50g breeder paludarium journal & log - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-20-2007, 07:05 PM Thread Starter
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50g breeder paludarium journal & log

I believe this is my first 'official' post in these forums. My name is Simon, I've got about a dozen years of keeping freshwater fish and B.Orientalis, B.Bombina and B.Maxima (oriental, European, and 'giant' types of firebelly toads respectively)

So before I explain what I am doing, and pose my first in many questions, let me explain the 'story'. I originally had a pair of B.Orientalis that I rescued out of a LFS that was doing their very best to kill them. (think a 3 gallon container with more dead toads then live ones). I brought them home, called my old bible school teacher (Jane Hoffer, of Hoffer Pets in Milwaukee) and very carefully took notes. I originally set them up in a 20h, used a piece of egg crate to make a slope, tossed in gravel, pothos, and voila, it was a work of (crappy) art.

Of course, the itch settled in then, I soon had two more tanks of different types of Bombina running, each a 20h. I never went overboard on lighting, originally I used the fluorescent fixtures from my freshwater fish keeping days, then switched over to clamp style screw in bulb fixtures, with pc bulbs, two to a tank. I fell in love with the whisper 20i internal filters, careful placement of driftwood and it makes a very nice waterfall.

We jump back to the modern day, I still have those same 3 20g tanks, I proudly show them off (despite the fact that I don't have more then 2-3 species of plants, they are well grown in and look good to an uneducated viewer). I recieve a phone call several weeks ago that was a plea from a friend, her kids went out and bought 8 toads, from different stores, of differing sizes. She had, with a degree of horror, saw the largest toad cannibalize one of the much to small toads in the tank. She knew I kept them, and wanted them gone.. To be honest, I believe she also bought into the toxicity tale that fbt have (which is called unken-reflex, something produced only under certain circumstances, and has a very unique associated behavior with it) Being that is one thing I do, I grabbed several large Tupperware containers and drove over to her house and rescued the toads. I separated them first by size before returning them home, took me a few hours but I was able to seperate the 7 remaining toads by species. two went into my B.Bombina tank, 5 into the B.Orientalis tank. Now I stress about having 4 toads in a 20g. I know its supposed to be safe to do, I feel bad enough about keeping these guys out of their natural habitats, its worse if they are overcrowded. Having 7 toads however in a 20h is unacceptible, however I also refuse to mix species, given that all three tanks are in the middle of the fall mating season.

Long story short, it was time to upgrade from a 20g. I went over to hoffers, which is argueably one of the finest fish stores in Wisconsin, unfortunately also one of the most expensive. I did manage to get a bit of a deal on a 50g breeder tank, and stand. I was debating a 90 gallon, but I am not financially well off at the moment, and the price difference was considerable, especially given that having a 36x18 foot print is pretty darn good in comparison to a 48x18, and that my apartment isn't nearly large enough for a 90 gallon.

So I bring it all home and start hitting up websites, looking for information on planted tanks. I figure if I'm going to set up this 50g tank, I might as well go all out and do it as well as I can.. then I came here, and located this wonderfully gluttonous reservoir of accumulated knowledge.. and I've found myself wasting hours just digging thru archives trying to see what everyone else did.

I believe in KISS, it serves me well in my daytime (well, night time) job. If you are asking what KISS is, its an acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid. I ended up responding to a local ad on craigslist and snagged a used 20g tank, glass canopy, and a filter for 15 bucks, despite a large crack that runs across the top of the backwall of the tank (siliconed the heck out of) So I was able to seperate the B.Orientalis into two tanks, which quelled my fear of overstocking, but doesnt help my overall situation of having almost no floor or leg room left in my apartment. (tank on my kitchen table, coffee table, stand, two in my bedroom)

So with all those aquariums around I knew I had bit more time to do something nice with the large tank, and find that perfect place in my apartment to place it. I finally settled on a good location in my bedroom and I moved the tank into place, and then slammed into a 'creative wall' that I am still suffering from, I blame it all on these forums. I had a simple idea, and I've been so overloaded with information I'm not totally sure what to do now.

So this is what I have for the 50g breeder.

Lights:
Used (never been assembled) 2x55 watt ahsupply kit
or
4 clamp on style reflector lights with screw in pc bulbs


Substrate:
Approximately 2 bags of flourite original (1 full bag, 2 ~1/2 bags)

Pea gravel of various colors, mostly from HD and Lowes

White sand 20 lbs or so, left over from a friends aragonite project
(basic white playbox sand from HD)

2 bags Schultz Profile aquatic soil (left overs from bosses fish tank)

1 bag of Schultz peat moss (reads as Canadian spaghum)

Decorations:
5-6 medium pieces of driftwood that I got for 4 bucks from a lfs, they left them sitting in the back room of their shop in a 5 gallon bucket of water for a few months, were covered in a white fuzz from sitting in damp conditions. I remember reading somewhere however that this was not harmful, and the wood could be cycled along with a tank (its just a natural process/outgrowth)

Equipment:
2x Whisper 20i internal filters
2x 75w stealth heaters
2x microjet waterpumps about 50 gph each

So!

My concept for the tank is to simulate a pond edge or bogs edge if possible. I've got 18 inches of width to work, I was planning on clustering the majority of the driftwood against the rear wall of the tank, then running a declining grade down to the front of the aquarium. Place a 20i filter in the center of the tank with two pieces of drift wood to break up the water spill from the filter. I'm stuck on where to place the heaters and water pumps, my idea for the water pumps was to use a dripper manifold (if I can ever find one for under 10 dollars) and split the flow from the two microjets to 6 small black hoses I'd run up pieces of driftwood to accent with dripping or a small waterfall like action.

I want to have about 5-6 inches of water, heavy aquatic and emergent growth, java moss or something a bit.. ah..bit more interesting to cover the drift wood. I'd also like to have something a bit more interesting then pothos, dwarf hair grass, and java moss for the tank.

So thats where I am stuck at. Do I want to go low tech? Is it safe to use co2 with amphibians? Can I manage to grow a solid green substrate of some type of plant? What type of lights do I want with this setup for optimal growth? Should/Can I use "lucky" bamboo? According to tom barr, I should add peat moss to my substrate, how much? an inch? a sprinkling? this ties into the co2 question. Is it a good idea to layer flourite and schultz? Better idea to go buy Soilmaster select? Should I cap it with sand? am I being mental about this tank? What type of emergent plants should I be looking for to use for this concept? Is the white fuzzy malaysian drift wood safe to still use?

I apologize for my ramblings, I work thirdshift and should be sleeping right now, but I was quite ecstatic to make my first post and finally throw down my ideas. I promise to take pictures and to edit this post to make it legible after I get some sleep.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-26-2007, 06:23 AM
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Here are a few inspirational pictures for habitats you might emulate.







I'll post more info in the morning.

Good luck!
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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-29-2007, 04:48 PM Thread Starter
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Oh wow. Yeah.. see. what I have been doing is very, very pale in comparison to those pictures. Although that top picture is definately something I want to try to emulate a bit. The last few times I've set up an emergent tank, I've had problems hiding filter/heater/pump, although I also contribute a lot of that too the fact that a 20g high only has so much space. Before I start actually laying down substrate and equipment in the 50g, I'm trying to find a suitable amount of free time to research approperiate substrate, and whether or not co2 is feasible (given this tank is to be set up for the inhabitants, not just for plants)

Thank you for the response!
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-30-2007, 03:06 AM
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The idea to simulate a pond's edge is great, and you can do it quite easily. Instead of running a gradient, why not build up a wall with stone, wood, and bark to maintain the drier land section, without wasting the space (and substrate) necessary to create a sufficient gradient to provide the frogs with both sufficient swimming depth and land space? After that, you can artfully place the driftwood to create even more terrestrial space along with some alternative water exits.

The driftwood (as was your idea already) would work well to hide the filters and heaters behind. I think that you may have some difficulty finding use for both of the pumps, but in a tank of that size, you may very well be able to use them without their appearance becoming redundant.

You may consider using anubias, cryptocoryne, java fern, and other sturdier aquatic plants that grow well both immersed and emersed. Christmas moss looks great and grows densely both in and out of water. With your 2x55w of lighting, you're pretty limited to mid-to-low light plants, and even these will benefit from CO2 supplementation. I've used CO2 with Cynops orientalis with no ill effects, and I've read of people using CO2 with dwarf frogs, so it shouldn't negatively effect your amphibians; however, if you have a large amount of water turbulence (in the form of waterfalls,) it will be difficult to maintain high levels of saturation. For a low-tech carpet plant, you can try Glossostigma elatinoides, Marsiela minuta, Hemianthus micranthemoides, and perhaps Riccia fluitans. I'd probably stay away from lucky bamboo, as it can grow quite large.

As for your lighting, I'd stick with the AH Supply lights, but if you have more space left, you could implement it with the screw-in compact florescent clip lights. Opinions vary as to the depth you should use with the peat moss. Some don't bother with it, but those that use it vary between a thorough sprinkling to a full 1/2 inch depth. I imagine that it'd be fine to layer the shultz and flourite, but the less dense substrate will end up on the top. You can also consider topping the substrate with sand (especially if the foreground plants don't work out.) Keep in mind, however, that you should thoroughtly rinse the sand to be rid of the finest particles, which can suffocate roots and kill plants. Lastly, the white, fuzzy mold on the driftwood should deteriorate soon once it's cycled in the tank (and out of constant wetness.) This occurs often in terrariums, and after time, it phases away.

Good luck with your project, and keep us updated!
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-30-2007, 07:57 AM Thread Starter
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Well I've had problems doing slopes and gradients before in my previous set ups. One of the ideas I've been debating doing is either siliconing or fastening the driftwood to a piece of eggcrate. Since I want to keep the driftwood against the rear of the tank, I was thinking I might be able to silicone fiberglass screen mesh to the land side of the drift wood, also afix it to the eggcrate, then run it right up the back of the glass, making into a kind of pocket to raise the elevation of the substrate. One thing I am positive about is that I want to try to carpet the majority of the substrate. Once my brother gets back from egypt I'll have a digital camera to work with.

Now you say that the 2x55 watts will provide sufficient levels of illumination, it was to my understanding that the reason we went with higher intensity lighting was to provide sufficient penetration thru the water all the way to the bottom of the tank..

Okay I can see how that applies to a filled tank, but what about a tank that only has 5-6 inches of water in it? Wouldnt the 2x55 be almost to the point of overkill (if I went 100% low tech on it)
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-30-2007, 08:10 PM
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If eggcrate is the path you want to take, you should consider using flat pieces of rock, cork bark, or expandable pond foam, as I imagine that it will be difficult to affix oddly shaped driftwood to a flat surface. In addition, these methods will, I believe, prove more natral and aesthetic in their appearance.

As for questions on lighting, the adequacy of light intensity that reaches the water section really depends upon the manner in which you set up your paludarium. Many enclosures of this kind have issue with insufficient penetration, not because of the original wattage, but due to interference from both terrestrial plants (which vie for the same light source,) but also due to shadows cast by rocks, wood, etc. If designed very carefully, this should not be an issue, but since 55 gallon aquariums are not extrememly deep, you may have to worry about this.

Finally, if you want to go REALLY low tech, it's considerably harder to grow a lush forground, and you have to be patient, as the plants fill in rather painfully slowly. I would advise that you read up a lot on www.barrreport.com along with the "el natural" section on www.aquaticplantcentral.com/forumapc.

Good luck!
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-01-2007, 06:10 AM Thread Starter
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Its actually a 50 gallon, 36x18 foot print, 20 inches tall. One thing I always questioned, I've seen alot of nice backgrounds. Alot of them use standard great stuff expanding foam, is this naturally safe for an aquarium or must it be sealed in something?
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-01-2007, 06:26 AM
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my 2 cents...
There is safe expanding foam made just for ponds. Cool thing is that it is black in color too. This makes it really easy to cover it up. The yellow cheapo foam like for insulating just looks bad... well if you're not really careful. I tried. anyway. the black pond expanding foam is a great short cut. A little more expensive, but you don't have to be so careful about covering it up or mistakes you make with it. Plus the pond foam is made for use around ponds.. you still need to wait for it to cure before you expose critters to it... but it will cure up safely for them.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 12-02-2007, 05:46 AM Thread Starter
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I think I might end up using the black waterfall pond expanding foam, I've seen some reports on dendro boards that they press sifted coco bedding into it, to provide camoflauge and a suitable planting medium for bromeliad etc.. Plants is another thing I need to really think about, my current budget limits me to picking up whats available in the local area, and with winter already here I wouldn't trust anything to be shipped via postal service. So many decisions, so many ideas, its hard every time I look at the tank I get a different idea on how to put it together.

The barreport website is a treasure trove, I had already read thru some of plantbrains posts about growing green without algae, seems easy enough to do.. I just want to settle on one concept before moving forward.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-01-2008, 05:19 PM
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Heya Twisted, are there any updates to this project?

-Cassie S.
No fish or invert tanks right now... just 1 H. azureiventris...
But I'm working on that!
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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-19-2008, 05:03 PM
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My tank is very similar, if I could find some pics, i'll update you guys. My trip to black jungle has been posponed due to bad weather here, so I only have a few plants for now. I'll get a pic up here if I can.
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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old 02-23-2008, 07:33 AM Thread Starter
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unfortunately the tank has been sitting empty in my bedroom for the last few months. I've gone as far as placing driftwood into it, but everytime I look at it a different idea or concept pops into mind, so I've been holding off on it. Currently my hobby time is being taken up with some sheet metal projects I was putting off, once those are finished I'll be starting up work on this again.
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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-03-2008, 12:46 AM
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http://www.dendroboard.com/member-s-...opic33642.html


This is mine. Enjoy, and get a move on, on that tank! I want to see progress!

Any questions at all, email, MSN, AIM, PM are all open for questions!
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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old 07-07-2008, 02:47 PM
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So, did this tank ever get started?

1 10 gal low tech planted tank. 1- 10 gal lowtech w/ diy co2. 55 gal lowtech planted tank. 20 gallon reef tank. 55 gallon paludarium for dart frogs. large exo-terra vivarium for madagascar giant day gecko. working on getting 65 gal brackish tank soon
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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old 07-17-2008, 10:24 PM
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ya whats the word on it?
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