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Old 02-12-2013, 05:12 PM
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Default Light for cacti/succulents

Well, maybe a frog forum is the wrong place to look, but since there are a lot of knowledgeable "plant people" here I'll give it a try.
Lately I've been thinking of building a planted desert type tank but I have no idea of how much light will be needed.
I've heard (admittedly from dubious sources) that it's very hard to grow cacti in vivariums, but I figure it can't be impossible.

The tank would only be 18" tall so the plats will be fairly close to the lights.
Do you think 4 14w T5 would be sufficient? (The tank will be built in so I cant use bulbs that are longer than the tank itself, hence the low wattage)
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Old 02-12-2013, 06:30 PM
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Default Re: Light for cacti/succulents

Living in the desert I will tell you something that makes this thought incredibly hard to do. Cactus need temperatures going up into 110 degrees and then in the evening dropping down to low 70's. On top of that almost all cactus will grow to large for tanks over time depending on the cactus.

On top of that unlike traditional plants, cacti need deep soil to get to an aquifer because their roots are similar to palm trees, they just stretch straight down.

You could do some semi-tropical cacti that might do "okay" but in the long run most will die rapidly.

Just my thoughts.

Succulents are the same though you may be able to get a desert variety that might not shoot straight down but stretch their roots out, though I don't know of that many.
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Old 02-12-2013, 06:54 PM
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Default Re: Light for cacti/succulents

I see, I did not know that they needed deep substrate, this might cause a problem. I guess that I have to do a lot of research on the plants I'm getting.
Size wont be a problem I think, the plants I want to get are all pretty small (Aloe spp. Lithops spp. L. williamsii to mention some). Some of the Aloe's get pretty big, but they grow pretty slow so I could easily replace them when they get too big.

Thanks for the input, appreciate it
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Old 02-12-2013, 08:38 PM
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Default Re: Light for cacti/succulents

I thought to try some aloes, think they look really cool
Let us know what you find out!
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Old 02-12-2013, 09:09 PM
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Default

I have several Haworthia species doing very well under 2 T8 lights in a leopard gecko setup. They stay small and have a very "deserty" appearance.
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Old 02-12-2013, 09:41 PM
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Default Re: Light for cacti/succulents

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Originally Posted by jacobi View Post
I have several Haworthia species doing very well under 2 T8 lights in a leopard gecko setup. They stay small and have a very "deserty" appearance.
I have one or two of those as well, but on my windowsill. Nice to hear that they are doing well for you, that gives me hope
l
I think I'll just put a few succulents under some T5 and see how they'll do.
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Old 02-12-2013, 10:33 PM
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Default Re: Light for cacti/succulents

I've kept my Lithops, Sanseverias, Portulacaria afra, etc. under 2 x t5 HO 6500K bulbs and they did just fine with minimal watering. They are really liking the 70W metal halide fixture that I have over them now though. The more light the better and the hotter the better.
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Old 02-13-2013, 03:00 AM
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Default Re: Light for cacti/succulents

Succulents need excellent drainage and reasonably dry conditions, so there's not much point to keeping them in a tank unless you're planning on keeping animals with them. A wide bowl with drainage holes would suit them better, but a tank could also work if it has some sort of drainage system and a mesh top.

Also, succulents, including cacti, do not need deep soil. Just because a plant produces deep roots in nature does not mean that it is incapable of growing any other way. Many trees naturally produce deep tap roots, but can easily adapt to shallow pots when grown as bonsai. Just have a look at some of these succulent bonsai:

Intercity C&S 2012 - a set on Flickr (not my photos).

As for lighting, there are a lot of succulents that will do well under HO T5's. I think your biggest concern should be soil and drainage. Soggy soil will kill succulents much faster than lack of light.
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Old 02-14-2013, 01:30 AM
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Default Re: Light for cacti/succulents

Let's clarify this:

Many "ornamental" cacti are not really suitable for vivaria, for reasons mentioned above. However, there are a few succulents and /or xerophytes that can work in brightly lit vivaria. 4 14 w bulbs can work, go 6500K color temp. Think warm days (high 80s to low 90s), cooler nights (high 60s to low 70s).

Leaving aside a gritty mix and good drainage (you know that) here are a few suggestions:

North America:

Bursera sp.
Ficus petiolaris
Echeveria sp.
Graptopetalum
Sedum palmeri

Cactus: possibly Astrophytum myriostigma (Bishop's cap)

Alas, there are some N.A. perennials that could work--but their inflorescences are too tall

Africa:

I am going to slightly demur from Jake on this one; I find Haworthias can be a bit tricky long term. Some are easier than H. fasciata.

Aloe brevifolia
Aloe 'Dorian Black'
Aloe variegata (There are a few aloes even smaller than this)
Gasteria sp.
Ledebouria (=Scilla sp.)
Sanseveria hahni 'Birdsnest'
Sanseveria subspicatum
Zamioculcas
Euphorbia sp.
Ficus cordata
Operculacaria decaryi
Pelargonium sp.
Stapelia sp.


Two sites:

Tropiflora - A premier supplier of Bromeliads, Succulents, Orchids and other rare and exotic tropical plants from around the world!

Yucca Do Nursery | Heat tolerant plants l Yuccas and Agaves

I suspect that there is probably more variety of easier African plants than North American.

Good luck!
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Last edited by Groundhog; 02-14-2013 at 01:32 AM.
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Old 02-14-2013, 02:21 AM
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Default Re: Light for cacti/succulents

I feel that, if designed properly, a desert cactus viv is totally doable. I would make some rocks with nice, gaping crevices filled with a very gritty soil mix. Small, clustering species would be best. I recommend Mammillaria saboae (any variety) or smaller Rebutia/Sulcorebutia.
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Old 02-14-2013, 12:41 PM
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Default Re: Light for cacti/succulents

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I feel that, if designed properly, a desert cactus viv is totally doable. I would make some rocks with nice, gaping crevices filled with a very gritty soil mix. Small, clustering species would be best. I recommend Mammillaria saboae (any variety) or smaller Rebutia/Sulcorebutia.
Even with lizards, Jason? Is this to be a terrarium or vivarium?
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Old 02-14-2013, 02:41 PM
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Default Re: Light for cacti/succulents

I would listen to Jason OP. He is my plant guy =)
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Old 02-14-2013, 03:20 PM
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Default Re: Light for cacti/succulents

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Originally Posted by epiphytes etc. View Post
I feel that, if designed properly, a desert cactus viv is totally doable. I would make some rocks with nice, gaping crevices filled with a very gritty soil mix. Small, clustering species would be best. I recommend Mammillaria saboae (any variety) or smaller Rebutia/Sulcorebutia.
That's pretty much what I was thinking. M. saboe looks great, stunning flowers. The spines is a concern however as I might want to keep animals in the tank. I will have to give that some thought though, my first plan was to keep plants only but a Cerastes cerastes or Crotalus cerastes
would be pretty cool in there.
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Old 02-14-2013, 07:41 PM
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Default Re: Light for cacti/succulents

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That's pretty much what I was thinking. M. saboe looks great, stunning flowers. The spines is a concern however as I might want to keep animals in the tank. I will have to give that some thought though, my first plan was to keep plants only but a Cerastes cerastes or Crotalus cerastes
would be pretty cool in there.
Is this to be a vivarium or terrarium? Lizards or just plants?
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Old 02-14-2013, 08:04 PM
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Default Re: Light for cacti/succulents

I'm not totally sure about the definition, terrarium is just a more specific term for vivarium, right?
No lizards, but I will choose animal friendly plants as I might want to add a snake, (one of the two species mentioned in my previous post)I just have to figure out how I feel about feeding with mice
So it will be plants only to begin with, but I will design the tank with snakes in mind with basking spots and so on.
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Old 02-15-2013, 04:21 AM
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Default Re: Light for cacti/succulents

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I'm not totally sure about the definition, terrarium is just a more specific term for vivarium, right?
No lizards, but I will choose animal friendly plants as I might want to add a snake, (one of the two species mentioned in my previous post)I just have to figure out how I feel about feeding with mice
So it will be plants only to begin with, but I will design the tank with snakes in mind with basking spots and so on.
1) terrarium--plants; vivarium--animals

Strictly speaking, a spartan cage with a leopard gecko or corn snake is a vivarium. By convention, when we say vivarium, we mean "planted cage."

2) Jason, what is your opinion of spiny cacti with a sidewinder?
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