My 300g paludarium journal (56k warning!) - Page 2 - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #16 of 112 (permalink) Old 11-04-2010, 04:30 AM
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@ shane3fan: I'm still not entirely sure of inhabitants yet. I'm thinking of leaving the emersed part empty for now until the plants really establish. I was hoping to ultimately get some dart frogs, but I don't want to deal with breeding fruit flies in my current apartment. For the water portion, I've got a bunch of clown loaches that I'm in the process of moving in and I may get some other smaller loach species (eg. kubotai). Not yet sure of other inhabitants.

Stay tuned for more updates.
Ever considered mudskippers? I don't know much about them but I did see them at this fish store which had an acrylic tank mostly filled with water and a waterfall running into it with a bunch of air plants coming out of it. They had a bunch of floating lily pad like plants that the mudskippers and even a mini crab were sitting on.
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post #17 of 112 (permalink) Old 11-04-2010, 06:32 AM Thread Starter
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Mudskippers would be cool but generally require brackish conditions. Same problem with archers, which I'm also considering. There are some freshwater populations of archers - they're pretty hard to find but I'm keeping my eyes open.
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post #18 of 112 (permalink) Old 11-04-2010, 07:12 AM
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Mudskippers would be cool but generally require brackish conditions. Same problem with archers, which I'm also considering. There are some freshwater populations of archers - they're pretty hard to find but I'm keeping my eyes open.
http://www.ausyfish.com/archer_fish__freshwater.htm

Maybe this place will export some fish for you since they claim to have spawned/hatched freshwater archer fish.

http://www.ausyfish.com/natives.htm

Hah wow maybe you can call them and ask them if they have any importers near you. Otherwise " Export orders for native fish, minimum purchase AUD$3600, plus all other shipping costs." And I think you must be a big trader.

aquarium@ausyfish.com, or fax us on (07) 4126 2221 or even phone us on (07) 4126 2226

Goodluck!
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post #19 of 112 (permalink) Old 11-04-2010, 09:23 AM
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Thumbs up an appreciation

An appreciation from across the pond : Hey -nice work dude. I am in the initial stages of aquiring the materilas needed to construct what I hope will be a planted terrarium. My initial criteria will focus just upon bromeliads and various epiphytes etc. I am wanting to install a drip-wall and also have it as a closed loop system. I can vouch that I will not obtain any PDFs or Anoles or Geckos and the like but simply have it for the beauty of the floras. This will be my first tropical build but it will hopefully provide the experience and skill of constructing designs for the various Poecilotheria arboreal tarantulas (ex Sri-Lanka/ India) which do not require as permanent humid environments but are more subject to fluctuations and seasonal wet/dry periods etc.

I will follow this thread for inspiration and hope that like the other guys that have a keen interest in following your progress of the build it will be detailed and informative.

I would like to know what working time the West epoxy has since I am in the process of ordering a marine grade epoxy resin from a source here in the UK. Also I can not source a retailer in the UK that can provide me with a tin of the Pond Sheild product - any addresses that may ship to the UK please? I think you may have turned my opinion from purchasing a glass unit that will then be used as the build for a tropical terrarium.

Look forward to your additional posts - and the very best of luck--- positive channeling mate.
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post #20 of 112 (permalink) Old 11-05-2010, 12:34 AM Thread Starter
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West Systems epoxy comes as a resin and separate hardener. The working time depends on the hardener that you use. The 105/206 combination that I used gave me a lot of working time - at least an hour. It was about 3 hours before it tacked up and about 20hrs before it completely cured.

I'm not sure about a UK distributor of Pond Shield, but I'm not sure you necessarily need it. West Systems (or any other marine epoxy) should be able to function perfectly well as a stand alone product for sealing your tank. I used the Pond Shield because I wanted a black top coat and had a convenient local source for the stuff. I'm sure you'll be able to find a comparable product in the UK.
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post #21 of 112 (permalink) Old 11-05-2010, 12:46 AM Thread Starter
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Ok, next up was the hardscape. I wanted a complex root structure that would integrate the upper and lower parts of the tank and provide submerged and emersed epiphytic planting areas. I couldn't really find driftwood that I thought would look right (not to mention the prohibitive cost of a couple of 40" tall driftwood tree stumps) so I decided to make my own.

I began with a pile of foam. I used one 8'X4' sheet of 3/4" blue foam (Dow, from Lowes) and one sheet of 2" pink foam (Owens Corning, from HD). The blue stuff is a little denser, but both are easily carvable.



Here's a rough mockup of my "tree". I cut out the rough shapes using a kitchen knife and glued them together with a mix of silicone and Titebond glue (whatever I had on hand at the time). I also stuck in some cocktail skewers as additional fasteners. As you can see, I used many layers of foam to allow me to create nice depth.



Now for the messy part! I used a keyhole saw, rasp and file to shape the foam. Good thing my wife was out of town that weekend



After I had shaped the foam to my liking I attached it to the tank. I know a lot of people prefer to finish the background outside the tank and then attach it, but since mine was composed of multiple parts I thought it would be easier to stick them in first. It would probably have been easier to do the painting outside the tank, but it wasn't too bad (it helps that my tank is large enough for me to fit inside easily. Here's the left side siliconed into the tank. I used a full tube of silicone.



Another root added. I glued this to the tank bottom and to the first piece with Gorilla glue and added a bunch more skewers for additional structural support. The rope at the bottom was serving as a ghetto clamp.



Then I used GS foam to help hide the seams and add more structure. I also added GS around the bottom to hopefully provide better adherence to the bottom.



After carving down the GS, here's an overall shot of the background.

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post #22 of 112 (permalink) Old 11-05-2010, 12:51 AM Thread Starter
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The next step was to paint the thing. I decided to use tinted Drylok, since I found that it's been used successfully for rock-like aquarium backgrounds. I decided to tint it with a blend of "charcoal" and "terra cotta" cement pigments. I was hoping to get brown but unfortunately the best I could get was sort of a grayish/purple instead.



Here's the background after the first coat of Drylok.



I unfortunately don't have photos of the next few steps. The color after the first coating was too flat and uniform. I mixed up a darker batch of drylok and used a dry brush method to feather and shade the background. This helped a lot but I still thought it artificial and rock-like. I ended up going back over it a few more times and doing some additional rounds of feathering with some more drylok tinted with various blends of 'charcoal', 'terra cotta' and 'buff'. This ended up giving me a more natural looking brown color and the increasing complexity of hues made it look more natural.

I had hoped to create a realistic bark texture but it was beyond my artistic abilities, so I decided to add some fake vines to try to make it look more organic. For the vines I used some lengths of cotton and vinyl rope in various thickness. First a draped/wrapped them around the background and held them in place with staples or nails. I then covered them with a coat of tinted Drylok but because the Drylok really preserves the underlying texture I thought they still looked too artificial and rope like. So I mixed up another batch of Drylok and added in a bunch of long-fibered Exo Terra "Forest Moss" and then applied that to the vines. I thought this was a huge improvement. Here's the end result:



and some closer views to show more of the details. You can see how well the Drylok preserves the texture of the underlying foam.



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post #23 of 112 (permalink) Old 11-05-2010, 12:55 AM Thread Starter
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I then went ahead and covered the walls of the emersed portion with Ecoweb, which is an artificial hydroponic planting medium used by orchid growers. It's essentially a really rough mesh composed interwoven plastic fibers (similar to an abrasive scrubbing pad). Since I'm going to have a constant flow of tank water circulating through the Ecoweb the entire wall effectively turns into a wet/dry filter which means this tank is going to have ridiculous biofiltration!

Some people have had great results getting lush moss growth on this stuff so I'm hoping it will work out well for growing moss and epiphytes in my tank.

Cutting it up was a bit of a pain but I think it worked out pretty well in the end.



I thought this stuff was supposed to be black but it's actually brown (quite similar to the color of my roots). It means there's a little less contrast with the roots but it does look more natural. Hopefully it will all be covered in moss/plants anyway so it shouldn't matter. Once I've got the water circulation system running I'm also going to incorporate a little bit of clay/peat/moss mixture into some parts of the background to hide the Ecoweb seams and provide a little bit of organic planting medium.

You may notice that I've also added in my drip lines at the top of the tank. As I had planned earlier, I used two lengths of 3/4" PVC (one for the back and one for the side) with holes drilled every inch or so. This should hopefully provide a nice even flow of water down the Ecoweb. I painted the PVC with two coats of black tinted Drylok so it wouldn't stand out so much.
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post #24 of 112 (permalink) Old 11-05-2010, 01:01 AM
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This is no longer DIY. Its the real thing here. This is professional and artistic at the same time you really have the skills of a master.
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post #25 of 112 (permalink) Old 11-05-2010, 01:14 AM
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Well said by the above poster. I'm definitely gonna be watching this thread.
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post #26 of 112 (permalink) Old 11-05-2010, 02:48 AM
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my only complaint so far is in the full tank progress shots, we have no sense of scale, it looks small, yet you mention 40" driftwood so this thing is pretty massive

otherwise this is even better than I thought at first
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post #27 of 112 (permalink) Old 11-05-2010, 05:07 AM
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Whoa fantastic job with the foam. I've had this idea for a few weeks now on making a feature that would require something that looked like an aquatic bonsai tree but every piece of driftwood i've seen is either too large in scale for my tank or doesn't quite fit what I want to do... I thought about foam b/c I've read threads about how people make costumes using it etc but now you've shown me the light LOL!

Now I can move ahead (in my head) building the mock flora in my very own biodome like the one at the California Academy of Science. Hats off to your wife for being awesome enough to let you do this although it's not like you are adding something terrible looking looking to your home. Hah be careful not to let your local school district know about this or else they might schedule school trips to your home!


Rain Forests of the World by California Academy of Sciences, on Flickr
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post #28 of 112 (permalink) Old 11-05-2010, 06:33 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks so much for the kind comments. I'm really pleased with how the roots turned out.

jwm5 - the tank is around 60"L X 28"W X 40"T. I think this picture provides a sense of scale (that's a normal sized door).

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OoglyBoogly - I need to visit the California Academy of Science one day. That place looks incredible!
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post #29 of 112 (permalink) Old 11-05-2010, 06:45 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, now for the filtration setup. As I mentioned before, I think it's pretty straightforward compared to some of the crazy plumbing I've seen on here.

Here's a shot of my plumbing weaponry. The part on the bottom is the section that drains the tank and the part on top is my return manifold.



Water exits the tank through two 3/4" bulkheads positioned midway down on the right side of the tank which combine into a 1" line. I drilled an extra hole into the center of the strainers to increase flow, and stuck some pre-filter sponges on there.



The 1" drain line enters a Blueline Velocity T3 pressure-rated pump. I built a little pump platform out plywood lined with foam mat to absorb any vibration but it probably wasn't necessary (I was shocked at how quietly this pump runs!). I placed a union ball valve in front of the pump and a union after it so that I can easily remove it for maintenance without draining the tank.



The Blueline feeds into a pair of Nu-Clear canisters. These filters are very well constructed and I like them a lot. The first one has a 100micron cartridge and the second is filled with bioballs. The media capacity on these things is ridiculous - I stuck in all the bioballs from my old W/D filter and it was only half full!



The filters then lead to my return manifold. The 45-degree outlets closest to you are 1/2" lines that lead up the back and side dripwalls, respectively. The lower outlet is 3/4" and is plumbed into a Hydor ETH 300W and then returns to the submerged part of the tank. The ball valves let me regulate the relative amounts of flow to the dripwalls and the aquatic portion.



The aquatic return enters the tank via a 3/4" bulkhead plumbed to twin 1/2" loc-lines with flare nozzles. It's obscured by my fake tree roots and not particularly visible from the front. The other returns lead to 3/4" PVC pipe spraybars (holes drilled every 1" or so) at the top of the Ecoweb dripwall.



It was a bit of pain to get all the plumbing set up and leak-free. Threaded PVC fittings suck . I had a particularly persistent leak from the union right after the pump. Re-assembling all the threaded joints with liberal amounts of Great White pipe compound and not over-tightening them mostly took care of the problems. Now that I have everything set up I'm pretty happy with it. The flow rate and media capacity kicks the pants off any other canister I've used before.
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post #30 of 112 (permalink) Old 11-05-2010, 06:51 PM Thread Starter
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Here are some full tank shots of everything set up and running. I added a little bit of bentonite clay mixture (kitty litter + peat moss and forest moss) into a few parts of the background. The substrate in the tank is pool filter sand mixed with some light brown 3M Colorquartz and a little bit of dark brown and black Estes. I think the combination is a little darker and more natural-looking than plain pool filter sand.

The lighting is a 4ft 4 bulb T5HO unit from fishneedit (which I picked up used for really cheap). I loaded it with 2 54W Giesseman midday bulbs and 2 of the 10,000k bulbs that came with the tank (which actually look to me to be about the same color as the Giessemans). So far I'm only running 2 bulbs at a time because I haven't started fertilizing yet.

The only plants in this shot are two types of selaginella that I stuck into the background. I wasn't running the dripwall yet in these pics because the clay sections hadn't yet stabilized and were washing into the water portion so I gave them a little longer to establish before turning on the flow.





I have since installed sliding glass doors into the top portion, turned on the dripwall and done my first round of planting. The windows are currently all fogged up but I'm planning on installing my air circulation system today so that will hopefully help clear them up. I'll take some updated photos when that's done.
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