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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello Dendroboardians,
I saw this technique in one of Troy Goldberg's videos: he used a filter mat instead of substrate in one of his paludarium builds. He described it as a common European technique. I found it looked great, but it's more on the uncommon side for building a paludarium, I think. Sadly he didn't post an update until now. Does anybody have experiences with this method? I'm thinking that this might be a perfect setup for growing moss and having a clean water feature.
I was thinking maybe to replicate this, using a filter mat instead of substrate in my next setup. But I think I might add some areas where I will stack and carve some mat pieces so that I have some kind of 'flower pot' that I can fill with some substrate for terrestrials like jewel orchids.
I'd be glad if there where any experiences with similar setups or thoughts and ideas on this.
 

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I don't think waterfeatures have any benefits for the frogs, rather can become hazardous over time. The same goes for mosscover as substrate.
You might want to do more research on that before planning such a thing in your build.

That beeing said, I use pondfoam in all my tanks.

One of my recent builds :



The build report :
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi Tijl,
I wouldn't say that water features don't have any use for dendrobates. They were initially recommended in the literature I bought before buying my first tincs and I had good experiences with them. You're right about the possibility that the water might contaminate and harm the frogs, that's why you do frequent water changes. In this particular setup the water will be kept circulating by adding two pumps. Another experienced Paludarium builder on YouTube is Serpa Design. He states that water will be cleaned by microorganisms and doesn't need an extra filter. He even recommends not doing full water changes, but rather partially replacing old water. This will make sure that microfauna can do its job.
From my personal experience the froggos love to sit in their little 'pond'. There's lots of microfauna around there, especially spring tails which love moisture. They often run around the surface of the water feature, where the frogs can catch them easily. Water also can help the frogs to clean their skin, as they're very sensitive to being covered with little pieces of substrate.
About your other point: Moss will only function as a main ground cover for the paludarium. In Troy Goldberg's build it is supplemented by leaf litter. I never heard about moss becoming hazardous over time. Do you have any sources for that?
As I stated I think this setup is more on the experimental side of building a paludarium. That being said I think that there are some advantages of this setup: moss will most likely grow in very well, the humidity will be good and the frogs will have a place to rest, clean and hunt.
 

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Hi,

If your frogs 'like' to sit in water than there is a big chance they have a worm or other issues. This is not particulary normal behavior.
When you say they often have to wash sticking substrate from their skin, I highly recommend you changing to a different substrate tbh.

The biggest problem is not only possible contamination of the water. The excess of moistiure is.
Most dartfrogs live in the dry leaflitter in the understory of the rainforest. I see a lot of problems in the hobby with frogs literly rotting true their feet or belly from not beeing able to escape the moistiure. That is exactly why Moss is probably the worst substrate for dartfrogs. It needs to be kept too moist at all time for the moss to thrive. This is exactly what you want to avoid in the enclosure for (most) dart frogs.

Greets
 

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It's also a great place for all the fruit flies to go and drown.
 

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Moss will only function as a main ground cover for the paludarium. In Troy Goldberg's build it is supplemented by leaf litter. I never heard about moss becoming hazardous over time.
Troy Goldberg is on record (on Amphibicast) explaining that his designs are motivated by artistic considerations; from a husbandry POV, moss isn't very useful. A moss ground cover supplemented by leaf litter is like a potato chip diet supplemented by vegetables -- much better if the other way around. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
It's also a great place for all the fruit flies to go and drown.
You do realise that wild dendrobates were observated living on the edge of rivers? And if you're using bromeliads in your build there's water in them, too. I don't get why water features are so uncommon for dendrobates. As I said, they're literally recommended in my books. I looked it up for this discussion and it says that water features, besides being a natural habitat for some wild dendrobates are important for helping them shed, breeding of course and even for drinking.
The argument that fruit flies will die in them I can respond to from my personal experience. My frogs are being fed as much as they can eat in the matter of five minutes. There are of course some flies that might fall into the water but as I already mentioned my frogs will sit there and hunt spring tails and flies that come to their water bowl or swimming in it. Even if one or two might drown I'm breeding hundreds of fruit flies... It's no big deal. Besides that I don't need to feed the frogs right at the edge of the water feature. In my new build there will be 1m ground space between their feeding spot and the water feature.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Troy Goldberg is on record (on Amphibicast) explaining that his designs are motivated by artistic considerations; from a husbandry POV, moss isn't very useful. A moss ground cover supplemented by leaf litter is like a potato chip diet supplemented by vegetables -- much better if the other way around. ;)
You cannot tell me that there are no visual decisions in making a Viv or paludarium :-D if you were all about just building what's absolutely necessary, you wouldn't need 90% of what you put into your build. Look at the breeders. They have small minimalistic builds at about 45x45x45cm (18''x18''x18'') in which they have like one string of pothos, one bromeliad and a handful of leaf litter. For most keepers of dendrobates their vivarium/paludarium with its design decisions and plant choices are a big (and really fun) part of keeping dendrobates. And as long as the frogs don't suffer from a moss and leaf litter build I don't see any reason for not trying it. Moss, leaf litter, water and lots of other components can be found in their natural habitat. I don't think that there can be any valid point made against these components as they are. In the books that I've read it says that it's really important for the frogs to have drier spots in their Viv and spots with more moisture. They really don't seem to like an all wet ground cover. As long as this is considered and the frogs have hiding spots as well, what is really speaking against this build?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hi,

If your frogs 'like' to sit in water than there is a big chance they have a worm or other issues. This is not particulary normal behavior.
When you say they often have to wash sticking substrate from their skin, I highly recommend you changing to a different substrate tbh.

The biggest problem is not only possible contamination of the water. The excess of moistiure is.
Most dartfrogs live in the dry leaflitter in the understory of the rainforest. I see a lot of problems in the hobby with frogs literly rotting true their feet or belly from not beeing able to escape the moistiure. That is exactly why Moss is probably the worst substrate for dartfrogs. It needs to be kept too moist at all time for the moss to thrive. This is exactly what you want to avoid in the enclosure for (most) dart frogs.

Greets
As I already stated wild dendrobates were commonly observated in living at rivers. Looking at your build you can see that there's lots of moss, too. So what is even your point at this point?
My frogs don't show any symptoms of having a worm. They're living their best life.
I'm aware that frogs need drier spaces in their paludarium, too. As I already mentioned I read some books before beginning to keep my own dendrobates. There will be leaf litter in my setup, there will be terrestrial areas, bromeliads, climbing spots, there will be lots of ground space and there will be a 'pond' for them. What about this setup gives you an unnatural impression? These will be a habitat that wild dendrobates will live in. They live in forests, as you might know. There's moss, water and all of that... .
 

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You cannot tell me that there are no visual decisions in making a Viv or paludarium :-D if you were all about just building what's absolutely necessary, you wouldn't need 90% of what you put into your build. Look at the breeders. They have small minimalistic builds at about 45x45x45cm (18''x18''x18'') in which they have like one string of pothos, one bromeliad and a handful of leaf litter.
I should have been more clear. In the Amphibicast with TG, it is very clear that he aims to build artistic installations first; the frogs are a secondary concern (better: a tertiary concern -- he mentions money more than anyone I've heard do in a frog care context). I didn't say -- because no one would claim this -- that there are no visual decisions to be made. And, if you peruse my posts, you'll see me mentioning human-centered visual aspects almost never.

What I intended to say, and what is true, is that the needs of the frogs should be addressed first. So when asking oneself "what are the most important design features that will actively benefit these frogs", extensive moss coverage and water features (BTW, no one is arguing against the few ml of water in bromeliads, so bringing that up is not evidence for the utility of paludaria) are not going to be in the list of answers. As for 'helping shedding, breeding, and drinking', captive frogs have absolutely no problems at all doing these things without a "water feature" that adds unnecessary complexity. And I agree that frogs with sticking substrate have substrate issues, not water issues (with the ideal amount of leaf litter, frogs don't really encounter substrate at all).

The tendency here is to give the best (meaning not 'what can work' but 'what is most likely to work best with the least chance of problems for the widest range of keepers'), most conservative advice possible. Not everyone likes that, and that's fine. But there are many, many first time posters here (note that we don't know the experience level of new posters here) who attempt overly complex builds with obviously no clue what they're getting into (because, mostly, of YouTube channels that are quite clearly far more concerned with views than with helping novices learn basic husbandry skills) and who crash and burn. Others take a few years to realize that their animals numbers are dwindling, or that they have humidity and other moisture related problems that they could have avoided if they started with a basic (yes, a few broms and some pathos and a handful of branches and a deep leaf litter layer is an ideal environment for darts) vivarium.
 

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As I already stated wild dendrobates were commonly observated in living at rivers. Looking at your build you can see that there's lots of moss, too. So what is even your point at this point?
My frogs don't show any symptoms of having a worm. They're living their best life.
I'm aware that frogs need drier spaces in their paludarium, too. As I already mentioned I read some books before beginning to keep my own dendrobates. There will be leaf litter in my setup, there will be terrestrial areas, bromeliads, climbing spots, there will be lots of ground space and there will be a 'pond' for them. What about this setup gives you an unnatural impression? These will be a habitat that wild dendrobates will live in. They live in forests, as you might know. There's moss, water and all of that... .
I think you are reading outdated books or information. The frogs DON'T need the waterfeatures at all. I raise more than a few hundred Tinctorius a year to adulthood and they have ZERO acces to water. I have quite the knowledge of how they live insitu and done more than my share of research on this over the years.

They are never exposed to a constant wet environment like you first refered to. Again, of your frogs need to clean themselves regulary, you have an issue with your setup.



A lot Moss on floor area means your ground area needs to be kept to wet for the frogs. Yes I have Moss areas aswell, these are always on the wood I use in my tanks and directly in the area where the mistingnozzles hit the wood. (I purpously handmist my walls for mossgrowth aswell) Exactly as how it's in situ, they do not live in areas full of moss and ponds. There is an 'in situ photo's topic on this forum that show a lot of frog habitat, 90% of tinctorius habitat always consists of leaflitter. A few large leafed plants, and Trees, fallen branches and rocks. This area is surrounded by water or vertical walls so the morphs are isolated from each other. Tinctorius have no use for bromeliads by the way.

You can't say Troy uses leaflitter, he only uses 10 leaves or so to dress up his tanks. That amount of leaflitter is not able to 'recreate' the importante of the leaflitter at all. It's only for esthetics.


What you are saying about making dry spots, moist spot, hiding places,.. that is correct. Providing different microclimate is important. Acces water makes this difficult
 

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And one of the best profiles to follow on In situ (Peru) topics on Instagram :
 

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You do realise that wild dendrobates were observated living on the edge of rivers? And if you're using bromeliads in your build there's water in them, too. I don't get why water features are so uncommon for dendrobates. As I said, they're literally recommended in my books. I looked it up for this discussion and it says that water features, besides being a natural habitat for some wild dendrobates are important for helping them shed, breeding of course and even for drinking.
The argument that fruit flies will die in them I can respond to from my personal experience. My frogs are being fed as much as they can eat in the matter of five minutes. There are of course some flies that might fall into the water but as I already mentioned my frogs will sit there and hunt spring tails and flies that come to their water bowl or swimming in it. Even if one or two might drown I'm breeding hundreds of fruit flies... It's no big deal. Besides that I don't need to feed the frogs right at the edge of the water feature. In my new build there will be 1m ground space between their feeding spot and the water feature.
Yes, I have many fruit flies drown in bromeliads. But the bromeliads use the dead flies, and so do any tadpoles if they happen to be in there. Certainly not a primary reason not to do a water feature, just thought I would add that in amongst the already stated reasons.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I should have been more clear. In the Amphibicast with TG, it is very clear that he aims to build artistic installations first; the frogs are a secondary concern (better: a tertiary concern -- he mentions money more than anyone I've heard do in a frog care context). I didn't say -- because no one would claim this -- that there are no visual decisions to be made. And, if you peruse my posts, you'll see me mentioning human-centered visual aspects almost never.

What I intended to say, and what is true, is that the needs of the frogs should be addressed first. So when asking oneself "what are the most important design features that will actively benefit these frogs", extensive moss coverage and water features (BTW, no one is arguing against the few ml of water in bromeliads, so bringing that up is not evidence for the utility of paludaria) are not going to be in the list of answers. As for 'helping shedding, breeding, and drinking', captive frogs have absolutely no problems at all doing these things without a "water feature" that adds unnecessary complexity. And I agree that frogs with sticking substrate have substrate issues, not water issues (with the ideal amount of leaf litter, frogs don't really encounter substrate at all).

The tendency here is to give the best (meaning not 'what can work' but 'what is most likely to work best with the least chance of problems for the widest range of keepers'), most conservative advice possible. Not everyone likes that, and that's fine. But there are many, many first time posters here (note that we don't know the experience level of new posters here) who attempt overly complex builds with obviously no clue what they're getting into (because, mostly, of YouTube channels that are quite clearly far more concerned with views than with helping novices learn basic husbandry skills) and who crash and burn. Others take a few years to realize that their animals numbers are dwindling, or that they have humidity and other moisture related problems that they could have avoided if they started with a basic (yes, a few broms and some pathos and a handful of branches and a deep leaf litter layer is an ideal environment for darts) vivarium.
Thanks for clearing things up a bit. I think you're right, this build isn't exactly conservative. That's what I stated in my original post and that's also why I wasn't asking for conservative advice in the first place, but rather trying to get some experiences about what Troy described as an 'common' European technique in building paludariums. I think that this discussion about moss, leaf litter and water features is pretty interesting, although it doesn't answer my original question.
I also by the way find it quite amusing how it was single-handedly anticipated that I didn't read properly into literature before beginning to keep dart frogs or that I'm a novice to the hobby, trying to build an overly complex paludadium with not having any clue about what I'm getting into. It was also assumed by other posters that moss is toxic, that my frogs might have worms, that my literature is outdated... . All of that being statements without any scientific evidence. I think the discussion needs some scientific backup to go back on track. Now this turns out to be more of an discussion about the necessity of a water feature for a dendrobatid tank. And I would love to hear not some conservative opinions about an easy traditional setup but some opinions about the ideal setup for dendrobatidae!
(By the way my point speaking about bromeliads was that water is almost all the time a component of a Viv. It doesn't make alot of sense arguing that fruit flies might drown in them or that it might necessarily become toxic. And the other point that I was trying to make is to point out some potential advantages of a water feature. I never said that frogs with alot of substrate on their skin should be normalized. What I was trying to say is that IF they do have substrate on their skin a water feature is one way to get rid of it.)

I get that Troy Goldberg might be a person who often times builds paludariums around artistic considerations. But that doesn't necessarily prove that his builds may be harmful to the frogs. I didn't say that I'm planning to rebuild Troy's tank 1:1, neither. Instead I pointed out that I'm planning to add leaf litter (more than 10 leaves) and terrestrial components, too.

The literature that I initially reffered to is a german handbook for keepers of dendrobatidae. For this discussion I also read into some scientific articles. The consensus of those seems to be the same: dendrobatidae are riparians, meaning they prefer a natural habitat <3m away from streams. For everybody interested my main source was 'Phylogenetic systematics of dart-poison frogs and their relatives'. I'm generally thinking that nature knows best. A build that takes nature as the best example when creating an habitat most certainly might be the best setup for animals that are not domesticated, I assume. Having the frogs' best interest in mind, don't you think it might be possible that a water feature might increase their quality of life? When you're asking 'what are the most important design features that will actively benefit these frogs' I'd say look at their natural habitat. It's a range of various components and water is one of them.
When saying 'a few broms and some pathos and a handful of branches and a deep leaf litter layer is an ideal environment for darts' how do you know that, considering the scientific evidence about the dartfrogs' natural habitat?
 

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. Now this turns out to be more of an discussion about the necessity of a water feature for a dendrobatid tank. And I would love to hear not some conservative opinions about an easy traditional setup but some opinions about the ideal setup for dendrobatidae!
I think you will need to accept that the general consensus on these boards is that water features are not necessary, nor do they really provide any benefit, to the majority of the frogs commonly kept here. You have some pretty active members who have a large wealth of knowledge (ie. not me!), giving you their opinions on ideal setups already - and a water feature is something you mention in your first post.

In my opinion, and you can take it for whatever it is worth, there are many things that can't be replicated from an animals natural habitat - and concentrating on the things that have the most impact, and potentially the best outcome for the animals is the best bet. Things like proper humidity, air flow, temperature, lighting, diet/supplementation, planting/microorganisms, proper drainage and substrate are typically the most impactful from my experience in keeping darts and reading on these forums (and elsewhere). You need to be able to separate the natural habitat from the ideal captive habitat - they are not necessarily the same. Some things can be easily mimicked, and provide benefit. Other things are not possible, or plausible, to do. Other things are actually negatives when implemented in small, self contained eco-systems. Many members on here have many years of experience, and I don't think they are giving you the advice they are out of spite, but rather because of this experience.

With that said, going back to the original question: I have just setup another six new vivariums using a base substrate of Matala mat. So far it seems to drain great, as an alternative to hydroton (which I typically use). I don't have any long term experience to provide beyond that however. I suspect in a heavily planted vivarium, you may find foam/mat to be troublesome as the roots penetrate over the years. Mine are typically bromeliad/epiphytic fern based, without a ton of plants in the substrate, which is why I was comfortable experimenting with this method.

Good luck,
 

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'common' European technique in building paludariums.

It was also assumed by other posters that moss is toxic, that my frogs might have worms, that my literature is outdated... .

Having the frogs' best interest in mind, don't you think it might be possible that a water feature might increase their quality of life? When you're asking 'what are the most important design features that will actively benefit these frogs' I'd say look at their natural habitat. It's a range of various components and water is one of them.
1) I am from Europe, and witnesed over the years all the problems these 'european build' have. Correct, frogs spending a lot of time in water is not 'normal' behavior, all frogs have worms btw. It's quite possible. I'm pretty sure your book is outdatet, almost all books are. Thankfully internet and forums like these have a lot of information that is way more updated since many experienced keepers share their informtion and vision on these websites. Rather than basing everything on only a few books writting from limited views and experience.

2) I never said moss was toxic, I said moss needs to be kep wet and that is exactly what you want to avoid for your frogs to live on.

3)No, this is not increasing their quality of life, this has been proven uncountable times before.. Exactly! LOOK at their natural habitat (as shared in topics like the above links) and you will mostly find DRY substrate and LEAFLITTER in their main habitat. The water feautures are only used for tadpole deposition by a small number of dartfrogs. Water, puddles,streams has almost no use for most of them. They evoled to live in and around trees. Hence DENDRO BATES : TREE WALKER
 

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I'll point out that the vast majority of herps (and many invertebrates) are not kept in captivity nearly as wet/humid as they experience in the wild, since they fare very poorly with skin breakdown and infections, respiratory infections, and uncontrolled fungal growth in their enclosures. Neither are most ornamental fish kept in wild conditions (especially tannin content, pH, and hardness levels) for similar sorts of reasons (mostly due to the difficulty in maintaining those conditions at the same time as maintaining some semblance of environmental stability).

We simply don't imitate nature in captive husbandry. We take cues from it and when those cues turn out to be detrimental, responsible keepers adjust conditions. It really is as simple as that.

'Phylogenetic systematics of dart-poison frogs and their relatives'.
This is a 14 year old paper on taxonomy. This is not current, and not about captive care.
 
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