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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Some of you might remember a project I did during the summer of last year. I made a live wall. You can see the build thread here.
Since I started this tank, it has seen two phases-
1. Where it was a planted tank.

2. Where it was (is) a Lake Tanganyika biotope-like for a batch of Trematocara variabile.

Trematocara variabile in my tank-


There is very little or almost no documentation of captive breeding of this species. There are some hobbyists who have attained captive breeding of this species but with little documentation (or they don't want to let people know the secret?). This whole family Trematocarini (consists of 8 described species) is so hard to collect and have in your tank that very few people get to try their hands on them. Anyway, I have tried a lot of the things with them and they haven't spawned yet.
My last resort is to move them to a smaller tank where they can quietly do their thing. But that means my main display will be empty.

I want to take this opportunity to make a vivarium in this tank.

I am familiar with the typical approach to build a vivarium but since it is such an expensive tank and will most probably get used for other things after its vivarium life, I cannot do the following things on it-

1. Drill holes
2. Use silicone or epoxy to stick other components (like a 3D background) to the glass
3. Modify it in anyway that would change its water retention capability and its cosmetic beauty.

So there goes the option to use Great Stuff to make the background with. But the good part is that I already have a lot of things that would be required to make a vivarium-

I already have-
1. Mistking misting system - Currently running 3 nozzles on my live wall.
2. Light Unit- My DIY LED Light Unit that I build for the planted tank will work great for this project. At 100% intensity, my PAR meter reads 470-480. at the bottom of my tank (filled with water). Without water, it would be higher. I won't need that much though.
3. A tank and stand - most important things to make the vivarium.
4. A humidifier

What I need to find out-

1. What are my options to make a viv without having to work with Great Stuff or silicone. I am leaning towards just a plain black background and a design that would not require me to have a background. The design should also allow me to hang orchids. Or maybe a 3D background would work?

2. What are my options to seal this tank on the top? How can I make a lid?

3. How would I keep the air circulation, misting and humidifier going?

4. How would I make the false bottom? I need plants growing on the bottom too.

Any suggestions, comments, photos or links would be much appreciated. Thanks for reading :)
-Sumer.
 

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It's rimless so you always have the option of building a background outside the tank and putting it in there. If you build it to the right tolerances it should just slide right in. You could also then work in a drainage line so that you can remove water from below the false bottom without having a drilled drain.

I think you could also make a nice looking acrylic lid that slides down onto the tank to keep humidity up.

You can build the false bottom out of light diffuser and zip tie it together then just drop it in.

Could end up a really cool tank!
 

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I was thinking along the same lines as nyskiffie: build a background and put it into the tank when finished.
My initial thought would be to cut two pieces of light diffuser, foam, or stronger inert material as a frame for the back and one of the side walls. Secure them together to provide a frame which should not fall forward as a simple insert for the back face might and build off of them with great stuff etc. You could even measure for and put it directly on top of your false bottom or build the false bottom as a part of it. This way your tank is still unblemished if/when you decide to deconstruct it.
The main difficulty I can foresee to this will be making it strong but also light enough to not risk damage during construction and installation.
Briefly looking through your "Making a live wall" thread I have a feeling that whatever you do with the tank will be well planned and significantly more advanced than anything I have attempted. That live wall is truly inspiring. Looking forward to watching the results so please post progress!
Any idea what kind of creatures you are ultimately planning on keeping in it when done?
 

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I love this idea of a living wall above a tank and I really like how the living wall part has grown out. My one critique of the set up is that it is a bit disjointed. The living wall section and the tank just don't really connect. This is totally my opinion obviously but if it were me building this I would try to continue the living wall down into the tank. Maybe use what you used for your living wall for your background (it looks like it was spyra or hygrolon or something along those lines). Also it would be very interesting to play around with driftwood protruding out of the tank area up to the living wall portion. Maybe forget about sealing the tank and just have it open for viewing. Maybe make a paludarium in the tank section with a shallow water area. Then have some cool pieces of driftwood rise out of the tank covered in mosses broms and orchids. Just some ideas its totally up to you of course. There are endless possibilities with this.
 

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I have loved following your previous builds. I think that doing a drop in background that is made and then slid into position is the way to go. I would leave both side walls uncovered. I would made at least one and probably 2 extensions into the tank to keep it from ever tipping. I would make the background go from the bottom of the tank to the top and probably make the extensions go from the bottom to 1/2 to 2/3 of the way up. I would great stuff the entire background and finish it with attachment areas for epiphytes. then I would use open cell foam like poret to make a drainage layer or build a zip tie structure to ensure drainage. the foam would be easier. you might want to avoid soil up against the front glass to help avoid scratching of the glass. I have never seen a long term tank used for a viv that I would ever consider to be in good enough condition to use as a tank again. I also think that a lid could be placed over the tank but still be removable. I would want a vent strip in the front to help keep the glass from too much condensation. I would drill the lid to place my misters. hope this is useful info. will follow the build.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
It's rimless so you always have the option of building a background outside the tank and putting it in there. If you build it to the right tolerances it should just slide right in. You could also then work in a drainage line so that you can remove water from below the false bottom without having a drilled drain.

I think you could also make a nice looking acrylic lid that slides down onto the tank to keep humidity up.

You can build the false bottom out of light diffuser and zip tie it together then just drop it in.

Could end up a really cool tank!
Thanks for the suggestions. I think making the BG outside and sliding it in would be the best solution. That way I can take it out later without damaging the tank. The question would be what material to use as the base for the Background! EPVC? Plywood? something else?

About the false bottom- I am not really sure if I want to go the egg crate route. There would be no way to make sure nothing goes under the egg crate. And since I cannot use silicone to affix the false bottom to the bottom glass, I think I would just use hydroton.

For the lid, I would use gl;ass since acrylic tends to warp in humidity.

I was thinking along the same lines as nyskiffie: build a background and put it into the tank when finished.
My initial thought would be to cut two pieces of light diffuser, foam, or stronger inert material as a frame for the back and one of the side walls. Secure them together to provide a frame which should not fall forward as a simple insert for the back face might and build off of them with great stuff etc. You could even measure for and put it directly on top of your false bottom or build the false bottom as a part of it. This way your tank is still unblemished if/when you decide to deconstruct it.
The main difficulty I can foresee to this will be making it strong but also light enough to not risk damage during construction and installation.
Briefly looking through your "Making a live wall" thread I have a feeling that whatever you do with the tank will be well planned and significantly more advanced than anything I have attempted. That live wall is truly inspiring. Looking forward to watching the results so please post progress!
Any idea what kind of creatures you are ultimately planning on keeping in it when done?
Thanks a bunch for your comment.
I am leaning towards what both of you have suggested- building a BG outside and then just sliding it in the tank.
As I mentioned in the earlier comment, I am leaning towards hydroton rather than egg crate false bottom. Weight is not a problem since the tank would not be moved.
Can you think of any pros and cons between hydroton and false bottom?

I recently got to meet a local frogger who had some Phyllobates terribilis (mint). What a beautiful frog. They are so bold that you can put your hand inside the tank and they won't move. He has some tadpoles growing up right now. I think I would go with those.

I love this idea of a living wall above a tank and I really like how the living wall part has grown out. My one critique of the set up is that it is a bit disjointed. The living wall section and the tank just don't really connect. This is totally my opinion obviously but if it were me building this I would try to continue the living wall down into the tank. Maybe use what you used for your living wall for your background (it looks like it was spyra or hygrolon or something along those lines). Also it would be very interesting to play around with driftwood protruding out of the tank area up to the living wall portion. Maybe forget about sealing the tank and just have it open for viewing. Maybe make a paludarium in the tank section with a shallow water area. Then have some cool pieces of driftwood rise out of the tank covered in mosses broms and orchids. Just some ideas it's totally up to you of course. There are endless possibilities with this.
Thanks for the compliments. I totally understand your view. My gf says the same. But the problem is dryness. In CO, with heater on inside the house, humidity dwells in 20s, 30s and 40s. It is very dry to have an open top vivarium with orchids and other sensitive plants.
Rather than joining the wall to the tank, I am making the vines and other plants like vanilla orchid go on the light (above the wall). Hopefully, these plants will fill that.
There definitely are endless possibilities. It's just about finding the right scaping material and right scape idea :)

I have loved following your previous builds. I think that doing a drop in background that is made and then slid into position is the way to go. I would leave both side walls uncovered. I would made at least one and probably 2 extensions into the tank to keep it from ever tipping. I would make the background go from the bottom of the tank to the top and probably make the extensions go from the bottom to 1/2 to 2/3 of the way up. I would great stuff the entire background and finish it with attachment areas for epiphytes. then I would use open cell foam like poret to make a drainage layer or build a zip tie structure to ensure drainage. the foam would be easier. you might want to avoid soil up against the front glass to help avoid scratching of the glass. I have never seen a long term tank used for a viv that I would ever consider to be in good enough condition to use as a tank again. I also think that a lid could be placed over the tank but still be removable. I would want a vent strip in the front to help keep the glass from too much condensation. I would drill the lid to place my misters. hope this is useful info. will follow the build.
Wow! You just laid out the whole plan of my build ;)
I really appreciate you taking the time to explain everything in such great detail.

As I said in the above comments, making the BG outside the tank would be the best way. The question I have is, what material to use as the base layer for the background. Do you have something specific in mind? EPVC? Plywood?

I saw you mentioned poret foam. What would be the difference between poret foam and hydroton? Any pros and cons of each over another?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
At this planning stage, I always have more questions than answers. I would list the question. I'd really appreciate your comments or suggestions-

1. Based on everyone's suggestions I am planning to make the BG outside the tank and then slide it in.
The question is- What material to use as the base layer for this background- EPVC? Plywood? or is there any other lighter material that would hold the weight of foam, some wood and plants?

2. What are your thoughts on using hydroton as the drainage layer instead of going the egg crate route?
IMO, while using egg crate, there would be a possibility of things going under it which would be impossible to remove (I don't have a drilled bottom).

3. Poret foam vs Hydroton vs Matala? Has anyone used poret foam? Would it be worth trying? Would matala not make a good drainage layer?

Thanks for reading :)
 

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base layer of background I would use eggcrate. it is easy to build into 3d shapes. you can then foam it to a useful shape. poret foam is used as a filter material by a lot of pond and freshwater aquarium people including me. you can buy it from the swiss tropical website. Poret® Foam Shop - SWISSTROPICALS
I would use the 10 dpi size for larger pore spaces. it is pricer than using eggcrate or an aggregate for drainage but it is simple and light and wont scratch your glass. I suppose matala would have very similar capabilities. both are used for pond filtration often.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
base layer of background I would use eggcrate. it is easy to build into 3d shapes. you can then foam it to a useful shape. poret foam is used as a filter material by a lot of pond and freshwater aquarium people including me. you can buy it from the swiss tropical website. Poret® Foam Shop - SWISSTROPICALS
I would use the 10 dpi size for larger pore spaces. it is pricer than using eggcrate or an aggregate for drainage but it is simple and light and wont scratch your glass. I suppose matala would have very similar capabilities. both are used for pond filtration often.
ok I need to correct myself. I would go with the 20 dpi foam because the 10 is only available in blue.
Great! I totally forgot that you could use egg crate as the base for the BG too.

About Poret foam- I am good friends with Stephen (owner of Swiss Tropicals) since I write for Amazonas magazine and he's senior editor there. The thing I am concerned about is the poret foam choking. Is that something to be concerned of? Do you think it would?
 

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Can you think of any pros and cons between hydroton and false bottom?

I have used both individually and in my last build together (a true 'empty' false bottom under egg-crate which is now filled with water, a sheet of fiberglass screen, expanded clay pellets over this, then another layer of the fiberglass screen). Likely overkill but I needed to raise the false bottom higher than I had constructed it and I like the appearance of the hydroton at the bottom of the tank visually. I had left a space around the 'true' false bottom with the intention of filling it in with clay pellets from the beginning.
I think the main pro for the hydroton is simplicity and water-wicking. Pour it in and you're done once you reach the height needed. Meanwhile the increased surface area helps increase evaporation and therefore humidity, I believe this is part of the reason it is often used hydroponically. Con for expanded clay would be the weight and possibly the cost.
Pros for Eggcrate: For a larger tank it is probably more cost effective to build a false bottom with the light diffuser and would be more customizable. It could also be integrated into the background making this one large insert. Cons would be the time investment. This doesn't seem like an issue based on your prior build log - like me I imagine you would be willing to sacrifice time to get the result you want.
Regardless of which you decide to go with definitely use some kind of screening above it. I use fiberglass screening which you can get any number of places (I purchase from Amazon)
Other more experienced builders please feel free to weigh in.
 

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Regardless of which you decide to go with definitely use some kind of screening above it. I use fiberglass screening which you can get any number of places (I purchase from Amazon)
Instead of using fiberglass screening, you could probably use just plain old week block. I get a 2 x 25 foot roll at Home Depot for $5, and it works pretty well for me. Just my 2 cents, hope that helps:)
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Action time!!

My tank is an empty canvas yet again! It'd be it's third project.





I visited two frog rooms in the last weeks. Mark (Encyclia) and Chris (pdfCrazy) were kind enough to invite me to visit their frog rooms. They haev some great vivariums and frogs. I got to see many kinds of designs techniques etc.

1. I think for my background, I am going to go with tree fern panels. They would keep it minimalistic and natural.

2. FOr the bottom, I am going to go with a mixed approach that Devin (Hydrophyte) has used in the past. It includes a false bottom and a layer of inert material before you put the actual substrate.

3. Lid is the main piece that I am yet to figure more about.

4. Hardscape- Senske brothers from Aquarium Design Group were kind enough to help me with this. They are going to send me a nice wood + rock scape in a week or two.

Time to get into serious action :D
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Can't wait to see how it comes out, Sumer! I know you will do a great job.

Mark
Thanks, Mike :) Your vivariums were inspirational. And I have my breath stuck at those mints. I hope I can get this setup up and running soon so that I can get some of those mints from you.
 

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I personally don't have much experience with mistking, but I think it'd be around 5 or so... I guess:D
 

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No idea on the number of nozzles... I still haven't set up a real misting system.

But I will say that for the lid, I would get a glass sheet cut to the size of your tank, then build a little jig around the outside and do some small acrylic strips on the inside to keep it from sliding around. This can be reused later for fish tanks too if you choose.
 
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