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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm getting ready to really get into my build on my second vivarium. For my first, I built up a pretty simple Exo of the same size using the videos and instructions from Josh's... and then screwed it all up putting a Exo Terra waterfall in there that leaked all over the place.

I corrected the issue and just have a simple set up going now, but want to work on something a little more showy. And, for all the mess that waterfall made, I really think they kind of miss having it.

Right now I've got 0.0.4 Blue and Black Auratus that are around about 6 months old. There's also 4 Mourning Geckos in there are well.

I've got a MistKing system that I'll be setting up in here. There's going to be a little shale drip wall feeding into the pond, and a fogger coming out around the same area.

I'm working with an egg crate false bottom with some 3 inch PVC risers underneath. After reading some threads on here, I made sure to drill through them so water can pass around them.

The pond area is cut out from the false bottom. To build the banks of the pond and keep things outta there, I've got some 3" black filter foam that I was going to set down and trim up, then cover with fluval stratum (which will also be along the bottom of the pond. I know the pond area is big, but I was going to have some other pieces of shale in there like islands. As I mentioned, when I had that Exo Terra waterfall, they really seemed to like standing in the water.

I've build up a little egg crate area for the plumbing, with the bottom hole for the outtake of the water into my external pump. I'm going with this:

I have a bulkhead for the lower hole, but not one for the top... right now that hole is going to be the intake for the fogger and the pump output. Is a bulkhead really needed for that whole if that plumbing area is going to be sealed off anyway?

To separate my substrate, I was going to be using these black bonzai screens. I previously had used the fabric from Josh's, but it didn't seem to drain fast enough in my opinion.

My next move was going to be to trim up that foam, get everything lined up and silicone down my false bottom, supports and the screens. I just wanted to put something up here in case anyone sees a big mistake in the making, as everyone here seems extremely knowledgeable in the hobby.

I'm still kind of at that "don't know what I don't know" phase, so any advice or feedback is appreciated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Man... cutting and trimming that filter foam stuff is no joke.

I've kind of rotated between scissors, razor blades and a serrated knife. HUGE mess.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Finally got back at it the last few days and finished off the external plumbing.

I ended up having to drill 3 holes in the glass, but by the last one I had a pretty good system down. The top hole is for the water to go in, the middle for the fogger and the bottom is where it's going to come out.

I plan to cover the pipes with a half a cork log and angle is back to give it the illusion that it's partially buried. Then the under the cork log is just gonna be covered with more of that bonzai screen that I got glued down on the egg crate, which should keep the little critters from calling back up towards the tubes, but far enough up log to not be seen.

I'm off the filter foam idea. It was just too much to cut and shape, so just gonna use the fluval stratum up against the bonzai screen.

So, my next step is gonna be to glue all the bonzai screen onto the egg crate as my substrate divider; this should also cover the little openings by those tubes in the plumbing box.

After looking around and doing some reading, it seems like the best way to handle the water under the substrate area is to still have some kind of filler in there, and I still have a few bags of the Josh's false bottom around, so I was going to put that in there. Hopefully it doesn't interfere with the draw on the pump.

Then, on to the hardscaping! I got a nice cork tube that I cut in half long ways to mask the plumbing tower and gonna work with this and some nice hardwoods I got from NEHerp.

I'm kicking around the idea of completely covering the right side of the tank with a background too. This tank is going to be near a corner anyway, so there's nothing lost and in my opinion it'll be easier to work some cork pieces in thematically over there than trying too hard to mix them in with hardwoods on the back.

The only thing I'm really struggling with is what to do with the fans. I really want to keep this thing looking as natural as possible, but with a lot of humidity, I want to make sure my plants are okay.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I've got everything secured down and tested... the water flows where it should and the fogger is fogging it up (even through that maze of pipes I had to use for the test run.

I had so much room left at the top of the little plumbing area that I made a little section for a fan. I have a couple of models I'm gonna give a test run to see how they do with vibration and air movement, but the plan is to hide it with an angled cork tube attached over that no see um mesh.

I'll probably break out some hand chisels and try to shape the water flow on that shale a little more and adjust the angle on that log to get it down a little lower. There's gonna be a piece of bonzai screen tucked up there to keep them from getting where they shouldn't go.

There's no picture of it, but I filled that bottom area with Josh's False bottom (the back section, not the pond).

Next up is getting my plants in, if winter ever ends... and building the clay background.
 

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With as many aquariums that I have had in the past I never considered building a make shift overflow (which is what you did using egg crate). I may be stealing some of your ideas. Haha make it a lot easier to hide the plumbing. If everything were external it'd be a ton easier to control water flow and water levels. I'll do a write up on my idea later that you responded to, see what your input is, and I'll be following this build!
 

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Subscribed! looking good! I'm planning on getting a 24 x 18 x 18 at the end of the month (Payday) and I like the idea of the external filter pump and bulkheads. any updates?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I'm gonna do up the clay, load in the substrate and get my plants in place in the next few days, so I'll snap some pictures then, but thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I got the wood laid out.... I got my fan vent hidden away... and I got this crazy mud up there.

I'm honestly nervous about the clay right now. It just seems like it's going to crumble away. I honestly have no idea how people would do it without that egg crate backing, which was not mentioned by the person selling the background material at all.

Anyway, next step is getting the substrate in there and the plants all set up!
 

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Looking good, what clay did you use and where did you get it? And What was the process of preparing?


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I went with this stuff here. He sells it on ebay as Living Background or something.

When I saw that 2 of the FAQ were in relation to it sticking to the glass, I had a feeling it could be an issue getting it to grab on. The only thing I really wish I'd have done different was to put some fine mesh on the inside of that plumbing area's egg crate, a lot of dirt fell through and it was really a pain to get it pressed into place at the bottom.

It's also, as you might imagine, pretty heavy.

It help up over the night without issue. I was a little more like dirt than clay and REALLY won't hold any heavy wood at all. All that wood is attached to the egg crate on it's own except for the branches; they're just poked in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
So, it's all pretty much done. Amazing what a day off can give you.

One of the bigger pieces of wood I had back there was just too much and kept falling. As I mentioned, this background does little to nothing in terms of support for anything with any weight. Hopefully it all holds up from this point.

The water level is holding steady and it's coming out where it's supposed to come out and only where it's supposed to come out, which was a relief.

It'll be probably 2 months before I move anyone in here, but it's good to have it all done. I'm gonna set up my time lapse camera on it to catch the growth. I have some of that NEHerp moss slurry in there, which is a new one for me.

That last picture just got stuck in there by accident... I actually told people I was on a new version of the paleo diet where I could only eat vining plants and bromeliads, since the creatures that could climb up and get them were strong, eating them will make me strong.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I put this video up of where everything is at as of now.

I'll probably do another one in a few weeks once all the moss starts to flourish.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks. Hopefully that moss slurry comes in alright. Couple of spots on the background are starting to make me nervous too as it dries a little bit.

This is probably the last showy one I'll do in an Exoterra. Having that bar across the front is bothering me more and more every day.
 
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