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Dendrobates tinctorus "Patricia"
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a fairly serious plant collector. I love plants, and have over 300 in my home (mostly things that can be kept a manageable size, because I do value being able to walk around in my house like a normal person). Vivariums, and plant-only terrariums, have made a whole new world of humidity-demanding species available to me, and I've quickly obtained more plants than I ought to put in my frogs' vivarium, because they probably also value being able to walk around in their home.

Most of my acquisitions have been in the way of common viv plants like peperomias, pileas, episcias (I'm seriously in love with episcias), selaginellas, a few solanums, and pellionias, along with some other odds and ends. However, I see online sellers who target the vivarium keeping community selling some plants that I know good and well have no business in a small glass box, most often on account of size, though sometimes because their culture makes them highly impractical.

I see raphidophora tetrasperma. No. Just no. My potted one grows nearly a foot per month. Terrible idea unless you have a 5 foot tall and wide viv housing a green tree monitor. Stick to the littler guys like hayi. Large anthuriums. Again, too big for the majority of vivariums. A lot of begonias are bad candidates, like the really tall angel wing types or the big rex types (even though there are also some begonias that are grand in vivariums).

But those are popular plants, and it's very easy to look up how big they are. However, I also find a lot of plants for sale that I had never ever heard of before. Those can be more difficult to assess. I don't know much about, say, pearcea, but I bought one. I think it'll be fine, if only because it looks like it will respond well to pruning. I bought a jewel orchid though, and learned after two months of it rocketing straight up that Ludisia discolor is a little too tall for my 18" high viv, so now I gotta build a separate tall glass box for it if I want to keep the plant.

So, what kinds of plants are traps for new viv keepers? Look beautiful, but size or care will make for issues down the line?

I have two more empty vivariums right now. I'm hoping to move at the end of this year (I want to buy a house with a larger yard), so they're not getting set up until either after the move or after I determine I'm staying here another few years, because moving a fully planted 40 breeder size enclosure would be a huge hassle, even without animals living in it. In the meantime, I really want to determine what plants will be great, and what to steer very clear of.
 

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Dendrobates tinctorus "Patricia"
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Ficus any ficus and some monsteras There are some that can fit in a fairly sized enclosure also orchids
The number of vivariums posted online with totally inappropriate orchids hurts my brain. Hybrid phalaenopsis do not belong in a dart viv. There are a few pleurothalis and masdevallia that can do ok if you have a fan and the right sort of frogs that enjoy conditions they grow well in, but most orchids won't thrive in vivariums that are appropriate for frogs. I do have a vanilla planifolia in mine, but I already know I'm going to be pruning that a lot, because it was a clipping from the potted vanilla plant I already owned, so it was an informed decision.

And I heartily agree about ficus pumela. We grow it as a landscape plant here in California, and I know it can swallow a vivarium in a couple months, choking out everything in its path. Not a good choice for a tiny box.
 

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most orchids won't thrive in vivariums that are appropriate for frogs
True, but 'most orchids' won't thrive in any closely specified set of conditions -- the family is way too diverse to make any such generalizations. Possibly you mean something like 'most commonly kept orchids' or similar, but the point is worth considering.

Ficus pumila 'Variegata' is pretty well behaved in my experience (one could make the case that variegated plants look really odd in something that's trying to be a 'slice of nature', but they'd have to fight all my Neo 'Zoe' first ;)). At any rate, extremely fast growing plants are useful in some situations, e.g. new vivs that desperately need plant cover (to hold moisture, mostly), and regular pruning is pretty simple.

As a very lighthearted aside, I suspect that part of the resistance to some of these fast growing easy care plants is a sort of unconscious snobbery surrounding more "desirable" plants that looks down on such trashy fast growers. I first encountered these sorts of judgments in captive reef-keeping where the easiest growing corals are among the least "desirable" (and other fish keeping too -- fish like guppies are seen as much less worthy than more difficult to keep and breed species simply for this reason). Inserting a smiley here just to emphasize that this isn't meant to be critical of any such snobs (which I certainly am one of sometimes) :) .

I'm going to put in a vote on which species are a trap in a dart frog viv, and say this: any plant that isn't simply 'set it and forget it' in dart viv conditions. If it takes some variation on whatever care (lighting, water, ventilation, temps) is going to be provided for the frogs, it is a trap in direct proportion to the amount of variation of care it will require. So, a plant species that simply prefers things a bit more on the ventilated side relative to frogs can be placed near a vent and as such isn't much of a trap (though it is on the continuum), while a plant that needs low temps and high light (highland Heliamphora maybe; I don't keep these) would be on the other extreme end of the 'trap' spectrum.
 
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Dendrobates tinctorus "Patricia"
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I was indeed referring primarily to popular orchids like phalaenopsis, cattleya, large dendrobiums, vanda, and most oncidiums. I collect orchids, and know that most commonly available species need more room and air than a viv would provide, which is why they also do well potted in home conditions. The real trap though is those orchidarium-grown species like dracula orchids, which are oh so tempting but difficult to accommodate while also maintaining healthy frog conditions.
 

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My "I'll never use these in a vivariums plants" are: Begonia glabra and Ficus pumila. Just way too much pruning required for both of them.
Ficus pumila is mine. I've got some other slow growing ficus - panama and oak leaf ‐ that grow slowly but pumila is a different beast. Eventually you'll have to literally rip it out. It will grow into every corner and crevice and attach to every surface of your viv.
 

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Ficus pumila is mine. I've got some other slow growing ficus - panama and oak leaf ‐ that grow slowly but pumila is a different beast. Eventually you'll have to literally rip it out. It will grow into every corner and crevice and attach to every surface of your viv.
Of course if you like that look then its great! :cool:

Mine would be Tradescantia's, they are cool plants but they go a bit crazy and not in the ways I like. If anyone knows of some more well behaved Tradescantia's I would love to know.
 

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Dendrobates tinctorus "Patricia"
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Of course if you like that look then its great! :cool:

Mine would be Tradescantia's, they are cool plants but they go a bit crazy and not in the ways I like. If anyone knows of some more well behaved Tradescantia's I would love to know.
Try Callisia, Tradescantia's miniature cousin. They're a little better behaved on account of being much smaller.
 

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The real trap though is those orchidarium-grown species like dracula orchids, which are oh so tempting but difficult to accommodate while also maintaining healthy frog conditions.
There are lots of miniature, intermediate-to-warm growing Pleurothallids that are great choices for dart frog tanks, and won't require much fussing with conditions (maybe leave them on their mounts and play around around with placement until they seem happy). Draculas are neither miniature nor warmth tolerant. Some great options are Pleurothallis grobyi, Lepanthopsis astrophora, Masdevallia erinacea, and Trichosalpinx chamaelepanthes.

I would consider Begonia bipinnatifida a trap. All of the gorgeous Instagram pics I saw before getting it showed juvenile plants, under 10" tall, which isn't a realistic picture of what it will look like long-term when it's happy. The one in my paludarium is currently at least 18" tall, shading out everything around it, and when I try to prune it back it just gets bushier at the top and leggier underneath, rather than branching out at the base. It now looks like some sort of awkward stunted tree.
 

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As a very lighthearted aside, I suspect that part of the resistance to some of these fast growing easy care plants is a sort of unconscious snobbery surrounding more "desirable" plants that looks down on such trashy fast growers. I first encountered these sorts of judgments in captive reef-keeping where the easiest growing corals are among the least "desirable" (and other fish keeping too -- fish like guppies are seen as much less worthy than more difficult to keep and breed species simply for this reason). Inserting a smiley here just to emphasize that this isn't meant to be critical of any such snobs (which I certainly am one of sometimes) :) .



Oh you mean like Green Star Polyps ? I couldn't get people to take some very large colonies for free ! My LFS would occasionally give me some snails or hermits in trade for them but no store credit. Personally I think they're beautiful and certainly easy to propagate.

Fittonia and Rabbits Foot Ferns. First one took over a paludarium and was nearly impossible to uproot without destroying everything and same with the second one in a "jungle" vivarium. Lesson learned.
 
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