Archive for Tank Building

40 Gallon Viv July Update

The 40 gallon vivarium has continued to do well. The plants are filling in nicey

This tiny Microgramma fern is growing above the waterfall, just to the right. It’s done pretty well, even with the soggy substrate.


I added a bit of Christmas Moss in the space next to the Microgramma. Christmas Moss is typically grown in aquariums, but it can adapt to terrestrial growth as well. I’m not sure exactly what the moss around it is. That moss was sold as an unknown “tropical moss”. Most of the original “tropical moss” has died off and what’s there now is new growth. It’s not too bad, but I’m hoping the Christmas Moss will look a bit better.


The Peacock Spikemoss remains one of my favorites in this tank.


Ficus villosa and Rhaphidophora cryptantha are happily growing side by side. They’re both about to hit the top though


The Solanum vine has really taken off! I’ve had to trim it twice, and that causes the mother vine to shoot out multiple new vines. It’s definitely doing its best to take over the back wall. 


Closeup of the Azureus! They don’t often hold still long enough to get a close up.


The Azureus is hunting among the oak leaf fig and the Peperomia prostrata.


The little begonia grew from a bit of broken leaf.


The sphagnum moss doesn’t seem to like this spot very well. I added a bit of Christmas Moss to help fill it in. I may end up moving the sphagnum instead. Since the Christmas Moss is aquatic, it should be pretty happy in this location.


I didn’t even realize it was putting out new buds until I looked at the pictures, but the little Lepanthes calodictyon seems to like its new home now. I can hardly wait for it to bloom!


I moved the Marcgravia rectiflora up higher in the tank a few weeks ago. I suspect it wasn’t getting enough light down below. It hasn’t done much in its new location yet, but it also hasn’t lost another leaf.


And a bonus shot of one of the Matecho.


If you like the plant and frog pictures, I update Instagram almost daily. There are lots of pictures of dogs mixed in, but also a lot of herpetiles and plants.

June Update of the 40 Gallon Build

The tank has been growing in nicely. If the goal was to make vines happy, then it’s been a wild success! haha The vines have quickly become my favorites. The Solanum has been trimmed twice now. I put the trimmings back in the tank to root and fill in. 

Manuran's mystery vine Solanum Bromiliad

I added a new fern, Lemmaphyllum microphyllum. It hasn’t taken off, but the other fern is doing so well, I expect this one will too.

Lemmaphyllum microphyllum tropical fern moss

It’s no surprise that the Oak Leaf ficus is doing well. It’s mixing with live Sphagnum for a nice mixture of textures.

 Lemmaphyllum microphyllum Solanum tropical vine oak leaf fig

The Marcgravia rectiflora is the one plant that hasn’t taken off. Unless it’s creating a bunch of roots that I haven’t noticed, it hasn’t done anything except drop a couple leaves. I plan on moving it as soon as I figure out what it would like better. I’m thinking the upper right side of the tank might be a better location.

The Epipremnum pinnatum ‘Cebu Blue’ cutting lost a leaf as well, but immediately started growing new starts after the first one dropped. It should do well now that it’s acclimated.

In the middle of this shot is a small begonia that just started sprouting from a leaf cutting. That should provide some of the foliage cover that I’ve been wanting for the frogs to hide under if they want.

dart frog vivarium plants epipremnum

A few other things have started to sprout as well, all on their own. Whatever they are, I think they came in on the moss. The bright green one by the glass on the lower right hand side is probably the same type of begonia as the previous picture. There’s a small sprout by the frog’s foot that is completely unidentified at this point. The Mini Red Tree Peperomia cuttings have finally rooted and are starting to take off.

Dendtrobates tinctorius matecho fern moss begonia

The Peperomia prostrata is growing in a lot thicker than I expected, but I love the dark coloration it’s getting with the lights.

Dendrobates tinctorius matecho Peperomia prostrata

Riccia is covering the water feature almost completely now.

dart frog tank water feature riccia

This is one of the Solanum cuttings that I put back in the tank. It’s pinned down with a toothpick, but it looks like it’s rooted enough to be able to remove the toothpick now. I really like the moss growing here as well. 

tropical dart frog vine moss Manuran's mystery vine oak leaf ficus sphagnum

The Rhaphidophora is peeking out behind the Ficus villosa.

Rhaphidophora ficus villosa

End of May Update

Just waiting for the Tinc tank to fill up with moss, and wishing the Veradero tank didn’t grow so fast! The Azureus are fattening up nicely. They were a little on the thin side when I got them, but they have a big appetite and are putting on weight.


The moss is starting to take off, but it seems pretty slow anyhow. I’m probably going to re-landscape a bit and move some of the fern moss to a different tank, and give some of the tropical moss (in the picture below) more room to fill in on the floor. I love the fern moss, but it seems a bit difficult for the frogs to maneuver over.


This vine has quickly become one of my favorite plants! As much as I like the rainbow Selaganella, that corner needed a little more depth, and this vine is perfect. I believe it is Cissus amazonica.


Here’s a full shot of the Tinc tank. I temporarily have the young frogs growing up together in here, until I get a new tank built for the Matecho pair. Several new plants have been added, including a small philodendron (dead center) and Ficus sp. “Panama” (just left of the waterfall) from Some tiny begonias have started to sprout from leaf cuttings tucked around the edges, so the next shot may have a bit more foliage. The jars in front contain a bunch of plant cuttings that are rooting or waiting for the next tank.


The Varedaro are happy in their tank, and fattening up as well. Judging on body type, it looks like I may have 2 males and 3 females. So far, I can only confirm one male, but I’m keeping an eye out to try to confirm a second. I plan on splitting the group up soon to help determine the genders, and give the pairs space for when they start breeding.

veradero-A-May-31-2014 veradero-B-May-31-2014

How Long Does it Take a Dart Frog Tank to Get Overgrown?

About 30 seconds.

Tradescantia fluminensis wandering jew dart frog tank

Ok, a couple weeks longer than that. This tank was put together 7 weeks ago, and now the tallest terrarium plants have hit the top and are growing sideways. I’m going to trim them in the next day or two and root the trimmings for another tank. This is a pretty good example of how choosing the right terrarium plants for your tank can affect the upkeep necessary.

A lot of these plants are considered common or beginners’ plants, so I’m going to address this post to newer amphibian keepers. Although I’m keeping dart frogs, these plants are suitable for many other amphibians and some reptiles as well.

If you want your tank to fill in quickly, several of the plants I put in this tank may be the right choice for you. These plants will also do well with tree frogs and ground frogs. I’ve kept several of these terrarium plants with Tomato Frogs, Big Eyed Treefrogs (a couple different Leptopelis species), Fire Bellied Toads, and a variety of others, even including Whites Tree Frogs. Whites will crush these plants, so they’re best used as a filler around branches or heavier plants, but they will recover quickly, so they can do well with the larger frogs.

The predominant plant in this tank is Tradescantia fluminensis, commonly referred to as “Wandering Jew”. It’s a very common plant for dart frog keepers, frequently found as a house plant, and considered an invasive species in many parts of the world, including the Southeastern US. As you can see from my tank, if it likes the conditions, it explodes.

Also in this tank are two small ferns (one is visible on the right side of the photo if you look closely), an unidentified Columbian Peperomia, an unidentified small Philodendron, Selaginella kraussiana, Pellionia repens, and Ficus pumila. All of these are great terrarium plants.

Here are some pictures of a few of the plants before they were put in the tank.

philodendron dart frog tank

I always thought this philodendron would get larger as it aged, but so far this is about as big as the leaves get, making it pretty suitable for terrariums. If you have a larger tank, other more common Philodendrons will work too. I have kept some larger Philodendron species in a 55 gallon tank with Whites Tree Frogs, and it worked out pretty well.

small ferns dart frog tank

I imagine these ferns will eventually outgrow the tank, but they grow quite a bit slower than any of the other plants in there. These were purchased at a nursery and carefully treated to remove any chemicals over a few weeks time. Plant nurseries often carry terrarium plants and may have a section dedicated to them, like the one near me has. Keep in mind that these plants may have been treated with chemicals, such as bug spray or fertilizers. Wash them carefully before exposing your frogs to them.

pellionia repens terrarium plant

Pellionia repens is often called “Watermelon plant” or “Watermelon vine”, which is pretty ambiguous. Google “watermelon vine terrarium” and you’ll get a dozen different species on the first half of the first page. This is a good example of why I prefer scientific names (when I can remember them!).

Pellionia repens will take over a tank as well, just not quite as fast as Tradescantia fluminensis (Wandering Jew). This cutting was given to me by a fellow dart frog keeper. You can find vendors who will sell and ship it to you with a quick google search. A similar species, Pellionia daveauana, has been available at Home Depot in my area recently. It will also work, but be aware that it may be treated with chemicals and wash it before use.

peperomia sp columbia pellionia repens terrarium

This Peperomia was collected in Columbia and given to me at a reptile show. It has large leaves, but remains pretty leggy, so even when it takes over (which it will try to do as well), it doesn’t choke the tank up quite as bas as Tradescantia fluminensis. 

Many Peperomia are commonly available. While you may not be able to find this specific type, there are hundreds of Peperomia species, and many are suitable terrarium plants.


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!

30 Gallon Tank, Part 4, Moss

The moss for this tank arrived today! I’m going to wait until the plants arrive to place any of it. The moss came from It’s tropical sheet moss, fern moss, and sphagnum moss.

Also, I think I’m going to change the water feature. It’s too deep. I’m going to try filling it in a bit and see if it’ll still flow ok.

30 Gallon Tank, Part 3

Made some more progress. I may make some changes, but it’s pretty much done except the plants. I’m still hoping to find Goodyera pusilla for this tank, but I ordered almost all of the plants I wanted yesterday, so I’ll be able to start planting in the near future.


The ferns are just temporarily placed for now. I haven’t decided if I’m going to use them in this tank since they’ll get larger than I want. I’m really looking forward to getting the plants!

30 Gallon Tank, Part 2

Finally made some more progress. I’m really pleased with how the roots turned out. When I started on them, I was expecting it to be a disaster, but after adding silicone and peat moss, I’m really happy with them!

I need to set up better lighting to get rid of the glare, but you get the idea.

tank for dart frogs

I used the roots to form more support for the pots. All the roots are tacked down with pins while the silicone dries. I might need to use something more to keep the roots in place.


I put silicone and peat moss on the pots as well. This will look a lot better. It didn’t add any extra time, since I had already planned on doing all this with the roots, and it’ll make the pots blend into the background.

pot dart frog tank

Almost ready for plants! I still need to decide what other plants to buy. That’s probably the hardest part.

30 Gallon Tank, Part 1

I haven’t had frogs in a while. I recently started collecting plants again, and one thing kinda leads to the other. I started a 30 gallon viv to house some of my plants in, but it’s going to eventually have frogs as well.

Here’s how far I’ve gotten so far. The background is made out of sheets of styrofoam. Great Stuff™ expanding foam holds it together and forms the extra details. I cut out holes to put pots in for some of the plants that will go in this tank.

After the Great Stuff™ dried, I used a soldering iron to melt the styrofoam a little. This smooths and hardens the surface.

There will be a waterfall coming down between the two “roots”, and this is the water intake.

A view from above, where the little pond will be.

Crappy picture after applying most of the background. I used dry peat moss and brown silicone.

This gives you an idea of the depth.

Background is dry, and most of the pots are replaced.

I can hardly wait to have moss growing all over this.

I haven’t decided for sure which pots to use. These are the two options I have. The black ones fit the holes better, but the brown ones I think would blend in better. I still have time to decide.

I still have more to do on the background. I’m planning on making vines out of the rope to give the background more dimension, and maybe to help hold the pots in place. I still need to figure out lighting, but I’m happy with how the background is going.