Here is the first section.
1. Aquarium Setup and Life Support.
The most important thing to have in mind while starting with a high-humidity riparium setup is that you should plan for the tank to be nearly completely covered with a canopy. The top covering will retain the moisture that evaporates from the water's surface and maintain proper humidity levels inside. Since the tank will have a canopy, you can just place a strip light right on top, thus avoiding having to hang up a pendant light fixture, as is necessary for some other kinds of riparium setups.
Since you will need to lower the water level and still accommodate the emersed plant growth it is best to use a tank that is somewhat taller than it is deep (front-to-back). You might already have a tank setup on hand that will work very well for a high humidity setup. Here are several real good choices.
- 20 high (24 X 12 X 16)
- 25 gallon (24 X 12 X 20)
- 29 gallon (30 X 12 X 18)
- 38 gallon (36 X 12 X 20)
- 55 gallon (48 X 13 X 20)
- 65 gallon (36 X 18 X 24)
Notice that all of these save the 65 are 12" in the depth (front-to-back) dimension. These are very nice for crypts because most species/varieties will be able to fill into that space pretty well. You can also consider a tank 18" or more deep, but you will want to select the larger growing Cryptocoryne
to fill the background. If you wish to grow the larger Microsorum
Java ferns then it would be best to use a larger tank because they can grow to a pretty massive size rather fast.
The taller 12" deep tanks (such as the 55) can be difficult to work in because there is relatively little depth to work in. However, they will function just fine with some experimentation and careful training/pruning of plants.
The important point to have in mind while setting up the tank is that you will want to have some measure of control of ventilation, that is, the degree to which the canopy covers the top of the tank. The surest way to create a very humid environment inside of the tank is to maintain a completely covered top. However, if you do this you can expect the glass to be foggy much of the time.
I have been able to maintain high humidities inside of the riparium while also preventing glass fogging by creating a narrow gap in front of the canopy and along the front of the tank--the warm air rising slowly along the front pane of glass is usually enough to prevent fogging. I don't have a great picture to illustrate this, but you can see it pretty well in this shot...
Keep in mind that you will likely have to do some adjustment and experimentation to find the right amount of canopy cover. If you have your display in a room that has very dry air because of air conditioning, central heating or your local climate then that 1" gap shown above might be too large and cause dry conditions inside of the tank.
I have not done any careful measurements, but I get the impression that most crypts and Anubias
plants require a relative humidity of about 80% or higher
to grow very well in the emersed condition. To review and add a few additional points, here are several factors that I have found to be important influences on the riparium enclosure humidity and glass fogging:
- Degree of tank canopy coverage--tighter canopy = higher humidity
- Water temperature--warmer water = more evaporation = higher humidity
- Air temperature inside riparium and difference with room temperature--cooler air relative to inside of tank = more glass fogging
Like I said above, you will probably need to do some experimentation and readjustment to get the correct relative humidity inside of the riparium. The best way to assess conditions is with careful observation of your plants. If there is adequate humidity in the air your emersed crypts will have attractive, erect foliage and bright colors. If the air becomes too dry, on the other hand, they will begin to loose their colors, droop and suffer burned leaf tips. Here are a couple of pictures of pretty happy emersed crypt plants from my collection...
As a final not, you might also find it useful to acquire a hygrometer with a remote sensor
to place inside your riparium for accurate measurement of air relative humidity. With careful observation of your emersed plants this won't really be necessary, but it could be another fun gadget to add to your setup.
This post has also run long, so I will divide this topic in half and return with some ideas about Life Support
. This will include a discussion about misters, a continuation of the humidity topic, as well as water filtration and water heating.