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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Howdy,

This is a copy of a post I did from the vivarium subreddit, however I didn't have any luck narrowing down the issue.

I built my first vivarium around nine months ago. For the first six months or so all of my plants did amazingly well, however over the last few months everything with the exception of the pothos took a nose dive and died on me. The ones that died exhibited the same symptoms; newly grown leaves would develop brown tips that would work their way up to the base of the leaf. This eventually spread to all new growth, and finally the entire plant would wilt and die.

For reference:

  • Aqueon 20G long 1/2 land, 1/2 water separated by plexi-glass. No leaking.
  • Approximately 2 inches of hydroballs and 4 inches of ABG substrate separated by (I think) fiberglass window screen. A small layer of leaf litter is on top.
  • Zilla T8 15 watt fluorescent bulb. 12hr light cycle.
  • Would leave about an inch of water in the drainage layer. I made sure it never touched the ABG
  • Plants: Wandering Jew, Strawberry Begonia, Pothos.

In my first attempt to fix this issue I propped up the glass top partway to increase airflow and let the substrate dry out a little because it did feel maybe a little too damp. I then reintroduced some cuttings I took when the plants were healthy. They developed the same issue and died within a month.

It was suggested I might try a more suitable light, so I bought a LED FluvalSmart light. Another suggestion was to not use the Sparkletts RO water that I have delivered for drinking as it might have additives in it that might harm the plants. My tap water is very hard so I was thinking of using distilled. I'd be interested to hear what y'all think about these suggestions or have any other insights. Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Plant Botany Houseplant Terrestrial plant Flowerpot

Plant Houseplant Flowerpot Wood Terrestrial plant

Plant Houseplant Flowerpot Terrestrial plant Flowering plant


Of the two pics with the Wandering Jew one is when I first noticed a new leaf dying and the other is when it progessed to all of them. After it died the Begonia took a turn for the worse in the third pic.

I didn't squeeze a clump of substrate at the time; I just dug a bit and pinched it with my fingers. It felt damp but not soggy. Right now it's moist but definitely not draining any excess water when I squeeze a clump.

It houses two Firebelly Toads. They typically chill in the water and rarely use the land portion.
 

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I have no experience with vivariums, but I've grown plants for a long time under a lot of different circumstances including commercial agriculture. Here's my take:

Terrestrial plant Organism Plant Groundcover Flowering plant


The picture is not super detailed, so that makes it harder to tell what's going on. I've numbered the leaves so it is easier to follow what I'm writing.

See the yellowing on leaf one? By the patterning that is leaf damage not nutrient deficiency. Although it is not very clear, I can see brown spots in the center of a number of the yellow areas. Those would have been the starting points for the issue on that leaf. The browning at the leaf tip is just the end point of the infection/infestation.

On leaf two, you can see some lighter green (could be yellow) spots that look like the very beginning of issues.

On leaf 3 there is a lot of yellow mottling. This makes me think the issue is bacterial or viral, but it is very hard to tell without much more detailed pictures. Pics of the underside of the leaf would have helped with the diagnosis as well.

At this point, I don't think there is any way to identify what it is. If you are up for experimentation and really want to figure this out, you could add a few more plants and carefully document both sides of the leaves with much higher detail images. If you have a magnifying glass, you could also look at the leaves under good light to see if there are tiny critters on any of the leaves as the become 'infected'.

Otherwise, I would look to others here on how to tear down, disinfect and re-start this vivarium.
 

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Hmm, can't edit posts.

I suppose this could be fungal as well. I never really saw much in the way of fungal infections except damping off in greenhouse seedlings. If it was fungal, I suppose you would see the fine hairs of the fruiting bodies either on the top of, or underside of, the leaf.
 

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The plants look generally healthy to me in those photos...the Pothos will often have their leaves yellow are burn at the top of an enclosures if they are too close to the light. I see it on mine all the time (I have a crested gecko tank with Pothos all over it).

Am I missing something, or is that an old photo before the plants started dying off?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I really appreciate the reply!

The pothos is the one plant still alive and continues to grow so I can provide more pictures of it. I'm not sure how to order the pics, but here's an overhead shot and (hopefully) better pics of the pothos leaves you were describing. I never noticed before but there appears to be very small white speckles on all the leaves.

Also here are a pics of a Begonia plantlet that I had previously taken out and reintroduced last week. The curling edges and the hole in the leaf happened within the last few days. Some of the Begonia plantlets that remained in the viv are still hanging on but they typically don't last.

I added a pennywort I bought last week just to see what would happen. So far it appears to be okay.

Plant Terrestrial plant Finger Grass Soil

Plant Leaf Organism Terrestrial plant Water

Plant Leaf Botany Terrestrial plant Groundcover

Plant Terrestrial plant Tree Flowering plant Groundcover

Plant Leaf Terrestrial plant Wood Flowering plant

Water Plant Leaf Fluid Terrestrial plant
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The plants look generally healthy to me in those photos...the Pothos will often have their leaves yellow are burn at the top of an enclosures if they are too close to the light. I see it on mine all the time (I have a crested gecko tank with Pothos all over it).

Am I missing something, or is that an old photo before the plants started dying off?
Thank you for the reply!

Yes, the first post was old photos. The quality wasn't great but one pic shows the plants while still pretty healthy while the other two show the Begonia and Wandering Jew when they began going downhill. Both are gone now.

Those pothos leaves are the closest to the light. I do get the occasional leaf further away that will grow out, yellow, and die fairly quickly but the majority of leaves appear to look/grow fine.

Also, some of the pothos roots grew right through the screen separating the substrate and drainage layer. I don't know if a root could cause water to wick up; the soil never felt waterlogged. Just out of curiosity, is there a better separator I could use in the future? Or is that even a problem?
 

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Well, your problem may be that it is just too wet for some of the plants. Pothos is pretty hardy, so it may just be a survivor! Pennywort should be able to take some moisture though, so see what happens there.

Hopefully some others with more plant expertise can chime in.
 

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Close up, the soil looks too wet. Can you take a picture of where the water area meets the land area? Often there will be something allowing water to wick into the land area, and it's very hard to prevent that in a paludarium. Strawberry begonia (which is actually neither a strawberry nor a begonia) and Tradescantia both like to dry out a bit between being watered. Pothos seems more tolerant of wet conditions. There are lots of other plants that will grow well in wet conditions, typically emersed aquatic plants do pretty well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Close up, the soil looks too wet. Can you take a picture of where the water area meets the land area?...
Plant Water Botany Organism Terrestrial plant

Plant Terrestrial plant Aquatic plant Pet supply Grass


I just stuck a piece of plexi-glass right in the center of the tank and sealed it with silicone to separate it. I mentioned this in my previous reply, but do you think pothos roots growing through the screen on top of my drainage layer have anything to do with water wicking up? And thank you for the reply!
 

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I just stuck a piece of plexi-glass right in the center of the tank and sealed it with silicone to separate it. I mentioned this in my previous reply, but do you think pothos roots growing through the screen on top of my drainage layer have anything to do with water wicking up? And thank you for the reply!
Keep in mind that acrylic/plexiglass cannot be permanently adhered to glass using silicone. The silicone will bond glass to glass, but does not bond with plastic, so eventually the seal will fail.

I believe roots can wick moisture into soil, but so can hydroballs, and at this point I suspect it's the hydroballs. You can try tearing the land area down and installing a drainage layer that doesn't wick at all (Matala, PVC rounds with egg crate on top), and maybe that will decrease the moisture in your land area. Or, since you're likely to get leaks eventually anyway, you can roll with it and use plants that like more moisture. I have a long list (my land area is permanently oversaturated as well, it really is just the reality of paludariums), if that would help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Keep in mind that acrylic/plexiglass cannot be permanently adhered to glass using silicone. The silicone will bond glass to glass, but does not bond with plastic, so eventually the seal will fail.

I believe roots can wick moisture into soil, but so can hydroballs, and at this point I suspect it's the hydroballs. You can try tearing the land area down and installing a drainage layer that doesn't wick at all (Matala, PVC rounds with egg crate on top), and maybe that will decrease the moisture in your land area. Or, since you're likely to get leaks eventually anyway, you can roll with it and use plants that like more moisture. I have a long list (my land area is permanently oversaturated as well, it really is just the reality of paludariums), if that would help.
Good to know that the silicone won't adhere; I will definitely keep that in mind for future reference.

A list of plants that would do well in wetter conditions would be helpful. I put a pennywort in there to see how it does and I'd like to add more new plants soon.
 
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