I return from lurking with a whole string of questions, and a bit of a background story to help put this all in perspective (This is a MUST be done situation, not a "I just want to"). Oh and an apology for any unintentional ranting that may come up.
My daughter, otherwise known as "The Tropical Rain Forest Obsessed Future Biologist" has gone through a rather traumatic incident at school. In an effort to distract her / help her move on / help restore her confidence a plan was formed to convert an unused 20 gal aquarium into her own little piece of rain forest understory.
First and foremost budget is a HUGE consideration. I am working with a very limited construction budget at present. The budget for the animals is not so limited as they will be added later after the rest of the tank is established.
The plan so far:
The Tank: a 20 gal aquarium, sorry don't have the exact measurements, can't find the tape measure at the moment. I know it is not a "Tall" or a "Long" though.
Question: How many dart frogs can this comfortably house? I was not thinking more than a pair really, but should the decision be made later to add a second pair would that pose a problem in terms of space?
Also, I have read from many sources that it is a better idea to turn the tank on end rather than leave it flat as you would for fish. Why is this and do I absolutely HAVE to do this?
I am thinking purely esthetics's here as it will be located more or less "center stage" in my living room. My overall creative vision has it sitting comfortably on a conveniently sized end table and looking like a "set" rather than like a spare tank and bits that I threw together.
Hood and Lights: fixtures are being cannibalized from other unused hoods.The housing and ventilation screening are coming from spare lumber and window screen.
Question: It is my understanding that the frogs don't really care about the light so long as they can see, so my only concern for bulb choice is the plants requirements. There are no special spectrum or UV lights required for poison dart frogs? Do I have that part correct?
The Waterfall: This piece is NOT optional. 6 Year old little girls can be VERY stubborn when they have a vision. I do agree with her that it will be a nice touch. It will be a small waterfall leading to a small pond.
An old (now broken) table top fountain with a variable speed submersible pump is going to be providing the water flow. It is in "like new" condition so I have no concerns for it breaking any time soon. My plan, rather than fiddle around trying to construct a false bottom was to simply put in a layer of river rock on the bottom up to the level of what will be my water table, hollow out a portion of this and have that act as "the pond". Substrate for planting will go on top the gravel layer in the non-hollowed out sections. The pump itself will be housed in a small container (margarine tub with holes and screening) behind the waterfall structure.
Question: Are there any foreseeable reasons why this should not work or issues that may arise? I understand that there will be some tannin leeching. We are looking forward to that part actually. Light tea coloured water should help complete the picture.
This will be a small waterfall (it's a small tank) with minimal water flow constructed from odd bits of natural water worn sandstone held together with "GE Silicone Multi-purpose Sealant, Clear". The information I could find on this product states it is 100% silicone rubber and contains no mildew resistant additives. Is there any issue that will arise for the frogs from either the sandstone or the sealant?
The Backing: My plan was to use a coconut fibre mat, and attach a few epiphytic plants and climbing vines.
Question: Should this also be attached with silicone or left lose for future replacements?
The plants: These will come mostly from what I already have sitting spare, over growing their containers in the jungle I call a living room. So far my list of plants that I am reasonably certain are frog safe includes Pothos, Tradescantia zebrina (wandering jew), and Cissus discolor (Rex begonia vine).
Question: I also have available Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant), Hypoestes phyllostachya (Polka Dot Plant), and Fittonia verschaffeltii (Nerve Plant). Could these also be used without posing a threat to the frogs?
Also for ground cover, I am unable to locate a local source of either Riccia fluitans or Vesicularia dubyana (Java Moss) which would provide the look I would prefer (after a lush almost grassy look). Any other suggestions of things that may be more readily available at say my local (horribly limited selection They don't have Java Moss!!) aquarium supply store? Ordering online is NOT an option at this time nor really is live sphagnum as my success with live sphagnum is limited to killing it. Pet stores are also out as they all seem to push artificial plants and ground cover in this area. What about the moss the birds keep knocking off the neighbours roof? lol (no seriously, in a pinch could I use that if properly sterilized?)
The water: What water would be best to use? Distilled? Tap? Spring? The plants won't mind regular old tap water I know, but what about eventual build up of minerals and such in an undrained environment? What about the frogs? My instinct tells me to use carbon filtered water, any thoughts?
The substrate: Here my plan was to go with a "standard" soil mix of peat, coco fibre and compost with a charcol layer and the gravel layer. Would this work or is there a better mix?
And finally, eventually...
The Frogs: First what exactly are they commonly called? Dart Frogs? Poison dart frogs? poison arrow frogs? all used interchangeably?
Second, I have been really looking into getting Dendrobates auratus "Camouflage" or Dendrobates auratus "Microspot". Being that I have never kept frogs before (aside from this little girl) I am hoping for as close to bullet proof as I can get while still being "cute" and "Interesting" for a 6 year old. Granted this 6 year old spent hours studying nematodes under a microscope (as well as hairs and "dirt" and blood she "extracted from Uncle Booger") but I would like them to have "personality".
Third, I understand their main diet is usually wingless fruit flies dusted in vitamin powder and that this will require "culturing" the fruit flies. What else can I feed them? The fruit flies are not an issue, but wouldn't the frogs be happier with variety? They are strictly insectivores or am I mistaken in that?
Fourth (and I think Finally)is it hazardous to the frogs to add an ultrasonic humidifier. If I were to add this feature it would be attached in it's own reservoir close to the top of the tank and otherwise inaccessible to the frogs. My daughter really wants this feature as a way of "Misting with atmosphere" and it would run on very short intervals only once or twice a day to "Fog the environment" (say 5 minutes every morning and evening). Screening in the reservoir so the fog could get out but nothing else could get in would be no problem at all. I just don't want to install it only to find out that the vibrations or anything else related to it will kill the frogs.
As I said before, the frogs are to come at a later date (several months later) once the plants are well established and grown in and the environment is as stable as I can possibly make it. Any thoughts, suggestions, tips or advice that I haven't covered in my questions are more than welcome! We are planning to start construction this weekend so there is still time for the plans to change if I have planned something that simply will not work let me know and I will rework the idea. The only thing that is certain right now is that this MUST be built and the eventual goal is to house dart frogs. Everything else is available to be changed.