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Learner 10-08-2012 05:53 AM

Hex Waterfall
So I found a great deal at a thrift store on a 30 gallon, hexagon tank and decided to build a new vivarium using some methods I have never used before. Unfortunately I did not take many pictures of the initial build, but have some as the job progressed. I was thinking I might get a new pair of tree frogs for the tank when it was finished. It turned out to be one of the most labor-intensive beta tank ever! Here’s the quick build……

Tank specs:
30 gallon hexagon
50 watt heater
mini fluval water pump, which runs both streams of the waterfall
15 watt plant glo light bulb in stock fixture

Water temp: 68 F
Slight tannin stain in water
4 mm gravel substrate
Soil portion: coco husk, organic potting soil, shredded banana leaves, 5 earthworms
Aquatic plants: anubias lancelota, anubias nana
Terrestrial plants: rabbitsfoot fern, ivy, palm fern, and various local mosses

The main terrestrial feature is the waterfall made from egg crate material and Great Stuff spray foam. This is an excellent method used by many in the other herp forums. Worked great and I was able to get the basic structure built so that I could access the inside of the waterfall for any maintenance issues that may arise. I also planned ahead fro some small planters to be housed within the waterfall as well. Once the spray foam dried (24 hrs) I carved the waterfall to look like rocks and left a nice deep channel for the water to cascade downward. I cut slots out and laboriously foamed in a few real slate rocks for the water to run off as it traveled down the waterfall. Since the tank was to be seen from only one basic angle, I decided to cover the side walls with a faux rock background as well. I sprayed the walls with the GS and then carved them as well.

Learner 10-08-2012 05:56 AM

When the rocks looked right, I made a mixture of concrete and colored it with concrete dye. The charcoal worked well and I painted 3 layers of quikcrete onto the waterfall and rock walls. After they all dried, I used acrylic paint to add highlights and tint the rocks the exact color I wanted. I had never used the concrete method before and it worked well. The rocks were very real looking.

Then I built an egg crate stand that would keep the waterfall and planted area above the waterline. The waterfall rested nicely on this stand and then I spray foamed the two pieces together in the tank. I carved the foam once again and then put concrete on to lock the two pieces together forever.

I covered the egg crate with window screen below the waterline and then spread a layer of silicone onto the screen. It took some tender loving care, but I was able to press rocks into the silicone and it held really quite nicely.

Learner 10-08-2012 05:59 AM

The finishing touches were also new to me so I tried several methods for bringing in some coco fiber, moss, and bark materials to the jungle waterfall theme. I used silicone around the waterline and lightly pressed moss into it. It worked only moderately well. I also tried the gorilla glue method which held up very nicely for moss and bark. Hands down the best method for using coco bark was the titebond III method. Mixing the titebond and the bark made a great paste for the walls and on rocks to give them that realistic look. The glue dried clear and hard as a “rock”. Held up for almost a year now.

Learner 10-08-2012 06:18 AM

The tank has gone thru a few face-lifts but since I didn’t have the right fauna for it, I just left it as a rain chamber in my classroom. I can close the tank down tight after school and then put a few of those cold packs on the glass top in the morning and it will make clouds, and then rain like the dickens in there for about an hour! Two weeks ago, a student brought in a beautiful male beta that needed a home. So here is the tank today. I think it needs some work and a new face lift…any suggestions??

As always, thanks for all the help and advice…….Best Fishes

AVN 10-08-2012 09:13 AM


somewhatshocked 10-08-2012 01:18 PM


The only thing this needs is more plants and maybe a better substrate. Plants should be the priority. There are so many aquatic and non-aquatic species that would look amazing.

Short of those two things? Really, what a terrific tank for a classroom.

ChadRamsey 10-08-2012 01:21 PM

WOW, that turned out real nice. Great job!

deleted_user_17 10-08-2012 05:11 PM

Love this set-up, good skills! :)

ony 10-08-2012 08:07 PM

It looks fantastic the way it is but why not flood the whole thing? My betta spends all day hunting snails and micro fauna, shimmying through the plants etc so he's really interesting to watch. I think you are missing out by not giving yours the space to explore and stretch his fins.

Learner 10-08-2012 11:31 PM

thanks everyone, i really appreciate it. I dont know that I want to flood it just yet. I have a fair amount of soil in the tank and dont want the mess. I lost a bunch of plants and need to replant for sure. I love the jungle look.

What about some emergent growth like a riparium plant or two. Does anyone know of a small leafed plant that would work here? Hydrophyte would know I'm sure.................

Heres a major problem (i thkn). I have no filtration in the tank and have to do major water changes every week. I dont have much room to work with in the beta section, plus my fear would be that it would blow him outta there. I can get a filter back behind the falls but it doesnt seem to do much since the water is kind of separated. any sugesstions???

crazydaz 10-09-2012 01:25 AM

Yeah, talk to Devin! He would be able to give you some great advice for riparium selection.

Looks pretty cool, Learner! Wish I could help you with your fish selection! Not sure if you need any fish in there at all! What about some dart frogs instead?

Learner 10-09-2012 03:36 AM


Originally Posted by crazydaz (Post 2037098)
Yeah, talk to Devin! He would be able to give you some great advice for riparium selection.

Looks pretty cool, Learner! Wish I could help you with your fish selection! Not sure if you need any fish in there at all! What about some dart frogs instead?

I havent done dart frogs in years and would love to get back into em........... unfortunately they're pretty tough to come by up here and my fishing business sometimes keeps me out for multiple days at a time.

akdylpickles 10-09-2012 05:16 AM

Where in Alaska are you located? Nice tank BTW

Learner 10-09-2012 05:28 AM


Originally Posted by akdylpickles (Post 2037370)
Where in Alaska are you located? Nice tank BTW

kenai bout you? There aren't too many of us around this neck of the woods!

akdylpickles 10-09-2012 05:44 AM

Anchorage, it's always nice to see another TPT Alaskan pop up! There's only a couple active people on this forum or any forum that I know of. Spread the word to join! We might try to set up some type of plant swap site if there's enough people.

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