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Fish Tank Forum • View topic - Paludarium (FAO Den)
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Paludarium (FAO Den)

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Paludarium (FAO Den)

Postby andy » Thu Nov 25, 2010 3:20 pm

Hi Den. Just had a chat with my mate about doing a paludarium and i need some advice. Hopefully i can explain this in basic terms.

I currently have a 57" long x 24" high x 19" wide tank. This will form the "wet" section of the paludarium. The tank will be lowered almost to ground level which will give me an overall height of 6 foot from the bottom of the tank to the top of the alcove it sits in. This would mean i have an approx height of 4 foot of "dry" section to play with.

The plan is, to make the top section out of ply so it just sits on the top of the aquarium. This top section would consist of just a back and two sides....a vented top and glass doors will eventually go at the front. I would construct a series of pools going from top to bottom and side to side to form the waterfall and some areas to form planting pockets.

Once this is done, i would fibreglass the whole of the enterior top section using black or dark green fibreglass.

Now comes the fun bit....the background area. Now most of the plants will be epiphytic...probably orchids but will also include some small earth stars (cryptanthus) and other small bromeliads, spanish moss, ficus pumilla, selaginella mosses and small ferns.

Now i either "rock up" the back section using an inert, porous rock such as lava rock (although i'm not a fan on the red colour of lava rock) or i can use expandable foam shaped into whatever designs i choose.

This is the bit i'm struggling with....i don't know if the foam is fish safe for a start although both me and my mate thought we'd heard of it being used before. I also don't know if it'll look tacky.....i really want this to represent a tropical revine leading down to a stream.

What do you think....or do you have any other suggestions ?

Cheers

Andy :thu:
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Re: Paludarium (FAO Den)

Postby Big Den » Thu Nov 25, 2010 5:29 pm

I like the sound of your idea Andy, it's given me food for thought. I have realised that planting is very restricted in a normal height tank. I think fibre glassing the whole interior is a bit overkill where a decent exterior quality ply sealed with a quality varnish will do the job just as well. I made a 8x2x2 tank from ply and only used 6 coats of G4 to seal it. Using the foam is a good idea but would have to be painted over with a water based paint and then sealed with something. I made some interior tank backings with pieces of polystyrene built up and carved to look like rock. I coated them with grey floor tile grout and then covered with G4. Any oil based sealer's do not go well with polystyrene, it melts it. Cant quite work out how the waterfalls will work from that sort of height though, will make hell of a splash when they reach the bottom. :-): Controlling the humidity is another problem as much for the plants as viewing. I will definitely be interested to see your progress on this project. :thu:
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Re: Paludarium (FAO Den)

Postby andy » Thu Nov 25, 2010 6:25 pm

Thanks Den....top reply as usual.

With regards to the waterfall, the plan would be to create a series of waterproof pools which will zig-zag across the back. One pool will gently flow/trickle into the one below it which then flows into the next one etc etc until it reaches the bottom tank....a bit like a normal pond waterfall really but the heights won't be too much.

I was originally thinking of using Canary nesting pans for the waterfalls.....screwed onto the back ply and placed one under another and then fibreglassed.

As for the humidity...it's something i've thought long and hard about for a few years. The top of the paludarium will be some sort of aluminium mesh that allows the humidity out. A few extractor fans may also be employed linked to some sort of hygrometer. However, most of the plants will love the high humidity so it's going to be a bit of guesswork.

The wet section will probably have a bog section made with some sort of partition....a bit like you've done in yours but it'll only be about 1/2" from the water surface and then filled with John Innes no 3. Tropical bog plats such as peace lillies (dwarf ones) can be grown in here.

Lighting is another issue. In my bathroom, i have 4 x 50w GU10 halogen bulbs (240v). I have just replaced them with 4 x 3w GU10 LED bulbs (48 LED bulbs per "bulb") which give a lovely bright light. I was thinking of using these or something similar although again, humidity might be an issue again. 8-10 lamps (only max 30watts) would probably be used as i have the space in the top.

The fish section would be planted with low light plants such as crypts and anubias and fish would be cardinal, pencils, hatchets, Bolivian rans etc. There may be the chance that some kind of amphibian such as tree or dart frogs might be added.

As you can guess...i've thought about this for a long time :-):
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Re: Paludarium (FAO Den)

Postby Big Den » Thu Nov 25, 2010 8:26 pm

As you know Andy my set-up is purely experimental at the moment but I am learning from it. I tried a venus fly trap in there at the start and it did well, but it was short lived and it just died off. The anubias does really well above and below water, shaded and in the open, great plant. I am growing some C bullosa out of water at the moment and they are doing really well, nice erect leaves on them. The Hygrophila was a mistake in such a small tank but impressive growth and looks very dramatic. I have another large plant in there which I seem to remember as something cardinalis, I may be wrong. It has large leaves, pinkish underneath rich green above, large chunky stem, size of your little finger. Transplants well to an under water environment, lovely center piece plant. I have some sphagnum moss in there that is doing well, I love mosses, and I am going to put some Java moss in to see how it does. With your set-up being tall and wide I would hunt for a nice big branch to go in, something that resembled a tree growing out of the bank, that would be great for growing some hanging mosses on.
I am going to have another prune this weekend and open up the lower areas so the cryps can get going.
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Re: Paludarium (FAO Den)

Postby andy » Thu Nov 25, 2010 8:48 pm

Think the "cardinalis" you're talking about is Lobeila Cardinalis....a reasonably hardy border border plant which will also grow quite happily as a marginal in a pond outside. The venus flytrap should do well as long as it's toes aren't submerged in water....they need to be kept moist at all times and appreciate soft/RO water but don't waterlog them.

I found Hydrocotyle was a decent submerged/terrestrial plant that crept into all the crevices.

A few large roots and branches will definately be included.

Watch this space mate :-):
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Re: Paludarium (FAO Den)

Postby Big Den » Thu Nov 25, 2010 10:08 pm

Thats where I went wrong with the venus, it was pretty much waterlogged and the hygrophila buried it in no time. Good luck with it mate, do some progress shots of the build if you can.
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Re: Paludarium (FAO Den)

Postby andy » Tue Nov 30, 2010 5:21 pm

Right...bit of an update. Been doing loads of research on this, visiting lots of websites, asking lots of questions and going to a few vivarium and amphibian shops too...as well as visiting McBeans orchids which is just up the road from me.

It looks like im going to be making the background out of bits of polystyrene glued together in a random way and then sculptured with a craft knife and a blow torch. An adhesive will be then added and soil, sand, gravel and moss stuck to the polystyrene. Large roots and pieces of bogwood will then complete the scape.

I'll probably add one of those eerie looking foggers to raise the humidity when needed and there will be various small fans linked to thermostats and hygrometers.

Here's a pic of how i want the shell to look. There's a fair chance i'll want dart frogs inn there at some point so it'll all be built from the start with this in mind.

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Re: Paludarium (FAO Den)

Postby Big Den » Tue Nov 30, 2010 7:29 pm

The poly is fairly easy to work with. I glued my pieces together with silicon and carved it with a sharp knife. Don't use a blow torch, use a hot air gun, like what's used to strip paint, its a lot safer and you wont get the toxic fumes. I covered mine with tile grout, gives it a nice rough surface for the mosses to take hold. Can't wait to see this up and running Andy, I stand looking at my little setup for ages.
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Re: Paludarium (FAO Den)

Postby Mick » Wed Dec 01, 2010 1:07 am

I can't wait to see this as well, two paludariums on the forum :-):
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Re: Paludarium (FAO Den)

Postby malakye » Sat Dec 04, 2010 1:05 am

Sounds fascinating. The frogs will eat fruit flies and pin head crickets so make sure your polystyrene is well covered otherwise those little blighters will eat into it and be aware both are escape artists.
Cant wait to see this take shape.
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