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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
The time has come... I've been gathering supplies and brainstorming the design for about 6 weeks now. I've ran out of space in my frog room so this one will be front and center in my living room. This is my umpteenth build and I'm going big this time.

I first picked up a 55g tank at Goodwill: $25!

My next step was to paint the wood grain frame to black.
Sanded it down, painted it, and finished with a few layers of clear coat.

Look at the mess of stuff. Unfortunately my new place does NOT have a garage!
Luckily my roommates are understanding. But they'll love it when its done.
(Still looking for a beautiful black stand).

Next step I went to ACE hardware to get glass cut to section off a quarter of the tank to allow for a water feature utilizing a real slate waterfall.

The two glass pieces cost me only $2! (They know me there now). One horizontal piece and one vertical piece to block water that may try to leak through the great stuff and into the substrate section.
I used Aquarium silicone which I ordered on Amazon: $12. The silicone spreading tools: $3 at Home Depot.
I water tested it today and its doing its job so far.


The next step is of course, the egg crate layout. I personally prefer to use this method for a false bottom to reduce the weight a bit and also so I don't have to use so much LECA balls.
Eggcrate at Home Depot: $11 for a huge sheet
Wire cutters: $5
Small zip ties: free (they were in with my girls medication in the mail?)

PVC pipes layed out


bottom base, hideout cave, water area slope, waterpump/waterfall tower
Malaysian driftwood: I won in a ZooMed contest!


water area view


I was initially going to just make a mound out of this, but as I was designing it I decided to make it more useful by making it a mound as well as a cave.


Here you can see how I put the powerhead pump tubing and electrical cord through the pvc pipe for easy removal if I have to get to it.
Sunterra powerhead: $13 on Amazon
1/2 in plastic tubing: $4 for numerous feet
black pvc: $2


These are the doors that open allowing me to access the pump should I need to do so.


This tower will hold the slate pieces that make up the waterfall. I will be using great stuff to hold them in, somehow. This is going to be an extremely hard task to make them all sit and stay set in place. Most likely the hardest and most tedious part of the whole build.
The black pvc piece on top is where the water will be draining into from the tube, spilling out each side, and I'll drill a couple holes in the center too.


Everyone please do subscribe to this as I have many more goodies yet to come. In tank circulation fans in custom housing, LEDs, rock ledges, glass canopy, glow in the dark mushrooms (thanks GRIMM), and some other ideas that I've personally never seen and am not even sure how I'm going to pull off yet!

Coming soon: the slate waterfall feature build...

I found these scrap slate pieces at a stone company for about .26 a pound (or some ridiculously low price) so this all cost me less than $3.


Here's me sanding them down so they don't cut my froggys!
Sandpaper: $3

I'll try to post more updated pictures tomorrow...

Questions and comments always appreciated. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Just started working on my in tank fan circulation setup. I must credit GRIMM because he was my inspiration behind this whole system.
Following in his footsteps I bought these super quiet Suscool fans from Amazon as well as a Y adapter and a Fan Mate speed controller.



Suscool 7 blade design: $9 each


Fan Mate: $9
2 to 1 Y converter: $3


I used Plaskolite for the housing of the fans. It is pretty dang easy to work with. You can use a razor or a special Plaskolite cutting tool.
Plaskolite sheet at Home Depot: $8
Cutting Tool: $3


I then used black duct tape to hold it all together (it will all be covered by great stuff and/or brown silicone).



All plugged in. Just have to add some screen to cover up the intake and outtakes. I found that any angle given to the housing will take away from its power and putting screen over it will have the same smothering effect.


These fans are nearly silent!


Fans siliconed to back wall.
Eggcrate structures are now all covered with weed blocker- 3 x 50ft roll: $13 at Homedepot
Also shown new pieces of driftwood i picked up. 2 small pieces for $8.

Now its time to do some shrooms!!

My girl and I got this idea once again, from GRIMM.
We used brown and white sculpey clay ($5) and water based acrylic paints ($.75 each) We molded them, baked them, painted them, and will probably do another touch up coating, clear coat, and THEN they will be painted with powerful glow in the dark green and blue paint, then more clear coat.


Kind of our practice run. (Its tough to be as creative and precise as GRIMM.) Next time they will be more realistic.


The glow in the dark paint I used is by GlowInc! $8 bucks for 1/2 oz. I got bright green (24+ hours of glow) and Pure blue (3 hours glow time)


Probably going to change the brown dots to bright red for that classic cartoon mushroom look.

Another amazing idea I took a liking to as welll... making fake vines/roots.
I figure copying someone else's ideas and bringing them to life myself is a sincere form of flattery. :)


So for this I went and bought different strands of rope: $5
Toluene ($8 at Aces Hardware) Essentially this is used as a thinning agent for the silicone so it more thoroughly coats items better. There was a fairly long discussion on another thread about the safety of this stuff and after all the reading I deemed it to be safe for my viv (after it cured/dryed and evaporated). Another option to check out would be natural based turpentine.
Brown silicone II: $6


The mixture I used was 2 parts silicone to 1 part toluene to 1 part peat moss
I mixed the Silicone and toluene together first to make it real soupy (thin) and then mixed in the peat moss. Once the ropes were completely covered they were then dipped in dry peat moss. I had to do a couple coats and they came out looking like this!


I particularly like the thin strands of rope that started to come undone from the rest of it.

I then took 3 or 4 rope strands and tied them together on top with a zip tie (which will eventually be covered in silicone). They end looking like bunches of roots.


My lovely assistant/girlfriend Crystal displaying the finished product.



And now for a couple of my newly acquired toys...

I got this High Pressure Sodium Marine Lighting setup for free!
I met a friend of mines friend, one time, we started talking, and he told me had some extra things from his reef tank. I told him I'd take it all off his hands for some cash. He just told me to take it for free and get it out of his sight!
I got a 40 gallon tank, Cascade 700 Canister filter, numerous lights, pumps, crazy pipe things, more crazy acrylic sump things, a black bakers rack and a bunch of other stuff I don't even know what to do with!
I have since gifted all of the salt water setup stuff to my girls brother who will put it all to good use.

Here is the perfect light for my 55 gallon!



(You can see the ridiculously heavy ballast on the left)

Not sure of the brand because its not listed anywhere, but I have to imagine its a couple hundred bucks at least. Anyone recognize it?


And the bright blue flourescents that are built into it just made my day! Hell, it made my entire build!

Its shining beautifully after I cleaned all the years of salt and dust out of it!

And...
I personally only know of two other vivs that have these lights incorporated into them.
Much thanks to Dendrodave for the idea.


These are called Lights in Flight. What they are is firefly resembling patio light sets. They come in strands of 10 lights and they randomly light up for a couple/few seconds each and then fade away. There may be 0-8 lights on at one given time.
Super cool idea if I can get them to successfully fit them and get them to work in my viv.


I got 2 sets at Lowes. $13 each.


These are of course pictures taken at night. Video camera would do much more justice.
I'll post some more pictures further along as the build progresses.

If anyone has any questions or comments please feel free to comment or PM me.

Be sure to subscribe because there is tons more to come!
 
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Oh gee golly gosh darnet, you done made me blush from flattery :p

Haha looks like a good start bud. Send me a pm if you have any further questions.

Also, how do the shrooms looks with the glow paint applied over the coloured paint? I usually add the colour details last because the grainy glow paint seems like it would cover them all up. Friggen bright stuff though eh!? Especially if you do 4-5 coats of it like me, its just rediculously bright.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you all so much for the encouraging comments! I can't even begin to express how excited I am for this little indoor rainforest to be finished. This is the culmination of my vivarium building endeavors in the last 10 months.
I've been patient with this one as to not forget or overlook anything and everything has fallen into its right place so I will continue to take it slow. Well, maybe... haha. I can't seem to think about anything besides it!
The next post you guys will see is of my slate waterfall... and wow. Its not finished yet, but it has far surpassed how I envisioned it would be. :)
Diggenem- The Avatar theme is a great concept! Afterall, its one of my favorite movies just cause its so beautiful. I may have to figure out how to get some crazy blue striped frogs.
GRIMM- I mean it. I'm new to the hobby and you are a huge inspiration to me, and countless others. Extremely creative and very helpful.
And I've not actually put any glow paint on the shrooms yet per se, but I have the paint and it glows super bright in its jar!
Oh so many things yet to do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Oh gee golly gosh darnet, you done made me blush from flattery :p

Haha looks like a good start bud. Send me a pm if you have any further questions.
Hey Grimm, I figured I'd post publicly in case some others have the same questions..

1. As far as wattage/volts/amps go for the fan setup I want to make sure that I've got it right...
I used all the same equipment you have sand you mentioned that the volts should be equal to the fans. I found an old phone charger that is listed as having INPUT: 100-120VAC 50/60Hz 0.3 amps
OUTPUT: +12V --- 1A
Is this correct? I ask because with the fans turned all the way up I can only slightly feel them against my hand, although I'm sure they're fine to circulate the air inside the viv. (And I've accounted for the slight loss of power from the restricted angle at which the fans are sitting in the fan housings). From your experience could I maybe use a more powerful charger to push out more air or am I maxed out at where I'm at?

2. I bought some of the Plant stratum substrate that mentioned and I'm planning on using it in the water feature part in addition to/or instead of pebble rocks. I don't know much about it but it seems like a great idea. Can I use that solely alone for the water feature substrate? And since I"ll have extra left over should I mix that in with my substrate mix for the rest of the tank or simply put it over the top of the substrate?

3. And finally, I've never had great luck with moss growing, but I've really never tried that much either aside from taking it from outside and hoping it grows on the top of my soil (which I don't really think works at all).
So you mentioned that you just take spagnum moss and tropical moss and blend them up, put it on the wood pieces, and give it high water and high light. And that's it?
Whenever you find the time. Thanks a bunch.
 

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So you mentioned that you just take spagnum moss and tropical moss and blend them up, put it on the wood pieces, and give it high water and high light. And that's it?
Yes, this is what he recommends. I just did this today, mixing 6 different species of moss with sphagnum in a blender. It looks (and smells) absolutely disgusting, but in a month my wood should be covered in green-ness!
 

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Hey Grimm, I figured I'd post publicly in case some others have the same questions..

1. As far as wattage/volts/amps go for the fan setup I want to make sure that I've got it right...
I used all the same equipment you have sand you mentioned that the volts should be equal to the fans. I found an old phone charger that is listed as having INPUT: 100-120VAC 50/60Hz 0.3 amps
OUTPUT: +12V --- 1A
Is this correct? I ask because with the fans turned all the way up I can only slightly feel them against my hand, although I'm sure they're fine to circulate the air inside the viv. (And I've accounted for the slight loss of power from the restricted angle at which the fans are sitting in the fan housings). From your experience could I maybe use a more powerful charger to push out more air or am I maxed out at where I'm at?

2. I bought some of the Plant stratum substrate that mentioned and I'm planning on using it in the water feature part in addition to/or instead of pebble rocks. I don't know much about it but it seems like a great idea. Can I use that solely alone for the water feature substrate? And since I"ll have extra left over should I mix that in with my substrate mix for the rest of the tank or simply put it over the top of the substrate?

3. And finally, I've never had great luck with moss growing, but I've really never tried that much either aside from taking it from outside and hoping it grows on the top of my soil (which I don't really think works at all).
So you mentioned that you just take spagnum moss and tropical moss and blend them up, put it on the wood pieces, and give it high water and high light. And that's it?
Whenever you find the time. Thanks a bunch.
1. You need both the fan stats, and the transformer stats. They should have the same volts in DC, and the transformer should supply the fan with more amps then it is rated for. What is the cubic feet per minute rating on the fans? Maybe it just isnt a very powerful fan...

2. Yeah I only used the stratum in my water area. I would hold onto any extra you have, because it is expensive and can be used for another tank. Just be sure to have it submerged, or covered with leaves because it sticks to the frogs.

3. Easy peasy

Yes, this is what he recommends. I just did this today, mixing 6 different species of moss with sphagnum in a blender. It looks (and smells) absolutely disgusting, but in a month my wood should be covered in green-ness!
Haha really? Mine smelled amazing when I first blended it up. Kinda like a sweet tropical rainforest. I had some extra and kept it in a bowl. Next day it was horrible lol
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks guys!
And I used the exact same fans and setup as you did with your tank GRIMM. I think you said it was 12v with a matching 12v. I just didn't know if I needed more amperage from the charger or not.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I usually don't use black foam because its harder to come by and more expensive but I had to go with it this time. Luckily I found this brand on Amazon for $10 each. I bought 3.



Alright so I forgot to take a picture of the initial session of the waterfall construction, but here are some pictures of the second session.

I started by using quite a bit of black pond foam on top of the eggcrate. That allowed for the slate to have something to stick to.

I found that after the foam had cured the slate was not really stuck (from being sticky) but instead, the force of the expanding foam wedged the pieces in place. About half of the pieces fell out upon touching them so basically this pond foam isn't as gooey as regular great stuff and it cured very fast so we also encountered the problem of not working fast enough to get the pieces in place. (The tank was laying on its back unlike how its pictured.)

(The first session had A LOT more tape to hold the slate pieces in place.)
So for the second session we used brown silicone to stick the remaining pieces in place so they'd stay put this time. In hindsight of should have used the black silicone...

In my opinion I think the brown definitely made it look 'off' so I planned on covering that all up with more foam.


So far so good but you can see all the big gaps where the slate is missing.

Water test shows that I've got a pretty powerful stream going so I'll have to turn it down a notch or switch to a smaller powerhead.

3rd foam construction session - 2 cans worth of black pond foam used in the tank

Tubing and fan housing concealed; pots, film canisters, and water bowl all set in place...


Right side of tank


Left side

I decided to incorporate more slate pieces in other parts of tank to tie it all together, so its not "just a waterfall"


The foam expanded much more than I anticipated the second time around. BUT it did get rid or the brown silicone look like I wanted.
It looks sloppy to me so I know I have some SERIOUS sculpting/carving to do to clean it up and make it flow. I really enjoy this step though.

I was hoping to find a species that will utilize the climbing areas in this habitat or use the perching spots for calling...
Any recommendations on which species would most enjoy this entire setup? :0
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Finally got the first coating of Pond Foam carved out. It took me well over 3 hours.
(Right side of tank)


Waterfall area carved out. I added more slate pieces on top to hide the drilled pvc pipe that distributes the water over the rocks.
I do plan on hiding the water tube as well. I am also planning on using one more can of black foam to get spots throughout the tank that I missed before.


I almost decided to not use the Lights in Flight because of the whole technical detail oriented aspect surrounding them, but then I couldn't find the receipt ($26), so I decided to use them! Like I said before, "I've gotta go BIG in this build", so I'm glad I decided to stick with the original plan.


Here you can see how I taped up the lights with painters tape. I did this so that the lights didn't become covered in foam or silicone. It helped out tremendously not having to worry about how they were laying in the background.


In another build I saw someone mentioned that they covered up the lights casing in silicone. I thought this was a smart move just to be extra cautious since there will be water/humidity surrounding these lights. I took this a step further (got the idea from the gf) and decided to coat the entire string of lights in silicone and then peat moss. That way if I can't figure out a good way to conceal the light strand into the background then at least the wires will look like vines strewn across the enclosure.


It turned out better than I had hoped and this was only with one layer of silicone and peat moss! This time we didn't use the Toluene to thin the silicone it and it coated it very well. Any spots that were still showing green will be covered with more pond foam.


Silicone: $6
Peat Moss: $3 (Fred Meyers)
1/8" Fiber Insulated Staples 40ct.: $1.50 each (2)


I found these insulated staples at Home Depot. I thought they would be perfect to hold the strands of wires to the background as I set them all in their right places.



It was quite a tedious task as the staples kept falling out every time I moved the wires at a different angle, but after more than two hours the whole tank was set up with two strands! I then used dabs of silicone on the staples to give them a little more stability adhering to the foam.


End shot

I also finally got this beautiful stand I ordered online!
Petco online: Shipped for $140.


It may be hard to tell in the picture, but here are a couple of lights glowing green and the way the blue tape is covering them it makes them much dimmer than before which in my opinion looks a thousand times better. Much like real fireflys and not super intensely bright LEDs flashing in a tank.
My plan is to replace the blue painters tape with green painters tape and leave them covered.


COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS WELCOME!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Okay, its been a while since my last post but much progress has been made!

This picture is after the first coating of black Silicone II and peat moss.
The blue tape is covering all the slate, wood, and air/fan vents.


I ended up using half a small bag of peat moss ($3 at Fred Meyers) and 3 tubes of GE Silicone II Black ($7 each)

This is what it looks like after the final coat of silicone/peat moss was applied, after I took off all of the tape pieces from the slate, circulation vents, and off of the firefly lights, and after I vacuumed up all excess peat moss.
This took me about 2 hours.

I decided to do only a slight coating of peat moss in the water fall area just to give it a little color. I am assuming that most of it will eventually come off when the waterfall is turned on.


Lights in flight with the lights (and tape) off. As mentioned earlier I plan on re-taping the lights with green painters FROG tape to dampen the brightness of the lights so they appear to be more natural.


Picture showing the lights on in a lit room!
Blurry, but the colors shine through.


A quick test and all systems are still fully operational!
Lights, fans, and water pump.


After one last quick water test then comes the next step...
Planting the substrate and plants!


Hydroton: JoshsFrogs- $10 for a large bag.

I am using the ABG soil mix recipe.

Tree fern pieces: Sierra Fish and Pets- $7 a lb. I think I used about $10 worth.
Spagnum moss: from Joshsfrogs $5 for 200g. I used less than $1 worth.
Charcoal: Fred Meyers- $3 per bag. Used 1 bag.
Orchid Bark: Fred Meyers: $5 for a huge bag. Used $3 worth.
Peat Moss: Fred Meyers: $3 per small bag. Used 1 bag.

I mixed the proper amounts per ABG recipe, and because I had some extra on hand I added:
2 handfuls of coco fiber (JoshsFrogs- 3 pack brick- $5. Used less than $1 worth)
2 handfuls of coco husk chips (JoshsFrogs- $3. Used $ less 1 worth.
1 handful of washed sand (Fred Meyers- $3 a bag. Used less than $1 worth.)
1 bag of leaf litter- Free :)

(Also pictured is a bag of Fluval Plant Stratum for the water feature. (Amazon- $16)

In case anyone is wondering why I am including prices for absolutely everything its because for one, I want people who are not familiar with these products to have a good idea of how much it would cost them to buy all of this, as well as where to buy them from. (I am what I like to call "thrifty", so wherever I bought my supplies from there is a good chance that it is the cheapest price around.) And two, I want to keep track for my own purposes exactly how much this build cost me. :)
 
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