Looks great Wy! I have a few questions, if you dont mind. I read that rabbit fern, on lava rock, doesn't do well emersed. They say you're supposed to let the lava rock and roots dry out from time to time, to prevent root rot. But, yours seem to be doing great. Do you have any thoughts on this? Also, did you attach the moss that you added to you wood cave, somehow? Or, just lay it there and hope that it attaches itself?
Finally, I know this question is a little vague but, is there anything you would do differently, if you did it over again?
Hey Bill, no problem.
In regards to the Rabbit fern, I've had that particular plant for 2 years now. Prior to going in this tank it was emersed in a terrerium within a large bowl. In all honesty, it may have dried out a few times during that time period, I really can't say for sure. I do know that since it has been placed in this tank, it has lost all of the old fronds, except for one, however the new ones as you can see appear to have great color and look very happy and healthy. I'm not sure that I can speak for the long term however. As for the moss, I made no attempt to attach it as I was much more interested in creating a carpet within the cave than I was in getting it to attach. If it attaches, great if not, no worries. I tried several different types to try and see which one or ones do better, but most where simply randomly collected from the environment.
In regards to the last question, one thing I can tell you for sure that I absolutely would do, is start with a brand new tank. Viewing and taking pictures through all the scratches and scraps really is a bummer. Beyond that, I really like this tank. I love the external filter and the screen top, so I know that everything is nice and secure. The deeper gravel and inclusion of a drain tube under the terrestrial region is a must, I've actually managed to flood the terrestrial area twice now. I also think that size is something else I would consider carefully. I like the footprint for where it fits in my classroom, but would like it to actually be taller. I've already had a couple of plants out grow it. I actually have four of these built now, although only two are up and functioning. The oldest and smallest is actually a 20 gal Long Turtle tank; I love the turtle tank for the sake of the cutout for the HOB filter (I'm going to try and do the planted HOB next year with this one). What I really don't like are the size and the opening of the cutout even with the filter. When I built this one, which I refer to as the bog tank, I didn't get the rock divider sealed, and so the terrestrial area is always saturated with water. That makes it a little more difficult to find plants that will work. However, I have successfully raised damselflies, dragonflies, caddisflies, stoneflies and even crayfish in the tank. It is probably the greatest center of attention in terms of the tanks in the room. This one of course is a 30 gal. The final two which we just finished building last year and haven't set up yet are 40 breeder Turtle tanks. I love the foot print and we were able to do some pretty cool stuff in terms of the scaping - both have the terrestrial areas down the side rather than at the end, and one has great cave in the wall that will make a supreme home for some Kribs. We also sealed these a little different in that I did a sealed area with glass panes, and then a none watertight barrier of river rock. Thus creating an area completely terrestrial as well as a wetland area. What I can already tell you that I don't like about them is the height of the tank, the cutout for the HOB, and the glass dividers. The height is just too short. The cutout I think I can seal with some fiberglass window screen, and with some plants in the HOB, I think it will be fine. The glass divider has to go. In order not to see it, it has be the same height or a little lower than the stone wall, and this allows the soil to wick water over the wall. I have two more to build, and I think that most likely I will try and do a sealed taller wall in the back, and a shorter none sealed wall in the front.
I'm sorry. 1 more question. Assuming I can order from Carolina, what are the benifits to having the live micro-organisms in the water? Is it for keeping the water clean? Food source?
In all honesty, I included the microorganisms for two reasons. One, to help with the environment of the tank. Several of the introduced organisms are algae/plankton eaters (amphipods, daphnia, snails), so they help control some of the algae issues in the tank, which as I'm sure you can imagine in a very shallow tank are pretty significant. Others (planaria, redworms) are detrius feeders, so they will help keep the plant debris under control and some are simply cool and/or predators to help population issues (hydra). Now that I have the terrestrial side pretty well finished and settled, I'm think that I would like to add some small natives to the aquatic size. I'm considering pygmy sunfish, swamp darters, and killifish. That would help control the population of amphipods and pond snails.