Archive for April 2014

Pacific Northwest Moss and Liverworts

Bryophytes have always fascinated me, and growing up in that part of the country Pacific Northwest Moss and Liverworts especially have captured my interest. I’m always a bit horrified when the springtime moss-killing-chemical ads come on the radio at the beginning of every year. This stuff looks better than grass to me!

pacific northwest liverworts step moss

After a recent hike in old growth forests, I felt the urge to find a place where I could collect some native mosses and see if any of them will adapt to the conditions of dart frog tanks. Many native Pacific Northwest mosses require a dormant period each year, so this experiment could be a complete failure. But if the experiment is successful, it could yeild some pretty cool plants for frog tanks.

This is Badge Moss, scientific name Plagiomnium insinge. It appears more “leafy” than the other Pacific Northwest moss I saw, almost like a tiny ground cover vine. It is considered a “true moss”, however, and will develop clusters of 3 to 6 sporophytes at the tips.

badge moss pacific northwestbadge moss step moss sphagnum peat

This is Step Moss, Hylocomium splendens, my favorite out of the bunch. This moss grows world-wide in cooler climates or higher elevations. The name “Step Moss” comes from its growth pattern, where each new year’s growth starts from the middle of the previous year’s frond, forming a new “step” each year. In different parts of the world, the speed of growth and age the plant reaches will vary, but the new step per year is typically true for this part of the world.

washington state step moss washington oregon british columbia alaska moss identification

It’s a bit blurry, but a new frond is starting to grow out of this one.

pacific northwest step moss

Comb Liverwort, scientific name Riccardia multifida, a small-ish liverwort. To the right is another liverwort, even smaller than the Comb Liverwort. I belive this is Yellow-Ladel Liverwort, or Scapania bolanderi.

pacific north west comb liverwortliverwort identification moss washington state

A close up of the Comb Liverwort, complete with hemlock needles and dog hair. Spring is in the air, after all, and by that I mean shedding dog hair!

liverwort up close macro identification

This appears to be Spread-Leaved Peat Moss or Shaggy Sphagnum, scientific name Sphagnum squarrosum. There are several Sphagnum species that look very similar, so I’m not 100% sure on this ID, but best matched the photos in the guide book and online.

Spread Leaved Peat Moss Shaggy  Sphagnum squarrosum

These plants were identified with the help of Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast and the internet.  Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast is a really great book, with entries for every plant I’ve tried to ID so far, including the Pacific Northwest moss and liverwort in this post. I highly recommend it to anyone in the Pacific Northwest. However, if you think I identified any of the plants incorrectly, please let me know!

First Confirmed Male Varadero!

This little guy started calling today! He’s chasing around the fattest frog in the tank. Better pictures to follow. I didn’t want to bug him too much.

male Ranitomeya imitator Varadero

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Smooth Newt Video

Check out this smooth newt video. Their habitat is really beautiful.

These newts are Lissotriton vulgaris, known as the Common Newt or Smooth Newt. These newts are found in much of Europe. The newts in the video are ready for breeding. The males develop crests for their breeding displays.

smooth newt video

The photographer put his camera in a bottle and lowered it into the water to get this shot. This is a great idea. It reminds me of little viewing boxes I made as a kid, but forgot about until I saw this. I think I might try this on a future field herping expedition.

under water camera

40 Gallon Vivarium Plants Finally!

Finally, some work on the tank! The pump is in place and running. I started by adding some moss. It always looks kinda awkward to me at that stage, but it’s not so bad when I step back and take a look at the whole thing. I can hardly wait for the moss to fill in though. It’ll look MUCH better then. My vivarium plants have been living in small jar terrariums, awaiting this step.


After the moss, I started adding plants.

planted vivarium tank

I have more lights ordered, but for now I just have the one going.

vivarium plants dart frogs

vivarium plants moss vines


Neoregelia “Chiquita Linda” bromiliads on either side of the waterfall where I seeded some Riccia. I need to put some more Riccia in, but my goal is to have the entire background covered in moss and Riccia.

vivarium plants bromiliads

I added some small bits of riccia from the Jewel Orchid terrarium. These contain some small fern gametophyes as well.

terrarium vivarium moss riccia

Neoregelia “Chiquita Linda” bromiliads, Ficus villosa, Syngonium rayii, and fern moss.

bromiliads ficus villosa fern moss terrarium

Oak leaf ficus on the background. The fuzzy Ficus villosa in the foreground.

vivarium oak leaf ficus terrarium

Ficus villosa and Syngonium rayii. The plants are a bit over-exposed, but the Syngonium rayii is a beautiful very dark velvety green.

Ficus villosa Syngonium rayii vivarium plants

I have multiple empty pots still. I have to figure out what to put in them. I think that’s a pretty good reason to order more plants!

neoregelia chiquita linda vivarium plants bromiliads

Neoregelia “Chiquita Linda” bromiliads and fern moss.

Neoregelia Chiquita Linda bromiliads fern moss

This little vine is known as “Manuran’s mystery vine” on Dendroboard. I don’t know what it is, but it’s one of my favorites. A lot of this is new growth since I got it. Most of the leaves it had during shipping have died, but it really took off after that.

Manuran's mystery vine vivarium plants vines moss

Marcgravia rectiflora is a really cool shingling plant. This little cutting should be really impressive once it starts climbing.

Marcgravia rectiflora vivarium plants sphagnum moss

I used pins to hold things in place temporarily.

Marcgravia rectiflora terrarium dart frog

The water feature isn’t quite done. I’m not sure what it needs yet, but I’m not totally happy with it yet. It’s definitely better than before, because I wasn’t able to have the depth I wanted between the two “roots” in the smaller tank. The taller tank gives me a lot more to work with.

vivarium plants water feature moss Marcgravia rectiflora

Live Sphagnum moss and “tropcal moss” from Blue Pumilio.

vivarium plants moss terrarium

Another shot of “Manuran’s mystery vine”. You can kinda see the moss that piggy backed in on it. It’ll be interesting to see how that spreads.

vivarium plants terrarium vines

30 to 40 gallon vivarium background conversion

My 30 gallon tank started leaking, so I had to tear it down. While I was doing that, I remembered I had a larger tank that I know holds water, so I decided to upgrade in size to a 40 gallon tank. In addition to holding water, it’s taller than the 30 gallon, which solves the problem I was having with the water level in the 30 gallon tank being too low.

To get the water level high enough for the pump in the 30 gallon, I would have to add a lot more substrate, which would have covered some of the lower features of this background and take away a lot of height that I wanted to leave for the plants.

To start, I had to figure out where to add to the vivarium background. Instead of adding to one side or the other, I decided to add to the middle since I was already pretty happy with how either end turned out. I chose the place to cut around the features I’d put in already. This spot would have the least affect on the roots.

vivarium background

Thank goodness for my small shop-vac. The styrofoam balls would have been impossible without it!

vivarium background

I fit a new piece of styrofoam into the space.

vivarium background

I used Great Stuff to finish filling in. Note the wax paper behind it. This is excellent for use around Great Stuff if you’re trying to stop it from sticking to things. The wax paper will peal right off when it dries.

I couldn’t decide exactly what I was going for, so I didn’t carve the styrofoam before putting it in place. After everything dried, I carved in the detail, and added more details to other parts of the background. I cut a bunch of little pockets to put substrate in, to give plants more to grow in.

vivarium background

Next, I siliconed the background in place and let it dry for a good long time. When I took apart the 30 gallon, a lot of the silicone was still very soft, despite how long I let it dry. I thought a few days would do the trick, but it wasn’t enough, so this time I’ll leave it for much longer.

vivarium background

I made sure the sides were sealed real well. I don’t want smaller frogs squeezing behind it! In the picture below, you can see one of the smaller pockets I carved for soil for the plants.

vivarium background

The left side was much harder to seal cleanly, so I’ll just clean it up later with a razor blade.

vivarium background

I added some silicone to the waterfall to patch up some spots that didn’t hold up to the water so well. Peat moss doesn’t stick very well.

vivarium background

The added section starts to blend in once it has been carved and covered in silicone.

vivarium background

There is a space under the entire background now. I’ll just fill this in with the substrate layers when I get to that step.

vivarium background

Peices of styrofoam help support the background now to prevent it from sagging while the silicone dries, and to keep the substrate from invading the pump compartment when I get to that stage.

vivarium background

I covered all the silicone in peat moss, but forgot to take a picture of that part. Next time!

2L Jewel Orchid Terrarium

This 2 liter terrarium has been going for a few years now, but has really started taking off recently after putting it under new lights.

I’ve had the jewel orchid forever, and I can’t remember where it came from now. It wasn’t doing very well a few months ago and seemed to be getting eaten by something. After watching closely for a few days, I found a tiny snail that had been eating it. You can see some small brown spots on the leaves that seem to have been caused by the snail. After removing the snail, all the new leaves are perfect.

jewel orchid ricia

Riccia is a liverwort that is usually grown aquatic in tropical aquariums, but it can also grow terrestrially with a little effort. Getting it switched over took a little while, but with the right humidity and enough light, it’s pretty happy.

riccia fern gamephyte

I had a tiny fern in this terrarium, but it slowly died off. There’s only one half dead frond left. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t getting enough light with the old lights. After getting new lights, all of these tiny green things started popping up all over the substrate. I’m pretty sure they’re gametophytes, a stage in the fern life cycle. Basically, fern sprouts.

riccia fern gamephyte

I think I’m going to have to start removing riccia soon to stop it from smothering the young ferns. The timing should be pretty good for the viv I’m working on. Some riccia will work well in the water feature of that tank.

riccia fern gamephyte

I’m not sure how long it’ll take to get to the next stage, but here’s a chart of the life cycle of ferns.

fern life cycle sporangium sporophyte gametophyte