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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Good Evening,

I am in the process of building a fully planted vivarium. This won't be my first, as I have a chameleon with trees and pothos in a huge viv, but it will be my first custom backdrop fully planted dart frog enclosure. Currently I've followed the general strategies of pond foam/coco liner, and aquarium safe silicone to build out a backdrop that has recesses for plants. I've accumulated a number of popularly available vivarium plants (peperomia spp; creeping fig; button ferns; small ficus burgandy, etc) that I have growing in a quarantine tank, and I have a bunch of tillandsia and neoregelia coming in the mail that I will adhere to the backdrop and hardscape. So far so good, and I'm following the instructions available and taking my time.

So that's all well and good, but my question is this: What plants do folks use as ground cover or wall cover that looks fairly natural? I'm going to have a bunch of discrete plants, but there needs to be stuff growing in between the bromeliads and such to really achieve that "natural" look.. If you go out and walk around in the forest, there's moss, there are ferns of all sizes, including very small newly growing ones, they grow on and out of the hardscape.. it's a developing landscape and it looks "lived in."

I may try something like dwarf baby tear seeds (Hemianthus callitrichoides), or other emersed aquatic plants, and I'll have creeping fig to fill in some of the space on the backdrop so it's not just brown fiber. But is there a way to do something like dust the viv with fern spores? Or grind up moss and just pour it in the locations I want it? I'd like to get some weird stuff growing out of the backdrop. I'm interested in any suggestions.

TL/DR: Suggestions for seeding a terrarium with plants like ferns or moss that will grow in between the plants I placed to achieve a more natural look?
 

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There's moss mixes, chopped up mosses, that you mix with water and add to the surface with a brush.

As for using fern spores I think you want to do that in a separate seedling tank to give them a better chance. It's possible though. With most ferns the easier way is to divide them though.

Your best friend in this endeavor of getting a fully plant covered vivarium though is time and good lighting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I'm certainly willing to put in the time, I'm just wondering what I have to introduce into the vivarium in order to maximize the possibility that the time investment will yield results.

Is there a certain moss mix that folks seem to like? Or should I put some javamoss in a blender and just dump it everywhere?

Also, what type of backdrop materials make it easiest for moss/ferns and such to adhere to? Right now I have partial cocofiber planter liner, partial pond foam coated with coco fiber and orchid bark (the loose fiber is sort of mashed into the silicone with some orchid bark).
 

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I don’t know about fern spores but they’re are some species that would do well mounted. Rabbit foot fern would work well and so would microgramma (though I’ve heard microgramma is a bit more difficult).
 

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I’ve got some extra divisions of Trichosalpinx chamaelepanthes if you’re interested in that sort of wall cover.
 

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For terraria that are going to get temperate-cycled, you could just go collect some wild mosses and culture those. When I lived in the PacNW & played with keeping a few sallies, that was a great way to go! But for tropical or just uncycled vivaria, I have found that the temperate stuff doesn't do well over time. It sort of fades out. I think it's the absence of down-time; temperate plants just need their beauty rest.

For tropical mosses I've gone a few routes. One, you can just utilize the weeds from nursery stock. Potted orchids and ferns for example often have "weed" mosses atop their substrate. Two, you can utilize greenhouse weeds - hit the pots, benches, and concrete & gravel floors. Three - go the commercial route, and buy them. You can either buy e.g., sheet or pillow mosses, or you can buy a "moss mix" as Kalle notes; you can buy either dry or moist (e.g., Dusk or NEHerp, respectively).

My recent experiences with Dusk have been a little species-poor - there's one major "weedy" fern that comes up very strongly, and maybe 3 mosses, with one dominant & any others "also-rans". Hoping for more diversity, I'm thinking of buying some NEHerp mix for a big new build that is just about ready for mossing.

Epiweb works alright (slow, patchy) but organic substrates work way better (faster, better coverage, all-around "fluffier happier mosses!!!"). I've long since abandoned the coco/silicone approach to backgrounds; the cracked-cork mosaic approach is great for mosses though (pack the gaps with long-fiber sphagnum). Any way you go requires time, good light, and no drying out! Once they're established and mature they can dry some, but starting "baby moss" is an exercise in constant moisture. I find drip walls to way outperform just misters, for cranking out new mosses. But my tanks have high ventilation, if you had it more sealed up you could water less.

good luck!
 

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The best bg material for plants to adhere to imo is tree fiber. Cork bark and compressed cork panel also work excellent.

Pep. Prostata and the like are great bg plants that drape over everything as well.

Moss mix ends up being leggy spaghnum for most people. I like it though. Pillow and sheet are good choices. I really don't like using aquatic mosses as their care trends to keep things wetter than I like.
 

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I'd like to get some weird stuff growing out of the backdrop. I'm interested in any suggestions.
Microsorum diversifolium (kangaroo paw fern) is a pleasure to work with. It can wind up getting big, but it's also easy to contain, particularly as a lean-grown epiphyte (it's naturally an epiphyte, but they do fine in well-drained soil too). Doesn't grow so fast it gets away. Each leaf is pretty large, but there really aren't that many of them - maybe a leaf for every 3-4 inches of rhizome, if your light isn't too bright. I like to place these about halfway between the lights and the viv floor, they make a nice understory stratum, especially if you keep them growing in a horizontal plane.

It's super easy to propagate vegetatively - just cut off a piece of rhizome with 2 leaves, and toothpick that to some moss that's packed into your background. The rhizome will throw out adventitious roots and grab hold. Firmly! It take a while, but eventually the rhizome will start throwing out new leaves, and elongating or branching.

You can buy & keep a single "mother plant" as a (nice!) houseplant, and cut off little pieces for vivaria as needed. Usually the ones you can buy are way bigger than anything you'd want to stick in a frog viv. But like I said, they're easy to contain and suppress, so they don't get irrationally exuberant...

good luck!
 
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