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Custom Tank Build 36"x24"x18"

97311 Views 37 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  sulli.gibson
Hey guys! I have been a member for a while, but not spoke much, just reading and learning what I can about this hobby, frogs, etc...

A little about me, I'm 25, recently graduated with a BS in Biological Psychology, and am looking to get back into a hobby I enjoy, other than the lab research I do etc...

I have kept Marine aquariums, reeftanks, and planted tanks for years. My last tank was a 210gallon reeftank that I had for 8 years. The only reason why I no longer have it is due to unfortunately having to move 5 times in one year, the last of which I couldnt bare to tear it down and move everything again! But thats another story.

So I have setup and maintained a 20gallon long Vivarium for the past 6 months with sucess.

NOW however, I am wanting to turn my custom built tank into a show viv!
And have already started doing so.

The picture attached is the tank that I will be building on. Yes it is rimless, however, it wont be for long.
I have a friend who fortunately has access to an aquarium manufacturing companys supplies. He is getting me some trim which is all I need, I can get glass from one of our local shops without a problem.

The 20L that I have had setup for about 6 months now or so is as follows:

The base drainage layer is composed of 1inch "Bio Balls" which are nothing more than plastic perferated balls that are made for certain marine equipment, they do nothing more than provide a water basin.

Then landscaping fabric, followed by SeaChems FLOURITE (because I had it on hand), as a substrate for plant growth, which is nothing more than iron rich clay with a few other minerals in it. This product is also used for planted aquaria on occation.

Then a layer of cocobark/peat/"reptile substrate" its that coconut husk bring stuff you get at petsmart.

Then a layer of sphagnum, then leaf litter which was collected, sanitized, and boiled locally far away from the city.

The background in this tank is just coconut husk panneling, nothing special.

some driftwood.

and a few plants:
  • Crypthanus (pink earth stars)
  • Neo Bromeliad
  • some live sphagnum which as volunteered to grow
  • Tillandsia Ionantha "Mexican"
  • a Philodendron vine of some kind
  • Fittonia
  • Moss I never can remember the name too. Sel something?
  • Lemon Button fern (forget the genus/species)
  • Java Fern
  • "red veined plant" also forget the name of

Recently it started sprouting mushrooms weakly! 7 so far! Grey short ones with black dots on top.

NOW: the build...

I found GRIMM and RAF's threads and have been following them and really like the idea of doing this for this custom build and plan to do so.

The lighting will be 4 54watt T5 bulbs suspended 3 feet above the tank (for now this is temporary). I currently have all my orchids, broms, palms and tropicals all inside due to it being winter and they are using the light at the moment.

I would like to have a water feature and plan to build one into the background similar to the way RAF did.

Because the tank is so wide, I decided to also construct a stump on the left side to go in front of the background as a separate component.

I have bought the items for its construction today for the most part (pictures later).

Since Ive never done this before, Ill of course need help.

Let me know what you guys think so far.


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Thank you!
The stump was just my first experience using these materials.. I thought I would incorporate it into my build but... after looking at it in the viv... it takes up a lot of room, and Im just greatly fond of it as a whole.

I will try to get some pictures of the piece of driftwood I have that will be going in it however.

The water feature is in a "wet run" for now... just to work out any kinks..
I have noticed its splashing a little out of the reservoir every time I go in, so In order to prevent water loss I decided to form a sort of barrier around it using corkboard and GG with peat... all the cork will be hidden under the substrate.

This allowed for any water that does get splashed to be channeled back down into the reservoir.

BTW...also love your living room. lol! Especially that palm. I have no luck with local greenhouse plants. They are always infested with something that bite me in the butt by infecting my rare carnivorous plants.
HAHA thanks! It has all be taken outside for the growing season now.
The Majesty palm ended up being infested with scale bugs :( .. I lost 90% of it.. Im going to see if I can get her looking good again. (doubtful)

I have tons of palms and orchids though.
Pygmy Date palms
Queen Palm
Chinese fan
Chinese windmill

love my palms.

You grow Carnivorous plants as well? What genus/species?

I have 4 varieties of flytrap, and 5 of sarracenia, and I plan to incorporate some species of tropical pitcher in this build... just haven’t decided which one.
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I am mostly interested in highland nepenthes. At the peak, I had over 30-40 different species of CPs ranging from cephalotus, VFTs, heliamphora, nepenthes, utricularia, darlingtonia etc etc. I lost a lot of them either by failed attempts at dormancy or by acdidents. The most recent happened this January by my highland terrarium freezing and I lost almost 800-1000$ worth of highland nepenthes. I have very few left now, and I have begun working on a vivarium as a distraction before trying to fix that tank.

Regarding your tank, it depends on basically one important factor: temperature. Based on that, I can suggest some nice nepenthes species for you. :)
It should fall within 68-78 degrees +- 2 degrees.

That majorly sucks you loosing all those plants!
I hard grow my VFTs and Pitchera outside untouched through the winter.
Living in northeastern Alabama we dont really have harsh winters so it's never been a problem... Even last year with three snows I didn't loose one!
really like the custom built stump. ive wanted to make one myself for a long time. the whole setup looks awesome and flows real nice.
Thank you for the complement!
It's my first build besides a very simple 20L for my Azureus.
Any updates on this viv?
Hey Froggies! Yes, I need to get pictures asap, perhaps tomorrow at some time...

All I need now is substrate and its finished.

other than the frogs of course...
and a permanent stand which I do not know what I am going to do about yet... I have 0 to negligible carpentry skills...

BUT for now... heres a sneak peak...
Keep in mind it is still under construction... arg haha!

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So I got my wood in today UPS never fails!

here it is, two peices of ghostwood and three manzanita
while I wont use all of it on the build i know I will use the two peices of ghostwood and at least one of the manzanita...

any suggestions?

Im pretty sure Ill cut the branches down a little.

And Im determining how to clean them now. I refuse to bleech them out because they will take away the natural color of the branches. and Baking is not an option.


anyway! heres the wood!

Ghostwood branches

Manzanita 1
My favorite, looks like a little bonsai tree

Manzanita 2

Manzanita 3
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So I believe its time for an update.
Here it is two months after planting and grow time.
While I still want to add a plant here and there, this is what I have got to so far.

Also, No frogs yet, I am about to move soon (hopefully) and am going to wait to populate the tank with any amphibious creatures just yet lol.

Water feature in the left corner

Close up with freshly planted mosses

N. Amp's the one in the foreground is "Lime Twist" and the one in the back is just a red. The red wasn't doing to well for a while but has just started to come back.

Lime twist closeup

Biophytum and stuff's

Broms and on the side of the driftwood you can make out my little Bulbophyllum putidum


my little A. albolineatus


And lastly a Full Tank Shot

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Thanks! I will would like to add an anubias to the water feature, a few more mini orchids and whatever else "strikes my fancy."
Thank you very much for all the detailed pictures! They will be a great help to me in my build! Keep up the good work!
Awesome root work! I really liked your large tree root you made at first, its a shame it didnt make it in there but space is very important.
that was more of a "get me acquainted with using those materials" type of project. I wanted to incorporate it, but after I finished it I didn't like the look of it in the viv. So I kept the background and used natural wood.
How long have the broms been in there and what lighting are you using? are they holding their color?
Hey eye viper!
Sorry for the late response, I am in the process of moving right now.

The Broms have been in there since early april I believe, They have held their color just fine and have rooted well.

I am currently using (4) 46.5" t5 bulbs driven on an ICECAP 660 ballast (overdriven).

THe bulbs are (3) 6500K and (1) 4000K

Once I get moved I will be buying a smaller fixture to place on the tank.

The retrofit fixture I have right now supplies light for both vids and is suspended about 2.5 feet above them.

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How do I enable 3rd party hosting so I can see these Photobucket images?
How do I enable 3rd party hosting so I can see these Photobucket images?
It's a change in photobucket's policy unfortunately. They now charge a lot of money for image hosting. We're all SOL.
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