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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
What? Another dragon-themed terrarium? Didn't you just do one?

Yes.

Yes I did.


^I snagged this piece of ghostwood off of Glass Box Tropicals as soon as I saw it. Somewhat expensive (it's ghostwood, after all), but absolutely worth it.

I didn't know exactly how I would use it until it arrived earlier this afternoon. I knew I saw an animal head of some sort --- a deer, or a horse, or something --- but when in doubt, just about every ambiguously-detailed "head" can be a dragon head. Because, who knows what a dragon's head looks like?

I thought about using a marble to make an eye, but the slot I wanted to put it in was just a little bit too narrow. So:


^I used an old woodworking trick and boiled the wood until it became pliable. (And I also accidentally sterilized it, which is nice and probably unnecessary.)

This was risky; I didn't know how manzanita would react to boiling temperatures, and the piece of driftwood in question was already pretty rickety. It survived, though.

The process also turned the water in the pocket amber-colored and left a faint smell of lumber. I don't think I'll be boiling sausages in it again, at least not for a while.

...So, I took the driftwood out of the pot and went to work. I didn't think to photograph the marble before I put it in, because I've had it for years and it never seemed like a new element to me.




^I was very pleased with how it turned out. It looks very much like an eye, I think, with the flesh pockets to the sides and the lower eyelid encroaching up on it. Frankly, I thought I would either 1) push the marble too far and lose it in the dark pocket to its right, or 2) outright break the wood. Now, quite the contrary, it's lodged in there so securely that nothing will accidentally knock it loose.

Now, there are a few things to note:

  • This is intended as another uninhabited terrarium. I'd like to keep its production animal-safe, just in case. But if I pass the point of no return, I will not risk any animals' lives by putting them in there.
  • I have not decided on an enclosure for this driftwood, or much of anything else, either. It is about 24" by 8" or so, so it isn't a small piece of wood. I would like to have more than a head to this dragon, so I'd like to find a large tank at a reptile show or build one myself.

    I have decided, however, that I will have no water feature in this terrarium. At least, unless it becomes functionally import or very likely to not run into problems.
...I guess that's about it, as far as important things. I'll post updates as they come to me. I am known for long posts and myriad posts.

This is much a log of the steps of this project for me, but I always appreciate input! Many thanks again to jgragg for his immense support in my previous build thread, as well as to anyone who offered advice and intelligence there or in the many other questions I've asked.

EDIT: An important thing I forgot to mention: The "head" isn't complete. At least, probably not. It seems to me it could use a jaw, unless people are able to see the thin horizontal recess running along the right side of the piece as a closed mouth. If that is the case, it is basically a complete head, with horns, an eye, a full mouth ... and all the other stuff.
 

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EDIT: An important thing I forgot to mention: The "head" isn't complete. At least, probably not. It seems to me it could use a jaw, unless people are able to see the thin horizontal recess running along the right side of the piece as a closed mouth. If that is the case, it is basically a complete head, with horns, an eye, a full mouth ... and all the other stuff.
That's the way I saw it. Looks good!

Mark
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Thanks! I'll probably stick with it like that.

I bought a tank today that is just about the right size to have this driftwood piece somewhere in it.



I did not personally check the dimensions --- I ought to have --- but the seller's measurement was 24" * 24" * 18" (width * height * depth)

The top was somewhat altered:



^He used his own wire mesh to seal the top, and he did a pretty good job of it. 75% of the screen was covered in aluminum foil originally, but I removed most of it. Evidently that's what a crested gecko (the tank's former inhabitant) needs to hold in humidity.

I know about folk here partially replacing the wire mesh on top of their vivs with glass, but that's for frogs' humidity / air flow needs, and plants are secondary. So next up for me is to decide what to do about the top.

A couple of options are:

  • Get some rectangle of glass that does not fully cover the top, and just let the uncovered space provide air flow. In this way, I can move it back and forth if I want to change where the air goes out.
  • Get a rectangle of glass that fully covers the tank, then drill holes for ventilation. This requires a lot more technique, because I'd have to drill holes without damaging the glass multiple times perhaps, and then I'd have to do put in the wire and whatever holds it in place, which I don't know how to do. Plus side, though: I would be able to house an animal in it in the future.

A side note: thinking about not using a bulkhead and drainage container, but rather a concealed pipe from which I can pump the water out.

If I keep making terrariums, I should probably just buy a drill press...
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks! I always appreciate compliments. It's hard to know who's really looking, even with the page visit counter. :)

I'm considering using pink foam and hot-wire tools to carve castle ruins.

Holy shit, you're basically just re-making the previous terrarium.

Yes. Yes I am.

And it gets worse: I did this ANOTHER time over a year ago!

This is T3:





Castle walls, check. Waterfall-spewing dragon, check. Water feature that didn't work for five whole minutes, CHECK.

(But this terrarium won't have a water feature.)

...Anyway! I'm thinking about carving pink foam, using a polymer clay tool to make brick patterns, slicing holes into it using hot metal, and somehow making the pink foam board thinner, because it's too thick to make castle walls small enough to fit into the tank. (That last concern is my biggest.) Also, I don't know if acrylic paints can survive light mists a couple times per day, or if I need to use some kind of thin sealant to protect them.

I'm not dead-set on a castle, anyway. It would just be a neat construct for plants to grow around.

Other notes:

  • I'm considering Turface for the substrate because of its supposed cheapness, but I can't find a retailer ANYWHERE around here that stocks it. Tractor Supply Co., nope. Walmart, nope. And I'm sure not going to pay to ship 50 lbs. of it (or really, any quantity).
    ---
  • I've not used foam to create a hardscape, as some folks do for aquariums, vivariums, and paludariums sometimes, but I have the equipment to do so, and more or less have the know-how.
    ---
  • I'm not sure how the dragon / animal's head emerges into this terrarium. It can't have a big body visible like the dragon in T9, the previous terrarium, due to space limitations. It's hard to see just from photographs, but the head has to lean at such an angle for the "face" to be visible, that it takes up a lot of space. It also would have an unseen neck at the angle it needs to be at, hidden by the "jaw". That part might be useful, if I want to hide its body in some sort of construct. But I am having trouble imagining what sort of setting would make sense for a dragon / woodland spirit. Maybe an artificial tree that takes up the back-left corner of the tank?
    ---
  • If this is a woodland spirit, I'm considering including some pointed quartz crystals I have in order to mystic-ize the setting it lives in. Quartz crystals are supposed to be safe when exposed to water, better than selenite crystals. If I do this, though, Turface just won't look right.
    ---
  • Artificial lianas and vines are another option for decoration.
    ---
  • Whether or not I decide on using a castle, I want to have some structure inside that takes advantage of various plants' tendency to grow and twist around things. Polymer clay is great for accomplishing this, but I don't yet know what, besides an old castle, looks natural in a forest or forest-like setting.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I'm going to put this thread to the side for a little while. I haven't been able to conceive an attractive setup that would involve the piece of driftwood that I began this thread talking about. At least, I haven't been able to get a good idea that involves putting that driftwood in the 24" * 24" * 18" Exo Terra I have.

I found something better to use that tank for, so I'll make a thread about that soon. I'll be back someday to handle this driftwood piece.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I'm probably going to try to do this again, because the "badass stump reproduction" project isn't turning out like I'd hoped for it to turn out.

I'm thinking about having the face of this driftwood sort of peeking through a forest cover. (Because it's sort of a "forest guardian.") I'd like to have a plant that grows to look like a tree on a small scale --- so, which kind of tree-like plants would you recommend? I don't know of a really good example of what I'm looking for, but a good example of what wouldn't work, on the other hand, would be any small or ground-cover plant, anything that grows more horizontally than vertically.
 

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I'm probably going to try to do this again, because the "badass stump reproduction" project isn't turning out like I'd hoped for it to turn out.



I'm thinking about having the face of this driftwood sort of peeking through a forest cover. (Because it's sort of a "forest guardian.") I'd like to have a plant that grows to look like a tree on a small scale --- so, which kind of tree-like plants would you recommend? I don't know of a really good example of what I'm looking for, but a good example of what wouldn't work, on the other hand, would be any small or ground-cover plant, anything that grows more horizontally than vertically.
How tall does the "tree like plant" need to get?

Biophytum sensitivum resemble a small Palm tree but only get to be 6" tall.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
How tall does the "tree like plant" need to get?

Biophytum sensitivum resemble a small Palm tree but only get to be 6" tall.
I have a Biophytum sensitivum and I like it, but it doesn't really provide the kind of forested look I'm going for. (Although it does look like a tree, indeed.)

I may get some small bonsai-able trees that can survive indoor light, and just trim them liberally to make a woods. I guess I should get some undergrowth, too, at that point, if it's to look like a forest.

I also kind of want to keep this viv "animal acceptable," even though I wrote earlier that it was going to be animal-free. So if anyone notices me doing something that breaches the line from safe to dangerous, for any kind of herp animal, feel free to let me know.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I'm going to do a recap of some of the things that happened to this tank while I was planning to use it for the stump prop. Most of these photographs are in the other thread.


^This is a view of the top of the tank, with a hole in a glass top and a screen-window panel cut to size. The glass has a single hole for a 4-nozzle MistKing piece, but after seeing how flooded the chamber becomes so quickly, I may change it to a 2-nozzle MistKing piece instead.


^This is the underside of the eggcrate platform, designed smaller than the width / depth of the bottom of the tank so that the gaps between it and the glass walls can be filled with drainage media (in this case, simple turface).


^This is part of the crack that appears after I drilled the back of the tank for drainage. It has been smeared with Lexel, as much psychological insurance as a functional repair. Probably it will eventually spread to the edges and perhaps even crack open, but there will be very little water in the tank because of how low the bulkhead was placed, and besides, the tank will be sitting in a place where water leakage won't matter. (The tank is watertight at the time of this writing.)


^This is the "forest guardian head" sitting in the tank, not positioned as it will be when the tank is done, but just sitting in there biding its time.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I decided to post this separately from the previous post in order to distinguish this one from a recap post to a post in which I'm looking for feedback.

This is what the tank currently looks like, with plants plundered from another terrarium (the "skellig spire" one I made a while ago):


^Neos 'Fireball' and 'Blueberry Tart', a mostly-unseen Pellionia repens, and a trailing vine from NEHERP whose name I used to know.

I am liking the way the vines trail over the face, although it may not survive in the position its in, because the roots don't reach the substrate. I have a peat brick below them, maybe that will work, I don't know. I ought to take a photo of it.

I'll be filling the spaces around it with "trees" in order to create a veiled appearance, with the eye peeking through. I want to reiterate that any suggestions are welcome, whether they're suggestion to do something or suggestions not to do something.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Some updates, notes for myself:


^I've put in some plants considered for placement in this terrarium, to see how they fit. Dendrobium kingianum, on the left, will be part of the forest in front of the face. (It will be mixed with a Dendrobium auriculatum I believe.)

There is a peat brick --- an item I've had around for a while, whose properties I have not understood well enough to plant something in it up to and including now --- supporting the head from behind. I am hoping with a little support from sphagnum moss maybe the vines / neoregelias / other plants will root into it, because otherwise they'd have to go all the way to the ground.

(Anybody have experience with peat bricks? I'm not really aware of whether it's considered a terrestrial or epiphytic medium, or both or neither.)


^These orchids --- whose leaves are "purpling" for reasons I don't understand --- are candidates for placement elsewhere. The Trichosalpinx memor may be draped across the head, rooting in that back area. Pleurothallis geographica, I'm not as sure about. Originally I had been thinking it would make a forest-like tree.

I also want to plant some kind of small clingy epiphyte, likely a Microgramma, somewhere along the "horn". And perhaps a clingy Marcgravia going up the mouth / snout.

I stuck some Dusk moss mix all around the ghostwood head earlier today, but these photographs were taken prior to that.

I will probably build up the substrate with more ABG mix when I get it
 

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I’m not familiar with keeping the specific orchid species you have mentioned however, in general ‘purpling’ orchid leaves typically mean they are receiving an ‘over exposure’ of light when compared to the general requirements.


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Discussion Starter #15
I’m not familiar with keeping the specific orchid species you have mentioned however, in general ‘purpling’ orchid leaves typically mean they are receiving an ‘over exposure’ of light when compared to the general requirements.
That makes perfect sense, considering I was keeping them only about 18" or so from a pink LED grow light :eek:

It's a shame. I like this purplish hue, and I would have positioned the plants a certain way if it stayed that way. But now that they're under a Spectral Designs panel --- fairly "normal" light --- I guess they'll either change back or at least grow normal, healthy green leaves.
 

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Just depends honestly.. over exposure to light might not prevent them from flowering. I had/have some Pleuro’s that started turning purple or were already purple and either had flowers or started producing flowers with purple leaves.. it really will just depend on the species I would imagine, and whether or not there is appropriate air flow and water to compensate for higher volumes of light. Probably technically wrong with that last statement but, purpling in orchid leaves is definitely a result of over exposure to light.


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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks for the info. Actually, I almost don't care about flowering plants at all, unless they flower so frequently that it's almost a regular state. I like my terraria to grow steadily, not oscillate between flowers and no flowers. I understand why more patient people can appreciate flowering plants, though.

I'm posting this update mostly because I am looking for some info or help regarding a decision that may turn out to be a blunder:


^So, a short history: I had planned to put in tree fern fiber panels in the background, suddenly decided that I wanted it to be visible from all sides, then even more suddenly realized that it wouldn't matter if it were visible from the back, because the driftwood only looks like a face from the front ... and so I promptly siliconed in the tree fern panels. T

The result was... less than aesthetically brilliant. (Trust me, this photograph at this angle is very generous.) My thought was I could better create the "forest" around the guardian head with epiphytes growing out of the panels, ideally eventually covering the bottom panel at least. That way the discontinuity between the two horizontal panels could be addressed.

Also, as you may be able to tell, the mist doesn't exactly soak into the tree fern fiber panels. That's probably the biggest issue right now. I could switch back to a quad-nozzle for more water coverage, but I don't know if that will do it.
 

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See what I mean about tree fern panels not exactly being the most aesthetically pleasing background material? ;)

In all honesty it looks good so far. Just might need some fine tuning.

As you seemingly have learned tree fern panels are not a ‘wicking’ material such as something like hygrolon would be. In fact I think the great stuff, covered in silicone with peat/choir/bark method is more capable of wicking than tree fern panels.

The panels themselves are not going to distribute water to create an overall, equally moist surface the way sphagnum or hygrolon would. Obviously those two examples are extreme examples however; I’m sure you get the point.

If you want a portion of the panels to be wet and remain wet those areas will need to be directly and continuously hit by your misters. The panels also dry really fast if there is air movement. Especially if there is dry air coming into the enclosure.

By the look of it, you have your misters pointed straight at the background, maybe try playing around with their orientation a bit to see if you can get some more coverage.

Also, because tree fern doesn’t wick like most people would think, even having the panels go into your drainage layer and touching the bottom of the enclosure (bottoms constantly soaking in water) will not have the effect most would expect. It does pull up a bit of water however, in my experience it is barely visible above the substrate layers. Which at that point that moisture could be coming from the substrate itself. This also probably wouldn’t apply to the orientation of your panels since you have the fibers set up in a horizontal orientation.

Anyway, don’t get discouraged. Looks good so far. I think it just needs some fine tuning and maybe those extra misting heads if you are looking for your background to be fully covered by your mist.. also another thing to keep in mind. If you are looking for the panels to start sprouting moss and ferns in its own, they will need ample light and will need to be wet in those areas all of the time.


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Discussion Starter #19
See what I mean about tree fern panels not exactly being the most aesthetically pleasing background material? ;)
lol I had forgotten whom I had said that to, but the irony was not lost on me as I was struggling to make an attractive background with an item I had applauded for its beauty and utility.

I had 24" * 12" panels, and when there's a little distortion in such a big piece of material, it creates a big problem in getting everything flush. Also, the panels had to be sawn to fit the tank, but because stuff was already in it, the pieces barely fit; they had to be sized short and still were pretty roughly jammed in.

Had I been able to buy 10" * 10" or 12" * 12" panels, it may have turned out better. (And it would have turned out better for sure if I had done this before actually setting up the rest of the build.

In all honesty it looks good so far. Just might need some fine tuning.

As you seemingly have learned tree fern panels are not a ‘wicking’ material such as something like hygrolon would be. In fact I think the great stuff, covered in silicone with peat/choir/bark method is more capable of wicking than tree fern panels.

The panels themselves are not going to distribute water to create an overall, equally moist surface the way sphagnum or hygrolon would. Obviously those two examples are extreme examples however; I’m sure you get the point.
I certainly learned that it wasn't a wicking surface within about 30 minutes of the panels' first exposure to mist water, although I don't remember clearly whether or not I had specific belief one way or the other of its wicking properties.

But yes, these are valuable examples in communicating the point. I know, of course, the fantastic water distribution power of hygrolon / sphagnum moss, and my first impression looking back at the tree fern fiber panels post-first-misting was something like, "well, I probably should have used LFS or hygrolon, for what I paid."

If you want a portion of the panels to be wet and remain wet those areas will need to be directly and continuously hit by your misters. The panels also dry really fast if there is air movement. Especially if there is dry air coming into the enclosure.

By the look of it, you have your misters pointed straight at the background, maybe try playing around with their orientation a bit to see if you can get some more coverage.
I did this shortly after I posted the last update. I changed to a quad-nozzle and experimented by having them all spray back. It looked a good bit better, but I doubt this background will ever be a wall-o'-green like my other terrarium's background is becoming.

There is no active air movement, and there is probably even less passive air movement now than before, because part of the mesh surface of the ventilation panel is covered by the thickness of the tree fern fiber panel on top.

Also, because tree fern doesn’t wick like most people would think, even having the panels go into your drainage layer and touching the bottom of the enclosure (bottoms constantly soaking in water) will not have the effect most would expect. It does pull up a bit of water however, in my experience it is barely visible above the substrate layers. Which at that point that moisture could be coming from the substrate itself. This also probably wouldn’t apply to the orientation of your panels since you have the fibers set up in a horizontal orientation.

Anyway, don’t get discouraged. Looks good so far. I think it just needs some fine tuning and maybe those extra misting heads if you are looking for your background to be fully covered by your mist.. also another thing to keep in mind. If you are looking for the panels to start sprouting moss and ferns in its own, they will need ample light and will need to be wet in those areas all of the time.
I knew about the ample lighting and wet all the time, fortunately. I will be determining in the next few days where water will consistently hit, so I can know where to plant things.

Yeah, my panels are well above drainage, even if that would have amounted to anything. Also, a note: I had wanted to use a tree fern fiber panel I had that had vertically-oriented fibers (even placed horizontally like the two in the tank), but it was just too crumbly and I suspect it would have broken in half by the time I jammed it into the back wall. I know that that wouldn't have changed much, but indeed I believe it would have looked better.
 

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I was pretty lucky when I decided to grab my lot of panels. I was looking into getting some from an orchid specialist however, as you had mentioned, they didn’t have squares, only odd shaped rectangles or ‘totems’ as they are called.

A few months later someone had supposedly realized they had an abundance of various squares stored away.. then, glass box and josh’s mysteriously ended up with a crap load of squares.. all of my panels started as 12x12’s. My panels (once received) were chosen based off of density, siliconed to the back and sides, jammed in as well. I have full coverage.. bottom to top, all panels vertically oriented... some sawing needed to take place (huge mess, but resulted in useable fibers for substrate). Also, because I had gotten so many at once, I had the luxury of choosing the more dense pieces vs the more crumbly ones (I did also choose some crumbly ones assuming plants would root more easily into them as they spread). Loose or crumbly panels suck for initial mounting, or rather, when using toothpicks as braces to mount to the background. Even the crumbly pieces hold up over time though. Keep in mind the panels are actually sawn off of a root structure that occurs naturally. The pieces I had in my 29 gallon were in there for a couple years without breaking down and still have no visual signs of deterioration when comparing the initial build pics to some of the pics I took closer to the end.

The deterioration factor as well as how well epiphytes grow into the panels is why I prefer it.. plus You really don’t need to worry about whether or not your material is frog safe or not.. just use safe adhesive and you are golden.

The only downside to using tree fern is that it needs to be harvested.. while it is arguably renewable over time, it takes a long time for the actual plant to produce root structures dense enough to provide the panels. This is why it is so hard to come by.

I’m still working on my most recent tank but am entertaining the idea of a tree fern drip wall for my next enclosure.

Sorry for ranting by the way.. hard to stop typing sometimes.


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