90g Cliffside Paludarium Build (Let's try this again)

By: lonesomeshark
May 8th, 2013
2:09 am

90g Cliffside Paludarium Build (Let's try this again)

OK. Sorry for the trouble with the last post attempt. Hopefully, this post will not create a problem.

This is my first post though I have been lurking for a while and have really enjoyed the creativity and inspiration provided by all of you. I'm looking forward to learning more!

Here is my new paludarium build and my first attempt at a build such as this. My hope is to create the appearance of a cliff with land mass jutting out above and beach area below. The water section will be sparsely planted. My thought was to create a bonsai forest on top of the cliff. I am not sure of options for species that can interact with the land section and would love your input on this...


Tank dimensions- 47" x 22" D x 19.5" H
Light- Medium-high LEDs though I have not measured PAR levels- about 12" above water level
Substrate- Medium Sand on the bottom with some Microbe-Lift Aquatic Plant Media. I used some spare Fluval Stratum and top soil for the land area
CO2 injection
Filtration is via a 45g diy sump with biomedia and separate refugium
I am also using a MistKing misting system for the emersed plants/bonsai

Background- These are real rocks that are foamed together with black expanding foam to create a nice stable cliff-like appearance (no worry of falling rocks here)

Rocks were chosen to fit together and then foamed. Sand is piled up initially and pressed into foam before it fully cures/sets to give a more natural appearance. I like the way this has turned out so far. Will let you know how it stands up over time.

I used styrofoam to support the rocks while the foam cured and then removed it. The styrofoam was replaced with a PVC and egg crate false bottom to support the land area.

View from behind showing the foam 'seams' that will completely separate the land section.

Plumbing is hidden behind the cliff and enters the water area through a couple of small supply holes built into the cliff wall. Detail view below.

I used some weed barrier fabric over the egg crate to allow water to travel under the front gravel section in the area of the submersed cliff. This will allow this area to be 'flooded' so I can have some emersed plants that like wet feet. I am thinking of an HC carpet here that will be partially emersed. In the areas of land that I want to keep dry, I am using some spare EPDM rubber pond liner that I had laying around that I siliconed to the back side of the rock cliff. This is being supported by the false bottom.

Perspective view of the tank positioned in the living room wall unit.

Starting to plant and stock with some colored skirt tetras, danios, and Endlers.

Couple of detail shots.

Side is viewable as well showing open top. Water is still hazy in this pic.

I'm experimenting with some mosses for the land portion. Need something that likes light!

This is where I'm at right now in the build. I will post updates when I've had a chance to plant the land section.

Are there any suggestions on a semi-aquatic species that will get along with fish and perhaps come out on the land section without risk of escape through the open top? FW crab maybe?

Also, any thoughts on some nice submersed plants that are small leaved and will maintain the desired scale? I don't want a broad-leafed or stem plant that will look too large in perspective.

Thanks for your input in advance.

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92 comments on "90g Cliffside Paludarium Build (Let's try this again)"

  • ryantube
    May 12, 2013 at 3:48 am

    This is amazing

  • lonesomeshark
    May 12, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Thanks, guys. If I could learn to garden like you, I wouldn't need any fancy rock work! Any chance of an aquascaping demo at my house from all of you? Payment in beer and BBQ....


  • DonaldmBoyer
    May 12, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Very excellent job! How do you keep the mosses from drying out....do you have a misting system in place, or do you water by hand?

    A picture of the while setup finished would be phenomenal.....could you post one please? Or, rather, would you send one to Michael so he could post it on your behalf, please?

    Nice job on originality!

  • reybie
    May 12, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Impressive tank! I like that cliff work

  • lonesomeshark
    May 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    OK, time to check if I am still unwanted and unloved by APC filters...

    I am using the MistKing misting system and so far have had a great experience with it. I highly recommend it. I have 2 nozzles plumbed through the shelf above the tank. Pic below. I am misting for 5 minutes twice a day right now and the mosses seem to be liking it so far. The Mistking nozzles have a fairly wide spray pattern but the 2 nozzles are not quite getting me full coverage for the 4ft length of the tank. I may need to add another nozzle in future.

    My setup under the hood. The tank on the far left is the RO/DI reservoir for auto-topoff. I use this for the misting system as well. Would love to use 'pre-fertilized' tank water but apparently the misting nozzles are pretty sensitive to obstruction with deposits. Anyone have experience on that?

    So much for my DIY skills. One of the glass dividers I siliconed in the sump has cracked.

    The tank as it stands in the morning light with a great shot of me in reflection. Suffice it to say that I will have to work on my photo skills if I ever hope to submit anything to ADA.

    It is time now to work on planting the water portion. As yet no problems with algae. I could really use your help on this one Donald! I just saw your old scape...must have been pretty painful to break that down. Thanks for your input on the tank guys!

  • lonesomeshark
    May 12, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Hey, it worked! Thanks Michael!!!

  • lonesomeshark
    May 12, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Since I can post pics now, I'm going a little pic crazy. Here are a couple of the living room with tank in context...with and without guts exposed...

    My wife will love that I left the pillows in a mess for the picture.

    All questions are welcome except for what is on TV. I have no relationship to Bazooka Joe.

  • DonaldmBoyer
    May 12, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    What a magnificent piece of work, Lonesomeshark. I'd be happy to do whatever I can to help you. Aroids for the rock work, possibly? Smaller buces would look pretty nice on rock face under the water.

    Nice that you plumbed it with the MistKing. I water mine by hand, which I don't mind much, but there is no realistic way for me to add a similar set up to mine without it being obvious. Must be a nice convenience!

    The trick will be to see if this is sustainable for the long haul. If it is, you have one of the more creative and imaginative set ups that I've seen in a long time. Major props to you for thinking "big" and taking some risk. This should be even more amazing as time goes on.

    Feel free to PM me! Thanks for the extra pics!


  • lonesomeshark
    May 12, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Thank you Don! I really appreciate the support of all of you senior members. I agree some nice bucephalandra will look really good in there. I will plan on it. I have a nice little crypt going and I picked up an Anubias petite which scales well (I think Michael had suggested). I put in some E. tenellus micro along the base of the rock which I'm kinda digging right now. I was thinking of planting this not as a carpet but in clumps to look like the little thickets of beach grass that sit on the rise at the edge of the beach. Will update pics when there is something to show.

    About the only issue I can see with this setup at start up is the distance from light to substrate- about 30 to 32 inches on average. I hope this doesn't limit me too much. I think I'll be ok though.

    Also, I agree that we'll have to see how this plays out over time. I will say that a major limitation of this build is that it is more or less a permanent exhibit as opposed to a traveling show. There will be no "I'm bored...let's break it down and start over" in a year. That would be difficult enough that I would sooner move and hope to sell to a fish geek!


  • Yo-han
    May 13, 2013 at 7:23 am

    Really really nice and a great addition to your room. Really like the wood. I want to make a build in aquarium one day when I buy a house (this one is rental so not interested in doing it right now) and think I'll be doing something like this with the wood (although no emersed part).

    One small detail: I did noticed the couch is standing the wrong way

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