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Old 04-28-2020, 01:50 AM
minorhero's Avatar
minorhero minorhero is offline
Join Date: Apr 2020
Location: Maryland
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Default My First Vivarium Journal

Hello folks!

I decided to start writing up a journal of my vivarium build for a couple of reasons. 1) hopefully someone more experienced will read this and point out errors I am making before they become too horrible, and 2) so I can keep track of things like plant names etc.

I am pretty excited for this whole process and really enjoying gathering things for the build. I have started buying plants and also some needed tools for some diy portions. So here is the current plan.

I purchased an Aqueon 20 High a couple of days ago. This build will use the aquarium in a vertical configuration. I also purchased the Frog Cube modification system to make this come together. The Frog Cube is essentially 4 pieces of 3d printed plastic designed to be siliconed to the opening of the the tank with some pieces of 3/32 glass. This creates the bottom of the vivarium and door with fruit fly proof ventilation below and above the door.

In addition to the Frog Cube I purchased a cheapy set of diamond hole saws and one cheapy 3" hole saw from amazon. I will use the set to drill a hole for a mistking starter package (also purchased recently) in the top of the tank. I will also drill another hole in either the rear or side of the tank (depending on if the bottom of the tank is tempered) to be used as an overflow drain. I also ordered a 2" bulkhead which will go in the top of the vivarium in the back (this is why I needed the 3" diamond hole saw).

For the actual construction of the vivarium I am planning to use Safe-T-Sorb (a calcined clay product, like turface or oildry) for my false bottom. Since I get to make all the decisions on how thick my substrate and false bottom should be... this brings me to my first question. How deep should the false bottom be?

I am planning to bank my substrate pretty heavily with it being on the shallow end in the front and MUCH deeper in the back. How shallow can I make it and still be good? I am planning to plant the foreground so I want at least 2 inches of substrate, so is that enough or do I need to go deeper?

In order to bank my substrate I am thinking of making a terrace kind of effect. The reason to do this is 1) to give the froggies more floor space which from my readings seems considerably preferred, and 2) for aesthetics. To achieve the terrace effect I am planning to use rocks for the terraces. I will likely only have 1 rock outcropping given the depth of the tank but I am planning to have it visible in the tank itself. I am thinking I should put the rock directly on the false bottom and then build the substrate up around it and behind it. This will allow me to bank the substrate higher then I otherwise would so that it won't all slide forward. Does that make sense?

For plants I am thinking of having only 1 big plant in the back (an amazon sword to be precise) and the rest of the plants on the floor will be low growing plants. In the front of the tank I am planning to grow dwarf hairgrass, elechoaris acicularis specifically. (my other hobby is planted aquariums, hence the aquatic plants)

I picked up some Dwarf Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus nana), Asian Jasmine (trachelospermum asiaticum), Lemon Button Fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia), and Dragons Tongue (Hemigraphis Repanda) all at Lowes for prices much cheaper then can be found online.

I also purchased a cutting of Marcgravia sp. Suriname for as much as I paid for all the other plants in the previous paragraph. Plus a bunch of cuttings of Oak Leaf Creeping Fig (Ficus Pumila Quercifolia).

And since this is a dart frog tank I bought a reasonably cool bromeliad which is a hybrid cross between a fireball and a royal burgundy. I plan to buy some other epiphyte plants down the line (likely anubias and bucephalandra) but that will have to wait till I actually have the tank set up. I don't want to try to keep those plants alive without a mister on a timer in a high humidity space. For mosses.. I have a hard time paying money for what I can probably just find when I go hiking and plan to go that route.

A lot of these plants require a pretty powerful light. So I bought a Chihiros WRGB II for this tank. Its a light that pretty much has to be bought from overseas but in the planted aquarium hobby is considered to be an excellent budget high light solution. With the tank in vertical configuration putting the floor at 24" away I should be able to get at least 50 PPFD at substrate. Plus it has an app that will allow sunrise and sunset modes which will be fun.

The room this tank is going into is in my basement which tends to be about 68 degrees year round. This begs the question of how to heat the tank.. I haven't come to a conclusion on this but some reading on the subject indicates a very small heater on the side of the tank that turns on during the day is the way to go? Definitely open to suggestions on this point.

Oh and I also plan to buy some manzanita branches with lots of little twigs on the ends. This will give my tank more vertical space and provide locations for me to stick all the moss plus some of the other epiphtye plants. 2 sides of the tank will have diy backgrounds on them. I have not decided what method I want for the backgrounds other then that I want them to not look flat, and to allow for all my vine plants to crawl up them.

And finally the big question... what the heck do I put in this tank? After reading various threads it seems like this tank is not going to be well suited for tincs because most of the space is vertical. I am therefore leaning towards thumbnails since my reading indicates they are more likely to enjoy climbing and thus need less floor space. Does this sound right?

Thank you to everyone that actually read this incredibly long post. In my next update I will have pictures of something.. I promise! Plus I plan to update this thread with the entire build so folks can follow along as I go.

Last edited by minorhero; 04-28-2020 at 01:52 AM.
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