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Hello friends,

I'm a new member and wow! What a resource you have here. I have been captivated by paludariums & vivariums on Instagram and Pinterest for months and am preparing to build my own for the first time. I've been doing my research via YouTube and this forum and feel like I have it all figured out. That is, except for the base of the water area and transition to land area. I've seen it done so many different ways, I'm confused.

How do you differentiate/separate the water area's base/substrate from the land area?

What's the go with false bottoms?

How do you do this area in your builds?

Unrelated to the above, I plan to have a waterfall. Do I need a filter in addition to the pump?
 

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Frogs
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I you plan on keeping dartfrogs, I think almost all experiencee keeper are going to tell you not to build a waterfeature and waterfall since this has no benefit for the frogs and could easly become a potential hazard to them in no time.

I'll put up a link of one of my build reports, mayebe this helps you answer some of your other questions :

70x50x65 vivarium build report

Greets, Tijl
 

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Dendrobates Tinctorus “Azureus”, Epipedobates Anthonyi “Santa Isabel”, and also myself.
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Water features are mostly just for the owners benefit. It doesn’t do good for dart frogs ever. That said, I can see one benefit it does have. If you have a species that deposits tadpoles into a body of water, then they will deposit the tadpoles into there. You will though most likely have to pull them out due to most water features not meeting the standards of tadpole care.

To answer your question, there are many answers. I’ve seen using a substrate barrier as a barrier, plain old rocks, and etc.

Welcome to the forum by the way!
 

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That said, I can see one benefit it does have. If you have a species that deposits tadpoles into a body of water, then they will deposit the tadpoles into there.
Some of us consider that a further detriment. Not only are the tads of some species cannibalistic (indeed, some have evolved to be so), but making water features safe for frogs (screening pumps, separating from false bottom/other hidden areas) is a challenge that I personally have failed at and killed frogs doing.

Adding environmenal challenges to the keeping of already challenging animals, especially by keepers who don't yet know how steep the learning curve might be, isn't sensible, IMO.
 

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Water features are mostly just for the owners benefit. It doesn’t do good for dart frogs ever. That said, I can see one benefit it does have. If you have a species that deposits tadpoles into a body of water, then they will deposit the tadpoles into there. You will though most likely have to pull them out due to most water features not meeting the standards of tadpole care.

To answer your question, there are many answers. I’ve seen using a substrate barrier as a barrier, plain old rocks, and etc.

Welcome to the forum by the way!
Exactly.
All frogs deposit, but only a handfull will take care of their tadpoles. In the hobby these are Oophaga and a few members of the Ranitomeya family.
Since these will use bromeliads for deposition, so there is no need for waterfeatures.
 

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Dendrobates Tinctorus “Azureus”, Epipedobates Anthonyi “Santa Isabel”, and also myself.
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Some of us consider that a further detriment. Not only are the tads of some species cannibalistic (indeed, some have evolved to be so), but making water features safe for frogs (screening pumps, separating from false bottom/other hidden areas) is a challenge that I personally have failed at and killed frogs doing.

Adding environmenal challenges to the keeping of already challenging animals, especially by keepers who don't yet know how steep the learning curve might be, isn't sensible, IMO.
This is probably best left to experienced hobbyist and I prefer that if you see a frog carrying the tads, you place a deli cup down and carry them to a plastic shoebox, or like SM said, separate tads that are know to be cannibals.

Like I also said before, water features usually
don’t have the standards of tadpole keeping. I don’t recommend this and now that I think of it, there are most likely 0 benefits from a water feature.
 

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Some of us consider that a further detriment. Not only are the tads of some species cannibalistic (indeed, some have evolved to be so), but making water features safe for frogs (screening pumps, separating from false bottom/other hidden areas) is a challenge that I personally have failed at and killed frogs doing.

Adding environmenal challenges to the keeping of already challenging animals, especially by keepers who don't yet know how steep the learning curve might be, isn't sensible, IMO.
I second this. I've had frogs deposit tadpoles in even tiny accessible false bottom areas, and trust me, the tadpoles can squeeze through tiny cracks and end up in completely inaccessible areas and unable to leave the water, causing them to perish.
 

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So all of the above is true, don’t do a paludarium if you want dart frogs. However, to the above posters, there aren’t many places to discuss paludariums with as much combined knowledge as this forum, especially when it comes to miniature plants that thrive in humid environments. @kellygregoryco if the idea of a balanced miniature environment is what fascinates you and you are willing to make it plant-only, or plant and cherry shrimp only, or make some compromises to make it ideal for a small creature like vampire crabs or some kind of newt - carry on.

To separate land from water: you can attempt to make a “sunken” land area that has separate drainage from the water area, or you can raise the land up above the water level (by far the easier option).

I opted for the former, and to do it I siliconed a piece of acrylic to my glass tank. Siliconing acrylic to glass has a very high failure rate and, while mine has held for a year, I am sure it will leak eventually. My plan at that point is to line the entire land area with pond liner and create a sealed outlet through the pond liner for the land area bulkhead. Water won’t be able to push into that area due to the drainage layer and soil filling it up, and won’t be able to leak out the land area bulkhead due to the seal. It’s much easier to make a reliable bulkhead seal than a seal along 1’+ of acrylic. I think this is a great idea but I’ve never seen it done before, so we’ll see.

If this all sounds pretty confusing, I can try to draw it out. But again, just having the land lifted above the water (sitting on a very thick drainage layer) is so much easier.
 

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Yes, there are many species of frogs that would enjoy a paladarium setup. I keep a group of Fire Bellied toads in a paladarium, they are wonderful little frogs with a ton of personality - if not a little bit annoying when breeding sometimes ;)
 

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On to the next question, the pump and waterfall.

If you have a pump, you will need some kind of filter, or your pump will get clogged almost immediately. It can be as simple as some sponge over the pump’s intake. How complex of a filter you need depends on the bioload of your aquatic section. If you have aquatic plants, some cherry shrimp and a snail (like I do) you won’t need much extra filtration. However, if you do the raised land easy method, and you use something like LECA for your drainage area, you’ll have a whole section of tank perfect for beneficial bacteria to build up and clean water as it gets pulled through that layer. At least that’s how I understand it.

Second, the waterfall - in my experience a 24/7 waterfall grew lots of long, luxurious, stinking brown algae. I had to use gloves multiple times to clean it off because I couldn’t wash that smell off my skin. My solution has been to run the waterfall for an hour 4x/day while moss and marginal plants get established, and I will try slowly upping the time once plants that I prefer to algae have a foothold. You will have an algae bloom in the beginning, but there are ways to reduce and shorten it by encouraging the growth of plants you like.

If you put your waterfall on a timer though, you either need an aquatic section with a low enough bioload that you don’t need constant filtration, or a separate filtration system that runs constantly.

Here’s my build for reference, and here’s a link to some lessons I’ve learned that are all applicable to paludariums.
 

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On to the next question, the pump and waterfall.

If you have a pump, you will need some kind of filter, or your pump will get clogged almost immediately. It can be as simple as some sponge over the pump’s intake. How complex of a filter you need depends on the bioload of your aquatic section. If you have aquatic plants, some cherry shrimp and a snail (like I do) you won’t need much extra filtration. However, if you do the raised land easy method, and you use something like LECA for your drainage area, you’ll have a whole section of tank perfect for beneficial bacteria to build up and clean water as it gets pulled through that layer. At least that’s how I understand it.

Second, the waterfall - in my experience a 24/7 waterfall grew lots of long, luxurious, stinking brown algae. I had to use gloves multiple times to clean it off because I couldn’t wash that smell off my skin. My solution has been to run the waterfall for an hour 4x/day while moss and marginal plants get established, and I will try slowly upping the time once plants that I prefer to algae have a foothold. You will have an algae bloom in the beginning, but there are ways to reduce and shorten it by encouraging the growth of plants you like.

If you put your waterfall on a timer though, you either need an aquatic section with a low enough bioload that you don’t need constant filtration, or a separate filtration system that runs constantly.

Here’s my build for reference, and here’s a link to some lessons I’ve learned that are all applicable to paludariums.
To clarify this one step further: pumps will need some mechanical filtration, but biological filtration may not be necessary depending on what you intend on adding livestock wise.
 

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On to the next question, the pump and waterfall.

If you have a pump, you will need some kind of filter, or your pump will get clogged almost immediately. It can be as simple as some sponge over the pump’s intake.
I have a water feature in one vivarium that's more of a drip or a gentle trickle than a waterfall but I did initially have problems with the pump intake becoming clogged by debris that washed through the fairly course filter on the drain from the tank.
Surprisingly the probem was entirely elliminated by adding red ramshorn snails to the water that now process the detritus into a fine enough silt that it no longer blocks the pump.
 

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I have a water feature in one vivarium that's more of a drip or a gentle trickle than a waterfall but I did initially have problems with the pump intake becoming clogged by debris that washed through the fairly course filter on the drain from the tank.
Surprisingly the probem was entirely elliminated by adding red ramshorn snails to the water that now process the detritus into a fine enough silt that it no longer blocks the pump.
My waterfall is also a gentle trickle right now, but that was not intentional, clearly the piece of Spyra I tried to use as a mechanical filter in my sump area was insufficient for the job.
 

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My waterfall is also a gentle trickle right now, but that was not intentional, clearly the piece of Spyra I tried to use as a mechanical filter in my sump area was insufficient for the job.
I always intended mine to be nothing more than a trickle and i'ts overgrown enough now that you can barely tell it's there anyway other than by comparing the types of plant growing on it to drier areas of the tank, but seriously, the ramshorn snails seem to have a significant enough impact on processing detritus down into fine silt that it never gets clogged anymore. I believe that what little bits of leaf or whatever other detritus gets caught on the intake grill just gets eaten fast enough by the snails not to become a problem as prior to adding them that was always what I'd find stuck across the intake. The reservoir it sits in is also in the dark so I don't have algae adding to the problems and that might make a difference.
It's been running for several years 24/7 with literally the cheapest off brand chinese pump I could find that's pumping to pretty much its maximum head height. I consider it something of minor miracle that it's still working at all but old faithful just keeps pumping.
I actually have an old video of it that I uploaded a while back, it looks somewhat different now but you get the gist. Please forgive the cheesy jungle sounds I put in the background, I was just messing around.
 

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OP: I'm a newb as well, but I did have a pretty successful first build of a paludarium. You can see it here: Newbie Build - ZooMed 18x18x36 Paludarium . I've included a plant list in that first thread so you can see what I used. I also have a new build in progress. See it here: New 36x24x37 Custom Paludarium

I'm an experienced freshwater planted aquarium keeper, so if you would like advice on that aspect of things, please speak up, or DM/PM me, I'm always happy to chat fish.
 
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