Contemplating a micro/pico paludarium build for college
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Old 12-02-2013, 08:09 PM   #1
Winsloop
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Contemplating a micro/pico paludarium build for college


Yesterday I came to the realization that, with the exception of maybe a betta, I think I’m done with trying to keep fish in college. It’s a painful thing for me to admit, but it comes down, mostly, to logistics. I came to this sudden realization when I checked on the tank my roommate and I set up after spending the thanksgiving weekend back home.

See, the issue is this, I’ve kept planted aquariums for the last nearly three years with variable success, though tending towards the positive, and my roommate hasn’t any experience with fish, except for a comet from a fair that died after a month or so. So when we set our tank up, I had everything selected. 2.5 gallon tank with filter and heater, a java fern, an anubias congensis, and three harlequin rasboras. At the last minute, my roommate decided to purchase a dwarf gourami ‘because it doesn’t get that big’.

The dang thing killed and ate a rasbora the first night. Still it was fine by my roommate, since it was ‘just scared by the move’. Yeah. It killed and at the other two over the four day weekend after having been fed three times (by my roommate) the day we both left. They can have the tank at the end of the year, fine by me.

The major logistical issue in me keeping fish in college is that I live more than fourteen hours by car (or two flights) away from my home, and I’m not exactly sure how happy many fish would be with hours in unfiltered water while crossing a mountain range or six hours (counting layovers) in 3oz of water, if I tried to fly with them.

I’ve decided to look into a nano/pico paludarium.

In keeping with the theme of probably no fish, I’m okay if it’s more of a terrarium than not, with only the smallest amount of water. I’ve been looking at the Exo-Terra Glass Terrarium in either the 8x8x8 or 8x8x12 dimensions, since it has a waterproof base and the front door for ease of maintenance.

My two major questions that come into play here, since I can get plenty of information on the build and subsequent areas from the internet, are:
1) How do I do this and not break the bank on a college-student-with-hyper-limited-funds, as in what plants can I keep in as low tech an environment as possible? And
2) Is it even relatively feasible to travel with one for such a long distance when I go home at the end of term?

It won’t have any animal components, unless I go with a larger water area and like mosquito fish or something, since my uni says no pets except fish in the dorms, so keeping animals alive doesn’t really pose an issue.

The build would be based off an emergently growing anubias barteri v. ‘coffeefolia’ that I have, so it would lean toward the more tropical end of the spectrum.
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Old 12-04-2013, 01:56 AM   #2
lochaber
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heh, I started keeping fish in college.

Also did my first paludarium in college - took a 10 gallon, a bag of lava rock, and a couple tubes of silicone, and went nuts. It worked pretty well, was cheap, and looked a lot better then I expected. It was also ridiculously heavy for a 10 gallon.

Traveling is definitely an issue. I don't think a full-blown fish tank is out of the picture, but it might work better if instead of traveling with your fish, you shipped them instead - especially if you have someone at either your origin or destination whom you trust - get them to either ship the fish after you leave (so you arrive early enough to prep for their arrival), or to set up stuff in preparation for your (and the aquatic critters) arrival (ship before you travel).

Also, if you aren't too attached to the individual fish, you should consider selling them before you leave. The San Francisco Aquarium Society (If your profile location is where you are now, if not, I don't imagine this helps much...) has monthly meetings (first Friday, usually), with auctions before the meeting. They have a meeting this week too.

Back to the paludarium bit, the cheapest option would be to get a tank at the dollar/gallon Petco sale (if that ever happens again...), and build your paludarium in that. If you haven't already, check out Dendroboard - there are some great paludarium builds over there:

http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/

Or maybe find a tank on craigslist. Those exo-terra aren't cheap from what I remember (all though, those doors probably make maintenance on a terrarium a lot easier). As for equipment, you'll just need a heater (maybe not, if your dwelling is somewhat climate controlled), a light (anything from a clip-on worklight to a hood, to a diy bit), and a water pump (desktop fountain pump, small powerhead, etc.)

You don't even need to do much of a background/hardscape - I've seen pretty good setups where someone just made really good use of driftwood and such to provide terrestrial areas.

Plants are probably easier in a paludarium, since you can get a lot of them to grow partially emmersed. Like anything else, mosses, java fern, and anubias are great choices. Creeping ficus does great for the terrestrial section, but it will suffocate a small paludarium.

I've just tossed in a few feeder guppies, and eventually there are a few that survive, and they can make for an interesting (and inexpensive) population.

Anyways, most paludarium builds are going to be heavier (unless it's some sort of removable background/hardscape), and harder to move then an aquarium, for what that's worth.
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Old 12-04-2013, 02:39 AM   #3
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I totally agree with lots above.

10 gallon tanks are pretty easy to find on craigslist for $10. If that seems boring, consider doing a 10g vert conversion. Dendroboard has info on that.
Terrestrial plants that stay small include peperomia, pilea, African violets, neo broms, and orchids. Those first 3 can start from a single leaf snipped off of a plant.
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