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Poison dart frog vivariums


10 Jan 2011
Thought i'd post this here as it may be of some interest to a few members (maybe) :)

I shut down my planted tank a little while ago with the idea of getting back into the froggy side of life.

My plan is to start with this build, with the idea of keeping either a pair of Oophaga Pumilio Basimentos, or Ranitomeya Variabilis Imitator and eventually progress to building multiple setups.

Equipment list :


24*18*24 Exo Terra


ATI Sunpower 6 x 24w T5HO dimmable


Rainforest Vivs misting system w/ 2 single nozzles and 25 litre RO
reservoir, which will run for 60 seconds, 3 times a day in order to maintain humidity.


Hydroleca drainage w/ABG substrate layer and leaflitter.

ABG comprises of :

Milled sphagnum moss, treefern (xaxim) granules, orchid bark (fine), peat moss, lumpwood charcoal.

Background / decor

Treefern / cork background with cork 'tree stump'


DIY polycarbonate lid with vents covered in fly mesh (external air drawn in) and 40mm fan running on a fan controller (internal circulation).

Treefern background (will be cut up to make space to silicone the cork trunk)

20180310_111330 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

First test fit :

20180310_110059 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

20180310_110110 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

20180310_110415 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

20180310_110426 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

Drainage (may remove the cap and replace with cork round)

20180310_110639 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

20180310_110705 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

Fruit fly media (stocked for about a year I think!)

20180310_110803 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

Misting pump / reservoir (will be using RO water) :

20180310_110734 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

More to follow.


Thread starter
10 Jan 2011
So my cat helpfully decided to deconstruct the modded lid I used - so I upgraded to 10mm twinwall polycarbonate.

This has a lower thermal heat loss than glass, but the flipside is a lower percentage of light transmission. From the datasheets i've gathered it goes (approximate figures) :

8mm low iron glass (optiwhite) - 90%

8mm float glass - 85%

10mm twinwall polycarbonate - 80%

Not bad, and coupled with the fact the ATI is pretty overkill for this tank anyway (usually used on SPS / LPS reef tanks), it should see some decent PAR numbers at all heights in the tank.

20180312_173528 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

5 x 75mm vents, wrapped in fly mesh to improve external circulation and decrease moisture buildup on the front:

20180312_173150 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

Back to the light - bought preowned from a reefer with a selection of 6/10/15k bulbs producing a very blue light not pleasing on the eye for its new purpose

20180310_110613 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

Replaced with the following :

20180312_100308 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

So that's :

6500k x 3
4000k x 1
3000k x 1
2700k x 1

Which looks like this :

20180312_103613 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

20180312_103620 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

Also cut out 3 x 16mm holes for misting nozzles.

Tomorrow will see me siliconing the treefern panels to the back of the tank.


Thread starter
10 Jan 2011
You have some nice decor & some nice bit of kit, although I am not convinced the about twin wall.
Have you seen it used before?

I have on previous builds.

I know of a former breeder that constructed the entire vivarium out of twinwall with no issues!

Why do you ask?


11 Oct 2009
Well apart from the light loss I wonder if damp air gets in the middle, if it will condensate between the layers?
Also from my own experience, the plastic become opaque over time & restricts light even further.
I started off using Perspex on my viv but it warped and went really opaque within a year, I use glass now.
Of course I might be totally wrong o_O


Thread starter
10 Jan 2011
Light loss is approx 10% less than optiwhite and 5% less than float glass looking at the manufacturers datasheets.

PDFs don't need a lot of light they prefer diffused light, just the bromeliads will to retain colour plus orchids.

The ATI sunpower keeps the T5s in a specific temp range to promote max lumens output, coupled with the best reflectors on the market. So in terms of light I'm really not concerned.

The opaque issue may be a concern, however trying to get glass cut with so many holes in such a small dimension of glass proves tricky to impossible.

There shouldn't be much moisture ingress as I'm siliconing all openings in the corrugated construction.

Thanks for the input though, I appreciate it.


Thread starter
10 Jan 2011
Continuing the build, I decided to cover the left hand side to prevent my Burmese kitten taking too much interest in the inhabitants.

Originally I bought some exo terra treefern panels along with the treefern from a local supplier - the quality difference is stark - the exo is the lighter variant, thin and general poor quality, too late as it's siliconed in place :(.

I continued this theme with breaking up the remaining treefern and some cork to create a mosaic, while leaving a 1 inch gap in between which will be infilled with sphagnum moss. I'm still not happy with the bare glass left at the sides, so i've ordered some more dark tree fern panels to finish the job.

My jobs list

- Recut and redrill another lid, as the initial misting nozzle placement was too central and would have left 30%ish of the tank dry (i've also ordered 2 more misting nozzles, to increase coverage).
- Drill an 8mm hole on the rear glass panel towards the bottom and fit the mistking bulkhead (for drainage water runoff)
- Drainage layer - I purchased hydroleca drainage medium but am considering using an eggcrate setup for weightsaving.
- Mix substrate to simulate Atlanata Botanical Gardens substrate
- Start practicing with fly cultures, i'll stick with just melanogasters / turkish gliders.
- Plumb in misting system.
- Order parts for internal fan circulation, so far that comprises : 50mm brushless fans x 2, PC fan controller, 3 pin extension cables and power supply.
- Silicone Manzanita in place to finish off hardscape
- Order and install heatpad into cabinet to stabilise temps in there for optimum isopod / fly production.

Here, I think, is the finished hardscape (bar the treefern panels on the sides) :

20180317_171208 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

20180317_171346 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

20180317_171230 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

To be continued :)


Thread starter
10 Jan 2011
It's been a little while since my last update, in no small part due to work but also things going wrong (and continuing to!)

Since the last update i've managed the following :

- Drilled bulkhead for Mistking 'value bulkhead' - this is only 6mm tubing but it does the job of draining the excess water from the drainage layer. Ryan from MK quoted me the wrong drill bit size, so had to wait for the correct one to arrive before proceeding. Once drilled and fitted I leak tested it, and found it was leaking badly even with an extra O ring on the outer glass. So I had to smear it in silicone and fingers crossed this seems to be holding up :

20180405_140912 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

20180405_140916 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

- False bottoms constructed, these cover approx 80% of the floor, to reduce weight. Finished around the edges and centre with expanded clay balls, topped with rigid plastic mesh and topped finally with horticultural fleece

20180405_131043 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

20180405_131445 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

- ABG substrate mix created (using sphagnum moss, tree fern granules, carbon granules, fine orchid bark and peat moss)

20180405_141057 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

- Topped with a thin later of oak leaves (I need a much thicker layer, prefereably a variety including magnolia and cattapa leaves)

20180405_141206 by
DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

- Also plumbed in the misting system and drainage, all pretty tidy underneath the vivarium :

20180405_143354 by DEAF N1NJA, on Flickr

The hollow cork tubes i'm thinking of filling with fine orchid bark to prevent the frogs from entering and acting as a large refugium for the isopods (shoutout to Pumilio for this idea)

Other things on the to do list :

- Hide the fan in cork to create a relatively hidden internal air circulation solution - this will be powered by a 2A PSU at set intervals during the day

- Add ventilation at the read of the lid

- Try and work out why both fans on my ATI sunpower unit have stopped working:(

- Plant!

- Decide what LED solution to go for, either a self build CREE solution, a couple of Kessil A160 Amazon suns or some GU10 track lighting (want a hybrid solution so when summer comes around the temperatures from the T5 can be eliminated)

- Also debating on wether to re-add the manzanita branches or leave them out for a 'cleaner' look?


Thread starter
10 Jan 2011
A list of current plants :

Scaphosepalum Rapax
Restrepia Mohrii
Maxillaria Pumilia
Begonia Listada
Elaphogossum Crinitum
Pyrrosia Nummularifolia
Marcgravia Sp.
Neoregelia Memphisto
Neoregelia Hawaii
Neoregelia Hybrid
Chrismas Moss
Java Moss
Flame Moss

Plants on order :

Pleurothallis Jantae
Pleurothallis Luctuoasa
Pleurothallis Tripterantha
Peperomia Rotundifolia
Peperomia Hope
Microgramma Tecta
Ficus Panama
Neoregelia Fireball
Neorgelia Red Waif
Neoregelia Hybrid


Thread starter
10 Jan 2011
I've setup cultures of tropical springtails (Folsomia candida) and dwarf white woodlice (Trichornia tomentosa), these are booming and have seeded the tank with them.

The springtails will not only be for the bioactive substrate to keep the substrate healthy and for breakdown of waste, the frogs will also eat these.

I'll shortly be setting up cultures of Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies, these will be the staple diet.