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Thread: Fire-bellied toad tank under construction

  1. #1

    Default Fire-bellied toad tank under construction

    Thought I'd share my progress on a fire-bellied toad tank.

    It's a 20gallon long, 12"x12"x30" that someone gave me for free (yipee!) including one of those snap on wire lids made for housing reptile-type things. Also included was a waterfall that I didn't really like, but I'm using its pump here. I'm planning on putting in 2 or 3 fire-bellies when it is done.

    Here's a view from the front left (please excuse the ghetto photos, it is under construction after all!):

    The green painters tape marked the water line and where I wanted the land areas to be. The land areas are made up of the same blue styrofoam used on the background, but cut into approximate rock shaped chunks then glued together using a hot glue gun. The background is one big piece carved with a sharp knife, plus a little ledge glued to it. the cracks will hopefully house moss, or I'll train some ivy to follow them.

    At this point there were one or 2 layers of Quikrete mixed with acrylic fortifier and tinted brown or whitish on the land areas.

    Top view:

    The right hand land area will be filled with hydroballs to above the waterline, covered in landscape fabric, then a substrate (soil+cocofiber+leaf litter) for some moss and small ferns to grow in. The water in the drainage layer of hydroballs will be mixed in with the main water area. If I decide I can't live with the browness leeched from the substrate into the water I can later block it off, but I don't think it will be an issue.

    This planted land area turned out smaller than I imagined, but I'm also planning on lots of water plants, so there should still be plenty of green stuff to hide in. This is also where I plan to drop feeders, though if drowning crickets turns out to be an issue I'll feed in an external container.

    Front view:

    The waterfall is on the left. The top bit is removable for access to the pump and filter stuff. There's a jacuzzi on the top part, and a wide waterfall area to spread out the water flow and keep the main water area fairly calm. There should also be enough room for a fire-belly to sit on one of the steps if they decide they want a nice aqua-massage.

    At this stage, none of the fixtures were siliconed in- they were just posing in the tank for a picture. I did all of the carving and cementing outside of the tank. The above pics are also from about 2 weeks ago.

    View of the finished water fall in operation (taken today):

    The exposed hose will be cut down to below the water line so it's not going to be a fountain (this is a vivarium, not a golf course). The waterfall only flows to the left side of this picture, it's wet on the front from my messy splashing. An additional 1 or 2 thin darker coats of quikrete have been applied at this stage, then sanded down after it was dry but before it was fully cured. This exposes some of the lighter layers beneath in the higher areas to simulate wear and give more variation in the colour of the fake stone. The cementing has all been finished and everything has been siliconed into the tank at this stage.

    I'm at the waiting stage now, 2-3 weeks to let the Quikrete cure. Cement is supposed to act as a buffer, raising the pH of the water so I'm then going to flood the tank to the top and do weekly water changes until the pH of the water is unchanged by the 'crete. This supposedly only takes another 2-3 weeks. Then it's planting time!

    I'm open to any suggestions or modifications at this stage. I've never kept fire-bellies before, so I'm going on what I've read (especially the care sheet here) to make a home they'll be comfy in.

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  3. #2
    100+ Post Member MikeM670's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fire-bellied toad tank under construction

    I really like how your rock formations are turning out.

    I found a very interesting article posted on another forum that talks about concrete curing. I have included the thread link for anyone interested. The message of interest if from David Brahms who runs a small company that makes small concrete rocks for the marine aquarium trade.

    I hope I am not violation any terms by posting alink to another forum.

  4. #3

    Default Re: Fire-bellied toad tank under construction


    Also, thanks for the link. I hadn't heard about the Silica Fume before, so that was a very handy tidbit. I'll have a look for it before I start the cementing on my next build (which is pretty soon).

  5. #4

    Default Re: Fire-bellied toad tank under construction

    Great job!

    I, too, Love how you are doing your rock formations! Keep the pictures coming!

    It is going to be beautiful when you are done, I can already tell.


  6. #5

    Default Re: Fire-bellied toad tank under construction

    An update. I've been keeping it part filled with water with partial changes every few days and keeping the bits above water misted to aid in the curing. I've only been testing the pH every 2 or 3 weeks, so it may have actually been done awhile ago. Anyways, the last test showed it the same as my tapwater (~7.2), so it was time to plant.

    The area on the right is filled with ~2.5" of hyrdoton, covered with landscape fabric, then another ~2.5" of substrate. This keeps the substrate at or just above the water line to prevent it from getting too soggy. It has a bit of Frosty fern on the right, Selaginella krausianna variegatus, that should do some spreading, some kind of boston ivy at the back that will definitely spread and get decent sized leaves for cover, and some sheet moss around the edges. There's room for a Dracaena deremensis "Warneckii", which I'm attempting to propagate and will stuff in later (if that fails I'll pick up another one) which will give some good hiding spots under its leaves. I've smeared some ground up moss and buttermilk pancake mix into the cracks on the back wall. It will take awhile but hopefully will fill in nicely. The moss has to be misted a couple times a day for the first month or so to help get established. I've also tossed in a few magnolia leaves from a viv with an established springtail colony as a clean up crew.

    In the water are a few kinds of plants from the goldfish tank. Some kind of duckweed, which should spread without the fish to eat it, Canadian pondweed, Elodea canadensis, also spready without the fish to eat it, and something else I don't recall the name of. I'm pretty ok if the duckweed takes over the water part, I like how it looks and I know native frogs here love hiding in it. I also plan on a stick or two of "lucky bamboo" jammed in the rocks at the bottom (which I need more of). The water plants are a bookended by pothos which has always grown well for me in a jar of water, so it should spread nicely for more cover. I cut a couple 1" pieces of 3/8" flexible tubing and siliconed it in for a place to ram the pothos stems into so they don't go wandering.

    The waterfall is running nicely and only creates turbulence in the front left corner as planned. I hear they like calm water, but I've often seen them in petstores sitting in flowing features, so mine will have a choice. There's room under the waterfall for a bag of charcoal if I decide I need it for filtration and the water runs through mechanical filtration (a scouring pad) before it hits the pump. The hydroton area is connected to the main water area and will be a biological filter- I've added water from my established goldfish tank to add in good bacteria.

    So a bit more planting to do and much growing to do before I get frogs, but I think it's coming along well

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