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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, I am new to the world of all you dart frog hobbyists here, so I figured that I would start out by introducing myself. My name's Will, and I'm from the Atlanta area. I've always loved animals and their enclosures, and ever since I was little, there have been aquariums in our house. As soon as I was old enough to catch the toads and green anoles outside of my grandparents' house, at least one of those aquariums has been used to house some sort of herp in my bedroom.

Several months ago, my LFS had some dart frogs for sale, and I was instantly bitten by the bug! They were incredible little marvels of God's creation, and I got really excited about having one. I instantly felt pity for them - all the different types crammed in a tiny little cage without a single hiding spot. It was pitiful, and I would've bought one then to rescue it, except I knew that making a hasty decision without anywhere to put the creature or knowledge of how to keep it would be even more detrimental to its health. So I resolved to do a lot of research and figure out how to raise dart frogs and what the hobby was all about.

And that brings us here. In my research, I had come across dendroboard through some builds that I found through Google searches of all sorts of things, but I didn't join till I actually stumbled across a user who lots of you are probably familiar with - GRIMM - by way of YouTube. I was goofing off, watching Vsauce, where it just so happened that a video of his Peninsula build was featured, which led me to his YouTube, which had links to some threads of his here. I don't like creating accounts for lots of things if I don't have to, usually, but I got tired of googling pages on dendroboard, so I joined, and I have been very happy that I did.

And so, I have now begun construction of my first vivarium. It's a 37 gal (30-1/4"L x 12-1/2"W x 22-3/4"H) aquarium that I had gotten for Christmas, which was initially going to be for some native tree frogs. Now that I know I want darts, though, I'm thinking leucomelas, since I've heard they're good beginner frogs and will do some climbing, but will also enjoy some floor space.

Construction is going to slow down a LOT as soon as school starts back for me, so I've tried to hit the ground running. I'm just hoping it doesn't backfire on me. :p I've already made a few mistakes, but that's what your first viv generally is (and most every one after that, in some respects) - a learning experience.

I decided to do a clay background using the kitty litter method, which I am now somewhat regretting. I chose it mostly because it was cheap, considering I only have a summer job. I also didn't really like the idea of GS, but now I'm thinking I probably should've gone with redart. It's just that kitty litter was so much more convenient... :p Anyway, I had done enough research to know the proper ratio of organics to inorganics was somewhere around 75% to 25%, yet for some reason, I ignored that, because I couldn't stand the color and consistency that gave me. First mistake.

It's not horrible, but it's cracking already a little bit, and I have a feeling the broms that I've mounted aren't really going to be able to hold their own weight up in it. I think that's probably due to me putting it on a bit too thin in some places, especially in the places over my driftwood that I had already collected (and have since dried and now baked, though I know the baking was probably just to make me feel better).

Anyway, I did that, and have dipped my plants in a 10% bleach and mounted them. I got them from Tropiflora, because we were passing by Sarasota on the way home from vacation a week and a half ago, and I couldn't resist picking up some neos while we were so close. I walked in there not really prepared for the sheer area that was covered by bromeliads. It was awesome, but we got there an hour before closing, so I was really rushed, and made some hastier decisions than I should have. I had planned for a more natural look with only a max of three types of broms with some duplicates of each, but instead I got caught up and walked out with six...

My two favorites:
Neo. punctatissima rubra x ('Hannibal Lector' x tigrina) CS
Neo. 'Ritzy Red', a cross of (punctatissima x Fireball)

Both were large offsets (for the type) that already had pups themselves. :D

The rest were:
3 Neo. 'Chiquita Linda'
Neo. 'Royal Burgundy' x Fireball
Neo. ampullacea

and a Neo. 'Mosquito' that I haven't planted yet. It was the only one that was already potted, and I haven't decided if I want to try to mount it, plant it, or keep it for something else...

I am kinda upset with myself also for waiting so long to get the plants mounted after I bought them. I only finished the background as soon as I could get my mom to drive me to Pike to pick up some peat moss that didn't have MiracleGro crap in it, which was two days ago; I've had the plants for over a week. :p I'm hoping they'll pull through, though. Right now, the only thing that looks like it may not make it is one of my 'Chiquita Linda's, which may be due to it being mounted lower than the others and receiving less light.

Also, as of right now, I have a mini cattleya orchid, a hybrid cross of Lc. 'Fire Dance' x 'Trick or Treat' that I picked up from Lowe's, and am trying to mount. We'll see how it does.

The light I'm using is from Home Depot, a 24" T5 "grow light" made by Lithonia Lighting... I like the look (except for it being white), but I'm not sure if I'm keeping it. The bulbs are only 6500K, and I've heard that optimally you want 6700K... Dunno if I can find 14 watt bulbs that will fit it. I think they're 22" bulbs, if I remember correctly, though I'm not sure where I remember that number from.

Anyway, I'm hoping everything'll hold up for me okay for at least a year. I'm pretty much broke at this point, so it may be a while before I can get frogs. I was thinking of asking for some for Christmas, though I'm not sure what getting frogs around that time is gonna be like. Anyway, right now I'm trying to focus on plants and not letting my background collapse... We'll see.

First attached pic is pre-plants and gravel to disguise false bottom.

Second is after initial planting. Still need to order ABG mix, though, and springtails. I already have magnolia leaves waiting in the wings!

(Sorry for the terrible quality of photos and me rambling, hahaha)
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
These are my plants, in the order of the pictures.

Broms:
Neo. ampullacea
Neo. 'Royal Burgundy' x Fireball
Neo. punctatissima rubra x ('Hannibal Lector' x tigrina) CS
Neo. 'Ritzy Red', a cross of (punctatissima x Fireball)
Neo. 'Chiquita Linda'

Orchids:
Cattleya Lc. 'Fire Dance' x 'Trick or Treat'

I have a Anubias nana that I'm going to add to the water section, and I'm thinking about adding some philodendron cordatum that I have in another terrarium, and some resurrection fern if I can get some while I'm in south Georgia for a family reunion. Initially, I was thinking Ficus pumila, too, but I've heard so many users complain about it on here, so I think I'm gonna steer clear. Any better suggestions for a vine for me, or any terrestrials that won't grow too high? Thanks!

Oh, and I'm now realizing that in these pics, there are droplets of water from a hand misting I did earlier today. They've been on there for over an hour now, so does that mean I need to mist less directly on the broms? The lid is mostly glass with about 3/4" of screen along the front... Is that gonna work for me if I cut down a bit on the amount of misting?
 

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Brom,

For your very first vivarium attempt you have done a fantastic job! It's OK to go slow on your build as it will minimize doing a sloppy job to just get the frogs into the tank. I would recommend getting the substrate installed as soon as possible because this will allow you to establish your micro fauna and help hold more humidity in the tank which will help with keeping the clay from drying out. Your going to need to mist the clay every day. I might even put some water in the bottom of the tank to let the evaporation help with the humidity until you get the substrate going.

I have used several methods for backgrounds in my vivariums. My favorite method is the clay background and I did mine just like yours using kitty litter. I mixed in peat, sphagnum moss and coco fiber into the clay. I also sprinkled a moss milkshake on the clay and push that into the clay. With good light and moisture my backgrounds on my last two tanks just exploded with moss. Using Great Stuff Foam I have covered it with both silicone and peat/coco fiber, Guerrilla Glue and peat/coco fiber and now in my last build I have tried Tide Bond III and peat/coco fiber.

Your water feature are you going to have some sort of filtration or water movement. If not I think you will find that the water will stagnate unless you plan on changing it frequently. (Learned that one the hard way)

You were lucky to have had the opportunity to stop at Tropiflora. I have ordered several times from them and was always happy with their plants.

I have also used both kitty litter and Great Stuff in the same builds. Higher tanks I use the Great Stuff to provide some support to the clay and mounting points for potted plants.

All the clay builds I have done have cracked. I think its due to the clay drying a bit and shrinking. I just need to go back over those spots with some fresh clay and fill them in.

As for a good beginner dart the D. leucomelas is a excellent choice. Mine are very bold and out all the time!

Good Luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the quick reply. :)

Your water feature are you going to have some sort of filtration or water movement. If not I think you will find that the water will stagnate unless you plan on changing it frequently. (Learned that one the hard way)
Umm, at this point, the "water feature" is mostly just supposed to be a pool in the corner that lets me access the water that accumulates in the bottom of the viv beneath the substrate. That way, I have an access for siphoning out excess water when it starts to reach the substrate. I modeled it after GRIMM's design for his Twin Build. I had never really planned on adding filtration of any sort, so I guess I'll just be siphoning more often than planned. :p Oh well! I definitely want to get the ABG mix in soon, I can tell you that, but I will go ahead and start off with some water in the bottom of the tank. I was actually planning on doing that anyway, but I got sidetracked last night looking for a remote to the TV. Hahahaha

It's OK to go slow on your build as it will minimize doing a sloppy job to just get the frogs into the tank
Just wanted to clarify, though, that my main reason for "rushing" isn't to get frogs in. I'm actually planning on letting the viv established for several months before I get any. I'm more so rushing because school starts in a week, and life is about to get very busy when it does.

You were lucky to have had the opportunity to stop at Tropiflora. I have ordered several times from them and was always happy with their plants.
I know, that was an amazing experience, and I'm already looking forward to stopping there next year on our way home from the beach! There's a lot of stuff they have in stock at the nursery that they don't necessarily list online, and as a "VIPP" I got a 10% walk-in discount. I am very pleased with the plants, just not my experience level with them, yet. Hahaha

I did mine just like yours using kitty litter. I mixed in peat, sphagnum moss and coco fiber into the clay. I also sprinkled a moss milkshake on the clay and push that into the clay. With good light and moisture my backgrounds on my last two tanks just exploded with moss.
That's how I did my background. What did you make your "moss milkshake" out of? I've heard of people doing that, and I always love the results, but where did you get your moss from, and was there a specific type that worked for you, or just a general hodgepodge?
 

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Thanks for the quick reply. :)


Umm, at this point, the "water feature" is mostly just supposed to be a pool in the corner that lets me access the water that accumulates in the bottom of the viv beneath the substrate. That way, I have an access for siphoning out excess water when it starts to reach the substrate. I modeled it after GRIMM's design for his Twin Build. I had never really planned on adding filtration of any sort, so I guess I'll just be siphoning more often than planned. :p Oh well! I definitely want to get the ABG mix in soon, I can tell you that, but I will go ahead and start off with some water in the bottom of the tank. I was actually planning on doing that anyway, but I got sidetracked last night looking for a remote to the TV. Hahahaha


Just wanted to clarify, though, that my main reason for "rushing" isn't to get frogs in. I'm actually planning on letting the viv established for several months before I get any. I'm more so rushing because school starts in a week, and life is about to get very busy when it does.


I know, that was an amazing experience, and I'm already looking forward to stopping there next year on our way home from the beach! There's a lot of stuff they have in stock at the nursery that they don't necessarily list online, and as a "VIPP" I got a 10% walk-in discount. I am very pleased with the plants, just not my experience level with them, yet. Hahaha


That's how I did my background. What did you make your "moss milkshake" out of? I've heard of people doing that, and I always love the results, but where did you get your moss from, and was there a specific type that worked for you, or just a general hodgepodge?
Sounds like you have the water feature worked out then! I didn't think you were rushing to put frogs in. It was just a blanket statement on not preparing your vivarium properly and having to redo parts to correct common mistakes.

I purchased a product called Moss Milkshake from this online website.

http://www.mossacres.com/default.asp

If you google moss milkshake there are many recipe's available to use.

Sorry for the short replies but I'm heading off to work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I was out of town for the weekend and have returned to find a few more cracks that had to be smoothed out, but also some exciting new developments! I've discovered my first brom root (from one of my Chiquita Lindas)! And the tiniest little patch of green moss from the background. I'm planning on doing the "moss milkshake" thing at some point, but it's nice to have some volunteers, too! The volunteers I'm not excited about, though, are the molds that I'm seeing on the driftwood and skewers that are holding my broms up. :p It's not especially worrying, just doesn't look wonderful, hahaha. Oh well, hoping that with age, that'll clear up...

While I was in south Georgia, I took a slab of pecan tree bark with some resurrection fern on it. I know people have mixed success rates with this fern, but I just love the size of it and the fact that it is epiphytic. Wasn't sure how I should go about sterilizing it, though... There's enough bark that I'd be afraid of bleaching it too much, because I'm guessing it's gonna absorb it and then it'll leach out over time and contaminate my viv. :p If it's not going to work out, then I guess I'll leave it out of the viv, but I just loved it too much to leave it behind, hahaha!
 

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Welcome Will,
The viv is looking great for a first attempt! I'll second the suggestion of getting substrate in there to help keep humidity up. Those lights are fine (most everyone I know uses 6500K, no need to go out of your way for 6700K which would be a barely discernible difference anyway). I loved the look of my kitty litter bg, but in the end had to tear it down because it kept slipping down...some people have good luck with the technique though. If you need help finding frogs let me know, I have a few friends that are breeding leucs.
-Field
 

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Welcome! We love people who do research! :D

In the viv, I think the biggest problem most broms face is not enough air around the base of the brom. I couldn't see exacty how your's were mounted, but, try to give them air down there. I'll stick the stolen of a brom into the clay but not the base of the brom.

Btw, I love my kitty litter backgrounds. I have a few that have been up and running for over a couple years now. They need time to settle in. The roots of the plants will grow into it and help it stablize. Springs love it (snack time for the frogs!). It helps keep things humid.

I have a pond in my tanks like yours. No problem with water condition. The plant roots grow through the substrate into it and the substrate also filters it. Additionally, you could add some water loving plants right into the pond. I recently drained my Leuc tank, which has a large pond that hadn't been drained in about a year. The water was very nearly clear. Just keep an eye on if and if it starts smelling bad, look for the source clean it up. I did, at one point, have a bad smell in the leuc tank and found an area in the pond that had a build up of leaves and clay. Removed that and it went back to a healthy wet-forest smell.

Oh great! Now you have me rambling :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
If you need help finding frogs let me know, I have a few friends that are breeding leucs.
Thanks, I probably won't be getting frogs too soon here, but when I reach that point, if I'm having trouble finding some, you'll be hearing from me!

In the viv, I think the biggest problem most broms face is not enough air around the base of the brom. I couldn't see exacty how your's were mounted, but, try to give them air down there. I'll stick the stolen of a brom into the clay but not the base of the brom.
The stolons are all that's stuck into the BG. I stopped pushing once I reached the part where the roots had been growing from before I cut them off, so I figured they were fine. The only exception to that is one of mine whose stolon is resting in a crevice on a piece of driftwood, and I stuffed in some sphagnum to keep it from falling over. Still, there is stolon showing above the sphagnum, and it's actually doing the best of all my broms, besides greening up a bit. But greening is better than yellowing and drying up! Haha

I have a pond in my tanks like yours. No problem with water condition. The plant roots grow through the substrate into it and the substrate also filters it. Additionally, you could add some water loving plants right into the pond.
Good to know this has worked out for others. I started to second guess myself, there for a moment, haha. I actually already added an Anubias nana to the water section that I picked up at Petsmart, and it seems to be doing fine with its roots submerged, but foliage out of the water. :) Hoping it will continue to grow, though I've heard they're slow growers.

Oh great! Now you have me rambling
Hahaha, that's generally the way it works! :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Any thoughts on the resurrection fern? I may just try to rehydrate it and then see what I can separate from the bark and only use those portions of the plant in the tank (after a bleach dip, of course). I'm just wondering how well it will transfer mounting surfaces and whether or not it will grow on my background... I may have to get some small cork pieces and try to incorporate them into my background and mount the fern on there. Think that'll be my best bet? I'm guessing that incorporating the pecan bark directly is just too risky because there's no good way to sanitize it, but I'd be happy to hear that I'm wrong... Hahaha
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Well it's been a few months here, and life has been really crazy lately with school, so my viv (in progress, I should say) has been taking an undeserved backseat for a while. But thankfully it's Christmas break, so I had time yesterday to do some much needed maintenance. I had to go back in and patch up the background where it was cracking pretty badly through to the glass. I don't think in the future I'll use kitty litter (especially not of different thicknesses), but I want to make this one last as long as I can. Here's what it looks like after a good hose-down and some fixes:



I also had to go in and try to spot-treat what I think was (probably still is) a small scale problem on a couple of my broms. I know most people just chuck "scaled" broms, but I've fallen in love with mine, and they're pupping (and I'm both poor and cheap, hahaha). So since I have no other place to grow them, I'm just dealing with the infestation as needed in my viv. It's not terrible – I've just gone in with a few damp q-tips and rubbed the bugs off of the leaves. It at least seems to be working.

I've managed not to kill any of the broms I got from Tropiflora yet, in spite of the minor scale infestation. (I take that back, actually, there's one that didn't end up in my viv that I set in my green anole tank temporarily that accidentally got overwatered... :mad:) One of my chiquita lindas is on its way out, though... Not sure why. I had to move it early on because it wasn't getting enough light. It since had been putting out roots up until recently but is now dropping leaves and turning red (the color of brom death). My other chiquita lindas are doing well though, and are both pupping (they are the ones that have the scale though, go figure... NOT the dying one). While fixing the background, I also noticed a pup on my royal burgundy x fireball. Liking that one more and more! My ritzy red pup is growing, too! I hadn't noticed, but I took a picture today, and compared it, and it's noticeably fuller (even though the momma plant has dropped a couple leaves)! :D The hannibal lector hybrid isn't doing so hot, but it's FINALLY putting out some roots. I'm doubting it'll ever be able to support itself though, at this point.





Only a teensy tiny sprig of the resurrection fern I put in has survived at the veeeeery top of the viv. I have little hopes for it spreading anymore, though. My anubias has also sprouted a new leaflet and is preparing to bloom, too. Go figure, for a while there I thought it was going to die.

Some cockroach babies have also hatched and are currently the only inhabitants in the viv (besides the odd isopod or springtail that I catch a glimpse of... they're probably not happy that I took away their homes in the crevices of my background... I STILL don't have substrate in. I ran out of money and time pretty much with the start of the semester.) Anyone know what to do to get these unwanted tenants out?! I hate roaches, so I've just avoided them thus far. Thankfully they're small still. BLEH.

I'm thinking at this point Epipedobates anthonyi 'Santa Isabel,' somewhere down the line (apparently VERY at the rate I'm going). But I'm worried they might be too loud for my bedroom (which is unfortunately below my parents). I really have fallen in love with the genus, as well as Ameerega. There's just something about those frogs!! I still like the leucs, but I'm less tempted by them at the moment. And they're loud as well, I've heard. Anyone have experience with them in this setting?

Sorry, I seem to be long-winded (or whatever the equivalent is for a typist... :p) Thanks for bearing with me... not that anyone really cares about a non-update update like this. Hahaha Also, just FYI, I am hoping to order some ABG mix from neherp this week, Maybe I'll finally be able to at least plant some more things and not have to stare at ugly gravel anymore in the mornings. :rolleyes:
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Well, it's been a while here, and I've still yet to put substrate in, and I'm beginning to think it's too late to really do it now. I finally killed the roaches that were living in the viv and eating the new growth on my ferns, the background is now almost covered in green moss, and all but one of my broms is pupping (and for some this is their second time). I am finally really enjoying the background, so of course NOW it's starting to separate from the glass. I had a pretty massive cave-in a while ago, but it was on the side where it didn't take out any of my plants, so I fixed it rather easily and just removed the precariously-placed piece of driftwood jutting out. But now the middle section has detached from the glass at the top, and once that caves, there's really no point in trying to fix it anymore, since it will likely just do it again... So before this viv even got off the ground (even though it should be since it's technically almost a year old), I'm already starting to think about redoing it. :p

I think next time I'm going to go with GS, or a GS-supported-clay type background. (I like clay; I just don't like the constant maintenance and cave-ins.) I would really like to go with some better wood this next time around (whenever this background collapses). I want to go for a more branching-canopy type feel to this one, and go really heavy on the epiphytes and broms, specifically barred stoloniferous neos, since I love my 'ritzy red,' and would like to go for a more cohesive natural look based around that.

My question is, though, is there a way to get the look of wood or tree trunks with branches that doesn't involve the weight of actual wood? I don't really like the look of cork logs pieced together, and I'm not sure about hygrolon since I don't have a misting system (besides my own hands and a spray bottle).

I've thought about cutting down a small tree and taking a semi-cylindrical half of a trunk piece with a branch or branches coming off to be mounted to either side of the viv so that the branches span across the open middle. I'm concerned about the longevity of such a piece in the viv, though, and even more so the weight. I doubt that hollowing it would help it structurally, especially without cracking. Is there a way to make a trunk-branch out of great stuff that would do what I want it to?

With how much (or should I say little) time I've had to devote to this viv thus far, I'm thinking that in the next iteration, I may not even aim to put frogs in at all. I would like some, but I think I may have to postpone and go with plants-only for a while, because my school load has kept me so busy, and I only see it getting heavier. I don't want to obtain any animals (especially expensive and sensitive ones) that I won't have time to properly care for. We'll see, though. I want to have the option of darts (maybe thumbs, with the layout I'm imagining) down the line, so I'll keep that in mind when (re)building... whenever that happens...
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Welp, apparently my post yesterday was prophetic because I came in from school today and there was my background, split in half down the middle and slidden down the glass. I almost didn't notice at first, because everything was in its place, just a little lower. I'm hoping that it'll stay upright against the glass for a few more days until I can figure out what to do with my plants. School's out in four days, so I'm hoping for the best. Then it's back to the drawing board for me. :p
 

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