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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Sorry in advance, I feel this might be a long post by the time I am through with it.

I realized I really missed having a vivarium. Although mine will sadly never see frogs I have started the purchasing process of a new one!

I made a few tanks a few years back with probably not the worst but not the best methods. I have always done greatstuff backgrounds with silicone and coco fiber. Doing a bit of research there are so many more options for methods. A big part of what I want in constructing the background is to have luscious plants and moss growing on it. For this reason I have decided I will be running a waterline up the top to make a drip wall.

My first question is which background method would you all suggest?

I struggled with greatstuff in the past because I was very impatient with it. It's a long process carving it out and quite frankly I don't want to do it. the layers and cure time is just a lot and I was hoping there was a better way. I am now looking into the differences between matala, epiweb, and hydrolon. I know absolutely nothing about how they would actually work as a background. I will probably be using epiweb as a drainage layer as well (see next question). I am a bit concerned with how the finished product will look with these as a background. Since it will be a display tank for plants the aesthetic is very important to me.

Some methods I have read about and am interested in knowing more about:
Great Stuff and drylok
Cork bark tiles
Tree fern panels
the cracked cork mosaic method
the silicone/foam/Titebond III method
epiweb and hygrolon (possible matala?)


Okay my next question is how to even do the ground layering with a euro drain slanted bottom. I am super excited about this tank and want to really put my best foot forward on building it right the first time. I bought the insitu tank and I am getting in my head about how it actually will work.
From my understanding there is a trough area that the water will drain from and then a raised slanted base. I was looking at the best drainage layers and found some research that charcoal as drainage provides a great environment for the buggies (isos and springtails). I was originally planning on using that. then I started all this research on the epiweb and ended up buying that as a possibility. since it has the drain though the drainage layer doesn't need to be very deep, correct?

What is a good way for me to layer the drainage and how does that work? what would be best? I am assuming i would then put ABG mix over that but is that the case for epiweb?

Other info- I will have a mistking set up and I am very excited about adding in wood 'shelves' and creating a very exciting hardscape so any tips of wood types to use are appreciated as well.
As much as I don't want to just be throwing money at this tank, I really have the intentions of building it to be as good as it can be. I don't mind spending extra if something has a practical advantage and would be much better in the long run.
 

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... For this reason I have decided I will be running a waterline up the top to make a drip wall. ...

My first question is which background method would you all suggest?

...

Okay my next question is how to even do the ground layering with a euro drain slanted bottom. ...

What is a good way for me to layer the drainage and how does that work? what would be best? I am assuming i would then put ABG mix over that but is that the case for epiweb?...
I think I got them all. Anyway most folks will tell you not to make a drip wall in a tank the size of an insitu but if you decide to go with it anyway I would suggest buying the kit insitu just released to make it happen. It looks to be the best option in terms of providing a pump that will work and best yet work outside the tank so you don't need to worry about how to replace the pump when it inevitably fails.

Anyway the only problem with using a flat panel for a background is that you will struggle to make it look three dimensional. It will also look ugly till moss/plants grow over it.

If you really want a dripping feature of some kind then I suggest taking a look at this video by Troy Goldberg. Probably the most attractive dripping feature I have seen in a vivarium. He uses a combination of hygrolon sheets, great stuff, and drylock to make his backgrounds. They still look very flat to my eye till many months later when plants finally grow in to cover.


For my own background in my insitu I did the titebond 3 method and I like it but for my next tank I will likely do a cracked cork mosaic background for its aesthetic and ability to provide places for plants to be attached. My next tank will also be a custom build that is 4 feet long and I will likely have a dripping feature similar to Troys in that video, meaning it will drip from a branch and not from the background itself. This means my background doesn't need to be waterproof.

In the insitu you can put essentially whatever you want in the trough up front. Anything inert will work. Pea gravel, lava rock, aquarium gravel, whatever. I don't think I have seen anyone use epiweb/matala material before but I don't see why it couldn't work. The insitu comes with instructions saying to use charcoal but /shrug again you can use whatever.

As for layers its pretty simple. Put whatever you want in the trough. Then put down a sheet of fiberglass mesh. Then put your abg right over-top of everything. You don't need to put anything over the slanted bottom portion except abg. The only thing you fill up is the trough.

Hopefully that helps.
 

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Regarding the background: You can search the forum for examples of each method. I think using as much natural cork bark as possible would suit your vision.

*It looks instantly awesome. Even without plants, natural cork bark looks great.
*Plants will root and climb it without any sort of drip wall. I advise against flowing water in a viv anyway.
*It adds lots of climable/usable frog space.
*It adds additional microfauna havens.

Regarding the drainage: I'm having trouble picturing whatever you're talking about with the charcoal and the slanted base. And I have no experience with "euro-style" slanted base vivs. But you if have substrate over any kind of water table, you want an air-gap between the water and soil.

There's a very recent good discussion about this, and why a false bottom (with air pocket) is often preferred over charcoal/turface/lava rock.
 

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There's a very recent good discussion about this, and why a false bottom (with air pocket) is often preferred over charcoal/turface/lava rock.
Great advice, Broseph, with the cork. I am a huge fan of cracked cork mosaics and have used them in probably 20 tanks over the last 6 years. They grow plants great and they last a really long time (no signs of slowing down in my tanks at 6 years...).

I did want to say that the part quoted above is still up in the air because we don't yet have final results of minohero's experiments! I am always on the lookout for better, easier, and cheaper ways to do things and his experiments have potential. (Also, if OP really has a Euro with sloping glass at the bottom, OP doesn't have any say in how their drainage layer works)

Mark
 

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I'm curious: how many gallons of ABG mix would be required when setting up an Insitu viv?
I made my own mix of abg in a 5 gallon bucket. Literally filled it to the brim for use in my insitu. I ended up using a bit less then half. If planning to buy it pre-made I would buy 3 gallons to be safe. You will have left overs but this will let you build up some banked substrate in the back/corner and not run out.

Regarding what the drainage looks like here are two images on insitu's website:





The insitu recommends just filling that trough in the front with charcoal and calling it a day. On facebook I have seen people fill it with lots of things from calcined clay (like what I did) to pebbles, to aquarium gravel, etc.

This is what mine looked after I filled my trough plus extra with calcined clay and put down a layer of fiberglass mesh screen.

 

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Regarding the background: You can search the forum for examples of each method. I think using as much natural cork bark as possible would suit your vision.



*It looks instantly awesome. Even without plants, natural cork bark looks great.

*Plants will root and climb it without any sort of drip wall. I advise against flowing water in a viv anyway.

*It adds lots of climable/usable frog space.

*It adds additional microfauna havens.



Regarding the drainage: I'm having trouble picturing whatever you're talking about with the charcoal and the slanted base. And I have no experience with "euro-style" slanted base vivs. But you if have substrate over any kind of water table, you want an air-gap between the water and soil.



There's a very recent good discussion about this, and why a false bottom (with air pocket) is often preferred over charcoal/turface/lava rock.
I love the look of cork bark as well. I'm using cork mosaics on all my new builds.


Another way to minimize water wicking (and soggy substrate) is to have a deeper drainage layer.

For my tanks, I fill the LECA an extra inch (or more) above the drainage bulkhead all there's essentially an air gap between the water level (drainage bulkhead) and the substrate. The air gap just happens to have LECA in it.

Noting this may not apply to the OP, but wanted to add this just in case
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I think I got them all. Anyway most folks will tell you not to make a drip wall in a tank the size of an insitu but if you decide to go with it anyway I would suggest buying the kit insitu just released to make it happen.
Is that just because it is such a small tank? is the concern of not doing it in a small tank overwatering or moldy substrate?
I guess I am just curious as to why it wouldn't be something to add.

As for layers its pretty simple. Put whatever you want in the trough. Then put down a sheet of fiberglass mesh. Then put your abg right over-top of everything. You don't need to put anything over the slanted bottom portion except abg. The only thing you fill up is the trough.
With so much less drainage substrate will the bugs still have plenty of space to build healthy colonies?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Regarding the background: You can search the forum for examples of each method. I think using as much natural cork bark as possible would suit your vision.

*It looks instantly awesome. Even without plants, natural cork bark looks great.
*Plants will root and climb it without any sort of drip wall. I advise against flowing water in a viv anyway.
*It adds lots of climable/usable frog space.
*It adds additional microfauna havens.
fantastic points! I think just from what I am reading from everyone I will most likely go with some version of a cork and (sigh) greatstuff background. seems that drylock would be a better choice for covering the foam over silicone which was a mess always.

I do want more of the 3D look but the idea of cushiony plant pillows as a background sounded so interesting. less mess and happy plants and all.

the other curiosity that I have is handi-foam. I've only seen one reference to it on a josh's frogs how to but in that they make it sound so much simpler from greatstuff. anyone know of people who have used it or used it themselves?
Sounds like the main advantage is a quicker cure time. also it doesn't need to be sanded down and supposedly grips coco fiber and corkbark almost as if it were already cured with silicone on it. they say 24 hours after applying it is fully cured. (almost sounds too good to be true to me)
 

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Dendro Dave first introduced the world to the Cracked Cork Mosaic method of backgrounds. Thank you Dave! You've inspired countless backgrounds in the hobby. It's very first presentation to us was built as a drip wall.
https://www.dendroboard.com/forum/p...-mosaic-living-drip-wall-pond-method-how.html

Here are the details on how I built my biggest and best cracked cork mosaic.
https://www.dendroboard.com/forum/members-frogs-vivariums/76581-pumilos-75-corner-viv.html

Here is my current, favorite method of doing backgrounds. It's a method I developed that was deeply inspired by Dave's cracked cork mosaic method, yet is still quite different.
https://www.dendroboard.com/forum/members-frogs-vivariums/334946-jungle-gym.html
 

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Is that just because it is such a small tank? is the concern of not doing it in a small tank overwatering or moldy substrate?
I guess I am just curious as to why it wouldn't be something to add.



With so much less drainage substrate will the bugs still have plenty of space to build healthy colonies?
Yes to soaking substrate. Also to keeping the water where you want it. Water can be hard to direct. It is also hard to make it look good. If you go searching for nice drip walls in tanks the size of the insitu and can't find an example you want to emulate... well there is a reason for that. The bigger the tank the easier it is to make really awesome looking hardscape. Insitu is a medium sized tank... possibly on the small size of medium really since the dimensions they list on the website are not the actual dimensions of the glass portion (they are the flared base). Making a water feature look natural in that tiny of a space is hard to do. I frankly haven't seen one yet I liked. Doesn't mean its not out there. But I haven't seen it yet. The other concern is that if your substrate stays too wet your frogs could have issues as well.

The bugs will mostly live in the substrate itself. If you want to provide more locations for them then have substrate banked higher in the back/corner.
 

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I'm curious: how many gallons of ABG mix would be required when setting up an Insitu viv?
I made my own mix of abg in a 5 gallon bucket. Literally filled it to the brim for use in my insitu. I ended up using a bit less then half. If planning to buy it pre-made I would buy 3 gallons to be safe. You will have left overs but this will let you build up some banked substrate in the back/corner and not run out.

Regarding what the drainage looks like here are two images on insitu's website:





The insitu recommends just filling that trough in the front with charcoal and calling it a day. On facebook I have seen people fill it with lots of things from calcined clay (like what I did) to pebbles, to aquarium gravel, etc.

This is what mine looked after I filled my trough plus extra with calcined clay and put down a layer of fiberglass mesh screen.

Thanks for the detailed information, much appreciated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Yes to soaking substrate. Also to keeping the water where you want it. Water can be hard to direct. It is also hard to make it look good. If you go searching for nice drip walls in tanks the size of the insitu and can't find an example you want to emulate... well there is a reason for that. The bigger the tank the easier it is to make really awesome looking hardscape. Insitu is a medium sized tank... possibly on the small size of medium really since the dimensions they list on the website are not the actual dimensions of the glass portion (they are the flared base). Making a water feature look natural in that tiny of a space is hard to do. I frankly haven't seen one yet I liked. Doesn't mean its not out there. But I haven't seen it yet. The other concern is that if your substrate stays too wet your frogs could have issues as well.

The bugs will mostly live in the substrate itself. If you want to provide more locations for them then have substrate banked higher in the back/corner.

I definitely see where you are coming from. I think I might put it in anyways because I am stubborn and hope for that luscious green moss effect. I figure if it does cause problem I can just stop using it. also this tank won't have fogs in it so at least that part won't be an issue.

Thank you so much for all the advice! I also read through your post about your build and you did a fantastic job!

thank you EVERYONE for the advice! this forum is so amazing. I will be sure to update with pictures as the build comes along better.
 

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I will most likely go with some version of a cork and (sigh) greatstuff background. seems that drylock would be a better choice for covering the foam over silicone which was a mess always.
I'm curious why you think any foam at all is needed. With a big enough variety of cork, you can get quite a bit of depth heterogeneity to your background. Not a criticism - I do plenty of foam jobbies along with my "cracked cork".

If you do insist on some foam - one notion to consider, is to carve pieces of foam board on your benchtop. (Don't spray foam into the viv and carve, cover etc in there. Pain in the ass and so not necessary.) Then you can also epoxy / Drylok / oh Jesus really? silicone? on the display side?!?!? / WTF-ever that piece of foam right there on the benchtop. Just leave the one face that's going up against the glass, totally raw foam. That face, you will cover in silicone (squeeze on some beads then trowel it into a continuous thin layer) then stick it to your cleaned glass. You can do cork pieces below, beside, above, etc the foam stick-on.

Just something to consider. Good luck!
 
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