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Hi guys,

 

I have a question for other terrarium keepers.

 

First allow me to describe the situation: I have a highland terrarium which has an aquarium cooling unit to cool the inside temperature at night. The terrarium has a water basin at the bottom, which has a pump that channels the water through the cooling unit. After the water is cooled by the unit, it goes on through a tube and flows out at the top of a cork wall inside the terrarium. A fan blows air over this flowing water to cool the air inside the terrarium. The cooling unit and pump are on during the night (obviously) so the wall dries completely during the day.

 

Now I've noticed that there is algae growth developing on this wall. So I was wondering how I could deal with these without harming the plants inside.

 

Secondly I was wondering if there are any nice plants (both carnivorous and noncarnivorous) that could grow on this wall. These plants would have to be able to withstand a dry period during the day followed by flooding with cold flowing water (9°C/48°F) during the night. Any ideas?

 

Cheers,

Johan

Edited by Johanovich

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Hello Johan, your set up sounds incredible, is there any chance you could post some photos on here? In answer to your algae question I'm assuming your water circulation system is self contained and is just topped up to allow for evaporation. In which case it might be helpful to test the water for nitrate and phosphate levels using a cheap aquarium test kit as it's possible that these nutrients have accumulated over time in this closed system to high levels, both of which are factors in encouraging nuisance algae. If these levels are significantly high then you could consider changing the water on a regular basis to dilute these nutrients and hopefully slow down the algae's progress. In answer to your question about something to grow up the walls that'd cope with the conditions I think Ficus pumila would be worth a try as it's robust and adaptable, looks pleasant and is easily grown. It forms roots all along it's stems as it climbs and would grow well up your cork background eventually out competing the algae and stripping away excess nutrients as the water circulated over it's roots a bit like a living filter. Another one that you may like to consider is Lysimachia nummularia, though this is a common garden plant I have used it before in terrariums as it is so adaptable and will happily grow in a wide range of conditions from semi aquatic to well drained, it's a truly versatile plant. Lastly in my opinion Syngonium podophyllum would be a good choice as you could grow it at the base of your background and it would eventually climb using aerial roots, you often see it grown up moss poles, I think it'd happily cope with your conditions. All the plants I've suggested are readily available and cheap so perhaps worth a try. Hope this helps :)

Best wishes Matwag

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you problem is you are creating the perfect conditions for algae. regular water supply, a nice porous substrate (cork) that provides lots of cavities to protect the algae. the cork will also leach nutrients to the algae especially as it decomposes. also the water is circulating constantly picking up nutrients from the water basin which acts as a catchment for decaying organic matter from dead leaves, creatures and their waste products etc

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I cleaned off most of the algae with a brush and installed a filter (which has a carbon and ceramic filster inside) in the terrarium to fix some part of the algae problem). I also made sure that the wall dries completely some hours before the lights come back on to make life as hard as possible for the algae. If they do come back I think I'll just have to scrub them of once in a while.

 

 

Hello Johan, your set up sounds incredible, is there any chance you could post some photos on here? In answer to your algae question I'm assuming your water circulation system is self contained and is just topped up to allow for evaporation. In which case it might be helpful to test the water for nitrate and phosphate levels using a cheap aquarium test kit as it's possible that these nutrients have accumulated over time in this closed system to high levels, both of which are factors in encouraging nuisance algae. If these levels are significantly high then you could consider changing the water on a regular basis to dilute these nutrients and hopefully slow down the algae's progress. In answer to your question about something to grow up the walls that'd cope with the conditions I think Ficus pumila would be worth a try as it's robust and adaptable, looks pleasant and is easily grown. It forms roots all along it's stems as it climbs and would grow well up your cork background eventually out competing the algae and stripping away excess nutrients as the water circulated over it's roots a bit like a living filter. Another one that you may like to consider is Lysimachia nummularia, though this is a common garden plant I have used it before in terrariums as it is so adaptable and will happily grow in a wide range of conditions from semi aquatic to well drained, it's a truly versatile plant. Lastly in my opinion Syngonium podophyllum would be a good choice as you could grow it at the base of your background and it would eventually climb using aerial roots, you often see it grown up moss poles, I think it'd happily cope with your conditions. All the plants I've suggested are readily available and cheap so perhaps worth a try. Hope this helps :)

Best wishes Matwag

 

Yeah sure here are some photographs of the terrarium:

 

The whole terrarium. On the right side you can see the chiller which is connected to the terrarium through the isolated tubing. You can just make out the false bottom that holds the water reservoir. I removed the sliding doors for the photographs

_D7K8930_zps17b4d229.jpg
 
This is how the inside looks. On the right side you can see the tube that comes out of the water reservoir and into the chiller. On the left at the top there is the tube that comes back in with cooled water. The setup ensures that water that enters the reservoir has to travel the entire length of the terrarium before getting sucked up again for further cooling. This ensures that the entire reservoir can act as a buffer to keep the temperature more stable once everything is cooled. A fan blows over the running water to encourage evaporation and to spread the cooled air around.
_D7K8928_zpsf5370460.jpg
 
And the is the actual wall where the water runs down.
_D7K8932_zps4d1c1eed.jpg
 
And with the pump turned on.
_D7K8933_zps115903cf.jpg
 
Took a while to get everything working properly, but I'm happy about the result.
Hope you like it ;)
Edited by Johanovich
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Hi Johanovich,

It looks great.

Can I just ask what is the problem with the algae? You are recreating a lovely humid environment with a damp wall which in nature would develop:

* a healthy covering of algae,

* then some moss,

* then probably some small ferns.

The algae/moss that will develop will store water for slow release to keep thr humidity up while the pump is off.

Cheers,

Steve

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I think you are over complicating your system for its intended purpose.

You could do away with the water running down the wall and the fan blowing on it to cool it.

You could simply have the tube folded in the bottom of the terrarium and sealed so the water is circulated in the same way it does in a under floor heating system.

If you think about have effective and quick a central heating system heats up a room then its easy to imagine how the same will happen in reverse to cool an enclosed space.

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I think you are over complicating your system for its intended purpose.

You could do away with the water running down the wall and the fan blowing on it to cool it.

You could simply have the tube folded in the bottom of the terrarium and sealed so the water is circulated in the same way it does in a under floor heating system.

If you think about have effective and quick a central heating system heats up a room then its easy to imagine how the same will happen in reverse to cool an enclosed space.

 

I tested just cooling the water below the floor and the sphagnum mat on top of it really blocks the heat exchange. Also the main difference with floor heating is that the heat will naturally rise, while cool air tends to go down.

 

The cool water running over the pots of the villosa and macrophylla (the two pots that are hanging on the left wall) ensures that they are cooled the most.

 

Also, I like the "natural" look of the water running down.

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