Brainstorming on a giant Orchidarium

mrbreeze(z6/7 OK)January 5, 2004

I've been working on a plan mostly in my head for awhile now and was hoping for some suggestions.

Since finding that glass is quite a bit cheaper then plexi I've decided to use it. But it brings up a couple of questions. For one, the front could either be a big sliding panel or it could be two panels with hinges so it opens outward like a book. Or I suppose it could be two panels sliding across each other.

For my design it's not crucial that the glass part be water proof or airtight, just that it holds the humidity in, so the seams don't necessarily need to be sealed. In fact, I was thinking some kind of wooden frame could keep the glass in place and also support light fixtures.

The best part of my plan is this. I'll have a one foot deep basin made of plywood w/ a wood base. I"ll line that with a pond liner. The back will be a piece of wood that can be used to attach cork and other substrates and then plants. It will also be easy to make a couple of holes to house two fans, one in, one out. The liner can go up the back a couple of feet for moisture protection because...ideally...I'll have a waterfall coming out of the back into a tiered set of falls going down levels to a stream, ending in a pool, all of which would be lined similarly w/ pond liner. I'm thinking dimensions of about 5 feet wide, 4 feet tall, and something less then 3 feet deep because doorways are only 3 ft. wide (at least the one I measured).

So anyway...if anyone's still reading at this me out!

Is it a huge hassle to hinge glass panes together?

Will the measurments have to be so precise that I can't handle it?

Can liner be glued to wood?

Should I put casters on the base to make the thing movable?

A gap along the top would increase airflow and help dissipate heat BUT if it was permanent, and too much humidity got out...very bad. A movable gap would be ideal...but complex to construct.

Is there a better way to make streams/waterfall type constructions then to use styrofoam coated w/ something? Real rock would be way too heavy to use for all of it.

okay, that's enough. Any ideas would be welcome.

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westoh Z6


Been lurking a while and have deciced to try something similar myself, mine would house orchids and dart frogs.

A couple of observations:

1. My stereo cabinet has a glass door that works from a hinge, that type of pressure-screw/set-screw set-up may work for the book-like opening doors.
2. If using a 'safe' glue, I can not see why you would not be able to glue a pond liner to a wood cabinet.
3. If your wooden frame gives some room for slop (in the slots/grooves, etc..), I would think that the measurments won't have to be too exacting. Within 1/8" should be OK.
4. I would definately put casters on for ease of movement.
5. If you install the fans, isn't the air movement a moot point???
6. I was thinking about using the spray expandable foam that some people use on the backs for this purpose, just not real sure how workable the foam is as it is curing???

I constructed a 20gal high terrarium over Christmas just to see what was actually involved. Things have worked out great, although I am going to have to install a small fan as I can not keep the heat from rising to 83-84 degrees at times.
I am definately thinking about moving up to a 70gal set-up next. I like the 36"L x 18"W x 26"H size of tank and with an unfinished stand, it was around $200 total. Pretty steep me thinks... but I may give it a shot if the 20gal continues to function properly. Nothing special as far as doors etc, I plan on placing things and feeding through the top. I would also plan on installing a automatic mister, in the larger tank.

I currently have 2 55 watt(5500K & 6700K) CF's over the 20gal, way more light than I need, but I was planning on upgrading to a larger tank, so I hope I over-bought on the lights.

Keep me informed and I'll do the same for you...


    Bookmark   January 5, 2004 at 10:56AM
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Well, I did have a nice long post, but it apparently didn't go through...

I'm very new to Gardenweb, but I'm in the same position. I have several carnivorous plants and I'm starting to collect Orchids. For the last 1.5 years or so, they've had a place on the back of my computer monitor-don't laugh, works great! Unfortunately, with the addition of the orchids, it's time for a large display case.

I want something free-standing, with ventilation, lighting and relatively easy watering and maintenance. What I've looked at so far is something about 3'x3'x18". I will use glass, as it is quite a bit cheaper(as you mentioned). I plan on having a vent fan in the top, one in the back or sides(to promote an overall 'flow' to the case), and I have lots of 120v and 12v muffin fans and would just need to fashion a speed control.

I'm looking into using an epoxy paint like the kinds offered here: It's 100% waterproof, seems relatively easy to use and non-toxic once dry. THe Bright white color would probably be the best stock color offered.

So once built and sealed with silicone, it would be further sealed by the paint.

I think I would probably have the back open up for watering and maintenance instead of trying to engineer a glass door or doors for the front.

Any other thoughts?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2004 at 5:50PM
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sahoyaref(Alberta z3a)

Wouldn't it be better from an aethetic point of view to make the back open up, as GaWd suggested, only since you want a waterfall along the back, you could make a side open up. That way your front could be just one pane of glass, no hinges or anything to fool with. If you do go with hinges, they are not all that easy to work with. I know this because once my cat ran into the glass front of my parent's entertainment centre (someone had left it open) and cracked the glass. Well, I had to pay for a replacement glass, and when my dad was trying to get the hinges on the new glass. . . he cracked it. Not badly, but it doesn't look good. And my dad is a handy guy, so it's not like he's a klutz or anything.
Also, if you're going to have this case on a carpeted area, I don't think casters would do that much good, because they will just sink into the carpet with the weight of an orchidarium that huge.
I don't see a problem gluing pond liner to wood if you use aquarium sealant. Other glues may eat away at the liner (just a guess).
I don't think EXACT measurement would be too crucial. Just seal any cracks with aquarium sealant. The only thing you'd want exact would be the glass.
I saw my husband looking at something on the 'net a couple days ago about using that expanding foam for sculpting with live rock for saltwater aquariums. It was a very good article. I'll see if he can find it again, and then post the link, okay? I gave details like curing time, how much you need for how much area, etc.
Sounds pretty sweet though! Definitely post pics when you're done! I'd love to have an orchidarium that big. . . I mean WOW! At 4' high, you could put a Vanda in there!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2004 at 8:53PM
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mrbreeze(z6/7 OK) for opening at the top. That's where the lights will be and from maintaining my 29 gallon tank for quite a few years, I know it's a hassle to mess with the top. So that's right out.

I hadn't thought about opening at the sides in some way but with the dimensions I'm talking about it wouldn't be feasible to reach the other side.

Opening at the back might have some possibilities. I envision the back totally covered with bark and ferns and orchids etc. but maybe if only the top half of the back were removable or something... worth thinking about.

My main reasons for an open front design are for ease of maintenance and planting/pruning. Once these things get going they do take some trimming and cleaning and repositioning of plants, adding and removing plants, watering, etc. I just think it would be SO much easier to do all of this straight through the front. I like to mess w/ my plants and I'd like to be able to do that w/ a minimum of effort.

I'm now kind of leaning towards having a two-piece, sliding glass front. Basically just like a sliding patio door w/out the frame. The two pieces could either meet in the middle or slide past each other. In addition to be lighter and easier to manuver in two pieces, one would only need to move one side if one side of the tank needed attention. Of course that would be true of two doors as well.

Somebody asked wouldn't the movable top for more air flow be moot if you have fans. I think not. The fans are just for moving the air around for the orchids. The movable top or something else would be to regulate humidity...and might not be necessary especially in one of the size i'm talking about. Not to mention the same thing could be achieved just by leaving the door/sliding panel open a little bit. So...I guess I just talked myself out of that feature! woohoo!!!

    Bookmark   January 6, 2004 at 2:19AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Since your project is going to be so large I would guess the design would be dictated by it's location in the room??. I've been roaming around the internet for inspiration for a similar project of my own. You might check out the Dutch or Japanese vivarium sites. They seem to have thought os everything.They also give a lot of technical info. for lighting, ventilation.etc.
I"d often thought of using a curio cabinet as a base as you can get these in many designs and sizes..Of course they would have to be altered for this purpose but they would give you the basic cabinet. I've seen several of these at used furniture stores at quite reasonable prices.
Another is display cases from retail stores.You can get a lot of material for very reasonable cost.The same is true for light fixtures.
In my case,I'm starting with a 75 gallon aquarium as I wanted both above and below water views. I like the 4 foot width as it's easy to find lighting in this size but 18 inches in width is so limiting. I'm addding another plexiglass section on top made from salvaged materials.
The upper section will clip together so it can be removed. The entire unit will be 48x18 x54 inches high.
I was sooo tempted to start with a display case that I found but I already had the tank so decided against it.
I wanted to combine a riffle tank with an upper canopy
for epiphytes with cross sectional views.
I'm using a magnum 350 for the filter and waterfall.Was surprised to find that it will actually pump that high lol.
You might check out the "black jungle" site.They have a lot of info on setting up large terrariums in a step by step method.Certainly gave me a lot of inspiration.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2004 at 6:20AM
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sahoyaref(Alberta z3a)

Couldn't find that article on using expanding foam. Sorry! But I do remember that you need to work fairly quickly with it, it expands more than you think it will, and you would probably need three cans of the stuff for a waterfall all the way up the back of your tank. I believe the brand he was using was called "Great Stuff". I totally agree with garyfla about checking the dutch site. It is so cool! I've posted the link to one of their largest and best vivariums below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Huge Vivarium Pic

    Bookmark   January 6, 2004 at 1:57PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

That is the site I was referring to. Did you note the dims of it?? Almost a greenhouse lol. The great drawback to using aquariums is the narrow width.You need it to landscape properly.
I'm using some of the "great stuff" in my new setup for the first time. I usually use corkbark attached to the glass.This stuff should allow a lot more 3 dimensional design. I used rocks glued to styrofoam for the waterfall
area and will use the foam for planting areas to the side.
Even in my limited area I should be able to go from completely submerged to dry upper canopy.
I'm using these ideas for the circulation methods from that site. I like the automated controls on it.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2004 at 7:42AM
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homer_zn5(z5 IN)

Mr. Breeze,

Since you are just making a terrarium without worry of live animals escaping, you won't have to be too exacting with cutting your lumber, etc. If you have a router with a flush-cutting bit, you can remedy most ridges or imperfections at overlapping joints.

As far as sliding fronts, it might be easier to make a wooden (or even easier, plywood) frame for the sliding/hinged door and glue a typical single thickness glass to the frame. That would save you a lot of weight, and you wouldn't have to worry about having the glass edges rounded. Plexi would be a bad bet for sliding doors, as it bows too much, especially when exposed to even moderate (80-90 degree) heat. Another thing I will point out to you is that if you have 2 panes of glass in a sliding front terrarium, you will definitely want them to pass one in front of the other. Otherwise, getting to certain areas of the terrarium becomes quite difficult, since you can only push the glass so far beyond the track. I would really suggest using a thin wood frame and using a piano hinge (which are easily hidden by proper installation)on each side.

Adjustable air vents are really easy: just have an opening at the top and a piece of wood/plexiglass/etc. that could cover it. Now, slide the wood/plexi to open up the vent as far as you want. However, I doubt you will have humidity problems (too high) in a large setup with fans.

What you will need to consider, however, is whether condensation on the glass will obscure vision. I guarantee that it will unless you provide a vent directly over the glass or utilize a fan to prevent the condensation on the inside of the glass. I just used a thin (2") vent (hole) that ran the entire length of my front glass. That workse very well unless there is a great temp difference (over 10-12 degrees F) between the temp in the terrarium and the temp outside the terrarium.

Well, I've probably said too much already, but let me know if I was just rambling and unclear.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2004 at 4:13PM
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Keep rambling, Homer. We need more people with your experience rambling in this thread so people like Breeze and myself can come away with a workable idea.


    Bookmark   January 9, 2004 at 5:18PM
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mrbreeze(z6/7 OK)

Yes! Please keep rambling. You made a series of excellent points. The more "brainstorming" on this the better.

I noticed many of the Dutch vivariums did have the vent for the front glass as you described. It seems like I could use the same strategy that they did and hinge the glass at the top and incorporate a vent. But I feel the fans inside will be enough to keep the glass clear for the most part.

I'd certainly like to hear about people's experiences with using the foam to create features. Is the foam naturally waterproof? I can see great possibilities with using chicken wire to make forms and then covering them w/ the foam (for making waterfall/cascade structures etc.) but I wonder about whether it's waterproof without additional toxic coatings. and for that matter whether the foam might have some toxins. But i guess if it did the Dutch would have a lot of dead frogs in their tanks eh?

keep the ideas coming!

    Bookmark   January 10, 2004 at 1:46AM
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homer_zn5(z5 IN)

Foam is not toxic, and it is waterproof. Most people use the expanding foam sold in cans called "Great Stuff." It is usually $3 per can, but you can sometimes find it for about $2 in the spring/summer. There is also a double-sized can sold for about $4 at some hardware stores. Check out Black Jungle for their "how to" series on making a contoured background with the stuff (it's their big display terrarium). A lot of dart frog owners use the stuff, so it can't be toxic (and it's closed-cell). It might gradually deflate a little bit over a period of 5-10 years, but the shrinkage should be negligible.

Now, Mr. Breeze, I wanted to tell you that I think the Pond Liner idea is great. I considered using that means myself, but I wanted to be absolutely certain that I didn't have to redo anything, and I had a much smaller space to waterproof (2'x2'x2'). I'm pretty convinced that the pond liner would be ideal, as long as you used one continuous piece for the bottom retaining area . Set it in the sun or under a warm lamp before putting it down . . . that will make it more flexible to form (it's what I used under my waterfall area). For adhesive, I would use liquid nails. It sticks to anything (much better than silicone to wood), and who cares if it dries nontoxic? It will be under your liner, so no contact with the inside environment. However, make sure that all wood that is not covered by the liner (and seal that liner around the edges) is at least covered with 2 coats of spar varnish (~$10 for enough to cover a LOT of surface area) to prevent warping/molding/etc from the high humidity.

Ga--Epoxy paint is definitely a great choice. It is what I used, and it seals watertight--I have personally seen plywood aquariums (400 gallons) made by painting the plywood shell with epoxy paint. However, I would caution against using 1 part epoxy paint. Your best quality epoxies come in two parts, and usually dry much more evenly and quickly. I would personally use a marine grade epoxy paint like is sold here: The price is better, it's US military grade (meaning top of the line), and I'll bet there is enough to cover your project for about $40 shipped. Trust me, this stuff is better than the stuff rustoleum sells.

If you're looking to put together an automated misting system, Greg Zollinger had a great how-to (of sorts) in an earlier post, and I'm in the process of putting one together right now. However, if you are going to run 6+ nozzles (like you would probably need with a huge terrarium), I would spend the $100 to buy a professional system from or

As far as water features go, I have used fountain pumps with great success, and they're much cheaper than the powerheads that others use. I would just suggest that you make an easy access to the pump for maintenance or replacement. That could either be a hole in the false bottom or a door in the back/side of the terrarium below the false bottom and above the waterline.

Casters--an excellent notion. I have my terrarium and stand on casters, as it is a monster to move otherwise. Just make sure you have enough weight rating on the casters to handle it . . . and they are a bit pricey when you get into the heavy duty casters.

That's all I can think of here. Other than deciding on your design and getting all your considerations together for the details, this is really a very easy project if you are a decent woodworker (or even a passable "weekend warrior" in the woodshop like myself). I would personally just make a plywood shell (probably a mix between 3/4" and 1/2"), paint it up, and apply the glass doors on the front with hinges. It will take some time (more than you think), but it will definitely be a great addition when you are finished, and you will save a bundle (yeah, those "orchidariums" online are RIDICULOUSLY priced for what they are--a box with a fan).

Best of luck,


    Bookmark   January 10, 2004 at 8:34AM
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mrbreeze(z6/7 OK)

Homer are just the brainstormer I've been looking for. I can't thank you enough for your suggestions.

Do you have anything to say about the whole false bottom concept? I guess I get that it makes for more uniform humidity and water can drain through the media and collect where it can be used for pumping back to waterfalls and I assume misters/foggers.

But I wonder about discoloration of the water and also whether solids might collect down there and get into the plumbing of the water features. Seems like this could be a particular problem with the ultrasonic misters. And I was also thinking there could be a problem with fertilizer buildup in the water. If it drains through media on the floor (which would get rained on from above as well) the small amounts of fertilizer and dissolved salts/minerals would eventually accumulate in the water no? and if so, this would make it unsuitable for watering plants. This would be a negative to me because one of the best features I saw on one of the Dutch vivariums was a self-moisturizing epiphyte wall and I would worry that percolated water would kill the plants.

In fact, one reason I thought about the pond liner was to avoid the hassle of construction when using a false bottom. And I guess I just don't see the benefits but since so many incredible tanks use them...I feel I'm missing something.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2004 at 6:55PM
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homer_zn5(z5 IN)

False bottoms really aren't too difficult to construct, and I really like the fact that they do a nice job of draining the substrate without adding a lot of weight to the setup. I have never had a problem with my pump being clogged from anything collecting in the false bottom, and I have Cryptocorynes growing in a pond that is constantly being filled and overflowed by water collected in the false bottom.

I think you'll find that if you have a fairly densely planted terraria, the fertilizers will be quickly used up and won't concentrate too much in the reservoir. Yes, there will be solids that accumulate in the water that might corrode your ultrasonic fogger. However, I wouldn't use an ultrasonic fogger anyway. The mist doesn't come up high enough to be effective all around.

Instead, I would buy a Sunbeam or Walgreens cool mist humidifier (an ultrasonic humidifier). You can take the little cap off the place where the mist comes out. Coincidentally, it is the perfect size to stick a 1.5" PVC pipe and pipe it into your terrarium. That way, the humidity rains down from above, covering everything. You can also have a "mister bar" inside the terrarium which is 1.5" PVC running along the top back wall with holes drilled every 6" for the mist to come out of. And believe it or not, it's going to cost you the same or less than buying an ultrasonic fogger/mister (I got mine for $20). Just hook it up to a digital timer, and you fill the 1 gallon tank every week or so. That way, you don't have to worry about dissolved solids forming on the ultrasonic fogger (because ultrasonic humidifiers are just an ultrasonic fogger, a fan, and a water reservoir).

I guess I don't understand how you were planning on setting up your tank if you weren't going to use a false bottom. Were you going to use expanded clay or gravel on the bottom to keep your soil from being saturated? That adds a lot of weight, and expanded clay is expensive if you are going to buy that much of it. Let me know what you think.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2004 at 9:21PM
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mrbreeze(z6/7 OK)

Well for one thing I plan on having a number of "features" that take up a good amount of floor space. A cascade type waterfall leading to a small pond with possibly a stream in between. Also some large pieces of either real or fake wood/branches that would subtract from the area of the floor. About the only things I'm likely to grow on the floor would be mosses, ferns, maybe a couple of low-light miniture bromeliads and tropicals, and so for the most part my plan was to use a deep layer of sphagnum moss over some kind of inert material like packing peanuts. In the few places where I might want a more terrestrial plant I could pretty easily bury a pot or just add a section of "soil". My original idea was to have a patchwork of different media/soil types on the floor that would help to keep plants segregated I think. But I'm now thinking that the floor probably won't get enough light to make that idea worth messing with.

I might mention that I envision making the waterfall structure out of either styrofoam coated with something, or expanding foam (however you do that), or wire forms w/ fiberglass....and I'll incorporate various sized planting pockets around this structure which could then be planted with media of whatever type is desired. Then tuck in sphag and other mosses in the blank spaces between features.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2004 at 1:30AM
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homer_zn5(z5 IN)

I don't see why that wouldn't work. It sounds like a good idea to me, and I've seen others use the styro packing peanuts as well for the drainage material. The only drawback is that your water reservoir won't hold as much water for your pump (because it's filled with peanuts), and you will have a bit of a floating base. I'm sure that won't be too much of a problem, though.

As for low light groundcover, Selaginellas work pretty well. I'm guessing you are going to be using high pressure sodium lights or something of the like to get enough light down to the bottom of 4 feet. I really don't have any experience there, as I have simply used compact fluorescents for spaces up to 2 feet deep. It sounds like you have it all planned out now.

What did you think of the ultrasonic humidifier idea? I have to admit that I did not come up with it, but saw others put one together for a misting system in dart frog tanks. Best of luck!

    Bookmark   January 11, 2004 at 5:27AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

I used rocks glued to styrofoam for my waterfall area.
I also used some of the expanding foam to hold the driftwood in place and to direct the water toward the center. I'm so impressed with the Ex, foam I decided to rip the whole thing out and start over using the foam exclusively..
The stuff comes out of the can like shaving cream and very sticky and continues to expand for around 30 minutes.
In my case I want the waterfall to be about 35 inches tall and no more than 6 inches wide at the base. Would sure be nice to lay the aquarium on it's side while doing this.
Gravity would then work for me as was suggested on the Black jungle site. Can't do that so I'm going to work up the wall a row at a time.
The material is remarkably strong and adheres ver well to the glass and held the driftwood in place.
The only thing I can find wrong with it is the sickly yellow Since this will be a waterfall don't think the coco fiber would stay in place and the foam will not accept rocks in to it.. I've decided to paint it after it sets up. I've used a paint called Patio Paint that works very well and will even adhere completely submerged.
Don't know how it will work with the abrasive action of water running over it.
Any suggestions on what color a waterfall should be? lol

    Bookmark   January 11, 2004 at 6:14AM
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voodoolizard(z4 MN)

Thought I would share this like with you. It's a step-by-step for a six foot high vivarium built by a dart frog keep in the Netherlands.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2004 at 5:49PM
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mrbreeze(z6/7 OK)

Gary: have you tried mixing any peat into that foam? I wonder if the dutch masters that make the "special recipe" for covering their fake tree branches are using some kind of "special" foam? Why won't the rocks stick to it? Do they just fall off? I think waterfalls should be painted a base of gray with some brown and green and black mixed in here and there.

Voodolizard: thanks for the link. That was a pretty cool site and offeres some decent ideas. I wouldn't want one that tall and shallow depth-wise myself...but it was pretty cool. One of his best ideas was having the misting system seperate from the others, that makes a lot of sense.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2004 at 2:21AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

When it comes out of the can it is very sticky and tends to stick together. It continues to expand for around an hour.
Making at least 5 times the original size.It pushed anything attached to it out yet it adheres to the glass and wood very strongly. I went back to the store to get some more and noted that there are several kinds with different properties.Whatever the Dutch are using must be a different material.??
Since I'm using mine for the waterfall area and it filled out so nicely I don't think I need to attach anything to it,just change the color. I decided to try to match the color of some teak driftwood Make it look like more driftwood rather than rocks.
I'm attaching coconut and tree fern fiber to some of it using silicone adhesive.Curious to see what happens when the fiber absorbs water and expands.I also tried some around some flower pots.If you wait around 15 minutes you can remove the pot and have a perfect impression.
What can be done with it seems only limited by my feeble imagination lol.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2004 at 6:39AM
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mrbreeze(z6/7 OK)

So after it dries somewhat can you work it? Like can you carve it at all or put grooves in it? That kind of thing? Having not messed with it before I'm only speculating but I was thinking that if the stuff gets progressively harder or more solid...just toward the end of the cure time you could sort of carve it. Like maybe take a fork and put some grooves down it to look like bark. Or even take an actual piece of a branch w/ bark on it and press it into the foam so it takes on the pattern. Could this work?

    Bookmark   January 12, 2004 at 3:26PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Might be worthwhile to buy a can and experiment with it.
Though I had no success getting anything to stick to it I could see how it could be put into a mold as it adheres strongly to anything with resistance to the expansion..The consistancy is like hard rubber ater curing and it could be easily carved.
The Dutch site that Voodoolizard mention gave some particulars on the materials he was using. I'm not familiar with them. Thanks for that site very informative!!

    Bookmark   January 13, 2004 at 6:13AM
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voodoolizard(z4 MN)

The product they use in the Neatherlands is flevopol, in Sweden they use a product called sika. They are acrylic copolymer binders use to increase cement's ability to bond to other substances. There are several brands in the US that will work, Elmer's Pro Bond Concrete Bonder, weldbond, acehardware has a brand called Concrete Primer & Bonding Additive. When mixed with peat or other soils it gives a very nice natural look and is water proof from what I've read. Once you have your foam shaped you spread this on about a 1/4" thick, the down side is it can take a long time to cure (a week or more).

A couple more links for you to look at

Frist is a viv from Sweden useing Sika 830 Anders Risberg's viv

and a viv made here in the US using weldbond kylesphotos


    Bookmark   January 13, 2004 at 7:52PM
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mrbreeze(z6/7 OK)

Dude! Thanks for that post. That's quite possibly the most informative one yet. You're giving Homer a run for his money...haha

I found a few pieces of foam today at work. I noticed that those guys were using styrofoam. I found a couple of pieces of very rigid foam and also some black computer packing foam. I don't see any reason why all of them couldn't work. In fact...It might even be worth considering using whatever kind of foam is the hardest to carve for the bottom sections and the areas w/ the most detail would be from the type of foam that is the easiest to carve. Too bad I don't have time to experiment.

Does the binder/soil mixture cure very hard? Like does it give structural strength to whatever it's covering? Or does it stay kind of pliable or soft? I'm wondering because foam rocks would need to be covered with something to give them durability and structural strength and I've just been assuming that would mean some kind of epoxy or liquid plastic resin type stuff. But if this fake bark type stuff could be used for rocks as well...hmmmm.... possible simplification.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2004 at 1:31AM
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sahoyaref(Alberta z3a)

The pink foam they use for insulation is the easiest and best for carving. It's not composed of little balls, so you can get a smooth finish, not all bumpy. Also makes less mess when you carve it. =) This is what I used to make my water features. Then I covered it with aquarium sealant (black, always use black, it actually shows less. Clear turns white after a bit) and stuck aquarium gravel to it. Will post a pic when I can.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2004 at 10:53PM
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mrbreeze(z6/7 OK)

Cool! I want to see it for sure. I'll have to pick up some of that foam to mess around with as well. Like I don't have enough things to look at when I go the hardware stores!! arrrrgggghh!!! but it's fun so it's all good.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2004 at 2:57AM
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lalam(z5 Montreal)


Even before I could spend hours in hardware stores, but now my dream is hiding in one at night ! :)

    Bookmark   January 15, 2004 at 12:16PM
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sahoyaref(Alberta z3a)

I did it, I did it! I found that article on sculpting with expanding foam! =) Now am I as helpful as Homer? =) It is an article for saltwater tanks, but I think you could easily apply it to your viv.

Here is a link that might be useful: Expanding Foam

    Bookmark   January 15, 2004 at 2:37PM
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mrbreeze(z6/7 OK)

As helpful as Homer? I don't know. For the moment you have the lead!! Sahoyaref, you are a scholar and a gentleman...unless you're female...either way, thanks!!
I knew this thread would get me a lot of great ideas and I've gotten them PLUS some truly amazing links. Computers are our friend!

any experience growing seedling orchids in terrariums?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2004 at 1:36AM
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sahoyaref(Alberta z3a)

A gentleman, eh? =) Yes, I am a female, and you're welcome. No experience growing seedling orchids at all. Very hard to come by here in Canada. I would imagine it would work well though. Nice a warm and moist and humid and all that. My dilemma is how to let some orchids dry a bit in a vivarium. . . So far no root rot on my dend.-phal., but we shall see. . .

    Bookmark   January 16, 2004 at 3:43PM
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homer_zn5(z5 IN)


Regarding the weldbond . . . if you don't let it COMPLETELY cure before adding water to the terrarium, it will become mushy and can fall off. It's somewhat expensive stuff, and I've had good luck with coating the expanding foam (after it's set) with black silicone and mashing a mixture of sphagnum and coconut husk chips into the wet silicone (much like the waterfall idea above).

As for seedling orchids, I've never tried it. I have some miniature orchids in a terrarium that are doing well right now, and I have a Dendrobium 'Emma White' and a few jewel orchids in another terrarium . . . all doing well. The Dendrobium I have had for almost one year now . . . it's getting ready to send up a second spike now.

From what I have read from other terrarium keepers, Pleurothallids are ideal for terrarium conditions. I currently have a Psygmorchis pusilla and a Barkeria hybrid. You have to be careful with the Barkeria, as it will easily fungus if left wet for too long. I've really got to get that computer fan set up.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2004 at 11:15PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

My setup is coming along and as I suspected ,above and below water views made the whole setup a lot more complex.
I wanted a 6 inch depth water view with an island on the left side,the waterfall on the right.I used a quarter round plastic table for the island with the foam on the edges to
graduate the edge from water to soil. I can build up the soil area for different degrees of wetnes..
I've been experimenting with attaching things to the foam.Rocks were pushed out as it cured but did manage to get coco fiber to adhere if done immediately after coming out of the can. The waterfall is working well and with some slight adjustments was able to get the water from the top to the waterline without a lot of splash. Had t make a dam to keep the water from running to far out on a piece of driftwood.I attached the coco fiber to this and it almost disappears on the limb. Paint sticks to the foam very well
though I'm curious as to the effect of water running over it over time.
I can see already that the 75 gallon aquarium base is limiting as to what can be done.Wish I'd started with the display case now but maybe next time lol

    Bookmark   January 17, 2004 at 6:21AM
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OK this is all Mr. Breeze' fault for me venturing outside the orchid forum and into here. All the suggestions and links are absolutely wonderful. I do have a few questions as I build one in my mind.

One is if I have a front opening viv then I am wondering about a drip edge when the door are closed. There will be condensation at some time on those doors.

Two, being an avid orchid grower, I am worried about the plants getting fungus. For those that have frogs and other animals, have you treated plants for this?

Three, if I am using glass, what kind of seal should one use and how airtight should the door or doors be?

    Bookmark   January 20, 2004 at 2:24AM
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mrbreeze(z6/7 OK)

Sorry buddy...but thanks again for the free plants!

I can't really answer your questions but I'll add a bit. It seems to me that most of the Dutch vivs and many others use some type of venting along the top of the front glass. This prevents the condensation from forming. I think they may use openings at both the top and bottom. Hopefully someone who knows for sure will chime in.

And if the above is true, which I think it is, you really shouldn't have to worry too much about the seal on the door/s. I think terrariums work better (especially for orchids) when they're not sealed up tightly.

I have no specific knowledge regarding your second question...but I rather doubt that any amphibian would react well to fungicides or insecticides. They absorb everything readily through their skin. But they also eat bugs so maybe you wouldn't need any insecticide. I've also noticed (in my 29 gall tank) that for whatever reason, fungus is not usually an issue.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2004 at 2:27AM
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voodoolizard(z4 MN)

Most of the time you find that the vent is a long the bottom of the front glass. The updraft from the vent will keep the glass clear.

I like to go the naturalistic route, no fertilizers, no fungicides, NO chemicals of any kind. In a new vivarium you will see mold but this will usually go away on its own, once the tank has reached a balance. Bugs and fungi are not something we should be afraid of, a balanced vivarium will be loaded with micro fauna, which brake down any decaying plant matter, etc., into nutrients that will then be used by the plants. If you are keeping frogs or other animals in the tank I would recommend that you not use any chemicals for the reasons that MrBreeze has already stated.

One more link on building your own vivarium How To Build A Vivarium

P.S. Persistence I would also like to thank you for the orchids you sent.


    Bookmark   January 21, 2004 at 11:56AM
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sahoyaref(Alberta z3a)

Just to confirm what has already been said, you do not neccessarily want an orchid viv. to be airtight, and you do NOT want to use fungicides, etc. in a viv. with any kind of animal. Even if there are no animals you don't really want to, because it is an enclosed environment, and there is no where for the extra chemicals to go. Most people use ventilation fans on their vivs, especially if they have orchids. this prevents fungus and mold and all that from happening. the fans circulate the air within the viv, and should also draw fresh air in from outside the viv. If you go to, and read the guy's journal (and in the journal, click on the 'vivarium' link), then you can learn some stuff about the construction of vivs and the sliding front and all that. Note that on the guy's first viv, the glass fron fell out on day and smashed on the floor because its frame wasn't strong enough. And I'm pretty sure that somewhere on that website, there is a little diagram of how the sliding front works to allow airflow and catch drips and stuff. Something about a U-shaped piece of aluminium or plastic or something. . . I've put the link to the site below, and it is higher up in this thread as well, I believe.

Here is a link that might be useful: Vivarium set-up

    Bookmark   January 21, 2004 at 3:22PM
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For those people who want a few small Pleuros for their tanks, email me. I saved thousands or orchids and have been mailing them out to people for free. I have about 20 Pleuro velaticaulis that would do best in this environment.

Thanks for the info.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2004 at 4:12PM
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    Bookmark   February 9, 2004 at 2:57AM
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mrbreeze(z6/7 OK)

Persistence needs more tips! I wish I had some. I don't but I can ramble for a minute and maybe others will rejoin the the thread!!

I'm still brianstorming as I don't move into my new house w/ garage workspace until the end of the month. I think I'm going to give up on my dream of a below water view. I just can't figure out how to make it work while still using my pond-liner basin idea.

For those just tuning in...I want to make a great big viv. using a pond liner in the bottom and up the sides/back...lowest in the front (about 1'). The way i see it this gives instant waterproofing, no toxic waterproof paint needed, ease of use and installation and ready availability. Plus since it's like a big plastic could make a sump area and all the drippage from watering and misting could collect and be repumped. Though I like that idea, what I'll probably do is use an actual seperate basin within the larger one made from another section of liner or some type of hard structure. I'll have a waterfall/stream flow into this other smaller basin. Having it seperate would keep the water from getting stained. If I'm TRULY ingenious and dedicated and insane...I'll plan the whole thing so that water running off from epiphytes on the back and sides gets channeled to a central collection area.

I still don't know what to do about the front though. Since i'm thinking about making this sucker about 5 ft. wide, I just don't know if one piece of glass will be feasible...and like everyone else...the two pane look w/ the line down the bogus. So it's a big problem. I've given serious thought to just clamping a piece in place and physically picking it up and moving it away when i want to get in the tank. I'm big enough that I should be able to handle it. But I suppose Homer's suggestion to use a wood frame for the front glass is the most sensible. I'm just afraid my tendency to cut corners and use duct tape will ruin me in the end.

I've been really happy w/ the ultrasonic humidifier I got at Walgreens. As someone posted earlier...a hose can be hooked up to them and the fog piped into a tank. I haven't gotten the hose yet but I can already tell that it would work like a charm. Just set it behind the viv. and put it on a timer. Viola...instant fogger system for $30...just add water.

well i could go on and on...but my fingers are tired and my brain is done storming for now.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2004 at 1:21AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Glad to hear you're still storming lol. I went to a salvage store last week and they had several interesting things that I thought might be good candidates for a terrarium.First, a grocery store type refrigerator with a
single piece glass door. I forgot my tape so couldn't get exact measurements but over six feet tall and 4 wide. What
inspired me about it was the door which was chrome framed double glazed with piano hinge.The ceiling had light fixtures and the entire interior was vinyl. Couldn't find out the price or if it was in working order but the door inspired me as it gave a complete unobstructed view of the interior and of course complete access.Would require a lot of front space to open the door. I don't see why this couldn't be easily modified for a terrarium.
Another was a one piece fiberglass shower stall. Had aluminum framed opaque glass door.Usual shower dimensions
and of course had a floor drain.
I thought both these would make a good basis depending on the price of course lol Would certainly give a lot of material to work with even if not in working order.
What do you think??
Thanks for that fogger idea!!Going to check further into that.I would suppose this produces the fog from steam rather than high pressure as the greenhouse types do??
How warm is it and does it condense a lot.
Always afraid to add heat or humidity in this climate lol.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2004 at 10:05AM
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Gary. those foggers use ultrasonic vibrations to create the fog. I got one several years back when they came out and it broke in about 6 months of 24hr use.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2004 at 5:16PM
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sahoyaref(Alberta z3a)

Aaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuugggggggghhhhhhhhhh! No, Mr. B, no! Don't cut corners! Don't use duct tape! I cut corners when setting up my waterfall, and I am STILL regretting it big time! I thought I had got it all worked out, but I must have gotten some dirt or other stuff in my water resovoir, because my pump started making a grinding noise and then konked out after two minutes of operation. So now I have to remove all the dirt (and plants. Yes, I was impatient) AGAIN and try to figure out what went wrong. . . *sigh*
Will it never eeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnnddddddddddddd. . . !

    Bookmark   February 11, 2004 at 1:50AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Thanks for the info.I"ve been checking out those at cloudtops.They use high pressure which would probably work better long term but are considerably more expensive Like the automatic cycling system, Think I'd prefer to invest in an automated irrigation system instead.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2004 at 5:49AM
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mrbreeze(z6/7 OK)

I got my ultrasonic humidifer cheap enough that if it lasts only six months it won't bother me that much. I'm not running it 24/7 either. I came home from being gone for a couple of days and it was 23% humidity in my growing area...*gulp*. I cranked up the vapor quick!

I don't know if any of you have checked out the pond forum but I think it's a great idea. I definitely plan to go there and get some tips/recommendations on pumps I could use. I'm going to get all of the structure together first and then figure out the best strategy for moving the water around. There are so many choices of pumps and types/strategies that it's baffling. I'd be interested to know what type of pump you had the problem with, Sahoyoref.

I've been thinking (brainstorming) that a good set-up might be an external pump inside a small trickle filter which is in a series after a small settling chamber (which should help avoid the debris problem). But I know some pumps are designed to be able to handle some small bits here and there though I'm sure they're expensive. I suppose the ideal would be a single pump that is powerful enough to run all of the water works. Though for a very complicated system (waterfall, misters, tricklers, foggers) one pump probably wouldn't be feasible. Noise would be an issue possibly.

It might be worth considering two seperate water systems. One for "dirty" water, using a suitable pump that sends water to waterfalls, streams, or epiphyte-wall trickle lines....and another system for "clean" water, used for foggers, and misters. Any thoughts on this ramble???

    Bookmark   February 13, 2004 at 1:34AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

The choices of pumps does boggle the mind,doesn't it??
I guess it would be best to err on too large as you can get adjustable pumps or you could divert part to another system. I ran accross a formula for waterfalls." One tank volume per inch of falls."
I would think for foggers and misters you would have to have another pump with separate water supply to keep it from becoming clogged.??
You might check out the system on cloudtops .com.It is progamable and could even be remotely located as well as for multiple setups.
In my climate I'm rather reluctant to add to the

    Bookmark   February 13, 2004 at 5:08AM
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homer_zn5(z5 IN)

In my experience with foggers/Ultrasonic humidifiers/misters, the most important thing to longevity is the use of RO or distilled water through the system. Ultrasonic humidifiers and foggers (ultrasonic humidifiers have a fogger and a fan as the guts that produce the "fog") use a rapidly vibrating plate to create the tiny water droplets for fog. If normal water is used, that plate becomes mineral encrusted and/or corroded and stops working. You can actually buy replacement plates for about $5 each, and you have to buy a special tool to remove and replace them.

Misting systems use "high pressure" spray through misting nozzles to produce the tiny droplets of water as mist or rain from above. The droplets aren't as tiny as those produced via foggers/humidifiers, but any small particles or buildup on the screens in the misting nozzle will reduce their effictiveness. I currently have a prototype misting system operable for 6 misting nozzles and am testing it for longevity, so I have a little experience there. Most of the misting systems on the market currently are just too expensive to justify buying for a single terrarium or even 5 terraria (in my humble opinion).

So, I've said all that to say this: your reservoir for your foggers/misters should be completely separate from your sump for the waterfall setup, as it will greatly prolong the life of the mister/fogger, and it will reduce/eliminate the mineral deposits that would otherwise form on your glass from the dissolved minerals in the water (which, by the way, are a pain to remove if you allow them to build up).

As for pumps for waterfalls, a few important things to consider are (1) the maximum head allowable by the pump in relation to the height of your waterfall, and (2) how much flow you really want over your waterfall. You have to recognize that as your height goes up, your output will drop substantially. I haven't had any difficulties with particles stopping any of my pumps, but I typically use fountain type pumps (because they're cheap), and mine have been running for over a year now nonstop. I would consider a 130 gph a minimum for even a small waterfall if you want decent flow, but I'm afraid this is something you'll just have to experiment with a bit.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2004 at 12:26PM
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sahoyaref(Alberta z3a)

My pump is a Rio 50. It's supposed to be able to handle some junk in the water. I haven't 'dug it up' yet to see exactly what the problem is, so it may not be dirt particles caught in the pump. I'll let you know when I do. I bought it at Big Al's Fish Store for about $20, and it came with a couple different heads for different water flow, as well as an elbow joint and a ball valve for adjusting the flow. My waterfall is only 1 foot high, so the pump is strong enough. For figureing out how strong of a pump you need, you fill a one gallon bucket with water and then pour it out at the rate you want your waterfall to go (eg. tricle or gush), and you time how long it takes to empty the bucket (seconds). Divide 60 by the number of gallons per minute, then multiply by 60 for the gallons per hour (GPH) required for the desired flow. Then measure how high your waterfall is and round up to the nearest foot. Add an additional foot for every 10 feet of tubing. Then tell me those numbers and I will tell you what pump you need! I got this formula from a pond book I have, and it has a chart where you match up your required lift and your GPH and it tells you the pump you need, and the size of tubing you should use. So you don't have to do just trial and error. I can help anyone who wants to know the right size of pump for the job. Back to my pump. . . I just wanted a trickle, so my little tiny pump is enough for me. It can be a gush if I wanted it to, but I don't. And my husband has a Rio as well for his marine tank, and it's not giving him any problems, so it's not neccessarily a crappy pump, though it is lower end. The main difference in pump prices when you are comparing two that pump the same GPH is that the more expensive one is probably quieter. If you have a false bottom though, this shouldn't concern you at all. I can just *barely* hear my pump. . . when it was running properly. . . I think the fans will be louder. Oh yeah, about those computer fans, are they nice and quiet? Because I can't have a louder one, since my tank is in the living room of our tiny apartment

    Bookmark   February 13, 2004 at 1:27PM
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mrbreeze(z6/7 OK)

I only have experience w/ one computer fan but it's been very quiet I would say. Of course it's somewhat sealed inside the tank and I usually have a tv on and an oscillating fan keeping my orchids I may not be the best judge of its noisiness. Pretty much all I ever hear from it is a gentle whirr. And I might add that it's been in my tank for about four or six years and has become completely corroded (it looks really gross)...but it still works just fine. It was a great investment for less then ten bucks.

Thanks for the offer on the pump calculations. I'll definitely keep you in mind when I get to that stage.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2004 at 6:05PM
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Poul(Sthlm, Sweden)

Usually the cheaper the fans, the noisier it gets. But if you are willing to spend a bit ($5-10) extra you will usually be able to get really quiet computer fans. I used to rip out the fans that came with my computers and replace them with "silent" ones. But many of the newer computer brands come with good fans from the start now.

While surfing a found this link to the Swedish Dendrobatid Society. Check out the "Gadgets" menu. They have some quite nifty little things. I particularly like the "Pneumatic Rain" thingy.


Here is a link that might be useful: SDS

    Bookmark   February 16, 2004 at 9:56AM
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homer_zn5(z5 IN)

Yeah, the pneumatic rain idea sounds a lot better than it works. I haven't found anyone that is happy with the results when they put one together.

By the way, Persistence, how is that 29 gallon setup coming along? I haven't heard much out of you lately. I found a pic at the dutch vivariums design page that shows something similar to what I envision you are considering to put together. E-mail me if you're interested.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2004 at 9:48PM
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Well, I took a break from the tank. Everything has been dry for some time and I am waiting for some extra money to get the colored epoxy or something to paint the concrete branches. Also, I am waiting to go to an area where I can get some madrona wood. There is a ton of those trees near the salt water here but I haven't had a chance to grab any.

The biggest expense is the epoxy. Holey cow that stuff is expensive. Will anything else work when painting the concrete branches? The only place I can get it would be the local marine supply place.

Another question. Would it be better to pull the air out of the tank or push it in? Here is what I was thinking. I would have tubes that go from opening in the top to the bottom. There would be holes in the bottom of the tubes (disguised of course) that way the fan would pull air from the top of the tank, down the tube to the bottom of the tank, then up and out of the tank where the fan would be blowing. I am trying to get a lot of air circulation without creating a mini tornado alley.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2004 at 1:17AM
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sahoyaref(Alberta z3a)

Well, I dismantled my waterfall yesterday and found the problem. The pump was running nearly dry because I was loosing so much water off the back of my waterfall. So the pump was not the problem! So, Mr. B, you can now buy a Rio pump without worrying about the quality! It's quite quiet too, as least it is when it's under a false bottom. =) Now I just have to modify my water flow and/or waterfall structure so that I'm not loosing any down the back, and I'm all set. Then I'll post pics!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2004 at 8:04PM
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mrbreeze(z6/7 OK)

Thanks Sa! what is the appropriate short version of your name anyway? Sah? Saho?

I've never priced epoxy paint but hearing that it's expensive is making me glad to have struck upon the idea of using a pond liner for water-proofing. Don't I recall that some of the Dutch just painted their fake branches with acrylic paint? I know it wouldn't hold up to water as well as epoxy...but I think it would weather almost like real bark or would look like lichen after awhile.

This idea just came to me....I wonder what would happen if you mixed wood glue or something similar with acrylic paints. Seems like you could glop it on and sort of paint with it and it would dry to a very durable surface. Am I crazy???? don't answer that...

    Bookmark   February 18, 2004 at 12:37AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Thanks for the link to the Swedish site.Have already made one of the "rain" gadgets.Happened to have everything on hand.Works great for watering from above since I have standing water anyway. Liked the door designs as well as the glass false bottoms on the terrariums.Sure I'll use some of those ideas on my next setup.Thanks again

    Bookmark   February 18, 2004 at 8:09AM
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sahoyaref(Alberta z3a)

you can call me 'sahoy' for short, or 'sa'. I was thinking about using acrylic paints as well. I bet you could do that, and then get a clear sealant that's waterproof. That would be cheaper than buying all different colours of epoxy paint, wouldn't it? One could conceivably even seal the painted 'branches' with weldbond, right? Isn't it waterproof when dry? I know it's clear. Perhaps a little shiny though. Oh, I know! Artists often use spray-on sealants for their drawings/paintings. Maybe you could find a non-toxic one. All the ones I've used are toxic though. You need a fume hood to use them, or do it outside. Probably not good for a viv. . .

    Bookmark   February 18, 2004 at 6:07PM
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mrbreeze(z6/7 OK)

Ok here's my latest idea. I noticed a few posts here and there that mention the topic of fan placement.

I was thinking that for a large set-up two fans would work. One on one side blowing in and the other on the other side blowing out...thus setting up a constant flow. And I was thinking they could be connected at the back with a length of lexible hose (dryer hose?) so as to not lose all the humidity.

Do you think the air would condense in the hose? It would only be about five feet long. I was thinking one could disguise the fans by placing them inside a "cave" fascade. It would be cool to have plants blowing in a "wind" that comes from a natural looking cave. I was also thinking a waterfall could eminate from the same opening. But if the air flow is too high it could cause splashing or blowing of the water.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2004 at 12:46AM
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sahoyaref(Alberta z3a)

Interesting idea! I've been wondering how to use a fan and at the same time keep humidity up. I was going to use only one fan in my 85 gal, just to help circulate the air, not actually move any plants in its breeze. But I still think I will loose some humidity doing this. I like your idea for hiding the fan, and using a hose. I don't see why the air would condense in the hose unless the hose is significantly cooler than the air in the terr., which probably won't happen because room temp is not that far off from terr. temps.
I think the trick would be a sort of adjustable fan, so that you could change the air flow if it was too high, instead of trying to buy a different fan with a different air flow every time you find out your fan is blowing too strongly. Can one put a fan on a dimmer switch to control the speed? I mean specifically those little computer fans.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2004 at 1:01PM
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mrbreeze(z6/7 OK)

Yep, one can. I've not done it but I've read posts where people who are good w/ electricity (not afraid of it like me) have put their fans on dimmer switches. You have to use a variable power supply I think. I'm sure it's very simple and when the time comes I'll probably look into it. Another thing that might be worth considering is "overclocking" the lights. Not sure if anyone in this forum has seen the stuff on that or not. There was a long thread on it in the "growing under lights" forum w/ some great explanations. It's basically a very simple (again if you're not afraid of wiring) way to make your fl. fixtures put out like twice the light as normal from one bulb.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2004 at 1:20AM
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sahoyaref(Alberta z3a)

Yeah, I saw that thread. My husband is an electrician, so he can hook up anything I want. I might get him to 'hyperdrive' my lights someday. And of course he can do my fan on a dimmer switch too. I'm afraid of electricity too, so you're not the only one, Mr.B!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2004 at 12:59PM
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bump again

    Bookmark   March 11, 2004 at 12:01PM
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genomik(z10 SF 9 SM Cal)

You might try fish with your orchidarium.

Put about 1.5-2 inches of aquarium grade sand, water plants like java moss and many others (dutch) and maybe 4 inches of water. Put in some nice guppies that will breed and look pretty or something else..

I have had many heavily planted aquariums with water plants and regular plants growing from it. Everything is happy, fish breed like mad, plants grow quickly, low maintenance. Sand is a great substrate.

You might put a waterfall, and you could probably use the fish water as nutrient for orchids. Maybe a sponge filter hooked up to a sprinkler system. Use microirrigation supplies or buy a mister. If you can use the water to mist the plants then you really cut down maintenance. You could have orchids on sticks or bark attached to sides, walls or elsewhere.

Lastly, check out or ViaAqua or coralife aquarium hoods. They are gaining populatity in aquaria, take a little searching but are around. You can run these hood raised on legs from your tank, thus allowing great visibilty, access and heat dissipation. Some lights have fans pre installed if you want to go high.

I have put many parts of this all together so I think it can work together very easily. Low maintence might be the key, as my dutch aquariums are loooowwwwww maintence

Here is a link that might be useful: Jebo - page 5 has pics of vivarium

    Bookmark   May 3, 2004 at 8:23AM
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sahoyaref(Alberta z3a)

It's page four with the pics, and they are paludriums. Actually, I'd say more of an open-top aquarium with a bit of room for non-aquatic plants. I've seen those advertised in aquarium mags.
And I have to agree that sand is the best substrate for aquatic plants. Way better than gravel. My husband used to have a planted Discus tank, and the difference when he switched to sand was amazing. Those plants just loved it!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2004 at 11:41AM
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genomik(z10 SF 9 SM Cal)

The differences between gravel and sand are night and day! In graqvel tanks many the whole ecosystem seems weaker, and dirtier as well in general (though of course they may be exceptions)

Sand makes a GREAT substrate, everything is very happy, plants, fish etc. The sand usually is very aesthetic as well, making everything in front of it stick out. Plants are easy to stick under it and have them stay there.

They guy at the fish store i go to is really into planted aquariums and uses mostly sand and he says it is great for most applications, but especially for this type I think it is great.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2004 at 6:50PM
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This thread needs to get bumped, actually it needs to become a faq.

As this thread is a year old, I was wondering if some of you who posted originally, and/or had just started your own orchiariums/viv's/tanks would like to comment on how they are doing a year later. Of the advice in this thread that you tried or suggested what, if anything, would you change?

I have a 30 gallon aquarium I'm itching to turn into an orchidarium so I'd love to hear what definitely is working and what didn't.

P.S. believe it or not, breeze still hasn't constructed his own orchidarium even after this thread. For shame.


    Bookmark   February 12, 2005 at 3:10PM
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I agree.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 11:02PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

I'd always thought this was one of the most interesting
threads and loaded with all kinds of ideas.
Have been running aquariums and terrariums for many years and I'm still running the 75 paludarium.
Have been working on the large setup since March and have changed many things but overall, I'm pleased with the results. I decided to take advantage of the climate and located it in the shadehouse using natural light and air movement as well as rainfall. Originally i was going to locate it in a closet and use skylights. This allows me to add on and create many microclimes and still keep it affordable. Imagine trying to light 10 foot of depth?? lol
i would definitely do the waterfall in a different way.
Though it does what i intended the visual effect is not as impressive as I'd hoped. i am glad i went with a glass tank rather than a vinyl tub ,Utilizes evey square inch of the space as well as the water reservoir.
Have been going slowly and experimenting with different potting methods. So far the only animals i've added are fish and then only those from my ponds. Did buy some algae eaters and some tetras.
Still trying to define the difference between a terrarium and a greenhouse lol

    Bookmark   September 16, 2006 at 4:43AM
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