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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well Im finaly far enough along that I will start to share my experiances.
Started with a Zoo-med 18x18x24
Wanted a tree trunk style back ground.
Small pond area and water feature.
Egg crate false bottom.
Plant pots in the back wall.
And didnt want to Paint or use construction paper on the outside.
(All the ideas in my head now for upcomming viv's cant wait to do it again and I dont even have frogs yet)
I'll also share things I have learned along the way that may help other people.

Heres how it went.

First Here it is empty and on my dresser for now this is were I'll keep it.
The living room is undergoing new entertainment center that will give me more room for Vivariums and a new Terrarium im getting in June.

False bottom created and ready.
Later I decided the false bottom wasnt giving me the water depth I needed so I added a layer of egg crate and screen for added depth. also decided the pond area was to big.
And the small wall going up in the right corner I realized wasnt needed and removed it.

Some suplies I gathered from local stores to start the build.

During cunstruction I though... How can I hide my false bottom... Silicone gravel to the screen YEAH... later (almost complete) I realized I could have made the false bottom just a little smaller siliconed a little corner of gravel then just poor in gravel to fill the gap between glass and false bottom.... NEXT TIME lol

Started creating my tree and background.

Hrmm not what I was expecting (looks like I will have to sand this off my brand new deck LOL)

The Idea here was to have 2 halves of the tree fit together in the back right corner of the Viv but after Silicone and Grout everything shrank thus warping both halves so I scrapped this way of construction and gave it some thought for a couple days.

Unfortunetly I didnt take pics during of cunstruction because I was in the mode and it was going so great I forgot.
Basicly I made 25 pieces 3/4 circles.
Its layers of the blue styrafom sheed where the branches are I cut each layer in half then sort of cut away were the branch would be laid in the circle.
Then when the branch had pieces enough to suround the branch I filled in the hole with GS.
Here is a pick of the back Inside corner of the new way to create a tree.
Hope my description plus the photo makes sence.

Then I used grout to give the tree texture and hand painted it to give it color....

After all that I sealed it and HATED IT soo I let it dry for about 4 days out side in the warm S. TX sun. and decided to make a substrate with LOTS of orchid bark chunks and silicone it all on.

Then I created the background wall that would attatch to the tree.
I also siliconed a substraight mix to it but didnt use corcid bark so you could kind of see the differance between the tree and the background.

Now its time for the Tight Sqeeze putting it into the tank.
Also added some fake vines (I didnt make my own I used Flukers mini vine and wrapped it around the larger Exo-terra cork vine)
Hard to see but there are 2 branches the lower one blended right into the bark in this pic.

OK thats it for this post BRB to post the plantings.

Questions comments please feel free.

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136 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Ok now for some planting
Things I learned...
A Shop vac is a life saver lol
Trying to put soil in a 3" pot at eye leve is difficult with vines and branches in the way and the angle your hand needs to be makes it very dificult.... that said wonder if i could have lifted the viv after lol anyway.

Sorry about the reflection of the ceiling fan lights.

Fake tree in pond area.

Couple aqua plants (water level isnt very deep so these may not survive)
I will add a moss ball soon.

3 Ghost shrimp

Coco hut and a tropical fern (it didnt come with a name tag)
And Irish moss (I know the Irish moss prolly wont make it, if not I will get Riccia

2 Different type of Bromeilad one just in the substrate floor the one on the left in back is in a pot.
I would like to try a couple orchaids and other broms just tied to the tree bark.

In the very top left corner I have a pot with I belive Irish creeping fig.
Under it there is a plant with colored leaves cont remeber the name of the plant but on the tag it said splash of red then theres one on the right said splash of pink I used these also in pots down below in oposite sides Left one has splash of pink and the right one splash of red.
They were cheap and I figured they could take up space for now. (I have 8 3" pots in the background)

Notes and thoughts I have had along the way.

Keeping substrate out of the pond area is difficult.

Water feature is still in the works.
Oh yeah On the right side of the tank I siliconed a cork bark BG but so that the bark side was facing the glass so if you look at the viv from the outside right side it looks like a tree not foam, paint or construction paper (I will add a photo after I go get my LL)

Things I would like to add.

More plants. (Earth stars for sure!!)

Headed out in a few min to find my own LL TONS of Live oaks here in S TX.

Im nervous about planting into the tree... Do i just cut a hole in the foam and slip a Brom or orchid or some type of epiphytes in the hole should I wrap the end with sphagnum or something?

Mistking system.

Better light fixture.

Hrmmm well thats all for now again please feel free to leave comments good or (not bad but advice on changes) thanks for checking it out.

Also I was thinking Azureus but not sure if theis is thier kind of set up so plz let me know what you think. (Frogs wont be for a few mo. yet still need Isopods Springtails and practcie culturing FF)

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136 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Oh yeah and a Glass top with a small vent strip.

The GF likes it cold in the house so I will be getting some thermo/hydro meters (digital)
I wonder how well it retains heat when the temp drops at night with no light.
Tell me more about Moonlighing. Heat? Bright? what kind of bulbs are available?
Also if substrate is mixed right about how long does it continue to look wet?

Thanks everyone...

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638 Posts
great job what's going in there? And the plants in the water are called dwarf sageteria( i think thats how you spell it) They are hardy, I have some in a tank im gonna put mudskippers in and they sticking out of the water, just make sure its humid

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589 Posts
Nice Viv for your first time! You must have done your research! :) One thin I would say is the brom you have planted in the substrate... I would be careful. Broms will survive in substrate , but it must have really good drainage and airation. Typically Broms grow in the top canopy of the rainforest , but are alos found on the ground. Just keep an eye on the saturation of your soil. Other than that your tank looks awesome!

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132 Posts
Hate to be a party poop...but when you siliconed all that gravel to your false bottom I imagine you seriously inhibited your drainage. :eek:
As long as the gravel is only siliconed to the sides of the false bottom, there should not be too much of a drainage issue. I would definately pull that brom out from the substrate as well...while they may survive with decent drainage, keep in mind that you have a few inches of water right below it.

To be honest, I would say that you should invest in more of a buffer between the false bottom and the soil layer. Your soil will have a hard time remaining dry enough if constantly exposed to the water level below...i would recommend putting an inch or so of hydroton or more gravel on top of the false bottom to allow better drainage, then screening or cocofiber planters atop that, followed by your soil layer.

To top it off, lay down some leaf litter for microfauna/frog hiding in San Antonio, you have the privelege of magnolia trees at your disposal, and these leaves work great for a layer of leaf litter, provided the tree hasn't been exposed to pesticides and you properly sterilize them (rinsing, then baking for 10-15 minutes at 350 F)

I would advise against azureus; there may be enough floor space for one, but the size of the tree fixtures in there would be best used for a more "arboreal" or "vertically oriented" thumbnail species...ventrimaculatus are good beginner thumbs.

Good work on your first build, and keep us posted as to what you decide. And welcome to this addicting hobby...I promise, this won't be your last viv.

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136 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks guys for the word of encouragement!!
Todd McFarlane whos that ;-)

Me left calf Tat.

Zcasc Thank you for the info, I' like the idea of adding hydoton ontop my eggcrate then screen then soil (once false bottom was made and everything installed I wasnt sure how to raise the gap)
one layer of egrate dsent seem to be enough gap.

I will be moving the broms to the actual tree with some floral pins this weekend.
back to work and taking up a lot of my time (they are in good color and growing, but like mentioned befor they wont last in the wet substraight)

Most importantly...
After the build I realized the frogs intended werent suited for this build I very very much appreciate the tip on the ventrimaculatus.

Originaly I wanted azureus but very shortly after i finished the build I found out (thru more research) that I didnt create enough floor space.

I think my next build will be Exo terra 36x18x24 that will be an all floor space with shallow stream build ;-)

Thanks again everyone for the info and support I realy like this board.
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