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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
What are the types of things you think about when choosing plant type & placement for a display-type viv?

A few I've picked up along the way-
1) Consider scale - the size of new plants in relation to the tank and other decor
2) Avoid symmetry - totally symmetrical placement tends to look unnatural
3) Don't overplant at the start - instead, try to think about how things WILL look when the plants start to grow in.
 

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a truly great design, incorporates the same elements as fine art. a painting would be a good comparison. its all about composition. of course choosing the correct plants, and creating the right environment for them to thrive is essential. assuming one has made wise plant choices for their particular tank we can discuss composition.

asymmetry is essential. creating areas with more mass, color, shade, etc, accentuate this.
although asymmetry is important, its equally important to have a tank that is cohesive, and there must be good flow.

when we look at something we look at it in a pattern and inspect elements individually. you must remember that a tank should lead the eye in a smooth motion at first, and allow the viewer to more closely inspect it after this. a single or small group of objects can be placed with greater visual weight (larger, more colorful, etc.) but too many contrasting elements confuse the viewer (subconsciously we have trouble deciding what elements to view first when there is too much competition between elements in the composition) and disrupt the flow.

with a tank, just like a 2D piece of art, we must also create depth. you can create depth many ways but using the hardscape in a diagonal (front to back) fashion helps a lot.

its late but i'd be happy to go into more detail later.

james
 

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This thread touches on some of these concepts and is worth reading for anyone who wishes to refine their builds.

I agree with what you both have stated but would like to add what I consider effective:

1. Plant in odd numbers - 1, 3, 5, etc. If it's a feature plant or is very eye-catching, just use one.

2. Avoid using a great variety of Neoregelia cultivars. I see a lot of hobbyists using many types of Neos with different patterns and colors and IMO, it looks garish and unnatural. Use one cultivar or species and plant 3 or 5 of them. If your frog species is terrestrial and/or doesn't use bromeliads, don't use them at all. They look unnatural enough only inches from the ground when they've evolved to grow in the canopy.

3. Allow yourself 1 or 2 "feature" plants that will catch the eye. The other plants in the viv should complement these and bring out their interesting aspects, i.e. they should be comparatively more boring. Too many interesting colors and textures tend to overload the senses.

4. Use rule of thirds to create focal points, then place specimen plants e.g. miniature orchids, interesting aroids, etc. at these points. A shingling species would look nice climbing of the two vertical "thirds"; this goes hand-in-hand with asymmetry. Never plant something right in the middle of the tank, especially if it's your feature plant.

5. Use your background to create lines that draw the eye toward these focal points or other areas of interest.

6. Set a realistic number of species planted in the tank. The best tanks are those that utilise a minimum number of species but allow those plants to fill in and colonize the area. The greatest variety of plants should be found growing epiphytically on the background. Dwarf species of Microgramma, Pleurothallis and Peperomia all make a mossy background look very alive.

7. Don't use moss as a floor. It's unnatural and has no benefit for the frogs. Moss for the background, leaf litter for the floor.

8. Know the growth habit of your plants. Use this to plant them well so they mature and fill in properly. Consider the mature size of your plant as well.

9. Don't use creeping fig.

10. Be patient. Give your tank time to grow in. This ties in to overplanting at the start. I don't consider any of my builds "done" until each plant and patch of moss is grown in exactly how I want it. This can take months to years.

Edit: Here's another thread relevant to the topic: Design Principles
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
James, would love to hear more when you get the time.. and thanks Ross. This is one area where I feel I need to improve myself, and the information is much more limited than other topics. I feel like this is an aspect of the hobby that is more important than people give it credit for.... it's the second most important aspect of the hobby as far as attracting new hobbyists goes in my opinion (behind the frogs and their well-being).

From what I've seen, this is what the reaction tends to be-
-Frogs in a viv that is 100% function over form- Cool man, those frogs look awesome.
-Awesome looking viv, no frogs- Nice man, looks like a jungle in there. Pretty sweet.. what animal are you going to keep in there?
-Great looking viv with healthy frogs- MAN... HOW DID YOU DO THAT? TELL ME MORE.

If one of the hobby's main goals is the preservation of frogs in captivity, then bringing in and educating new well-meaning hobbyists should be a goal by default. Knowing how to create a viv that looks great, as well as being beneficial to frog health (as much as possible) is important... a great looking viv provides additional "WOW factor" and gives us an advantage over other hobbies in bringing in new hobbyists.

Additionally, most people who are willing to put in the work to make their vivs look awesome are usually of the motivated sort... certainly at least motivated enough to provide top-notch husbandry for their frogs. The people who design freshwater tanks for the ADA competitions are a good example.

I also don't believe that one has to sacrifice frog well-being at all in order to make a viv that is visually stunning.... many members have proven that some things we consider good for the frogs (i.e.- leaf litter, breeding sites, clay substrate/backgrounds) do not have to hinder the ability to make the enclosure aesthetically pleasing. At that point, educating people in the art of viv design becomes more important than people give it credit for.

I'd love to see some of the hobbyists that are better with viv design/planting help others in the way we see with frog husbandry.. kudos to those who already do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Size of plant, and placement.

I think functionality will always trump "pretty".

JBear
Of course, and that's why I mentioned it so many times throughout that post..

I also feel that if there was more info on how to make a viv look awesome, vivs on this site would look better as a whole, which could potentially attract more people here to learn about how to care for these awesome animals.

As an out-there analogy- a fish hook is the most important thing you need to catch a fish (the function)... but the aesthetics of a lure help to attract it in the first place (the form).

The more people we can bring in and educate, the higher the chances of finding people willing to aid in the captive preservation of the frogs we care about. Indirectly, better looking vivs can be seen as a means to an end- the betterment of the hobby as a whole.

Another plus- more sweet vivs for me to check out when I'm bored in class :D
 

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"9. Don't use creeping fig."

Man, I cannot get the air to my lungs :D

This should definitely go in memorable quotes.

I would just reiterate:

1) Repetition: Three of one Cryptanthus or one Pellionia looks way better than "one of everything." Even two of the same jewel orchid looks more natural than four of all diferent varieties;

2) Eventual mature forms;

3) Um, for what animals?!? Josh and Rob points out that even bigger Phyllobates can trample certain delicate plants;

4) Don't use Golden Pothos.
 

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I see a lot of comments about keeping plant varieties to a minimum. Definitely a good point, but there are ways around it if you want an abundance of different plants in a tank. Stick with plants that have similar leaf structure and colour. A good example would be to use different types of bulbophyllums/cirrhopetallums/masdevallias. They all have similar leaf structures and growth patterns, but you get different exciting flowers from each type. Other examples would include shingler plants, mosses, and almost every other family of orchid.

A good way to use a variety of neos would be to use gradual colouring/sizing. You can use reds, oranges and yellows all in the same tank, but try placing them out as if they were a colour spectrum. That way they blend together instead of looking polka dotted everywhere. I havent seen this done as of yet, but I imagine it would look similar to colourful reef aquariums. They might have hundreds of coral types, but the similarities and placing between them helps bring everything together.

Also, I cant figure out why functionality and asthetics are always concidered mutually exclusive....Do frogs stop breeding in a tank using the rule of thirds? lol

And tclipse, I see you have started a few threads about display tanks...Have one in the works yet? :p
 

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It may be an obvious answer, but remember to have some means of hiding all the "nuts and bolts" of the vivarium construction. Use some means of concealing the false bottom and, if you use a GS background, the rear/sides of the tank where the GS shows.
 

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I took three smaller planted display tanks to the Anaheim show last weekend (mainly a ball python, red tail boa, and leopard gecko convention, not a single frog breeder in sight) and I still had people veering across to come stare at the tanks. There are pics of the tanks here http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/parts-construction/72802-small-display-tanks.html. I heard a number of people saying they want to do something like that in their living room, or they want to get into darts again soon and build something like that. If the reaction to planted tanks is that strong at a snake convention, I'm curious what will happen at a show with actual frog breeders. I do however think I ticked the Exo Terra rep off a bit, he came over and looked a tad displeased with all the Zoomed stuff in my tanks, but imo that just means Exo Terra needs to step up their game as far as making supplies for naturalistic tanks >.<
 

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I think it's funny so many talk about the aesthetics of what's in the tank, but not the tank itself.

A cube in principle is interesting, because from our point of view we see a square. And that symbolizes structure, stability, and control. I find it ironic when we make such a visual statement, and then destroy it with a light fixture.

Aquarium conversions are even worse. The 12x20 visual of a tank follows the golden ratio, something that defines beauty in nature. But the we look at it from the side and now it's 20x10, totally off. And when you add a light fixture to the top it becomes even longer.
 
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