Constructing a Polycarbonate Vivarium

We have found that for the smaller vivarium polycarbonate twin wall sheets offer an easy alternative to glass. There are a number of advantages to using polycarbonate; vivs can be constructed really quickly using only a few tools, polycarb is easy to cut and drill so drainage and misting jet holes don’t present any problems. read more...

What wood can I use in the Vivarium?

We are often asked which species of wood do we use in decorating our vivariums and are there any that shouldn’t be used.

We do not use tropical woods in our vivariums as we feel it is much more sustainable and eco-friendly to use native wood gathered locally. read more...

The Substrate

The functions of the substrate in a dart frog vivarium are to hold humidity, provide a medium for plants to root and grow in and as a drainage system for excess water.

The type of substrate we use is based on an organic mixture which is made up of... read more...

Which Plants Should I Use In My Vivarium?

Here is a list of some tropical plant families or groups that we have, over the years, through trial and error found grow well in the typical vivarium set up. We have chosen these not only for their suitability but also for the ‘tropical’ feel they bring to the vivarium and it includes species such as Bromeliads, Ferns, Selaginellas, Orchids, Begonia, Gesneriads, Aroids and  Peperomia.  More and more vivariums are becoming show cases for plants as well as frogs. read more...

Which Plants Should I Use In My Vivarium?

Here is a list of some tropical plant families or groups that we have, over the years, through trial and error found grow well in the typical vivarium set up. We have chosen these not only for their suitability but also for the ‘tropical’ feel they bring to the vivarium and it includes species such as Bromeliads, Ferns, Selaginellas, Orchids, Begonia, Gesneriads, Aroids and  Peperomia.  More and more vivariums are becoming show cases for plants as well as frogs.

Bromeliads

There are around 3,170 species of bromeliad, the majority native to the tropical Americas and these are probably the most sought after and used vivarium plant. Quite a number of dart frog species rely on bromeliads for tadpole deposition as well as for egg laying sites and hiding places. Neoregelias, Vrieseas, and Guzmanias are probably the species best suited to vivariums. One thing to remember, although broms are lovers of high humidity they will soon rot if planted in a constantly wet substrate – they are best placed either mounted on wood or on the background of the vivarium. For broms to produce their best form and colour they need good amounts of bright light.

Bromeliads tolerate a wide range of light intensities in the viv set up, including low light, for long periods without ill effects. The plants, however, will look better when they receive proper light. Although optimum light levels vary considerably, the following characteristics are helpful in selecting a spot for a particular plant. Generally bromeliad species with hard, thick, gray, gray-green or fuzzy foliage withstand the highest light levels, while species with soft, green, thin leaves grow best under lower light levels.

Here are some photos of Bromeliads took in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest which is home to a diverse range of species

 

 

Microsorum pteropus

Ferns

Ferns are a group of about 12,000 species, many of which thrive in the high humidity provided by the dart frog vivarium. They are also a useful plant as some species do well in the lower light areas where other species of plant struggle. Careful consideration is needed not to choose species that will quickly outgrow your vivarium or dominate the space completely such as some of the Phlebodiums or Nephrolepis species. Our favourites are the epiphytes such as the Microgrammas, Pyrrosias and Microsorums which have small leaves that usually grow from creeping stems or rhizomes and are sometimes covered in furry scales. All three of these species need high humidty and do really well attached to branches or the background of the viv.

 

Selaginella selaginoides

Selaginella

A close relative of the ferns and with similar requirements within the vivarium Selaginella is not a moss, although it is often referred to as a spike moss. It is a small family with around 50 species being described.Selaginellas are creeping or ascendant plants with simple, scale-like leaves on branching stems from which roots also arise.  Most selaginellas have fern like foliage and are either prostrate growing spreading easily across the substrate or more climbing that look good covering the sides or background of the vivarium. Selaginellas are available in a variety of colour forms from green through to iridescent blue or blood red.

 

Bulbophyllum lepidum

Orchids

It is currently believed to be the second largest family of flowering plants (only the Asteraceae is larger), with around 30,000 currently accepted orchid species. Unfortunately we have found only a fraction of this number do well in the vivarium. The species we have been successful with are the miniature epiphytic orchids such as Bulbophyllums, Dendrobiums, Pleurothallis, Restrepia, Lepanthes and Masdevallia which seem to do best in areas of brighter light and with good ventilation although saying that some other species have thrived in very high humidity and much lower light. We also find that Jewel Orchids do very well in the vivarium and with their spectacular leaves that are threaded with veins of gold. They need high humidity, constant warm temperatures and a moist, but not wet well drained substrate. Plant them in areas of low to medium light.

This is a list put together by a very experienced orchid grower of Viv suitable species -

Angraecum distictum, Brassavola nodosa,Cayyleya forbesii,Cattleya Luteous Forb, Cyclopogon lindleyanum, Dendrobium capituliflorum, Dendrobium kingianum, Dendrobium prenticei, Dendrobium funalis, Encyclia cochleata, Encyclia maculosa, Epidendrum porpax
Keferstenia laminate, Laelia dayana, Lockhartia lunifera, Ludisia discolour, Masdavilla Maxillaria friedrichsthalii, Miltoniopsis roezlii, Neofinetia falcate, Oncidium varigatum, Paphiopedilum maudiae, Phalaenopsis equestrian, Phalaenopsis fasciata, Sarcinula (Pleurothallis) grobyii, Potinara Hoku, Restrepia striata, Scaphosepalum verrucosum
Sigmayostalizx radicans,Sophrolaeliocattleya Ark Angel, Sophronitis cernua, Stenia pallid, Stennoglottis longifolia

Begonia aconitifolia

Begonias

Most of the begonias, of which there are over 1,500 species, do well in the vivarium. They prefer high humidity and a moist, but not wet, well drained substrate but they do not like water droplets remaining on their leaves for extended periods of time. Planted in the right area of the viv they can add a nice accent of colour. The best species for the vivarium seem to originate from the rainforest understory. We use Begonia schulzei and Begonia foliosa on the backgrounds in a number of our vivs. Species such as bowerae or listada are also worth considering but some of the larger leaved species such as the rex variants soon rot away if kept in a wet substrate.

 

Episcia reptans

Columnea sp

 

Gesneriads

The African Violet is probably the most familiar of this large family of plants which contains around 3200 species and can be found all around the globe. Many are well suited to life in the vivarium with its high humidity and warm constant temperatures. Some of the species that do well are Alsobia, Columnia, Episcia and Sinningia. Similar to begonias they do not like water droplets remaining on their leaves for extended periods of time.

Small-leaved Episcias are great, but the bigger ones grow too fast for using in vivariums. A very fast growing and proficient little miniature is Chirita tamiana which seems to be in continuous flower and much better suited size wise for the viv. The Columnea species are mainly all trailing vines originating from the New World. They thrive in a variety of light and humidity and once established make excellent vivarium plants. Three superb  species worth considering if you can find them are Columnea microphylla, Columnea arguta and Columnea gloriosa.

Philodendron maximum

Aroids

This family is incredibly diverse with over 3700 species and includes numerous forms, including vines, uprights, epiphytes and hemiepiphytes. Probably the most familiar to dart frog keepers are the Pothos and Philodendrons. In their natural rainforest environment they have been recorded vining to the very tops of the trees where they spread their 1 metre long leaves. The ‘shingle leaf’ species when grown against a background or side wall can look stunning. The larger leaves of some Philodendron and Monstera species provide egg laying sites and calling spots for many dart frog species.

The ‘aroids’ contain some great species and are one of the best ‘all rounder’s’ for vivariums due to their ability to thrive in a wide range of lighting and humidity levels. Some good aroid species worth considering for the vivarium are Syngonium rayii, Philodendron scandens, and Scindapsus aureus. One of the most frequently used aroids in vivs is the near enough indestructible “Pothos” (Epipremnum aureum). This species can grow from a single node to completely filling a vivarium in a matter of a few months once it becomes established. Its leaves do provide some good opportunities as egg laying sites for the smaller thumbnail species if kept in check.

 

Peperomias

With more than 1500 recorded species this large family have become quite common in the house plant trade. Most of them are compact, small perennial epiphytes growing on rotten wood. They are found in all tropical and subtropical regions of the world, though concentrated to Central America and northern South America. Some of the peperomias are true epiphytes with creeping stems while others are terrestrials with upright stems.

These are the three main types of peperomias:

Decorative foliage peperomias: most of these are found as epiphytes in rain or cloud forest habitats. They need high air humidity as ‘in habitat’ they have no access to ground water. Usually they have a small root system and leaves and stems are pretty succulent to prevent drying out. In the vivarium the substrate must be light and airy and being kept wet will cause stem rot and is the main cause of loosing these plants. The most successful approach is regular spraying to maintain high humidity.

Succulent peperomias: are mostly plants from high altitude. They basically have two seasons, a warm season followed by a cold season both with limited rainfall. Their succulent leaves and stems protect them from direct sun exposure in summer and against dry, cold conditions during winter.

Geophytic Peperomias: these plants protect themselves against drought by their tubers. Leaves die off in the dry season and appear again when more rain falls. They need a rest time with temperatures kept around 5°C to 10°C.