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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My first attempt at a paludarium, about 3 weeks old, but I am still adding some elements. Not sure if it counts as strict NPT because there isn't a dirt substrate (mainly because of lack of space), but it's at least "low-tech". :)

It is small exo terra terrarium which I had at hand. Dimensions are 30 x 30 x 30cm, waterproof section holding about 6l of water. There is the smallest pump I could find (200l/h), pumping water through a hose behind the stock background, creating small waterfall. Waterfall is acting as a great grazing area for aquatic snails (pond + ramshorn), which go out of the water and clean algae and bacterial film located on wet places. Driftwood was added just yesterday, so there is nothing growing on it yet (I expect moss to cover it).

Most of the plants are cuttings from my other tanks - Hygrophila difformis and polysperma, Ceratopteris thalictroides, Phyllanthus fluitans, 2 different mosses, Bucephalandra "mini red" + Syngonium pixie and small cutting of Centella asiatica (not 100% sure about this one, found it growing in front of my apartment).

Substrate is pure sand, with minimum thickness (~0.5-1cm) just to cover the bottom glass. I expect that I will need to dose at least micronutrients (which is true also for my dirted tank after the dirt lost its nutrients). Established plants take care of nitrogen very efficiently (tap water contains ~30-40ppm NO3, tank water has ~10ppm at the moment, despite very generous feeding of snails). Some plants are already reaching above water and growing emersed leaves - this should ensure that even if there is lack of CO2 in the water, plants will not die.

Small water volume is a bit tricky to keep in the desired temperature range, but I'm keeping it at bay with fan (removing warm air from paludarium, also cooling lights) - water is just 1C warmer than room temperature at the moment. In the winter I'm going to reverse the fan to provide warm air into the terrarium.

At the moment it's housing just a couple of snails, but it will be a home to one betta from a private breader. Hopefully betta's going to like it. :)





 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I was thinking about springtails, but they will need more land - maybe once moss covers bigger area I'll add a few specimen and see what happens. I have also "dairy cow" and "dwarf white" isopods in another box, but they need different environment and they devour pretty much all live plants and moss, so they are out of the question (terrarium was previously their home, but as I couldn't keep any plants except Pothos and Syngonium with them, they had to be rehomed :)). There are some naturally occurring worms (detritus?) and tiny crustaceans in the water right now, but I suppose that Betta will take care of them rather quickly.

As it's my first paludarium, I am open to all ideas for improvement or additional inhabitants. :)

For anyone interested, I made a short shaky video to demonstrate the water flow.

 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Today I brought gorgeous purple-blue short tailed betta, acclimatized him slowly and let him into the tank. He enjoyed it very much and after a while disappeared in the jungle, or so we thought. After we couldn't see him for a few hours, I almost disassembled the tank just to find him stuck behind the background. He must have slipped through a tiny hole around the pump hose/cable, got stuck and drowned. What a sad start of the tank. :(

I kept a few fish fry in the tank to "test" its risk, but this one got unfortunately discovered only by a big fish. I pushed filter floss into the hole to prevent future accidents, hopefully next betta won't be so adventurous that he'll find a new place to get stuck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Every visible hole and gap blocked by filter floss, should be ok now. "Bob #2" (double tail from a pet store) tried to fit everywhere, so far he was able to get out (one of the most favorite places is between a rock and the glass, no idea why). I never had a betta fish before, so I am really amused by their behavior (curiosity, swimming style, instinct to kill,..).

Another fascinating thing is how they "change" the color depending on the light conditions. Never seen such dramatic change with my livebearers. Now I understand why betta is so favorite fish species to keep. :)

He seems to be enjoying the new environment which can't be compared to the tiny empty living space he had before. I hope that he will have long and prosperous life, unlike his poor predecessor.

 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Bad news - while I was away from home, Betta fish literally disappeared, last seen 4 days ago. I looked "everywhere", there is no sign of it. In an open tank I would understand that such fish jumped out, but this is completely closed terrarium, yet he's gone. I replaced him with a pair of young Endler guppies who don't exhibit self destructing tendencies, so they should be more suitable inhabitants.

On a positive note, plants are doing fine and a few have fully adapted to emersed form. I might need to increase feeding of fish/snails as rate of plants growth seems to be slightly reduced - NO3 is being measured at 0, so I suspect that it is, or will be a limiting factor soon. Lowering the light intensity might do the trick as well, but I am big fan of strong(er) lights.. We'll see. :)

Driftwood is showing the usual initial mold, but in my experience it will disappear naturally over the next few weeks.



 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Small update - moss is spreading slow, but steady. The dragon stone is completely covered already, the waterfall will be fully under the green canopy soon as well. Mold from the driftwood is pretty much gone, being replaced by moss cover. Today I performed the first trimming of Hygrophila difformis - for some reason it "refuses" to grow emersed and just creeps over the substrate. Najas guadalupensis required a bit of pruning as well. Hygrophila polysperma and Ceratopteris thalictroides have adapted very nicely to emersed growth, but keep growing submersed as well. A few weeks ago I added a tiny patch of fully terrestrial moss and a fern found in the forest, they seem to like their new home.

Endler guppies have been replaced with blue dwarf shrimp. They already had their first shrimplets and one female is berried again. Snails enjoy that they are not being pestered by fish (who usually try to eat them whole, or at least their tentacles) and they are able to munch on the food uninterrupted. This tank will be probably the first one where they'll be able to reach their full size. :)

I am adding generic all in one ferts on a weekly basis (Easylife profito), but it's more of a precaution than a real need. Plentiful feeding of shrimp/snails seems to fulfill plants' needs (or at least I don't see any obvious signs of deficiencies so far).

To my surprise there is no algae whatsoever, even plants transferred from other tanks with patches of green algae are clean "like new" in a short while (kudos to snails).



 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thank you! :)

I fell behind my routine water parameter tests and two days ago I got surprised by very low pH in this tank. It was below minimum range (6.4) of my testing strips (and way below tap water and what I have in other tanks), color roughly corresponding to what would be probably pH 6. I immediately started dosing powdered Calcium carbonate in small amounts and brought pH slowly up to today's 6.4. I will continue until I get to pH 7. I wasn't expecting such low pH as I am doing daily top offs (evaporation rate of ~0.2 liters per day, out of total volume of 6l) with tap water, which has pH 7.5 and 18.5 dGH. KH is about 4 dKH in the paludarium, tap water has ~8 dKH. I suspect that tannins from Catappa leaves and driftwood are to "blame" for low pH. Not sure if it has any connection, but water brown from tannins (when adding fresh leaves) clears up in just a few days.

Fortunately shrimp and snails don't seem to be impacted (calcium rich shrimp food might have positive effect), there are no deaths or damages to their shells. I will need to be a bit more cautious and monitor parameters more closely.
 
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