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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
A New Way to Grow Terrarium Plants

I have been working on this plant culture concept for quite a while and I am finally ready to explain it. I am developing the idea as a product line that hobbyists can use as an apparently novel and new way to grow plants in their terrariums/vivariums.

Like some already popular vivarium planting methods this system involves a false bottom assembly, but in this case the plate comprising the false bottom is cut with numerous round holes. These holes receive the planters that in turn hold the terrarium plants.



The false bottom is suspended above the enclosure bottom with cylindrical spacers (lengths of plastic pipe) situated in each of the four corners. The view above shows it sitting on top of the stand used for the whole terrarium setup.

I am currently putting together one of these setups with a standard 30 Tall aquarium. I know that this kind of tank is less than ideal as a frog enclosure, but I want to situate it as a peninsula in our reading room and I think it will make a nice effect with open viewing on three sides.

Here is the enclosure with the false bottom assembly situated inside.



For use of this system it is critical that openings to the void beneath the false bottom be well-covered; if there are any gaps in the false bottom it will become a dangerous trap for the terrarium livestock. This cloth screen was cut to dimensions slightly larger than the false bottom plastic plate and with holes to match each of the planter holes. When placed inside it seals the between the glass and the false bottom outside edges all the way around.



I think that the most compelling aspect of this system is that it simplifies the terrarium culture of many kinds of terrestrial plants. I have been having a lot of fun researching aroids, palms and other diverse groups of plants and trying them out with this system. I've observed especially good results with various dwarf palms such as this Geonoma sp..



Since plant roots are contained with the planters, this system makes it easier to manage plants that can become too large or unruly within the terrarium environment. Plants can also be easily rearranged with the terrarium and the plastic assembly components can be reused many times.

The next picture shows the planting accessories with several plants in place and inside of the terrarium. The plants include two more dwarf palms along with a Schismatoglottis sp. aroid.



The several holes in the false bottom that do not hold plants will be covered with plastic mesh, then the whole false bottom will be covered with a layer of natural forest leaf litter to create a natural forest floor scene inside. I'll post more pictures as I finish building this display next week.

This picture shows a setup that I made for a Hyla versicolor gray tree frog. The native ferns that I planted grew surprisingly well.



I also used a finished plywood facade to cover up the void area below the false bottom.

While this system creates a very flat terrarium bottom surface, it is pretty easy to develop the vertical space by adding features such as (real or fabricated) tree stumps, woody vines or boulders. Of course the plants will also help to fill the enclosure as they grow up. By piling the leaf litter to slightly different depths you can also create a sense of gently rolling terrain.

This explains the general way that the planting system works. I am introducing the idea as the "forest floor terrarium", although I know that this term sounds rather awkward and I might change it. I do have a concept for a brand name and logo.



I am currently taking orders for custom kits that include the false bottom cut to match your enclosure dimensions, screen, vertical spacers, planters and potting media. I also have a number of nice plants around here including some already established in planters.

The forest floor terrarium system and concept is US Patent Pending.

I would be interested to hear any questions or observations that you might have.

Thanks for reading!
 

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I really like this concept, that you can remove the plants and rearrange them or replace them.
What I was wondering is, do you need a filtration under the false bottom?
 

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I don't see why one would need filtration. Really, the water underneath would be no different than any other false bottom.

EDIT: Great job on the versicolor tank.
 

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Devin

I was reading this post on my phone and didn't see who wrote it the first thing that came to mind when I saw the plants (Palms and Schismatoglottis) wow this guy thinks just like Devin. Ha ha I just opened it on my laptop and lo and behold it's your thread, neat new concept you have going here, for all those who don't know his plants and riparium supplies are great.

Len
 

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looks good! although what about establishing microfauna? would you just pile more substrate ontop [defeating the purpose of the holes]?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the feedback everybody!

very interesting technique! thanks for sharing.
Thank you for reading!

I really like this concept, that you can remove the plants and rearrange them or replace them.
What I was wondering is, do you need a filtration under the false bottom?
No I don't think that that area requires filtration, but it is important to make sure that the drainage water level does not reach up to the level of the planters. As the water accumulates there it is easy to just remove one of the plants, stick a water-filled hose down inside, and then siphon it out.

I don't see why one would need filtration. Really, the water underneath would be no different than any other false bottom.

EDIT: Great job on the versicolor tank.
Thanks! Those plants that I used were all native Wisconsin species and I think that they are now suffering from the lack of winter chill. I think I might stick some small houseplants in there if I can find some that more or less resemble native plants. However the native Carex sp. sedge that I used is still actively growing.

This is a great idea. Wood seem more useful for taller tanks though. This is great for people who don't want to do too much wrk, and it would seem that the plants will drain better. Would you recommend drilling a hole in the tank? I ask that because I don't see a hole to drain from the inside of the viv.
Yes I hope that this system can simplify design, setup and maintenance. Like I mentioned above it is easy to siphon extra water, although a drain could simplify that further.

Devin

I was reading this post on my phone and didn't see who wrote it the first thing that came to mind when I saw the plants (Palms and Schismatoglottis) wow this guy thinks just like Devin. Ha ha I just opened it on my laptop and lo and behold it's your thread, neat new concept you have going here, for all those who don't know his plants and riparium supplies are great.

Len
Thanks man. Another compelling thing about this system is that it can facilitate the culture of plants that haven't been used so much recently in terrariums, which have tended to emphasize epiphytes. Here are some of the cool terrestrial groups that one could try...

  • palms
  • Marantaceae
  • Alocasia and other elephant ear aroids
  • tuberous aroids, such as the smallest Amorphophallus spp.
  • other lesser-known small terrestrial aroids, such as Homolomena, Schismatoglottis, etc.
  • terrestrial orchids
  • cyclanths

looks good! although what about establishing microfauna? would you just pile more substrate ontop [defeating the purpose of the holes]?
That is one potential drawback. However, you do have to use quite a bit of litter so it will be a good amount of habitat for them. Microfauna might also use the natural composted media in the planters. The gray tree frog pays them no mind but that display has quite a lot of springtails inside. I think that they rode in on the large stump that I used in there.
 

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it's nice but you need to allow for the leaf litter or whatever you put in there to drain as well.
so what really could be done is to just use egg crate and make holes for the pots and it will still drain.
with what your using there isn't any drainage except for the pots.
you could drill tons of holes in that material but it will be time consuming.
egg crate is a lot better to use with this...
 

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it's nice but you need to allow for the leaf litter or whatever you put in there to drain as well.
so what really could be done is to just use egg crate and make holes for the pots and it will still drain.
with what your using there isn't any drainage except for the pots.
you could drill tons of holes in that material but it will be time consuming.
egg crate is a lot better to use with this...
Remember, there are holes where he didn't use plants and covered them with mesh.
 

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Remember, there are holes where he didn't use plants and covered them with mesh.
yeah but you still want for it to all to freely drain...is that not why we use egg crate and LECA? so it drains at every point...
with euro vivs the bottom is slanted so it will run off. this doesn't even slant.
I see drainage issues with this design.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
I think that egg crate would be pretty awkward. That 1/4" sheet that I use is much more durable than egg crate. I can't even imagine trying to cut neat round holes in egg crate.

Another function of the mesh cloth that covers the false bottom is to create a bit of an air pocket between the false bottom and the leaf litter. I can imagine that leaf litter right on top of the plastic sheet could become very slimy and sour, but as it is with the mesh it dries out well enough so long as there is air circulation in the enclosure. There are lots of points for water to drain on that false bottom sheet. I put as many holes in the sheet as possible to leave plenty of plant positioning options.
 

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I have a question. Would this also be a good option for getting marginal plants to grow right in the middle of otherwise well drained substrate, where you just raise up the water level?

Also, would these conceivably (I know it's probably more of a pain) be available set at an angle?
 

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Everybody knows that Brandon and I get along like oil and water, so this is a first, but I'm going to have to agree that he raises a valid point. If it were put on a slight slope by making the front posts 1/2" shorter than the back posts, like Winstonamc is suggesting, that would alleviate any drainage concerns.
 

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A lot of the plants he is growing actually grow in what is considered an everwet rainforest environment where the soil doesn't drain too well, they are almost bog plants but not quite (a lot of rainforest floor plants in Asia are like this), so humidity would have a big part in that in keeping the soil moist, but aside from that the pots being used are net pots with hydroton and soil in them so drainage won't be a concern unless you use a mix that retains moisture which means it really doesn't matter if it's sloped anyways. A lot depends on the type of plants you want to grow I see a lot of people growing epiphytes on the ground which changes the goals for the soil and moisture retention of the enclosure, I've rambled enough but soil composition is going to have way more impact on drainage than holes in the tray will..
 

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I'm not really seeing the issue with drainage here, especially being that you're "substrate", in the traditional sense, is simply being used to hide the plastic board from observation. Even if you were building an entire medium layer over the divider (a layer thick enough to actually plant in, as opposed one fulfilling a purely ascetic role), I can't see it being much an issue unless it was significantly bowed. In fact, this should help deal with most medium issues, being that you can specifically tailor the medium for each individual plant
 

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Well, I'm telling you that I have not observed drainage problems. How would you know if you haven't even seen it yet and how would these drainage problems even manifest? The leaf litter in that Hyla display, the setup that I have had going the longest, dries to moist, but does not stay wet all the time. You can come over here and look if you don't believe me.

An additional feature that I haven't described yet are the airlines that run to the void beneath the false bottom. These create some airflow through the leaf litter which probably dries it some, but their main function is to prevent that void area from becoming stagnant and to keep air moving around the plant roots.
mmmmmm. hydro. like a little DWC under the substrate :D killer.

i like it and i think its a kick ass idea. sort of reminds me of a hydro cloning tray.

to those questioning it... what gives? im sure its fine, if your substrate is remaining moist, then you have a poorly designed substrate. its like a potted plant, where the pot may only have a few small holes for water to escape from. if the soil stays too wet its not because the small holes are restrictive, its because the soil your using doesnt allow for proper drainage.

james
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Hey everybody thanks again for the interest. I just want to reiterate that this concept really is very simple. If people want to try it out I'm sure they will have a range of observations on their experiences but in general it is all pretty easy to manage.

Like I mentioned before it is important to mist/irrigate so that the media in the pots does not stay too wet. It is organic media and if it gets too wet then it will create anoxic conditions for the plant roots. If there is so much water that the leaf litter is sopping wet then the pots will also be too wet. With the right kind of equipment + enclosure setup it should be possible to maintain humidity inside without drenching the plants and the leaf litter.

One area that will require more discussion will be the visual design. These setups are oriented more in the horizontal plane, but most frog hobbyists have more experience with vertical 3D backgrounds. Plant selection is also important and will be relevant to the visual design.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks again for the interest everybody.

I would like to request that we refrain from discussing these hypothetical conditions for right now and that the discussion return to the introduction of the general concept.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks I do appreciate the feedback. I just wanted to avoid some of the back-and-forth that was starting to sound like bickering.

I have pondered a plate made with a more porous material, but it would need to be a plastic material more sturdy and easier to work than egg crate. For now I intend to use the solid plastic plate because I know that it works well in the situations where I have used it. If later on I hear that people might prefer materials that drain faster for other situations then I will research that and try to develop something.

I am aware that this kind of setup might be less favorable for microfauna populations than the popular combination of ABG or similar mix with leaf litter. It will be a smaller area and might not grow as many of them but springtails and isopods will find more favorable conditions where the leaf litter covers the tops of the media in the planter pots. The frog doesn't eat them but them but that Hyla setup has lots of springtails inside.
 
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