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Thread: A novice's winter project: Moving from a Rack / adding a Terrarium

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    mcantrell's Avatar
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    A novice's winter project: Moving from a Rack / adding a Terrarium

    So I have a small collection of plants, some doing well, others not so well. Lately I've gotten the bug to upgrade my growing conditions and I'm thinking about upgrading my old wireframe Lowes rack into a terrarium, or adding a terrarium to my collection as I can.

    My plan is to source things locally when possible, which means Petsmart for the aquarium shell and perhaps the lid, Lowes for the fixture. (I'm all for going through an online vendor instead, though, if the price + shipping fee is sufficiently better than buying locally).

    I was thinking something like this, although I'd need to go measure my fixture:
    http://www.petsmart.com/product/inde...ductId=3804445

    That's a pretty standard looking 55 gallon tank, which I understand will be about 48" wide with some change, perfect for my T8 bulbs. Presumably I'd want the same aquarium without the extra kit, although I imagine some of it (the strip thermometer) may be useful. No clue.

    Now, the next step would be a lid, right? Is it possible to find a pre-made, 4x48 T8 fixture + lid out there somewhere, or am I going to need to try and fabricate my own out of wood? Or would it be wiser to just get a piece of glass that would fit over the top of the terrarium and lay the fixture directly on top of that? Should I look into upgrading my lighting at the same time? Are 6500K T8s still the best option out there? D'Amato's Savage Garden's section on Terrariums suggests T5s, for example, as does this faq on the ICPS site (apparently I'm a few years behind the times with lighting tech).

    How heavy is this thing going to be all told? I presume just placing it on the ol' coffee table as a centerpiece isn't an option?


    Edit: Wow, reading up on T5-HOs, apparently I'm WAY behind the times and need to upgrade. Apparently 2 T5-HO bulbs are equivalent to 4 T8s? I wonder how hard sourcing T5-HO lamps are?

    Edit2: Apparently Petsmart has a brand called Zoo Med:
    http://www.petsmart.com/product/inde...AvailInUS%2FNo

    Which does have a T5-HO 4x 48" Hood option that looks like it would clip on top of an aquarium... Hm. That would be about $250 total.
    Last edited by mcantrell; 11-11-2013 at 05:38 PM.

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    Too much too type from a tablet so I'll add more in the morning.

    Once or twice a year Petco has a $1 a gallon sale on fish tanks, 55 gallons are included. The glass top would be extra.

    Exo-terra and Zoomed both make front opening terraforums. Exo-terra costing more but being made better. There are 10 gallon conversion kits for 10g fish tanks that stand them on there side and you add the new front with a door. Lots of custom terrarium places also.

    Right now 48" T5HOs are the way to go if you have a standard 48" area to light, other diminsions get messy with other options.

    That is all I can take with this tiny keyboard.

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    If you google "vertical aquarium conversion kit" you can get a quick idea what the 10g kits are they make them for larger tanks but it takes some digging to find them. There are also DIY plans out there.

    Probably the first thing you need to ask yourself is why are you doing this? Looks, more space, more light, more humidity, landscaping, etc? That will point you in the direction you need to go.

    If I have the funds I would never buy a terrarium that did not have a "front" opening door of some kind. Until you have lived with both you don't know how much those doors are worth. That said I don't know of a 48" long open front terrarium, I have 2 24" long Exo-terra's but I would have preferred a single 48". Still much better than a traditional fish tank without the open front. You have to accept you are basically paying all that extra money for the doors, there is nothing else really special about them. Little more ventilation but nothing special.

    As for the lids, there are a few options, you can just go with the pre-made aquarium glass tops. I have used them in the past and they work just as they should. You can also go to your local chain hardware store and have them cut you some glass, works well too but doesn't look as nice. I have used/do use plexiglass and various plastics and if you have a choice use glass. All the plastics warp to some degree or another and one of my pieces has a heat bubble in it. If you go with the Exo-terras they come with a metal mesh that probably should be removed and replaced with glass. Page 5 about 1/3rd down I have a photo of a smaller one I did http://www.terraforums.com/forums/sh...l-Setups/page5.

    If budget is your main concern the $1 a gallon 55g from Petco (last sale was July 2013) with 2 T5 striplight + reflectors + top would be the way to go imo. Or if your current light is working fine for the plants your keeping why not just keep using it?

    Remove the budget and well the choices are really endless.

    As for lighting that's another can of worms. The general consensus is that if your lighting a 48" area and buying a new light today then T5s are the best overall choice. LEDs are very good at lighting odd spaces and directing heat toward the heatsinks (away from the plants) but still relatively new so there is not a lot of good info out there yet. They are expensive compaired to the rest, but are supposted to make up that cost in energy savings and LED life. Again too new to really say if this is true. Compacts are very good if they make a bulb in the length your lighting, I'll gotten some really nice Ceph coloration under them. T8s are still good but over the next 5-10 years I would think the bulbs would become harder to find as T5s take over that market.

    Lighting color is another nightmare, the safe and easy option is to get a daylight bulb and forget about the rest. Generally red is supposed to promote flowering/fruiting with blues promoting vegetative growth. Finding good info on this is another nightmare.

    As for placing it on an old coffee table, its its really an "old" one sure! Old stuff was made to last! If you can not sit on it, I would think the setup would not either. An empty all glass 55g weighs 78 pounds according to the internet.

    Oh and Petco seems to make a brand of open front terrarium called Zilla.
    Last edited by RSS; 11-12-2013 at 08:02 AM.

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    Ok, so to wrap my noggin around things -- A glass top / "front door" conversion is the go to way to turn a fish tank into a CP Terrarium? I don't need to find a way to "hang" the lights right above the top? That makes things a ton easier. Ironically, I did actually find a "hang above the terrarium" setup for 4x T5HOs, "Zoo Med AquaSun" is the brand. It's apparently used for coral reefs in certain extreme fish setups. There are similar ones, especially on eBay, again mostly for coral reef stuff.

    I was kinda set on the idea of a 4' wide terrarium if only to reuse my old lamps, and said lamps were chosen due to the ease of replacement based on advice from here or D'Amato's book... but if I am going T5HO I'll need them shipped -- and only once in a great while anyway, so... that whole line of reasoning expires rapidly.

    Which all told opens up a ton of new options that I didn't even realize were options!

    Those conversion kits are kinda neat. I googled for them this morning on the way home from work and found a great one that appears to be for reptiles and frogs. The ones with a fruit fly mesh aren't a great option, but I could see me using the ones designed to be a pair of doors for the "lid" and use them as a front door setup -- maybe using some magnets or something to keep them closed? Hm.

    I saw Exo-Terra a few times in my searches, they seem to be the go to company for reptile terrariums. I actually saw your thread there (I recognize the driftwood moss + the "riiippp" photo from page 1) while on the bus yesterday when searching for Exo-Terra and CP growing. This photo of yours is the most interesting I think, since I wasn't quite sure how you would provide lighting to those Exo-Terra Nano Talls -- or if they'd even be sufficient for more than one or two plants at a time. But 8" square is only a slight bit smaller than my 11" round pots that I throw a ton of stuff into...

    It looks like you just put several Nano-Talls next to each other in the upper left and lay the fixture directly across the top? Ditto directly under that one -- except those are... 12"s?

    And in the upper right you have small single lamp setups for each one?

    (How much is your power bill, as an aside?)

    So basically, I'd either stash one of those Exo-Terra Nano / Nano Talls in my current grow rack as a really, really fancy pot? Or perhaps get several of them and place the lights directly on top across several at once? It looks like the biggest Exo-Terra they sell is a 36" number, which is new. Next down is the 24" you mention, could do 2x24" or even a 36" and a 8" next to it to split things up. Or hey, 6 8"s. (4 12"s seems to be a happy medium.)

    I actually think they sell Exo-Terra at the local Walmart or Petsmart, come to think of it. It doesn't look like Exo-Terra has a direct sale model, so I'm going to need to find a source.

    My word, the realization that I'm not, in fact, constrained to 48" bulbs is really kinda knocking me around.

    I've seen a GrowBright T5-HO lamp setup linked a few times here:
    http://www.htgsupply.com/Product-Gro...hoice-of-Bulbs

    I was thinking of getting that for my rack, but now I'm thinking of grabbing an Exo-Terra or 4. Hm.

    But yeah, I have a standard 48" area. It's one of those Lowes freestanding ones -- this one isn't the right size, but looks the same.

    This whole thing has come about really due to my plants kinda stagnating and some plant loss -- which was kinda a wakeup call. Since I'm a bit more stable financially and this is really, really old rack (survived... 4 moves now?) I thought "refresh the lights," but if I'm refreshing the lights why not just move into a terrarium?
    Last edited by mcantrell; 11-12-2013 at 04:35 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mcantrell View Post
    Ok, so to wrap my noggin around things -- A glass top / "front door" conversion is the go to way to turn a fish tank into a CP Terrarium? I don't need to find a way to "hang" the lights right above the top? That makes things a ton easier. Ironically, I did actually find a "hang above the terrarium" setup for 4x T5HOs, "Zoo Med AquaSun" is the brand. It's apparently used for coral reefs in certain extreme fish setups. There are similar ones, especially on eBay, again mostly for coral reef stuff.
    You don't need a conversion kit its just something that's out there. A good place to find out how much you don't know http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/parts-construction/ A lot of the info crosses over to CP culture just fine.

    Quote Originally Posted by mcantrell View Post
    I was kinda set on the idea of a 4' wide terrarium if only to reuse my old lamps, and said lamps were chosen due to the ease of replacement based on advice from here or D'Amato's book... but if I am going T5HO I'll need them shipped -- and only once in a great while anyway, so... that whole line of reasoning expires rapidly.
    If you want a 4 foot terrarium there is nothing stopping you, you just may not be able to find one with front opening doors. As far as the plants are concerned there is little difference between an Exo-terra and a standard 55g fish tank.

    Quote Originally Posted by mcantrell View Post
    I saw Exo-Terra a few times in my searches, they seem to be the go to company for reptile terrariums. I actually saw your thread there (I recognize the driftwood moss + the "riiippp" photo from page 1) while on the bus yesterday when searching for Exo-Terra and CP growing. This photo of yours is the most interesting I think, since I wasn't quite sure how you would provide lighting to those Exo-Terra Nano Talls -- or if they'd even be sufficient for more than one or two plants at a time. But 8" square is only a slight bit smaller than my 11" round pots that I throw a ton of stuff into...

    It looks like you just put several Nano-Talls next to each other in the upper left and lay the fixture directly across the top? Ditto directly under that one -- except those are... 12"s?

    And in the upper right you have small single lamp setups for each one?
    There are a lot of key phases that google will throw out a lot of my photos. Whenever possible I line all my odd sized tanks up so they are in 48" lengths. Much easier to light them all with 1-2 lights than giving each there own light. The lights are just sitting on the top of the tanks, the top row is the 8" ones with 12" ones below that and 2 24" ones below that.

    The single lamp ones I got in a clearance batch and they were cheap.

    FYI, all this was from before we moved so things are different now and still a work in progress.

    For plant health the larger the enclosure the better. I have a lot of smaller set-up to jail my weedy Utricularia, I can just throw one species in one tank and not have to be concerned with where it is wondering.

    Everything else I try to keep in the largest single space I can.

    Try to think of what you will want in say 3 years and build toward that. If planned properly its easy to add another light or expand a shelf.

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    mcantrell's Avatar
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    Peeking around, it looks like PetCo sells Exo-Terra online but requires freight shipping. Since shipping is free ... from PetCo... but the freight company has to call you directly about it, I presume that the freight company has their own charges. Seems like a lot of effort just for a Exo Terra Nano/Tall. I'm going to walk down to Petsmart here locally and check there this weekend, I don't think they had them at Walmart last time I looked (but I have seen them there before).

    Amazon has them as well and doesn't seem to have terribly bad shipping. Nano/Tall would fit perfectly in my current grow rack (the fixture is 12" off the floor of the next rack down) so I might just get 1 or 2 of these and slide them in the grow rack until I'm ready to give them their own space.

    Although instead of Nano/Tall I'm kinda thinking maybe Mini/Wide (12" x 12" x 12"). It's only about $10 more, and I could get 2 of them and then run a 24" T5HO setup on just those two, perhaps on the next rack down. My current light fixture is 48"x12" so it would fit right under it without problems, too.

    Of course if I'm doing that, I could instead go Medium/Low (24" x 18" x 12"), although this size and shape seems to be rare enough that the price jumps up quite a bit. (~$150)

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    Unless Petco has changed there shipping practices, if they say the shipping is free but shipped by a freight company what that means is that a shipping company (some guy with an 18 wheeler) will call you and schedule for delivery. When I had my 36" one shipped that is how it worked and there was no shipping charges. If in doubt just give them a call and ask. Local pickup is always a better option provided price is similar. You know before you leave the store that the item is not damaged with shipments there is always the chance of damage when you receive it. Then you have to deal with "refusal" of items and whatnot.

    Unless you have a reason for wanting two smaller ones opposed to one larger one, (landscaping, jailing weedy plants, ect) I would always go with the largest single one vs two smaller. I would also recommend the 24 X 18 X 18 over the 24 X 18 X 12. Unless you are sure you will never what that extra headroom.

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    mcantrell's Avatar
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    Hm. Is 18" a bit too far for the lights to reach well, though? I was under the impression that 12" was about the farthest you can safely do, with 6-8" being a lot better if you can get away with it. Inverse square law and all that. Although that is old T8 thinking -- T5HOs are twice as bright and maybe it doesn't matter as much now? Or did I just get bad info?

    I could semi-easily redo my rack a bit to get 18" of space (the , it's just an odd coincidence that there's exactly 12" of space there right now.

    24" x 18" high is only $140 and free shipping, to boot. 12" high is about the same.

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