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Old 01-03-2020, 05:13 PM
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Default 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

I'll be tracking this build here, with lots of pics. Currently I have some heat shaped acrylic and egg crate defining the land and water sections. Left side will be land with its own drainage area, right back corner will be the waterfall flowing into the bog area, which shares drainage with the water area.





In case those images don't work (I seem to be having issues with inline images), here are links:
60g tank front
60g tank overhead

I'll be using DAP Commercial Kitchen 100% Silicone to adhere the acrylic to the tank, based on this video:
Both sections will overflow into a waste bucket that won't recirculate into the tank, and the tank water will be refreshed regularly with distilled water by the MistKing misting system. I'm also setting up a bio-filtration area under the bog with EpiWeb. I'll be recirculating water within the water area using a ZooMed 20g Paludarium Filter to create the waterfall feature.

The tree sections are cedar and will be partially submerged. I'll cover the submerged acrylic and egg crate with Hygrolon (a lot of this stuff I just have laying around, hazards of being an orchid grower I guess) and encourage aquatic plants and mosses to root into it. The waterfall will be Great Stuff/natural rocks, and I might do some of that in the submerged area as well. I think I'll use the Exo Terra rock background that came with the tank, but add heat-shaped PVC vines covered in Hygrolon for depth and rooting areas.

I'm looking at buying a Current Satellite Plus Pro 36" lighting system, the adjustable light temperature and storm feature really piqued my interest.

The tank will have lots of intermediate mini orchids, the bog section will be for small semi-highland carnivorous plants, and I'm thinking blue cherry shrimp and maybe vampire crabs in the water. Based on my old tank, temps should be 70/80 summer and 58/75 winter, so anything in the water also needs to tolerate those temps and night drops. I have a Peltier junction heater/cooler with fans that my dad built for my old tank, controlled by a ZooMed Hygrotherm. I'll probably have vent fans blowing down the tank doors also controlled by the Hygrotherm for when humidity gets too high.

Here's a link to my intended plant and animal list if anyone is interested.

Next step: drill bulkheads and silicone in the acrylic. I have a diamond hole saw on the way but I'm still really nervous about drilling into my new, expensive tank. It's currently in the 30s (F) outside, and I'm not sure if the freezing air + freezing water will be an issue for drilling.
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Last edited by Harpspiel; 01-03-2020 at 05:32 PM.
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Old 01-03-2020, 05:35 PM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

Interesting build. I like the bending of the egg crate. That helps to eliminate one of my usual complaints about paludaria - that they have a lot of harsh, straight edges in them.

I would also worry about drilling glass in temps that cold. Glass is brittle enough at room temperature. Maybe others have more experience with this. You could do it inside, though. I do all of mine inside. You don't have to use a hose to run water over the bit the whole time. You can use a little dam of plumber's putty and put the water (or antifreeze - that's what I use, just try to keep it as confined as possible and wash anything it touches thoroughly before use) in it.

I think white clouds are a good option. My recollection is that they are one of the most temperature-flexible species commonly available in fish stores. Are you worried about temps being too cold or too hot?

Mark
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Old 01-03-2020, 06:08 PM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

I know a bit about heat shaping egg crate now - the time between "hard" and "melting" is pretty minimal, and if you try to flex it while hard it shatters. So patience is required.

My reading on White Clouds suggests they don't like heat, so I guess I'm worried about temps on both ends - top temp is 78ish, which is too high for White Clouds but just right for tropical fish. But then I'll have drops down to the upper 50s in winter. And the orchids really like that night temperature drop, so I encourage it by having the tank near a window. I think I'm going to stock with shrimp and then give it a year to cycle and monitor water temps, I suspect the water won't vary as widely as the air in the tank.
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Old 01-05-2020, 05:45 PM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

I like it. Looking good.

Quote:
Next step: drill bulkheads and silicone in the acrylic. I have a diamond hole saw on the way but I'm still really nervous about drilling into my new, expensive tank. It's currently in the 30s (F) outside, and I'm not sure if the freezing air + freezing water will be an issue for drilling.
Quote:
I would also worry about drilling glass in temps that cold. Glass is brittle enough at room temperature. Maybe others have more experience with this. You could do it inside, though. I do all of mine inside. You don't have to use a hose to run water over the bit the whole time. You can use a little dam of plumber's putty and put the water (or antifreeze - that's what I use, just try to keep it as confined as possible and wash anything it touches thoroughly before use) in it.
If it's nice out, do it outside. But you aren't describing "nice out". So do it inside.

Uh - are you sure that's an acrylic tank? And, does one even use diamond-coated tools on acrylic? A steel hole saw for wood all I've ever used. Honestly I like drilling glass way more than plastic - melty stinky plastic is a pain in the ass, I fucking hate it. You really have to manage heat build-up, it's so much worse than glass. Arrghhhh. Anyway...everything below is based on diamond & glass.

The putty dam technique works great. Alternatively, get a helper and a squirt bottle and have her/him pumping a constant spray of water onto the cutting surface. It doesn't take a whole lot of water. Just go light and slow with the drill - don't bear down at all, and don't go full-speed.

With a putty dam I usually set up the tank on something elevated - saw horses, a pair of tall buckets, whatever, as long as it doesn't wobble - and under the tank I lay a towel and then put a small bucket on that. Under the hole-to-be. Hang on though - I'm talking as if you're doing a small viv or a big lid (a flat sheet). With your bigger viv, if you can find a catch-container that'll fit completely inside the viv, you can just lay down your towel on the floor, put the catch-container on the towel, and lower the upside-down viv over the container. Drill the tank bottom from the outside. This will be better, ergonomically speaking - just kneel beside, or stand and straddle the tank, and let gravity do all the drill-pushing. You just hold it up. It can get a little tiring drilling thick glass, slowly.

With a spray bottle, you can just put the tank on several layers of spread-out newspaper. That's enough to catch the little bit of water that you're using. Nice thing about the spray bottle (or hose, if outside) method is, you can do it vertically. No need to flip the tank and deal with the open doors if you're drilling the back.

Your biggish tank is gonna have thicker glass, which takes much longer to bore through, so I'd take more care with cooling. In this case, for a newb without a hose running the whole duration, I recommend the putty dam. Modeler's clay is what I use. It's what was laying around. I just keep a ball in a ziplock, and when I need to use it again, I put a little water in and let it sit overnight. Then I knead up a "hot dog" and make a ring about 4" across.

Either way, when you've gotten the center cut out, take a little care getting out the glass dust. A few wipes with a damp paper towel is good enough.

I've drilled a number of vivs and lids, with zero breaks. And now, my wife is getting into stained glass, and she's got me cutting colored glass circles (what we throw away - I find that amusing) which she uses in her art. Still, zero breaks. Cutting holes in glass is easy with diamond hole saws.

Good luck! You can do it. Just don't push, and don't be in a hurry.
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Old 01-05-2020, 06:02 PM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

Quote:
Uh - are you sure that's an acrylic tank?
The tank is glass. There's a heat-shaped piece of acrylic I'm using to separate land from water, and I wanted to find the best way to adhere silicone to glass so that it will hold water - there seem to be a lot of mixed opinions about that. But that's the reference to acrylic.

Thanks for the glass drilling advice, it makes me less nervous about breaking my tank. I have a decent amount of construction experience, so I'll go slow and let the bit do the work. Only difference is I'll be drilling the back, not the bottom, since the last tank I had drained through the bottom and it was hard to move with a piece of pipe sticking out of the bottom.
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Old 01-05-2020, 06:11 PM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

Next step - waterfall

I took an extra piece of slate from my front yard and broke it up into some cool shapes with a hammer and chisel, then worked out the pieces for the waterfall dry before starting to use Great Stuff. I then cut a rough form out of egg crate and tried it in the tank. The arm sticking out to the right is for a Nepenthes pot:


Box covered in wax paper, so I can move the waterfall around while it dries and encourage the stones to stay straight, and hopefully remove it easily when done. I secured the egg crate to the box with a few zip ties:


I'm doing the Great Stuff in thin layers and letting it dry 1-2 hours between each layer:


Rocks and pot in place. I'll need probably one more layer, and then I'll stand it upright and work on the pool at the bottom of the waterfall:


One question - I've been using Gaps & Cracks, but I'm running out and I have a can of Window & Door - does anyone know the difference? Should I go buy another can of Gaps & Cracks to finish?
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Last edited by Harpspiel; 01-05-2020 at 07:00 PM.
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Old 01-05-2020, 07:58 PM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

Another question - a 3/4" Lifegard Aquatics bulkhead kit just came and it's HUGE. Is this the right size? I'll be drilling two holes, one each for land and water areas.
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Old 01-05-2020, 10:38 PM
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Really doesn't make any reaaaaallll differences which expanding foam you use. Some expands a little bit more, some a little less, but they are all pretty much the same thing. I prefer the pond and stone variety because the foam is black and doesn't matter if a little bit is showing through.
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Old 01-07-2020, 12:47 AM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

Quote:
One question - I've been using Gaps & Cracks, but I'm running out and I have a can of Window & Door - does anyone know the difference? Should I go buy another can of Gaps & Cracks to finish?
I only use the Window & Door when installing new or replacement - wait for it! - windows and doors. Ha ha.

Seriously though - I have always found that it doesn't dry rigid. It always stays a little squishy. I think that's the "give" it needs to not push too hard on a window or a door, which could make them bulge out & not open or close smoothly. So I've never used that formulation in vivs. I wouldn't do it - just go get another Gaps & Cracks can.

Hey here's a good tip about foam. Use a mist bottle of water with it. Hit the spot you're about to foam with a little mist. Then spray out your foam right there. Then mist some more onto the new, sticky foam. It cures faster, harder, and bigger. Seriously, you get like twice the coverage from a can, and it cures way faster. You're maximizing the chemistry, basically.

Quote:
Another question - a 3/4" Lifegard Aquatics bulkhead kit just came and it's HUGE. Is this the right size? I'll be drilling two holes, one each for land and water areas.
I've used that size, and 1/2", and sometimes I just use a little dinky Mistking bulkhead. Depends on the application, how much flow you need to pass through it. 3/4" is way overkill for land drainage, unless you're worried about clogs. But, 3/4" PVC pipe and fittings are available anywhere, and are cheap, which is nice if you're going anywhere with that water (some folks e.g., build a fairly elaborate joining-drains system to all dump into one bucket somewhere out of sight. For recirc systems, don't combine water from >1 tank unless you've got great filtration). Mostly I just use 1/2" because a lot of canister filters and other water pumps accommodate that size hose and fittings. Some of my vivs with recirc features have an input of 1/2" (connects to pump) and a drain of 3/4" (drains to sump, where pump is located or sucks out of).

Just don't do stuff in 5/8". Kinda hard to find elbows etc. Some pumps & filters nudge or shove you that way - if so, just adapt up to 3/4".

Good luck!
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Old 01-07-2020, 02:47 AM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

Nice work so far Harpsiel. Like the direction youíre headed.

Can you explain your process for heating and bending the egg crate? Iíve always wondered how to use that in a way that wasnít quite so linear.
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Old 01-07-2020, 06:30 PM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

Thanks @jgragg, I decided to return the 3/4" and go with 1/2", and I used a little Window & Door in the pond area before you responded. It actually hardened up for me and is a little harder to cut than the Gaps & Cracks, so I'm glad I didn't use it everywhere. But I live in a really arid environment so that might contribute.

Quote:
Can you explain your process for heating and bending the egg crate? I’ve always wondered how to use that in a way that wasn’t quite so linear.
I borrowed a friend's heat gun, my boyfriend created a backdrop for me out of a cardboard box and aluminum foil (to reflect back heat, this seem to really help things heat up faster) and I applied heat along a single row of squares in 6 seconds bursts per side, until the egg crate "slumped" or seemed pliable in that spot. I think it was about 24-30 seconds total for each bend. Gently start bending with a hand on either side of the bend point, and do not use pressure if it doesn't bend easily - I shattered one piece that had cooled too much doing this. The top and bottom rungs did melt and curve a little, there didn't seem to be a way to avoid that. I did this in a mud room with a fan blowing into the garage, since it was smelly.
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Old 01-08-2020, 03:26 AM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

Thanks for sharing that tip! Iím looking forward to giving that a try. I can really see the potential for more natural aesthetics using this technique.
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Old 01-09-2020, 01:15 AM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

Indeed. I have never tried that with a heat gun. I rarely use egg crate, but you've inspired me to reconsider ways to utilize my poor, neglected heat gun. Ha ha ha. Give a man a tool, and look out!

One way I have used it is to harden carved foam before applying epoxy or Drylok. You can create a tougher "outer skin" to your foam.

I'm not sure what sorts of nasty chemical transformations this treament may be forcing - I just always cover the heat-treated foam with a waterproof coating. I also don't heat long or hard enough to get ignition or smoking, but...the plastic does change significantly. And there's a little stinkiness that comes off the job.

Besides hardening the carved foam, this heat treatment also softens sharp carved edges, and causes a lot of "pills" to shrivel up. Sometimes the former soft "pills" become more like hard, sharp little "prickles" but those are easily nipped off flush, with toenail clippers or wire nippers.

Anyway...have fun, good luck!
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Old 01-10-2020, 03:43 AM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

Waterfall and background are coming along:
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Old 01-10-2020, 08:42 AM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

The tank looks great but after all that work are you going to keep the exo terra background?
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Old 01-10-2020, 03:18 PM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

Quote:
Originally Posted by FrogLove1961 View Post
The tank looks great but after all that work are you going to keep the exo terra background?
Yup, I didn't feel like creating the whole 36x24 background and eventually it's going to be covered in plants and moss anyway. I'm integrating it with the waterfall with silicone and sinking the cedar into it, once that's done I'll see how it looks and might make some Hygrolon-covered PVC roots.
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Old 01-10-2020, 05:07 PM
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Never underestimate those ugly backgrounds, you can spruce em up and save on material. Ive used fake aquarium wood before and nobody noticed until I said something about it. I customized it a bit.
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Old 01-11-2020, 07:45 PM
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I've incorporated an Exo-Terra background into a desert viv before. You'd really have to look to see it now. Can't wait to see the finished product. Love the bog plant idea. Just curious what water parameters you'll be shooting for ? I've never kept any of the vampire crabs or their kin, and I know they're mostly terrestrial, but I'm sure they still like to wet their whistle. Do they need some hardness/calcium in their water, or maybe just a little piece of cuttle bone to munch on ?
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Old 01-12-2020, 05:26 PM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

Quote:
Do they need some hardness/calcium in their water, or maybe just a little piece of cuttle bone to munch on ?
I’m not sure, I’ve never kept crabs, but it would make sense that they would need some extra calcium for their shells. I’m also not sure how the pH will look, since sphagnum moss and bog plants are usually highly acidic. I’m going to cycle and monitor the water for a while and then, if the conditions seem ok, try out cherry shrimp before I add anything else.
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Old 01-14-2020, 05:37 PM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

The waterfall is done and tested!
https://imgur.com/gallery/6M6OT2t
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Old 01-15-2020, 05:02 PM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

Well done, not forgetting this important step!

Your tank looks great. Many people discourage others from installing water features. It comes from experience and a desire to save others from pain. But...they're pretty damn cool. Fun to build, a delight to watch running. Even though they almost always eventually cause some pain. Ha ha. It's life, right?
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Old 01-21-2020, 04:54 AM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

Water test - so far the silicone/acrylic sectioning off the land area is holding with no leaks, and the waterfall is flowing nicely. Next step: silicone some coco fiber on the Exo Terra background to help it blend.

https://imgur.com/gallery/t8sgeIq

The waterfall will be removable, secured to the side and back of the tank with suction cups. I’m trying to make the whole setup relatively easy to disassemble for maintenance or adjustments. The land area drain, and water overflow/pump, will both be accessible via hinged sections of egg crate.

Last edited by Harpspiel; 01-21-2020 at 05:11 AM.
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Old 01-23-2020, 04:58 PM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

Having the waterfall assembly as a movable / removable unit is probably a good idea. It could certainly help you keep and use that waterfall through several vivs.

On the other hand it might turn out that you've invested effort into keeping open an option you never wind up exercising. Over my life I have seen (with the benefit of hindsight...) myself do that quite a bit more than I wound up needing to. "Keeping your options open" is an expensive exercise, and sometimes it's better to make a declarative choice, do the work to make it work, and accept the less-great consequences & enjoy the better results. Anyway - just an aside. Something about getting older makes one want to share. "Don't do ALL the dumb stuff I did" or something...who knows? Ha ha.

Back to the waterfall - why do you think the suction cups are needed? To hold the waterfall down, from bobbing around in the main palu water body? I am not a fan of the suction cups idea, as I can imagine all manner of stuff getting back behind there and festering. If it was me, I'd silicone that sucker in place. If you want to maintain the option to easily move it, don't do a full wall-to-wall silicone smear, just run a bead around the accessible perimeter. You can get at that with a sharp blade, if you need to pull the waterfall.

Just some thoughts. Please take them as an earnest attempt to be thoughtfully helpful, not as any sort of tear-you-down criticism.

cheers
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Old 01-27-2020, 06:10 PM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

Quote:
Back to the waterfall - why do you think the suction cups are needed? To hold the waterfall down, from bobbing around in the main palu water body? I am not a fan of the suction cups idea, as I can imagine all manner of stuff getting back behind there and festering. If it was me, I'd silicone that sucker in place. If you want to maintain the option to easily move it, don't do a full wall-to-wall silicone smear, just run a bead around the accessible perimeter. You can get at that with a sharp blade, if you need to pull the waterfall.
I don't think much will get behind the waterfall, since it's just bare egg crate underwater, and I won't have anything living in the above water section (besides plants). I'm happy with the suction cup for now. Really it's just to keep the Nepenthes pot section tight against the tank wall.

The water systems are working and first set of plants are in! I think the hygrolon lining the water section looks great. I do want to keep doing water changes until the tannin levels go down, it's pretty brown right now (due to the cedar), although I've been reading about blackwater tanks and apparently tannins aren't bad for fish or shrimp.




The intrusive lights are temporary, I need to work on the lid next and I ordered a Current Satellite Plus Pro 36" LED light. I also discovered multiple leaks in my MistKing system when trying to hook it up, so waiting on replacement parts for that as well, and hand misting in the meanwhile.

Current plant list:
Tillandsia usneoides (free with the orchids)
Dendrobium auriculatum
Bulbophyllum 'Santa Claus'
Angraecum didieri
Dendrobium aberrans
Sophrocattleya 'Seagull's Gumdrop' seedling, currently quarantined because I found mealybugs on it while processing the plants
Salvinia minima - floating

Here's a shot of the adorable D. aberrans:


I might have to move the Bulbo, it's currently so wet during the day (when the waterfall runs) that water drips off its bottom leaf. I'll give it a month or two and see how it likes that.

Next steps: lid, misting system, and substrate for the water area. I'll let it cycle for a while before adding shrimp.

Last edited by Harpspiel; 01-27-2020 at 06:27 PM.
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Old 01-31-2020, 03:02 AM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

Current Satellite lighting system is in, I'll probably supplement it with some LED spotlights but its settings are beautiful. Lid is partially constructed (misting system isn't in yet, hence the low humidity reading).



I have discovered two things today, one interesting and one concerning. I ran spyra (thought it was hygrolon, but found an old receipt) up the sides of the land area and folded it over the edge, hoping it would keep the edges of the land area moist and I could encourage moss - well, it is wicking water so well that it's keeping the substrate in the land area soaking wet and is lowering the water level in the water area. So I may have to cut it back so it doesn't fold over the edge, just goes up to the top.

Second, hundreds of my springtail colony seem to have fallen through the window screen into the reservoir under my land area. They appear to still be alive at the moment, but I doubt they will be for long. I guess I need to fill up that area with something so they can climb back up if they fall in, currently it's just PVC pipe for support and water. So...that's why people put leca down there.

Edit: cut the spyra to the height of the acrylic, and put some NEHERP drainage layer I had laying around in the drainage area, and hopefully tonight's crisis is averted.

Last edited by Harpspiel; 01-31-2020 at 03:23 AM.
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Old Today, 07:36 PM
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Default Re: 60g Paludarium w/ waterfall and bog - build log

It's slowly getting greener (as my budget permits). I think I have the misting adjusted well enough to grow a moss slurry on the background, so that's my next step. Current and planned plant/invert list.



Here's my adorable little Nepenthes ampullaria x (spectabilis x talangensis). It's only been in the tank for a few days and is either suffering from travel in the cold and adjusting, or isn't humid enough - time will tell:



Some aquatic plants, seem to be recovering well from initial melt:



The tank doesn't seem to be cycling on its own, so I bought some ammonia to start that up, and once that is done I have a coworker with some baby 'Blue Dream' Neocaridina shrimp waiting for me...which should help with the algae that I'm just starting to notice. I have very high light for the Nep and the orchids, so it's not surprising.
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