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Terrarium setup

Discussion in 'Growing Areas' started by Duane McDowell, Dec 13, 2010.

  1. Duane McDowell

    Duane McDowell Terrarium Hobbyist

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    Roseville, MN
    I grow some cattleya types in the research greenhouse where I work, but most of my collection is in a 30-gallon terrarium that I built out of an aquarium I got on Craigslist for free.

    afarm6.static.flickr.com_5163_5253421156_51c66dc86b.jpg Here's a "quickie" drawing of the hood and the tank. The idea for me was to get as much good light into a standard (read: free on Craigslist) aquarium. There aren't any dimensions on the drawing because every aquarium is a little different. My main piece of advice along those lines would be to wait until you actually have the aquarium to start building the light hood. My light hood is a little oversized, and I have a problem with everything drying out a little too quickly, necessitating more watering than I really want to do.
    I plan on modifying the design a little now that I've had it for a while. I'm going to add some aluminum angle to the back of the aquarium, which will seal up the long gap there. The weather stripping didn't hold very well with the constant sliding back and forth of the hood.
    Hope this is useful! I'd be glad to write up measurements sometime if anyone thinks it would help, but I would emphasize that every aquarium varies from the others!

    afarm6.static.flickr.com_5045_5253420820_a3fd045e17.jpg This picture shows the air movement fan. It runs continuously, blowing up against the plexiglass. It moves air in the entire tank.

    afarm6.static.flickr.com_5130_5252809961_e0c1751dcd.jpg When I first built it, I laid out the bottom with a single layer of styrofoam, then I took several styrofoam balls (green florist's foam) and cut them in half. I attached them to the foam sheet with black silicone and bamboo skewers. The balls suggest hills in the tiny landscape - I think they're a nice touch....
    Then I covered the whole mess with black silicone and sprinkled it with coir (as suggested by Black Jungle). What I've been noticing is that the styrofoam half-spheres are coming loose from the sheet. This wouldn't be a problem if I weren't constantly moving plants around. Since the wires that I have the mounts supported on are not stainless steel (I use stiff floral stem wire), they rust on the end that's in the foam, and they resist being pulled out. I'm not sure what I would change in future iterations, but I would probably use more bamboo skewers to keep the half-spheres in place.

    afarm6.static.flickr.com_5285_5253420128_dc56cba36f.jpg I grow in a 30 gallon aquarium. I use 4 60W equivalent compact fluorescent bulbs to light it. They are in a wooden hood that I built for the terrarium. The bottom of the hood is plexiglass, so any heat coming off the bulbs doesn't enter the tank. I have a fan at one end of the hood and holes drilled at the other to keep heat from building up inside it.
    Inside the tank, I have a computer fan that blows upward onto the plexiglass to move air around. I run a Repti-fogger on a timer - 3 hours early in the morning, then a couple of times a day for 15 minutes. I use RO water in the fogger to prevent any problems with the mechanism.
    I haven't needed to do any active cooling - the terrarium is in my basement, the lights are above plexiglass, and I use clay pots or mounts to keep the plants' roots cool.
    I give the plants the appropriate light by mounting them on wires. I stick the wires into styrofoam at the base of the terrarium. I have a layer of coconut husk fiber (coir) covered with live moss over the styrofoam, so it's relatively attractive.
    afarm6.static.flickr.com_5125_5253419756_5e4342ac2c.jpg This picture shows the inside of the hood. There are light bulbs in there, but they're bright enough that you can't see them individually. The inside of the hood is lined with reflective mylar. The base of the hood is clear plexiglass to minimize the transfer of heat into the terrarium. There is also a venting fan at one end of the hood and a series of holes at the other end to keep heat from building up inside the hood.
    afarm6.static.flickr.com_5249_5252809013_a6d217aed6.jpg Here's a picture showing what it looks like most of the time. I have a fabric curtain hanging in front of the mechanics. It's a nice display, overall.
    afarm6.static.flickr.com_5208_5253421138_56a3980fe4.jpg This picture shows the workings. There is a Repti-Fogger that I use to humidify the tank. It's on a timer - 3 hours in the morning and 15 minutes a few times during the day. The lights are on a timer, as well.
    After just shy of a year with this setup, I can share a few things I would do differently. I would do all my mounts using EcoWeb rather than tree fern. It doesn't break down, it grows orchids well, and moss grows just fine on it.
    I would use a larger tank - it didn't take long to fill this one!
    I wouldn't do the styrofoam landscaping. The balls have come detached, and they can be a hassle. I would use a thicker layer of styrofoam on the bottom - probably just builder's insulation. It would provide more support.
    I am switching over to more bamboo skewers as supports for the mounts. They don't rust.
    I've sealed all but a few small openings. It keeps everything wetter longer, and they are growing better.
    Feel free to PM or email if any of this is unclear or if you want more details.[/QUOTE]
  2. Forrest

    Forrest Really Neat

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    Northern California
    I dig this. Good job man.
  3. mrbreeze

    mrbreeze Anglican Supporting Member

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    Yea! Very innovative ideas. Why don't you use vinyl-coated wire? It comes in many guages from super bendy to very un-bendy and the only place it would rust would be the cut end. And that could be sealed easily I'm sure. I hope you can get some Angs to go with your myriad of pluero types. :clap:
  4. xmpraedicta

    xmpraedicta Prairie angraecoid nut Supporting Member

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    Saskatoon, SK
    Very cool...love seeing other people's terrarium setups!
  5. Uluwehi

    Uluwehi angraecoids, dendrobiums and more Supporting Member

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    Congratulations on a wonderful growing space, and thank you for sharing it with us.
  6. Akhenaten

    Akhenaten Member

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    Russia, Siberia, Krasnoyarsk
    Very, very nice :) :) :)
    It is look like Salvador DalĂ­ - "The Temptation of Saint Anthony"