First vivarium, 36x18x18 ExoTerra - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-05-2015, 04:21 PM Thread Starter
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First vivarium, 36x18x18 ExoTerra

This is my first try at a vivarium. I'm really happy how the water portion turned out, like the rock pile and natural caves. For the land part I wish I would have done a DIY expanding foam background, maybe next time. Also in retrospect should have got a 36x18x24 to give the plants more room to stretch. But all in all quite happy.

The land portion has an eggcrate false bottom covered by landscaping weed barrier, thin layer of expanded clay balls, and main substrate is from NEHerps. 4x36" T5HO fixture with 6700k bulbs. Bought a mixed lot of cuttings from a local seller and also added the 2 bromeliads and 2 tillandsias. Unfortunately the cuttings in the lot were not individually labelled. I have identified a few as various Peperomia species, but not sure on the rest.

Total water volume about 6gal, filtered by a Rio 50+ powerhead with filter kit (replaced foam from one chamber with biomedia). I have 3 guppies in there after a fishless cycle. They really love the caves and go right in there to sleep as soon as the lights go out (blue moonlight LEDs stay on for night viewing). The system seems to be handling the bioload quite well. All the plant species seem to be thriving too (Lobelia cardinalis, Anubias nana, Spathiphyllum wallisii). The Lobelia cardinalis need to be thinned out, can't believe how much they grew in short time. I still want to find another semi-aquatic species to fill in on the back wall of the water portion, any suggestions are welcomed.

Thanks for looking!


Last edited by simplechamp; 09-06-2015 at 06:06 PM. Reason: Added pic and info
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-05-2015, 05:41 PM
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Looks pretty good. Now please go and take a FTS from a few feet away showing the boundaries of the enclosure so we can ooh and aah some more.

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According to my husband, I have a habit of jumping right in!
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-05-2015, 07:31 PM
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Nice.
And with the photo requested by Daisy, a complete list of plants


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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-06-2015, 01:19 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks all. Added full tank shot and the info I have on the plants in the original post.

Got a new small piece of driftwood today, soaking it right now to leach out the tannins.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-17-2015, 03:37 AM Thread Starter
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So I'm having a bit of a problem with the substrate being too wet. In the summer it was fine, misted a few times a week and watered plants judging by how the substrate looked/felt. Moisture content of substrate was easy to control. Now that the weather is changing and the house is cooling I've had to add a UTH to keep the water temp up. But ever since then the soil has been getting increasingly damp. I haven't watered or misted the tank in over 2 weeks. I'm also noticing the water level is dropping much quicker.

The only thing I can think of is the combination of cooler/dryer air and UTH is leading to lots more evaporation and the substrate is absorbing it. But I'm not really sure what I can do about it? Any thoughts or ideas would be greatly appreciated. I can already tell some of the plants aren't happy with the damp substrate and I'm concerned about mold forming.

I'm thinking about trying to cover the screen lid with glass (not all but most) to isolate the interior of the tank from the cool/dry air outside. I know that will trap moisture in which is counterintuitive, but I'm wondering if I keep the humidity and vapor pressure higher then it might stop the substrate from acting as a wick for evaporating water.

EDIT: Decided to go ahead with covering the screen to see what happens. I'm testing with clear plastic wrap right now, so that if it doesn't help I don't waste money on a piece of glass or lexan. If it does help then I'll get a permanent solution.

Last edited by simplechamp; 10-17-2015 at 03:58 AM. Reason: added
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-17-2015, 03:31 PM
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Are you positive it's humidity and not a leak or water being wicked through the substrate somehow (moss is great at doing this). I use a small usb fan to control humidity in my paludarium. If I put the lids on my tank during the day when the dew point/temp drops the glass becomes completely fogged. I hope it's just changing weather and not a leak from tilting the tank to install the uth or something.
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-17-2015, 03:59 PM Thread Starter
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I'm pretty sure it IS water being wicked through the substrate. I'm trying to understand why it's happening now and was fine before. The water level is well below the false bottom. I could see a wicking problem if the water was too high, but it's exactly the same it's always been. Slid the UTH under the tank without moving/tilting so I don't think it's a leak. Leak would account for lost water but not the increasingly wet substrate.

Only changes are the outside air temp/humidity and the UTH. I think my theory is far fetched, but not sure what else to do. Tank is pretty fogged up right now with the plastic wrap on the top.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 11-13-2015, 05:52 PM
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WoW! Very nice combo of land and water. What sort of critters are you going to add to this? I really like the back "rock" wall. Where did you find that?
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 11-22-2015, 01:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Julia Adkins View Post
WoW! Very nice combo of land and water. What sort of critters are you going to add to this? I really like the back "rock" wall. Where did you find that?
Those actually come with most Exo-Terra vivariums; it is made of foam.

As far as the main topic here and the wet soil issue; it looks like your "water table" is too high. The water will wick into the soil if the soil area is not high enough above the water, and capillary action will draw the water surprisingly high into whatever gravel/drainage material you are using, which then causes the wicking.

Because of this, many people who keep vivaria with a larger water section (for amphibians, vampire crabs, etc.) either keep the water very shallow, have a relatively tall tank (which allows them to have deeper water), or stick to epiphytic plants or species that can tolerate waterlogged roots.

If you really like your water area and you do not wish to change it, you will have to change the plants you have in the soil to species that are more easily able to cope with waterlogged soil.

Cryptocoryne sp. will work well for this; many of the plants in the genus grow in streambanks and other areas where they are only submerged for part of the year; they tolerate being submerged permanently, but they can also be grown in wet soil if the humidity is high enough. If you can find them, plants from the genus Lagenandra work well for this too, and most of the aquarium mosses and liverworts will take off on wet soil.

Finally, I don't know what kind of bromeliads those are, but if they aren't terrestrial, the wet soil will probably kill them. When it comes to vivaria/paludaria, if you want epiphytes, the best way to grow them is with a background that can support them. I'd suggest looking into a tree fern or cork bark background, because (with a drip line to provide moisture where needed) you can grow all kinds of epiphytic things more easily on a background made of organic material.
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