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Old 01-25-2019, 07:47 PM
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Default Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Supplies have begun arriving for the new build; so far just the Exo Terra (18"x18"x24") and glass cover. I'm planning on keeping this one pretty simple, as it will be my first planted terrarium, so don't expect anything too ground breaking. (I've done simple snake terrariums and planted bins + an outdoor garden for tortoises, but this is quite different.) This journal is mostly an opportunity for me to share my progress and solicit feedback.

As items arrive and I'm able to work, I'll try to provide updates. I'm not great at remembering to do "in progress" pictures, so development will probably just be visible in stages. (There are much more competent people providing step-by-step tutorials out there anyway.)

Unfortunately the glass I had cut was an imperfect fit, but after taking the Dremel to the underside of the included lid (and removing the mesh) I got it in there pretty good. Sealant is curing now. (I've included a couple pictures.)

I probably could have just removed the included lid completely, but I think it looks more "put together" this way. I'm also anticipating the need to drill for ventilation in the future, but I'll also be drilling for 2 MistKing nozzles and a drainage bulkhead, so that can wait.

Once I have a lighting hood, I may move the existing overhead lighting to cover only the other half of the closet. (For the time being, this terrarium will exist in my office closet. In the summer I'll also be collecting/keeping a few local ant species here and my two snakes are in 48"x24"x24" PVC cages just outside in my office.)

Current Status: Not Much To See


Glass Top from Inside
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Old 01-26-2019, 04:48 AM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Playing with the idea of using Matala as both a false bottom and a (hopefully very well draining) support structure for the background. I'm very happy with it as a false bottom and my initial impression as a background is positive as well. It does take up a fair amount of floor space, but I think if I work the planters, ghostwood, and cork into it a bit before adding any foam I can make up for that while maintaining the structural and drainage benefits.

I'll obviously use silicone/foam to hold it into place, but I almost don't even need to. (I'll also be covering the bottom piece with a substrate barrier and cutting a small piece out to allow for installation of a drainage bulkhead.)

Probably no more progress until Tuesday at the earliest, but hoping for a big update by the end of the week.

If you have any suggestions or critiques, I more than open to them. (I can't promise I'll change anything, but I promise I'll listen. )

(Very) Preliminary Layout
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Old 01-26-2019, 08:01 PM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Looks awesome! cant wait for the updates!
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Old 01-29-2019, 11:26 PM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Just minor updates today.

Over the weekend I received my order of ghostwood and I'm pretty excited. I went the "sight unseen" route and hoped for the best, but I've already got some good ideas for the pieces I received. (Included in the pictures below.)

Unfortunately, it looks like shipping delays are going to push a lot of things I was hoping to do this week until next week. Oh well.

I did however take my first attempt at drilling the glass and I'm pretty happy w/ the results. I installed 3 2" ventilation holes in the top of the terrarium. I covered the holes w/ 20/20 screen and "finished" them w/ a rubber gasket. Other than a very minor mishap resulting in a small scratch to the glass, I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. (Pictures below.)

If I get lucky, I might have some more updates this week, but right now it looks like early next week before much more gets done.

Patience. Patience. Patience.

Newly Installed Vents


Vents from Inside


Ghostwood Selection
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Old 02-01-2019, 06:31 AM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Good news! Looks like my big order should get here tomorrow. Might have some more significant updates over the weekend.

Right now, I'm thinking that a group of Ranitomeya variabilis would be a good fit for the terrarium I'm putting together. The Southern "morph" is my initial preference, but I'm pretty partial to all of them that I've seen. Feel free to try and change my mind or just keep that in mind while you watch the build come together.

Only real progress at this point is taping/marking to prepare for some more glass drilling tomorrow. Installing a bulkhead and two MistKing nozzles. (Picture below.)

I'm a little torn on the bulkhead placement, but I want it as low as possible and as far towards the front as possible. The squares on the picture represent option #1 and #2; #1 is my preference, but #2 seems like the better option. At least w/ #2 I have reasonable distance from the edge on all but the bottom. Probably just gonna make a "game time" decision on that one.

A quick question however: I'm planning on covering the bottom 5" of the terrarium in black contact paper. It seems like the bulkhead should be pretty reliable, but do you think I should leave a portion uncovered so that I can monitor the water level?

MistKing Nozzles in each Front Corner


Bulkhead Placement
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Old 02-03-2019, 08:16 PM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Quite a few updates now. Everything looks like a mess and my work area is a disaster zone; all signs that I'm making progress.

Got the holes drilled for the drain and the MistKing nozzles; the drain is installed and MistKing should arrive next week. I also got a nice layer of spray paint on the outside to hide the Matala false bottom and lower substrate layers. Took three attempts, but I'm happy with the final result.

On the inside, the Matala false bottom is "permanently" installed and the substrate divider is sealed on all sides w/ silicone. It seems to be very solid, so I'm happy with that.

I've also covered the back and portions of the sides/top with black aquarium silicone. I may end up regretting the top, but if so I'll just have to do a lot of scraping... right now I think it looks pretty good. Once all of the ghostwood/cork is installed, I'll do a lighting test and make a final decision.

I've also installed my largest piece of ghostwood (actually two pieces glued together) and I'm waiting on that to dry. Then I'll turn the enclosure onto it's back and begin installing the remaining wood on the back wall.

On a down note, the cold weather in the Midwest seems to have taken it's toll on my plant order. (There were signs that one or two actually froze and defrosted at some point during the journey...) Some of them might make it, but they're sad sight at the moment. Lucky for me though, we've got a reptile convention coming to town in a couple weeks that should give me an opportunity to pick up some new, healthier plants. (Sadly still too early for the frogs though.)

A few pictures below.

Current Status: Messy


(Possibly) Regrettable Silicone on the Top


False Bottom Well Hidden


MistKing Nozzle Hole (1 of 2)


Drainage Bulkhead
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Old 02-04-2019, 05:13 PM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Very nicely done. I am following along with this one. I wish the matalla was easier to get a hold of here in Toronto as it would have been my go to. I also like how you painted the outside to hide the false bottom. I assume you decided against a "viewing" are to be able to check it for water level?

I think the silicone in the back may allow you a nice shadowed area to maybe try and creep in some lower light plants. Fingers crossed most of your plant order pulls through!

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Old 02-04-2019, 06:08 PM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Nice, I didn't think about replacing the screen with glass, I completely removed that screen top, put it in storage and fit a piece of glass to the viv.

I had problems though, there are two "nubs" inside of the lip in the front of the tank so the glass would not lay down flat. I took a Dremel to the plastic and made it that work but there is a slight gap in the back to allow for the cord from the temp/hydrometer, I need a good solution for that.

Hindsight, I think your way is better, the screen top has those tiny sliding bits in the back to close off the slots for cords.

I only paid $12 for "window" glass, maybe I'll have another one cut and do the same thing you did.
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Old 02-04-2019, 06:48 PM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Quote:
Originally Posted by andrewdingemans View Post
I assume you decided against a "viewing" are to be able to check it for water level?
I decided not to leave a viewing area on the side, however I did not spray paint the back so I'll still have a (less accessible) option for checking the false bottom, if needed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by andrewdingemans View Post
I think the silicone in the back may allow you a nice shadowed area to maybe try and creep in some lower light plants.
That was my original thought. Once all of the foam is fully cured I'll probably do a lighting test and make a final decision.

Quote:
Originally Posted by andrewdingemans View Post
Fingers crossed most of your plant order pulls through!
You and me both...
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Old 02-04-2019, 06:51 PM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Quote:
Originally Posted by I'mNew2Frogs! View Post
Nice, I didn't think about replacing the screen with glass, I completely removed that screen top, put it in storage and fit a piece of glass to the viv.

I had problems though, there are two "nubs" inside of the lip in the front of the tank so the glass would not lay down flat. I took a Dremel to the plastic and made it that work but there is a slight gap in the back to allow for the cord from the temp/hydrometer, I need a good solution for that.

Hindsight, I think your way is better, the screen top has those tiny sliding bits in the back to close off the slots for cords.

I only paid $12 for "window" glass, maybe I'll have another one cut and do the same thing you did.
The Dremel is pretty necessary for my method, as well. The nubs didn't give me a problem, but to get the underside of the plastic top to sit flush on the glass I had to grind down quite a few spots. It was pretty forgiving though, since the portion being cut isn't visible on the final project. I'd probably do it the same way again, but I think either way provides a good final product if done correctly.
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Last edited by ra94131; 02-04-2019 at 06:53 PM. Reason: typo/clarification
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Old 02-05-2019, 04:03 AM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Got the general design solidified and installed. Still working on trimming the Great Stuff before applying the silicone and background mix.

I'm pretty happy w/ the dimension I've been able to create, but I don't think I'll know if I'm happy until the background is complete and planted.

I created a "cave" on the upper level to provide some hiding space, but this created a bit of a problem. While peeling off the outer layers of the foam, I found a pretty significant gap inside the cave that probably would've amounted to a dart frog death trap (or at least an area that would be impossible for me to access). Because of this, I've added a good amount of Great Stuff to the cavity and I'll have to redo it tomorrow. I think this should solve the issue.

I'm going to be out of town this weekend, so I'm hoping to get the background fully completed by then to give the silicone plenty of time to cure before I begin planting.

Sadly, the plants are looking even worse. I think one of the ferns and the sheet moss will make it, but everything is probably a loss. Going to place a new plant order this week; I wanted a few additions anyway, so I'll just order a bit more than intended. (Keeping everything planted though; I've seen some miraculous recoveries in the past, so who knows...)

Overall Layout


"Cave" Structure Additional foam still needs to cure...
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Last edited by ra94131; 02-05-2019 at 04:06 AM. Reason: typo/clarification
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Old 02-06-2019, 08:06 AM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Ultra-brief update today. Got the silicone/background mixture applied! Tank is currently laying on its back while the silicone cures. Might do some minor patching tomorrow with Gorilla Glue/background mixture, but probably nothing else to give it plenty of time to cure.

On a separate note, saw a group of four Variabilis "Southern" available locally... Hard not to pull the trigger, but this tank is probably at least 2-3 months away from "frog ready" and - barring an issue - I don't want the frogs to spend any longer in my bare-bones quarantine enclosure(s) than they have to.

Patience. Patience. Patience.

Current Status: Still A Mess
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Old 02-06-2019, 01:39 PM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Did you do the gorilla glue spray with water, apply fibre? am at the point where I am baking my coco fibre to dry it out and contemplating the application. I was initially going with TB3 but heard it dries super hard and needs a month to cure. Then I was going to go with silicone, but I have been hearing more about using gorilla glue which essentiallly foams up itself and gives a decent hold. Did you have anyone elses thread to reference for it?
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Old 02-06-2019, 09:06 PM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Quote:
Originally Posted by andrewdingemans View Post
Did you do the gorilla glue spray with water, apply fibre? am at the point where I am baking my coco fibre to dry it out and contemplating the application. I was initially going with TB3 but heard it dries super hard and needs a month to cure. Then I was going to go with silicone, but I have been hearing more about using gorilla glue which essentiallly foams up itself and gives a decent hold. Did you have anyone elses thread to reference for it?
I actually went w/ silicone (ASI Aquarium - Black) for the majority and then pressed the background mix (Coconut Fiber/Husks + Peat) into that. I'm using the Gorilla Glue to touch up any areas that were missed. Based on my very brief experience, you could probably use Gorilla Glue instead of the silicone and get a very nice result (but maybe an even bigger mess).

I don't think there was a particular thread I referenced, but I definitely looked at a lot of builds before deciding to go this route.

EDIT: Forgot to mention; if you decide to use Gorilla Glue the coco fiber doesn't need to be nearly as dry as with silicone. Water actually helps the adhesion/cure with Gorilla Glue; one of the benefits to going that route.
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Last edited by ra94131; 02-06-2019 at 09:07 PM. Reason: add additional info
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Old 02-06-2019, 11:42 PM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

I think I will do a few test pieces this week. I have some time before my glass lids get here to test on some scrap foam in a spare bin or something. Thanks for the advice!
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Old 02-07-2019, 02:28 AM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Very nice!

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Old 02-08-2019, 07:24 AM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Ok. Background is in. MistKing is hooked up. Lights are in place. And the enclosure has been moved to its final position.

I added Turface as a substrate and leaf litter should get here sometime next week. My substrate layer may be a little excessive, but I'll re-evaluate and maybe pull some out once I have plants. (Bad news: everything but the moss is a total loss, as suspected.)

I have a new order of plants, along w/ Temperate Springtails and Dwarf White Isopods, in to GlassBoxTropicals which I'm pretty excited about. Unfortunately between the weather there (Michigan) and here (Colorado), it may be a while until I actually receive it.

Until then I'm just going to let the enclosure settle in as-is, so there might not be much to update for a while. But when there is, it should be pretty substantial.

Current Status: In Position!


Just Another Angle
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Old 02-11-2019, 08:15 PM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Just a minor update, but progress is coming! Finally got some leaf litter into the tank (live oak base w/ some larger sea grape above). Also put in the surviving moss from my first plant order.

So far I'm ecstatic with the performance of the MistKing and my drainage system. Has worked flawlessly from the first test run and the automation is very nice. I'm definitely running it more often now that I will once the terrarium is more settled and I have frogs moved in; I'll probably cut back by 50% or more. (Maybe ramp down steadily as the plants acclimate.)

I also added a cork bark tube on the floor of the terrarium. Each end is stuffed w/ sphagnum and the interior contains an ABG/leaf litter mix that I hope will provide additional refuge for microfauna. Additionally the cork tube should provide a visual break on the floor of the terrarium. It's not set in place, so I can remove/adjust if needed.

Microfauna should be introduced very shortly and initial plants will be here by Thursday. (Plus I'll probably pick up a few extras in two weeks at the Reptilian Nation Expo in Denver.)

Leaf Litter, Cork Tube, & Moss Added
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Old 02-14-2019, 05:34 PM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

So the plants are in!

Now time to play the waiting game. I'll keep on eye on plant growth and see if anything needs to be relocated or removed.

It's going to be interesting to watch in grow in.

If I do any significant adjustments, I'll update; otherwise I'll probably just update every month or so as it grows in. (And obviously when I get some frogs!)

Status: Planted!


EDIT: Link to full photo gallery: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal (Imgur)

Last edited by ra94131; 02-14-2019 at 05:42 PM. Reason: add link
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Old 03-21-2019, 04:43 AM
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Not much has changed, but the plants and microfauna seem to be flourishing. I don't see the isopods often, but the springtails have gone insane. (I'm guessing there will be a "die off" in the near future to normalize the numbers, because the current population seems unsustainable.)

So far I'm very happy. Might start looking for frogs in the next month or so. Right now I'm leaning strongly towards Ranitomeya variabilis, probably of the Southern morph.

I'll update again in a month or so (or if anything of note is changed).

One Month Progress Update
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Old 03-21-2019, 09:55 AM
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Not much has changed, but the plants and microfauna seem to be flourishing. I don't see the isopods often, but the springtails have gone insane. (I'm guessing there will be a "die off" in the near future to normalize the numbers, because the current population seems unsustainable.)



So far I'm very happy. Might start looking for frogs in the next month or so. Right now I'm leaning strongly towards Ranitomeya variabilis, probably of the Southern morph.



I'll update again in a month or so (or if anything of note is changed).



One Month Progress Update

Looks fantastic! I love your attention to detail: the glass modification on the lid, the black painted finish outside, and the rubber gaskets to make the vents look neat.....

Excited for you finding some Ranitomeya Variabilis, they are beautiful frogs. If I were to get more, I'd most likely be looking at them too, just not sure if I'd go for the southern or highland morph......I like it when they're more of a greeny colour on the body, rather than the yellow.

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Old 04-23-2019, 02:51 AM
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Not much excitement this month. The springtails are still flourishing, though their numbers seem to be at a more reasonable level now. Haven't seen my isopods of late; not sure if they're just a little deeper in the substrate or dying off, regardless I will probably supplement their numbers soon.

I've been having a bit of a "problem" with flies in the enclosure for the past 3 weeks or so. I put "problem" in quotes since they really haven't spread outside of the enclosure (I basically kill one by my computer monitors a day) and I haven't seen any outside of my office, so they're not much of a problem. I've got some simple fly traps and vinegar/dish soap ready to go if they start to get out of hand. (This system used to work amazingly well for controlling flies around my hatchling sulcata tortoise enclosure.)

I also had a bromeliad bloom, which was quite nice to look at. Sadly when I was putting together this update I realized that I never snagged a good picture. It was quite a brilliant purple, but now all that's left is the withered remains... (Picture included below.)

I'm definitely starting my search for some frogs now and I've settled on Ranitomeya variabilis "Southern" as my ideal candidate. I'll be keeping an eye out for availability, but I'm not in a rush at all. I don't keep many animals, so I try to be picky when selecting the source.

I'll update again in a month or so (or if anything of note is changed).

Two Month Progress Update


Bromeliad Bloom (Past Its Prime)
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Old Yesterday, 04:56 PM
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Not much to update three months in, but I like the idea of monthly updates.

Plants are growing very well and I might even trim some in the near future, though I'm liking the "overgrown" look. I do hope that the crawling plants continue to grow upwards to give some more green coverage to the upper portion of the background; might take a few more months.

The springtail population is doing great, but I'm pretty sure the isopods didn't make it. I'm going to look into re-seeding their population.

As far as frogs go, I'm definitely ready to move some in. Once I find a good source of Ranitomeya variabilis "Southern" I'll probably jump on it, but no luck so far.

Three Month Progress Update
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Old Today, 02:07 AM
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Default Re: Basic Exo Terra 18"x18"x24" Build Journal

Great looking tank so far. Thanks for sharing.
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Old Today, 04:03 PM
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Thanks for posting your Build. That looks amazing! Also from CO and getting ready to start on my second tank. This is a very addictive hobby!
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