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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

I recently jumped back into the hobby after a roughly 10 year hiatus I took because of a lot of moving around and settling into my career. I can say that I don't remeber having such a rough go with my vivarium plants in my previous stint. My previous tanks were much wetter than this as well, but my plant selection was pretty basic. This is my first attempt with Begonias, Marcgravia, and miniature orchids.

The tank is an Insitu Amazonia that was setup with GS and Drylock background (wish the color was a little darker, but oh well...) My hope is to have a nice plant covered background with multiple epiphytic ferns and marcgravia eventually covering the majority of it. Safe to say I have a long way to go. The tank was initially planted about a month ago, with some additions about 2 weeks old (mostly the orchids, and 1 Microgramma vacciniifolia which promply dropped every leaf).

Here's a full tank shot. Substrate is ABG a couple inches thick with a generous pile of leaf litter. This was taken around noon with the last misting at 9:40AM. I mist twice a day: once at 9:40AM for 12 seconds, and once at 4:00PM for 30 seconds. That is down from three times a day since yesterday. The other misting was at 2:15PM for 15 seconds. I feel like it may be too wet, but I'm not sure. Lights are on from 10AM to 10PM, running at about 50% on the fixture that is included with the Insitu. I run 2 40x10mm Noctua fans in the housings that came with the viv at about 60% speed constantly. It creates very little, but still noticeable airflow. Temp is very steady at 70F plus or minus 1 degree day and night. Humidity is 76%-89% depending on the time and when it was last misted. I've never seen it out of that range.

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I think some plants are doing ok, the Monstera siltepecana on the right even has a new leaf forming. I can see some root growth on the Syngonium mini pixie too. The broms have some drying leaves, but a lot more new growth coming up from the middle. They were potted when I got them, I'm not sure if that matters. Everything else is dropping leaves or melting away. The orchids don't seem too bad, but some are yellowing a bit.

Here is a Begonia vankerckhovenii that came potted in sphagnum moss. It had a lot of dark green mature leaves that steadily dropped, until i decided to intervene and remove the moss and plant it directly in the ABG. As you can see, it is almost completely gone now.
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I think this is Begonia elaeagnifolia. It was also potted in LFS moss. This steadily declined with leaves turning brown and falling off and now what is left is yellowing. I may have been a little rough with this plant as I decided to dig it up and attempt to remove a lot of the moss, which proved difficult due to the very thin roots that were weaving it all together.
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This is Marcgravia sintenisii that came planted in LFS moss, which I set at the base of the back wall. The upper leaves turned brown and are dropping, but i see quite a few aerial roots shooting out of the bottom. I haven't touched this for about a month.
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A Marcgravia small round that came planted the same way as the other one. This is by the left wall partially shaded by the orchid mounted on some wood floating above it. It seems to be doing a little better than the sintenisii, but dropped some leaves and looks a little wrinkled.
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It appears I may have hit a photo limit for a single post as it won't let me attach any more... I'll see what some people have to say about these, and possibly post the rest. These are the worst by far. I did add frogs about 5 days ago, as I didn't want to keep them in a temporary QT forever and the humidity and temp has held stable in this tank. It is a group of 1 male and 2 froglet Histrionica Bullseye. I think the larger male might be beating up some of the plants, not helping matters...
 

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I'm not sure. There are a few plants with curled leaves that look too dry, like the pleurothallid (maybe a Masdevallia?) on the left side, right in front of the farthest left brom. Masdevallias can also throw up curled leaves when they're too hot, or just generally unhappy, so it could be something else. There's also a plant with curled leaf edges on the right side that definitely looks too dry to me, but this could be because its root system rotted away and now can't gather enough water for the plant. But the pleurothallids mounted on the sides are definitely a little dry rather than a little wet. Some of the sphagnum up high looks desiccated, and you have to be careful with that. LFS is a picky medium, if it's too wet it will rot, but if it's too dry it will resist water, which is not good for most pleurothallids. If you have LFS around the roots of a pleurothallid, you want it to be constantly pliable and slightly moist, not ever brittle, but also not going brown and rotting.

However, everything terrestrial looks like the leaves rotted, in fact if the leaves on the Marcgravia sintensii are as soft and wet as they look that looks like bacterial rot to me, which would indicate too much water or water sitting on the leaves. Were your begonias and marcgravias rooted or just cuttings when you got them? In any case, remove the dead leaves, so that if it is a bacterial infection it doesn't spread. My experience is mostly with orchids, but I recommend cutting with a clean, sharp knife and then pressing cinnamon into the wound. Sterilize the knife between each cut.

Are those your fans, in the back pointed straight down? If those are fans, they seem to be pointing into a sloped back wall, and I'm not sure they're effectively moving air in the front of the tank. Do the leaves of the smaller plants in the front of the tank move at all? My fan is tilted toward the terrestrial area of my tank and flower stalks and small leaves gently sway, that seems to be the right amount of air movement.

Also, I would move the mister heads - 2 pointed right at the 2 biggest broms toward the back, and then 1 head pointed at each side, to keep those mini pleurothallids constantly moist, and let water trickle down into the terrestrial area rather than directly spraying it. The sides, especially up toward the top, look very dry to me, whereas the terrestrial area seems to be too wet.

These are possibilities, I'm interested to hear what other people think.
 

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I don't keep most of these species, so I can't be much help. That said, I'm running my Amazonia lights at 100% and will continue to do so until I need to slow plant growth, or when I put the frogs in if they don't like the bright light. I think this might be relevant to the Marcgravia (which I do grow) -- I moved a Marc. sp. Ecuador cutting out of a dimmer viv into a bright spot in the Amazonia to get it to take off, and it did. I try to give new cuttings a lot of light so they have energy to grow.

I also have generally poor luck rooting in pure sphagnum, but many people do it without issue. I tend to use ABG, kept pretty moist, and keep humidity really high (invert a clear plastic cup over a plant for a few days if it looks to be wilting too much before rooting).
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Yes. The orchid you are talking about is Masdevallia bucculenta. I was also getting the feeling that the upper areas were too dry, but substrate was too wet. The Begonias and marcgravia were rooted in planters filled with spaghnum moss. I was told to take the spaghnum moss plugs and just put them in my substrate, which i think is holding too much moisture.

The fans actually pull air up vertically into those little boxes and push it out horizontally through those little semi circle openings. Those can only be rotated on the horizontal plane.

To get the epiphytes more water and dry out the lower area, should I remove the spaghnum (or a lot of it) from underneath the marcgravia and increase the amount of cycles my misters go off while slightly decreasing the total time the misters run? Right now thats only about 45 seconds over 2 cycles. Maybe 40 seconds total over 4 cycles? I will also try to angle my mist heads as you suggested.

Here's some more pics of the orchids:

Barbosella cucullata - middle brach in center of viv
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Scaphosepalum andreetae - back wall
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Pleurothallus costaricensis - right wall
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Masdevallia erinacea - front left
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Masdevallia bucculenta - left wall
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With those pics, I can say most of your orchids are definitely too dry. The Pleurothallus costaricensis and Masdevallia erinacea look ok but probably wouldn’t mind being wetter.

Where is your hygrometer mounted? If it's really low in the tank, it isn't accurately representing the humidity of the upper levels.

Shorter (10-20 seconds at a time) but more frequent misting works well for me, but make sure to soak the orchids once or twice a week. It might be best to do this by hand for now, until your terrestrial area is more under control. Spray the roots until they are bright green, while avoiding getting water on the leaves.

Is that a dying Selaginella right next to the Masdevallia bucculenta? That should go on the ground, it will actually appreciate being wet.

For the terrestrial area, I wouldn't leave clumps of sphagnum under plants, I would remove it or mix it with the ABG. Especially while a plant is rooting and getting established, you want to make sure there's good air flow around the stems, and something consistently wet pressed up against the plant can cause it to rot.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
No Selaginella. It's just a bit of carpet moss I scattered around to see if any would take hold. It dried up and browned out in most areas. I have an entire 10 gallon filled with it so I was just experimenting with it. I don't really want much of it growing on the substrate. I did just pull up all of the spaghnum moss on the ground and it was wet. I'm sure that was part of my problem. The ABG however is moist, but still really airy... at least that's how I'd describe it. I laid what didn't disintegrate of the marcgravia back down on the ABG. Some more leaves fell off, but I left the green ones to see if maybe they will take. I think it's likely I lost these ones, and because I saw everything rotting away sitting in spaghnum moss, started misting less and less, upsetting the mounted plants. I spread out my misting cycles again to see if it helps with the orchids.

I don't leave a hygrometer in the viv permanently. I usually put it in there between misting cycles so it doesn't get wet. I had it sitting on the middle brach next to the barbosella orchid and it was reading 86% about an hour after misting today. The humidity swings a little, but the driest I've seen it is upper 70's.
 

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The orchids will be fine if you just up their water a little bit. Unfortunately, yes, a lot of the terrestrial plants look like goners.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Well, it's been 5 months so I figured I'd give a little update. All of the orchids are doing well and most are even flowering. Basically everything in my substrate was indeed too wet, so after adjusting my misting schedule and waiting a few weeks, I planted an Episcia cupreata that has nearly quadrupled in size. I moved a couple of the orchids around, and actually divided the Masdevallia bucculenta to put in another tank. I also added some different vining plants that are showing some decent growth. It's still a work in progress as I REALLY want to fill in some background space, but the Monstera siltepecana is steadily growing and attaching itself to the background and right wall, and my Marcgravia sp. looks to finally be rooted and growing towards the left wall. I am pretty excited about all of the blooming orchids though, as I have never grown them before and surely thought I'd somehow manage to murder all of them.

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Masdevalia erinacea - This orchid hated me at first. Shortly after I posted my first pictures of this, I tried moving it higher on the left wall where it promptly decided turn yellow and lose over half of its leaves. It appears to have bounced back and is currently in bloom! This is easily my favorite orchid flower of the species I have right now.
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Pleurothallus costaricensis - This orchid never gave me an problems. It started growing new leaves immediately, doubling in size, and I was excited to see a couple flower spikes last week that just started blooming as well. I'm curious if anyone might have any insight on the purple leaf tip though? I'm not sure if it could be a negative response to something.
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Barbosella cucullata - The first orchid that started flowering. This seems to send off 1 or 2 spikes at a time that flower successively. This also hasn't given me much trouble and is rooting like crazy.
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Top orchid - Stelis hirtella - I just received this in mid-March to plant in another tank I am working on. It wasn't flowering when I got it, so I am extremely surprised to see that it is in bloom already.
Directly under it - Scaphosepalum andreetae - I moved this from the other tank where it seemed to be too dry on the back wall to this tank where it was not very happy for a few months. I'm glad to see that it is starting to show a lot of new growth and hopefully, it will bloom sometime soon.
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Masdevallia bucculenta - This is half of the Masdevallia bucculenta from the first tank that I moved to my second viv. I have to water this by hand occasionally, but surprised me with a couple spikes.
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Those all look great, thanks for the update! Great job on the erinacea, I haven’t quite figured out what makes it happy yet and mine only blooms infrequently.
 

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Great job! One of the things that I have really enjoyed doing is learning to hear what the plants are "telling" me. One of these days I hope that I finally understand what orchids are saying haha. Thanks again for sharing.
 
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