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Natalie 12-05-2012 01:37 AM

Open Air Paludarium Build
Hello! This will be the journal of our paludarium. It is my first freshwater build (been keeping reefs for over 10 years) so I will have lots of questions! Thank you in advance to anyone who's taking a look. :)

I had the tank custom built locally this past summer. It is 48"x48"x18". It is drilled w/ overflow at 12", so will hold 120 gallons of water. I'm still undecided if we will overflow to a sealed sump a la Tom Barr or if we will plumb a canister filter through the holes. Open to thoughts on this for sure.

My darling husband is building the stand for me. I will start painting it tomorrow morning, then will just need to figure out doors and trim.

The above-water "tree" portion is composed of Ash branches collected from my backyard (Ash is not toxic). The base of the tree is contained within a very heavy glazed ceramic pot, with Portland Cement poured inside for weight and stability. The pot with cement weighs 35 pounds, so it will be nice and stable even after the tree becomes full of mosses, ferns, bromeliads, tillandsia, and orchids. I will seal the surface of the Portland cement with either Silicone I or reef mortar, haven't decided yet. (Wood chunks and zip ties are just for stability while the cement and Great Stuff cure)

Lighting will come from 2x250w metal halide, 4x54w T5HO, and LED moonlights. I hope to get the canopy built either tomorrow or this weekend. The halides will be placed in the front corners of the canopy and angled toward the base of the "tree" to maximize spread.

Humidity will be achieved with a MistKing and an ultrasonic fogger. Colorado is very dry, so the mister and fogger will be put to good use. I won't make final decisions on flora and fauna until the whole system is put together and I can see what the humidity levels look like.

The water portion will have CO2 and both emergent and submergent plant growth. I built two islands from foam blocks. I've sprayed the first coat of Great Stuff, which I will carve, mount hardscape, and cover exposed portions with silicone and substrate. I like the look of Forest Floor, so I may try that stuck to the silicone and see how it does.

Thank you so much for looking. Please share any thoughts or suggestions...

I will update again soon once we have a bit more work done.

oliver77 12-05-2012 02:01 AM


This is going to be awesome!


Natalie 12-05-2012 02:13 AM

Thank you! I sure hope it turns out the way I see it in my head. :)

steven p 12-05-2012 02:46 AM

TPT is getting artsy, i like it..

lochaber 12-05-2012 08:17 AM

When you posted the tank pic earlier, it didn't occur to me that it would be put on a stand.

I think the stand looks like it should put it at a really good height.

I think the humidity may be an issue with it being open air, especially in an arid area. Are you looking to keep it at a set humidity level for certain critters/plants, or just keep it from being bone-dry?

Looks like it should be a really interesting set up.

Natalie 12-05-2012 11:08 AM

Thank you!

I agree that it will be interesting to see what happens with the humidity. My current plan is to get the hardware put together, the mister running, and the lights on. Then I will have see where the humidity level ends up and seek advice on plants after that. I don't have a specific humidity level goal in mind, but I do think the misting system will get a workout. :) I think it will be interesting to see what happens.

zoo minsi 12-05-2012 12:05 PM

do you have any concerns with the misting system about over spray? im really curious to see how you set it up. Also with the ash branches in the center i'll be interested to see how much light get to the bottom of the tank, thinking there going to be mounted fairly high.

Im subscribed for sure, this has the potential to be an amazing project, hope it all works out and good luck.

Natalie 12-05-2012 01:10 PM

I share both of those concerns!

I am hopeful that using the MH and mounting them like I plan to will get light to the bottom. I already owned the halides, so if it doesn't work out nothing lost -- just back to the drawing board.

The overspray possibility does make me nervous. This tank is in my home office, so I definitely can't have water all over the place. I am hoping that I can aim/control the adjustable nozzles enough to avoid oversprayed mist, and the tank's footprint is pretty large to catch drips. This is the part that worries me the most. I've never used the MistKing before, so if anyone has any experience with those and can tell me how adjustable the nozzles are, I would appreciate it.

Thanks for looking/commenting!

zoo minsi 12-05-2012 01:29 PM

ive never used mistking before but ive read alot of good reviews. if your looking for misting system ideas i would check out this site, dendroboard its a reptile site kinda like this one but theres alot of people who have done all sorts of mist systems. might be able to find some more ideas or get some help.

lochaber 12-05-2012 08:05 PM

Depending on the angle of the misting nozzles you use, I don't think overspray would be that much of a concern on a build of that size. (i'm assuming most of it will be directed towards the center?).

I'd be more concerned with the tank's surface area, misting, and fogger acting as a humidifier for the whole room. might not be an issue, I don't know.

One other thing you could do, is instead of thinking of it as an open-air palludarium, maybe think of it as a closed on two sides (the sides along the walls), you could either protect the walls with something, (maybe those big 4x8(i think?) plastic panels they sell in Lowes/Home Depot for putting in shower walls and such

Also, you may not need to worry about the humidity as much if you can use the mister a couple times a day, just to keep the plants from drying out (but then this runs the risk or rotting the ash branches).

If nothing else, you could always look for plants that do well at a lower humidity level.

Apologies if this is coming across as too critical, that's not how I mean it at all, I'm just trying to throw ideas out. I think this is a pretty cool build you have planned, and want to see how it works out.

zoo minsi 12-05-2012 09:13 PM

ive always been curious with these larger type open projects how the increase in humidity in the room will affect things long term. if the emergent growth is selected properly you may not even need to worry about misting. i would check out hydrophyte's posts hes done some really cool ripariums and also sells supplies and plants.

heres a link to his sales thread but it also shows one of his ripariums Hydrophyte's sale link

Natalie 12-06-2012 01:26 AM

Not coming across as too critical at all! I appreciate the thoughts.

It will certainly be interesting to see what happens when the mister is running. I hope it maintains enough moisture to grow some mosses on the branches. I already know I can grow ferns and orchids in the house with daily or every-other-day spraying.

I wish I had gotten enough done today to do an update, but I did not. I carved the GS on the islands, started painting them with Drylock, and purchased some great reddish brown rocks.

Azarakiah 12-06-2012 01:38 AM


Originally Posted by steven p (Post 2099750)
TPT is getting artsy, i like it..

its the truely unique tanks that make this site so nice. they show that limitless boundries to not only the beauty to the aquarium based hobby, but the art and creativity.

Wy Renegade 12-06-2012 02:04 PM

Nice sized build, tagging in to follow along.

Fishies_in_Philly 12-06-2012 03:01 PM

Nice build so far, humidity levels shouldn't be too much of an issue if you go with riparium plants. But any of the higher humidity plants, i think will suffer some. What is your projected water level?

I assume plans are for the mister being installed in the canopy? If so, go to your local supermarket that has misters for their produce. That is what your result is most likely to end up like. :) their set ups are very close to the basic mistking set up.

You mentioned forest floor. Are you talking about the sphagnum used for substrates? That stuff starts to stink and rot if kept overly wet for a period of time, so just be cautious.

Good luck with the build. Should be awesome!!

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