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Old 10-02-2019, 02:55 AM
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Default Separating land and water on a Large paludarium

As many of you probably see I've had alot of questions and post on my current build. I'll get some pictures tomorrow of where I'm at with the build. Its 48"wide by 24" deep by 36" tall. I have it set up so I will have around 10" deep water. But there will be alot of land also. This is my first big paludarium. I have built many large enclosures but most have only had about 2 or 3in of water and I have done the egg crate method above the water for the land and I have also built up the land with gravel and then my soil. Both methods worked good. I'm just confused on what I should do with 10" of water. I think is definitely to high to raise the land with gravel. I have seen people separate with glass and silicone that seems to work also. I guess I'm just looking for advice on what you guys think will produce the most natural look. My opinion I think I'm leaning more toward the glass separating and then make an underwater background on that also to blend it all In. I attached a picture of the look I'm going for. I'm trying to replicate the 2 land areas exactly like the picture. I'm not sure how they did it?
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Old 10-02-2019, 02:15 PM
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This is where I'm at with the build. Its fiberglassed and sealed on the inside, I'm ready bgg to start on the background. I outlined where I'm having the land with the sticks. And obviously that piece of driftwood will be going over the water so the frogs can get across. Hopefully it all makes sense. I'm thinking I might just build the walls separating the land and water with foam and then fiberglass the inside land areas to hold the soil and the side of the foam of the water area will all be covered with zoopoxy, I will sculpt rocks and some areas of of the background will have peat moss pushed into the zoopoxy. Does anyone have any better advice?
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Old 10-02-2019, 06:00 PM
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Default Re: Separating land and water on a Large paludarium

Having the water level higher than the land might be interesting. Maybe with a small spillover. I haven't seen that before. I know with my 6" of water I just used gravel and wood to hold back the dirt. That didn't work very well as the angle of the slope was so much I lost a lot of possible land space and the water volume was just slopped gravel.
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Old 10-02-2019, 06:05 PM
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Default Re: Separating land and water on a Large paludarium

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I'm thinking I might just build the walls separating the land and water with foam and then fiberglass the inside land areas to hold the soil and the side of the foam of the water area will all be covered with zoopoxy, I will sculpt rocks and some areas of of the background will have peat moss pushed into the zoopoxy. Does anyone have any better advice?
Good on ya for having the balls to go big. Also for having the sense to ask for feedback.

I have done this kind of thing about a half-dozen times now. Big vivs, with water areas and separate planting areas. It can go great, it can go to shit. Partly the outcome is design-dependent, partly materials-compatibility dependent, and partly it just depends on how well you execute your craft. Can you read for comprehension, and follow directions.

Of those half-dozen or so such vivs, two (the most recent) have been glass. Specifically, a couple of 36-18-36 Exo's. All the others have been plywood (smallest about 24-24-32, largest about 32-28-60 L-W-H). All have incorporated foam/epoxy "sandwiches" for cliffs, planters, ledges etc. I've used the 307 lite putty, and also a brushable formulation from Smooth-on (Cast & Coat). Mostly it's gone great, but I've gently, lovingly screwed the pooch a time or two. Believe me, I have learned!

My main area of concern is the adherence-compatibility of zoopoxy and whatever resin (I'm assuming polyester...) you used in your glassing. I'm a strident believer in test pieces and "shakedown cruises". Basically - beat the ever-loving shit out of some test pieces, to see how your materials and methods hold up to hard use. Otherwise you might be tearing into your viv in a year or two. It sucks.

One thing I've learned - if your epoxy won't stick to something, see what will. Polyester / epoxy incompatibility is a well-known thing (I'm a surfer, not just a herper; dings and subsequent fiberglass repair is part & parcel of the hobby/religion/lifestyle/addiction). Silicone doesn't stick well to either so forget that notion.

Bottom line is, I'm guessing you're gonna need to cover your ENTIRE dirt/water dividing pieces with the same resin you used to glass the hull. That, or accept water intrusion into the seam where they meet - wherever you put that. (I would accept no such thing, but hey - to each their own.) Just roughen up the area of the glassed hull where the divider pieces will join the hull. Same goes for any fake rock - don't use the zoopoxy to adhere it to the glassed hull, if you used polyester resin. Just use more polyester resin to waterproof your fake rock.

I mostly use dry pigments, made for concrete, in my epoxy builds. On my top coat I just sprinkle the powders on, and "dash" them in with a damp bristle brush. The water keeps the brush from getting all gummed up by the epoxy and also helps blend the pigments. The dashing also adds very nice texture to my "fake rock". I've never tried using dry powders on polyester (I'm usually shooting for smooth perfection), but - except for the water - I don't see why it wouldn't work. Just on a superficial coat, after your waterproofing is bomber-solid. Painting polyester is doable, but...you'll have to take care to get a paint that won't get soft with immersion or constant humidity, AND is fish-safe. Surely doable, but the quest might grow some hair. I like my dry pigments.

Good luck!
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Old 10-02-2019, 08:39 PM
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I fiberglassed the enclosure with epoxy resin I have used the 307 lite in alot of other builds and it sticks well to the fiberglass.
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Old 10-02-2019, 09:43 PM
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Default Re: Separating land and water on a Large paludarium

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I fiberglassed the enclosure with epoxy resin
Fantastic, good news then! Yes, epoxy:epoxy bonding is pretty easy as long as you rough up the cured layer you're trying to adhere to. Leave it slick and your adhered piece is likely to pop off.

I'm also glad to hear of another happy user of 307. It's amazing, I really don't know why people persist with the silicone/coco method for example. Familiarity, I guess.

I have found it most helpful to have 2 totally separate external drain systems for these builds: a clean-water recirc system, and a yuck-water disposal system. In other words, 1) filter and return your "aquarium" water but 2) drain (like, into a bucket) and dump your "soil" water, or plant drainage. It'll be very brown.

As long as you don't have heavy splashing of "aquarium" water into your soil, and you have good waterproofing between the two zones (no leakage of "aquarium" water into the soil zone), this is perfectly easy to accomplish and maintain. I know many here have struggled with this, but it is not a "rule".

With "perched" water, having a separate soil drain is good insurance against sloppage and waterlogging. I have definitely found this with cascading waterfalls anyway. Plants grow, especially towards water, and they can cause some redirection of water away from where you meant, and into the soil zone. Even if it's very subtle, just capillary flow along a stem or root, you will get waterlogging if you don't have a soil-zone drain. Not just a drainage layer but a way to remove excess water.

Good luck!
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Old 10-04-2019, 12:59 AM
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That's what I came up with so far now I'm trying to decide if i want to make them all rocks or cover some with peat moss, I will have some vines running thew them also with rope and peat moss.
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