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126 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Vivarium Build Journal - Amano Style

Hello, guys.

I want to build a vivarium following the design principles of the master of aquarists, Mr. Takashi Amano.

Now a days we can build a tank that meets all the basic needs of a dart in just one day. It’s no big deal anymore… at least covering the basics. So I’ve been thinking in how to push forward the hobby, and all I could think is aesthetics. We still kind of suck at that.

No disrespect to anyone, we have some mind blowing tanks here, but generally speaking, no one talks about the design… meanwhile, in the aquariums hobby, they have books, trends, even rockstars of design.

Since July 2016 I been thinking on making a viv that it's based on the aesthetic principles (design wise) of Takashi Amano’s work, and fulfilling all the habitat requirements that a dart frog might need.

Even started a thread about it, here you can see all those design principles and inspiration:


This is where the project is right now. Hardscape almost finished.

I know there’s a ton of people that hate aesthetic design on vivs because it doesn’t look like the real thing… but I think that’s the main reason we need to work on it.

So, I designed the hardscape to have one specific focal point.

There at the center of the Fibonacci Spiral, is a cave made with some “iwagumi” rocks I got, and a stream of water will flow from there to the front doors.

Also, all the wood was placed in a way that they all kind of point towards (or outwards) this focal point.

Why I did it this way? I'm not the first guy to talk about these golden ratios, all great artists and designers know they are the basics of aesthetics and because it's more interesting to the eye.

The lines of the driftwood take you to out to every corner of the tank and back to the focal point, that it will be a stream of moving water. What else could be more entertaining that a focal point that moves!

The wood and stones where also placed in a way that theres another focal point if you watch the tank from its right side. Also with the spiral and all the lines pointing towards it.

I will talk more about design specifics in the next post…

Now, I want to describe what I’ve done so far, in case it can be useful for someone. So… here’s what I’ve done so far.

I wanted to build this into an ExoTerra Large/X-Tall (90 x 45 x 90 cm / 36” x 18” x 36” - WxDxH) but they are super hard to find and extremely expensive over here in Mexico (hence my not grammar errors)… so I decided to plan the build, look for a way to get me the tank and in the meantime buy all the materials needed.

This is what I got.

The wood is Malayan Driftwood and the rocks are Iwagumi rocks I got from a dealer that imports those from Japan. I've read many post of people warning DON'T PLACE ROCKS ON THE TANK, THEY ARE SUPER DANGEROUS... but these rocks heavy even to me, so they won't be moved by any frog or earthquake... and yes, a frog can jump from the top branches and fall on the rock and get hurt, but I'll try to baby proof the tank as I go along.

Then I got these Manhattan 700320 computer fans from Amazon, and fixed them for air circulation. They are super powerful (31 cfm at 2500 rpm) and super silent (25dBA at full speed).

Days later I bought an ExoTerra Large Compact Top and during the last days of Folius Enterprises as a supply store (sniff… sniff..), bought all the Spyra I could get and the last Jungle Dawn LEDs Dev had.

A couple of months later I found a guy selling an old ExoTerra Large/Wide Terrarium (90 x 45 x 45 cm / 36” x 18” x 18” - WxDxH) with a cracked bottom and stained on all the walls… it was cheap and what I really wanted was the frame, so I could use the front doors, instead of sliding doors. So I turned it into a Large/X-Tall (90 x 45 x 90 cm / 36” x 18” x 36” - WxDxH). It was not easy, but a lot cheaper that buying one.

Got me some glass drill bits and worked the back glass. The holes are for plumbing the overflow, the water feature line in, and the mist.

These is the bulkhead for the overflow

And the PVC pieces for the mist.

I placed this fabric bubble thingy that I don’t know its name under the tank to help support the bottom glass, because it compresses with weight and helps distribute the pressure on a larger area. Then stitched many layers so that it doesn’t move and put it in place.

Later built a small false bottom to double on that weight distribution thing… and to not have so much laca rock dead weight on the glass.

Placed a non-slip mat on the bottom inside the tank, so the pressure made by the lava rocks used for drainage don’t focus on individual points.

Filled the tank with the lava rock, that will be the drainage layer, much as in Mr. Amano’s hardscapes, and started to play with the configuration of the rocks and the driftwood… and after a lot of time, this is the configuration I liked.

Later I started to work on the Spyra background. I made it from egg crate and great stuff.

Then I siliconed the background to the glass.

And connected all the pipe lines… and got all needed for the water feature.


126 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
Kept playing with the wood and rocks, and found a new confiruation I liked better. It's looks almost the same, but with more depth.

Here a quick video explaining.

Then I glued together all the wood using great stuff and then covered it in peat moss to get the sense of a single solid pice of wood.

I'm making a timelapse video of the process, I'll upload it as soon as I finish the tank.
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