The crab shack - devils and vampires - updated with pics 1/29/14
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Old 04-21-2013, 02:40 PM   #1
Hobbes1911
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The crab shack - devils and vampires - updated with pics 1/29/14


So after researching, planning and researching some more, I decided to build a tank for geosesarma crabs. I did not want to simply set up a tank, put some gravel in and have a little water area since I was looking for a long-term build project with a significant dry and wet area. The plan ultimately was to build a vivarium/paludarium (I'm still not sure on the terminology) where I could provide a significant water and land portion as well as have enough upwards room to grow epiphytes that enjoy the high humidity like fern, orchids, mosses, bromeliads, etc.

Many vivaria are designed with a very shallow water level (1-2 inches) and a significant land and vertical area as most of these are for frogs. I definitely took many build ideas from the "frog people" and modified them to fit my design.

The tank is a 37 gallon (general 20L footprint, but 22" high). There is a 6" deep water feature and the substrate will be something like 4-5" deep above the water. I read the crabs are tunnelers so I want to provide them with enough depth to be able to thoroughly dig their burrows to provide them with semi-natural conditions. The substrate is elevated off the water via an egg-crate false bottom so that it does not stay water-logged. There is a part that will extend into the water and will be able to grow marginal plants (like emersed crypts, thank you Gordon). I'll have a layer of hydroton in the bottom to be able to support springtails, isopods, and other microfauna which will act as janitors and live food. I heard these vivaria tend to form mold (I guess there is an arch-nemesis or each enclosure: aquariums have algae, vivaria have mold, etc.) so I want to have janitors to clean that up.

There is a water fall to return oxygenated water back into the water and to add a little humidity via evaporation. Also, it looks nice . The whole waterfall is driven via a Fluval 405 which is ample filtration and gph. Actually, it is more gph than I need and I might downgrade sometime in the future, but currently it works. I covered the outlets with mesh so the flow will be decreased and to direct the water to run along the background, instead of just falling and splashing everywhere.

I am planning on keeping the temperature of the tank around 24-26C, so I want to have the water around 26-27 degrees to allow for evaporation. Ultimately, I want to add an inline heater, but currently a submersed heater hidden in some corner will have to do. I am confident that I'll be able to hide it.

Lighting wise, I decided to go with a 30" HO T5 fixture to be able to grow high-light demanding plants like bromeliads. The light extends pretty well to the bottom, and I think I'll be able to grow low-light plants in the water.

I'll add a detailed build log in the next posts, since the pictures are currently uploading to photo bucket. Also, I just wanted to note, that now looking back, a ready-made background that you can buy in a store are a lot cheaper than home-made. Only, you can't customize them, and you don't get the satisfaction of building it yourself .

I would like to thank several people (on TPT or not) who have been great in extending information and helping me plan this:
My lovely fiancee for her help and understanding (especially of the mess), Gordon Richards, Rachel O'Leary, Bill Brissette, Bill (Fishes_in_Philly), rozdaboff, John from NEFG, Matt and Doug on dendroboard. Also, Jaime and *** for encouragement and thoughful comments. I am sorry if I forgot you.

Last edited by Hobbes1911; 01-30-2014 at 12:28 AM.. Reason: updated
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Old 04-21-2013, 03:05 PM   #2
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Alles hat einen Anfang:

***sorry for the bad picture qualities. I'm not a photographer***

First thing I needed to construct was the false bottom. I definitely wanted a larger water area since I do have a strong aquarium background and want to keep some fish in the water (they also provide live food for the crabs if they so choose).

I designed and build the false bottom with a marginal and dry area in mind.


I then elevated it off the ground with PVC pipes cut to the desired length as well as "fences" to keep animals out of certain areas.


Next, I wanted to arrange the wood and decide on the final layout.

The big root on the egg crate most likely won't make it into the final design since it does take up a lot of space.

The design evolved:


This pic you can see the pvc supports:


to this:


In the end you'll realize I didn't use much of the earlier brain storms.

Next I needed to do the plumbing.
Here is the filter intake (I ended up cutting off the bend since the filter wasn't strong enough to draw in water with all the bends):


I then covered the background in brown silicone (I read GS foam sticks better to silicone) and positioned the outlet for the waterfall:


Next I covered the egg crate and the PVC pipes in weed block to cover them up and to allow for water drainage through the egg crate layer (so apparently weed block is crappy draining material, so I poked larger holes into it):


Next Post: GS foam everywhere

Last edited by Hobbes1911; 04-22-2013 at 01:02 AM.. Reason: URLs messed up
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Old 04-21-2013, 03:18 PM   #3
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Und weiter geht's!

To keep the substrate on the egg crate and prevent washing off I sprayed foam all around the edges. One note about GS foam. When people say it gets everywhere they mean EVERYWHERE! I lined the bathroom with painters plastic tarps to make sure I wouldn't mess anything up.
Foam:

Plastic:


The whole background was build using GS foam. I put down several foam layers first and then cut out holes to put in the wood. I found that method safer and it was easier to keep the wood in place during drying than immediately putting the wood in place with the first layer of foam. Sadly, I have no pictures in between the last one and this one:
All the sticks and ropes are used to keep the wood and bark in place during drying.

Another angle:


The root in the middle is part of the waterfall and will direct the water to where it's supposed to go.

Final layout of all the wood and bark pieces that will be permanent with some of the foam already carved:


Different angle and you can see the waterfall outlets well:


I then did a water test and realized the fluval 405 is way too strong for the waterfall. So I covered the outlets in weed-block (for once it was good that weed-block doesn't drain water well):


And the whole waterfall:


Next up: Toxic smells and dirt
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Old 04-21-2013, 03:31 PM   #4
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Dreck ueberall!

So now there's another large jump forward in time since I didn't take any pictures of any in-between steps. I covered the background with two mixes: one of Titebond III (a wood glue) and peat mossand one with silicone and peat moss. The silicone I used around the waterfall and any areas that would be permanently water-logged. The titebond III is used anywhere else. I used the two mixed, because of several reasons:
1. I heard TB III softens up under constant water exposure and I don't want my background to dissolve away.
2. Silicone is permanently water tight and won't get soft.
3. Silicone apparently won't hold the peat moss forever, so I only wanted to use it where it is absolutely necessary
4. I was curious to see which would perform better long-term since I read about both methods, but could not decide which was the better way to go.

So now the tank looked like this:

Finally, I just needed to do some tweaking to the background, add a semi submerged area for the crabs to sit on and connect both land masses with a bridge:


And a shot from above:


So that's the current status. I built a stand out of 2x4s (more like 1.5x3.5s but who is measuring) and the tank will go there to dry for a good month before anything else happens. I'll be leaving for Germany soon so even if the tank is ready to go in a week, I won't start it up since I want to be there during the beginning to make sure all is well.


Thank you for looking, and if you have any questions, or comments, I'd be more than happy to answer.
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Old 04-21-2013, 03:32 PM   #5
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This is looking GREAT man!
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Old 04-21-2013, 03:33 PM   #6
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Thank you sir. Partially (or mainly) that's the reason I haven't done the fairy shrimp yet sorry.
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Old 04-21-2013, 03:48 PM   #7
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Give them place to burrow..
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Old 04-21-2013, 04:18 PM   #8
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Yay! journal! =D

Looking awesome! =D
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Old 04-21-2013, 04:39 PM   #9
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Caves man caves. Get those pvc pipes for them!
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Old 04-21-2013, 04:54 PM   #10
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got some 1.5 inch wide pvc pipes. Should they go 4 or 6 inches deep? and I'll just stick them in the substrate right?
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Old 04-21-2013, 07:16 PM   #11
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Did you find sources for the crabs then?
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Old 04-21-2013, 08:35 PM   #12
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Wow this is going to end up looking pretty awesome, great work man!
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Old 04-21-2013, 11:23 PM   #13
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I can't wait to see it finished! It looks good so far.
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Old 04-21-2013, 11:33 PM   #14
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WoW!!! EXCELLENT BUILD, man!! Amazing job.....I can hardly wait to see it finished and running. Nice work!
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Old 04-22-2013, 03:51 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrakeScree View Post
Did you find sources for the crabs then?
I did yes. I'll be in Germany soon, but I will get them very soon afterwards .

Quote:
Originally Posted by invertMASA View Post
Wow this is going to end up looking pretty awesome, great work man!
Thank you very much.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ValMM View Post
I can't wait to see it finished! It looks good so far.
Thank you Val It will be nice. Especially with the combination of epiphytes and terrestrial animals.

Quote:
Originally Posted by crazydaz View Post
WoW!!! EXCELLENT BUILD, man!! Amazing job.....I can hardly wait to see it finished and running. Nice work!
Thank you sir.
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