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Easy Awesome Vivarium Design

smashtoad

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Aug 9, 2010
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Indiana
Hi All,

Sorry if this post may ramble, but I have had a lot of coffee and am excited about the prospect of setting up a vivarium for Tylototriton kweichowensis...if I can ever find any babies, that is. Any help would be appreciated.

Anyway, the reason for my posting is that I think I have a suggestion that will benefit many of you that utilize siliconed-in glass dividers in the name of creating land / water areas for your newts. My suggestion is...dont do it. Here's why...

The Basics

All aquaria colonize nitrifying bacteria over time. The amount of bacteria depends on the amount of food for the bacteria, essentially. These bacteria turn ammonia (very toxic) from waste and uneaten food into nitrite (also very toxic) and then into nitrate (much less toxic)...we then remove nitrates with water changes and are aided by live plants as well. This is known simply as "biological" filtration.

The traditional undergravel filter, that looked to most of us like, uh...nothing, utilized the aquarium's gravel bed as a filter, circulating oxygenated water thoughout the gravel, which colonated nitrifiers. A lightly stocked tank could get by just fine on this type of filtration alone.

The Vivarium

When I went to set up a viv for my Phyllobates terribilus, I read all about how dudes were building these intricate false bottoms, and posting progression threads that were as varied as they were confusing. Not only this, the bottom several inches of the viv was EMPTY, when it could be used to colonize nitrifiers!

Instead of installing a glass barrier to flow, or using a false bottom, just use very small aquarium gravel (or pea gravel) to the desired depth (2 to 3 inches, roughly), then use big river stones to build your wall, securing them in the gravel floor. Then pile more gravel behind them. When you get to the top, put more big river stones down, and so on and so on. Sure, some gravel will slip through, but who cares. Eventually you will be able to fill to the desired height, and will have created a natural water / land barrier.

I know many of you will be concerned about gravel injestion, use long fiber sphagnum moss to cover the gravel on the land side, and pack it down tight. Then pack more a little looser, and then more looser. Eventually you will have enough to plant most viv plants in, and if you provide adequate cover, hopefully the newts will not feel the need to dig all the way to the gravel.

Water Quality

Here's the kicker...before you begin to fill the tank with gravel, on the land end, get a small aquarium circulation pump, and an appropriate length of tubing. Wrap the pump in black fiberglass screen, and then zip-tie the screen around the outflow tube and also around the pump cord. Then bury it with the tube going to the water end. This can be used to create water falls, bubbling brooks, whatever.

The point is this: The entire length of your vivarium's bottom will be turned into a big biological filter, with oxygenated water flowing through it freely. So why would you put in a piece of glass that is only going to restrict flow, causing the bottom of the gravel side to become stagnant, if not septic?

Below is a picture of my terribilis viv. This tank has no false bottom, just gravel and sphagnum, and a screen wrapped pump. The sphagnum has long since lived and died, being replaced by an awesome species of volunteer moss that has carpeted almost everything.

I believe this method of viv design would work awesome for the more terrestrial Tylototritons, and could be modified to suit the more aquatic species as well. The only drawback is that it may be difficult to use if you desire really deep water, like 8" or more. The taller your tank is, the more leeway you'll have in design.

It's all about moving water. Moving water is the key to viv health, in my opinion. That, and not overstocking the tank. That's why this method works so well for dart frogs.

Sorry about the crappy phone pics, but you get the idea. First pic is Oct08, when the tank was built, the second pic is today. I hope this post will help somone build for their animals a viv so beautiful that their wife won't mind it being in the living room!

P.S. An Oak canopy helps a lot when it comes to pleasing the wifey...ha


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  • The-Axolotl:
    Hello, I think my axie might have anchor worms, could someone please look at my thread its called 'rapidly growing strange things all over my axolotls' thanks- The-Axolotl
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  • axolotl nerd:
    @The-Axolotl, reading through your thread now, sorry i didn’t get a chance to welcome you yet!
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  • The-Axolotl:
    Thanks for reading my thread, everyone has been so helpful 😀😁
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  • The-Axolotl:
    Can anyone answer if I can use trichlorfon 20mg with my axolotls to treat the anchor worms it is supposed to kill them. I have purchased something from the shop called blue planet paracide which has 20mg of the trichlorfon
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  • axolotl nerd:
    sorry in advance for anyone who reads my latest post, it’s very long and was written late at night, ergo it isn’t wonderfully organized
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  • The-Axolotl:
    @axolotl nerd That's so cool that your looking into being a axolotl breeder/ having a axolotl sanctuary
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  • axolotl nerd:
    @The-Axolotl, im a hug energy when it comes to axolotls, and decided i might as well “shoot my shot” and try to make a living out of it. lots of inspiration taken from margie, who used to breed and sell here on caudata- she was raising about 1000 juveniles at a time, which is my end goal
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  • axolotl nerd:
    huge nerd**
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  • The-Axolotl:
    Nice, if/when you start breeding axolotls make sure to post pics of the cute baby axies here on caudata
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  • axolotl nerd:
    i plan on it!
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  • Albi_the_axolotlt:
    Hi, i'm new to this community👋
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  • Albi_the_axolotlt:
    and I need help
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  • Albi_the_axolotlt:
    a lot of it
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  • Albi_the_axolotlt:
    if anyone can please reach out to me
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  • Albi_the_axolotlt:
    my axolotl is having airbubles in stomache
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  • Albi_the_axolotlt:
    and is stressing a whole lot pls help me any useful info would help
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  • The-Axolotl:
    @Albi_the_axolotlt have you made a thread on the forums about your axolotl having this problem?
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  • Elder_Axolotl:
    @Albi_the_axolotlt I would definitely make a thread about this, but before you panic try putting you axolotl in a tub where the water only goes about an inch above it, and then cool the water down SLOWLY, like a couple ice cubes at a time, to about 50 Deg F. sometimes this helps them pass gas, or even have a bowel movement. Just make sure the Temps from your current enclosure and the tub are within 4 degrees of each other and not higher than 65 Deg F. so you dont Temp shock your baby.
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  • Albi_the_axolotlt:
    well I don't know how to make a thread and I am very thankful for your help but the real reason I am worried about is that it goes away and comes back constantly like its gets better today then tomorrow morning she is at the top of the tank floating on her side all bubbled up? I do put her in a container with just enough water to cover her back and it helped but it gets annoying and scary when it's consantly happening and I am worried I am doing something horrible wrong.
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  • Albi_the_axolotlt:
    If you would like to know my care I will make sure to share it with you!
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  • britt6393:
    @Albi_the_axolotlt, Hi, do I still need to use aqueon pure balls in an established tank?
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    britt6393: @Albi_the_axolotlt, Hi, do I still need to use aqueon pure balls in an established tank? +1
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