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53 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A little over a month ago I built my first vivarium, an 18x18x12 exo-terra. After doing more research and identifying some things that I didn't like about that first build, I'm now working on a 24x18x18 exo-terra. The viv will house 1-2 tincs (random question, can 2 males be housed together safely? I have no desire to breed them but would like more than 1...).

For reference, here is the first viv:

Planning phase:

Siliconing in the panels:

Everything installed (I didn't take detailed log photos the first time):

Apart from it being smaller than ideal, there are a few things that I'm changing with the new build:
  • substrate/drainage layer: I used a very thick layer of leca for drainage, with sphagnum moss for the substrate barrier and abg for substrate. For the new build, I'm still using leca but a thinner layer. I'm also using a regular fabric substrate barrier instead of a thick layer of sphagnum (although with how dry it is in Arizona, I may miss having that extra moisture built in...).
  • background: I used solid cork panels for the back and sides. I also gorilla-glued in some shale ledges into a corner. For the new build, I'm doing primarily cracked cork mosaic on the back, with a little bit of great stuff/silicone/peat-tree fern mix for where I'm adding driftwood ledges. I'm keeping the sides clear, except for where manzanita branches make contact. Reason being, the solid side panels greatly hampered my visibility into the tank, especially since I had an exo-terra hood for light which took up half of my top-down visibility.
  • lighting: instead of a hood with 2 13-watt LESs, I'm trying out a NICREW aquarium light. I saw it mentioned on another thread here and thought I'd give it a shot, since it's a) cheaper than a hood-light combo, and b) less bulky and therefore doesn't impede my view of the tank as much. It does seem to give off more heat, so I'll have to monitor the tank temp carefully.
  • Top: I used the screen lid with glass inserts on the first tank, but the screen definitely decreased visibility. This time I ordered the flat glass panel from Josh's Frogs, but it doesn't have an open strip for ventilation. There don't appear to be any local shops that will cut the panel for me (yay for living in the middle of nowhere), so I'm looking into ordering a custom-sized Plexiglas panel online instead. I'll then use insect netting to add a ventilatiin strip at the back (any recommendations on fiberglass vs. aluminum?)
  • plants: I like a lot of the plants that I picked the first time, but this time I tried to select plants that originate primarily in Central/South America. Won't really affect anything other than making me happy 馃し

Photos of the newly-started build to follow in subsequent posts.

53 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Planning phase:

I'm a little OCD, plus most of my background materials arrived before the tank, so I started out by planning how I wanted to lay out the background and where I wanted to place some of the other components. The original plan was to slope the ground from back to front, although I wound up doing something a little different.

The background layout. I used crumpled packing paper to simulate how I was going to have the bottom edge start sloping out. There's a small tunnel on the lower right, plus a mounted cork tube to hold a bromeliad. I didn't have the small driftwood pieces in yet (and I'd actually forgotten that I'd order some), so they weren't build intonthe original plan.


Some plans for the internal components. Since the original plan was to have a straight slope from back to front, I used a level surface for the plan. I also originally planned to have a partially buried tunnel up front and a small bromeliad in the center (the upright tube).

53 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Putting the background in. Man did that silicone stink...


Stuffing the cracks with forest moss.



53 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Adding substrate, interior components, and starting with plants. I decided to do two hills in the back corners instead of a straight slope, so I had to rearrange my original plan. I used tree fern panels to create terraces for the left-side hill, then filled them in with a mixture of crushed fern panels, moss, and ABG to make the hill.



I didn't buy enough ABG, so I was only able to put in some of the plants. The rest have been washed and are in pots with moss around their roots, just to see where I want to put them. I've got a couple cryptanthus, a couple bromeliads on the wall, rattlesnake calathea, anthurium superbum, peperomia obtusifolia, hemigrapahis, a couple different ferns, and some pilea depressa. I have a calathea roseopicta and a couple calliseas on the way as well; we'll see if/where they fit in.


I have a couple shorter manzanita branches and another driftwood chunk standing by, but not sure if or how I'll use them. Otherwise I'm pretty much finished once the remaining plants are all planted. I have isos and springtails waiting in their cultures to go in, and then this viv will sit growing in for a month or two.

53 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Made some additional tweaks - added a couple of partially-buried cork logs for more hiding spots (backs stuffed with moss so they're not too deep) and rearranged some plants. Microfauna are in to start growing their populations, and I've added some leaf litter.

I'm liking how it's turning out, but I have another Manzanita branch on the way to see how it'll look with some of the middle-front empty space filled in. We'll see.

I also have some conk shelves en route to add some ledges to the sides; again will have to see how it looks 馃

And finally a couple of small bromeliads arriving tomorrow (Neo Caviar and Dartanion) to add some more color - there are a couple good mounting spots on the Mopani wood that I have in there.

Cork tubes added

Plants rearranged, callisia and callanthea roseopicta added, leaf litter in

53 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
All right, I think I'm about done. The only thing left is swapping my monsoon solo with the mistking, and then it's ready.

Conk shelves added in:

Angled to see the right:

A closer look at the conk on the right. It's a unique one, was growing on a tree that fell so it's all twisted with multiple layers. I have a larger one stashed in my "future gigantic vivarium" hoard too.

Angled to see the left side:


And a top-down view:

Super Moderator
4,167 Posts
I like the shelves and branches! Good photos that show all the depth, too. :)

53 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I like the shelves and branches! Good photos that show all the depth, too. :)
Thanks! I read a lot of threads on here about trying to use the 'negative space' so the frogs would have more roaming ability, so I bought a lot of branches and shelves (way more than I needed) to try and play around with it. Hopefully the frogs enjoy it once they arrive lol.

(And now I have a bunch of extra supplies to convince me that I need a second, even bigger vivarium haha)

Dendrobates Leucomelas
161 Posts
This is a really nice viv. To me, all of the items seem to compliment one another quite well.
This is already a really impressive viv. I look forward to seeing your future photos.

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