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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I thought I would share the process of creating a 20gal long paludarium (half land/half water) since I am going about it a different way then most of the tanks I have seen. This is also the first time I have undertaken such a project, feedback is welcome!

I decided to create a removable planter box and removable background in the tank. This way, If I dont like it, or I need to do a thorough cleaning, the entire tank can be taken apart.

My first step was to cut the lexan and silicone it together to create the box.



I started out by cutting out the design of the bottom and then bending the front to fit using a heat gun and a lot of patience. After that was attached, I cut out the side and back and siliconed everything together. I cut an extra piece of lexan to act as a sort of waterfall. If you look at the picture, you see a cutout in the back left corner where the filter goes. This sits higher than the rest of the box so that the water can flow down the waterfall. In retrospect, I should have bent the front, attached the sides, then cut out the bottom to match. Bending lexan is not too difficult, but I gave it too complex a shape to be easily done. If you look closely, on the right hand side, you can see a crack from when I tried to push things a little too quickly.

The next step was to test for leaks and patch as necessary. This was the tricky part, as it took almost a full week of testing and siliconing until it could finally hold water. A good note is to be a generous as possible with the silicone, if you try to skimp, its not going to work, it doesnt matter how bad it looks, just as long as it functions. Everything will be covered up later.

After the tank "passed" I siliconed a few pieces of flat slate to the sides that would be visible in the tank (the tank sits in a corner, so the left and back are blocked from view, this is the "ugly side" of the tank). Once the rocks were secure, I filled in the gaps, and covered the top edge as well as the waterfall with greatstuff insulating foam. I needed to do two passes over the waterfall to build up the outer edges, as the wet greatstuff kept flopping over. Once that dried, I covered it with a layer of silicone by spreading it out with a gloved hand. I pressed dry peat moss into the silicone to try and cover everything up. After a few hours, I brush off the excess peat, apply more silicone to the bare spots, and press in more peat.



So, thats the step that I am at. Hopefully I can get the rest of the greatstuff covered with silicone and peat by the end of the day, and I can start letting it cure.

The rest of my plans are to complete the box, and plant it, once that goes into the tank, I will start working on my removable background.[/url]
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
finished the box, placed it into the tank. Not good.

I am faced with two basic problems.

1) it floats. I need more rocks in the bottom to keep it sunken. So I'll have to redo the soil part and bury more rocks underneat. Not a big deal.

2) the waterfall does not work. It doesnt leak, but my filter does not sit correctly into it, so the water either does not reach the stream, or runs partly down the side and into the planter box.

I had to remove the box from the tank...very frustrated last night....Im calmer and have a clearer head today though. Im going to have to fix the waterfall, im not too sure what im going to do yet, but it looks like either trimming some greatstuff away, or building up more. Im also going to remove the soil and put more rocks in the bottom of it.

On another note, it seems solid, at least it didnt fall apart on me. And it is larger than I anticipated. So, the water/fish part will be more limited than I thought it would be (originally I thought 1/3-1/2 land, im looking at more in the range of 1/2-2/3 land). No room for my driftwood, aquatic plants, or rockpiles in there, and my fish choice will be limited to a single betta I think. Hopefully I can have it in the tank later this week post some pics, and start on my background.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
grrrr....so, there were still a few issues with the beta 0.2 version.

I fixed the waterfall, added more great stuff and covered it up. Added more rocks to the bottom, and poped it in there. The good news is that the waterfall worked well. It was still floating a bit (but not as bad as before) so I started to remove the soil to add more rocks. Thats when I discoverd at least 2 leaks!!! I know I thoroughly leak tested this thing before adding the slate to it.....so, its back to siliconing the box. I'll keep you posted on all this. My plan is to get it resealed in the two spots that are leaking, then fill the bottom up with washed landscaping gravel to give it enough weight. We will see
 

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I recently got into DIYing stuff with acrylic myself and learned that silicone is absolutely useless on it if you want a water-tight seal. You might want to look into getting some weld-on, it actually welds pieces of acrylic together. It takes a bit of practice to get your seals right but the end results are worth it (mainly cause they actually hold, haha). It can be a bit of a pain to get since 9/11 has tagged hazmat charges onto shipping it, but its not too bad. Check out the articles here on using acrylic, they're great and sure helped me out a lot. here's one of the links: http://cichlid-forum.com/articles/diy_acrylic.php

Just be careful with it and don't breathe the fumes in; you can practically smell the cancer in this stuff.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'll look into the weld-on, as well as an epoxy that I have heard works well.

The silicone I bought was listed as aquarium safe, and listed as working with acrylic, or lexan, or whatever the stuff I bought was.

Currently, I patched one small leak, and will test it hopefully today. The box has been filled with water, and that was the only one that I found. Since im so frustrated with it, when I find a leak, I dump a huge glob of silicone on the area and then smooth it out. So far this has worked with other leaks.
 
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