My name is Danielle. I'm new to the hobby (haven't actually started, really), and have an ambitious project in mind that I'm trying to get lots of advice about before I make any permanent committments. A little about me: I am a biology MSc student living in Saskatoon SK. Plants are both my hobby and my academic area of interest. Actually, the reason I ever took biology in the first place was because I started keeping carnivorous plants and thought it would be cool to learn more about plants in general. My knowledge of carnivorous plant care is entirely self-taught and I researched and asked questions on CP message boards for weeks/months before I went out and got any. That should demonstrate that although I am planning an ambitious setup for a beginner, I have thought about it lots and think I have a good chance of making it work.
I want to create a paludarium (vivarium with both land and water areas) with tons of terrestrial, epiphytic and aquatic plants and a few fish to live in the water area. My mom is a glass artist and is going to help me build a custom tank. The dimensions I am planning are 36" long by 18" wide by 18" high. This would be a total volume of about 50 gallons. I'm thinking of an 8" high waterline, for a total water volume of ~18-20 gallons (terrestrial part to be built on platforms so that fish can still swim underneath). I am already experimenting with water plants in a spare tank and have Anubias, hornwort, water lettuce, frogbit, java moss, Cryptocoryne wendtii, Bacopa/moneywort, Sagittaria, and Amazon sword, along with some freebie ramshorns that came along with the java moss. So far I have managed to keep duckweed out and am hoping to keep it that way!
I am aiming for a low-tech (but lighted), Walstad-style tank that requires minimal maintenance/upkeep. Light will be provided by 1 or 2 SunBlaster T5HO fixtures. For hardscaping, I am going to do a DIY false-rock background, possibly with a trickle waterfall, and lots of well-soaked driftwood, manzanita, maybe some rocks. Substrate will be aired-out organic plain soil (no perlite or other additives) with a cap of rinsed black play sand.
I have several options for the DIY background; I'd like to go as natural as possible but there are some things I just may not be able to do with wood, rocks, and bentonite/peat moss background (used in vivariums but not suitable for prolonged soaking in water). Considering experimenting with carved foam painted/sealed with Quickrete cement to form the underwater/waterfall elements. I'm expecting that this will fall into place once I decide on the hardware I am going to use.
This is where I could really use the advice of aquarium people. From what I have read, using a second tank as a sump seems to be the easiest way to do water changes, keep water levels constant, and heat/filter water without having a lot of unsightly hardware inside the display tank. But is this overkill for a beginner, and/or a water volume of only ~20 gallons? Would I be better off keeping it simple and just sticking with a canister and submersible heater?
Inhabitants. I have fallen in love, love, LOVE with Celestial Pearl Danios. I know they are hard to find and there have been concerns about depletion of the wild population from wild-caught stock. There is the potential that I could successfully breed them, maybe, which would be cool. I'm thinking if I went with a sump, I could possibly integrate a small "nursery/hatchery", with identical water parameters to the main tank, to keep eggs/fry from getting eaten. The other concern I have with CPDs is that in a fairly wide, heavily planted tank, I may not see much of them! Thoughts?
I would also like to keep a small school of cories (around 6) and some cherry/ghost shrimp. I'd start with the shrimp and cories and make sure I could keep them alive before I went for CPDs
If I could get away with it I'd love to add another small, peaceful, schooling fish, but I am so in love with the CPDs that I wouldn't mind leaving them out if it would make the setup overly complicated.
I don't have any plans for terrestrial inhabitants at this time.
Like I said, I am still in the early planning stages, and am going to be quite busy this summer, so the project will be slow going. I would love to hear any feedback about my proposed setup, suggestions, things I've overlooked, etc. I was at my first SAS meeting last month (where I got most of my plants!) and plan to go to the May meeting as well. If there are any SAS members on here I'd love to chat in person before/after the meeting