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Discussion Starter #1
Hello everyone!

After a VERY, VERY long hiatus, I got inspiration from an empty enclosure that I used to house a tree monitor in, and after several months of debating, I finally decided to devote months of effort into making it a full vivarium, the most ambitious I've ever tried by a LONG shot.

I've never even approached a build of this size, but it was the finalized image I had in my head that kept me going. The entire thing is 3 feet wide, 2 feet deep, and 4 feet tall. I spent months working on the background, getting it filled, then filed back, then smoothed down as best as possible. It took something like 10-12 bottles of aquarium-safe silicone caulking to cover the backing with coco fiber, and even still there have been a few small spots where it didn't quite cover. I also used netting cups to mixed effectiveness (there are two that are FAR too horizontal - i could use advice on what to do with them). I used mostly false bottom from Josh's frogs (relatively thin layer), followed by substrate divider, and something like 12 bags of ABG mix. I also used 6 compressed bricks of sphagnum moss (turned out to be too much and so I gave the rest to my big Nile monitor for enrichment), a bag of dried magnolia leaves, and my buddy brought out a bunch of leaves he raked up from his yard (he rinsed them with water, then baked them at 200 degrees for 45 minutes to ensure they were sanitized). I also have two computer fans hooked up to the top of the enclosure, to ensure proper air circulation, and two nozzles that spray in 30 second increments 9 times a day to keep humidity up (but not TOO wet).
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Right now I have a Neoregalia bromeliad from an old tank (it already cloned - I guess I'll see how it does), two Cryptanthus (from an old tank), selaginella, anthurium, and cactus orchid. Problem is I want some more plants in there, especially at least one that will do well in direct light (since most of the others do better in partial shade, I want one that will grow out to provide some shade), and I would really like to have some that either creep UP the cork bark, or can be planted in an elevated position (like in the last photo, that little alcove above and behind the neoregalia) and will drape their leaves downward. Any suggestions for plants to add would be wonderful!

Also, I want to make sure when I get some isopods and whatnot for substrate, I don't have them escaping everywhere. How might I seal those bottom doors in a way that would still allow them to open? Last thing I would REALLY love to do would be to have a sort of speaker to play rainforest ambiance noises in the enclosure (the speaker doesn't have to be in the enclosure itself, but could be mounted outside with a bit of screen to protect it from the cage),that can be changed to frog calls if I wish to do so. Has anyone ever done anything like that before? If so, how did you do it?

Lastly, I haven't actually decided on what kind of animal(s) I would want to put in this enclosure anyways. I obviously love dart frogs, but I don't even know if there is a species of dart that would make full use of all the space this enclosure provides. I won't be getting any animals for a while because I need this enclosure to grow in fully, but ideas are always appreciated!
 

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With all that space, changing the crystals for mesh and protecting the lights I would go for a panther chameleon without a doubt, with more vegetation too!
Great viv and Great work!(y);)
 

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The light fixtures inside the enclosure make me nervous with the humidity and potential frogs making their way to them.
Agreed. Most of the frogs I keep would climb up there and try to get burned or shocked. Also, moisture with or without debris like FFs and dust and mold inside and above the sockets is a shock and fire hazard.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
The light fixtures inside the enclosure make me nervous with the humidity and potential frogs making their way to them.
These lights are purely LEDs that give off no heat, but I could probably manage to build some sort of protection around them.
Agreed. Most of the frogs I keep would climb up there and try to get burned or shocked. Also, moisture with or without debris like FFs and dust and mold inside and above the sockets is a shock and fire hazard.
How do I fix this without redoing the entire viv then?
 

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What’s the white fixture in the wall in ‘vivarium 5.png’?

Have you considered covering the white walls and ceiling with something (tree root panels, or similar to the background) to make it look a bit more natural and allow the plants/moss to grow out a bit ?

Do you have a photo that shows the vivarium in situ? Not sure I get why the doors look like they do. Seems to be a lot of frame involved


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How do I fix this without redoing the entire viv then?
A weatherproof socket (like @Harpspiel linked) is a good start on avoiding the water-in-fixture problem. I don't know that it would be safe enough for frog contact. Would you plug it in and let a child lick it all over (considering only electrical safety, not germs)? That's how safe it need to be, because that's essentially what a frog is going to do. I myself wouldn't lick the connection of any screw-in light -- I realize the threaded part of the connection is designed to be the neutral line, but I've checked enough house wiring to know that there are plenty of reverse polarity electrical outlets in use. Of course, checking the polarity on both fixtures (when you install properly weatherproof ones) and plugging into a confirmed functional GFCI would likely be sufficient.

Are the lights glass? A broken glass bulb in a dart viv would be an almost unsalvagable situation, I think. It would necessitate a complete strip-down to bare walls, and discarding all materials, probably. I don't actually know what the globe on LEDs is made of.

Personally, I'd get the LED viv lighting of my choice, and then cut a screened area in the top to accommodate it on the outside, where it won't be degraded by water and won't hurt anyone. The viv looks to need more ventilation anyway, so the screen cutout is a good idea regardless of lighting.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
A weatherproof socket (like @Harpspiel linked) is a good start on avoiding the water-in-fixture problem. I don't know that it would be safe enough for frog contact. Would you plug it in and let a child lick it all over (considering only electrical safety, not germs)? That's how safe it need to be, because that's essentially what a frog is going to do. I myself wouldn't lick the connection of any screw-in light -- I realize the threaded part of the connection is designed to be the neutral line, but I've checked enough house wiring to know that there are plenty of reverse polarity electrical outlets in use. Of course, checking the polarity on both fixtures (when you install properly weatherproof ones) and plugging into a confirmed functional GFCI would likely be sufficient.

Are the lights glass? A broken glass bulb in a dart viv would be an almost unsalvagable situation, I think. It would necessitate a complete strip-down to bare walls, and discarding all materials, probably. I don't actually know what the globe on LEDs is made of.

Personally, I'd get the LED viv lighting of my choice, and then cut a screened area in the top to accommodate it on the outside, where it won't be degraded by water and won't hurt anyone. The viv looks to need more ventilation anyway, so the screen cutout is a good idea regardless of lighting.
Keep in mind that this viv already has two computer fans (which I will be screening over), one on each corner (one in the front left of the top, one in the back right), so there is considerable ventilation already - I'd worry that with too much screen, I wouldn't be able to keep it humid enough.

I could still try it though. I have an old exo-terra hood with 2 LED grow lights. I'd have to get my buddy to somehow get on top and cut it out and figure out how to do this without breaking the bank as well... I have spent a lot of money as it is on this and cannot afford to make changes that would cost more than say $200 tops (total)

What’s the white fixture in the wall in ‘vivarium 5.png’?

Have you considered covering the white walls and ceiling with something (tree root panels, or similar to the background) to make it look a bit more natural and allow the plants/moss to grow out a bit ?

Do you have a photo that shows the vivarium in situ? Not sure I get why the doors look like they do. Seems to be a lot of frame involved


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The fixture in that wall is from when this used to be a tree monitor enclosure - it was attached to the main enclosure so I could separate the two animals when they got too rowdy with each other. Unfortunately they ended up passing away a few years ago, and this enclosure has been sitting around ever since.

Considering how much effort it took just to get the background to where it is, I don't think I could manage to put anything else in there. It took MONTHS (partially because I needed my buddy around to help me get it done - I have zero skills when it comes to using spray foam or silicone) to get to where it is now, and paying for his gas alone to come over during this time (he's all the way in Missouri, I'm in Kansas) has made this a bank buster project. I couldn't afford the extra labor or the supplies to cover the rest.

The vivarium is attached to the old tree monitor main cage, but the reason that white thing is there is because it seals it off from the big cage. Eventually, when I move for wherever I get my PhD. I'll make the necessary modifications for this viv to stand fully on its own, but for now I have nowhere else to put it so it stays as is. As for room for plants to grow up and around - is that background not enough?

EDIT: I also still need suggestions for more plants to put in there.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Well, I've decided to go for the recommendations and cut out a hole in the top to put some screen, where I will be using an Exo terra hood with 2 LED grow-lights to supply lighting.

However I STILL need recommendations for more plants, and if I AM going to cover the remaining walls I need a way to do it without taking everything I have in there out.
 

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Ficus thunbergii is easy and cute and will climb up the back. I think the right mini Begonia would look great and provide some more color, and I was just looking at some over at the Violet Barn - “Tempest” looks gorgeous. There’s a trailing African violet called “Pearl Joy” that apparently likes higher light and would look great planted high up and trailing down. I actually haven’t ever grown African violets but they are supposed to be pretty easy. Columnea microphylla might also be a good choice. In fact, lots of plants on that site would work well. Can you tell I just really want to place a Violet Barn order?

I have a Begonia glabra that I got from @hydrophyte that clambered up the wall of my tank in an attractive way, and you could get both that and the Ficus from either me or them. Here’s a pic:
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Side note: I think those lower leaves are chlorotic, I’m switching to a fert specifically for RO and going to fertilize more regularly.
 

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Ficus thunbergii is easy and cute and will climb up the back. I think the right mini Begonia would look great and provide some more color, and I was just looking at some over at the Violet Barn - “Tempest” looks gorgeous. In fact, lots of plants on that site would work well. There’s a trailing African violet called “Pearl Joy” that apparently likes higher light and would look great planted high up and trailing down. I actually haven’t ever grown African violets but they are supposed to be pretty easy. Columnea microphylla might also be a good choice. Can you tell I just really want to place a Violet Barn order?

I have a Begonia glabra that I got from @hydrophyte that clambered up the wall of my tank in an attractive way, and you could get both that and the Ficus from either me or them. Here’s a pic:
View attachment 296180

Side note: I think those lower leaves are chlorotic, I’m switching to a fert specifically for RO and going to fertilize more regularly.
Gorgeous plants, but where are they native to? Right now I'm trying to keep all of the plants in my vivarium from the same continent (South America), just for the sake of keeping things natural (which is why any animal going in there will also be from South America).

You also mentioned fertilizer. Should I be using any? If so, what type?

Also, I am planning on adding some springtails/isopods to the soil... but I'm worried they will escape through the windows. What can I do to prevent that from happening?
 

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For sustained chameleon health i repectfully submit that the enclosure needs to be more opened up.

Strategically placed perches in reachable distances to provide as many uvb, radiant, and temp gradient options as possible - with a couple (or more) going all the way across is important as a formula.

Various diameters important also.
 

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For sustained chameleon health i repectfully submit that the enclosure needs to be more opened up.

Strategically placed perches in reachable distances to provide as many uvb, radiant, and temp gradient options as possible - with a couple (or more) going all the way across is important as a formula.

Various diameters important also.
Chameleons were never the plan.
 

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Sorry dude i thought i read that.
 

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Gorgeous plants, but where are they native to? Right now I'm trying to keep all of the plants in my vivarium from the same continent (South America), just for the sake of keeping things natural (which is why any animal going in there will also be from South America).

You also mentioned fertilizer. Should I be using any? If so, what type?

Also, I am planning on adding some springtails/isopods to the soil... but I'm worried they will escape through the windows. What can I do to prevent that from happening?
I'm sure you can research where each of those plants is natively from. Rex Begonias and the African violets I mentioned are very highly domesticated, so I doubt you'll want those for a natural look. Very few people do biotype vivs, since it gets much harder to source plants that will work well, so if you want to do that I recommend doing a lot of research. Searching for "South America" on here brought up this, which looks like a good place to start.

You should probably be using fertilizer. I just bought MSU 13-3-15 specifically formulated for use with RO water, but I don't do frogs so a) I don't know what is safe for frogs and b) the ideal fertilizer will depend on what type of water you'll be using, whether tap or rain or RO. People seem to use it at a frequency of weekly or twice a month without animals in the tank, and monthly once frogs are in and starting to provide fertilizer.

As for keeping springtails in, I guess you could try adding very fine mesh or rubber gasket around the cracks, but honestly I don't know if many will escape. They want to be in humid soil, the rest of your house shouldn't seem that attractive to them.
 

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BTW, if you want to use RO, which your plants and frogs will probably appreciate, I highly recommend the Aquatic Life under-sink RO system I bought for only $50. It takes about 20 minutes to fill a gallon, so about once a week I have to keep setting timers and switching out gallon jugs, but with other systems coming in around $150-300, I think that trouble is worth it.
 

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Vendors such as Glass Box Tropicals mention the native provenance of many of the plants they carry, so their site is a good place to hunt.
 
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How about some orchids? You could use air-rooted (Vandaceous species) to fill in a lot of the negative space (seems like you have a lot). They do very well in taller dart / gecko vivs as long as they have a chance to dry off overnight, so I mist in the mornings with a quick "refresh" in the early afternoon.
 

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I've considered orchids, I just wasn't sure which species. If they really need that much of drainage (but can have roots exposed), I could secure them on the ridge that runs around halfway up the cage (as normally there would be a space to put a divider to have two cube-sized cages), so that their roots get plenty of water when it mists, but can quickly dry off. (or at least be only damp rather than truly wet)

Also, I need something that will grow and drape down the back wall and corners, to help make it look more filled in. I definitely will consider orchids though. Really the more specific the suggestions (especially with links to product pages) the better, as I am very bad with indecisiveness! I've found a lot of shops are out of stock of most of their plants, which has been a problem. I'll take a look at the links provided, hopefully they can help!

I've also replaced the lighting as suggested with an exo-terra 24" hood with two LED grow lights from Josh's Frogs. It is protected from the cage by a screen. I also realized that the soil and leaf litter were getting dry quite quickly, so I removed one of the two computer fans I had (and put screen where it used to be, as well as putting screen between the current fan and the inside of the cage).

For water, right now I use distilled water because I have no room for an RO system, I have very little money, and do not have the space to set up an RO system. (My sink also doesn't have enough space to even fill a gallon reservoir sadly). I buy 5 gallons or so at a time, which is enough to last my frogs around 3 weeks (as they run on a MistKing that uses a 5 gallon bucket as a reservoir). I have it misting the enclosure several times a day for 30 seconds, though if anyone else has an exact schedule and time they would recommend I'd be happy to listen and make the adjustments.

Also, if it counts for anything, I did mix some of the Bioactive Booster from Josh's Frogs into the soil. If I were to get something else, it would probably have to be liquid fertilizer. Specific product recommendations would be great if I really do need it.

And while it will be a long time before I get any frogs, suggestions for species that would make use of all the space provided would be great! Note: I may fill in that cavity in the back left corner (the one about halfway up) with some soil just because I would get worried of any animals becoming trapped in there, so that is a potential change. But I love darts, just not sure which ones would make use of the entire enclosure (I doubt tincs would climb quite so much, for example). Personally I'll admit I'm partial to D. galactonotus, but I don't know that they are particularly arboreal either.
 
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