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RE: Living Terrarium

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Posted by: obeligz at Tue Jul 28 11:03:25 2009  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by obeligz ]  

Start out with providing a basic structure to support green walls in your terra.
First check that your terra is waterproof, some terras leak..
Put your terra on it`s back and silicone in a nice piece of mangroove root, not too big. Let dry
Next, Fernroot panels are a good choice since they are resistant to decomposition and they have lots of hollows for plants to dig their roots in. fernroot panels (Saxim) is CITES listed though, making it expensive.
Another alternative is EpiWeb panels, made out of 70% (?) recycled plastic. It`s not as good of a product as Saxim but still a good product.
Glue fernroot panels or EpiWeb (or other wall substrate) on the back and walls around your root with charitable amounts of non toxic silicone.
Let dry for a couple of days before you introduce the plants and loose substrate.I dont have names of plants to recommend but you should go for the smallest species normally.
Provide a good light source and buy a lux-meter so you can measure the different light intensities in the different parts of your vivarium.
Place the biggest plants near the bottom and the smallest ones near the top. Also the most sun-loving plants near the top and the most hardy in the bottom.
Make sure you get enough lught at ground level to support mosses, otherwise your ground floor will always be brown.
Do not overcrowd the terra with plants in the top and middle parts of the viv so that you get a good light gradient, it should be fairly shady towards the bottom and bright light near the top.
Vivariums mature through ecological succession, take that in account when you plant your basic setup in the start.
Often plants need some time to acclimate to the vivarium. When first planted, they are fragile. As they establish themselves in the viv they grow more robust. Placing a carnivorous plant in the viv in bright light may kill it. But if you plant it in the shade of another plant, and allow it to grow it`s roots for a while and acclimate well, then you can remove the plant that was providing shade, and your carnivorous plant may thrive and hopefully growth spurt.
Don`t wait until you have found the plants you want, before starting to build your viv. Start off by planting it with mosses and bromeliads, and as you find the carnivorous plants you like, plant them and later remove the bromeliads.
The more vegetation you have in the viv, the better it holds humidity, and the quicker plants die if you forget to water for a prolonged period.
Many plants like to dry out a bit between watering. Get a misting system and a timer with 120 on off per week. Program timer so that plants have the possibility to dry out a little at least once a week, otherwise roots are prone to rot.
A misting system will water equal amounts on the same spots every week, this gives you better stability as opposed to spraying the viv by hand.
In the first few months, reduce ventilation in the viv by placing foi8l over part of the vent holes to allow better humidity. As your terra gets more stablished, remove foil to allow better ventilation and reduce risk of mold.
Some mold in the terra is good, a lot is bad.
In the bottom of the terra there should be a hole for drainage so that excess water can escape.
When you introduce plants, also introduce compost from the compost heap at your grandparents house. A handful of compost will contain a rich variety of different organisms which are beneficial to the living vivarium, mold, mold eating organisms and decompozers of other kinds. To find good compost, crape off the (dry) top layer of the compost heap and grap a handful of the moist soil underneath.
In a corner of the viv, place a few small pieces of wood from broad leaf tree and a couple of pieces of bark and a small pile of leafs. This will serve as food and hidingplace for decomposers, a point from which they can populate the rest of the viv. your compost heap should ideally never be soaked with water, so hide it behind a bromeliad or underneath a piece of bark. Also introduce earth worms, wood lice and springtails to your viv, they are most essential to keeping your substrate healthy.
In building a living viv, you are building a micro habitat whith it`s own ecology.
With lots of light in the top it will be warmer and dryer there, and it will be more humid and cooler in the bottom, so you create a heat gradient, himidity gradient and lighty gradient, this allows you greater flexibility when it comes to choosing your frog species. You can keep pretty much any frog species you wish but it would be best to start off with a small terrestrial species which does not require a water part in the viv.
For example you could try O. pumilio, D. auratus or other dartfrog. Or you could try some small tree frog species.
It`s best to start off with a mid sized vivarium, 60x60x60cm, that`s expensive enough to establish. Bigger is a lot more expensive. smaller is cheaper, but also gives less space for plant and animal diversity, and it is more difficult to create temp, humidity and light gradients.
In a big (60x60x60cm) planted viv, a small frog will always find a good place to live.
After you have introduced compost and plants, wait a week, then introduce your first frog, the test bunny, it preferably an adult, since froglets are more fragile. Allow a quarantine period of a month or two to pass before you introduce more frogs to the viv.
In a 60x60x60cm viv you can keep for example 3-6 dartfrogs, depending on the size of your chosen species, and 2-3 geckoes, for example L. lugubris, or some other small tropical gecko or skink (>5cm SVL) which does not fight with the frogs.

A living vivarium take time to mature & establish, take your time and try not to rush. This is not a picture you can paint in a rush but rather a precess of intelligent evolvution that leads to your dream viv.

Hope you find some good thoughts in some of this
kind regards & best wishes


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