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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
My wife and I decided to take on building a new series of wooden vivs, but first we wanted to test out a few new ideas (and remember some old ones) on a small tank.

The dimensions we decided on are approximately 18x12x24. Once grown in a bit, we will probably use it as a display grow-out for some Ranitomeya or pumilio froglets.

I've usually broken down my build threads on here in a decent bit of detail, but I'll mainly just post some photos.

Materials:
  • 3/4" pine plywood
  • 1/2" birch plywood
  • birch veneer edge banding
  • 1/4" glass (sides)
  • 1/8" glass (doors)
  • plastic E-channel for sliding doors
  • epoxy (Pond Armor)
  • fiber glass screen (vent coverings)
  • screws and glue
  • polyurethane semi-gloss

Background / Hardscape
  • Great Stuff
  • virgin cork flats
  • calcium bearing clay
  • ghost wood

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Discussion Starter #2
Here's a super short video, very briefly showing the build process:


We hope to do some more detailed videos showing the process of building this tank as well as some larger projects we're working.

Again, I always like to point out that I'm no expert - just a frog lover with a few wood working tools. 馃槄 So do plenty of your own research before building your own wooden tanks.
 

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Very cool. I'll be interested in seeing how it holds up over time being wood and holding high humidity. I've been tempted to try large builds in the past, but have been really reluctant due to concern sof it holding up long term.
 

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Great looking build! The door sliding all the way through is such an elegant solution to the fruit fly problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Great looking build! The door sliding all the way through is such an elegant solution to the fruit fly problem.
Thanks. Haha, yeah, we're trying to deal with that dilemma now with tanks that have double sliding doors that open to the interior. Definitely easier with a small tank that's sitting out by itself.
 

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It holds up very well as long as you're careful and thorough with the application of the epoxy.
Yes , indeed it does.
I have been building boats for decades now , using plywood and epoxy .
Some have been permanently floating in water for over 40 years .
If done right , and with attention to detail , these will indeed last indefinately.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Yes , indeed it does.
I have been building boats for decades now , using plywood and epoxy .
Some have been permanently floating in water for over 40 years .
If done right , and with attention to detail , these will indeed last indefinately.
Wow, very cool skill. Maybe I'll transition to boats from frog tanks at some point! :LOL: But seriously, very cool. I'll have to talk to you about epoxies at some point. I've been defaulting to pond armor because I know it works and it is supposed to be completely safe for fish and presumably amphibians when cured, but it is definitely not cheap. I feel like a lot of epoxies should be safe when cured, even if not advertised as such. And probably many of them are a fraction of the cost of the pond armor.

One thing I do like about the pond armor is that you can get it tinted. I like the black because it's extremely easy to see if you've gotten everything thoroughly covered. Also, the black is nice for any areas of the tank where the epoxy remains exposed.
 

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Wow, very cool skill. Maybe I'll transition to boats from frog tanks at some point! :LOL: But seriously, very cool. I'll have to talk to you about epoxies at some point. I've been defaulting to pond armor because I know it works and it is supposed to be completely safe for fish and presumably amphibians when cured, but it is definitely not cheap. I feel like a lot of epoxies should be safe when cured, even if not advertised as such. And probably many of them are a fraction of the cost of the pond armor.

One thing I do like about the pond armor is that you can get it tinted. I like the black because it's extremely easy to see if you've gotten everything thoroughly covered. Also, the black is nice for any areas of the tank where the epoxy remains exposed.
Hi Athier ,

You did a fine job of that build.
As for Epoxies , there are so many brands and formulations , it`s hard to be sure what is safe .
I`m from Australia , so we have some of our own brands of Epoxy here , so I do know some things about those , at least. Epoxy can be colored with various pigments of course , but if you just want black , a safe way is powdered graphite mixed into the resin. It is inert when suspended in a resin / graphite powder matrix.

I have just ordered a casting epoxy ( perfectly clear resin ) , which is certified as food grade .
You can resin cast your own drinking cups out of these , so one would reasonably expect this to be safe .
I expect to experiment with adhesion to marine plywood substrates , as see if they do the job.

As for terrariums , aquariums and vivariums , I am a total novice , and would like to get into the hobby , but I have much reserach ahead of me .

Great post , thank you for taking the trouble .
 

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Very cool. I'll be interested in seeing how it holds up over time being wood and holding high humidity. I've been tempted to try large builds in the past, but have been really reluctant due to concern sof it holding up long term.
A fair few boats are made of ply with epoxy glass covering that are over 30 years old now. If you make an effort to seal the edges most marine plywoods have a 20 year guarantee
 

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A fair few boats are made of ply with epoxy glass covering that are over 30 years old now. If you make an effort to seal the edges most marine plywoods have a 20 year guarantee
What are "marine plywoods"? Is is simply plywood covered in epoxy or is there something else different about it?
 

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What are "marine plywoods"? Is is simply plywood covered in epoxy or is there something else different about it?
Hi Varanoid.
I thought I might reply to this , as I have used this stuff for over 40 years.

The three most important properties of any credible sheet of Marine Plywood are :

1 The correct glue. ( type A glue , true waterproof )
2 The absence of core gaps or voids . ( No weakness in the layers , caused by gaps inside the laminations.)
3 The face/veneer used . Only top quality face veneers on the outer faces.

Additionally , the best marine plywood is manufactured using Marine-designated timber species.

If any of these characteristics are not present, it is not true quality Marine plywood.
There are many brands that do not conform to those standards but are sold as marine plywood.

Marine plywood maybe overkill for terrarium use.
 

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Hi Varanoid.
I thought I might reply to this , as I have used this stuff for over 40 years.

The three most important properties of any credible sheet of Marine Plywood are :

1 The correct glue. ( type A glue , true waterproof )
2 The absence of core gaps or voids . ( No weakness in the layers , caused by gaps inside the laminations.)
3 The face/veneer used . Only top quality face veneers on the outer faces.

Additionally , the best marine plywood is manufactured using Marine-designated timber species.

If any of these characteristics are not present, it is not true quality Marine plywood.
There are many brands that do not conform to those standards but are sold as marine plywood.

Marine plywood maybe overkill for terrarium use.
I appreciate the information! Sounds like it is different. What species of trees are marine designated? Where would one source marine plywood? And why do you feel it is overkill?
 

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I appreciate the information! Sounds like it is different. What species of trees are marine designated? Where would one source marine plywood? And why do you feel it is overkill?
Marine plywood is expensive , terrarium construction just does not see the structural loads ( if any ) encountered in boat hulls. The loads on power boats in particular can be substantial.
Large aquariums holding possibly tons of water are a different matter , and I would definately use marine ply for a large tank.

I don`t know all the species designated as marine grade , but they include teak , mahogany , meranti , kaya , ( generally the "durable" hardwood species )

If you can source quality exterior ( water proof type A bond ) construction plywood , and give it a good coating of epoxy , it will be more than adequate for use. ( often used for interior boat linings ) .
 

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I appreciate the information! Sounds like it is different. What species of trees are marine designated? Where would one source marine plywood? And why do you feel it is overkill?
That other Answer is good but it can get really confusing. Because I first believed it was the glue used, but most exterior plywood uses the same glue as marine plywood which must survive being boiled in water for a set time. So the main differences between say exterior and marine plywood following Lloyds BS_1088 BS 1088 - Wikipedia.

It mostly means
  • The plywood must be made of hardwood which is more water resistant
  • The face veneers must be pretty much flawless, no voids or holes
  • Often it is made of more layers or veneers which makes it stronger
  • It often comes with a long warranty of 10-20 years but this relies on you properly sealing it

It can be really confusing but marine plywood will still fall apart if left in water long term but since the core is hardwood too it is less likely to swell and fall apart and once sealed correctly since it has far less voids and holes water is less likely to get in and force the layers apart.

I have found conflicting information but some say to use a thinned laminating epoxy but i have seen a few places say that thinning epoxy can change its properties so it is less stiff and more porous so when I do a sheet for my boat I follow this practise.
  • Use laminating epoxy, can be marine grade but the cheap chinese epoxy will work too.
  • Heat the epoxy up in a water bath or next to a heater to 30 degrees or so, just do not go too high. But the 2 parts separately
  • Mix the 2 parts, you need to watch since it is hot the reaction will be quick so you need to get to work
  • Since the epoxy is warm it will have a very low viscosity and after 2 minutes of proper mixing brush it onto the edges of your plywood and let it soak in then use any left to seal the faces
  • Give it a few hours until it is tacky, then repeat the process is you wana go nuts 2 more coats
  • If you want the final strength to be maximised put the frame together within 24 hours of the final coat so you get chemical bonding, but you can let it set and give it a sand. If temps dropped you may get what is known as amish blush. A waxy byproduct that can be removed with warm water then sanding to ensure a good mechanical bond.
its a bit ocd but this is best practise for a boat out at sea so if you do this and make some nice epoxy fillets your vivarium should last 50 years no problem. You can also do this will cheaper external grade ply and just make up some thickened epoxy to fill the voids. A layer of glass will also add so much strength you could pick the vivarium up by the edge easily and wave it about. Adding cloth also adds a lot of strength. this can be to add strength like biaxial cloth or just to get a really nice smooth surface using just the light uniform cloth.

Really though if you keep proof in theory if it rots even a little in say 19 years you could have it all replaced with proof of purchase 馃槅I will build a plywood tank at some and I am thinking if using coloured epoxy in the cloth and layers.
 

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That other Answer is good but it can get really confusing. Because I first believed it was the glue used, but most exterior plywood uses the same glue as marine plywood which must survive being boiled in water for a set time. So the main differences between say exterior and marine plywood following Lloyds BS_1088 BS 1088 - Wikipedia.

It mostly means
  • The plywood must be made of hardwood which is more water resistant
  • The face veneers must be pretty much flawless, no voids or holes
  • Often it is made of more layers or veneers which makes it stronger
  • It often comes with a long warranty of 10-20 years but this relies on you properly sealing it

It can be really confusing but marine plywood will still fall apart if left in water long term but since the core is hardwood too it is less likely to swell and fall apart and once sealed correctly since it has far less voids and holes water is less likely to get in and force the layers apart.

I have found conflicting information but some say to use a thinned laminating epoxy but i have seen a few places say that thinning epoxy can change its properties so it is less stiff and more porous so when I do a sheet for my boat I follow this practise.
  • Use laminating epoxy, can be marine grade but the cheap chinese epoxy will work too.
  • Heat the epoxy up in a water bath or next to a heater to 30 degrees or so, just do not go too high. But the 2 parts separately
  • Mix the 2 parts, you need to watch since it is hot the reaction will be quick so you need to get to work
  • Since the epoxy is warm it will have a very low viscosity and after 2 minutes of proper mixing brush it onto the edges of your plywood and let it soak in then use any left to seal the faces
  • Give it a few hours until it is tacky, then repeat the process is you wana go nuts 2 more coats
  • If you want the final strength to be maximised put the frame together within 24 hours of the final coat so you get chemical bonding, but you can let it set and give it a sand. If temps dropped you may get what is known as amish blush. A waxy byproduct that can be removed with warm water then sanding to ensure a good mechanical bond.
its a bit ocd but this is best practise for a boat out at sea so if you do this and make some nice epoxy fillets your vivarium should last 50 years no problem. You can also do this will cheaper external grade ply and just make up some thickened epoxy to fill the voids. A layer of glass will also add so much strength you could pick the vivarium up by the edge easily and wave it about. Adding cloth also adds a lot of strength. this can be to add strength like biaxial cloth or just to get a really nice smooth surface using just the light uniform cloth.

Really though if you keep proof in theory if it rots even a little in say 19 years you could have it all replaced with proof of purchase 馃槅I will build a plywood tank at some and I am thinking if using coloured epoxy in the cloth and layers.
Great post Jim Bob.
You have a good understanding of epoxy best practice .

I think the Amine blush ( waxy deposit ) left behind by some Epoxies after cure would have to be removed ( washed with water , and sanded clean ) to make it 100% safe for any animals inside the tank.
This is standard good practice in boat building anyway , to ensure extra coat adhesion.

You quoted Lloy`ds British Standard ( BS_1088 ) specs , which is the only real standard for Marine plywood.
If you apply a light glass cloth to the face veneers , you would end up with a panel that would last almost indefinately ,

I think for a really large tank , you would end up with an excellent quality tank , as long as the vulnerable end grain was carefully sealed with resin. ( I would apply three good coats ).

A good appropriately sized fillet is a great and very neat way to join panel corners .

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Neatly applied epoxy fillet.
 
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