Poison Dart Frog Vivarium

We've visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore and were awed by the beauty and brilliance of the poison dart frogs in their exhibit. I purchased several books and decided that we could try to create our own mini rainforest habitat and hopefully have some of our very own poison dart frogs.

The first step is to create the habitat for the frogs. I am going against the conventional wisdom and am converting a 55 gallon aquarium into a vivarium. Most books recommend a starter tank of 10 - 20 gallons. The potential downside to a larger tank is that you may never actually see the frogs. We'll see if that happens in this setup.

The goal of this design is to have a vivarium with live plants, a waterfall going into a small pool, and an automatic misting system. I hope to eventually house about 10 poison dart frogs and a gecko or two in this habitat.

 

June 16, 2002. This is the 55 gallon tank that will used. It was a mini-reef setup several years ago but will soon function as a mini-tropical rainforest.

June 16, 2002. The tank is being prepared for the creation of a false bottom which will serve as the water filtration and reservoir. Two 14" x 20" glass plates were installed to channel the water to the center of the tank.

June 16, 2002. This is the right side plate siliconed into place. The silicone sealant completely seals all edges so the area underneath should remain dry.

June 16, 2002. This is the center reservoir section.

June 23, 2002. The tank was filled with about 5 gallons of water and the seals around the bottom plates did not leak.

July 4, 2002. The center stands for the false bottom are siliconed in place.

July 4, 2002. Approximately 7 quarts of Aliflor is added to the tank. The Aliflor was rinsed well with tap water prior to introduction into the tank.

July 4, 2002. Close-up view of the Aliflor in position.

July 4, 2002. The false bottom is created from egg crate (fluorescent lighting fixture) that is covered with fiberglass mesh (approx. 2mm square). 

July 4, 2002. Close-up view of one of the egg crate panels. Plastic zip ties are used to fasten the mesh to the egg crate.

July 4, 2002. The center reservoir section with a sloping false bottom. Again, this is also covered with the fiberglass mesh. 

July 4, 2002. View showing where the recirculating pump for the waterfall will be placed.

July 7, 2002. Here's the tank on the stand frame that I made out of 2x4s. Eventually, this will be finished in oak with a matching canopy. I also have a 36" vitalight (30W) fixture temporarily in place.

July 7, 2002. Close-up view of the sphagnum moss used to cover the false bottom. Forest soil mix will be added on top of this and then carpet moss will be placed on top of the soil. This is the center reservoir section.

July 7, 2002. The tank with the cork flats positioned along the back wall. 

July 7, 2002. The tank with the water feature installed (temporarily).

July 7, 2002. A quarantine setup with plants was supposed to arrive two days ago, but UPS was operating at their usual level of incompetence. I was tracking the package on-line and discovered that they delivered it to the side door. There's only one problem - we don't have a side door. This means they delivered it to the wrong address. Lesson learned. There's no way I'm going to have any live animals shipped through them.

July 7, 2002. The center water feature. The water runs from the top of the right-hand branch of this piece of Cyprus. I may change to a different piece of Cyprus before the tank is finally set up.

July 15, 2002. Left side of the tank, newly planted. Move your cursor over the picture to see the species names.

July 15, 2002. Right side of the tank, newly planted. Move your cursor over the picture to see the species names.

August 17, 2002. Left side of the tank, approx. 1 month after planting. Carpet moss, grass, and rocks are more recent additions.
August 17, 2002. Center of the tank, approx. 1 month after planting. Carpet moss and rocks are more recent additions.
August 17, 2002. Right side of the tank, approx. 1 month after planting. Carpet moss, Mimosa, and rocks are more recent additions.
March 1, 2003. Left side of the tank, approx. 8 months after planting. The small bromeliad and the dominant plant in the center (I don't know what it is) are more recent additions (approx. 4 months old). I'll try to post a better picture because the tank looks much better in reality.
March 1, 2003. Right side of the tank, approx. 8 months after planting. The Mimosa canopy is outside of the tank now. This has bloomed on two different occasions. I'll try to post a better picture because the tank looks much better in reality.
March 1, 2003. Bromeliad with pup (Noregelia liliputiana x Fireball). It has taken about two months to reach this stage.

More photos coming soon.

 

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