Turning greenhouse into giant vivarium
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Old 11-15-2013, 02:34 AM   #1
scags
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Default Turning greenhouse into giant vivarium

Has anyone done this or thought about it? I have been interested in this idea for quite some time. Every time I visit the Lincoln Park Conservatory's fern room in Chicago it really makes me want one.

So my idea is to build a big greenhouse/conservatory, maybe 16' wide by 20' long and maybe 12' high. Just a rough estimate.

Then the idea is to basically make it a lush rainforest inside with a small path zig zagging throughout. Imagine moss covered branches over your head. Epiphytic ferns and broms everywhere. The sound of water trickling, maybe tree frogs calling.

I think it would be awesome, and there is so much potential. I would like to create a small thriving ecosystem. Maybe a few different types of frogs, small lizards, and maybe even some type of tropical finch.

I would like to have a 6-8' waterfall feeding a small stream that empties into a small shallow pond where it is then re-pumped back to the waterfall.

Just thought I would try to spark a conversation about this idea. Wondered if anyone else was interested in the subject.

Let me know what you guys think.

Here are some inspiring pics-
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Old 11-15-2013, 02:48 AM   #2
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yeah, it would be cool to have one but a good size greenhouse would cost as much as a car.

The interior would be relatively cheap to make with home depot materials. The walls, pond, and waterfall can be make out of concrete.
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Old 11-15-2013, 03:16 AM   #3
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Love the idea!

My main concern would be that once you release the animals, it will be very difficult to keep tabs on their health, eating habits, and so forth. Not the bird(s) so much, but herps can be amazingly cryptic.

If you decide to do it, please keep us posted!
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Old 11-15-2013, 03:23 AM   #4
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Love the idea!

My main concern would be that once you release the animals, it will be very difficult to keep tabs on their health, eating habits, and so forth. Not the bird(s) so much, but herps can be amazingly cryptic.

If you decide to do it, please keep us posted!
I agree, keeping tabs on the animals would be difficult. Especially if things like frogs and lizards begin to breed. You would easily lose track of how many and what you have. And that would make feeding difficult. I think the biggest thing is to create an environment you would feel comfortable releasing those animals into. Basically setting them free depending on the size of the greenhouse. You would still feed on a regular basis, tossing out live foods, setting up specific feeding areas and monitoring the animals that show up. You would also want to pick hardy animals, nothing fragile that requires difficult care.

I plan on building this project for sure. Just not any time soon unfortunately. Hopefully in the next 5 years or so. Fingers crossed!
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Old 11-15-2013, 03:20 AM   #5
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Yeah the cost is what I imagine stops most people.

Could definitely save money by doing it yourself. I;m guessing the cost of a decent sized one with proper heating and watering system would cost upwards of 20k.

Concrete would work for the water features, along with adding in limestone boulders- which are perfect for mosses and ferns to take hold on.

I found this picture of a enclosed pool/ conservatory.
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Space is wasted on the pool! Would definitely made a big swamp right there!
I wonder how much one of those pool enclosures costs? I would imagine its the same thing as a greenhouse.
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Old 11-15-2013, 04:47 AM   #6
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I prefer the Garfield Park Conservatory on the west side of Chicago. They have a great kio pond and butterfly garden. I'd love to have something like that in my backyard, but the winter heating costs up here would be insane.
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Old 11-15-2013, 04:57 AM   #7
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I prefer the Garfield Park Conservatory on the west side of Chicago. They have a great kio pond and butterfly garden. I'd love to have something like that in my backyard, but the winter heating costs up here would be insane.
Yeah I hear ya. I haven't been to the Garfield Park one, I live in Michigan and go to Chicago a couple times a year. I used to live there years ago, on Diversey near Lincoln Park. The Zoo and Conservatory are free so I spent a lot of time there. LOVE their fern hall. It's amazing.

I have given some thought about heating, and watering. I was wondering how practical it would be to use Solar power? And for at least some of the water for the misting system building a large rain collecting system that collects and stores rain water for use in the sprinkler system. The tower would create water pressure and a simple timer controlled valve would release the water into the sprinkler system. I think it could work with enough water. Could be a problem in some parts of the country and during the drier seasons.Just some thoughts.

Although I currently reside in Michigan, My family and I plan on moving out to the Seattle/Washington area in the next couple years. The climate there is considerably better. Although it would still require extra heating in the winter months.
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Old 11-15-2013, 06:57 PM   #8
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I have given some thought about heating, and watering. I was wondering how practical it would be to use Solar power? And for at least some of the water for the misting system building a large rain collecting system that collects and stores rain water for use in the sprinkler system.

Look into some of the stuff regarding passive solar. Most of it is geared towards houses, but I don't think it would be hard to tweak the design for a greenhouse.

Depending on where you decide to build it, an earth-sheltered (sorta like buried) might work well for this set-up, and it would help keep the temperature more constant. Basically dig a big hole, and then build your walls/floors, with insulation on the outside, and concrete/masonry on the inside, and put the roof on, maybe using double or triple pane glass.

Collecting rainwater should be pretty easy to, there are a lot of books and sites that cover how to do that, set up roof/drainage for it, how to store it, etc.

If you plan it well, it will cost a bit more at the outset, but will reduce your maintenance/operating costs to near zero.
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Old 11-15-2013, 08:35 PM   #9
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Look into some of the stuff regarding passive solar. Most of it is geared towards houses, but I don't think it would be hard to tweak the design for a greenhouse.

Depending on where you decide to build it, an earth-sheltered (sorta like buried) might work well for this set-up, and it would help keep the temperature more constant. Basically dig a big hole, and then build your walls/floors, with insulation on the outside, and concrete/masonry on the inside, and put the roof on, maybe using double or triple pane glass.

Collecting rainwater should be pretty easy to, there are a lot of books and sites that cover how to do that, set up roof/drainage for it, how to store it, etc.

If you plan it well, it will cost a bit more at the outset, but will reduce your maintenance/operating costs to near zero.
Sounds awesome! With proper planning the passive solar could work. I also looked into solar radiated water heating.
Basically tubes of water are ran in a grid along the roof facing the direction that gets the most sunlight, at night the water is released into a radiator system heating the greenhouse.
Although in places like Michigan this may not be practical- as in the long winter months you can go days without sunlight, and outdoor temps hovering the negatives. Although I doubt I will build one here.

The in-ground idea is excellent! I actually had that in my original plans- but not for climate purposes. I want to have varying elevation changes throughout the habitat.
Small gullies, slopes and hills. Not to mention building a 3-4' deep foundation would add that much more footage to my highest point for things like tree ferns and palms.

Great input lochaber!

PS- awesome link to someone who has done something similar to this already- http://www.exoticrainforest.com/Buil...ainforest.html
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Old 11-15-2013, 09:39 PM   #10
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PS- awesome link to someone who has done something similar to this already- http://www.exoticrainforest.com/Buil...ainforest.html
Hmm, You can totally build that with lumber from home depot. The covering can be plastic. You might need some construction permit & inspection though for a structure this big though.

Insulation is a major problem for green houses so being in earth is a good idea.
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Old 11-15-2013, 03:45 PM   #11
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Cincinnati's Krohn conservatory is better than the Lincoln Park one from what I can remember from living in Chicago a long time ago. It even has a dessert room.

Check it out when you're in Cincinnati.
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Old 11-15-2013, 04:49 PM   #12
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Cincinnati's Krohn conservatory is better than the Lincoln Park one from what I can remember from living in Chicago a long time ago. It even has a dessert room.

Check it out when you're in Cincinnati.
Will do mistergreen! I pass thru Cincinnati at least 2 times a year. I will definitely check it out. What I should do is ask one of the botanist about construction, maintenance, heating, and water. Start getting these things written down for when I build mine.
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Old 11-23-2013, 06:24 AM   #13
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Default Turning greenhouse into giant vivarium

This is incredible, and when I get thru medical school and become a real adult I will build this. I still think I should have done biology and plant genetics for my undergrad...
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Old 11-26-2013, 06:37 AM   #14
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I have always wanted to do something like this. im moving to south Carolina in a few months and was thinking about a smaller version of what you have planed. local herps would be better suited do to weather conditions (in Michigan that may be a little harder), I was thinking American green tree frogs and green anoles and then some type of bird as well. I believe this could be done on a budget granted you could also spend a small fortune if your not careful. good luck and would love to see what you come up with if you decide to do it. another thing about the herps is good luck keeping them in unless you have it completely sealed with glass or something.
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Old 11-27-2013, 06:16 AM   #15
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I have always wanted to do something like this. im moving to south Carolina in a few months and was thinking about a smaller version of what you have planed. local herps would be better suited do to weather conditions (in Michigan that may be a little harder), I was thinking American green tree frogs and green anoles and then some type of bird as well. I believe this could be done on a budget granted you could also spend a small fortune if your not careful. good luck and would love to see what you come up with if you decide to do it. another thing about the herps is good luck keeping them in unless you have it completely sealed with glass or something.
Thanks, wish you luck to. I say go for it, do whatever size you can afford and post it all on here.
Your local reptiles and amphibians in S.Carolina would be well suited for a small greenhouse, and they would probably love it. Just be aware that local laws often prohibit native animals from being kept as pets. Although some states do have permits.

The system I am planning is a completely sealed system. No cracks, or unprotected ventilation. In cooler climates you must have a advanced heating system, water system and proper ventilation.

My thoughts on fauna are as follows-

Veiled Chameleons (small populations of these thrive near the Florida Everglades and Hawaii surprisingly) I actually captured 2 on an expedition this past summer with a team of biologists and conservationists) They are extremely hardy animals and capable of thriving in a wide range of habitats, my 2 wild caught guys are doing great in captivity and growing fast. I think they would fair well in a large greenhouse jungle.

Anoles I'm actually interested in more exotic varieties like the Anolis microtus or The long snouted anole. Green anoles are actually awesome too. Microtus is found in central American cloud forests.
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Tree Frogs Probably my favorite rainforest critter. I would probably go with Green Tree frogs (very hardy) and Brazilian Clown Tree Frogs. Might do a few others as well. Both breed readily in captivity and shouldn't have any issues living in an indoor rainforest.

Geosesarma aka Red Devil Crabs. I already have a couple of these awesome little crabs. They are full of character but generally shy. Don't need water to reproduce, but love small freshwater creeks and rainforest environments. Native to southeast asia. Fairly new to the pet trade and not often seen in pet shops. Also breed easily in hot humid environments. A perfect candidate for my indoor rainforest stream/waterfall area.

Java Finches/Sparrows. A larger finch from asia sometimes called a rice patty bird. They are very hardy and have a beautiful song. They are also very pretty looking birds.
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That's all for now! This is still just a dream project btw. It will eventually come to fruition...just a matter of time.

Last edited by scags; 11-27-2013 at 06:19 AM.. Reason: adding pics
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