course, that will take time. To make sure that any frogs could find their way into the drains, I elevated the substrate enough to allow water to pass through to the gravel layer, and through a platform made from light diffusers. Basically, a light false bottom. As I was tearing out the plants, I noticed that many of the air roots from orchids and bromeliads were woven tightly into the woodwork requiring careful extraction to minimize damage. I believe I will lose some plants just due to stress. Here is the number of different plant species I had in this tank organized by either ferns and moss, or epiphytes.
All in all, the process took two days to complete. After all is said and done, I think that the new layout will open the possibilities for new micro orchids and other rare plants along with the addition of one of my favorite frogs. So here is my new/old/redesigned Dendrobates tinctorius “New River” setup. Hopefully I will remember to update regularly on plant additions and general frog happiness. If anybody has any questions, feel free to send em!