New Terrestrial Build

Kribensis27

Hey everyone, as you can tell from the title, this will be a terrestrial build. I was planning to make this tank into a blackwater rasbora scape, but after the disastrous heater fail a while back, I don't think it feels right to make another aquatic tank quite yet.

It's a 55g tank with LED lighting. I'm planning a very diverse ecosystem of creatures in here, but the main inhabitants will be either spotted salamanders or American toads.

It will have a very small, very shallow water area. This area will essentially be just an exposed part of the drainage layer. It will have some sort of plant substrate in the bottom, and mesh to divide it from the rest of the drainage layer while still allowing flow. The water level will fluctuate throughout the day, being entirely dry at some points. This is to simulate the natural formation and evaporation of small puddles and pools in their natural habitat.

I have a ton of plants already, ranging from pileas to orchids to gesneriads to ferns to aroids to basically everything else. There will be dry areas and wetter areas as well. I plan to have a large tree stump as the main focal point, with smaller branches of ghost, manzanita, & spider wood. The wood will be mostly covered in epiphytes (or at least that's the plan, for now).

I now just need to find some sort of tropical woody shrub. It needs to be able to handle low light, stay relatively small, and respond well to pruning. If anyone has any suggestions, it will be greatly appreciated!

I don't have any substrate yet, and I still need to sterilize the stump, so the actual build might not start for a few weeks. I'll keep this thread updated with any new ideas or decisions. I'll add a rough sketch of what I'm planning as soon as I can make one.
 

BigManAquatics

I will have plenty of toads here at work in about a month or so if you want to come collect them! Sure beats them getting run over.
 

Kribensis27

I will have plenty of toads here at work in about a month or so if you want to come collect them! Sure beats them getting run over.
I always feel bad when I see those flattened toads
 

BigManAquatics

I always feel bad when I see those flattened toads
We had so many of them at work last year. Probably just as many as the year before, but less concrete then. They don't stand out as much on rock and gravel roads.

At least i was able to get people to avoid running over the juvenile snapping turtle. But they could also see that one.
 

ChrissFishes01

You should do a detailed build post! I'm considering setting up a 65 as a vivarium/paludarium, but haven't done the research yet.
 

Kribensis27

You should do a detailed build post! I'm considering setting up a 65 as a vivarium/paludarium, but haven't done the research yet.
I'll use this thread to update the progress. That sounds awesome! Make sure to @ me if you make it!
 

StarGirl

I like Salamanders they are so cute! Do those!
 

Kribensis27

I like Salamanders they are so cute! Do those!
I've kept toads before, but never salamanders (other than axolotls). I think I could plan another tank for toads, I do have an extra 20 long laying around. I guess, for now, I'm leaning towards salamanders.
 

Kribensis27

I’ve collected and sterilized a few more branches and rocks, and I’ve begun to draw out a plan. I’m also narrowing down a list of plants and insects to use. I still need ideas for some sort of smallish, fast growing, tropical shrub-like plant that tolerates pruning well. Anyone have any suggestions?
 

StarGirl

Sorry I dont know anything about terrarium type stuff.
 

Kribensis27

Sorry I dont know anything about terrarium type stuff.
That’s fine, I don’t expect many people to
 

Alejandro

I’ve collected and sterilized a few more branches and rocks, and I’ve begun to draw out a plan. I’m also narrowing down a list of plants and insects to use. I still need ideas for some sort of smallish, fast growing, tropical shrub that tolerates pruning well. Anyone have any suggestions?
Some ficus species do well if they don't get roots too wet.
Spathophyllum will grow with roots direct in water with no soil.
Usually I use lots of ferns

If it's not warm and high humidity you have more options but high humidity and air stagnation is the issue for most of what you might call shrubs
 

Kribensis27

Some ficus species do well if they don't get roots too wet.
Spathophyllum will grow with roots direct in water with no soil.
Usually I use lots of ferns

If it's not warm and high humidity you have more options but high humidity and air stagnation is the issue for most of what you might call shrubs
Thanks for your response!

Yes, the ventilation is going to be the hardest part. It's going to have a decently high humidity level, but nothing excessive. I plan to have a variety of different soil moisture levels, with some areas more dry and others wet, so I should be able to find a spot somewhere between the two. The drainage should be fairly good.

I was thinking of doing a Ficus species, one of the more woody-stemmed Cissus species, some cultivar of Vireya, or something else.

If I can't get anything more interesting, I'll probably just go for a Ficus benjamina. I've used them before with good success, but I just want to try something else. It should be easy enough to keep it trimmed. It also shouldn't be hard to train it to grow more horizontally than vertically.
 

Kribensis27

I'm planning to have an incredibly diverse ecosystem in this tank. I want there to be even more species than in my dart frog vivarium (the dart frog tank has 3 types of springtails, 2 types of isopods, some millipedes, some land snails, 5 types of soil mites, some slugs, some nematodes, some centipedes, and of course, the dart frogs.)

I plan to add either some ants or some termites. They have to be a peaceful type, so they don't attack the larger amphibian. I will likely be going with Prenolepis imparis, Lasius neoniger, Lasius americanus, some other Lasius, or Ponera pennsylvanica for ants. I have experience keeping many different ants, and these are among the most peaceful I've kept.

If I decide to go with termites, I don't have much knowledge. I want to go with a dampwood termite species in the genus Zootermopsis (maybe Z. angusticollis), as they have a harder time infesting houses. I just don't know how aggressive they are. Whether or not I end keep them in this tank, I still want to keep these. I just don't know where to buy a king & queen. I could try to get some workers and wait for some to become reproductive individuals, but I also don't know where to buy workers.

I've spent the past few days collecting whatever isopods and millipedes I could find under still-frozen logs, along with gathering some isopods, millipedes, dubia roaches, and darkling beetles from my various cultures. I also have a bunch of springtail species.

I have a massive amount of leaf litter set aside for this project, along with some branches, rocks, sand, and logs. I even have a huge chunk of rotten wood for the ants or termites to nest in. I'm leaving the majority of this stuff unsterilized. The more hitchhiking bugs, the better.

The plant list is getting narrowed down, and I'm beginning to get an idea of now I want to set up the tank. Now, I just need to move the tank up from the basement to my room (I want this to be on display to me, not stuffed away in the basement) and check it for leaks, get some ingredients for substrate, get a whole lot of LECA, decide on my woody plant, and begin the build!
 

mrsP

I'm quite sure no ant would be suitable, but termites would. Their nest tends to get huge over time, but I'm sure you have plans for that. I'm not sure if you're interested, but long while ago I stumbled across a channel in youtube that I've been following since: AntsCanada. He has amazing knowledge about ants, and makes super interesting videos about them. I'm really not interested in ants, and still follow that channel and watch all of his new content (and watched most of his old one too...), it's really well made.

We have 2 crested geckos, and I've been planning about doing their vivs again, and I'll be following your build for any and all ideas.
 

Kribensis27

I'm quite sure no ant would be suitable, but termites would. Their nest tends to get huge over time, but I'm sure you have plans for that. I'm not sure if you're interested, but long while ago I stumbled across a channel in youtube that I've been following since: AntsCanada. He has amazing knowledge about ants, and makes super interesting videos about them. I'm really not interested in ants, and still follow that channel and watch all of his new content (and watched most of his old one too...), it's really well made.

We have 2 crested geckos, and I've been planning about doing their vivs again, and I'll be following your build for any and all ideas.
Thank you for your reply!

Why would no ant be suitable? I'm fairly confident that P. pennsylvanica would be a good candidate. They're very shy & peaceful, and their colony size rarely exceeds ~100-120 workers. P. imparis is also very peaceful in my experience, and was afraid of anything that moved. They never once got defensive, opting to simply retreat to more secure parts of the nest. I can see how Lasius would be a bit of a stretch, though.

I really want to do termites, but it's proven quite difficult to find king/queen pairs within the US. I'm able to order a pair from Canada, but I would need a $100 licence, plus another $55 for inspection, plus the cost of the termites themselves ($35). This species is native to the northwestern US though, so if anyone can find some and is willing to ship them when it warms up, send me a PM and we can figure out cost.

I'm willing to accomodate quite a large nest, and I do have the means to control population if necessary.

Yes, I'm a fan of AC. I started following his channel quite a few years ago. Nice to see another fan. Nordic Ants is another good one, and his multi-species vivarium is what inspired me to build this one. I'm not doing exactly what he did, I'm modifying it for a much smaller scale (and adding my own changes), but it's the same general idea. Just less ant colonies, less large animals, and more decor, along with some experimental things I'm trying out.

Thanks for following! I love cresties, they're such great little lizards.
 

mrsP

Only because ants do tend to eat most of the things that move, but if you have peaceful ant speces in mind, that's awsome! I'll check Nordic Ants too, sounds really interesting.

I feel like cresties are actually mini dragons, only wings are missing.
 

Kribensis27

Only because ants do tend to eat most of the things that move, but if you have peaceful ant speces in mind, that's awsome! I'll check Nordic Ants too, sounds really interesting.

I feel like cresties are actually mini dragons, only wings are missing.
Yeah, these ants should be fine with other creatures. They'll probably hunt some of the insect population, but they'll likely leave most other stuff alone.

Funny story about the P. imparis, they actually once ended up with a newt in their nest, and didn't kill it! I used to have a fire bellied newt paludarium, and my P. imparis colony had outgrown their test tube. I knew this was a peaceful, moderate moisture loving ant, so I decided to try out the paludarium as a temporary setup.

I placed the colony in and unblocked the test tube, and left the room for a while. I had only seen the newts exit the water on rare occasions, so I thought it would be fine. Well, when I came back to the room, I could only see one of the newts. The other was gone. I searched the whole tank, with no results. Finally, I got desperate, and checked the ant test tube.

The newt was inside, just kinda casually chillin with an ant colony. They were sitting on the cotton and the sides of the tube acting like nothing happened. The queen had even moved the brood pile closer to him! He hadn't eaten any of them, and they hadn't eaten him. If it worked for a 3 inch newt, I'm guessing it would probably work for a 6-8 inch mole salamander or a fat, thick-skinned nugget like a toad.

If cresties are dragons, then dragons are among the derpiest things I've ever seen.
 

YellowGuppy

I now just need to find some sort of tropical woody shrub. It needs to be able to handle low light, stay relatively small, and respond well to pruning. If anyone has any suggestions, it will be greatly appreciated!
Not sure if I'm late to the party here, but would a jade plant fit the bill?
 

StarGirl

I know nothing of what you are talking. Why would you want ants or termites in there?
 

mrsP

Why not?
 

StarGirl

They might escape!
 

Kribensis27

Not sure if I'm late to the party here, but would a jade plant fit the bill?
For the dryer part of the tank, that could work well! Thanks for the suggestion! I'll add that to the list of possibilities.
I know nothing of what you are talking. Why would you want ants or termites in there?
Haha, sorry, I got a bit carried away with the insect conversation. The ecosystem within this tank is going to be very diverse, including possibly dozens of species. In nature, there are eusocial insects adapted to almost every habitat. There are a few exceptions, but not many. In order to best replicate nature, eusocial insects are very important.
They might escape!
That's exactly why I chose the species Zootermopsis angusticollis, a species of dampwood termite, specifically (if I go with termites, that is.) This species requires high moisture content in its environment to survive, and doesn't frequently infest houses. They also require a steady supply of rotting wood to feed on. Our house has some, but very little, rotting wood, and certainly not enough to sustain an entire infestation.

The termites that are best known for house infestations are subterranean termites and drywood termites. Both of these can survive with less moisture in their environment, and both can cause far more house damage. Subterraneans need contact with soil, but drywoods don't. Drywood termites can come in on furniture & lumber, and can devour any wood within a home. I'm definitely being careful, if I decide on termites instead of ants.

For the ants, I chose moderate to high moisture species. It's uncommon for most Lasius ants to infest homes, and I've never heard of Prenolepis imparis living indoors (unless they're being kept as pets.) Ponera pennsylvanica can't even climb glass. If any of these escape, they'll likely either find their way back outside, or die.

Edit: forgot to mention, there are barriers to put on glass that prevent ants from climbing out. A common one is a mixture of baby powder & rubbing alcohol. Some people also use vaseline or olive/vegetable oil. There are also commercial ant barriers such as Fluon.
 

Kribensis27

I now have most of the materials I need, other than LECA. Most larger amounts of it are overpriced. I might use something else in its place if I can find anything.
 

Kribensis27

It's 4:04 AM here, and I can't sleep, so I might as well update this thread.

Today, I caught & began to culture three more springtail species, along with a few more isopods. I've also had more mealworm pupae hatch into beetles. I've found a nice piece of wood with a big cavity inside, and I think it would make a perfect hiding spot for the toads or salamanders.

This project is moving far faster than anticipated. Now that I have basically everything, I can start the build as soon as I get my drainage layer material. I'm so excited!
 

Kribensis27

Now I have everything, I just need to move the tank to its spot.

The invertebrates I have so far have been breeding, and I now have about 50 millipedes, 20-40 isopods, 15-20 darkling beetles, a ton of springtails, a bunch of worms, a few more snails, a few more dubia roaches, and some ladybugs that decided to join the group.

I'm keeping them all together in a small tank in a dark corner of my room. It has maybe 6 inches of coco coir as substrate, with maybe 4 inches of leaf litter on top. I feed a small piece of banana weekly, and mist it heavily twice a week.

STILL haven't actually started the build, but I desperately want to. I promise it's coming!
 

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