40 Breeder Front-Opening Conversion - Dendroboard
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Old 07-31-2015, 01:17 AM
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Default 40 Breeder Front-Opening Conversion

Background: I'm starting my 2nd build here. My first tank was a big display tank that I ended up building from scratch because I couldn't find any big enough that could be shipped here. I liked the outcome, but ended up spending waaay more money and a lot more time than I anticipated, so looking to go quick(er) and easy(er) this time around and do a conversion instead. Petco is doing their $1/gallon sale (Thank you Judy for posting that), so I picked up a 40 gallon breeder.

Right now I've got a side table thing in my kitchen that's covered in extra plants.

Looks like this right here:



The 40 Breeder will fit just about perfect if I flip it up so the opening is facing forwards. All the other standard tank sizes didn't fit as well, even if I bought two smaller ones or whatever. This should pretty much fill the table top and be 17" high.

The intention for this was to just put all my extra plants in one tank so it would look a little nicer and give them more humidity than they're getting now. But shopping for lights and trying to figure out how to put doors and vents in, I think I'm going to spend more than I expected again, and be highly tempted to put frogs in later, so am building with that in mind.

Goal: Be as simple as possible, while still coming up with a good quality, frog-worthy result. Hopefully don't go too crazy with the spending this time.

Water Features: No! Last build I did a pond in the corner, to have access to the drainage layer and so the frogs could soak if they wanted, but the frogs don't use it, and it just gets filled up with dead springtails and fruit flies, so this time I think I'm going to just do plain substrate, maximizing floor space, and running a PVC pipe down to the drainage layer so I can siphon out when needed.

Drainage layer: Will use expanded glass aggregate (AKA Growstone). I've got half a bag left over from the last build, and seems to work fine. I got a 3/4 inch PVC pipe and a T-shaped fitting. Will cover the ends of the T-fitting in screen so gunk doesn't get in, have the pipe run up through the substrate, and got a plastic cap to put on the top of it so no frogs can get in. I've got a hand siphon I can use to get the water out. Didn't want to attempt drilling a bulkhead, and wouldn't look good on that table anyways. I realize bulkheads are the easiest solution, but I like everything to be "self-contained" and don't mind draining my current tank periodically.

Substrate: I've got about 5 gallons NE Herp and ABG mix. Will mix a little calcinated clay (AKA turface) in too. Thick layer of leaf litter on top of that.

Lights: I just have a plain CFL bulb on my higher light plants now, but doesn't look nice and doesn't have enough spread. I got 2 Current Satellite LED+ bars for my tank now, but I don't use the effects much and can't afford to buy 2 36-inch of those. I tried to find the best combination of cheap, bright, and good for plants. I hurt my brain reading ratings, reviews, planted tank forums, and manufacturer specs. Ended up purchasing one of these here:
Amazon.com : Finnex FugeRay Planted+ Aquarium LED Light Plus Moonlights, 36-Inch : Pet Supplies Amazon.com : Finnex FugeRay Planted+ Aquarium LED Light Plus Moonlights, 36-Inch : Pet Supplies
Was between this and 2 of the cheaper
Finnex Stingray Finnex Stingray
bars, but the one I chose seemed to be about twice as bright, supposedly more geared towards plant growth (planted tanks in particular), and slightly cheaper than buying 2 of the Stingray.

Decor: Considered going with no background, but want to have something to stick epiphytes in. Will plan to do a cork mosaic background. Last time I used great big slabs of cork in an attempt to make one uniform-looking piece, but ended up being too difficult trying to fit them together, and the larger pieces led to more warping, so I effectively just did the cork mosaic background with bigger pieces, spending a lot more time and money trying to get them flat. This time I'll just get some gallon bags of pieces instead. For a centerpiece I ordered a great big piece of ghostwood from NE Herp. I really liked the smaller piece they sent me last time. Just going to lay it sideways like a big fallen down tree.

Frogs(?): My intention for this was to just do a plain terrarium for plants and not stick any frogs in it. However I might end up spending too much time and money to just put plants in, and be tempted to stick some frogs in later. Would like to get something fairly "low maintenance," by which I mean it would do well in groups, not eat a ton, not require a water feature, and not be too loud. I'm thinking maybe mantellas? This build will be a little more overgrown than my last (tincs) so maybe can get a little smaller, shyer frog. I have been scoping out the ranitomeya a lot, but because of the door design I'm thinking about (just one big door, see below) I wouldn't want something fast enough it could jump out while I'm misting or feeding, and ranitomeya seem more vertically-oriented anyways. I'll try doing a tank for them another day... Terriblis seem like an obvious choice, but worried they'd eat so much I'd have to make 2X as many fruit fly cultures, or start raising crickets too. Firebelly toads would be another idea, however I don't want to sacrifice floor space for a great big pond. The Vietnamese mossy frogs look really cool and seem low maintenance, but from what little I could find, they need a big water feature, like firebelly toads. I really like looking at mantellas at the zoo, and seem to be pretty low maintenance, so might go with those. I am not in any rush to put frogs in there though. Plan A is just to use this thing for extra plants, but I'm going to try and build it solid and fruit-fly proof in case I decide to stick frogs in there later. I'd like to take it slower than last time though. Last time I had paid a deposit on my frogs and had a delivery date scheduled months in advance, so I was really stressed out and blew up my credit card in order to meet the deadline. Would like to take a little more time building this one and be patient before ordering frogs.

Doors: This is where I am really stuck. This was the worst part of building the last one, and struggling again here. I wish I could just buy a conversion kit, but doesn't exist for a 40G. The only horizontal, front-opening conversion I could find was this one. I'm basing my idea of what he did there. Thinking I'll just have a single door on a hinge, but have the hinge at the top rather than the bottom. My thinking there is when I open it, the door would be resting on top of the tank, rather than hanging down, putting stress on the hinge. Having 2 side-opening doors seems like it would put a lot of stress on the hinges too, since the tank is so wide. I like my sliding doors on my current tank, however getting the tracking for that was really difficult, and I don't know what I'd have them resting on this time. Last time I did a Sherman Vent, but the glass cutter I use really hated cutting the 1"X24" strips, and I don't think he'd do it if I asked for 1"X35". Even if I can get some more tracking material, I don't think I'd be able to rest it squarely on the edge of some 1/4 inch glass, and I can't figure out how to build a nice ledge for it.

Vents: Just as confused as I am with the doors. If I can't do the Sherman Vent this time (I'll ask my glass cutter, but I think he'll say no), I think I've got two options. 1. Drill a bunch of holes in it and put in grommets/bushings, as I've seen people do. These look decent, but to get the amount of ventilation I want I think I'd have to do a whole lot of drilling, and worried I'd screw it up. 2. Make some window screen inserts. I'm going to have to figure out how to make these, but this seems like the easiest way to go. The only downside I see from these, is if I wanted to make a big wide screen to go above or below the doors, I don't think it will be sturdy enough to support the weight of the door.


So here's the solution I came up with (this is to-scale):



I think these should be big enough vents, allowing for some air circulation, while allowing the door to attach to the top of the tank with a piano hinge, giving the door maximum support. My main concerns are it might look stupid, and maybe I'm overly-worried about putting stress on the hinges. Maybe just doing it the way the other guy did, vent on top, hinge below the door, is the way to go? Maybe there's some way to make a screen that's a little more rigid, so I could hang the door off it? I'd really appreciate some advice on the doors and vents in particular. I'd ask Travis, who did the other 40G conversion, directly but he hasn't been active on dendroboard for a while.

If you read this whole thing, I will give you a gold star. Sorry if I got a little wordy, but really having trouble wrapping my head around how to do one of these conversions, and I want everything to turn out nice. I also try to be really thorogh documenting my plans and build so others can hopefully learn from my mistakes. I really appreciate the support of the dendroboard community and all the other questions I've had along the way.

Thanks for reading, and for any feedback/advice you can provide,

Thane
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Old 07-31-2015, 04:43 AM
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Default Re: 40 Breeder Front-Opening Conversion

I haven't done a conversion yet. Well not like what you're talking about. But I really just wanted the gold star.

Actually I just wanted to say good luck!
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Old 07-31-2015, 05:40 AM
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Default Re: 40 Breeder Front-Opening Conversion

If you do decide to utilize that diagram as your template, split the flip-down panel into two sections. A single door panel of that size (of almost any thickness) will put significant strain on any hinge and adhesives you may use, and will probably result in an opening too large for you to effectively control while doing feeding and maintenance.
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Old 07-31-2015, 06:09 AM
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Default Re: 40 Breeder Front-Opening Conversion

Thanks Dane,

Those plans are definitely not set in stone. I calculated the glass should weigh 3.5 lb total if using 1/8 inch thickness. The acrylic piano hinges I ordered come in 12 inch lengths, so splitting them up into sections is definitely a possibility. I had also considered trying to put a vent running vertically down the center to give nicer airflow, but wondered if that would look screwy.

I guess now that I think about it, if the hinge is on the top the weight is going to be on the hinge all the time, but if it's on the bottom it will only be on the hinge when it's open. I was worried about putting too much stress on it when open, but I might have been worried about the wrong thing. If I could put the hinge along the bottom, I could attach it to the bottom section of glass, which will be far sturdier than trying to stick it to a screen insert. And if I'm not attaching it along the top, that frees me up to put a screen all along the top instead of on the sides like in my diagram. BASICALLY I'd be copying Travis's tank here.

I hope that made sense. Just kind of thinking out loud here. I'll have to sleep on this one and come back to it tomorrow.

Thanks again,
Thane
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Old 08-02-2015, 03:33 AM
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Default Re: 40 Breeder Front-Opening Conversion

I got the light in the mail today. Tried putting the tank and light on the table, and everything fit perfectly. The light seems really bright - brighter than the Current Satellite LED+ I have on my other tank, so hoping the 1 bar should be sufficient for the plants. I'm really glad to have the nice wide bar over them, rather than the single CFL I had before. All the plants had started leaning towards it, so hopefully this should encourage some more upright growth.




I'm still thinking over the design. Currently looking into sourcing some materials though to see if I can't get a Sherman vent or some sliding glass door parts. My fear of doing just one big flap is that the hinge would be prone to breaking, and difficult to replace. On my current tank, if something happens to the doors I can just pop another one in the tracks really easily. My other fear is with an opening that big, it might look really nice, but if I get any sort of quicker frogs, they'd be prone to escaping.

So that's all I've got for now. Hoping to start work on the background this week.

Thanks,
Thane
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Old 08-10-2015, 02:00 AM
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Default Re: 40 Breeder Front-Opening Conversion

Ill be watching to see how this turns out Thane, Ive been contemplating how it would work as well. Consider Variabilis Southern, mine seem to be terrestrial
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Old 08-10-2015, 03:46 AM
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Default Re: 40 Breeder Front-Opening Conversion

Thanks - I haven't gotten to start on the background yet. I ended up ordering a 10lb box of cork pieces so hoping I can make something cool out of that.

I was also able to source the parts for a vent and sliding glass door track, so will just be doing a regular Sherman Vent with sliding glass doors.

I also got so excited I went and bought another 40G breeder to do a vertical conversion. Will definitely want to put some frogs in that. Was thinking imitator varadero or southern variablis for that. Did not realize southern variablis are more terrestrial. I'm not in a big rush on that one though - I'll work on that over the winter and hope to get some frogs in the Spring.

This 40Breeder though I'm hoping to get done by October though so I can order some plants before it's too cold for shipping. Still don't know if I'll stick any frogs in it. My main concern putting frogs in is that I was hoping to use this as a grow-out for some rarer plants, so was not planning to treat any plants with bleach or likewise before sticking them in.

Will post some pictures after I get the cork bark, hopefully later this week.

Thanks,
Thane
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Old 08-10-2015, 06:18 AM
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Default Re: 40 Breeder Front-Opening Conversion

I'm putting sliding glass doors on the front of my 40 breeder
Now if you're wanting to do a hinge front then I would put the whole pice of glass all the way across and put a vent up top.

You can use these as a reference for your standard conversion.
http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/spo...sion-kits.html
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Old 08-25-2015, 12:36 AM
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Default Re: 40 Breeder Front-Opening Conversion

Good news - I was able to find a couple sources for conversion kits, so I'm just scrapping my plants for the big hinged door plan above. Going to do regular sliding doors now.

Some other exciting news - I also got in contact with someone from Ecuador who posts to the Rare Terrarium Plants page on Facebook, and ordered a plant package which will ship in September. I'm excited about that, but now the clock is ticking. I'm hoping to get a background in in the next couple weeks so I can get the plants in shortly after I receive them. I'm planning to take labor day week off just to work on the tank, but would like to get started ASAP.

I decided to make this tank plants only. The main benefit I am thinking of is I don't have to be as careful with pesticides and all that. My last plants I got, I almost killed from bleaching them after they had been stressed from shipping in warm weather. I'm hoping with this tank I can just use this to grow out plants without treating them first, get them nice and healthy, then take clippings from those to add to frog tanks or share with people.

Which leads to my biggest question - I'm trying to figure out what products I can use for the background. With my last tank I did the background using only cork flats and 100% aquarium silicone. It looks nice, but doesn't have a lot of depth to it, and the main problem building it was it took forever getting the cork pieces flat enough to make contact with the glass, then the cork warped a little anyways. This time I'm hoping to make things a little easier and cheaper. I got a big box of mixed cork pieces. I'm planning to cover the back of the tank in black silicone, then put great stuff over that, then moosh the cork pieces into the great stuff, then put coco fiber mix over the exposed Great Stuff in between the cork pieces. I've got a great selection of cork pieces, rounds, tubes, etc. Should be able to make a really exciting background.

I went and bought some great stuff and silicone tonight and was hoping someone could give me some guidance on if I got the right kinds.

The Great Stuff I bought is the pond and stone mix, which says it should be safe for fish. That I'm not very worried about.

The silicone I got is "DAP Window & Door 100% Silicone Rubber Sealant" I got a whole bunch of these on special for $2.50 at Menard's, so really hoping I can use this, since the aquarium silicone I bought last time was like $12 a tube. I get confused over what "100% silicone" means though. Like if it's 100% silicone, how can it come in different colors? There has to be additives in there. I don't see anything like "fast drying" or "mildew resistant" on the bottle. I tried searching on here, but don't see where anyone has mentioned this specific formula in a thread. I found the MSDS sheet for it, but not able to make much sense out of it. I tried comparing to the MSDS sheet for some 100% aquarium silicone but that was even more confusing. As long as I let this cure well, does this pose any danger to a tank with only plants in it? Any plants that grow in the background I will stick into the cork pieces rather than the coco fiber on top of silicone on top of great stuff. But if there's a danger of chemicals leeching into the substrate or something like that, I'll use something else.

I'm not going to work on the actual tank for a couple days. I'm going to do a practice run on a cardboard box, mostly because I'm somewhat terrified of using the Great Stuff and want to get a feel for it before using in the big tank. I'm hoping in the meantime someone might be able to give me some guidance on the silicone. If needed, I can order some 100% aquarium silicone, or use an alternative brand like GE II. I'm really hoping because I'm not putting frogs in there that it will be acceptable to use this cheaper solution. From what I gather, the only purpose of the first layer of silicone is to make the back of the tank look nice. I've considered using black contact paper instead, but thought I'd try it "by the book."

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide,
Thane
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Old 08-25-2015, 03:57 AM
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Default Re: 40 Breeder Front-Opening Conversion

Well I went and emptied a whole tube of the DAP silicone into a cardboard box in order to do a "dry" run (GET IT?!?! ). I really hope this silicone is safe to use, because I didn't get too much coverage out of it. I'll probably use 6-8 tubes just for 1 tank. If I have to use the aquarium-specific silicone instead, it's going to get pretty expensive.

It smelled about the same as the 100% clear aqueon silicone I used last time around, but emptying the whole thing at once was pretty durn smelly. This time I had the genius idea to wear rubber gloves, which paid off within minutes. I'm hoping that cures pretty quick so I can start messing around with the great stuff.

For people who love wood (I know I do!) check out this sweet haul:



That's a 10lb. assorted box of cork from NE Herp, plus 2 large pieces ghostwood. This cork is quite a bit wonkier than the last ones I got (I requested some gnarly pieces), which is why I'd really prefer to just jam it in some Great Stuff rather than trying to make it flat. Last time that took forever and still didn't work out great.

That big cork stump is about 8 in. diameter, 16 in. at the tallest point. I don't think I'm going to use that in this build though. My next build I would like to take one of these 40Gal breeders and do a vertical conversion, with no background, just building a big crazy tree. The build will be called "Fern Gully 2016." I'd really like to get some ranitomeya (leaning towards southern variablis or varadero). But that's a build for another day.... I do plan to use quite a bit of this cork though, just so I can mount epiphytes to it. The plant package I'm ordering is about 40% epiphytes.


Thank you all for reading. If someone could give me an educated opinion on using that DAP silicone in this plants-only build, I'd really appreciate it.


Thanks again,
Thane
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Old 10-25-2015, 12:54 AM
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Default Re: 40 Breeder Front-Opening Conversion

Any updates on this ? Would really like to see how the front glass/screen worked out.
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Old 10-25-2015, 01:19 AM
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Default Re: 40 Breeder Front-Opening Conversion

Check out this build thread I did a few years ago, see if any ideas here help you out.

http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/mem...uild-pics.html
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Old 10-25-2015, 02:58 AM
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Default Re: 40 Breeder Front-Opening Conversion

Thanks Ollie,

Actually I kind of went a different direction. I was able to get some Sherman vents ordered so I just went with those, and did sliding glass doors like my other build. Because I ended up changing a bunch of stuff, I just started a clean thread here: http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/beg...-grow-out.html

Let me know if you've got any questions.

Thanks,
Thane
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Old 10-25-2015, 10:33 AM
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Default Re: 40 Breeder Front-Opening Conversion

I really like the Sherman ventilation, so I think you have done well with this solution. You've done a good job!
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