Help with inexpensive DIY paludarium ideas???
Has anyone built a large (ish) paludarium from scratch?
I would like to build a rather large paludarium (epiphites, mosses & ferns, emergents and submerged plants, as well as a few fish--probably tetras and a betta, and a couple of dart frogs, eventually). I already have some of the equipment, including a pump for the waterfall, shoplight fixtures with daylight bulbs and a supply of free scrap glass (though no pieces as large as I would like). But I am looking for an expensive--and attractive--way to house everything.
Specs: Probably about 4'wide X 4'tall X 2'deep (though that's just a general idea). I plan on doing the expandable foam background covered in sillicone with coir OR the dutch mixture of concrete primer and peat/coir, with a branching waterfall. I really want the bottom to be visible with lots of low-light plants and some fish. I probably will construct my own branches with foam or pipes (if I can figure it out!) With the plants in the bottom and the large surface area covered by the waterfall, it should be self-filtrating and the waste from the fish (it will be only very lightly stocked) should only enhance the plants.
What I would like is to have at least the entire front visible all the way down into the water (though a lip in front would be ok, the height of my underwater substrate). Water depth should be deep enough to grow some plants and be comfortable for the fish (10-ish inches?) so the bottom and sides and front would have to be strong.
I was thinking of either constructing a shell with plywood or using a found container, like an old display case, a glass-front cupboard or even a shower stall (?)and silliconing a glass pane to the front just above the hight I want my water to be. But, not having any prior experience constructing something strong enough to hold that much water, I figured it would help if I asked others who may have done it themselves.
SO MY QUESTION IS--
Does anyone know of a cheap way to construct (or otherwise obtain cheaply) a shell that could be converted to a rather large paludarium?
I've done my research on the plants and animals, and even lots of internal construction techniques (the dutch sites, Black Jungle, Poison-frog site) but I have yet to see a decent-sized paludarium that wasn't either one of those huge expensive acrylic jobs with the sliding doors or just a large aquarium (with not enough height IMO).
Anyone got any advice?