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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I got a free 75 gallon aquarium off of craigslist and I am still undecided on what to do with it. Today I got the idea of a completely self sufficient deep water paludarium including a food chain in the water and on land. I want to have dart frogs or newts be the primary predators on land and have something that eats guppies and shrimp in the water fish or herp. Any and all advice regarding construction and components of the food chain will be greatly appreciated.
 

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Daphnia as the base of the food network with live blackworms in the waters substrate, and a paddle tailed newt in the water if it is flowing and cool like 60 degrees cool.
 

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I second the Daphnia suggestion. I'm not sure if you want your water predator to be eating things like guppies and shrimp. It could make for a messy dinner, and a "denser" bioload in terms of waste. I'd personally try to find mayfly nymphs. They make a great food source for lots of fish, and the ones that escape turn into short-lived flies that can be eaten by your land predator. Red cherry shrimp are also good cleaners, and their fry are readily consumed. As far as the terrestrial portion, you may want to include insects like springtails and/or isopods (I know that tropical fish love springtails). Be careful of which animal species you use. If you have herps in there, you don't want them infecting any amphibians that can visit dry land (or vice versa).

In my (very humble) opinion, it's almost impossible to make a fully self-sufficient enclosure that includes significant amounts of water. Your aquatic animals may survive, but I still argue that PWC's are essential to healthy aquatics. One of the main reasons why Mother Nature doesn't need water changes is because said water is continually being recycled, rained down, or otherwise circulated in new ways around the world. You never step into the same stream, so to speak. Your tank water, on the other hand, is "stuck with itself". Now, you may be thinking that many successful, self-sustaining ecosystems like dart frog tanks have water features and get along fine. I'd like to point out that most people who have small ponds, etc., in their terrariums keep them that way for ease of water removal. At least, that's what I've seen in the majority of pond-inclusive builds that I have witnessed. I also don't mean to imply that you need to change water all the time; it could very well be occasional or infrequent, depending on how well you filter your water.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you plan on doing a land/water tank, you should try to design it assuming that you will need to do PWC's, even if infrequently. I don't know your experience level, so if you happen to be a long-time hobbyist, then I could very well be missing part of the equation. Just in case you're relatively new, though, I wanted to offer my $0.02.
 

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In my paludarium instead of doing PWC's I set up a constant drainage system that drains through 1/4" black tubing into a 5 gallon bucket through a 1/4" hole that I drill in the buckets lid. I doubled the amount of spray nozzles and amount of spraying I would use for a regular viv and purposely point a few of the nozzles towards the waterfall and pond. The water accumulates every time the spray pump turns on until it flows out through the drainage system. I also added twice as many fans as I would in a regular viv to make up for the extra water and dry out the plants more between sprayings. In one corner I built an acrylic wall surrounding where the water pump is with water openings only at the front where I built an area to place turtle tank filters. I can access the area to replace the filters and pump if needed easily by lifting up a piece of planted corkboard. This way the water constantly stays fresh and all I have to do is empty the drainage bucket when I refill the spray pump reservoir. Having the extra humidity control is really nice when I'm rooting new epiphytes because all I have to do is turn off or reduce the amount of fans till the plants take.
 

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If you want to include animals like fish and frogs I think that 75 gallons is much too small for this to work. I have read about experimental setups like this that worked like real ecosystems, but they had thousands of gallons of volume.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I realize that a completely self sufficent tank is nearly impossible that said I would still like to be as hands off as possible

For the water section I was thinking about getting a South American leaf fish, red cherry shrimp, daphnia, and some kind of nymph. Do you think that would work as a food chain? Also what other fish if any should I put in to go with the leaf fish as prey or as a tank mate?

I'm definitely gonna have Isopods, springtails and earth worms. Not sure about what else I should have for the base of the food chain. I'm still undecided on what the apex predator of the land should be. I have 2 FBT in another tank I could use or I could get some dart frogs.

What kinds of aquatic and terrestrial plants would you recommend to promise microfauna and biological filtration. Also plants that some of the animals lower on the food chain could eat.

Due to the heavy bioload do you think that it would be reasonable to use only biological filtration? If I need a filtration how much power do you think I will need? The tank will have a pump circulating the water via a stream.

This is the build so far I just started today and that is only the left half of the tank. In the back left corner there will be a small hill where the stream starts.

Thanks for all your help!
 

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Some reptiles/amphibians need supplementation in their diets. Those animals would not be suitable for your setup.
 

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"self sustaining' is almost an urban legend. Not sayin' it can't be done...but...it really can't be done.

Google refugia

Dart Frogs do not live in shorelines, mangrove edges, ponds ect. The few that live near streams do not utilize the actual water per se.

Dart frogs will drown in most paludariums. It's just that simple.
 

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You could try to do this just using invertebrates like isopods, springtails, millipedes, and roaches for the terrestrial portion with a few aquatic inverts in the water portion. A setup like that might last for years if you put it together with plenty of rotting wood and leaf litter and so on.
 

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I've been looking in to Leaf fish recently and I don't think they would be good candidates if the goal is for the tank to be self sufficient. My understanding is that only fry eat Daphnia and shrimp. Adults needs feeder fish in pretty large quantities (I think I've read somewhere that they eat x2 their own weight every couple days.).

They sure are cool though:cool:
 

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I think you should try it, but use invertebrate animals instead. You could probably make it into a pretty interesting experiment. A 75-gallon tank just isn't going to grow enough food for fish without extra input.
 

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I think you should try it, but use invertebrate animals instead. You could probably make it into a pretty interesting experiment. A 75-gallon tank just isn't going to grow enough food for fish without extra input.
That I think might depend on the fish. If I was going to try it, I would use something like Elassoma in well done biotope with passive filtration. I would seed the tank ahead of time with water and mud collected from a similar habitat to get some of the microfauna going. If you get a well established microfaunal base then it should be self sustaining for the fish to some extent. I would expect to see populations booms and busts that follow changes in productivity in the tank. I suspect that you would have to feed the tank with green water or a suitable substitute to ensure that there is enough food to sustain the microfauna. Your not going to be able to avoid having some form of inputs into the tank (and you will have to do water changes) but you can certainly move it down the food chain.

Some comments

Ed
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I had never heard of elasoma or Pygmy sunfish before your post those look really cool and I think I might try them.

Does anyone have any plants they could recommend for passive filtration and to be eaten by the fauna?

I am definitely gonna seed the tank well before I get any frogs or large fish will black worms reproduce in the tank I've never kept them?

Also do y'all think reed frogs would work I've heard they like a large water area and seem like a good fit to me.

Thanks for all your help!
 

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Does anyone have any plants they could recommend for passive filtration and to be eaten by the fauna?
Lot of options for helping with water quality -- off the top of my head, Najas, guppygrass, would be nice and simple. However, dwarf shrimp will not eat most macrophytes the way you may be imagining. They need Aufwuchs on hardscape, which you can supplement by rotating in algae-covered rocks from another small tank or tub if you'd like. I'd definitely throw in some leaf litter for them to pick over as it breaks down, too.
 
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