Your idea about the Styrofoam island is great. I would go with a 3in. - 4in. water area.
:idea: Try this...
:!: supply list:
- - 2 tubes of fish-tank caulking
- - one length of PVC 1in. tube (Really only about 3 feet is used)
- - pink insulating sheet foam (Home depo)
- - mini water pump (I recommend reptiflow 250 or Duetto 50 if filtering is needed)
- - sterile play sand (Cement mixing sand, not cement mix)
- - a swatch of nylon/fiberglass porch screen (Small square), optional
- - small fish-tank stones (Any cheap painted tank gravel will do)
:arrow: The Master Plan...
- - Determine what shape you want for your land, use cardboard as a template. Take into consideration the amount of pylons you will need and where your waterfall will be located.
- - Copy this template pattern twice, on two separate areas of the pink Styrofoam insulation board. One will be the bottom of the island, one will be the island walls that keeps your substrate in, and excess water out.
- - On the island wall, on the inside edge, trace an outline that follows the existing outline, but stay approximately two inches away from the outline. (Like a giant deformed Styrofoam donut) Optionally, if your island touches the glass edges, on this part where the foam will touch the edge, you only need a 1 inch edge... (There will be no slope carved here)
- - On the island floor, mark where your lengths of PVC will go by pressing a PVC pipe against, but not through the slab of foam. Now you can cut out the holes for the PVC posts with a drill and hole cutter, (one that will keep the center Styrofoam as one piece), or you can make a nasty hole cutter by hacksawing slots into a chunk of PVC, and spinning that by hand to chew out the hole needed. (Important, you need this core piece to cap off the top and bottom of the PVC posts... do not throw these cut-out circles away. O = PVC caps. (Note, PVC posts should be placed within 4in.-6in. of one another, I would prefer to make them seem randomly scattered.)
- - Now cut out the hole that will allow the pump to pass through.
- - Glue the two halves together with the caulking as glue, press firmly and wipe away excess.
- - Now you want to make the PVC legs. Cut each cork in half, so that you have two full (O) corks, not so that you have two (D) half corks. glue one inside the end of each PVC length, (All lengths should be equal). Now fill the tubes with the stone and sand mixture, leave enough room for the top cap to go inside the PVC also. Clean sand and debris from the top of the PVC and glue the last end-cap inside the PVC tube. Your pylons are done.
- - Allow all parts to dry over the night... (Preferably outside, or in a garage, away from people and moisture)
- - Once the form is dry, you can carve the slopes into the island. Where you want nothing to get up onto the island, carve a bottom curve, where the bottom angle is cut off to round the bottom side. Where you want creatures to access land, carve a top slope, where the top angle is cut off to make a slope going down to the water. You can extend The downward slope by adding more foam layers, if the slope doesn't seem long enough for land dwelling creatures to grasp. (don't carve slopes to a point, leave a rounded end to add strength.
- - When all the slopes are done, you can add the pylons to the structure. Glue the pylons to the island by smearing caulk on the inside of the hole. Use a level to make sure your island is flush in all four directions, N,E,S,W... The pylons should be all the way inside the holes, so that the caps you glued inside the PVC are flush with the floor of the island, avoid deep holes, you need the holding power of the PVC edge to keep the island afloat.
- - If your waterfall is going to stream across the land, create the retainer walls now, and glue them to the inside of the land area. Be sure to create walls where your waterfall protrudes through the land, otherwise water will pour inside here from below as well. You island would be a boat with a hole in it.
- - Once again, allow this to dry for a day...
- - Now you are ready for the land portion. Cover the entire land side with a thin layer of caulking, and optionally, press sand into the caulking to create a final touch if needed.
- - Once again, allow this to dry for a day...
- - Here is the final part, except for the waterfall portion, which can be done at the same time as the above is being done. Flip your island over, It is dry right! Coat the post bottoms with a thick layer of caulking to build up the portion where the island meets the PVC, to make it look more natural, and press sand and/or small stones into the caulking to create additional support and cosmetic appeal. Then continue on to the entire bottom of the island. Lastly, do the length for the pylons, and the base of the pylons. I would add larger stones on the base where the tank gravel will meet the pylons. Use a scrap Styrofoam chunk to make sure the stones still form a flat surface to rest on the bottom of the tank, otherwise you will make your island unleveled.
- - Allow to dry for two days, and you are ready for use... The additional day is because the caulking is mostly behind sand and stone which will need longer to evaporate the fumes and harden.
:arrow: The waterfall...
- - The hole you cut should be large enough for the pump and the entire waterfall structure to sit inside. Build the waterfall structure the same way you built the island, except there will be no pylons.
- - Where the water will come to the fall, drill a hole down to where the pump will be, large enough to fit the hose needed to connect to the pump. Make the hose longer than needed, you can cut it down later.
- - Glue the hose into the structure, and coat the basin that the hose meets with, if you planned for one, with caulking.
- - Coat the exterior of the fall with caulk, sand and stone as desired, don't coat the bottom yet.
- - Allow this to dry overnight...
- - Now coat the bottom of the fall that protrudes through the island, if you are not gong to see the bottom, then just use caulking.
- - Depending on how you decided to set this up. Either mount the pump to the waterfall, with the ability to be removed, or cut the length of the tube so that it can reach the pump at the bottom of the tank.
:arrow: Add plants, and go... if the island floats even after adding plants, then you might want to add some larger stones to the base of the PVC pylons, or to the underside of the floating island... Still floating, add stones or sand to your soil mixture... Still floating, Exactly how high did you make your walls? The island should only be about 2in. tall, 1in. should be underwater. Try adding an anvil to the top of your waterfall... Still floating, are you on earth, is your water ice? If you have major problems with floating then ultimately you can try gluing the pylons down, and gluing the edges that meet the tank walls into place... Use black caulk for this, and trim the unwanted caulk away, lightly with a razor... Still floating, sorry, I have no more suggestions!
:!: I will make a step by step pictorial shortly, I plan on doing this with my 30 gallon long tank. These tanks are rather shallow, but nice and long. Another alternative besides Styrofoam, would be plaster mixed with sand, Easy to carve, and broken pieces can be caulked back together. With any medium, it is important to cover its structure with a neutral coating... Fish-Tank Caulking, Fiberglass Epoxy, Furniture Varnish, etc... Plaster, cement, PVC, and Styrofoam is harmful to any living creature and will greatly shorten their life if left uncoated. Bacteria and normal degradation will release fluorocarbons, chlorine, aerosols, CO3, CO2, CO, lead, lime, calcium, mercury and many other nasty things, which don't wash away in a terrarium/vivarium. Also, I would not use these structures for more than 3-5 years, as the caulking and varnish, and epoxy will start to break down itself, exposing the harmful rotting material underneath.
:idea: When the pictorial is ready, you will find it here. www.forumnewt.com
For now there is only a link to my unrelated forum, and pictures of my first newt vivarium that is long gone.
APPENDED: I purchased all the items needed today to setup the tutorial, stay tuned... I will link to the tutorial when I start uploading it. The tutorial will cover Costs, Materials, Procedure, Instructions, and possible Problems and Solutions.