Dendroboard banner
1 - 20 of 421 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
739 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everybody, I'm still pretty new to dendroboard. I don't keep DF's...yet :) ... but I am very much into all amphibians and reptiles, as well as plants and vivs.
I'm building a new 29 G paludarium for my japanese firebelly newt and I thought even though it's not a DF viv you might be interested. This thread will be very detailed, step by step as I go...hope it isn't too detailed and boring. My hope is it will keep the pressure on me so I don't slack off too much. ;) If you are interested, let's get started!

A few years ago a humongous tree fell on my parents house in a storm. My mom and I were about 15 feet away from where the tree came crashing through the roof and destroyed their kitchen among other things! They had a guy grind out the stump; there were some nice roots leftover so I grabbed them (this was years ago!) I stashed them in some bushes back then, planning to use them for a viv build, but never go to it.

Fast forward to a few days ago, I went over there and found the roots still where I left them. I was shocked that they were still in pretty good condition. A few pieces had termite damage and rot, so I discarded them, but the rest looked ok. I scraped the outer layer of "bark" from the roots and brushed them thorughly with a wire brush. Next I baked them in the oven at 250 degrees for an hour, then 275 for a half hour, then 300 for half hour. I raised the temp slowly so I could gauge the effects of the heat and make sure not to damage the wood. I think the process went well. Here are the roots after baking.



I am sure that this wood will rot at some point, but I'm not worried about it. It will give it more character and grow more moss! (I know I am probably crazy)

After scrounging up supplies and materials from years of aquariums and terrariums, as well as multiple trips to lowes and PetSmart, I have the intimidating heap of stuff shown below



I had a 29 G tank sitting empty at my parents house literally for YEARS. The tank was sitting by the door next to the kitchen and the top glass lid had accumulated a thin film of cooking oil from all the times I made fried food and it was splattering all over the place. Below is the cleaning process to restore the glass lid. I used a concoction of vinegar, fresh squeezed lemon, and a squirt of dawn dish soap. After a bit of scrubbing, you can see a comparison of one dirty and one clean.



The aquarium tank was cleaned the same way as the glass lid. Years ago I painted the outside of the sides and back with some kind of waterproof black paint. I think it was to reduce the sunlight from the window to inhibit extreme algae growth. Below you can see the cleaned tank and the disinfected roots.


I have a relatively clear plan in my mind of how I am going to structure the paludarium layout, but I still need to "brainstorm and experiment" as I go. This was the first time I started trying to fit the roots into the tank. Obviously the chunky piece is a bit too big to fit as you can see below. So I needed to do some trimming; I cut a few of the long bottom pieces that were sticking out in opposite directions, then I made some flat cuts to fit the root against the glass in the corner. I also had to remove quite a bit of the top to fit it vertically where I needed it to be.








Again, experimenting with placement options. I will probably break off some of the long lower root, as I don't like how it looks extending so far. I think I will seal the flat top of the chunk with some silicone to slow the rotting process.



Next step was to start planning the general location, size, and shape of the land areas. I put some painters plastic into the tank and sketched some rough shapes with a marker.


I also added some string across the front to visualize the water level



And then began a prototype out of cardboard, again for visualization. When I decide on a layout I will swap the cardboard out for plastic "egg crate" (white plastic with square grid from the lighting department at lowes)



Experimenting with a few other root pieces. Not sure on placement yet. When I am ready I will do a bit of silicone to attach the roots roughly and then foam up the back with GreatStuff and encase the top/back part of the roots chunks.



So that's where I'm at so far. I am super busy with life, but this is so fun I will try to fit in as much as I can during the weekdays if possible. If you actually read this far, congrats on toughing it out :D
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
739 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Ok all, I've got tons of new goodies to show you:

A brand new air conditioner. One cannot keep a firebelly newt in a room that is 85 degrees F


A mini-jet 404 pump. It's WAY smaller than I thought it would be, which is a good thing. It's the cutest thing ever! I love everything about it. The vertical orientation of the power cord and outlet is awesome.





GE SCS1200 black silicone...used by experts! (in the construction industry and the viv industry :D )



What's this you say? A box?



A box with a brand spankin' new light fixture setup in it!



Tubing to hook up to the 404 pump for some trickling waterfall action



Ok guys, I'm not gonna lie, I have been struggling with the layout of the paludarium and how I want to set it up in regard to the wet/dry. I finally opted for the partition method as you can see by the picture below of the plexiglass.



Instead of doing the typical straight across partition I think I'll make it sexier (and much, much harder to do ;) ) by creating bends in the plastic. I plan to use a torch to slowly heat the plastic and then carefully bend it over a pvc pipe or something. Then heat the next spot, bend it, and so on. There will only be a few bends. I believe it is a much better idea to have one solid piece for a divider than a bunch of small flat pieces siliconed together. Stronger, less chance of leaking, etc

Hopefully I'll have some more step by step pics up soon for you guys, where I am actually DOING something lol :D I'd really like to get this partition bending process underway tomorrow. I know once I get the partition shaped up and in, the rest is easy (right?)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
739 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Ok gang, things are on track. Let's get right into it:

There's been a slight change in layout and plans since the pictures in the first post of this thread. Today I "re-prototyped" the land area dividers. NOTE in the pictures below I used some cardboard that is slightly shorter than the plexiglass, to account for some length that will be lost when the plexi has curves in it. This is far from scientific, I pretty much just 'winged it' the whole way through :)







Safety first!!! (NOTE in the below pictures my brother is not wearing any protective gear whatsoever :eek: ) Also, the two different gloves make a nice fashion statement don't they? :p



Bending the plastic. Do only 1 bend at a time. Turn the torch on medium and hold 2" away from plastic. Sweep slowly side to side on the front and back until the plastic starts to bend. Then heat a little more, then SLOWLY and carefully bend it to the desired shape. It will be very floppy and extremely hot as well, so go about it gingerly. Bend it on a flat surface (that can handle the heat) so the edges remain perpendicular. Place board on top with weight until it cools solid again. Repeat proces. Heat and tweak as needed after all bends are made. This is my brother in all the pictures doing the handy work.











Note the black pen marks at the top and bottom edge. We found that this was a huge help in gauging where to heat and bend.



I found that the preexisting silicone along the aquarium bottom edge interfered with the partition sitting flat, so we did a bit of grinding to seat it over that.



Next I scuffed the surfaces that will be contacted with silicone to improve the grip. I used a very coarse sandpaper, and scratched the plastic gently with a coping saw blade. Below you'll see a side by side comparison of smooth edged vs scuffed.



Next I rinsed the pieces off with the hose and let them dry in the sun.



Here are the partitions, siliconed in. I used 3M 100% silicone Window and Door, clear. I made sure to select a silicone that did not advertise mold resistance ( I do NOT recommend GE type II or anything with "Microban" or other toxic chemicals.) I used the big tube with a caulking gun. It was super messy, sticky, and stinky. Wear eye protection, a mask to reduce fume inhalation, rubber gloves, and do this in a very ventilated area. I put a very thick bead of silicone all the way along the bottom and side edges of the partitions that I scuffed, then carefully seated them into the tank. Then I used my index finger to gently smear the expelled silicone into smooth seal on each side. I also added some extra silicone where my gut said to :D









When this cures I will do the dreaded leak test :eek: . If the water leaks into the dry side, I am pretty much screwed. Putting more silicone onto the cured stuff will not adhere properly, so that would not be a fix (if it leaks, which I'm hoping it does not of course!)
To be honest, if it leaks I will probably chalk it up as a huge fail and just use plants that are amphibious/marginal and like to be in a bog type habitat. I really would not want to try to fix the leaks (I say that now anyway)

The next step will be to coat the back and sides of the tank with silicone, with the roots in and secured with some tape or something. Then will be the "Great Stuff" foaming. Since I'm a noob I posted a thread for advice on GS foaming and got lots of great advice. I will be doing a test on some cardboard to gauge how the foam comes out and expands. Until next time!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
739 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Forgot to say some things about the partitions.

First of all, I used the beefy thick plexi, 1/4", as it barely flexes at all and there is more surface area for silicone contact as well. I would certainly never use the 1/8" flexible stuff. It's worth the extra money to get the beefcake one. :)

Next, after hearing all of the horror stories of partitions breaking loose or leaking, I was going to do small triangular plexiglass braces on both sides attached with silicone at the same time the partitions were seated. However, after thinking about it, I realized that my partitions are against the side and corners AND are a bit smaller than the water area (and will have less weight in them), which means that the pressure of the water against them will only strengthen the seal against the side of the tank (theoretically ;) )

I guess we'll see what happens!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,170 Posts
thats really cool and interesting.
if it leaks, you rip it out, scrape off the silicone and try again.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
446 Posts
Looking good! Cant wait to see more and to see if the leak test worked..
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
701 Posts
You could just use the glass as a barrier, and fill up the land area with hydroton or gravel (gravel might be a bad idea) so if it does leak, it's not an issue.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,076 Posts
hate to rain on your parade...but silicone will eventually fail...you can't silicone "plastic" to glass...they are incompatible...so having a sort of false bottom under the land mass will be an end run for the eventual deterioration...and you can suck the extra water out of the land portion by following previous posts on how to do that...the only way to really have a dedicated water portion is to just have a 100 % seperate "container" for all the water/pump, waterfall, etc. and have the water spray contained within that water area...I learned all the hard way... I have a 30G paladarium with frogs, and the water portion has Endlers Live Bearers...the "land" portion is just aquarium stones over bioballs, and plants that survive/thrive with their water roots...I do water changes--1/4--every week or so...mopani wood as the waterfall, 404 pump...but wish I had a better way to filter the crap before it sticks into those little slots. I had made a circular, plastic netting "tube" into which the pump is inserted..easy to access...will subscribe...have a blast
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
739 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
hate to rain on your parade...but silicone will eventually fail...you can't silicone "plastic" to glass...they are incompatible...so having a sort of false bottom under the land mass will be an end run for the eventual deterioration...and you can suck the extra water out of the land portion by following previous posts on how to do that...the only way to really have a dedicated water portion is to just have a 100 % seperate "container" for all the water/pump, waterfall, etc. and have the water spray contained within that water area...I learned all the hard way... I have a 30G paladarium with frogs, and the water portion has Endlers Live Bearers...the "land" portion is just aquarium stones over bioballs, and plants that survive/thrive with their water roots...I do water changes--1/4--every week or so...mopani wood as the waterfall, 404 pump...but wish I had a better way to filter the crap before it sticks into those little slots. I had made a circular, plastic netting "tube" into which the pump is inserted..easy to access...will subscribe...have a blast
Thanks for letting me know this info; I just looked it up to see what you were explaining and now I understand. Obviously (and unfortunately) I didn't research that topic enough. :eek: However I don't consider it rain on my parade, I consider it a great learning experience and now I will be able to warn other people about this when I am contributing on forums.

Additionally, from the beginning I had already planned on implementing a combination of the ideas that you and others have posted in this thread so far.

Regardless of whether the partition was going to leak or not, my plan has always been to:

Construct a false bottom inside the land area from plastic grid, elevated several inches on pvc. It will be covered with mesh or weed block fabric. Then a layer of gravel (which now I may plan on using clay balls, which I know nothing about). Then a custom substrate mix (which in light of the fact that the partition will eventually leak I must make the soil above the water line)
I am also going to have a vertical pipe that extends from the top of the land mass down through the substrate, through the false bottom, to just above the bottom of the tank glass. I can then lift off a rock or moss from the top of the tube to gain access so that I can remove stagnant water as needed.

So since I had planned this out all along, things are not looking too bad, even with the partition fail (or near future fail) :D

Keeping in mind the fact that I don't need a whole lot of hydroton, does anyone know if this is a good deal? Amazon.com: Hydroton Clay Aggregate Grow Media - 10 Liter Bag - HYD310: Patio, Lawn & Garden

Thanks again for everybody's advice and info. Please keep it coming! I must know everything :D
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
701 Posts
Thanks for letting me know this info; I just looked it up to see what you were explaining and now I understand. Obviously (and unfortunately) I didn't research that topic enough. :eek: However I don't consider it rain on my parade, I consider it a great learning experience and now I will be able to warn other people about this when I am contributing on forums.

Additionally, from the beginning I had already planned on implementing a combination of the ideas that you and others have posted in this thread so far.

Regardless of whether the partition was going to leak or not, my plan has always been to:

Construct a false bottom inside the land area from plastic grid, elevated several inches on pvc. It will be covered with mesh or weed block fabric. Then a layer of gravel (which now I may plan on using clay balls, which I know nothing about). Then a custom substrate mix (which in light of the fact that the partition will eventually leak I must make the soil above the water line)
I am also going to have a vertical pipe that extends from the top of the land mass down through the substrate, through the false bottom, to just above the bottom of the tank glass. I can then lift off a rock or moss from the top of the tube to gain access so that I can remove stagnant water as needed.

So since I had planned this out all along, things are not looking too bad, even with the partition fail (or near future fail) :D

Keeping in mind the fact that I don't need a whole lot of hydroton, does anyone know if this is a good deal? Amazon.com: Hydroton Clay Aggregate Grow Media - 10 Liter Bag - HYD310: Patio, Lawn & Garden

Thanks again for everybody's advice and info. Please keep it coming! I must know everything :D
That hydroton is a bit expensive. Check out Josh's Frogs - Largest online herps feeders and reptile supplies store they sell 10 litres of hydroton for 11$ and the ABG mix for 11$ (8 quarts). I made my own ABG, it made more than 20 quarts of substrate, but costed more. I bought 1-8 quart bag of Zoo med's forest floor, 1-80 cu. inches of spagnum, 10 quarts of tree fern fibre, already had a 4 cu ft bail of peat moss (No ferts), and finally I bought 11oz of cheapo aquarium charcoal. cost about 35$, but made a lot. More than enough for your tank, in fact, enough for a 40b or a 55g.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,076 Posts
Black Jungle sells a really nice product that is expanded glass, makes for a very, very lightweight substrate/drainage area. The first bags I got were sort of a pink color, but I just kept that in the middle and surrounded it with regular looking Hydro. It has a lot of surface area for the good bacteria to grow on..I've also used washed lava rock...but this stuff is better--and they are good vendors (oops....)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
58 Posts
Forgive my ignorance but Judy are you saying he should not have a designated area for just water and one for terretrial? It other words he should have a false bottom for the land part (with media under the eggcrate/substrate) and basically the whole bottom be water?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,076 Posts
sorry for any confusion...I'm suggesting that there will be seepage eventually from the water side into the land side because silicone does not form a "permanent" bond to glass...the plexi was what he intends to use as a separation...the force of the water/earth will keep each other from forcing into the other side,but the creep will come at the silicone holding the plexi in place.That's why even in our glass tanks that there can be a failure... My suggestion was that he use a substrate on the land side that could be siphoned off if the water creates a problem...maybe in a month, maybe a year...who knows. But having the substrate with the ability to withdraw the excess and also have a method built in to keep the "earth/land" portion from wicking excess water into the soil...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
739 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Ok support crew (hope you don't mind that reference, but you guys are great!), I've been thinking a lot about the partition fiasco. I've pondered it, mulled it over, slept on it (not literally), and a bunch of other things.

The conclusion I have come to is that the smart solution is to convert to a hybrid of the partition vs false bottom / water table approach. I have always planned to have a false bottom in the land section, and to drain stagnant water that accumulates beneath the substrate via a vertical pvc pipe. However I am thinking of a crazy and radical idea and I'd like your opinions. After all of the effort to seal off the partition and be fancy schmancy, I have decided I should actually drill holes in the partitions to purposely allow free flow of water throughout. Here's why:
- the partition will eventually leak anyway
- the water under the land area will become stagnant if sealed off
- if the waterfall leaks into the land area it will be bad news
- and other reasons

It makes tons of sense to drill several large holes in each partition. I will have a false bottom within the land area created with "egg crate" and LECA. I'll just make sure the holes have some mesh to exclude my newt from squeezing in and keeping things on their respective sides of the partition. This will allow free flow of water to keep things fresh and eliminate the need to suction out the partitioned land area. Drilling the holes doesn't mean the partition was a waste obviously because it will still keep the shape and general separation I need for the scaping of the paludarium.

Question 1. What do you guys think of the idea of drilling the partition?

Question 2. I am not sure of the order of things that are layered into the land area. Do I go false bottom plastic grid with mesh with nothing beneath it, then LECA, then mesh, then substrate? Or LECA then grid with mesh then substrate? Or multiple layers of LECA below and above? It seems a good idea to have false bottom with nothing under it, to allow maximum water flow. What do you guys recommend? Keep in mind this is a paludarium not a viv.

Question 3. I hear a lot about LECA floating and being a pain in the arse, do you think it will be an issue?

Another "issue" is now that I know the water will inevitably be in both sides of the partition at the same level, I am going to have to have the substrate more shallow and plants higher up than I had originally planned. This is a bummer in a paludarium because you already are limited on vertical space for planting. I'll have to use plants that are ok with wet feet which is not what I wanted, but that's the way the cookie crumbles I suppose. I'll still be able to do some "regular" plants up in the foam wall perhaps.

Anyway I hope you guys can offer some advice/suggestions/opinions on this, then I'll post another installment with another possible change in my setup that I have been thinking about. I'll save that for next time though.

Thanks a lot! And sorry there's no pics or exciting progress :(
 
1 - 20 of 421 Posts
Top