Building a almost completely self-sustaining Terrarium

venomr00April 15, 2010

I live in an apartment complex and started seeing these geckos getting harmed so I took it upon myself to get them out of an environment were kids were killing them. So I got this idea to get a terrarium which so far has worked. Only issue is now that there are four of them its kind of crowded.

I decided that I was going to buy a massive tank for them and build a near self sustaining environment. So I started researching and researching. It inevitably led me here. I've read tons of data involving the gecko's and the plant life and building a self sustatining eco-system. So I figured I would try throwing my idea out here to see if I can get some ideas.

First and foremost I decided that I would creat a basic landscape including a water table, bamboo, a waterfall, and plant life. The tank I am buying is roughly 60"x36"x24". I am going to add about 4"-6" of big and little rocks to create an artificial water table. I am going to place on top of the water table a black plastic mess that we used what I lived in Florida to prevent weeds from growing. This should prevent the dirt from falling into the watertable and making mud. The dirt will be potting soil and it will take another 3"-6" up. so in total thats roughly 1 foot taken up with the watertable and soil. On the far left side im going to place a waterfall with a fish tank pump/filter to clean and move the water from the water table to the waterfall. The waterfall will be made with a product called greatstuff. Once hardened it releases no chemicals and will be fine with great amount of waterflow on it. The reason I am using great stuff is because it will be easily molded as it drys. The waterfall will be funneled into a small river which will run the length of the glass inclosure and end into a pond. The pond will have a small opening in the bottom what will put the water back into the water table. Once I create the balance for the water fall and water table so the pond doesnt overflow and it doesn't create a whirlpool I will add the plant life and rocks. On the north-western side of the tank next to the waterfall I will place rocks for the critters to hide and reproduce. On the floor around the river I will place moss and ferns to grow. They will be what allows my vegetation and bamboo to grow.

Once the moss and ferns grow I will add the plants. I have come up with bamboo, sunflowers, and other various plants that have reproduction cycles that are easy to manipulate. The enclosure will stay a few months left alone with a night/day cycle of 5 hours of light, 3 hours of darkness. Once the plants start to get a routine going I will add the various decomposers. My decomopser list is rather short for the time being to make it simple. Pillpugs (rolli-polies), worms, and possible small wingless fruit flies. I will also add aphids/ladybug to help maintiain the plants growth. After another few months I will then add my four banded geckos, and two crocodile geckos (I realize that most geckos are territorial but I did some research and found that most geckos that stay the same size will be fine in a single enclosure.) to maintain the ladybug, pill bug, and aphid population. I will also add a preying mantis species that will allow more of a balance to the amount of bug life that is within the enclosure.

Any and all critisim would be appreciated. I am rather new and just did alot of research. If anyone could give me ideas based off experience of plants that do well in terrariums and bamboo that would be fine much would be appreciated. Right now I plan on using a mainly water type bamboo.

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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Sounds like a fun project.
On the selection of a container be sure to allow as much access as possible .Aquariums make acceptable ones but far better is to be taller than wide with access from the front and or sides. You can buy these but you can build your own for much less.particularly with a limited amount of water Check out "Dutch Vivariums " they moved terrariums into a work of art!!
Since you want to keep terrestrial animals obviously everything would have to designed for their needs. Select plants from those that fit into the humidity, light
and temp requirements of your animals.
Two thing I've found VERY difficult in containers . Making a waterfall in the correct direction and keeping water in the stream. A false bottom solves those problems as well as allows for filters ,heaters and a reliable reservoir for the pump.
As to "self sustaining" have never accomplished that lol. Some CAN be very low maintenence though Good luck
Be sure and tell us how it goes . This forum could use a bit of a jump lol gary

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 4:47AM
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I will start posting pictures once I start. I still have a little more research to do. I have a background in Landscape seeing as my mother was obsessed at keeping her yard perfect. So creating a river and waterfall are easy its just about the shape of the waterfall. Shaping it properly is just one of the difficulties. Then with the water flowing the river just needs a plastic bottom painted to the color you want. That way the water wont just sink into the dirt.

But thank you for the input on it. I will have to look into the "Dutch Vivariums".

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 11:53AM
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taz6122(N.W. AR.6b)

Sounds great except for the bamboo and sunflowers. Unless there are cultivars I don't know of they grow too fast for terrarium subjects.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 8:38PM
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I know you posted this over a year and 1/2 ago. But I am curious how it turned out? Pictures?

I am interested in trying something like this myself and thought I would try to get some info from someone who tried it.


    Bookmark   December 16, 2011 at 3:42PM
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