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My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

Posted by sahoyaref Alberta z3a (My Page) on
Thu, Jul 29, 04 at 15:12

Well, it's been pretty dead here lately, and I've been thinking of my dream tank. I realized it would have to be pretty huge in order to stop me from wanting more terrs (because i want so many orchids that I would want more and more terrariums to put them in). So I came up with these dims.: 5 x 4 x 2 feet. That's 5' high, 4' wide, and 2' deep. I'd make it deeper, but it needs to be able to fit through a doorway, as we discussed on the other Giant Orchidarium thread. Taking several good ideas from that thread, I would want it on casters, I would make three walls out of plywood and line it all with pond liner, and i would have a single sliding glass front. Mine differs in that I want a 1.5' deep water pool at the bottom, in which I would like to keep a few discus. My husband is VERY pumped about this, since he used to keep discus and misses them. I would have kind of a rain wall along the whole back of the tank, which would be getting its water from the pool at the bottom. Lots of nice fish poo water to fertilize all those orchids! =) I also considered an automatic misting system (instead of the 'rain wall'), but wouldn't the misting heads get clogged with fish poop? Or should I have a pre-filter, like a fluval but not a fluval (DH doesn't like fluvals because they are difficult to clean and service), and would the nutrients from the poop still be dissolved in the water? Another problem I can forsee is the water quality. Obviously I would not be stocking it to maximum density as I'd rather err on the side of 'not enough' fish than too many, but discus are very heavy feeders and waste-producers, so I'm worried that they won't work, and that I should just stick to some cardinal tetras or other 'more boring' fish. Am I under-estimating the ability of all the plants I will have in there to use all of the cr@p?

Also, does anyone forsee any design problems? I would like some kind of 'ground' area with dirt (or other substrate), so I'm thinking of somehow seperating a main, possibly bow-shaped (like a reverse bow-front tank), area for the fish from the sides and back corners to allow for this. I don't want just a box with coco-panels and/or driftwood. Any other ideas for how to make the overall landscape look interesting and to maximize the space? I'm having major problems visualizing that in my head. The dutch vivs will be a definite source of inspiration, but I know that gary, you have a fair-sized set-up, right? How did you do yours? Post pics already! =)

And yes, of course I will still want more tanks. One for cool-growing orchids, for example. I am also still interested in frogs. Does anyone know if I would be able to put some in the 'Super Viv'? Specifically, what would work better: Fire Belly Toads, Red-Eyed treefrogs, or PDFs (azureus, more specifically)? I figured that the poisons secreted by FBTs wouldn't be good for the discus or other fish, and that the treefrogs would enjoy the height of the tank, but I really want PDFs. Hmmmmmmmm. . . and to save some money, I might just use my current tank (85 gals) as the water part, and just somehow attach a track for the sliding glass front, and build the rest of the plywood around it, except for the front, to allow for fish viewing. Oh yes, and obviously the entire thing would be lit with a metal halide.

Is that enough for y'all to begin fantasizing? =)

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

LOL...I think you're stealing many of my ideas!! (which is, of course, cool...and not a problem). Since I'm at work and highly distracted I can't devote the attention to your post that it deserves but I will say this...

I've been thinking that what might be a good idea to deal w/ various filtration issues of recirculating water would be to incorporate a small version of a staged pond filter system. When I first discovered Garden Web I spend most of my time reading posts on the pond forum. They often use various combinations of settlement tanks, and biofilters using various kinds of inert materials (plastic ribbon etc.) that get a nice coating of bacterial slime to do the filtering...really just like a city water treatment plant. So I was thinking these could be miniturized maybe two 5-gallon buckets located behind the Viv. I think a pump could be situated inside the bucket which would lessen noise, make it easier to maintain and service, and would'nt take up any room in the tank.

I've kind of come to a standstill on major designing but I have thought that it might be good to have two water systems. Like one like i just described that could take the water from a fish pond to the filters and back to a waterfall (which would also provide filtration and aeration). And then a second water system for misters/foggers/drip walls maybe. Actually the ultrasonic humidifiers work so well that I would probably just rig one up to provide fog on a timer. It probably wouldn't be too difficult to direct the water from the waterfall AND a drip wall...back into the fish pond. Then have an exit pipe going from the middle of the pond, out the back, and into the bucket series.

I still don't know what to do about the glass. And I kinda think that 5' tall might be too much. I think I want to go wider rather then taller but my dimensions aren't much different from yours. I think I was thinking 4' tall x 5' wide x as deep as it can be. The one thing I have done is to accumulate some styrofoam, a soldering iron, and a special foam cutter (heated wire), and some foam adhesive. Some time soon I'm going to start experimenting w/ all those plus some 'great stuff' expandable foam and see what kind of damage I can do in making a waterfall.

Oh here's another thing that I don't know if I mentioned in that other long thread. I was thinking that instead of right angles w/ the sides and back...what about more of a trapezoid shape? Such that the front is wider then the back. You could use a rectangular base and then angle the sides and it would create some space on the two back corners where plumbing, fans, etc. could be hidden.

I love thinking about this stuff....thanks for enlivening again!

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

I just wanted to say that I will be away camping with the fam for the next few days, so I will (obviously) not be posting on this forum, or going on the internet at all! So have fun discussing, everyone, and I like your idea of the trapezoid shape, Mr. B. That would automatically make the 'landscape' more interesting. I think a number of the Dutch vivs. are like that. They call it a Delta shape. Bye!

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

Here's my .02 cents. My 18x48x22 deep tank was setup with knowing it wouldn't be adequet for what I had in mind but it has been very useful for what works and what doesn't.The original plan was for the entire bottom to be water to a depth of 5 inches.A land area on the left corner
above waterline and a swamp area to the right corner with emergent growth 2 to 3 inches of water.3 inch layer of sand
on the entire bottom graduated to no sand at the filter intake.On the right back I have a foam waterfall going from the bottom to the top covering half the back wall.
35 kinds of plants aand two of fish.Cardinal tetras and Clown loaches. Combining the water and land areas has proven to be very difficult,mostly because of size .
5 inches is not enough water!! The fish hide all the time and are stressed way too much.Aquatic plants immediately emerged from the water.Raising the water depth to 8 inches
has done much to ease these problems but of course has considerably reduced the land and canopy areas.Another problem has been roots from the terrestrial plants growing into the water.They love it!! But they're consuming every square inch of space underwater.Again a space problem.
Here's my ideas on "ideal" for a paludarium.
12 inch minimum water depth with at least 36 inches of
of terrestrial space above that.Width doesn't seem to be too important but if over 6 feet wide it would require you to move your head to see it all.Causes you to be only aware of the contents not the surrounding area.I first noticed this on a 8 foot wide reef tank.You must look at the contents because your eyes can't focus on the whole thing.
The minimum for this effect seems to be around 5 feet.
The best location would be built into a wall with two sides for viewing.An irregular pentagon would eliminate all corners from the viewer.No corners means the eye can't set limits and you fell your looking "out" rather than "into "
something.The same effect as looking "out" a window.
Another aspect is the optical effect caused by water. You can see both the side and top of the fish at the same time.
Haven't decided if this is good or bad.
The waterfall creates ripples on the water which cast shadows on the sand.Even in my limited area it gives the impression the water is moving by very rapidly.Love that.
So I end up with an irregular pentagram mounted into a corner wall at just below standing eye level with dims.of
30 inches wide by 72 wide with a depth of 48 inches.
For stocking I'd skip the land areas and use only epiphytes mounted on limbs or the painted foam background.
Graduated in decreasing terraces as they go up the wall.
This would create the illusion of great depth and would eliminate "planes"All plants would be observable but would require you to move to do so.
As you can tell I'm still into the esthetics rather than practicality of
With these dims. we're talking powerful lights ,big pumps
and strong fans.And big bucks also lol
I still think ideal would be attainable within a restricted budget. I've always thought that the best way to do anything is to go with what you really want with a minimum of compromise. The results are far more satisfying.

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

I just reread my very long post and I didn't addess a single one of your questions lol
My original idea was something like yours.To add to the basic aquarium.How can this be done without making it looked pieced together??Obviously the part that holds the water has to be strong and water tight with at least one side transparent.The upper part would have to have access
not only for the plants but to feed the fish. I've drawn several plans and don't like any. To me, it must have underwater views with easy access to both sections while appearing to be a single unit with a minimum of obstructions to the contents,
I was going to say that Discus would be a poor choice of fish but I'm sure it could be designed around their needs.
I think we're definitely talking huge though!!
As to decorating material I can find nothing wrong with the foam. Any size shape and with acrylic paint any color.
I can't see any advantage to other materials.
I'm tying many ways to use it in separate tria;s and it's very encouraging.
As to mixing terrestrial and aquatic specie you're on your own lol

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

The poison dart frogs might drown in the deep water. I have a black and orange poison dart frog and one time I had the water over half an inch deep and she almost drowned and would of if I had not seen it in time. Poison dart frogs like shallow water ponds and can not swim (no webbed feet).

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

Well, I'm back! Had a good time camping, but it's always nice to come home. =) Good thing I did too (we were debating staying another day), because the person who I got to take care of our place while we were gone did NOT do a good job. Good thing I have no frogs in my tank yet! My husband and I think that she got her kids to come over to do everything. My terr. had only been misted once, on the first day we were gone, and my Cirrho. was *quite* dried out. All shrivelly pbulbs. And my husband's saltwater tank was even worse. We had left WRITTEN instructions so there would be no confusion, and the water was to be topped up daily. Well, his pump in the sump was running dry when we got home, which could have burned out the pump and caused an electrical fire. Nice. . .

Now everything is up and running again, with no real damage done, and I"m glad to see some discussion here again! =)

I have thought that the PDFs might drown in the water, which is why I plan on lots of emergent plants for them to grab onto if they do, and a few of the dutch viv keepers successfully keep PDFs in paludriums, so I'm willing to give it a shot.

Gary: do you find that the acrylic paint peels off of the foam after a while? Or do you seal it with something like Thompson's WaterSeal? I agree that a tank this size can be done on a budget. I think that if you just buy a couple things at a time, as your paycheck allows, you can eventually have a really stunning set-up. No need to have an instant rainforest. If you did, it would get overgrown too quickly and need trimming sooner! But you don't think that my proposed water area would be big enough for, say, 3 discus and a smallish school of cardinals (10?)? And I appreciate your rambling about aesthetics. =) I am also concerned with proportions and contrast and such things. As for nothing but epiphytes, that could work easily I think, since I mainly want orchids in there (and broms for the PDFs), and you've found that many terrestrials like growing epiphytically as well, right?

For filtration (MrB and Gary), can you give some more specific ideas? I'm having trouble visualizing how that would work. I wanted to do something similar, as I know the value of lots of surface area for bacteria, and I would need something to screen out the large poops so that they wouldn't clog the misting heads, and yet leave the nutrients disolved in the water. Actually, the ultrasonic humidifier is a great idea. . . and of course I would put that on a seperate water system if I go with one. Hmmmmmmm. . . I also don't want too much stuff behind the main tank, since I want it to be as flush with the wall as possible, so I'd rather hide things underneath (I do plan on having a small, perhaps 1 foot high stand for the entire tank). I almost think that I wouldn't need much of a filtration system. I know that some people do 'low tech' tanks, where they are basically just chok-full of plants to do pretty much all of the filtration, and just a few fish, so that the bio-load is low. Now I know that Discus create a high bio-load, but if I have a rain wall so that the plants can use all their natural fertilizer, and still do regular water changes, as one would do with any fish tank. . .

I hope Homer and Steve chime in with some frog advice. . .

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

More ramblings lol Would it be possible to partition the tank lengthwise?? Say a 2 foot section with water to the top while the other side would be almost dry maybe with a false bottom as a reservoir to pump the water back to the aquatic side?? You could silicone a piece of glass to divide the tank put foam on the terrestrial side Water could be pumped from a false bottom back to the water side
which would spill over and create a waterfall .Sort of a terrarium sitting beside an aquarium. This would allow full access to both sides. Maintenence could be done separately.
One of the things I'm not sure of is the stress caused by all the water on one side Say if the tank was divided into
24x24x20 cubes. This would give you around 37 gallons of water on the one side which equals around 300 pounds all concentrated on one side. I think you could easily get by with a reservoir of 4 gallons,depending on how strong the waterfall of course but a very uneven distribution of weight.
Another problem is how to join the partition to the front glass.Silicone of course would work,be strong enough and watertight. But it would be ugly for sure.
Some of the plants I've coaxed into becoming epiphytes.
Spider plant,Persian shield.Blood leaf,Coleus,3 types of Philo, The failures were Persian violet, N.Guinea impatiens.
I have objects painted with acrylic paint that have been submerged for over 10 years.There has been no stronng fading but algae seems to love it so it's hard to tell.
I used some on a cement gargoyle that has been in the garden for over 20 years and even the metallic colors are still shiny!! I even used it in SW to make the pipes black.
It lasted over 4 years with no problem at all. I used the type called Patio Paint. The gargoyle has been covered with Ficus pumila and the only places where the paint let go were those that had to be scraped to remove the roots!!
That is by far the best paint I've ever encountered.

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

Ah, yes, patio paint. Will have to look into that!

And I was thinking of a glass partition to physically separate the water from the rest of the terrarium, but I was thinking of a bow-shaped piece, but an inverted shape, so that the water area is at the front of the tank, and it is maximized by the bow shape going around it at the back, not coming out into it.. Make sense? This would leave me the back corners to put plumbing and other things in, though it would for sure be more expensive than just a straight piece of glass. I hadn't thought about the un-even weight distribution. . . wouldn't it be somewhat evened out with the entire back of the terrarium having plants and a waterfall over it? Probably not, since plants and foam don't weigh a lot!

I think I need to do some drawings to figure this out. . .

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!


I was already confused by all the options!! Now its even worse!!! thanks a lot y'all!!!! ;-)

I believe the filters I was talking about are called "skippy" filters. At the very least skippys are often a component of the kinds of filter series I was talking about. If you do a search on the pond forum you'll find TONS of posts about them plus I think they have a FAQ. It seems like most of the "ponderers" over there use the outflow from their filters as the source of their waterfalls. I have always thought more along the lines of using some tubing from the filter to be the source of my waterfall.

Clearly you are all crazy for trying to come up with a way to incorporate your water portion with bowed glass and sketchily engineered glass panels etc. But since I'm also crazy...what if you used straight pieces and had them meet in the middle of the tank forming kind of a reverse "V" shape? You could use something to brace the point of the V that contacts the back of the tank. Thus, when the water presure pushed outwards on the glass, the force would be transferred to the back in the middle. Actually, since this would be the "back" of the aquarium part of the set-up, I see no reason why it couldn't be plexi or even sealed wood or even stainless steel or opaque plastic! Ok I'll stop there before I ramble right off the edge of the page..........

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

I know I have not posted here in a while but this is a very interesting thread. For one thing I LOVE my small terrarium. all my orchids have or will bloom. My next plan is to build a corner tank. the dimensions will close to a triangle but with a moveable front piece of glass. so, 3 ft on either side and about 5 ft tall.

I like the idea of a floating land mass. So, the bottom 12in will be water. The land will be above it with a small open area in the front to feed fish and clean. So, you will be able to view the fish below and they really have nowhere to hide.

My current fish pump on my small terrarium has no filters. it pumps to a drip hose manifold that goes out to 5 locations and drips down the walls. This would be like the other set up. just a small pre filter to stop large pieces of rock or bark from entering the tube. I think the fish poop has done wonders for the plants and the wet walls act as the biomass and keep the water clean. I love having the walls be peat as the plants just take off all over it and it always stays damp.

The next tank will have very few tropicals since with a big tank I should be able to get a few temp and light conditions to grow a crapload of orchids. I am really looking forward to building it but have to wait till winter when I have time.

The only thing I am wondering about is whether I should have an outside pump or just buy a pond pump.

I am equally excited about the new "GIANT" terrarium!

I probably didn't answer any questions on this first post either!

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

Okay, I finally sat down and did some drawing and figuring, even made a scale drawing!, and here's what I figured out:

For aesthetic purposes, the dims will now be 5 x 5 x 2 feet (not only 4' wide anymore). With a 5" (minimum) light hood/canopy, a 12" stand, and 3" casters, this will make the entire height about 80", which is what I wanted. The water area will still be 1.5 feet deep, which will give me about 112 gallons (if I remembered the formula for figuring that out correctly). That should mean that I can keep 2-3 discus in there, as well as some cardinals and probably an algae eater (one that won't suck on the discus), just like I wanted. Of course the water volume will end up being less than that when I put in the sand substrate for the water plants and some tree roots for the landscaping, but you get the idea.

For the above-water landscaping, I will use expandable foam to create interesting walls and nooks and crannies for plants, striving for as much realism as possible. The waterfall will run down the entire height (that will look awesome!) and end in the pool, splashing over a few terraced levels as it goes for greater interest. It will most likely be located right of centre, and may branch off to go down the right corner side as well. I'll cover the foam with a mix of peat and that glue/bonder stuff, as per the poison-frogs site, and, I believe, the dutch and Persistence as well.

There will be 3 fans for ventilation, a sliding glass front panel (however badly engineered), =) a 400 W metal halide for lighting, a drip system for the walls that will be fed from the pool of fish-poo water, and either a misting system or a hydrofogger at the top of the tank on its own water system of pure water. I realized that it would need pure water or risk ruining the expensive equipment. The pool (aquarium) will not have a centre brace, and my hubby (who works in a fish store, as well as being an electrician who will be doing all of my wiring and everything) says that that will not be a problem as long as the glass is thick enough. And of course pretty much everything will be on timers (except the waterfall). I'll waterproof the walls (which will be plywood) by painting them with the neccessary paint and by lining them with pond liner, right down into the pool (unless someone thinks that's a bad idea). In terms of filtration, I don't think I'll need anything fancy. I think the plants will do a surprisingly good job (that's what the guy who made the poison-frogs website found), and all I'll need is a sponge to grow some extra bacteria and provide some large particle filtration. Besides, I'm not willing to spend much time, energy, or money on anything fancy. So, Mr.B, you can do the pond thing yourself! =P =)

In terms of frogs, I believe I've settled on red-eyed treefrogs. I'll put PDFs in my current terr, once it's gotten a false bottom and automatic misting system ( which my hubby hinted I'll be getting for my birthday in September! I'm so excited!!!)

Plants will be vast quantities of orchids, even larger ones like oncs and catts and probably some of the more difficult ones, as long as they like to stay mostly moist. There will also be moss covering all of the available space, and some various other plants I enjoy, such as a vine or two, ferns, perhaps some calatheas, syngoniums, begonias, a stag-horn fern, streps, etc. But mostly orchids. Oh, and a mangrove in the water! And other water plants like amazon swords, anubias, pennywort, a dwarf water lily, etc.

In closing, I apologize if I repeated myself, and don't expect to see pictures until we move into a larger place, because we just can't have such a large piece of furniture here! Plus we're on the second floor, and I don't think anyone would be willing to help us move it down the stairs. =) So you'll be waiting for more than a year, but oh well! =) I'm re-vamping my current terr. in the meantime, so you can see pics of that, and just keep dreaming. . . on a side note, my Mauidae (sp?) paph. is getting ready to bloom again. I love that thing!

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

Sounds like a fantastic setup.!! Sounds similar to my own design.One of the things that concerns me is how much floor space it will take up. It is one large piece of furniture!! My thought on that was to build it within a closet so it would take no floorspace from the room. Would also cover the equipment yet still be easily accessible.
Another problem that has perplexed me is waterfalls. Love the look and they do a bunch of great things to the setup. In fact I'd go so far as to say they're essential in a tropical setup. In a paludarium the benefits are tremendous.
So before I get to long here I'll just deal with the negatives.
1 They take up a lot of room.
2. How to release the water from the pump to the falls.
3 How to predict how the water will fall
4 Obviously the higher the lift the more volume of water
as well as pumps with higher head ratings.
5 How to control the splashing
In my present setup I'm using a Magnum 350 filter in the standard way. Over the wall siphon to the filter . The exhast is run back to the tank which is altered to accept a PVC pipe which is drilled to spay on top of the waterfall.
This is working well except for two things.
There is some splashing when the filter is freshly cleaned. More holes in the spraybar alleviated this but as the filter slows the water drips rather than sprays from the bar. I had a heck of a time deciding how many holes and what size. This problem would be even bigger with a larger pump.
When fresh the water splashes enough to make drops on the glass. No mechanical problem but it looks bad.Making the spraybar adjustable helps.
Another thing would be airmovent in a bigger setup Fans of course but they take up room and very difficult to disguise.
To solve this I'm experimenting with 2 slightly twisted lengths of fleible PVC pipe .A little expanding foam ,some paint and some bromeliads .It looks like a lianna.
This would make it possible to have the fans in a remote location. A few holes and the air would go anywhere.
Now the problem How to decide how many holes,where to locate them and what size?? With this system it would also be easy to bring in cooled ,heated ,filtered or even UV radiated air as well as get a figure on air exchange.
I feel that air exchange is essential but this may be too much???

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!


I don't know much about orchidariums,terreriums ext but i know a little bit about fish.Discus' would not be a good choice at all for waht you are talking about they are hard enuph to keep in an aquiarium in a controled environment nevermind a reseviour with many other factors.If you want fish i would seriously consider miniture kio or fancy goldfish wich would do good in a place like that they do not need the heat that discuses need and as you know will thrive in just about any condition not too mention they put out alot of waste.

Sincerely lucan

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

Thanks, lucan, but there are no 'small koi', and they, as well as goldfish, are coolwater fish, and a terrible choice for a tropical terrarium/vivarium. I need the heat anyways for the treefrogs I want, and I am aware of the amount of waste produced. I think that having a large terrarium full of plants would go a LONG ways to using all that waste, and as long as I don't overstock (2 or 3 discus in more than 100 gallons of water is not overstocking), I should be fine. Of course I may end up choosing different fish, but my husband is very excited about having discus again, and it's making him willing to let me have this huge tank, on which he will be doing most of the work building it. =)

Gary: yes, it will be a huge piece of furniture! That's why there's no way I'm going to do it in my current residence, a 750 sq.ft. apartment that already has too many large fishtanks and junk! =) And yes, I greatly lament not being able to predict where the waterfall will flow!

What is this spraybar you speak of? You really must post some pics of your setup already! =) I love your idea of hidden air flow in false lianas (or other things, like branches)! Definitely something I will consider. . . fans are really painfully obvious in an otherwise naturalistic landscape/waterscape, even the small ones. I may try hiding mine in some driftwood. . .

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

Okay, I made a scale drawing (more or less) of my dream on the 'pooter, and here it is!

Some of the measurement things lack sides because on my drawing program, that's where the edges were! I didn't realize the border around the entire drawing wouldn't show up. Oh well!
The grey bars/circles are PVC pipes for water uptakes (corners are for 'water walls', right-centre is for waterfall) and the thickened line on the front view is both the water line and representative of the track for the sliding glass front. I will also have any power cords going out through the corners, so that you can't see 'em!. I'll try to do an 'artist's rendition' of the finished tank in 3-D later, but I don't have time (or inclination) right now! =) I hope this will help you all visualize things better. Note that the water part does not have corners, as my husband asked how I would get at anything I put in them. Good point! Anything ugly that needs to go in the water area I will hide some other way that I haven't figured out yet. I may just obscure the view with plants or something like that. OR I might put the glass corners back in and have them act as overflows, going down into a sump in the stand below for filtration. Whatever, I obviously have time to tweek everything. =) In the meantime, keep the ideas comin'! =)

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

As I understand it, the 24x60x18 would be the water area
while the 24x60x42 would represent the land area??
The total outside dim would be 60x24?? Not including the light canopy??
The aquarium would rest directly on the floor .?No stand?? Essentially a terrarium on top of aquarium?? The 16.5 and 27 dim represent the sliding doors??

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

You are mostly correct. The total outside dims. would be 60 x 60 x 24, not just 60 x 24, and no, that does not include the light canopy (that will be approx. 60 x 24 x 6, 6 being 6" tall). It will essentially be a terrarium on top of an aquarium, but there will be a stand, about 1 foot high. It will be to house any plumbing for the aquarium part (sump, heaters, pumps, etc.) and a separate water system for the hydrofogger or misting system (which will require totally clean, pure distilled or RO water). The 16.5 inches represents the length of the slanted back corners when viewed from the front, and the 27" is the flat part at the very back. Of course 16.5" is only the flat length; the actual pieces of wood will need to be about 20" long (as shown in the top/bottom view part of the drawing).

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

I'm sorry I have been away from the forums for a while--work has been killer. I skimmed through this jam-packed post to find that SA is back to her fabulous planning of an amazing enclosure. You go!

I just recently purchased about a gallon of high grade marine epoxy paint and some plywood for some more custom tanks, so I should be getting started (finally) on my new terraria soon.

I will say this to some of the talk of complexity and whatnot: I personally think that terraria on larger scales are probably easier to regulate than small terraria. The space is not as small, so vast fluctuations in temps are not as likely. Air movement can still be easily ccomplished through cheap computer fans and ventillation holes, and you can aim them at specific areas if you think that is appropriate. The trick, as many of you have pointed out, is getting enough light to the bottom of the tank for plants to do well there without raising the temps too high or scorching the top plants.

Let us know how the 'behemoth' works once it comes together! My terraria will still be more along the 2 x 2 x 2 size range, but I'll be using a different design than last time.

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

Hey Homer! Good to see you joining in! I agree that larger terraria are easier to maintain, but I think they are more complex to set up. You can't just scale everything up (more fans, more powerful pumps, etc.), especially when you have something unique like a special filtration system (or other thing). That's why I think I will stay away from that for now. I need to think things through more, and when I am finally actually building it, I'm sure I will be changing my plans as I go.

The main thing I am wondering about now is how to landscape it effectively. I can't decide if I want it to look just like a little piece of the forest, complete with tree trunks all the way up the back of the tank (which could look really cool), or, for greater ease, just an interesting (but fake) piece of land with some branches and vines sticking out. I would like to do the former, but I don't know if I could make it realistic enough for my tastes. I mean, I've never actually seen any jungle, so maybe those of you that have can help me on this, but I would imagine that there are spaces between the trees, and I don't think I could successfully convey that kind of depth. I also don't want to limit my planting space by having areas that I cannot plant in because of aesthetics or accuracy, so I'm leaning towards the interesting land mass idea. I think this is fake looking because you wouldn't really see such a hillside in nature, and if I make it a rock face than that is too sterile for me. I don't really want to make it look like a mini-world either, because some of the plants I want to put in there are just too large for that, not to mention the size of some orchids's flowers. So bascially I want it all to look real, to scale, and basically perfect. =) I'm sure that every approach would look great if done right, but I'm having trouble with the 'done right' part. What would be the 'right' way to do it and have it look real? Obviously I'm not going for total realism, because this will not be a biotope tank, but I think that the 'hardscaping' should be as good as possible, since it serves as the 'bones' of the entire landscape, and since this is my dream tank, I shouldn't rush over it and end up being dissatisfied with the results. I don't like that extremely overgrown look, so it's not like plants will eventually cover every available surface (moss will, hopefully, but not the 'true' plants) and obscure all 'ugly' areas. *sigh* The real trouble is that I don't think this is something that can be just talked about. I need to see pictures, and actually do it. So if anyone knows of any good sites with accurate pics. of the jungle that are inspiring, please direct me to them! Thanks!

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

Well, here I go being contrary again, but I do think the big tank is just as easy as scaling up pumps and adding more fans. I personally think that air movement is overated, and less critical in a large terrarium that has vents placed along the sides of the glass.

My "large" (2 x 2 x2) terrarium has no fans whatsoever, just a vent that runs along the front and one side glass panel. The orchids in there are thriving, and flower regularly. As I stated before, I think the tricky part will be having lights powerful enough to light the bottom in a tank that tall without raising temps too high or burning plants at the top.

Terrariums really aren't that complicated. A few basic principles and some tinkering will get you where you need to go most of the time, regardless of the scale. By the same token, filtering water to get great purity is not so tough either, and some pretty simple wet/dry filters can be made inexpensively to achieve fantastic results. Personally, I think a big shoal of cardinal tetras would be striking in a tank that size.

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

I haven't been to any jungles but I know a little about them and I have been to a rain forest. The thing is, where you can see the trunks is very dark. Heavily shaded by the canopy. A lot of the plants we all grow and want to grow, wouldn't grow in the lower area of the jungles where the trunks are.

Having said that...I really like the trunks a lot and do think you can have the best of both worlds. In jungles and forests there are always clearings or areas next to streams where you can see trunks and there is open space to allow low growing plants and epiphytes to grow lower down...and that is what i think most terrariums try to simulate. Almost like a cross-section view on the edge of a clearing. I guess what I'm really trying to say is that you can pretty well rationalize ANY design you come up with to fit into a jungle scenario somewhere.

I want to have a large tree, either fake or real, in the right back corner and have a branch come off of it that goes upwards and to the upper left. One that is sturdy enough (fake?) to support a LOT of epis. It would give a lot of interest and a lot of depth. And if the branch goes over a stream or pool...all the better.

happy planning!

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

That's IT, Mr.B! You have totally inspired me! I now know what i want! You are spot-on with the stream edge/riverbank idea! So, I will now make one very large, fake tree going down into the water. It will be enormous, like a very old red-wood or Douglas fir, or even a mangrove, and you will see about 3 feet of trunk, and then about 2 feet of roots going down into the water. The rest of the walls will be the 'riverbank'. This is still realistic because the tree can be growing out of the side of a riverbank, not just on top of it. And it also allows for realism with branches coming down from the canopy (most likely fake, since I want everything to weigh as little as possible) or fallen branches sticking out of the riverbank. I will also then make my 'pool' like a river, with directional flow. This wil be very well-suited to discus, who live amongst the tree roots going down into the Amazon in nature. Sweet! I'm REALLY excited about this now! Not to mention eternally grateful for this forum that enables me to communicate with people I don't know and would never have met!

As for where my tree will be, I don't know. Perhaps the back left corner, so that I'm not totally copying Mr.B =) and so that my waterfall can still be on the right side, now more of a stream that is flowing down the riverbank and into the river. I will also likely put some more tree roots entering the water on the right side, to suggest the larger picture. Hmmmmmm. . . I think I will leave the tree trunk hollow, so that it weighs less and also provides space to hide cables and whatnot. And of course I will have some jungle vines draping down, to provide additional space for epiphytes. I am really excited about making the texture of the bark! I love how moss grows on the ridges of tree bark in the forest, and I will strive to emulate that in my tank. What would y'all suggest for my main tree form, since I want it hollow? I think that a piece of PVC that large would be too expensive. Perhaps I could build a plywood frame that is sort of hexagonal (only not totally round, because the tree will disappear into the back of the tank, not be entirely molded 'in the round' so to speak)?

Oh, another thing I am very excited about is the plants. I have decided that I must have a super dwarf lotus in my tank! I adore these plants, but it is just too cool here in the summer to grow them successfully. I think a terrarium could be just the thing! And mine would have enough space (I think) for the smallest variety out there, right? Gary, please chime in here and tell me if this will work or not at all. Would it require a cooler dormancy? If so, could this be accomplished by removing the plant and storing it somewhere for the neccessary dormancy period? And also, since I'm going with a riverbank idea, I think I will make some holes in the bank to contain pots for terrestrials. Some paphs. and phrags. would be REALLY sweet! Especially with the flowers arching over the water. . . oh my goodness, I hope you all can see this in your head like I can. It's a piece of paradise! One question about the fake branches: how does one heat the PVC pipes in order to bend them to the desired shape (a la the Dutch vivs)? Heat gun? Blowtorch?

Homer, I don't mind you being contradictory. =) I think that I will need excellent air movement in my tank though, especially if I want a lotus. You're probably right, I probably am too worried about the technical aspects (I'm more artsy-fartsy than handy, especially when it comes to electricity. Thank goodness I married an electrician!). And the wet/dry filter probably scares me more than it should because I simply have no experience with them. I should go check out the pond forum, so that I at least know what you guys are talking about. =) Are they similar to the sump method of filtration for fish tanks? Because that's what I want to use. You know, the water flows out of the main tank via an overflow, which contains a pre-filter, and then it goes down into the sump, where it flows through various chambers containing foam, sponges, 'bio-balls' or other media good for growing beneficial bacteria, etc., and then back into the tank via some powerheads. I think I will need two, maybe three powerheads on the right side to create my river flow effect. Am I making kind of a riffle tank here?

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

Yeah, you have the idea of what a wet/dry filter is. I don't think you need three powerheads unless you want multiple water inflow points. You could easily use a fairly small pond pump to achieve the type of water flow it sounds like you want, and at a lower price.

I would personally recommend using the pump to pump water from the terrarium up into the wet/dry filter (which could just be a rubbermaid box filled with bio balls, gravel, anything with a high surface area to volume ratio) and then have the overflow from the wet/dry filter run back into the tank. That way, if/when the electricity goes out, you don't overflow your sump and flood your house/kill your fish. Alternatively, you could have your "sump" up higher to prevent this, but then you run the risk of burning out your pump if the water level gets too low.

Just something to think about.

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

I think the most difficult part of large or deep terraria would be the lighting. If you get that right all the other problems should be easy to solve.
The dutch sites are what you have in mind as a terrarium.
both size and depth.Would seem it should be easy to copy their setups.But I can't figure out what type of lights they're using and how they're arranged.Many of them go into great detail also which just confuses me more lol.Certainly don't have to look at the pics very long to figure out they know what they're doing lol. Maybe it would be a good idea to pick out a setup and discuss that one.?? Maybe ssomeone could explain the details??
PVC Besides the rigid white form also comes in a flexible black form.Look in "drip irrigation systems" in the box stores.Comes in many sizes with all kinds of fittings and can be bent into any shape you desire. It even tends to stay in the shape.It's also possible to bent the white with heat but why bother??
For my experiment I used 2 four foot lengths slightly twisted together.The object being to get the basic shape of a lianna. A little foam here and there some tree fern fiber siliconed to it and it looks remarkably like a vine even without live plants.
Among the advantages would be.It will not rot nor change size.Is extremely light weight.Using different sized pipes
you could make any shaped you wanted. With fittings air or water could be run through it allowing the mechanical parts to be located anywhere.You could force air in or pull it out.All pipes could be fully exposed for easy access and wouldn't even remotely look like a pipe.
I used 1 inch pipe which when twisted to gether is to la
too large. For running air I don't think I'd go under a half inch as the fittings become too complicated. 1/4 inch can be braided together to any desired diameter and still use them to move water.Of course you could also move air but would require compression.Much more options with 1/2 or 1 inch. The large dia, could be used for tree trunk bases
the interior could be used as a trickle filter. A little foam on the outside ,sculpting and paint
Can't think of a worse choice for a terrarium.Very high light requirements,gross feeders, and even the smallest have leaves 6 inches in dia, 12 inches out of the water.
Even the tropicals have dormant periods.
Some of the dwarf nymphaea would be much better choice.
Particularly the W.African tropicals. Even these have some related problems.To bloom well they require high light
would have to be maintained in a pot to renew soil. Leaves get around 4 inches in dia if allowed to float.Needs around 15 inches of space.
I have never been able to get them to grow in an aquarium while in the pool they flourish. Which brings the next problem.Other plants will crowd them out very easily.
and they are difficult to transplant. If you can get them to grow they are beautiful both leaves and flowers.

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

You know, I have a very large solar powered terrarium I keep at home. It's so big I can walk inside it, and hang my plants on every available surface!

And before you all go saying "Oh, but that's just a greenhouse", you can see that my terrarium is viewable from inside :) I've even got a water feature: an old bath with some local fish and mussels and one of those ultrasonic foggers (don't touch the fog as it comes out - it's really painful :).

I wonder if anyone here with their own house to play with could construct a 'show' greenhouse over a north facing (south facing for you up north :) window? The same construction techniques would apply, and the same aesthetics.

If I had more room I'd design the view out my study window, but for now I'm content to just watch what things grow and come into flower!

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

Someday I would like a 'nice' greenhouse like you say, Nathan. It would be more of a sunroom full of plants, a nice seating area, and in indoor pond with fish. Not really a utilitarian greenhouse with ugly shelving and whatnot. Everything would look nice, and be artfully arranged and in nice pots. For now that is just a dream though. =) But yes, I do long to shink myself down and step inside my terrarium and go for a walk. My own little piece of the jungle. =)

Gary: fine! shot down my dreams of a lotus! =P Just kidding, I did really want to know if you thought it would work or not. I might still try it, just because i want one so bad, but I do also love water lilies, and they sound like they would work better. Don't you have a small water lily in your current set-up? And as for light, I'll be using a halide, so I don't think that will be a problem.
I don't think I've ever seen this flexible PVC you speak of. I asked my husband, and he says you can get it, but it doesn't really stay in shape. You'd need to melt it in shape, and for that you'd need a really hot (expensive) heat gun or a blowtorch, which could cause bubbling, he says. Maybe we don't have the product you speak of here in Canada. It is possible. You have lots of plants I can't find. . . =( I think I know how the dutch are setting up their vivs, but they don't really explain how they heat their PVC branches in order to shape them. They just say 'the pipes are heated and shaped'. I guess I will have to experiment. The flexible PVC sounds like it would be perfect for a false liana, but not really for branches. I think I need to go to Home Depot and just look at all of their products and try to think of creative uses for them. I don't think I would need to paint the fake branches very much, perhaps just for some highlights or shadowed areas, because don't you mix peat moss with the concrete bonder stuff with which you cover the branches, which would lend a natural brown colour? Besides, I hope that most of the braches and background end up covered in moss anyways, so there's no sense in spending too much money on patio paints, and the time in painting the branches and whatnot. Anyways, I think I am rambling and writing disconnected sentences again. Where is Mr.B to chime in now?

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

Have no fear, Mr. B is here!!!

but what can I say?? These are all great ideas and I wish I had the time, money, energy and space to get cracking on my own ideas but I don't. It kinda sucks to be in a transition state from moving earlier this year...but not as much as its going to suck trying to find a place for all the plants that are currently outside...yikes!

Anyway I agree on the no painting thing. You could probably use both rigid and flexible piping for your tree sculpture. Use the rigid for the trunk and the first part of the branches and attach sme floppy tubing at the ends? I'm just making this up...I have no idea if it w/ work. It came up in one of the threads that a possibility would be to use the hollow trunk and branches for ventilation...I think that is a great idea. Might be complicated to pull off.

I got a heated-wire foam cutting gadget, a bunch of dense florist foam, and a bunch of styrofoam left over from packing some 'great stuff'...and one of these days i'm just going to go crazy and create an amazing waterfall.

I just had another crazy idea! What about auto related hoses for tubing? Some of them are kinda nicely flexible and should certainly be durable...but then I guess they're probably more expensive then "plumbing" tubing...just a thought.

Ever planted grocery store ginger Sa? I'm trying it again and its finally starting to sprout! (just in time for Fall...pffftttttt )


RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

Maybe you could use a cheap, light, flexible hose and fill it with something like hypertufa. Then hold it in position for a while until the hypertufa sets. if you were really feeling brave you could remove the hose, exposing the hypertufa and allowing it to age to a nice bark like texture.

I would use something like 1:1:1 cement:vermiculite:coir, perhaps with a bit of polyfibre for tensile strength. The pipes can be light grade polyethylene (irrigation pipe, e.g.) or even waxed or oiled cardboard. Another alternative is cement+mashed paper, which is very light and ?I think? quite rot proof (the cement sort of locks it together).

(MrB: yeah, I've got a few gingers that grew, and a sweet potato/yam that got left in the root-veg cupboard...

RE: My own Giant Orchidarium/Paludarium!

Nathan: I think that hypertufa would kind of defeat the 'lightweight' thing I'm going for. =) Real wood would probably be lighter, or the same weight, as PVC filled with hypertufa. Hmmmmm. . . maybe I could fill it with the expanding foam though? Then I could still bend it to the desired shape and it would hold it when the foam set, and still be quite light. . . now that IS an idea! Thanks for the inspiration!

Mr. B: yeah, I have grown culinary ginger, and it's one huge, boring plant! Very tall (taller than a dwarf banana!), and the flowers are not the beautiful things I was hoping for. You need to get the ornamental gingers if you want that. And it takes a really long time, like 5 years, to grow into a decent-sized plant that you can harvest ginger from. By then it won't look so boring. Pics I've seen remind me of an ornamental grass. Nice, but not nice enough to justify all the space it takes up! So it was a fun little experiment, but not much else. =) I'm also getting sick of my grapefruit trees that I grew from some seeds in my dad's grapefruit once (they had already rooted in the fruit!). I think I'll just give them to him to take care of this winter, and if he kills them, oh well! The things grow WAY too slowly in our cool (cold) climate, even indoors over the winter, and the leaves are far too large to make good bonsai. Plus I'll never get fruit from them in a million years, so why bother taking up valuable houseplant space? I'd say 'orchid' space, but I have so few orchids, and most of them are in my terr. anyways, so yeah. Anyways. . . Hmmmmmmmm. . . I bet a dwarf banana would be a sweet plant for my super viv! Probably requires too much air circulation though. Maybe not so good. . . we'll see how it does over winter in my apartment. Of course the real problem with such a large enclosure is that you can't really cram it with as many plants as you want. It still needs those empty spaces, places for the eye to rest. Good thing there's still so much space that I will still be able to put quite a few plants in there!

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