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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all. So I’m starting from scratch after scraping all the silicone from a bad silicone job (rookie mistake), and I’d love some feedback as I build. Doing the Great Stuff + cork bark method on an 18x18x24.

I have one Dendrobates auratus waiting patiently for his new home.

Before I GS this stuff in, how does my cork placement look? I’m going to trim down the hollow piece on the right side so it’s not so close to the door. I thought it might be a fun tunnel for him to explore.

The photo angle makes it look like everything is higher than it is — the bottoms of the horizontal log is about 6 inches from the bottom of the viv.

Also would love thoughts if I should silicone the cork to the glass first, or just use GS to adhere it.

I’ll post more pics as the build comes along.

Thanks!
F16BFF02-ADF1-4C77-B828-7E57C7E56137.jpeg
 

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I recommend siliconing egg grate to the glass when building a gs foam background, because it doesn’t like sticking to glass very well, especially over time. I would personally silicone down the tubes that stick out and attach the flat pieces with just foam.


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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I recommend siliconing egg grate to the glass when building a gs foam background, because it doesn’t like sticking to glass very well, especially over time. I would personally silicone down the tubes that stick out and attach the flat pieces with just foam.


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Are you referring to siliconing egg crate for the drainage layer? Or using egg crate behind the background? Just want to make sure I understand what part of the build you mean.
 

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Another option is to skip the great stuff, and just use silicone on glass. I discuss how I do it here:

Peat and silicone background build
Gonzalez was referencing that you attach egg crate to the glass and then apply great stuff as part of the background since great stuff doesn't always adhere well to glass.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Another option is to skip the great stuff, and just use silicone on glass. I discuss how I do it here:

Peat and silicone background build
Gonzalez was referencing that you attach egg crate to the glass and then apply great stuff as part of the background since great stuff doesn't always adhere well to glass.
OK, I like this option waaaay better. I wasn’t looking forward to playing with Great Stuff and trying to carve and all that. Since my cork fills a lot of the background already, siliconing peat in the empty space sounds much easier.

I have a mix of coco husk, peat and bark for the background filler — think that will be ok? Or should I pick up some straight-up peat?
 

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OK, I like this option waaaay better. I wasn’t looking forward to playing with Great Stuff and trying to carve and all that. Since my cork fills a lot of the background already, siliconing peat in the empty space sounds much easier.

I have a mix of coco husk, peat and bark for the background filler — think that will be ok? Or should I pick up some straight-up peat?
Your mix will work fine. I use straight peat because it's what I have on hand.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Feedback welcome and appreciated. 🙂 The background is coming along nicely. Worked out some kinks between the first round (the back) and the second (the right side):
  • Switched to black silicone, which is way easier to smear on thick to create more dimension
  • Wore gloves and a mask
I’m happy with how the little tunnel on the right side came out. I plan to put another one on the left side, maybe a little lower. The bark chunks in my peat mix seem to give the background a lot more texture, which I like. I’ll go back over any areas that need more coverage — there are a few spots where the clear silicone wasn’t thick enough.

My potential plant lineup so far:
  • Debating between using the golden pothos or aglaonema “red gold” (but not both)
  • Ficus elasticus “Ruby”
  • Fittonia albivinus
  • White rabbit’s foot fern
  • Cryptanthus carnosus (earth star)
  • Neoregelia “Mo Peppa Please”
  • Neoregelia “Fireball”
I think I might try to find a low-growing trailing/vining plant for the foreground. Tackling the left side of the background later today. Thoughts so far?

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Day 3: All three sides are siliconed in. I'm going to fill in crevices and gaps with New Zealand sphagnum moss. I have some Chilean sphag moss on-hand, but I'm reading that dart frogs tend to prefer the NZ moss because it's softer and doesn't stick to their feet as easily.

I also have a nice piece of staghorn wood and jungle wood to place across the middle area to help get more use out of the middle of the viv. Those will go in once I have the substrate and plants in, since I'm not going to silicone them in.
IMG_4472.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Looks great. What are you planning on using for the false bottom?

Edit:
I also noticed you didn't drill your tank. I strongly suggest doing this before you go any further.
I already have a bunch of LECA, so I’m going to use that for the false bottom. I’ll look around on the forum for drilling recommendations to make sure I get that part right (unless you have some quick advice to offer 🙂) — thanks for calling that out!

I did read that some people siphon out the drainage water by mounting a tube in the drainage layer instead — but having a drainage hole is probably easier to deal with in the long run, yes?
 

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It is well worth the effort to just go ahead and drill the tank. Don’t subject yourself to having to siphon it out, especially with a false bottom like Leca that doesn’t hold as much water as others.


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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I just remembered that a good friend used to be a glass artist and has lots of experience cutting glass (likely drilling it too). So I have some in-person expertise to help me with the drilling. I found a great thread on drilling glass, too, so I'll keep looking for how to create the rest of the drainage hole setup after drilling is done.
 

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+ 1 on getting the tank drilled for external drainage. You can do it yourself, cheaply and easily. Or you can ask a friend. Maybe the best would be to have the friend provide moral support and guidance - in person - while you do it. Seriously, it's empowering.

I already have a bunch of LECA, so I’m going to use that for the false bottom.
A word of caution here. LECA is a pretty strong wicker. Two inches of LECA with a half inch of water standing in the bottom (I assume you will drain out the back, not the bottom, so you will probably always have a little water in there) will result in water creeping up the dry LECA. All the way up. So if all you have between the LECA and your "soil" is a piece of window screen, you are likely to have saturated "soil". That is (and this is where "probably" comes in, from above) unless you keep the viv dry enough to not have any water in the bottom, which you might be able to accomplish. But - that might be too dry for the frog. And that would obviate the need for drilling. Honestly it's easiest to have excellent-draining "soil", a drilled tank, enough water input to keep a little water in the bottom, and a reliable wicking break.

So - I think you'd be well-served to install a better wicking gap than LECA can offer. Personally I like Matala, and skip the LECA (which I use only in potted plants, and in trickle filtering). You can keep the LECA if you top it with a piece of eggcrate / light diffuser, or even a single layer of pot scrubbies or some other "plastic floss". And whetever you use atop (or instead of) the LECA, put your window screen atop that wick-breaker layer.



good luck!
 

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More, on plants:

My potential plant lineup so far:
  • Debating between using the golden pothos or aglaonema “red gold” (but not both)
  • Ficus elasticus “Ruby”
  • Fittonia albivinus
  • White rabbit’s foot fern
  • Cryptanthus carnosus (earth star)
  • Neoregelia “Mo Peppa Please”
  • Neoregelia “Fireball”
I think I might try to find a low-growing trailing/vining plant for the foreground.
Aglaonema, for sure, over pothos. Yours a small viv, relative to plant size. Pothos grows under viv conditions. You will get truly sick of all the haircuts it needs. I've got a happy one in a 36x24x18 snake viv and man, I'm in there a few times a month taking serious pieces off that thing. Gaaahhhhh don't do it! I also have a few Aglaonemas in my vivs, and they are MUCH better behaved than any pothos ever was.

Also - skip the rubber tree. Rubber tree. Tree. Tree. Don't put a tree in a small viv, unless you want to save a few bucks and avoid buying a large-sized houseplant. They really jump in a viv - it's a good way to make a small plant much bigger, fast. Just be prepared for the work of pulling it from the viv and potting it up for home display. If you don't want a big rubber tree in your house, don't put a small one in a viv.

Fittonia can actually be pretty rowdy if made really happy. The stems root, so when they elongate and droop and touch the ground, well, you've got a crawler / assertive ground cover. I understand that leaf litter is what the frog folks say is the best ground cover (I keep snakes, don't ask me - I also appreciate and use leaf litter as a ground cover though). Anyway, I have actually found Fittonia to require a bit more haircuts than I like giving. That is in 24" cube vivs. They just want to totally fill the bottom half. Grr. Ha ha.

The fern is a cutie. Eventually it can get pretty big, but these are easy to keep confined. Just cut off the "legs" every couple of months. No biggie. I love the rhizomatous ferns in general.

Personally I love the epiphytic broms. Never done any earth stars - I don't have many plants on my ground.

Again - good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
So - I think you'd be well-served to install a better wicking gap than LECA can offer. Personally I like Matala, and skip the LECA (which I use only in potted plants, and in trickle filtering). You can keep the LECA if you top it with a piece of eggcrate / light diffuser, or even a single layer of pot scrubbies or some other "plastic floss". And whetever you use atop (or instead of) the LECA, put your window screen atop that wick-breaker layer.
Hm ... ok. All the extra setup involved with LECA is making my head spin a bit here. 🙂 And I've read a lot about using eggcrate and PVC, so I get how that works. So if I were to switch the plan and use Matala, it sounds like it's a drainage layer and screen in one. Would I want to put something between it and the substrate, like a substrate barrier or some other thin layer? I'm using ABG for substrate.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Aglaonema, for sure, over pothos. I also have a few Aglaonemas in my vivs, and they are MUCH better behaved than any pothos ever was.
That's great advice, thank you. :) I like the color variation of the aglaonema more than the pothos, too. I definitely don't want something to overtake the small viv that I have to trim back frequently.

I understand that leaf litter is what the frog folks say is the best ground cover (I keep snakes, don't ask me - I also appreciate and use leaf litter as a ground cover though).

The fern is a cutie. Eventually it can get pretty big, but these are easy to keep confined. Just cut off the "legs" every couple of months. No biggie. I love the rhizomatous ferns in general.
I read more about this after pondering my first plant lineup -- I don't want to cover the ground too much in greenery because leaf litter is preferable for little froggie feet, and I'll be able to see him better against the contrast of the brown leaves.

My fern is looking a little sad right now, so I'm hoping it'll survive, even if we just keep it as a house plant. I love the little rhyzomes. I have a saginella serpens (spikemoss) arriving today, that I might swap out the fittonia for -- the foliage is more delicate, so it might be a less obtrusive-looking foreground option.

Ficus is out. I love the look of the earth stars, and they're a type of brom but are planted in soil. I might try to grow one in some spag moss up off the floor and see how that goes.

Thanks again for the great suggestions!
 

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You would want to put a piece of window screen / garden screen between the matala and the substrate, as far as I know.
Yes, exactly right. There are 4 different Matala colors, each corresponding to a different pore size. The black has the biggest holes; that is what I usually buy, mostly because it's black & unobtrusive (gray is my 2nd choice - I don't care for the blue or green, I think they are rather garish). I suppose the finest-pore Matala - whatever color that is, I forget - might require no screen but I've never handled it in person so I don't know. Anyway, Matala is great because it doesn't compress and it also doesn't wick. So it can just lay in the water on the bottom of the tank, as long as the lowest elevation of your drain is below the top of the Matala. No need for PVC "feet" or anything.

My fern is looking a little sad right now, so I'm hoping it'll survive, even if we just keep it as a house plant. I love the little rhyzomes. I have a saginella serpens (spikemoss) arriving today, that I might swap out the fittonia for -- the foliage is more delicate, so it might be a less obtrusive-looking foreground option.
Many of the rhizomatous ferns sulk as houseplants if you don't baby them with watering (they hate to be too dry) but really, really, and I mean REALLY love life as a viv-dweller. They are easy to keep happy in a humid situation.

Spikemosses have a varied reputation. It seems people either kill them, or have them get a little weedy. Once again it's all in the water - they like plenty of water. I have the peacock kind, and I have learned how to kill it and also how to make it weedy (put it on or under a drip wall). It's all about the water. It also throws roots from its spreading stems. If they touch moist substrate they will grab and live, otherwise the spreading stem just sort of crisps up.

good luck!
 

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I already have a bunch of LECA, so I’m going to use that for the false bottom. I’ll look around on the forum for drilling recommendations to make sure I get that part right (unless you have some quick advice to offer 🙂) — thanks for calling that out!

I did read that some people siphon out the drainage water by mounting a tube in the drainage layer instead — but having a drainage hole is probably easier to deal with in the long run, yes?
I used to use drainage tubes. It's a giant pain. Drilling those terrariums are failry easy. You can get a bulk head and the glass drilling bits on amazon. I got a box of various sizes for like $12, which allowed me to drill for my drainage and misting heads.

Drilling is fairly easy. You want to find a water ring for glass drilling (again, amazon) to hold water over the hole. Other than that, tape the opposite side of the glass you're drilling from with painters/masking tape to prevent chipping. Take the bit in at an angle until you have it started and let the weight of the drill do the work. It takes a minute or two to get through the 1/4" glass. I still recommend looking at other threads on it to get a more detailed explanation of the drilling process.

You would want to put a piece of window screen / garden screen between the matala and the substrate, as far as I know. I don't use matala for my builds (really, really expensive in Canada)
Yes. Matala is porous and if it gets jammed with substrate it won't drain the way it needs to.
 
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