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Thread: Cp newbie, terrarium help wanted

  1. #1

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    Hello All,
    A young man I know recently expressed an interest in carnivorous plants, which in turn got me interested, and so I thought it a good idea to join these forums. My only previous experience with CPs was as a young man myself, when I managed to quickly kill a fly trap bought from the hardware store. Now somewhat older and, I hope, wiser, I elected to do some research first, beginning with Peter D'Amato's excellent book.

    I live in an apartment with a small balcony deck/patio, which I've populated with an assortment of container-grown plants. Mostly they're birdbait (I get a kick out of hummingbirds), plus some veggies, cacti and succulents. Although it might be feasible to grow certain CPs outside, I feel an indoor terrarium is my best bet. Southern California is prone to harsh, desiccating winds originating in the interior deserts which tend to begin in autumn and can go right into the winter. Besides, all my plants have been outdoors so far, and I would like to bring some characters inside.

    My local pet supply stores sell the "All-Glass" brand of aquariums. The 20 gallon wide model ("20L") looks like a nice compromise size--large enough for a reasonable assortment of low-growing plants, yet small enough to be easily moveable if necessary. Cost is roughly $30, perhaps better if I lucked into a sale. It's the lighting that put a crimp into my plans. The home centers don't have any fluorescent fixtures which will properly fit the tank, and at present I don't have any workspace to do fabrication to adapt one to the tank. The petstores sell the All-Glass hoods, which of course neatly fit their tanks, but the prices seem quite high--the dual tube model to fit the 20L sells for $80, which eats up my cash very fast.

    I would like the tank/hood assembly to look good together, as the terrarium will be in my living room. The hood should be perched upon the tank, since I have no space to mount a light fixture on the underside of a shelf (too many books!). Since I have no aquarium experience, I don't know if there are more affordable brands of light hoods that would fit cleanly on the tank. In fact, I don't know if the 20L style of tank is common in the aquarium business, or just particular to the All-Glass brand. Am I stuck having to spend about $110 to get a 20L style tank with a nicely fitting light hood?

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    endparenthesis's Avatar
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    There are no affordable aquarium light hoods, IMHO, especially with plants in mind. Aquarium lights are intentionally weak to avoid algae problems, so most people who really want to grow plants have to buy specialty hoods or build their own setups.

    Shoplights are a great way to go ($20-$25 including tubes) for cheap lighting, but A) they aren't strong enough to be ideal for a terrarium... 4 tubes would be better than 2, and B) the 4ft lights are basically the standard (therefore the cheapest), but that's too big for a 20L. The shorter lights will probably cost you more than the 4-footers, unfortunately.

    I don't know if you're interested in Nepenthes at all, but they will easily outgrow a 20L tank. Can you upgrade to a 4 foot tank? You would probably save enough money with lighting to make it worth it. There are some nice metal 4ft shoplights with reflectors that could look just as good as a hood.

    Another alternative would be to order a kit from someone like AH Supply... they're cheap compared to other places, but they still aren't cheap.

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    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] (endparenthesis @ July 31 2005,8:43)]I don't know if you're interested in Nepenthes at all, but they will easily outgrow a 20L tank. Can you upgrade to a 4 foot tank?
    Because of my living situation and my inexperience with CPs, I think limiting myself to no more than a 20-gallon tank is best. Since I would prefer having a light that mounts to the lip on the tank perimeter (a bit better aesthetically), I guess spending more bucks for the aquarium-brand light is the price of entry into the hobby. I will have to put more time into researching plant species and their space requirements--I don't want to run into height problems should I actually be successful in growing CPs. It appears that Drosera are recommended as beginner plants, and although fly traps aren't the easiest, they often enough can be found at Home Depots around here.

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    Perhaps you might want to go with compact flourescent bulbs and a slightly smaller tank. I have two 10 gallon tanks that I bought reptile light hoods for. Each light hood holds two compact flourescent bulbs and one flourescent tube, plus they fit wonderfully over a 10 gallon tank.

    Here's a picture of the underside of one of the hoods:


    In that hood, I have two 42 watt (150 watt equivalent) warm white light compact flourescent bulbs and one 20 watt full spectrum daylight aquarium bulb. All that combined, I have 104 total watts shining down into a 10 gallon tank, which is excellent lighting. All my plants are doing great in this particular tank.

    My other tank has the same exact light hood on it, and in that hood I have two 30 watt daylight bulbs and one 20 watt full spectrum plant aquarium tube. The plants are thriving in this terrarium too.

    Just so you know, I grow mostly sundews, several Venus Flytraps, some butterworts, and several Nepenthes.

    Also, I have a 5 gallon tank and two 2.5 gallon tanks that use hoods very similar to the bigger ones on the 10 gallons, except these only hold two compact flourescents and no tube.

    Here's the price breakdown:
    10 gallon tank=$10
    Two 42 watt compact flourescents=$20
    One flourescent tube=$6 (that's if you get cool white which is fine for CPs, a full spectrum aquarium bulb will run you a bit more)
    Hood that holds these bulbs=$52 (on Petsmart.com)
    Smaller hood (if you someday want to setup a smaller terrarium)=$40 at Petsmart.

    Well, there you have it. I hope this helps, and it's a very good setup that has been working for me for months and months now. I will post some more pictures later of all my tanks with the hoods on so you can see how it all works out. I will also answer any questions you have, so feel free to post!

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    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] (LLeopardGGecko @ July 31 2005,10:25)]Perhaps you might want to go with compact flourescent bulbs and a slightly smaller tank. I have two 10 gallon tanks that I bought reptile light hoods for. Each light hood holds two compact flourescent bulbs and one flourescent tube, plus they fit wonderfully over a 10 gallon tank.
    I will definitely consider your suggestions. The 10-gallon tanks were much cheaper than the 20L. Because I had looked first at the larger tank, I didn't study the lighting options for the 10-gallon. If I can find the reptile hood you use, then the cost becomes much more inviting. I suppose there would be no harm in eventually setting up a second 10-gallon terrarium if things go well with the first.

    Thanks a bunch for the detailed info, and the photo, about the hood and bulbs you are using, and I look forward to seeing photos of your plants, too.

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    You're very welcome! It's looking like I'll be getting the pictures up sometime tomorrow (August 1st) evening, because my camera is at my girlfriend's house.

    When I post tomorrow, I'll be sure to include a link to the hood I bought on Petsmart.com. They offer free shipping on it, so it's all the more reason you should really consider this option. Also, it's even about 10 dollars cheaper online than it is in the actual store, which is an even cooler bonus.

    Just know that a 10 gallon will give you plenty of room to grow your plants, especially if you want to grow sundews and/or Venus Flytraps. In one of my 10 gallons, I have 17 three-inch pots! You'll see what I mean when I post the pictures tomorrow. And just like you said, you could start with one 10 gallon and if things go well (which they should) you can get another.

    Talk to you soon!

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    welp if your not sure what yah want to grow helping you isnt the easiest. with most Drosera light is the number 1 issue, air circulation is #2 and humidity is a distant third. as a newbie i killed more Drosera through high humidity/low air circulation than anything. if your going to use a tank make sure you can open the top enough for good air circulation. i grow my Drosera(and most everything else other than Neps, my Heli and epiphytic Utrics) in open trays under 4ft shop lights with a few Sarrs in windows. other than the exections i listed most are doing great in the low humidity of eastern Montana. if you are really interested in Cps, the trade/giveaway forum will fill up your 20 gal a couple times over within a month. i out grew the 75 gal tank i started with as a newbie in under 3 months.

    i would bet you are able to grow Sarrs and venus fly traps to grow on your deck. you would just need to keep a close eye on your water level in the trays so that they dont dry out. and of course you have a dormancy to worry about. most hardy Drosera like D. capensis and the D. binata complex would also probably do wonderfully as would the various D. spatulata locales. i only use terrariums and such with delicate species and those with a strong history of needing high humidity(most Nepenthes, Helis, epiphytic Utrics). anyways good luck, keep asking questions, and you will soon have more plants than you know what to do with.
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    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] (rattler_mt @ Aug. 01 2005,12:19)]welp if your not sure what yah want to grow helping you isnt the easiest. with most Drosera light is the number 1 issue, air circulation is #2 and humidity is a distant third.

    i would bet you are able to grow Sarrs and venus fly traps to grow on your deck. you would just need to keep a close eye on your water level in the trays so that they dont dry out. and of course you have a dormancy to worry about.
    Right now I'm a little overwhelmed by the variety of species D'Amato discusses in his book. I'm going to have to read through it again more carefully to get an idea of particular plants which might be better suited to my situation.

    I'm giving thought to trying some plants on my deck in trays, but I don't know if the light conditions are right. My deck faces north, and is surrounded by my apartment on the other three sides. Much of the deck is in shade for some part of the day, and although it is open to the sky, a large tree overhangs part of it. I'd bet that the large number of container plants I have out there have created sort of a microclimate with increased humidity, which should be good for CPs. Again, though, I am worried over our "Santa Ana" winds in the fall and winter which blow hard and are extremely dry. They come out of the north and east, and so hit my deck area pretty fiercely. I guess that if I want to have an indoor terrarium setup, then I need to look for species noted for doing well there. It's also occurred to me that it might be tougher to keep outdoor CPs properly watered as I am currently away from home for two and three-day stretches each week. Do typical terrarium plants require watering more often than every other day?

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