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Old 12-13-2019, 06:21 PM
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Default Large / X-Tall Exo Terra

I got back into this hobby after about a decade, give or take. This is the first of a couple of larger vivs I have planned, WIP.

1. I never really got into what I knew then as the Dutch-style, built-in background tanks. My personal aesthetic tends towards minimalism and my tanks usually reflect this.

I may yet give it a shot by doing a cliff-side or embankment style vivarium, but this first one is basically picking up where I left off years ago.

There are parallels to what I enjoy doing with Takashi Amano’s more open Aquascaping work.

2. Tank is for terrestrial frogs, probably terribilis. With a 36” x 18” footprint it’s about as small as I like to go; I usually prefer larger tanks.

3. This isn’t a strict biotope, but all plants are South American or in some cases a close version thereof.

I’m picturing a flat stretch in a shallow gully, where debris has been left behind by torrential rainfall, with an uprooted stump, fallen or partially buried branches; maybe even the former path of a stream or creek that has since re-directed due to erosion.

I’m aware that by that description I could maybe do more with topography, but I’m focusing on the debris field for a tank this size, and will leave more dramatic sculptural elements for a bigger one.

Tank: 36” x 18” x 36”

Lid: custom glass cut to size and drilled to accept Mist King plumbing.

Lighting: Spectral Designs 34” x 6” LED Spot (50w) & Strip Light Panel 2X on 12-hour setting with Controller / Driver Combo

False bottom: low-density Matala, open-cell filter foam, fibreglass window mesh with standpipe-style drain.

Substrate: calcined clay “pond soil”, leaf litter.

Plants:

Neo-tropical moss sp.
Neo-tropical liverwort sp.
Philodendron sp. ‘Mini Condor’
Philodendron aff. chinchamayense
Philodendron scandens
Anthurium sp.
Pleopeltis polypodioides
Microgamma aff. heterophylla
Microgamma vaccinafolia
Marcgravia sp. ‘White Fringe’
Staurogyne repens
Neoregelia ‘Chiquita Linda’

The standpipe is the same simple plumbing I used in my 90-gallon viv several years ago now. Basically a storm sewer with a gasket-lined, threaded seal I hide beneath leaf litter. Easy to siphon if need be, no worries about drilling or leaky plumbing.





The open-cell filter foam on top provides some tension against the sides of the tank, making a more effective substrate barrier, with the mesh over top making it easier (if need be) to simply lift out most of the substrate if the tank needs moving, stripping or major maintenance in the future.



There was a version of this with a lift-out tray I built from plastic mesh and window screen, but the lack of an absolutely flush fit against the sides left me suspicious about inquisitive terribilis harming themselves between the tray and the glass, so I abandoned that and went with the open cell filter media as an elastic barrier that seals tight.









The stump was sold for aquariums and had a number of very sharp protrusions — almost like thorns or spikes, and a couple of splits that looked like frog traps, so I took some time with a flush-cut saw and Foredom to smooth it out and cut things off where necessary.





...there’s more to show with fallen branches and plants to see (the tank has been up for a month now) but I’ll have to update when I have some spare time.




Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 12-14-2019, 07:20 AM
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Default Re: Large / X-Tall Exo Terra

Excited to see where this goes!
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Old 12-14-2019, 01:48 PM
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Default Re: Large / X-Tall Exo Terra

I have to ask, if you have no desire to do any kind of background or scaping, what's the need for having such a tall tank? It's a lot harder to make use of that vertical space if you have to build everything up from the ground; and you'll lose a lot of viable real estate that your frogs (even 'terrestrial' frogs like terribs) would happily use. I love the amano style in fish keeping as an aesthetic, but for frogs it's less ideal from a welfare standpoint.
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Old 12-14-2019, 02:40 PM
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Default Re: Large / X-Tall Exo Terra

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Originally Posted by TarantulaGuy View Post
I have to ask, if you have no desire to do any kind of background or scaping, what's the need for having such a tall tank?
  • Consistency. The next one will be the same size and they look neater when they're of a uniform height.
  • You can still use the height for taller elements, even if you're not doing a vertical wall.

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Originally Posted by TarantulaGuy View Post
It's a lot harder to make use of that vertical space if you have to build everything up from the ground; and you'll lose a lot of viable real estate that your frogs (even 'terrestrial' frogs like terribs) would happily use.
I've seen terribilis climb a bit, sure. Couple of thoughts on the real estate:

The full footprint of the tank is available to them, as that stump is more or less standing up on 'stilts' so they can move freely beneath it as well as climb it.

Building a vertical background substantial enough for them to use would eat some of that floor space.

The vertical will be taken up by some of the 'fallen branches' I mentioned, both in the diagonal and near-vertical plane, and over time I'll experiment with masses of vine and growing in large-leafed, sturdy plants in a staggered arrangement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TarantulaGuy View Post
I love the amano style in fish keeping as an aesthetic, but for frogs it's less ideal from a welfare standpoint.
Fair. I've been doing this a long time and I'm using this as an opportunity to experiment. It'll be months before any frogs wind up in there.

The short answer is I don't know, might not work at all.
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Old 12-31-2019, 04:33 PM
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Default Re: Large / X-Tall Exo Terra

So the trial and error continues.

The idea is to be able to strip this tank with minimal disruption so all planted components are modular and easily removed — branches, the stump etc.

I removed the Neoregelias and dropped the light levels by two-thirds because my moss was bleaching; it’s colouring up and slowing growth now; I did remove some that was too bleached out but it’s proving to be an aggressive species so should regenerate easily.

Nothing is final but I wanted to share an experiment:

Podocarpus guatemalensis is a conifer known to be present in lowland forest in Colombia and elsewhere in Amazonia; I wanted to use P. macrophylla (they look similar and macrophylla is easy to get) but even in a vivarium I expect a tree to give me problems at some point:

So I’m attempting to severely limit its growth by mounting it epiphytically. I think it’ll need frequent pruning as it’s going to get lanky but interested to see if I can shape it up on that perch.





You may notice a lone Syngonium leaf up there; it’s a cutting with a very long aerial root embedded in that moss. Will see what it does; I think I’ll see something from the node but not sure about the shape.


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Old 01-01-2020, 04:22 AM
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I love the idea of a more open and simple scape. The moss covering is going to look spectacular when it is all grown in and it will be interesting to see how the Podocarpus grows in a vivarium setting. Keep us updated on how things progress!
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Old 01-03-2020, 07:46 PM
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Default Re: Large / X-Tall Exo Terra

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Originally Posted by jskinner097 View Post
I love the idea of a more open and simple scape. The moss covering is going to look spectacular when it is all grown in and it will be interesting to see how the Podocarpus grows in a vivarium setting. Keep us updated on how things progress!
Will do! I actually have a backlog of photos and experiments to share but not much time at the moment. I have a good idea of where this is going and expect it will look quite interesting by the end of the year. Just trying to get my hands on some unusual aroids.
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Old 01-14-2020, 06:07 PM
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Default Re: Large / X-Tall Exo Terra

Can I see a full tank shot with lights at full and reduced intensity. I was looking at SD for this exact tank but having a hard time finding full tank shots with their lights.

thanks!
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Old 01-14-2020, 07:57 PM
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Default Re: Large / X-Tall Exo Terra

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Originally Posted by hannamaxgracie View Post
Can I see a full tank shot with lights at full and reduced intensity. I was looking at SD for this exact tank but having a hard time finding full tank shots with their lights.

thanks!
Hi -- I'll see if I can take some shots for you when I'm back, currently away from the tank.

The SD lights are *powerful*. Great for bromeliads, will bleach out mosses. I'm still getting it dialed in. When I have a chance I can give you light intensity readings from different heights, will be a little while though.
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Old 01-15-2020, 12:01 PM
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Default Re: Large / X-Tall Exo Terra

I'm excited to see some more pictures! I really like the minimalist design.

I'm also liking your idea of the thin layer of the filter media on top of the matala filter. I just ordered some myself and was wondering how the screen for the substrate barrier would work around the edges. How is it holding up for you, are you still happy with that solution? Did you use any silicone to hold it in place or just the natural weight of the substrate?
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Old 01-15-2020, 01:26 PM
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Gorgeous build.
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Old 01-23-2020, 01:15 AM
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Default Re: Large / X-Tall Exo Terra

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Originally Posted by RyanD View Post
I'm excited to see some more pictures! I really like the minimalist design.

I'm also liking your idea of the thin layer of the filter media on top of the matala filter. I just ordered some myself and was wondering how the screen for the substrate barrier would work around the edges. How is it holding up for you, are you still happy with that solution? Did you use any silicone to hold it in place or just the natural weight of the substrate?
Thank you! I've been very busy with sadly non-frogging activities lately so haven't had a chance to check in or add photos.

This tank has been going for ... months now? I'll have to check exactly, but this is working well for me. The barrier action comes from the filter media laid on top of the Matala:

It's fitted so that there's some tension against the glass, which is what really helps to keep the substrate in place. Any tiny amounts that have sifted down (not a big deal) were from me adjusting things and buckling that foam slightly.

The screen over top is just to make it easier to simply carry away the substrate if I ever need to strip and move the tank, if that makes sense?

No silicone. The whole tank is designed to be broken down with relative ease.

The one compromise I've made on that count is the group of Anthurium and Philodendron scandens that are planted into the substrate. They will complicate any future stripping or moving, but I wanted some roots in the substrate and it looks more natural. I will be adding a couple more species to the substrate area, although the bulk of the planting is still epiphytic.
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Old 01-23-2020, 01:20 AM
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Originally Posted by junglehoard View Post
Gorgeous build.
Appreciate it, thanks! Still tweaking it and building it up slowly.

The more challenging aspects include balancing lighting needs -- i.e. not bleaching the moss, which can't take as much light as some of the other plants -- and letting nature take its' course instead of rushing; I'll upload more photos when I have more than 5 or 10 minutes, but I've already removed a few clumps of moss strategically as I'm learning the growth habit of this species:

It looks best with surprisingly low light levels (300 foot candles) due to a slower, more compact growth pattern...counter-intuitive since I'd assumed it would etiolate in low light, but as it turns out the colour improves and it creeps along surfaces as opposed to getting bushy or 'pillow-y'.

I'm also trying to dial in misting; currently reducing it.

Smaller or even just lower tanks are easier environments to control but I'm zeroing in on the conditions I want in this one.
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Old 01-23-2020, 02:45 PM
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Default Re: Large / X-Tall Exo Terra

Nice work, Fahad. This tank is a great example of how to do the moss thing correctly. You have the moss up on the wood and still leave plenty of leaf litter on the ground. This is a great example to follow for those that like the moss-covered look.

Mark
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Old 01-23-2020, 04:27 PM
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Thanks Mark -- I've spent a lot of time in temperate forests, and researched dart frog habitat pretty exhaustively online.

While it's *possible* to come across swathes of moss on forest floor, that's more common (that I've seen) in relatively open temperate forests, and besides accuracy/aesthetics, in terms of what's *functional* for frog husbandry, I can't see myself doing it any other way. Leaf litter just works and I've never seen any species of frog *not* make use of it for refuge, hunting, micro-climates etc.

If my terribilis want to be dry, they can sit on the top layer or perch on elevated vines and branches. If they want cover or higher humidity, they go below.

My blackfoots have little caves under the leaf litter they retreat to whenever they want to rest, or from which to ambush prey.

Speaking of which, they execute 3 distinct strategies:
  1. Sit and wait.
  2. Ambush from cover.
  3. Chase -- (specifically for highly mobile prey like crickets)

I've also seen them leap straight up to grab prey from overhead branches. I nerd out hard for this species. So much fun.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Encyclia View Post
Nice work, Fahad. This tank is a great example of how to do the moss thing correctly. You have the moss up on the wood and still leave plenty of leaf litter on the ground. This is a great example to follow for those that like the moss-covered look.

Mark
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Old 01-23-2020, 05:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fahad View Post
Thanks Mark -- I've spent a lot of time in temperate forests, and researched dart frog habitat pretty exhaustively online.

While it's *possible* to come across swathes of moss on forest floor, that's more common (that I've seen) in relatively open temperate forests, and besides accuracy/aesthetics, in terms of what's *functional* for frog husbandry, I can't see myself doing it any other way. Leaf litter just works and I've never seen any species of frog *not* make use of it for refuge, hunting, micro-climates etc.

If my terribilis want to be dry, they can sit on the top layer or perch on elevated vines and branches. If they want cover or higher humidity, they go below.

My blackfoots have little caves under the leaf litter they retreat to whenever they want to rest, or from which to ambush prey.

Speaking of which, they execute 3 distinct strategies:
  1. Sit and wait.
  2. Ambush from cover.
  3. Chase -- (specifically for highly mobile prey like crickets)

I've also seen them leap straight up to grab prey from overhead branches. I nerd out hard for this species. So much fun.
You are doing awesome!
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Old 01-28-2020, 04:32 PM
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You are doing awesome!
Thanks Tijil! I'm not doing awesome at updating this thread with photos .. LOL ... too hectic around here right now. But soon.
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Old 01-28-2020, 06:47 PM
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Really looking forward to seeing this play out. I can really appreciate what you are aiming to achieve & I think it will look beautiful when complete.

There is a French youtuber that has recently completed something similar 👌🏻
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Old 01-31-2020, 12:06 PM
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Looks awesome! Any new pics to share?
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Old 02-02-2020, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Biggreasy View Post
Looks awesome! Any new pics to share?
Thanks! And no...lol...I need to go in and tweak a few things, and take a bunch of photos.

'Real life' keeps getting in the way of my hobbies.

In other news, there's a spider infestation. They're a large number of spiderlings, some kind of cobweb species, I've manually removed several but I'll never get 'em all. I'm keeping an eye on them and provided they remain small for a while, by the time terribilis move in they'll be tasty snacks. While I don't know what species they are, I can't see them getting too big for terribilis to handle in the next couple of months. I've seen what those frogs can do.

I was once worried about a similar infestation years ago in a 90 gallon tank, but adult Azureus just destroyed them.
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Old 02-02-2020, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Gemma View Post
Really looking forward to seeing this play out. I can really appreciate what you are aiming to achieve & I think it will look beautiful when complete.

There is a French youtuber that has recently completed something similar 👌🏻
Thanks, but I can't see a YouTube link ...
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Old 02-03-2020, 08:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fahad View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gemma View Post
Really looking forward to seeing this play out. I can really appreciate what you are aiming to achieve & I think it will look beautiful when complete.

There is a French youtuber that has recently completed something similar 👌🏻


Thanks, but I can't see a YouTube link ...
Interesting build form sure - https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4c80EcINPuo
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