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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 02-04-2005, 10:54 PM
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just added three young imitator today....am going to see what population can be sustained without additional feeders. Microfauna load is through the roof and just added a culture of ants today....water is recycled.....air pump provides continual air input to 6 air-stones throughout the compost to counter CO2 gass-out. Compost is fed with vegetative kitchen scraps, decaying wood, dead leaves, and occasional bloodmeal dustings.
The tank is still new so this is still very much an "experiment"
I am terrible at trying to get the pictures to work so sorry if it does not work


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Old 02-04-2005, 11:23 PM
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Wow, that is an awesome project. Keep us posted. Is that all concrete?

Luke
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1.0.1 D. pumilio "Cristobal"
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Old 02-05-2005, 12:26 AM
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Woah, I need to do that with my next tank.
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Old 02-05-2005, 01:45 AM
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Carefull, that's a lot harder than it looks. I made a tiered 29 over the summer. Nothing's in it yet but it was really difficult to make and get right. Looks good tho, has a waterfall and everything.
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Old 02-05-2005, 02:01 AM
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Id just use plastic and seal it 100% With a little hindge door so I can let them come out when I feel like it. :-) But it will be challenging.
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Old 02-05-2005, 02:50 AM
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there is no concrete it is all a special blend of clays and soil that i used to make the water feature and to seal off all cracks where the frogs could get through...the clay is quite awesome and i have created a number of water features in other tanks with it....
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Old 02-05-2005, 04:06 AM
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What kind and from where?

Luke
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1.0.1 D. pumilio "Rio Branco"

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0.0.4 Hymenochirus boettgeri
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Old 02-05-2005, 11:06 PM
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the clay is a mixture of bentonite, local clay, loamy soil....i have experimented with it further for making backgrounds with added topical orgainics.....have been watching the frogs the last couple days and they have gotten FAT they are continually "grazing" through the viv mostly on stuff too small for me to see....looking at the microfauna load i think it is safe to say that breeding sites and space will be the limiting factor of the imitator population, not food. But time will tell. i will post back in about 2-3 months and show you how it looks.....Is Brent out there to give some feedback on this? I will be doing berlese samples to see what kind of microfauna diversity i have....I have plans to continually "bio-recruit" from various woods locations throughout the year to get a terrarium friendly ecolgical mix of organisms...nothing like having frogs without food culture
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Old 02-05-2005, 11:51 PM
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Nice design.
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Old 02-14-2005, 10:44 PM
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well have a few weeks of growth time for some pictures....

the frogs are fat and sassy and the compost is cranking....one great unforseen benifit is that all escaped ff from my other tanks migrate to the compost tank! no stray wanderers....i have never seen plants grow so fast...the species are not particularly fast growers either.....maybe the additional CO2?







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Old 02-14-2005, 11:42 PM
 
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Looks smelly!

Also looks very green, nice growth for sure.
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Old 02-15-2005, 12:21 AM
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Wow Ben!

I'll grant I had misgivings about the tank in the begining, but its obviously doing well! Maybe I can check it out at FrogDay and finally debunk my last misgiving, the smell
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Old 02-15-2005, 12:32 AM
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sure thing corey...there is no odor at all....surprised even me....it did make the apartment stink for the first 5 days but after that nothing....let me know if you need a place to stay......ben
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Old 02-15-2005, 04:13 PM
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could you maybe give a more detailed construction overview? and what is that plant in the top right hand corner in the pictures. its an amazing tank.
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Old 02-15-2005, 04:40 PM
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Quote:
what is that plant in the top right hand corner
I would guess that it is a mini orchid...very cool!
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Old 02-15-2005, 05:05 PM
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Ben,

While I was admiring your design I couldn't quite tell exactly what you did to connect the compost tank to the Frog tank. Would you mind clearing this up for me? It looks like you have a tube running from one to the other.

Also, what monstera species is that in the water reservoir? BTW- Nice anthuriums.

Justin
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Old 02-15-2005, 05:23 PM
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It looks like the microfauna just travel through the tree fern fiber, the hoses I saw are to put air into the compost pile to get rid of some of the CO2.
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Old 02-15-2005, 09:41 PM
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the "tanks" is just a single terrarium that is divided with tree fern panels so that the microfauna can go between but the frogs cant. I probably would have designed it differently (with more of the terrarium exposed to the compost) but i ran out of tree fern. I could also see a series of tanks with false tree fern backs all hooked up to a large central compost bin. The ghost ants took up residence in the middle of the tree fern as well. All of the decor in the terrarium are tree fern pieces that are stuck together with the terrarium clay. There is a 1/2" diameter pvc tube that goes under the terrarium side to the compost side so that the water level is the same on both sides, all other cracks are sealed with terrarium clay. The terrarium clay was used to sculpt the water portion as well. There are lots of different plants in there. All were chosen for their relatively small size and slow growth, as the tank matures i will begin pruning and weeding and transplanting to get the shape i want. The plant in the upper right is Masdevallia wendlandiana and is a great warm grower that actually just finished flowering. Also have many small orchids that just kinda blend in with all the other stuff until they eventually throw out some flower spikes. All of the anthuriums started as tissue culture plants that needed to be rescued from contaminated cultures. I think there are about 4 different tiny philo species, begonias, ferns, melastomes....lots of miniature goodness that will soon be overflowing to another tank....

So the only false bottom is on the compost side and that keeps the bottom of the compost from staying too water-logged. The vertical eggcrate on the left side of the compost tank is to keep compost from falling down where i have the tube to my hand mister. The hand mister is just a cheapy from home depot that i ripped apart and stuck airline tubing on and then an airline filter on the end to stop debris from entering the pump. All watering of the tank comes from the resvior below the false bottom. In the forest epiphytes are fed by the decay and life that is stuck to the tree. As it rains the water seeps down through the collected compost and continually "feeds" the epiphytes with this fertilized compost tea. That is what i have attempted to do with the recycled water. So far so good. So in idea at least the decaying half feeds the living half, both the tiny vertebrates and all the plants. This is closer to how nature operates...we cant have life without death and decay. Every day the insect populations seem to increase on the compost side...started it off with about 20 melanogaster and now there is about the equivelance of 15 rocking cultures just cruising throught he rot bin....i can count about 20 flies at all times in the terrarium side and endless springtails and mites....
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Old 02-15-2005, 10:17 PM
 
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Any problems with escapee's? Or smell from the compost? How often do you plan to change the water? Looks good and it's an interesting idea. Keep us posted.
Mike
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Old 02-16-2005, 12:20 AM
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well i didnt do much escape prevention just banked on the organisms wanting to stay....the flies and ants can come and leave as they please and the only thing i have noticed (mentioned above) is that all of my escaped flies from my other tanks migrate to the compost tank. It is absolutely completely odorless but you have to stick with some simple carbon to nitrogen ratios that are outlined for good odorless composting practices. I plan on never changing the water, that would kinda go against the whole idea of the tank...i may have to add some water once there is some evaporation but the plants are the filter...i have some test kits around and should take some readings, im particularly interested in nitrate.....its all about low-tech, low maintenance, and high living complexity....i do not plan on adding any dusted or supplemented organisms but have been adding some D3 supplement to the compost. The calcium and some bloodmeal/bonemeal dust are the only additions other than kitchen scraps which get covered with dead leaves and decaying wood....
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Old 02-16-2005, 12:22 AM
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I really like this setup and was thinking of trying it, how large of a compost area would work for a 55 gallon? Maybe a compost pile on one side, and then have tree fern panel that is set off from the back by an inch or two to provide and even larger area for the compost pile, and spread the insects through the tank even more.
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Old 02-16-2005, 12:47 AM
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if i had a 55 to do it in i would probably set up the middle as the terrarium and have compost tanks on either side(i think the tank i used is proabably about 50 gallons but only 36" long and about the depth of a 75 gallon)....i have thought of building one with compost on the back side as well but in a 55 it would end up being too narrow. I strongly encourage you to read up a good deal on composting before you set one up. The book i started with was "Let it Rot!" im sure there is planty of good info on the net as well....i really encourage you to try it though...if this works through future generations of imitators i will start with another tank and maybe try some larger species.....
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Old 02-16-2005, 01:21 AM
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I have a compost pile for my garden so I am familiar with the basics. A 55 wasn't my first choice but I got it in brand new condition for $20, I was holding out for the 75 because I love the depth, but I couldn't pass on the 55.
How much of the tank should be devoted to the compost pile?
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Old 02-16-2005, 01:31 AM
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well i guess that is a question that i am trying to figure out with this first tank...how much area is needed to support "X" number of frogs....if i would guess i would say 24" in the middle for the terrarium and then a foot on either side for the compost....but this is just speculation (going with the same ratio that is working so far for me)
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Old 02-16-2005, 04:48 AM
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Ben,

Sorry, I completely missed this thread until Ben Green gave me a heads up. This is truly an amazing effort. You are zeroing in on the holy grail of viviculture. I really like the concept of using the tree fern fiber to act kind of like an osmotic membrane for the microfauna. Nicely done! The only thing that troubles me is the need for the pumps to displace CO2 from the compost bin. This is not a criticism of the design but only that I've become intolerant of whirring fans and buzzing ballasts and pumps so it has me wondering whether a custom compost chamber could be desing to aerate passively. I think it could. If you designed a chamber with air inlets above the water line but below the bottom of the egg crate that the compost rests on, the heat of the compost should create a chimney effect drawing fresh air up through the compost without the need of forces air.

I'm also wondering if this system could be modularized so that the compost bin could be in a cabinet below, or hidden behind, the vivarium. The key ingredient to your system seems to be the permeable divider that is very porous to the invertebrates but not to the frogs. Connections via tubing or pipe may not provide the level of connectivity needed to allow enough of the compost dweller population to bleed off into the vivarium to sustain the inhabitants.

And finally it there is the obvious question of about the ratios of compost to viv volume that are needed to make the system work. How small can the compost bin be shrunk relative to the viv and still both act as a compost bin and provide a sustainable and sufficient supply of arthropods to the viv. This is a really cool development Ben. I've very excited about this and eager to here any more results. Do you plan to do any formal monitoring of the invert population over time?
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Old 02-16-2005, 10:50 AM
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ok i dont have much time so i may have to respond in more detail after i get home from work....I thought about having vertical chimneys of tree fern to act as aeration stations, but my problem was that this viviarium is topped off with solid glass tops...i was a bit worried that there may be the potential of CO2 climbing especially after lights went out....really need to test this to even know if its worth worrying about...but the airpump was just an easy fix for me to let me sleep a little easier at night....my "monitoring" thus far has been very informal just keeping a log of what i see most by scanning the terrarium side....i do plan on recruiting more in the spring to boost my diversity some....also i think ideally it would be nice to have a series of compost bins that you would start up about 3 months apart from each other such that the different stage of decomposition would each hold a slightly different population of inverts and when you got one bin to decompose to soil and filled to the top you could clean it out without the system starving while the two weeks or so it takes to get the pile rocking again....I do like the idea of placing the compost behind a tree fern false wall...for this tank i wanted the visual impact of half decay half life (that and the fact that my materials warranted this design)......the tree fern is pretty key, im sure there are other materials but its all about membranes Brent....
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Old 02-16-2005, 03:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben E
but my problem was that this viviarium is topped off with solid glass tops...i was a bit worried that there may be the potential of CO2 climbing especially after lights went out....really need to test this to even know if its worth worrying about...but the airpump was just an easy fix for me to let me sleep a little easier at night....my "monitoring" thus far has been very informal just keeping a log of what i see most by scanning the terrarium side....
Makes sense and like I said, my comment was not meant as a criticism of the design. I think for an experimental setup you have acheived something near perfection. My thoughts were more along the lines if I were to construct custom chambers and vivaria using this principle, could the pumps be eliminated.

Quote:
i do plan on recruiting more in the spring to boost my diversity some....also i think ideally it would be nice to have a series of compost bins that you would start up about 3 months apart from each other such that the different stage of decomposition would each hold a slightly different population of inverts and when you got one bin to decompose to soil and filled to the top you could clean it out without the system starving while the two weeks or so it takes to get the pile rocking again....
I was thinking about something along those lines too. You would expect to see succession within the compost as it matures with a shift in species and relative populations when the compost is at various stages. The 3 bin approach is tried and true in gardening and should work here as well.

Quote:
I do like the idea of placing the compost behind a tree fern false wall...for this tank i wanted the visual impact of half decay half life (that and the fact that my materials warranted this design)......the tree fern is pretty key, im sure there are other materials but its all about membranes Brent....
The tree fern panel is brilliant. But it is also what will make this difficult to apply to display vivs. First is the problem of sacrificing display space for the compost. Giving up 5-10 gallons of a 30 gallon viv hurts. Running the panel along the back as a backdrop would be a nice solution (equivalent to the hang on the back filters for aquaria) but access to the bins could be a problem in some cases. Again, I love your design for experimentation and I'm very confident that the long term results are going to be successful. I'm just wondering what future modifications to bring the technique to the masses might be.
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Old 02-16-2005, 09:02 PM
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Quote:
I'm just wondering what future modifications to bring the technique to the masses might be.
Yah, bring it to the masses!
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Old 02-17-2005, 12:55 AM
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ask and you shall recieve i actually just took the masking tape off of my new compost tank. Built from scratch this afternoon to try a new layout and dimensions....the usable terrarium space is 18"X18" x16" and the compost section is in the back behind a false wall....still need to test dimensions to see if it will work...look for a working prototype at IAD.....pictures to come soon.....ben
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Old 02-23-2005, 05:02 PM
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I had another thought on this Ben. When you seed your compost to try to increase diversity, will you screen the "inocculate" to limit the inverts to a maximum size? There are a couple of thoughts going into this question. One is that maintaining persistent populations depends on the ability to sustain a minimum population of each species in the mix. Larger species consume more biomass per capita and therefore are likely to not reach sustainable population sizes. Plus, they will consume enough biomass attempting to increase their own population that they will starve some other species out in the process. So the long term success of this thing seems to depend on supporting a high number of small body-sized critters. I would not add a feral hog to the compost dweller community for example ;-)
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Old 02-23-2005, 05:35 PM
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Is that plant an phildendron Ende Wimbe from black jungle. I got one of those and it looks identical. Of course i could be off because its hard to figure how big it is.

Edit wups i posted that before i saw the 2 more pages, sorry if i was wrong or it was already answered.
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Old 02-25-2005, 02:47 PM
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Ben, this is a very very cool and innovative idea :idea: . I am loving this....hm.....this .... "COMPOSTARIUM"! I can't believe I didn't see that post before.

I dub thee the compostarium musta ! :wink:
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Old 03-03-2005, 03:41 PM
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Update time again, Ben...those plants must be filling in quite nicely since a couple weeks ago.
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Old 03-03-2005, 05:08 PM
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Definitly is time for some more pics.

Also how is the feeding going? Have you had to add any other food sources yet? Hows the micro fauna look also?

Edit: How do the frogs look also?
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Old 03-08-2005, 03:03 AM
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hey guys...i have been on vacation the past week in the keys and had the tanks on auto pilot...all turned out just fine....the tank is still cranking and i have since built a completely new compost tank with new dimensions that is growing plants and microfauna as we speak...no frogs in it yet, i may try a pair of tincs for something different in this one...i have not added any supplemental food and microfauna is still cranking....my problem now is that on my vaction my backpack was stolen that had my digital camera in it...along with my cell phone, car keys, bla blah blah....so anyway i should have a new camera by the end of the week so look start of next week for update pics....here are a few "old" pics of the new set-up







this tank i built from the glass up with new dimensions and the compost hidden behind the back...frogs to be added this week....ben
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Old 03-08-2005, 03:10 AM
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Sorry to hear about the thiefs. But the tank looks awsome in those pics hope to see the new pics soon
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Old 03-08-2005, 03:10 AM
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I may have missed this, or just too lazy to read the whole thing right now, but how do the bugs get to the tank side? Is their a screened off opening?

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Old 03-08-2005, 03:15 AM
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The tree fern panel act like a screen.


I forgot to ask what size did you build the new tank?

I still think this is a brillent idea. Even it only adds some of the supplimental food.
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Old 03-08-2005, 03:17 AM
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the dimensions are roughly....an 18" cube for the usable terrarium and then about 7" behind the terrarium is compost....roughly 1/3 compost to terrarium...
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Old 03-08-2005, 03:21 AM
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Ben,

I really like the look of the new tank with the compost bin in the back! What a great concept! Is that a 96watt quad that I see on top? That light is awesome; two fans and a heat sheild to boot, very nice. Do you have the 6700k bulb?

I feel for you on the stolen camera...mine never resurfaced at the store in Hawaii where I left it and I know that the lady employee is enjoying it right now! Hey lady, take a picture of this! :x On the bright side, I went out and purchased the Canon Digital Rebel with some nice lenses.
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