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Thread: FBT Vivarium Preparations

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    Default FBT Vivarium Preparations

    So, Iím planning on getting three Fire Belly Toads in about a week or so, and while Iíve gotten a lot of my questions answered by simply lurking through this forum for the past, ah, month, I do have some specific things I need to ask.

    My tank is a Zilla 20L Critter Cage (30x12x12). The original plan was to make a 50/50-type setup, with a pond area using a false bottom, but, this cage is not made to hold water, and Iím simply not going to be able to afford another tank of this size, so, Iím sticking with it. While I could tempt fates and try anyway, Iíd rather not risk it. Instead, Iím using a large, clear tupperware container as their water source. (Specifically, this one.) So. Can I use a false bottom setup with such a large water, er, dish? Should I? How? Or would it just be better to fill the tank with a bunch of Eco Earth?

    This ties into the next question I have. The main reason Iíd want a false bottom at this point is to lessen the amount of substrate Iíll have to use. If I donít go with a false bottom, how often would I have to replace my substrate? With there being (goodness) around 5 inches of the stuff, do I treat it more like cat litter, scooping out the mess, mixing it around, and adding a little bit of fresh substrate in?

    Oh, er, Iím adding a small pothos plant to the terrarium, too. (Itís a cutting from a plant weíve had in the house for years--pesticide free and safe.) Does that change things? How do you change out substrate around a live plant?

    And, finally, does anyone have a recommended cleaning schedule? I know I should spot clean everyday, but, beyond that, Iím not entirely sure. Should I do a full terrarium scrub down once a month? When the tank starts to smell? With the water dish as large as it is, could I get away with daily half-water changes, and then a full change every week? Or should I really change it daily? (Iím putting a moss ball into it, and, eventually, some pothos to it.)

    Thank you for any help you can provide!


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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations

    Hi, I think I can help. First off some explanation on false bottoms and plants: one main reason a false bottom or drainage layer(either works well. I personally use hydroballs for a drainage layer rather than a false bottom.) is used is so that water used to water plants drains through and doesn't saturate the soil. This also carries out frog urine, some feces etc into the drainage layer or false bottom, which is often accompanied by a drain or a piece of pvc pipe or something to allow a tube to be inserted down to siphon out the water from the drainage layer before there is too much. The plants absorb nitrates and other things that end up in the soil from the urine as well. Generally a false bottom is used for a planted Vivarium. One main perk of a planted Vivarium is you don't have to switch out the substrate, as more nutrients from frog urine and poo are "washed"(for lack of a better word) into the soil and absorbed by the plants, and the excess ends up in the false bottom and is siphoned or drained out. While spot cleaning normally is still necessary, the vivarium or planted terrarium does a lot of work on it's own, and with springtails and isopods in the tank cleaning up for you it turns into less work, functioning as something of a mini ecosystem. It sounds like you'll be doing pretty much everything necessary for a full scale small vivarium anyway. I'd recommend picking up 1-2 more plants(you can check the ultimate plant thread in the plants section for some ideas.), and adding them, as well as some ABG(Atlanta Botanical Gardens) mix, which should be available at Josh's Frogs online.
    As for the dish, simply submerge it a bit in the substrate and don't worry about how it relates to the false bottom. As far as I know the only relationship between the dish and the false bottom is that splashes from the dish won't saturate the soil and will simply drain down. It shouldn't be a problem, I would just make sure to have some substrate below it between the bottom of the dish and the false bottom. You'll still need to switch out the water daily, since they often dedicate in the water and you don't want them soaking in old poo water lol
    I hope this helps. If it brings up any more questions don't hesitate to ask.
    Edit:WOW that's long....sorry.
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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations

    Quote Originally Posted by daybr4ke View Post
    It sounds like you'll be doing pretty much everything necessary for a full scale small vivarium anyway.
    You ever have one of those... lightbulb moments? I'd thought about springtails, but, that almost seemed like too much? But, now that you've said this, I'm like... why not? If I'm doing the rest of it anyway, and it'd certainly make things easier on me. Thank you!

    Quote Originally Posted by daybr4ke View Post
    As for the dish, simply submerge it a bit in the substrate and don't worry about how it relates to the false bottom. As far as I know the only relationship between the dish and the false bottom is that splashes from the dish won't saturate the soil and will simply drain down. It shouldn't be a problem, I would just make sure to have some substrate below it between the bottom of the dish and the false bottom.
    My problem is that the container I've picked is around 5 inches deep, so it just seemed like a lot of substrate. But, if I go with a bioactive system, then I wouldn't be replacing the substrate very often, if ever. If it came to it, I suppose I could elevate the area around the dish a little.

    How deep should the drainage layer/false bottom be? An inch? (That'd leave me with six or so inches of height between the top of the vivarium and the substrate.) I'll be using the PVC pipe method.

    And don't worry about being wordy--my first post was a novel itself.

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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations

    Hi, Daybrake has got you covered on the questions you asked but one thing I would suggest is I would give them a little more water then land. Maybe even a 40/60 split, you will notice that firebellies tend to spend a lot more time in the water then on land. I used to have 4 of them in 30 gallon long and did the 40/60 and the only time they really came out of the water was to eat, and even then you will notice that they will grab the cricket and jump back in the water a lot of the time to eat it. And put things in the water that they can climb and hide around to make them feel more secure, a lot of people will use duckweed in the water area or a similar kind of plant. Because I'm not the best with plants I used these fake lilypads I found at Walmart in mine and they absolutely loved them, and the stems were different heights so some would sit right on the water and others about an inch of the water. this way they could rest on one but still have the cover from another. These guys are very entertaining little froggies you will really enjoy watching them. I'm editing, I meant to say I found the lilypads at petsmart.

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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations

    Thanks for adding on to this Monster! I'm glad you mentioned the additional water split, I haven't kept Bombina yet, might be my next project, actually, since I have an empty 20 gallon long. Also, don't some people keep them in almost fully aquatic setups with shallow water and rocks or small islands to climb out on?
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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations

    Ya there are some people that keep it really simple and have it setup exactly like you mentioned, a nice big rock a turtle dock or a dock on each end and a filter for the water. And they will put a small real pant in a pot or a fake one on the island for cover. If doing it this way I like fake plants for fish tanks because instead of taking up the room on the dock a lot of fish plants have that weighted base to keep them submerged, so you can place the plant in the water and it can come through the back or over the side and let it kind of drape over the dock.

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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations



    Its not the best picture but this what mine looked like before I gave them to my nephew, as you can see a majority of the tank was water with rocks and plants. The land area had a little L shape to it along the back wall but not to much. And it was all fake plants, and as mentioned before the tank was a 30 gallon long.

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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations



    Here is a top shot of the water area.

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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations

    That looks pretty nice, I hope you don't mind I saved the image to look at later for inspiration. Personally I want to make mine planted, I really like working with plants. Maybe I'll make a little mini 20g long paludarium...I wasn't sure what my second simultaneous project would be, I was thinking WTFs, but now I'm thinking Firebellies. Maybe in a month or two we can compare FBT tanks
    Edit: also, snatching prey and hopping back into the water sounds super adorable for some reason.
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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations

    Monster, that is an awesome looking paludarium! If my terrarium was made to hold water, I'd definitely do something like that. At least I've found a massive tupperware container for water (13" by 9" by 4-1/2", there abouts). And! If my toadies seem to be enjoying the water, I can always get more, stick 'em around the terrarium.

    Quick question about a bioactive substrate! Is there a way to, like, make my own? Out of Eco Earth? I've already got that stuff, and it looks like it'd be kinda pricey buy a bunch of the ABG stuff. Could I mix one bag of Josh's Frog's ABG mix (4qts or 16cups or 3.79L) with the Eco Earth?

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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations

    Will it really not hold water? I don't have any experience with glass tanks, as all mine are either sterilite bins or truvu plastic fishtanks. You might be able to seal it with silicone aquarium sealant, but that could get kinda messy.
    As for the abg mix, I actually just the other day bought a bunch of materials for making my own rudimentary mix. It isn't perfect but it works. Coco fiber at the start is pretty close to nutritionally void, and only gains nutrients over time as the frog's feces is washed into it. I personally just picked up some natural topsoil(pretty much just dirt in a nice big bag for cheap), a medium bag of sphagnum moss, a medium bag of "orchid bark"(which is actually Western Fir bark nuggets), and some aquarium activated carbon(the link below should explain why.) I got everything but the carbon at home depot. I wanted peat moss, but they only had miracle grow peat, which has added fertilizer, so I don't have milled peat moss or tree fern bark, which are other parts of the mix, but you might be able to find those at a hudroponics store or garden center or something. All of the ingredients I got were pretty cheap and it'll make more of the mix than I need for one tank, which is a actually why I'm gonna work on the 20g. Below I've included a link to the DIY mix list, and the post that says aquarium carbon is a fine substitute for charcoal, and a picture of the stuff I picked up. You could probably get away with getting some natural organic topsoil and cutting the ABG mix with it and maybe some sphagnum moss and orchid bark if you feel like it. With the orchids bark, you have to make sure there's no perlite. A helpful Home Depot employee was nice enough to slice open one bag of the stuff to see if perlite was in it. I ended up with pure orchids bark, which I will have to break up myself.

    http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/par...#/topics/68357
    http://www.frogforum.net/showthread....rate-questions
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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations

    I don't mind that you saved the picture at all, and trust me if I wasn't a plant serial killer I would have had it planted. L.O.L I cant even keep house plants alive. If you want more inspiration check out a girl's named Ibannie on here in FBT forum, its one of the nicest one's I have seen. Now that my nephew has them he has bought them a fogger and it looks just amazing when it goes off, it starts in the water area and flows over the top of the water and through the plants to the land side and its absolutely beautiful. And oh my lord do the toads ever sound off when the fogger goes off, they love it.

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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations

    Yes, alas. The Zilla Critter Cages are made with thinner glass than aquariums, so, they can't withstand the pressure from much water. Hence, tupperware. I only noticed after I bought the thing, brought it home, and then opened it. It has a wonderful little piece of paper saying "DO NOT FILL WITH WATER" inside it, as well as a bit of small print on the front sticker. I McGoogled it, and, well, it just doesn't seem worth the risk. I'm willing to work around it, because I won't find a tank of this size for what I paid for it (half-off sale).

    Looking over my options and how much it would cost compared to just biting the bullet and buying the pre-mix, I think it might be cheaper to just return the Eco Earth and buy a couple bags of the ABG. Of course, that brings me back to one of my original problems: can I set the bottom of my water dish on the floor of the tank and build the false bottom around it? Otherwise I'll have to buy, like, six bags of ABG, which, no.

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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations

    Wow, okay. No paludarium then...that slightly worries me in regards to the false bottom however, since that fills with water...will it hold up to that?
    As for the ABG, I would personally pick up some organic topsoil(Mine is Earthgro, it cost me around 4$ with tax for a bag about the size of my torso) and mix in 1-2 bags of ABG. As long as it's mixed well, it should basically be watered down ABG mix. I went with the approach of dropping the ingredients I couldn't find easily and cheaply.
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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations

    That's... an excellent point. I should test that, before I ruin floors, furniture, and tiny toad lives. I think it'll be okay, because it's not very much water, displaced by gravel. But better safe than sorry. If it leaks, I could probably silicone it myself. If it shatters, well.

    I'm out forty bucks, I guess.

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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations

    I worry because I feel like the gravel might create some outward pressure of It's own, and combined with water the pressure may be too great. Also, gravel is pretty much the heaviest drainage layer there is, hydroballs or another type of similar drainage layer might be better, since the glass is thin. It probably won't matter if you're going to leave it in one place, though. The PVC false bottom might be better too. I've also seen posts about using plastic egg crate, but I don't know too much about the pros and cons of each type. One solution to the problem of water pressure might be to make sure you can siphon it before there is too much. A nice way to do that is to work on some gray PVC and run it vertically down to the drainage layer. You can use a knife, dremel(id you have it), and some sandpaper to make the gray pvc look like (ugly) wood. How good it looks depends on practice. Mine look...mediocre. I wish I wasn't poking holes in your build, but I'd hate for anything to go wrong. I really hope the drainage layer works in it.
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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations

    Better to have holes poked into the build now than next week! Please continue to do so! :P

    So I did a mini-test, filled it with about two inches of water for five minutes. No leaks, didn't instantly shatter. Looked at the seals, and no water got underneath them. I think it'll be okay, so long as I'm very, very diligent about emptying the false bottom, via the PVC method. Looking around the internet, others who put far more water in it than I'm planning on (up to half a tank) say they've had no issues. Of course, others say it's cracked on them, so.

    I think this will work.

    So, the plan is, make a 2-inch egg-crate false bottom, and an egg crate, like, divider, to hold back the substrate when I remove the water tub for changes, with a PVC pipe for drain access. Then three-or-so inches of Eco Earth x ABG. Load with springtails and another plant or two, and call it golden.

    Uh, and then Fire Belly Toads.

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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations

    That all sounds good! I'm curious, are you planning to use metal or plastic screen between the substrate and the false bottom?
    Also, this may come in handy:
    http://www.frogforum.net/showthread....-the-cheap-way!
    I used a knife with a half serated blade to scrape texture into my pvc with the serated part, and used a drill to make some holes. I used a blowtorch to bend it a bit so it looked more natural. I personally haven't used the grey pvc, I used white and black. White looks unnatural and black is too glossy and bubbles form in it when heated. The grey seems like the best, and I'm planning to get a length of it myself. It can be painted as detailed in the thread, but a sealant to go over the paint proved very hard to find, and I eventually abandoned it. Here's a picture of a really basic one I made from white pvc(with frogs). You probably won't want any holes or bending, since you're using it to run drainage stuff down, so it should be pretty simple.
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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations

    Ooo~, thank you! I might give that a try. Or I'll chicken out and, like, hide it with a plant, or some bark. XD Grey sounds like it'd be the one that'd blend in most easily, although black could work with the coloring my stand.

    I'm planning on using some window screen as the barrier.

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    Default Re: FBT Vivarium Preparations

    Alright, went out shopping today and could not find egg crate. Like, I spent two hours hunting for it and nope. They had other light diffusing things, but, not what I need. So. What's an alternative I could use for it? Or, gosh, should I just skip the egg crate and go with two inches of gravel?

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