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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone! I have just about finished my first vivarium (35*35*50cm) after a fair amount of redoing things to get them working properly, and my first frogs are currently growing back legs beside it. Might seem like a big jump, but I have had the idea of a huge (for me) vivarium brewing for years, and I'm thinking about designing and building it, maybe within a year or so.
I currently live in an apartments which I know I can't stay in and which is also on the 4th floor, so I have to design it with moving in mind. I'm in Denmark where standard door frames are 70-90cm, so I have decided on the measurements of 100-120 cm wide, 65-70 cm deep and 150-170 cm tall, all standing on wheels. The main feature of the vivarium will be a tree trunk in/around the corner with a Monstera deliciosa or similar climbing it, hopefully getting some big leaves eventually. Apart from that I want a forest floor with leaf litter, moss and no water feature apart from a false bottom, and a good amount of branches with bromeliads and other epiphytes on them.
In terms of tech I would have some bright LED lights over a screen top and some sort of mist king system which would be placed underneath the tank, raising it up to eye level. I was planning on some cooling fans blowing in and out of the screen top for ventilation and keeping the glass clear, but I'm unsure of the positioning.
Another feature I was thinking could be fun is trying to stick with species from approximately the same geographic location to make the whole enclosure a realistic mix. I'm looking for one Ranitomeya species, one larger dart frog and a bunch of orchids, bromeliads and other plants which could grow with the Monstera, so any suggestions are welcome!

These are currently my main concerns, and if anyone can help me with some or all of the points, I would be very happy:
  • How do I get a tree trunk? We don't have many tropical trees here in Denmark, and the only woods I think I could source locally are pine, beech and oak. I was actually hoping I could find a piece of cork bark and have a hollow "trunk", but I can't find pieces that large for sale. Currently I want to just find the most interesting looking trunk and hollow it out to have a maybe 5 cm shell rather than a massive log, just for weight.
  • How do I preserve the tree so it doesn't degrade too much in the hopefully very bioactive tank? Is some wood more degradable than others?
  • How concerned should I be about hitchhikers when pickinglogs and branches, for instance in a forest? Do I have to get everything oven dried to kill off everything, or is there a better way?
  • Does anyone have ideas for mounting branches to hang securely from the top of a glass tank without large beams blocking the light or similar?
  • How thick should the glass be for dimensions like this? I was considering maybe 6mm and a bit more for the bottom and back, is that enough?
  • I think I want to be able to open and access the vivarium from either side and leave the front completely clean without seams. What is a good mechanism for a glass door, which is also close to air- and fruit fly tight?
  • Can I keep the glass clear by having a few fans blowing down on the front panel?
  • How much light do you think I would need for something like this? I essentially want a small sun above it to get nice red bromeliads and enough light at the bottom, but I haven't played around with it just yet.

This is a bit crazy to attempt in a student flat, but I've never been very patient. If I can solve some of these issues and do an actual plan of the build, however, I will be able to better judge how feasible it is, both practically and financially. I will also have some more actual experience with keeping my first vivarium to discover more issues I hadn't thought of.
So... If you have any good ideas or potential solutions to my issues, please share them!

Cheers, Tobias
 

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Hey - I've done a build like this. It is so so important to think this one through. Also if it's a student flat / you are moving - make sure to have thought about who will take care of this when you're not there.

Generally having vivs when you know you will be moving / absent for long periods of time is not optimal / discouraged, but it is possible.

Also - how are you building this in a flat? Noise / tools / etc. I imagine will be a challenge? Is your landlord ok with pets?

Moving will be really critical (hope you have an elevator!) - and you will need to remove the animals / potentially "loose" pieces of wood before. As will weight. If you want darts, temperature / lighting will also be important.

Weight
  • Strongly recommend using a hollow cork cube (also provides extra space if you add little "floors" / ledges inside
    • Cork also lasts a while
    • The alternative will be very very heavy hardwood
  • Glass is heavy. Especially for the amounts you will need - and thickness to add structural integrity
    • I recommend you seriously consider acrylic. More expensive possibly, but does not break as easily as well (important when moving) and does not fog up nearly as much
    • I'm currently in the process of posting a build thread for my standard acrylic viv design that's evolved over several generations (New Build Thread - Custom Acrylic Viv)
      • Sliding doors are generally the most FF-proof (and there are some tricks to make this even more FF proof than commercially available vivs). You can pick and chose what sides you install them on
      • You want to cover everything with thin-mesh vents as well
      • However there are likely to be 1-2 escapees per day or so that always escape for whatever reason. Are you / your roommates / landlord are ok with that?
Lighting / heat will be important to consider. Strong lighting generates lots of heat - LED spotlights / panels will be key. You may also want to consider supplemental lighting. I have a thread / pics of my large viv (over 4 feet high) with this exact topic here: Supplemental lighting near bottom of 3' tall vivarium?

Air circulation - I recommend some large fans at the top / mid-level (PC fans)

Design - if you are building tall, think of who / what will use the extra negative space and what you will use to fill it. It may be easier to build two smaller vivs

Inhabitants - are you going to be ok putting one species / morph of dart in here? If you want more, might be better to build two smaller vivs. Ranitomeya may also get eaten by larger darts - e.g. terribs are known to occasionally attempt to eat geckos. Darts are also very territorial

Mounting - you can use steel cables to mount hanging branches. Or glue / screw them to the glass / other branches, respectively. Be careful that hanging branches don't hurt your animals if the viv moves.

Sanitation - bake everything in the oven. Or boil it before putting it in - except, well animals and plants. Plants you should also disinfect (NE Herp / this forum has a few good manuals on how to do that) - trick is H2O2 and diluted bleach, depending on how sensitive your plants are.
 

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E. Anthonyii Santa Isabels
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Another feature I was thinking could be fun is trying to stick with species from approximately the same geographic location to make the whole enclosure a realistic mix. I'm looking for one Ranitomeya species, one larger dart frog and a bunch of orchids, bromeliads and other plants which could grow with the Monstera, so any suggestions are welcome!


This is a bit crazy to attempt in a student flat, but I've never been very patient. If I can solve some of these issues and do an actual plan of the build, however, I will be able to better judge how feasible it is, both practically and financially. I will also have some more actual experience with keeping my first vivarium to discover more issues I hadn't thought of.
So... If you have any good ideas or potential solutions to my issues, please share them!

Cheers, Tobias
So, a few things to note, though these admonishments are perhaps not what you came here for...1) Monestera gets huge, which I understand is some of the idea behind creating a large viv, but they actually aren’t the best viv plants due to size. There are plenty of neat not dissimilar options that may be easier to manage. 2) Mixing species is not advised. If you want Ranis as well as a larger dart, you’re best planning for separate vivariums here. Those may also be easier to move? 3) I do have some concerns as to your housing instability, and I’m saying that as someone who has been a student for a long time (on my third graduate degree). I’m finally getting in the hobby because I’m in a housing situation that I expect to stay in 5+ years while working on my PhD, and I have contingency plans in mind for what to do when I graduate because I do know this is more than a five year commitment and I’m keeping my postgraduate options in mind. A major reason why I’m staying with smaller vivariums for now and not going all out on my dream frogs/designs is because I am a student still (costs aside, lol) and so I’m taking this as a time with my guaranteed but still limited 6 years of stable housing to practice and learn with a hardier species on a more manageable scale. That’s just my two cents on the issue. Not to totally discourage, but I’m finding that patience is best with these set ups and caring for these animals.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you, both of you have very good points.
Well first of all, let me touch on the whole housing thing... I can only live here while studying, that's why I know I have to move eventually. Might be in two years, might be in five, I don't know right now. But yes, I can have hobby animals here, and I'm fine with one or two flies escaping. I will be attempting to seal everything though, either with silicone or fine mesh.
In terms of noise and tools I'll be okay. My main hobby right now is luthiery, so I have a fair amount of tools handy as well as access to a workshopif needed.
I'm not actually saying that I will be building it right now or even in this flat. I'm definitely considering it, but I may also just make the design and put it on ice for a few years till I have a more stable place to make it. Maybe then I can go with the original idea of making it twice as wide, but I probably won't. The point is, I am currently dreaming, but there is no way I'm starting a project like this without making sure everything will work long term, both inside and outside the vivarium.

I definitely would prefer a hollow cork tube, but are they availble in these sizes? I need one basically 150 cm tall, and I was thinking maybe 40 cm in diameter, even if I'm chopping some of it off to fit the corner. I haven't found it myself. But there is absolutely no doubt that cork would be way better than hardwood, mostly for the weight difference.
I made my first vivarium of acrylic, and I honestly just don't like it as much as I like glass. I'll check your links though, maybe I'll change my mind. at least for weight it's attractive!

I have definitely thought of heat. It will be mostly LED, maybe with one or two accent T5 tubes, mounted on heatsinks with cooling fans in some box on top. This would also be where the vivarium fans would be located, some blowing down directly from the top, some blowing down tubes to lead the flow to the middle and lower sections. I would prefer not to have fans inside the vivarium if possible, since my current setup works like that and the humidity is killing whatever fan I put in there...

I see you both suggest two smaller vivariums instead of one big... Idk, that kills the idea for me, what I really want is this one big window. I will be utilizing the space, don't worry. I'm thinking mostly some wood pieces (or cork branches) suspended to fill the space, a stump on the bottom, something running diagonally... You know, I don't want to leave big areas of just air, that would be a shame. At the same time I want to leave some room for the Monstera to fill, since that would be climbable space for frogs as well.


Not sure I completely get your mounting idea, but I'll see if I can work it out. If nothing else, I can have a lot fixated in the background.
I currently boil or bake everything going in vivariums and auariums. My concern here was that my oven definitely won't fit the branches I want in this, so is there any way to do it out in the open? I suppose just pouring boiling water over things isn't very effective.

In terms of stocking, no I'm not set on the Monstera deliciosa. I would actually prefer something which is just a bit smaller, since I know that it can get huge. Is there a similar looking variety with leaves that only grow to maybe 30cm or so?
I'm also fine with just one species. I thought the ranitomeya would be primarily climbing and the larger ones would rather be on the ground, and that way they would be able to live together, but if you say they can't, I'll believe it. Now that I think bout it I've only seen larger species going together, never with Ranitomeyas. In that case I'm not sure what I prefer, probably some thumbnail. My four tads are variabilis, so I suppose just something else which would like being in a group
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
I've been thinking a bit, and I think a group of R. fantastica would be... well, fantastic. I'm thinking the nominant morph, am I correct that it is native to Peru, in the Amazon jungle?
I suppose this is not really a place you would find Monstera deliciosa though, do you know of a similar looking monstera? I'm probably trying to combine two things that would never meet, but maybe obliqua is an option then, even though I wish I couls have the leaf shape more like deliciosa
 

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I definitely would prefer a hollow cork tube, but are they availble in these sizes? I need one basically 150 cm tall, and I was thinking maybe 40 cm in diameter, even if I'm chopping some of it off to fit the corner. I haven't found it myself. But there is absolutely no doubt that cork would be way better than hardwood, mostly for the weight difference.
Yes - quite expensive however. You may be better-served combining 2-3 tubes to make your tree trunk (check out a few of the folks here that have made cork mosaics - similar concept). You could also make it with PVC tubes and cover with silicone / cork / substrate.


I made my first vivarium of acrylic, and I honestly just don't like it as much as I like glass. I'll check your links though, maybe I'll change my mind. at least for weight it's attractive!


the humidity is killing whatever fan I put in there...
Really? I've had fans in vivs for years and no issues (see my build thread for an example). How are you mounting it? Those fan ducts would look quite unsightly...


I see you both suggest two smaller vivariums instead of one big... Idk, that kills the idea for me, what I really want is this one big window. I will be utilizing the space, don't worry. I'm thinking mostly some wood pieces (or cork branches) suspended to fill the space, a stump on the bottom, something running diagonally... You know, I don't want to leave big areas of just air, that would be a shame.
Fair - did you see the pics of my larger build? I also threw in some orchids (large multifloral phaphs) that work quite nicely and have a similar sloping wood concept. Also added some ledges around halfway up. Supplemental lighting near bottom of 3' tall vivarium?


Not sure I completely get your mounting idea
Use stainless steel cables to connect wood (e.g. drill hole through that) to "hooks" built in at the top of the viv. You can also glue the wood in directly if you can get the mounts strong enough to survive hanging.

so is there any way to do it out in the open?
You could use a Sauna (with permission from the owners)? Or steam room. Or you could use a little steam tent. If that doesn't work, try soaking stuff in the bathtub and once fully soaked add a little bit of with H2O2 / some bleach. Especially if you add bleach it will be important to thoroughly rinse afterward.


I'm also fine with just one species. I thought the ranitomeya would be primarily climbing and the larger ones would rather be on the ground, and that way they would be able to live together, but if you say they can't, I'll believe it.
Yeah they do eat each other... and ranitomeya cannot stand their ground against a tinc or terrib (and these guys still like to climb)... A bunch of ranitomeya would be awesome - and with that size viv you can easily have a larger group.
 

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Don’t know if someone already mentioned this but something like This could work as a tree stump. It would be lightweight and you could do whatever you want (Shape, size), It looks a bit artificial from the start, but once there is some moss and vines growing up it, I think it looks nice. You wouldn’t have to worry about it breaking down, or having hitchhikers come into the viv.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
It might not be a bad idea to make a synthetic trunk and/or mosaic with smaller cork pieces. I really do need it to be very realistic though, but I could probably make it work. That way I could also get some nice roots. That being said though, I really think I would be more happy with a real tree from a local forest. Would be abig job to hollow it out, but I do have some experience with crazy woodworking ideas. I'm thinking something with big roots extending out across the floor you know, that could look amazing... But still, even hollow it would probably weigh like 10 kg.
And yeah, I've seen a few of your threads. I definitely think there are a few great ideas in there to read through wile designing :)

I put the fan in an empty space I have in the corner, sucking in from the top and blowing out at the bottom. The top is openboth to the optside air and the vivarium, so I can vary how much it sucks from each and control humidity that way if I want to. It works great, but the fans haven't been happy. I've bought one of better quality which I'm installing soo, hopefully that will last a lot longer. We'll see...

I get what you mean about hanging wood now. I don't know if I trust a glass panel to hold it, but maybe I can develop the idea a bit. Maybe I can have a central beam going across which holds a branch or something.
Bathtub and sauna idea might just be really good! As long as I don't bleach the wood, I could actually just go get some nice looking beech from a nearby forest. That would look great!

I should probably have a separate thread asking for livestock ideas, but do all Ranitomeyas live in approximately the same area? It seems to me whenever I look up the origin of one, it comes from the area around Peru, sometimes Panama. That does limit my chances of finding a Monstera combination significantly...
But I agree, a big group of Ranitomeya is the choice for this. Hopefully they would utilize the entire space and climb around, but I have yet to see the behaviour of adult frogs in person. Very much looking forward to my current tads leaving the water!
 

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You could say all Ranitomeya live in approximately the same parts of South America - but that's like saying someone living in Amsterdam if from the same area as someone from Paris. Both in the same "area" of Europe, but very different. Also not an excuse / reason to mix more than one morph. In nature sometimes something as simple as a canyon or a larger river can separate morphs / populations of darts that would / could otherwise intermix.

With plants you can deviate from their "natural" origin a bit, so I wouldn't rule out any Monsteras that would otherwise fit your tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
You could say all Ranitomeya live in approximately the same parts of South America - but that's like saying someone living in Amsterdam if from the same area as someone from Paris. Both in the same "area" of Europe, but very different. Also not an excuse / reason to mix more than one morph. In nature sometimes something as simple as a canyon or a larger river can separate morphs / populations of darts that would / could otherwise intermix.

With plants you can deviate from their "natural" origin a bit, so I wouldn't rule out any Monsteras that would otherwise fit your tank.
I don't think I was talking about mixing different species or morphs, at least I didn't mean to. I will only have one morph of Ranitomeya and nothing else in there.
I might be wrong, but it seems to me that M. adansonii can be found in the Amazon or at least around central America, so I bought one. I can let it grow out as much as possible until I need it one day and maybe save a bit of money that way. I'm slightly on the fence with the Monstera, since it doesn't actually seem to be found with the frogs, but at least for all other plants I would prefer to stick to one location. For instance I've seen M. dubia in the wild on locations with frogs, so I would love to get one of those.
I won't be as picky as only wanting plants from the area of the specific morph, but maybe I would stick to things found in Peru, for instance. I am yet to decide how open the shape should be, but that will of course determine which plants I can and should get.
 

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do all Ranitomeyas live in approximately the same area?
Oddly, there are better maps available for finer distinctions (like R. imitator morph variation), but here's one that might be helpful though the taxonomy is outdated so you'll have to translate it into current species:


On a little bit different note, this thread may be of some help to you:

 
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