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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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Discussion Starter #22 (Edited)
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.
 

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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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Discussion Starter #24 (Edited)
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.
 

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Discussion Starter #25 (Edited)
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.
 

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Discussion Starter #26
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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Discussion Starter #27
The tank is cycled, I have 10 Blue Dream shrimp (but not a good enough camera to do them justice) and a large Ecuagenera order just came in yesterday:







 

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Discussion Starter #30
What I've learned about water features so far:

Water has a really powerful wicking property, so my "dry" section is quite wet - a little too wet - and the water level in the aquatic section goes down about 1/3"/day as water wicks over the barrier and drains. Despite this, everything but some fussier orchids are really happy in the terrestrial section and I don't have any leaks. For the Masdevallias that were too wet, I just put them in pots full of Hydroton, so we'll see how that goes. If I make another paludarium, I probably won't try to have a land section below the water level, but the effect is nice.

How do people have waterfalls? My waterfall was pretty but was causing everything around it to grow so much mold and algae that even water-loving orchids were suffering and a few died. The waterfall is out of commission right now, until I find time to install a separate pump for it so I can only run it a few hours a day.

I think my paludarium filter/pump is clogged or broken, but it seems to be unnecessary. I have found the right balance of light, plants, and aquatic animals, the initial algae bloom is over, and the water stays very clean on its own.
 

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Looking AWESOME. Cant' wait to see the updates....

I'm on my first build and have found the same thing with water features. You can't predict the water splash and flow thus everything is wet. I tried separating but in the end, I had to make everything a wet area which reduced the terrestrial area. If I had to do it again, I'd think more about a 'water feature'.... and I will do it again.
 

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Ah, time: The Revelator.

How do people have waterfalls?
Well, most people here - after time has done its thing - used to have waterfalls. They do not have waterfalls.

My waterfall was pretty but was causing everything around it to grow so much mold and algae that even water-loving orchids were suffering and a few died. The waterfall is out of commission right now, until I find time to install a separate pump for it so I can only run it a few hours a day.
I bring water into my tanks in several ways.
  • They all have mist heads.
  • Most of them have drip walls in back.
  • A couple still have operating water features - not ponds, but cascades with a bit of stream.
Each of these approaches has its own pump & schedule (timer). So all of my misters (there's a lot - not a hundred, but a lot) are run by 2 MK pumps, each serviced with its own timer and reservoir (with RO water). My drip walls all run off a set of pumps, timers, and reservoirs (just tap water). Finally, my cascades also feature their own reservoirs, pumps, and timers (about 50:50 tap / RO in the rez).

The cascades are on Sicce Syncra Silent pumps. These are adjustable. I set their discharge at a level that isn't "Splash Mountain". You can start on full blast, then dial it back until the glass isn't getting any new drops on it. Wipe the glass. Let it run and see if you need to turn it down a little more.

My drip wall water and my mist water drain into disposal jugs. My cascade water drains into sumps for filtration & recirc. I designed my drainage layers to segregate inputs into discrete drains. There's the waterfall + stream area, and the "everything else" area: two bulkheads for drainage.

You can see it's a complicated pain in my ass. And, I sunk a bit of money into it. And, it costs some time and attention (things just coast along, until they take a shit - for which, you never know when, but there's no if to it - it's when). Normal people mostly say "err, fuck that!". This is why newbs are always told "whoa Nellie, hang on a sec". Everybody thinks they love and want a water feature. Most learn they don't either. To keep them is to truly require loving and wanting them. Otherwise they are not worth the expense, the time, and the damned hassle. I love them, and want them, and sometimes I have a rough patch and need to make up with them. So far so good. Ha ha.
 

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Discussion Starter #33
The cascades are on Sicce Syncra Silent pumps. These are adjustable. I set their discharge at a level that isn't "Splash Mountain". You can start on full blast, then dial it back until the glass isn't getting any new drops on it. Wipe the glass. Let it run and see if you need to turn it down a little more.
Yes, I had adjusted my waterfall to the point where it wasn't splashing and was at the flow rate I wanted. It still caused everything in its vicinity to grow copious mold and algae, and this was with it running constantly for about 6 months. I had an algae bloom in the aquatic section which has settled down now, so maybe if I turned the waterfall back on the algae wouldn't be so bad, and maybe Bucephalandras would be happy that wet, but at first I wasn't even growing mosses or liverworts, because the algae took over everything. I see tanks on here with stream or waterfall features that are surrounded by beautiful bright green moss, and that is not what I was getting. My only solution at the moment is to try running it for only an hour at a time, a few times a day, and see if that level of moisture works.
 

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Discussion Starter #34
I reorganized a bit, the terrestrial area was becoming a dumping ground and was getting out of control.




 

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I love it. All of it. Seems like you're learning a lot and having tons of fun. What more could one reasonably hope for?

My worst algae issue EVER in a recirc system came with the brown stuff. I'm pretty sure it was because I had some puffed glass (Grow Stones) in the drainage layer, and/or built into the trickle. The brown algae wanted to smother everything that stayed moist. Serious hassle. I tore out all the Grow Stone, did complete water changes and wiped off all the accessible surfaces. So far so good. It hasn't come raging back (yet?). It's been quite a while now (couple years) so I think I'm in the clear...

For managing nutrients & keeping any would-be algae on a starvation diet, I like a lit sump with live hungry weeds. Water hyacinth or whatever. Also partial water changes. But with snakes, there's probably a lot more nitrogenous inputs than you get with tiny frogs, even if they eat way more often and you have several per tank. I'm down to my last 2 recirc systems right now. They're fun, and pretty, but probably not worth the hassle for almost anyone. A dripwall with disposed, not recirc'd water, is just SO MUCH EASIER. And liverworts are the best - ha ha. Love em.
 

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Discussion Starter #37 (Edited)
I love it. All of it. Seems like you're learning a lot and having tons of fun. What more could one reasonably hope for?

My worst algae issue EVER in a recirc system came with the brown stuff. I'm pretty sure it was because I had some puffed glass (Grow Stones) in the drainage layer, and/or built into the trickle. The brown algae wanted to smother everything that stayed moist. Serious hassle. I tore out all the Grow Stone, did complete water changes and wiped off all the accessible surfaces. So far so good. It hasn't come raging back (yet?). It's been quite a while now (couple years) so I think I'm in the clear...

For managing nutrients & keeping any would-be algae on a starvation diet, I like a lit sump with live hungry weeds. Water hyacinth or whatever. Also partial water changes. But with snakes, there's probably a lot more nitrogenous inputs than you get with tiny frogs, even if they eat way more often and you have several per tank. I'm down to my last 2 recirc systems right now. They're fun, and pretty, but probably not worth the hassle for almost anyone. A dripwall with disposed, not recirc'd water, is just SO MUCH EASIER. And liverworts are the best - ha ha. Love em.
Interesting, I have perlite as the drainage layer in my terrestrial area (it was what I had laying around and I didn't realize at the time that it wasn't ideal for drainage), and I just started recirculating aquatic overflow and terrestrial drainage into the waterfall, which is up and running again. I'm just running the waterfall 1/2 hr 4x/day, but I'll have to keep an eye on algae as well as TDS and plant health in general. I'm intending to flush the system occasionally by dumping the sump area that the waterfall pump pulls from and replacing with RO. I was losing a lot of RO water through wicking action every week so I wanted to reuse some of that water, but I can separate out the waterfall feed from the terrestrial and/or aquarium overflow easily if this doesn't go well. I can also replace the perlite with hydroton but it would be a pain to pull the plants out at this point, and everything is growing well.

I have an actual cycled aquarium in the bottom of the tank, about 10 gallons with plants, cherry shrimp that keep increasing in number, a snail...it doesn't really need a filtration system, but I have that running again too. I don't have frogs or anything in the terrestrial section, just plants. Everything is balanced for the moment and I have very little mold, fungus and algae, so maybe the algae bloom was just the usual one caused by a new aquarium. We'll see how it goes...

I have a bunch of cool different types of moss and liverworts, including a completely brown semi-aquatic moss covering the stones at the bottom of the waterfall, it's definitely not algae but not green at all. I'll see if I can get a good pic. So far I think I've avoided introducing java moss, which is great. Not sure where all these mosses are coming from, it seemed like some of them were spores left over on my cedar wood from the last orchidarium I had used it in...
 

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I have perlite as the drainage layer in my terrestrial area (it was what I had laying around and I didn't realize at the time that it wasn't ideal for drainage
Oh, no worries about your perlite, I was talking about a borosilicate glass product. "Glass" comes in various chemistries; borosilicate glass is characterized by the presence of boric oxides. Perlite has no boron. The brown "algae" problems are associated with the boron. It's not even an algae, it's just diatoms (which thrive on boron), but it's an ugly slimy hassle. In prepping a bunch of Grow Stones for viv use, I went to the trouble to get the pH down to neutral but I failed to consider the brown algae thing. It was a bit of a bummer.

On the other hand, I've never had any trouble from perlite, given some care in corralling it. As long as you can keep it from moving around, getting into your flowing water, into your animals' digestive tracts etc etc, perlite is a great viv material. I use it a lot in making up lightweight, good-draining substrates (I always cover it in a deep layer of leaf litter so have no ingestion concerns with my arboreal snakes). I've even pondered using it as a drip wall surface (pressed onto a layer of epoxy or maybe silicone), I think cryptogams would enjoy covering it.
 

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This is gorgeous! I'm so thrilled to see someone with a full-on paludarium and some higher-end aquatic plants. (Ranunculus inundatus I'm looking at you.)
I'm cycling my pal right now...starting to plan for plants!
 

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Discussion Starter #40
Thanks! My Ranunculus inundatus did well for a while but now it’s struggling. I don’t fertilize consistently so maybe that’s the issue. But there are a bunch of other aquatic plants that are doing pretty well - I’ll try to update pics soon.
 
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