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Old 04-14-2011, 04:47 AM
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Default 47 Column Paludarium and Technique Build Thread

Just about finished with my paludarium I started a couple weeks ago. Planted it, put water and fish in it and am now just letting it run for a few before I put my frogs in it. I also am waiting for the water spout that will power the waterfall to cure (came up with a better method last second) so ignore the green tubing for now

I'm gonna try to make a very in depth build thread for it all since I took lots of photos of the whole process and used some frankenstein amalgamation of techniques.

Without further ado.............



From this:


To this:

For fun I did an HDR full tank shot:


It will be home to these guys:

Last edited by Averhoeven; 04-14-2011 at 05:37 AM.
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Old 04-14-2011, 04:47 AM
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Default Re: 47 Column Paludarium and Technique Build Thread

How I built the rock wall:

First I cut the basic structure out of one of those big 4" thick foam blocks you can get at craft stores. They are usually used to make flower bouquets and stuff. The easiest way (and stinkiest) to carve it is with a hot knife.... like butter. Really, really foul smelling burnt butter.

This is what the cuts looked like:


I then used Loc-tite to piece them together



I decided that I should create a receiving pool. I loosely put it together using Loc-tite and then blew some Great stuff into it so the joint would have some texture and variability.


Lastly, I put it all onto the false bottom egg-crate piece I was gonna use. I cut a river out of the eggcrate and dropped the piece down to form the base of the river. I wanted to the river to flow below the water level of the paludarium.


I thought I had taken pictures of the whole construction process, but apparently I didn't. I next took a very thinned out layer of Activa Permastone This stuff is a polymer plaster and after some research appears to be the same stuff that an individual markets as Habicrete. It is hard, stone-like, water-RESISTANT, cures in about 30mins and does not have to be pH leeched like grout. Better yet, it's easily paintable with acrylic paints. You can even mix the acrylic paints into the mixture to color the actual layer. The research thread is here: Research to Find HabaCrete Alternative - Page 7 - Vivarium Forums
Anyway, I dyed the Permastone gray with the acrylic paints and made it very thin so it would flow into the cracks I had cut out. Make sure you use fine grade sand paper on any Great Stuff you haven't carved or the Permastone will crack right off. This created a great stone-textured base that solidified and hardened the styrofoam. I next took a layer of Drylok that I had dyed with concrete powdered dye. This sealed the Permastone layer, but still retained the texture of the stone layer. I next made another layer of thicker Permastone that I painted over the Drylok layer. After that was complete, I mixed a variety of rock-like colors out of the acrylic paints and watered them down a bit so they weren't so thick. Thick acrylic paints are going to hid rock details and look very fake. I painted individual rocks with these colors to open up some variety so it all wasn't one color stone.


Lastly, I made a very thin, very dark layer of Permastone that I allowed to run into cracks and crevices and then I would get a wet brush and quickly brush around the area. As it started to dry I patted that with a paper towel. This allowed me to accent the rock and really made it look more realistic.

Once all that basic structure was complete, it was time to paint. First I made a VERY dark gray and used it to trace the cuts in the rock. In the inevitable case that I went outside the lines I would use a sponge brush to dab the area causing it to blend better. After the accenting was complete, I used simple dry brush techniques and sponge work with increasingly lighter colors of the base gray I used.
That resulted in this



I then decided I wanted the permanent look of algae in the areas that were constantly submersed and near the water's edge. I again took thinned acrylic paints of various shade of green going from dark to light as I moved to drier and drier brush techniques.





I knew that the acrylic paints would likely run in the humidity and didn't want to ruin all my hard work so far and so I decided to coat the whole structure in an acrylic coat. My confidence in the Permastone itself's ability to withstand the humidity was ok, but I didn't think the paints would last. So I tossed some of this stuff: and a bit of water (probably 3:1 ratio) into a common spray bottle and sprayed on 2 coats over the whole structure. Yes, this makes it shinier, but it protects it all better.
Here's the after results:


At the very end I put clear silicone wherever water would be constantly. Some people have suggested epoxy as it's sturdier. There's no reason I used silicone over epoxy other than ease of access and cost. Epoxy would likely be the better answer if access and cost don't matter.

This is a combination of multiple ideas as seen in these places:
Video: How to make a waterfall (rainforest edition)
Forum Thread: my method of building fake / faux rocks - Page 3 - Vivarium Forums

Last edited by Averhoeven; 04-14-2011 at 05:41 AM.
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Old 04-14-2011, 04:49 AM
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Default Re: 47 Column Paludarium and Technique Build Thread

Last reserve for build
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Old 04-14-2011, 06:03 AM
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Default Re: 47 Column Paludarium and Technique Build Thread

How I built my tree:

I had initially decided I was going to use a 3" PVC pipe as the trunk, but discovered that my filter system was ever-so-slightly too big to fit in that and I wanted to be able to have access to it all for maintenance. As a result, I ended up making a corner cut-out of a big styrofoam sheet. I then got that side's eggcrate and cut it appropriately to handle both the the trunk and buttress extensions. The buttress extensions were simply made of varying sizes of PVC pipe. These would also double as support for the tree areas false bottom. I then used Great Stuff for both texture and as an adhesive

I continued to use Great Stuff to form the tree


Once the Great Stuff was dried and cured I cut it into a more tree-like form. I also had to essentially shave off the styrofoam back on one side because, as the Great Stuff expanded, it misaligned one of the sides. This was a HUGE pain in the ass. Once carved, I used Drylok dyed with concrete dye powder to paint over the Great Stuff and PVC (a bit was still exposed). Make sure you go over the Great Stuff with some very fine sandpaper first as the Drylok needs something to grip to. I did three coats of the Drylok and concrete dye mix. Each coat was successively darker because I wanted the final coat of the Drylok to be the darkest, but wanted to be able to tell where I had already painted a 2nd or 3rd layer. Once the 3rd layer was completed, I mixed up some VERY water, Very (nearly black) brown acrylic paint. I used a spray bottle and sprayed the tree with water until it was dripping. I then took the very watery, runny dark paint and slathered it on. The dripping essentially causes the dark color to pool in deep areas (eg: the recesses of the tree) exactly where the tree should be darker for shading. If you don't think it's working right you can always use your water spray bottle to spray off an area (or the whole thing) while it's still wet. Took me a few tries to get the look right. I also used a paper towel and patted some areas, but that tends to take it all away.
After the ink drip, I went back to the trusty sponge brushes and dry brush technique with various shades of brown to create highlights. You should always go from darker colors to lighter as you progress and be drier and lighter with your strokes as you move on too.
Again I realized I didn't take any pics of the intermediate steps, but the final result of that whole process:


Again, I was happier with the results NOT being shiny, but wanted to protect my work and so I coated the tree in the same by putting it in a spray bottle with some water (approx 3:1 ratio) and spraying it all over. I actually did both structures at the same time. It came out looking like:



Lastly, the areas that I knew were going to be completely submerged 24/7 I coated in clear silicone. Epoxy would probably be the better route, but it's harder to get a hold of and much more expensive. Silicone it was for me.

Thanks to these sources for inspiration and techniques:
http://www.bbrock.frognet.org/Making...nd%20vines.pdf
http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/mem...ite-viv-2.html
And a guy named Owenz shares a lot about his underwater construction in the thread:
Research to Find HabaCrete Alternative - Page 8 - Vivarium Forums
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Old 04-14-2011, 06:33 AM
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Default Re: 47 Column Paludarium and Technique Build Thread

Putting it all together:
My initial planning involved doing some very rough sketches on paper on how I wanted to lay it out. A bigger tank requires a bit more planning and even when you do, things go wrong.

So we start here:


Using eggcrate and about 7" pieces of 2" diameter PVC piping I created a false bottom that would ultimately amount to about 12g of water under the land mass. I also had 3" diameter PVC piping initially placed as my waterfall and tree buttress, but decided to use other techniques instead which negated the pipes.

Front:

Side:


I then went to work on creating my structures. I wanted to build them outside the tank for simplicity and split them up into 2 structures to make altering them and placing them in the tank easier. Also, should there ever be a problem with one, I don't have to wreck EVERYTHING to fix it. Once their basic foundations were completed, I tested them to make sure they would fit. It's a good thing I did because I discovered that one of my buttress roots and my river were overlapping by a decent amount. Fortunately both were still in Great Stuff only form and were easy to carve out.




I used black silicone to cover all three sides so I could later carve out shapes as needed.

I then went and completed my structures and tested the fit again. Stupid me hadn't realized all those layers would add some to the thickness. Again the root and river were WAY too tight, but if I tried hard enough, the squeezed together.


I initially tried to lay out a couple branches to add some anterior-posterior depth, but just hated the branches. Both were too dominating. Stupid Mopani only coming in giant sizes.


I went back to the store and picked out more pieces. I now knew I wanted long skinny pieces to attach my plants too, but so that they also wouldn't overwhelm the scene. I found exactly what I wanted after visiting 3 stores. I then began using Great Stuff to create texture on the flat spots and my side islands. I used 3oz Dixie cups (eg: for Jello shots) instead of the typical planters most people use because I couldn't find the planters. The Dixie cups don't work as you can clearly see in this photo; the Great Stuff just pushes them out.

So instead of having pots, I simply carved crevices out of the Great Stuff. These would later get filled in with silicone and coco fiber like everything else and essentially become pots. I also took a Philips head screw driver slightly wider than some airline tubing and stabbed it through into the planter areas while it was still just Great Stuff. I then ran the airline tubing in so that I would have drainage. I left plenty of slack on the tubing on both ends so the silicone and coco fiber wouldn't clog it up.

I then applied everyone's favorite brown silicone + coco-fiber technique to the remaining surfaces I wanted covered. After I did that, I used a razor blade to cut away the silicone bits I didn't want. I also then trimmed the drainage tubing so it was short in the planters and practically invisible on the outside.

Here are some plant photos from an order I received:




Tank planted, but without water:


And lastly, filled up with water:


Bonus frog shots:




Fish-wise there is a male betta, a school of cardinal tetras and chinese loaches as algae eaters. I also wanted to have a bit of a cricket clean-up crew since they drown themselves so easily. For this purpose I have a small African Butterfly and a few ghost shrimp to catch what he misses. The butterfly cruises along the surface out front and will snap up any small crickets that make their way in the water, AWESOME! I know he will be large enough to eat the cardinal tetras eventually (definitely not currently), but they will likely stay deep and under the rock work. He stays at the top and cannot eat anything below him. As long as he is well fed (and I can't imagine he won't be), I don't think he should have much of a reason to dive down and go cardinal hunting.

The water portion amounts to ~12g and is filtered by a Fluval U2 that is hidden and accessible behind the tree buttress. The waterfall is supplied by a MiniJet 606. It was the only one rated with enough head to do the height of the tank, but I have it set to the lowest setting and still think it leans on the too strong side. Eventually (once its finished curing) that green tube will disappear and be replaced with a flat, wide nozzle at the top of the falls to spread the water evenly over the waterfalls top.
Lighting is supplied by a Current USA T5HO Sundial that I got a steal on It has 4x24w T5HOs with 2 built in timers (1 for each pair so you can simulate sunrise and sunset by having different Kelvin lighting in each pair) as well as 2 LED moonlights.
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Last edited by Averhoeven; 04-14-2011 at 06:37 AM.
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Old 04-14-2011, 07:21 AM
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Default Re: 47 Column Paludarium and Technique Build Thread

Since it's dark now, moonlight shot:
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Old 04-14-2011, 10:15 AM
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Default Re: 47 Column Paludarium and Technique Build Thread

That tank is too small for 4 red eye tree frogs...
Also I'm not sure that polycrylic is safe.....I'm almost sure it isn't safe...
If it doesn't say non toxic it isn't safe.
I'd test the water with a pH kit

If I was you I would've just used grout and used the vinegar water pH neautralization method instead of using harmful chemical based supplies.

There is a product called Sheilds All that is non toxic and is used but the Lizard Landscapes guy you mentioned in the other thread
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Old 04-14-2011, 11:31 AM
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Default Re: 47 Column Paludarium and Technique Build Thread

nice build man it looks great!! i have always been told retf could go 3 to 4 adults in a 20 so not sure how 4 in a 47 is to small but to each their own.


EDIT::: hide the jim bean!!! LOL
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Last edited by calvinyhob; 04-14-2011 at 11:34 AM.
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Old 04-14-2011, 12:43 PM
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Default Re: 47 Column Paludarium and Technique Build Thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by DragonSpirit1185 View Post
That tank is too small for 4 red eye tree frogs...
Also I'm not sure that polycrylic is safe.....I'm almost sure it isn't safe...
If it doesn't say non toxic it isn't safe.
I'd test the water with a pH kit

If I was you I would've just used grout and used the vinegar water pH neautralization method instead of using harmful chemical based supplies.

There is a product called Sheilds All that is non toxic and is used but the Lizard Landscapes guy you mentioned in the other thread
Even the most conservative numbers I've seen are 20 for the 1st RETF and 10 for each frog after. That still leaves me pretty close to ok. I've seen multiple zoo sites which claim 2 pairs can be kept in an upright 20.

Where are you getting that Polycrylic is toxic? It's a water-based acrylic which is exactly what the lizard landscapes guy is using. I've seen the Polycrylic listed as non-toxic in places and being used in terrariums. So, unless you are just making something up, can you show me where you saw that?

So other than that, what harmful chemical supplies are you talking about? Because I don't see any that are different than 90% of the builds on here. Great Stuff? Silicone? Drylok? The plaster polymer? Maybe you're referring to coco-fiber then? You're sitting here talking as if I used all this crazy stuff and yet don't tell me which or even support it.....

Quote:
Originally Posted by calvinyhob View Post
EDIT::: hide the jim bean!!! LOL
It's not real, that is my bar next to the tank (humidor on top too). If you compare the size, you'll realize exactly how big a bottle of Jim that would actually be! It's just a huge dummy bottle for fun.

Last edited by Averhoeven; 04-14-2011 at 12:51 PM.
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Old 04-14-2011, 03:12 PM
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Default Re: 47 Column Paludarium and Technique Build Thread

Looks like a handle to me Nice build, awesome thread, and sweet frogs. I've been looking to get into RETF's again, but I just can't get over how nocturnal they really are.
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Old 04-14-2011, 09:47 PM
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Default Re: 47 Column Paludarium and Technique Build Thread

Awesome tank! this gives me a few ideas for my tank I'm building...

How did you hide the fluval u2 behind the butress?
I've been trying to figure out how to do something similar and still make it accessible..
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Old 04-14-2011, 10:28 PM
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Default Re: 47 Column Paludarium and Technique Build Thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bokfan1 View Post
Awesome tank! this gives me a few ideas for my tank I'm building...

How did you hide the fluval u2 behind the butress?
I've been trying to figure out how to do something similar and still make it accessible..
If you look at the top down view in the build portion where I did a size trial you can see that the buttress itself is hollow. It has about a 4" hole so I can just pull the wire to the filter and up it comes. Same thing with the pump for the water feature.
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Old 04-21-2011, 03:04 PM
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Default Re: 47 Column Paludarium and Technique Build Thread

Just put the frogs in the tank this morning. Here are some pics I took as they were settling in. Taken with a brand new (just bought it yesterday) 70-300mm Nikkor so most were actually taken from across the room so as not to disturb them!

All the frogs are in this shot, see if you can find them!


No frogs in these, just neat plants:




Hangin out, just some frogs on a log



I'm bailin this joint:



You lookin at me?

Just chillin:
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Old 08-09-2011, 08:59 AM
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Default Re: 47 Column Paludarium and Technique Build Thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by Averhoeven View Post
Even the most conservative numbers I've seen are 20 for the 1st RETF and 10 for each frog after. That still leaves me pretty close to ok. I've seen multiple zoo sites which claim 2 pairs can be kept in an upright 20.
Sorry for the late reply....lols
What I was saying was after you make the background and added the plants it's more like a 29 gallon tank which shoul only have about 2 at most to avoid stress and crowding.
I would really like to see a couple full tank shots with all the frogs visable...to see a size comparrison with all the frogs and the tank.
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