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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
this was for another forum contest, but seems the site is probably going to be gone, so i thought id share

One of the most responsible things you can do before starting a vivarium is to know what you are going to have
inhabiting it, this will allow the build to be designed around the animal not the other way around.
I planned on having**P. Terribilis (mint morph), being these are terestrial frogs for the most part, i went
with a horizontal build.
Also in planning a viv its important to know what access you are going to have and where your lighting is going to be
mounted. Being i was limited on space with this build going on a night stand**i went with a zoo med 18x18x24 (i
dont like the added seam in the middle of the exo terra that obstucts view and increases fly escape).**
These side door enclosures tend to leak flies like no other no matter which brand.
So ill add a few pictures of how i managed to slow this hemarage of insects.

Lets get started!!!
a quick 5% belach and water wipe down of the empty tank


a false bottom is very important to have as this will allow you an air barrier between the substrate and the water
that has leached through from misting.
there are different options to creating this false bottom (FB) but we will use a material called egg crate panels.
we cut the panel top to the size we wanted in the viv.

we built it up to a height that worked with the vents in the viv and would give enough water storage in bottom
with out saturating my sub.

next was to plan the substrate topography. im not a fan of flat subs. and adding hills and elevation changes helps
increase square inch of terrestrial frog habitat as well as give needed visual barriers.
using egg crate we built fillers

installed them and covered with standard fiberglass screen
Shop New York Wire 36" x 84" Charcoal Fiberglass Screen Wire at

did some checking to see what itll look like

in order to drain the false bottom you will need an access point. there are once again many ways to create and
access point, but in this build we will use a bulk head.
this is were a glass drill bit will be required.
start off at about a 45 degree angle and slowly start drilling. slow speeds are the most effective. reduce pressure to
almost nothing when cutting glass.

here is fairly good info on drilling, their drill bits i found to be really good quality as well
How To Drill Glass
also see below vid of drilling a hole.

after the hole was drilled a bulk head from mistking was installed
MistKing Misting Systems by Jungle Hobbies Ltd

as you can see the next pic is completely out of sequince but it was an important lesson learned on testing water
proofing WAY eariler in the build than i did! this was murphy's law at its best, all other vivs ive built were
tested. this was the first one i didnt try.

So i will suggest that you fill the viv with a high water level and let sit for 24 hours and see if adjustments are

next i hate light showing through my back ground so i add contact paper to what ever side i am going to put a back
ground on. some will make the BG really thick so they dont see through,
but that takes away valuable space for the frogs so i try to keep the back ground as thin as possible.
Shop Duck Black 15' x 20" Shelf Liner at

now that this is complete i wanted to work on some back ground accents. A lot of people are looking for a natural
vine to fill the viv. Well here is a close second that with proper watering and planting will look great!
basic ingredients are brown silicone (avoid silicone that has the anti mildew formula), Xylene, rope, and what ever
you want the rope texture to be(i used peat moss).

now it is important to wear protection and read ALL safety warnings! wear a resperator and do this work in a well
ventalated area. this work should not be tempted by a minor, read the label of the Xylene!
We mixed a 50/50 of silicone and xylene

added the rope and mixed to evenly cover the surface. Allow a min for the rope to absorb the mixture.

the nice brown silicone will cover all white of the rope, now drop in to your covering material and cover all wet areas.
try to handle this the least amount as possible to allow the covering material to adhere to the mixture. then lay it
out to dry

While that is drying, now is a good time to start laying the back ground out. there are MANY back ground types
available in the hobby that can be installed, but we will
be using the tried and true great stuff (GS) and caulk back ground (BG). there are tons of GS types and even two
colors out there, go with the cheapest ;)
started off with the tank on its side and started applying the GS.
some people feel that you should put a coat of silicone on the glass before applying the GS, i have never experenced a
GS adhesion fail.*however*it can and does happen so this is your choice.
Shop Dow 12 Oz. Great Stuff Gaps & Cracks Insulating Foam Sealant at

i like to apply the GS slowly with small streams and keep the patern minimal. when working with GS no matter how
short it is going to be, be sure and wear clothes that you are willing to mess up.
with out a doubt, GS will ALWAYS find its way onto your clothes. i also strongly reccommend wearing latex
gloves. as the only thing the back of the can says for removal is "wear gloves".

while still fresh we want to add a little more texture to the BG so we used cork pieces. these were soaked in a 5%
bleach solution and then baked at 250 until dry. also please do me a favor and make the grain of the coark go
vertical or there abouts (maybe this is just my pet peeve but i hate to
see the grain just pointing in all different direcitions, it just looks unnatural)
while your cork is set, you may want to shoot a little gs into the voids to prevent the frogs from finding hiding spots
behind the cork. this is up to you.

after allowing the GS to cure for two days heavly sand the GS as it is very smooth, then apply the same silicone and
Xylene mixture to the sanded GS.

while still fresh throw on extra heavy amounts of your BG material on the wet cork. With more than is need on
there, lightly push the
material down to insure proper adhesion to the BG.

· Registered
1,182 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
next we affixed the vines and did touch up (we left a gap in the corner to run temp and RH sensor that now needs
to be covered). affixing items in a viv can be done with gorilla glue being it is the same poly foam GS is.
Shop GORILLA GLUE 2 Oz. Adhesive at

As i stated earlier this viv tends to have a LOT of escapees so the first thing i changed was the bottom vent
(these are huge gaps and we just need a little air flow)
there are three tabs at the bottom that need to be pushed torwards the glass then the vent can slide up

this is not as easy as it sounds, but no matter how hard it is, it is greatly worth the task!
i broke it !!! OH NO!!!

well guess what? its not that big of a deal, you can fix it.

use a soildering iron and melt it back together. its pretty easy really.

next install NO-SEE-UM mesh on the inside of the vent (dont skimp here, fiber glass screen does NOT stop a fruit
mesh fabrics

then reinstall the vent by pushing it back down into the viv.

Being the top of the Zoo Med is screen, which is un usable if you want to keep humidity high enough for poison dart
frogs (PDFs), we need to create a glass top.
i suggest something that is thick enough to withstand heat, pressure, and drilling so i got 1/4" this is a
cheap material and cost like $12. look on line for local glass shops cutting and drilling isnt a hard task. it seems to be
scary at first but really it isnt tough. when you go buy this sheet of glass ask if they have a scrap piece and practice
on this a bit to work out any nerves.

we laid out and made the cuts
and now have this nice viv top! dont forget to enjoy the beverage of your choice and remember this is FUN! not
something to be worried about or get worked up over.

with the top cut, now it needs to be drilled for misting and for venting.

installing the mist heads you will be using is a snap.

plumb them to each other, this may take a few tries, but see what you are measuring and itll make sense.

i wanted to viv to have lots of air flow so i picked a nice quite 40mm PC fan

with the data on the lable i selected a power supply that proved NO LESS (this is important) than 10% more mAh
than the fan required.

it is obvious i skipped a head here a bit so ignore the plants and lights for a bit ;) . its for your own good.

to seal this up properly smear a film of caulk around the fan hole, lay a large patch of no see umm and useing a razor
blade, lightly push it into the caulk and create a tight sraight cover overthe hole.
put a dab of caulk on the four corners of the fan and then push on to the fresh laid mesh.
allow to dry over night, then using a razor cut and scrape the access mesh that is not needed.

I started installing the mesh over the vents thinking after it dried i could razor blade a square around the hole that
would look clean.

well i was wrong it looked horrible... so i bought some washers and ended up painting the plastic washers with a
1/2" inside diameter black and then pressing them over the screen simalar to the fan.

this is your painting and there are no mistakes, you can always change it if you are not happy.

Now you can install the substrate
i used a washed gravel at the FB then went to a turface material at the sub.
i washed gravel**with a 5% bleach

i used this gravel around the perimeter

next was the turface proleague infield conditioner
call around some of the local landscape suppliers
Calcined Clay Infield Conditioners | Turface Athletics

i moved the viv to the night stand and did some measuring and wanted to mount the light off the tank enough that
the lamps would be far enough away that heat wouldnt be built into the tank.
i bought a T5HO. Some people hate this brand. i have had nothing but great success with them and their
reflectors are awesome not to mention the fixture itself is clean looking.
Odyssea T5 Aquarium Lighting

remember that building vis is all about customzing and you should never be afaid of altering a product to fit your
needs. However being this is an electrical device, have a good idea of what you are doing.
i drilled and screwed a 90degree bracket**

with that installed and the viv in final resting place its time to add the plants and leaf litter. leaf litter is very important
for the frogs and microfauna. so dont skimp, its better to have more than less.

there are a lot of plants that work in vivs and a little planning will go a long way. plants are probably the item i spend
the most on in the build. here are some that i think work well in a viv and dont overwhelm the tank in a short
period of time. I am ok with waiting for the viv to grow in, its less work down the road in comparison to a plant like
wondering fig (ficus repens) that is fast enough growing to be the only plant in the tank in a mere few months.
okay so here is the list:
-aroids look for minatures
-most Begonia but they can be fast growers (read up on the sp.)
-neo. bromeliads a very important part to every single on of my builds, i bet i have 30+ sp. they are a great plant for
EVERY viv!
-fern this is a giant family so use some common sense
-java moss
-orchids as many as you can afford!
-selaginella some do well but kraussiana seems to ALWAYS die! i tried it for the 4th or 5th time in this viv
and..... it died**ERRRR

anyway this is just a starting point and the list is days long of what loves high humidity daily watering and mid 70F so
be creative.

i like the orchids from andy, his customer service is second to none and plant quality is amazing!
Andy's Orchids - Orchid Species - Orchids - Species Specialist - Orchids on a stick
know what your buying before you buy! research the plant and understand what it likes. if you buy cryptanthus
(earth star), plant it on the floor... its not an epiphytic (air dwelling) plant(just another pet peeve).
every plant i put in a viv i wash to the bare root then give a 5% bleach spray and let sit for 10-15 min. even the
orchids, even java moss!

as you can see i was not happy with one misting heads so i changed it out. if something doesnt work, change it
now. its better to change your mind now than it is to do it while there are frogs in the tank.

add more plants

add more plants... you get the idea ;)

next install the misting pump and timer and fan timer under the stand.
MistKing Misting Systems by Jungle Hobbies Ltd
set to your desired misting schedule. i like 20-30 secs in the morning and the fan on 5-6 times for 5-10 min through
out the day. each viv is different and should be treated as so (in my opinion).

the next thing you want to do is seed the viv with micro fauna. if you are going to pick only two things to seed with
i would use white tropical isopods and pink springtails.
depending on the frog you choose the more attention needs to be put into micro fauna. if you buy a culture, put
half in the tank and set up a larger growing culture (this is pretty important as a frog like**adelphobates galactonotus
will wipe out anything that moves with in a month) and re seeding will be important.

Pinks cultures are just kept on a decaying leaf litter fed on only active bakers yeast.

tropical springs are also super easy to culture, crushed hardwood charcoal**fed on only active bakers yeast.

i have also been playing with a 100% turface culture that is doing VERY well so far

also be ready with your fly cultures (CX).
i like to use super fly, i CX melan., Hydei, and buzzati on it with great success.
while there also pick up some calcium + your frogs will thank you ;)
Repashy Ventures - Distributor Center
if you need some CX cups hit up josh's!!! great place for other misc. viv materials. Which reminds me i need more
Insect Culturing Cups and Lids Collection | Josh's Frogs

Now this viv is really 95% percent done. let the viv grow in and set up for a month or more.

Then order your frogs and quarinte them. then add them to the viv and enjoy!
here is a little over 1 month of grow in on the viv

a few little helpful tips for your build and after you have it up and running:
-dry silicone will not cure to previously cured silicone. so try to make all caulk to caulk assemblies while it is fresh.
-being flies WILL escape at some point, get a shot glass and fill it with apple cyder vinigar and 2-3 drop of dish soap
(hide it some where close to the viv). clean this out once a month or as it evaporates. youll be amazed at how many
flies this will catch.
-there is a reason everything that went into the tank had a 5% wash of bleach. a clean viv to start off with will save
a lot of head aches later down the road.
-start cultures and figure it out how to be successful before getting any frogs

Welcome to the addiction of building Vivariums!

And finally there are meetings on the boards when you become addicted!

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1,075 Posts
Seriously awesome write up. Im using this from now on to show people how to make vivs. Such great pics and discriptions. Love that all the links for other tutorials are included.


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1,182 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Ok lets address the miracle-gro
contents are:
0.02% Ammoniacal Nitrogen
0.03% Nitrate Nitrogen

0.02% Phosphate (P2O5)
0.04% Soluble potash (K2O)

with a total of less than a handful used in the build and a full month of watering and plant grow out on the material. i dont see a large enough concern. im sure there is probably an article on the nitrogen that would stir the opposition, (im just using a little reason here, and it may be wrong) but its peat moss and i feel most of the fear on ferts is in adding it straight to the viv to increase plant growth and used continually. this is just applied once then is used by plants and washed away in the grow out period.

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I was told once by Woodsman that he uses Miracle Grow Moisture Control. Its then covered in 2" of leaf litter. The frogs supposedly never touch it. I dunno, to each, their own. I try and avoid chemicals altogether. In my food, and my frogs. :)

I do have to say again. This is an amazing thread. Thanks MOTY

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1,770 Posts
Ok lets address the miracle-gro
contents are:
0.02% Ammoniacal Nitrogen
0.03% Nitrate Nitrogen

0.02% Phosphate (P2O5)
0.04% Soluble potash (K2O)

with a total of less than a handful used in the build and a full month of watering and plant grow out on the material. i dont see a large enough concern. im sure there is probably an article on the nitrogen that would stir the opposition, (im just using a little reason here, and it may be wrong) but its peat moss and i feel most of the fear on ferts is in adding it straight to the viv to increase plant growth and used continually. this is just applied once then is used by plants and washed away in the grow out period.
I didn't want to derail your thread, because it's a great look for new people who are just getting into viv building... which is why I said that I'm personally not comfortable using it (or recommending it to newbies when there are alternatives we know for a fact are 100% safe) instead of "DON'T USE THAT STUFF". I wasn't really referring to your viv, but was thinking more that it could cause someone new to assume miracle gro potting soil as 100% of their substrate would be fine, for example.

I've also read that their peat moss contains a "wetting agent," on top of the nutrients, not sure exactly what that is chemically though... seems like it could possibly have the potential to mess with a frog's osmotic balance?

Also read a few anecdotes regarding npk levels going haywire, and a few (possibly circumstantial) witness accounts- this one makes a good point at the beginning as well:
I would stay away from anything that says Miracle Grow. Just because the chemicals aren't used doesn't mean the product wasn't processed in the same plant with all the lovely chemical fertilizers.

I had a major issue with this when I first started keeping darts. Lost 3 out of 5 froglets in 2-3 days. Not to mention the soil smells really bad when wet! I have used eco-earth ever since. No problems, no weird smells.
Apologies for the derail & hope it works out in yours, just wanted to throw up a 'proceed with caution' flag for any new froggers who might come along. Great job with the thread and the viv.

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
no apologies needed, this is the information right behind the build that people will read and be able to make their own choices on their build. in hind sight yes i would have used straight peat moss (and to be truthful i thought i grabbed straight peat moss)... but im not going to be too concerned about it at this point.
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