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Old 07-23-2007, 02:35 AM
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Default 60 Gallon construction

I just finished my new 60 gallon terrerium that I have been building in my office at work. I just planted it a couple of weeks ago and have introduced the new inhabitants. I have been working on this tank now for over 2 months. Almost every piece of the actual tank was recylced, as the materials were taken from my workplace dumpster, such as the foam, plexiglass, and plywood. I has been a lot of fun and very challenging to figure everything out, and I am actually sad that I am finished now. I am having terrairum building withdrawals. Time to build one at home! I'm thinking 120 gallon.

I have included my processes for anyone who moght be interested. I use a little different tecniques that I have been working for constucting backgrounds. The main difference is that I use a high quality inert packing foam that we use here at the museum, rather than the expanding foam. I did use the expanding foam to "glue" down the wood, I also used screws beacuse of the weight. I have found that the expanding foam does not hold the material that I use for the rocks as well as the packing foam.

Here are the photos.

This is the tank with the foam cut into general rock shapes and hotglued in place. The final shap of the rock does not have to be exact in this stage but it is good to cut off as many hard croners and edges as possible because they will have to be covered in the mortar mix later, makes it look a little more natural.


This is the rocks with a first coat of thinned underlayment cement. Underlayment cement is used to level floors and to feather out uneven edges in floors, and to make birdbaths. It contains less portland cement than a regular cement mix, it also has a bonding agent mixed in that helps to adhear to other materials and also makes it very slightly flexible.

The mix must be very thin so that it can be worked into the pores of the foam to create an very strong bond, sothing that does not happen with the expanding foam.


This is the second coat which I put on a little stiffer and I am starting to sculpt the rought rock shapes.


this is the third and almost final coat of cement. The cement can be sculted with tools as it starts to set up. You can even start to do more delicate sculpting after it has dried for a few hours.


this is a closeup of my waterfall before being finished.



I did one side at a time, this is the start of the other side and the various steps.



the thin coat again


the second thicker coat with the begining of the sculpting of the rocks


near the end of sculpting


The next step took a couple of weeks to finish. It involved spraying down the rocks with pure white vinegar over the period of a few days. I would spray the rocks, saturating them for an hour at a time(the cement will absorbe the vinegar for a long time so keep spraying until it doesn't dry out for a while) I then let it set for about a week. After setting for a week I began to flush it with water using a bucket and palstic cup, you need more water than just spraying it. I kept changing out the water and testing the water that came off of the rocks until I had gotten the p/h level to 7.0. This step took the longest but was definitely the most imortant.

Next after neutralizing was painting. The first step is to give the rock a dark undercoat to work off of and then build up layers of lighter colors. Just be sure to go slow and build up slowly and mix the colors up a bit from rock to rock. I add a little green and bron stainat the end which gives an aged look.
Here are some photos of various stages of painting.









I decided to go the a repticzone 501 turtle filter for my pump and it has been great! It is silent and can be cleaned from the outside of the tank which is so much easier then other pumps that I have used. I plan on building a box to hide the pump.





I decided to define a pool are so I had to create more rocks.






Here is the finished planted tank with plants from Black Jungle.







Sorry about the thermometer wire, forgot to move before the photo.









Here are some of the new inhabitants







That's it. Any ideas or suggestion?
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Old 07-23-2007, 02:45 AM
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Suggestion: Pack that thing up and send it directly to me!!! That thing is awesome! Great job!
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Old 07-23-2007, 02:45 AM
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That looks very cool! Great viv, I enjoyed reading through your post. I really like the hard work you went through to make sure the hardscape checked out. What did you use to paint it? Everything seems good, I don't know how the imitators and the terribilis will get along, but in a tank that big, it shouldn't be too much of a problem, especially when they're young.
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Old 07-23-2007, 02:50 AM
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Great viv!
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Old 07-23-2007, 02:56 AM
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That looks awesome! Great job on the rocks. I may have to try that sometime in one of my vivs.

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Old 07-23-2007, 03:06 AM
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Thanks guys! It was a lot of fun. I used non toxic craft paint which works best because it dries matte which looks more natural than glossy regular acrylic.
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Old 07-23-2007, 03:39 AM
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If you're still having construction withdrawls you can build me one! That looks amazing. Good looking frogs, too.
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Old 07-23-2007, 03:51 AM
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Sorry about all of the typo's. I forgot to check everything before I posted.
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Old 07-23-2007, 04:20 AM
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All I can say is holy [email protected]#@
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Old 07-23-2007, 04:50 AM
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I agree with housevibe. Your tank is freaking amazing!
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Old 07-23-2007, 02:27 PM
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A.M.A.I.Z.I.N.G !!!
Love it and want it.

So let me ask you something. You built that while working at museum ... meaning you build these type of artificial backgrounds for displays as professional ?
Do you work at American Museum of Natural History ? I know they are doing "Frogs: a chorus of colors" right now

Anyways, great job and can't wait to see for your home 120G once it's built
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Old 07-23-2007, 04:14 PM
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wow. just wow. i need to try that technique.
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Old 07-23-2007, 05:00 PM
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Amazing! Great work, it looks so beautiful!
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Old 07-23-2007, 06:11 PM
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Default viv

ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL

love the rock technique, I bet it helps with the weight of the tank too - I hate having to move mine all the time.

Congrats - its a beautiful home for your frogs :mrgreen:
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Old 07-23-2007, 06:14 PM
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REALLY nice!

Thanks for sharing!
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Old 07-23-2007, 07:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by housevibe7
... holy [email protected]#@!
Ditto.
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Old 07-23-2007, 08:05 PM
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Thanks guys! It means a lot to me coming from you all.

I did this tank after hours at my job at the Metroplotian Museum of Art. I am one of the mount makers/installers. I didn't work on the display terreriums at the Museum of Natural history but I did go to see the exhibit and it was great. I took lots of photos of the exhibit and plan on posting them sometime soon.
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Old 07-23-2007, 08:08 PM
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arielelf,

extremely nice job. I'm very impressed. I bet you would do well making a tree stump buttress in similar fashion.

Hope the frogs do equally well for you.

Shawn
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Old 07-23-2007, 09:03 PM
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Great work. The rock background is by far my favorite part.

Are there both P. terribilis AND D. variabilis in there??
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Old 07-23-2007, 09:27 PM
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Terribilis and imatators. I also have a pair of Santa Isabella with them but they will be moved as soon as I have a another tank set up for them. The S.I. are more aggresive than I thoght they would be. The Imatators and the terribilis hang out together all of the time, so I think that they will be fine togther, for now at least. I am keeping an eye on everybody. The S.I's will definitly have to be moved though.
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Old 07-23-2007, 10:06 PM
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:shock:
WOW! The way you did the rocks was truly artistic!
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Old 07-23-2007, 10:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arielelf
Terribilis and imatators. I also have a pair of Santa Isabella with them but they will be moved as soon as I have a another tank set up for them. The S.I. are more aggresive than I thoght they would be. The Imatators and the terribilis hang out together all of the time, so I think that they will be fine togther, for now at least. I am keeping an eye on everybody. The S.I's will definitly have to be moved though.
imis! Ahhh...

I'll tell you one thing... P. terribilis are voracious! When they get big enough, you may find a few imis missing. Hehe.

One thing is for sure though, that viv is sweeeeeeet. Nice work again.
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Old 07-23-2007, 10:46 PM
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WOW sweet lookin tank man great job.
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Old 07-25-2007, 04:00 AM
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That viv is amazing! One to truly envy. I would love to try that technique.
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Old 07-25-2007, 07:19 AM
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Incredible! Have you checked the pH of the water feature? Iím curious to know if the cement is still buffering the pH.
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Old 07-25-2007, 04:20 PM
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I checked the ph this morning at it tested out at about 7.2. I think that it will be fully cured soon considering that it is such a thin veneer of cement. I think that usually the thicker concret is the longer it will remain basic, and since the cement in this tank is no more than 3/8ths thich then it should probably be close to nuetral by now. It is funny becaue as I was rinsing the vinegar from the wall I was hoping that I could get all of the acid out, I guess that I did, at least on the water feature.
Should I add a little ph down solution to the water or is this a safe level, by the way what ph level do PDFs like? I have been searching and can't seem to find much info on this. I was assuming that it was 7.0 but I guess that it might not be.
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Old 07-26-2007, 03:04 AM
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Man, that is one labor of love...I don't know if I could stand to spend that much time waiting for it to be finished..
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Old 07-26-2007, 06:40 PM
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so as far as your foam pieces go...are they all individual pieces glued together to make a larger tapestry of pieces?...or is it a larger piece of foam with a few smaller ones glued to it to add some character?...curious if all that made any sense at all?
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Old 07-26-2007, 08:11 PM
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It is a bunch of small pieces glued together. The cement actually bonds everything together very well, even somewhat to the plexi, so it is very sturdy once everything cures. I think that the foam that I used is called closed cell ethefoam(spelling?) and it is veru flexible and does not tear easily, which works out well because the cement I use is underlayment cement, which has a bonding agent mixed in that makes it very slightly flexible so it doesn't flake off like morter or regular cement would. It does not stick to expanding foam though, it just chips right off when it dries.
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Old 07-26-2007, 09:45 PM
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awesome...thanks
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Old 08-07-2007, 12:09 AM
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Raw talent. From idea to completion.

I bet the cement would stick to the great foam if you scored it or cut a layer off to expose the porous inside once it has dried.


And again, simply amazing viv. Very well done, i am re-inspired.
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Old 08-07-2007, 01:45 PM
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Out of curiousity, how did you mount the plants to the background seeing it is coated in cement?
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Old 08-08-2007, 04:56 AM
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Wow! :shock: That is absolutely amazing.
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Old 08-08-2007, 02:59 PM
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Thanks!
As for the cement sticking to the great stuff, I have tried it, both by scoring and not scoring and did not work very well. The great stuff does not have the elasticity of the closed cell foam so if it gets dented it creates a cavity behind the cement which weakens it, while the closed cell foam will always keep it's shape to support the underlayment cement.

As far as mounting the plants, I pre-made large pockets in some of the overhanging rocks to hold dirt and sphag. moss and, of course, the plants.

All of the plants seem to be doing fairly well except for the largest bromeilad mounted on the wood. It seems to be slowly dieing. Any ideas as to why it is dieing?
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Old 08-08-2007, 03:51 PM
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Great looking tank, but those imis will be gone soon. Terribilis will eat anything that moves. People have even fed then dried foods on a stick. I have seen them eat some very large crickets 2-3 times larger than a imitator.

I do like the rocks and they came out very nice.
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Old 08-09-2007, 03:39 AM
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I thought that it would be a problem also, but two very respected breaders assured me that these guys would be fine together, one of them also kept imitators with terribilis without any problems at all. He said that the Terribilis never showed any interest in them at all and that he thought that they knew that they were not "food". I hope that they are right. I don't want to lose any $80.00 frogs!!!

Also the dart frog exhibit at the Museum of Natural History had tanks with terribilis mixed with Pumilio and Thumbs.
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Old 08-09-2007, 05:46 PM
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I hope you don't mind if I steal your technique for my next viv. I just hope I've got the talent to make it look half as good as yours. Awesome work.
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Old 08-09-2007, 06:41 PM
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Please do! Just be sure that you take the time to fully neutralize it with vinegar, and to flush it with water before adding any plants or animals. The teqnique is very forgiving, and allows you to keep changing or adding more cement until you get what you want. The hardest part, in my opinion, is the final painting and getting it to look natural. I have found that going very slowly with the painitng helps a great deal, don't rush it, and try to dry brush with as little paint as possible on the later coats of paint.
Have fun, I sure did. I am sad that it is finished, I am ready to do another one!
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Old 08-12-2007, 07:54 PM
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Could you share some info on that wood? I've been looking for a piece just like for quite some while
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Old 08-12-2007, 09:59 PM
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really nice
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