Dendroboard banner

1 - 14 of 14 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
305 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
It seems like we have an influx of newbies at the moment, so here are a few things I wish I had known about setting up a mini-rainforest. Please feel free to add your own lessons - my lessons are limited since I focus on plants and don't keep frogs.
  • Your humidity level will vary based on established plants. The setup will require a whole lot of water to maintain humidity at first, and less and less as the tank grows in and plants create a microclimate around their leaves. You will most likely need to constantly tweak watering schedules for the first year.
  • You can use a misting system to keep humidity up, and you can use a misting system to water plants. These are two different functions, and require different amounts of time. Generally 10 seconds of mist a few times a day (depending on your ambient humidity level) will keep humidity up, but almost all plants will want to be watered until they are soaking, once or twice a week.
  • Algae, mold and fungus aren't problems, until they are. They'll always be part of a functioning system, but should stay under control with adequate airflow, fluctuation in humidity levels, and a cleanup crew. If they get out of control (meaning you see a negative impact on frogs or plants), one of those factors is probably the culprit.
  • Beautiful lush moss walls require good light and drip walls or obsessive hand misting (on top of an automated misting system) to establish themselves. Once established, they can survive with a normal misting schedule.
  • 24/7 waterfalls are too wet, especially for a newly established system. I was hoping for something lush and green around my waterfall, but all I grew for months was long, smelly, disgusting algae. I eventually put the waterfall pump on a timer (for now, 1/2 hour 3x/day) and I'm finally growing some moss and liverworts around it, and hoping I can run it longer now that the algae bloom is over and more desirable plants are gaining a foothold.
  • Some hand misting is essential if you care about fussy plant species. I currently use hand misting to: fertilize, once a week; establish new plants, especially if they have limited roots or I'm trying to get them to root in a difficult area; try to dial in preferred water levels for really fussy plants (I'm looking at you, Dendrobium parvulum).
  • Lots of plants love to grow with moss around their roots - orchids and various carnivorous plants especially tend to do well with live sphagnum around their roots. But very small plants can easily be outcompeted by moss, and will need to have it trimmed if it's covering them.
  • Plan for plants getting shaded out by other, higher plants as the tank grows in. Light levels will change over time.
  • Space out plant orders from different vendors by about a month, that way if you have to quarantine you don't have to set up two separate quarantine zones for plants from different vendors. I regularly ignore this lesson and have about 10 mason jars with plants in quarantine for various reasons.
  • If you care about a plant, keep 2 of it. Sometimes a plant will be doing great and then just suddenly take a nosedive, and as much as you fuss over it, it will just be determined to die.
  • Specific clones or lineage of a plant matters. If you love those brilliant magenta flowers, see if you can find a plant from the same stock as the plant in the picture, or get a picture of it in bloom from the vendor before buying it. Species can vary quite a lot in flower color, fragrance, size, vigor, growth habit, etc., hybrids even more so. If a specific aspect of a plant matters to you, ask those questions before buying it.
  • If you are uncertain of the final location of a specific plant, or of its preferences regarding light, water, etc. - pot it up in a small pot with your substrate or mount it on a piece of cork if it's an epiphyte, and bury or hang it in the location you're trying out. That way you can move it around for a while without harming its roots.
  • It's better to under-water than over-water - unless it's a pleurothallid, a bryophyte, or a filmy fern. You can generally classify plants into "will slowly decline if it doesn't get enough water" and "will expire immediately upon drying out". The latter work really well if you have a tendency to over-water, like me.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
58 Posts
It seems like we have an influx of newbies at the moment, so here are a few things I wish I had known about setting up a mini-rainforest. Please feel free to add your own lessons - my lessons are limited since I focus on plants and don't keep frogs.
  • Your humidity level will vary based on established plants. The setup will require a whole lot of water to maintain humidity at first, and less and less as the tank grows in and plants create a microclimate around their leaves. You will most likely need to constantly tweak watering schedules for the first year.
  • Algae, mold and fungus aren't problems, until they are. They'll always be part of a functioning system, but should stay under control with adequate airflow, fluctuation in humidity levels, and a cleanup crew. If they get out of control (meaning you see a negative impact on frogs or plants), one of those factors is probably the culprit.
  • Beautiful lush moss walls require good light and drip walls or obsessive hand misting (on top of an automated misting system) to establish themselves. Once established, they can survive with a normal misting schedule.
  • 24/7 waterfalls are too wet, especially for a newly established system. I was hoping for something lush and green around my waterfall, but all I grew for months was long, smelly, disgusting algae. I eventually put the waterfall pump on a timer, and I'm finally growing some moss and liverworts around it, and hoping I can run it longer now that the algae bloom is over and more desirable plants are gaining a foothold.
  • Some hand misting is essential if you care about fussy plant species. I currently use hand misting to: fertilize, once a week; establish new plants, especially if they have limited roots or I'm trying to get them to root in a difficult area; try to dial in preferred water levels for really fussy plants (I'm looking at you, Dendrobium parvulum).
  • Lots of plants love to grow with moss around their roots - orchids and various carnivorous plants especially tend to do well with live sphagnum around their roots. But very small plants can easily be outcompeted by moss, and will need to have it trimmed if it's covering them.
  • Plan for plants getting shaded out by other, higher plants as the tank grows in. Light levels will change over time.
  • Space out plant orders from different vendors by about a month, that way if you have to quarantine you don't have to set up two separate quarantine zones for plants from different vendors. I regularly ignore this lesson and have about 10 mason jars with plants in quarantine for various reasons.
  • If you care about a plant, keep 2 of it. Sometimes a plant will be doing great and then just suddenly take a nosedive, and as much as you fuss over it, it will just be determined to die.
  • Specific clones or lineage of a plant matters. If you love those brilliant magenta flowers, see if you can find a plant from the same stock as the plant in the picture, or get a picture of it in bloom from the vendor before buying it. Species can vary quite a lot in flower color, fragrance, size, vigor, growth habit, etc., hybrids even more so. If a specific aspect of a plant matters to you, ask those questions before buying it.
  • If you are uncertain of the final location of a specific plant, or of its preferences regarding light, water, etc. - pot it up in a small pot with your substrate or mount it on a piece of cork if it's an epiphyte, and bury or hang it in the location you're trying out. That way you can move it around for a while without harming its roots.
  • It's better to under-water than over-water - unless it's a pleurothallid, a bryophyte, or a filmy fern. You can generally classify plants into "will slowly decline if it doesn't get enough water" and "will expire immediately upon drying out". The latter work really well if you have a tendency to over-water, like me.
This is great. Where do you get your plants? What's your favorite plant to recommend to a begginer?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
305 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
I get plants from all sorts of places - popular vivarium vendors often referred to on here, a number of different mini orchid growers, gesneriad specialty shops, eBay, Etsy, and other Dendroboard members. You can get some really cool stuff from Dendroboard members, who sometimes have the coolest "noid" plants. Can I list vendors I use? Not sure about the rules...

I love Lepanthopsis astrophora, and if you have any interest in orchids and a nice moist spot with good airflow and medium light, you should get it. But it won't fill in or cover a large area, so it really depends on what the beginner is looking for.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
87 Posts
Very useful, thank you.
I do wonder though how people get away with such limited misting. I am misting 3 times a day for 2 minutes each time. Just ordered a larger pump as well, to increase output.
Too much ventilation perhaps...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
305 Posts
Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
My current misting schedule:
8 am, 20 seconds
12 pm, 15 seconds
12:02 pm, Tuesdays, 1 minute 30 seconds
12:02 pm, Fridays, 30 seconds (this will go up to 1 minute 30 seconds in summer)
5 pm, 10 seconds
7 pm, 10 seconds
11 pm, 5 seconds
I also run a fogger for 45 minutes 2x/day, a waterfall for 1/2 hour 3x/day, ventilation fans for a few minutes a few times a day (to clear up the glass doors, in case they get condensation, which they generally do in summer and do not in winter, and also to introduce fresh air), and a circulation fan almost 24/7. I'm about to install a second circulation fan on the right side of my tank where I have more mold pop up.

Keep in mind that I live in a very dry environment, and if this schedule seems a little random it's because it is just a product of trial and error, but I also cannot comprehend being in a place where you can mist once a day. However, 3x a day for 2 minutes each time sounds like a good way to get your substrate sopping wet, so maybe you have too much ventilation, or something else is a little off.

If you're trying to keep humidity up, I recommend somewhere between 10 and 20 second bursts as many times as needed. If you're trying to water your plants, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes should do it, but that should be 3x/week max.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
87 Posts
Ok, I should definitely not be afraid to experiment then. My substrate is not too wet by the way, just right in my opinion.
Going through a lot of rainwater though, and now I have to melt snow until May...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
305 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
I looked at your tank and it's really tall, so that might impact how much water reaches the bottom - lots of wood and plants for it to hit on the way down. You could try experimenting with slowly reducing length of misting while increasing frequency, but honestly, if what you're doing works, then it works.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
305 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
@Anda also, might want to invest in an RO system. I have an Aquatic Life RO Buddie that was only about $60, it can make 2 gallons per hour. But then I get 10 inches of rain a year, so rainwater was never a possibility.

@RobRoyce I'm currently fertilizing with MSU 13-3-15 specially formulated for RO water, but I haven't been using it long enough to really comment. I also have heard that fertilizing is generally unnecessary once the vivarium has inhabitants like frogs.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
70 Posts
  • Your humidity level will vary based on established plants. The setup will require a whole lot of water to maintain humidity at first, and less and less as the tank grows in and plants create a microclimate around their leaves. You will most likely need to constantly tweak watering schedules for the first year.

  • If you care about a plant, keep 2 of it. Sometimes a plant will be doing great and then just suddenly take a nosedive, and as much as you fuss over it, it will just be determined to die.
I love these two. I picked up on #1 while working with plants commercially, but someone new to terrariums or plant keeping might not be aware of how much difference it will make! It's important to plan with that kind of adjustability in mind.

As for #2, I recently started buying spares (or at least taking cuttings) because I like to recklessly experiment and the plants don't always agree with my ideas... But if the plant does well, I like to gift any extras I don't need 🙂
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
87 Posts
Ha, ha 10 inches, I wish!
No, rainwater/snow is really not a problem.
Hopefully it will be possible to reduce misting as plants and moss mature and become more abundant (as someone mentioned somewhere) and I will also try your tip with more frequent shorter waterings.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,115 Posts
Great list with excellent nuggets for all keepers!

You mentioned "airflow" but I think it should be added that airflow is not the same as ventilation which is something that wasn't mentioned yet. Ventilation is absolutely critical, and something that I wish I had known as a beginner. You could have airflow by putting a fan in a sealed tank, but that would just be pushing stagnant overly humid air. Your thread emphasizes plant care I'll stay on topic, but should add that ventilation benefits your frogs as well. Ventilation allows you to keep a wider variety of plants, facilitates transpiration, allows more effective evaporative cooling and much more. I killed more plants than I'd like to admit before I realized a constant humidity of 90%+ and stagnant air was the cause of their demise...I had fans in their sealed tanks for airflow. Let your tanks breath!
 
1 - 14 of 14 Posts
Top