first order being shipped

•January 20, 2011 • Comments Off

So on the 8th of January at a meeting of the Northern California Dendrobatid Society in San Jose, California. I met a guy name Travis who sold me my first imitator morphs. I purchased five ‘nominals’ and three ‘varadero’ for a total of $300. These were all that he brought to the meeting. I got a very good deal and didn’t need to worry about the process of shipping. The ‘nominals’ cost me $30 each and the ‘varadero’ were $60 each. I got one extra ‘nominal’ tossed in for free. Pretty sweet deal. Other members had brought some plant clippings so I was able to finish off my two 15 gallon tanks and drop in the morphs that day.

Yesterday I fixed the tank with the molding Grapewood, replacing it with Malaysian Driftwood, and adding a fern. I finished the foam for the other two tanks, and they should be complete by this weekend. Now it’s time to get my new shipment of imitators.

For my first shipment I contacted Philip Tan of Fantasticus.net who lives up around Seattle, Washington. He’s closer than most people I could buy from, which is pretty much why I chose him. Plus I have contacted him before, he has a web presence, and the guy I bought my other imitators from also bought from Tan. Phil gave me the deal of ‘banded’ for $90 each, ‘tarapoto’ for $70 with $60 for FedEx shipping. He sent me some pictures so I could get a good idea of what he had. The pics looked good, so I agreed to get a trio of each. I’m doing odd numbers since all my frogs are current in odd numbered groups. Let’s just hope odd is a lucky number and I manage to get a breeding pair out of these.

If all goes well they’ll show up Monday. I’m praying they all show up healthy.

getting ready for new arrivals

•January 20, 2011 • Comments Off

The building process for vivariums is expensive. I’m starting to think it’s just best to know what you want, and then have it shipped all from one place. Actually, would would be way cool is to have already made backgrounds that were designed to be heavily three dimensional so you could just buy them and stick them to the back.  Working with waterfall form takes forever.

Oh yeah, so about what foam to use. Touch n’ Foam is fine, but it takes a while to harden, and shrinks after a couple of days. Great Stuff is better, does shrink a little, but not nearly as much as Touch n’ Foam. So far the best and most expensive is Total Pond Waterfall Foam and Sealant from Home Depot. It expands much more, doesn’t shrink, hardens faster, and is a darker color so it looks more like rock and fade into the background better. I’ve using it for my last two tanks where I have made a tile drip wall with surrounding brides for the dart frogs. For these tanks I have removed the use of attached Malaysian Driftwood.

So I was thinking about trying a vivarium with a clay background. But I have to say they are heavy and frankly I’d rather keep a small tank as light as I can while still having form and function. Foam does that. So do hydroton over actual rock. Now Malaysian Driftwood is a tough one. Because it is heavy, yet it’s good looking wood and doesn’t mold. So I’m stuck with that and glass. Glass Vivariums are difficult for me only because they are heavy, not as solid when siliconed together without a rim. But they look good and they are cheaper than acrylic. Once again it comes back to form verses function.

So the third tank is done and I’ll finish the last two over the weekend. I hope next week to get either a proven breeding pair, or group of juveniles. I know with the juveniles it’s more risky and it may be a while before I actually see any tadpoles. But I’d rather made sure I have the kind I want.

The Varaderos and Nominals are doing pretty well. They have adjusted to their tanks and now can be seen out and about, usually on the glass. Why they love to hang out on the glass I have no idea. But at least it makes it easier to use a macro lens and get a good picture.

mimic posion frog focus

•January 17, 2011 • Comments Off

So I’ve decided to focus on energies on the monogamous Ranitomeya imitator. These are bold, yet very small frogs less than 3/4th of an inch. From what I read they will do just fine in 10 gallon vivariums as a pair. So far the ones I have just like to hang out sitting on the glass all day. Since I’ve built five tanks, I’d like to focus on five different morphs of the species. These are:

  • R. imitator ‘Nominal’

  • R. imitator ‘Varadero’

  • R. imitator ‘Intermedius Banded’

  • R. imitator ‘Tarapoto’

  • R. imitator ‘Yurimagunesis’

Some of these morphs look almost the same, but I’ll know better as I actually go about finding someone to purchase them from. I don’t plan to go as full out on multiple species like this dude.

Other things I have learned recently: Grapewood should never be put in a humid vivarium because it molds like crazy. Imitators don’t like coconut huts for breeding or pools of water. They prefer black or white film canisters.

unloved in the love shacks

•January 14, 2011 • Comments Off

Somewhere in all my SD cards are the pics that show the build process for my tanks. I know I have them. I just don’t know where. Until I find them I thought I’d show off the results of the first three tanks. The last two still need a little more foam, then to cut off a little extra foam, and then to be glued over with coco fiber. My guess is I’ll finish them in a month or so. Until then I’m also trying to fix the problem in the third tank. I used grapewood and it seems to be constantly molding. I’ve not seeded the tank with springtails, so with any luck, they will eat up all that mold until it’s in a condition to introduce a dart frog. The main two tanks don’t seem to have these type of issues and the new dart frogs are doing well. Except they also seem to have paired up, and I’m not sure now what to do with the third wheel. I plan to break the tanks up into breeding pairs, but where do I put all the third wheels?

Oh, well I guess I should have mentioned it at the start of this post. So it seems that Ranitomeya imitator dart frogs are the only amphibian species known to be monogamous. I guess out in the wild life for these little dudes works out better when there is a mother and a father helping to rear the young. Dad protects. Mom feeds.  So what’s Uncle Bob going to do?

Ah yes, it seem that life as a third wheel is never good for anyone. And since I have no idea which is male and which is female, I can’t go try and sell Bob off for someone else to worry about. Well, they’re only a few months old, so why worry now?

here come the thumbnails

•January 12, 2011 • Comments Off

Last weekend I met with the Northern California Dendrobatid Society in San Jose, California. There were more than twenty people from all over the bay area who had brought plant cuttings, feeder insects, and a few dart frogs to share and sell with each other. It was a good meet and greet. I met this dude from Reno who drove all the way there because there are no poison dart frog enthusiasts in Nevada except Las Vegas. From him I picked up my first two species of dart frog.

The Ranitomeya imitator ‘nominant,’ and the Ranitomeya imitator ‘varadero.’

These little dudes are less than an inch long and are very brightly colored. They are called imitators because their colors come from imitating a poisonous species of frog in the area of Peru. They fall into the Thumbnail category for collectors since they are about the size of the thumbnail. Anyway I got five of the nominant, or standard of the imitator hobby, and three of the varadero. They were not that expensive, but still expensive. The next trio I buy will probably cost more than a hundred each.

I finished a couple of my tanks that day and tossed these guys in. Okay, so the next thing I learned about R. imitators is that they are a very arboreal, which is a big word for the fact they light to spend more of there time crawling anywhere but on the ground. I expected this, but I didn’t expect so much crawling on the glass of the vivarium where they seem to prefer to hang out. Yep, they made it to the light and made the mistake of jumping on it. I freaked out a little since they are expensive and I imagined they would burn themselves to deal. But the light is a 9w CFL. It doesn’t get nearly as hot as even the standard 13w CFL. So they jump on and quickly jumped off. I hope they learned their lesson, but they did it one more time afterward, which told me they were not all that hurt from the experience.

Well my main 5 tanks are almost complete. Which means my plan is to have a total of 5 thumbnail species to breed. I’d prefer imitators. I’d prefer not to leave the Thumbnail group and move into something like pumilios if I don’t have to. Although those are pretty sweet frogs. My current R. Imitator list includes the ‘Banded Intermedius,’ but at the moment with only 3 tanks complete and 2 on the way, I might just separate the tanks for breeding pairs.

cassette tape case

•December 5, 2010 • Comments Off

So I’ve been wanting a way to monitor the humidity and temperature of my vivariums. I’d prefer something for each tank, but for now I just want one digital gauge to measure with. I was really set on getting something externally that used remote probes, so the gauge wouldn’t break due to humidity. But I wasn’t sure how I was going to stick the probes into the vivarium when they were made to be fruit-fly proof. So I ended up getting a [amazon_link id="B0009YJWW4" target="_blank" ]Fluker’s Digital Thermometer / Hygrometer[/amazon_link].

One of the issues with getting a thermo-hygrometer for me was how to mount it. Suction cups always seem to get lose, and anything with sticky tape and velcro on the back either never adheres properly, or you eventually end up wanting to move it to a new location, which you can’t do, since you just taped the thing in place. I planned to move this between vivariums, and on the top and bottom of each vivarium to measure the difference.

I recently bought a bunch of magnets and found they’re quite useful in positioning things inside glass tanks. Looking around my storage I found the front of a cassette tape case, which the Digital Thermometer / Hygrometer fits perfectly in. This worked great in placing the gauge in the tank. It also allows me to flip the gauge around, so I can see it from the inside and outside of the tank. Not bad for a old case from the 80′s. Yet another case I still have a use for beyond film canister’s.

magnets and magnetics

•December 3, 2010 • Comments Off

So my Rare Earth Magnets arrived today. I purchased forty N45 1/2 in x 1/2 in x 1/8 in Neodymium Blocks and forty N42 1/2 in x 1/2 in X 1/4 in Neodymium Block N42. Four of the N42′s broke while I tried to take the magnets apart from each other. Actually they broke when they flew back together. That’s a waste of $2.00. These suckers are strong! My finger hurt and I have cuts after trying to pry them apart.

And they are stronger when pulling each other, which means two of the N42 blocks should be fine to place between 5/16ths of glass. Now the 1/2 inch of glass really needs the N45, which is why I got 40 of them to test out. Total over kill. When used with 1/8th inch glass, I’m pretty sure the glass would break if you were not careful. I need to adhere them with silicon tonight, so we’ll see how it all works. Maybe a N42 on the door with a N45 behind the glass of the terrarium would be best. We’ll see.

electronics for the environment

•December 2, 2010 • Comments Off

While I am taking pictures of the construction, most of my focus is finding the right parts for the job. Namely to keep the temperature in the high 70′s while my house is around 65 degree, the humidity at 70% to 90%, and allow for circulation of both air and water.

For lighting at first I was going to try and use those special 27W CFL’s which were four pronged. They seemed perfect, except the ballast system would need to be mounted somewhere outside the enclosure. Plus you never know how much those bulbs will cost in the future since they are so specialized. I finally settled on a [amazon_link id="B000HJ97US" target="_blank" ]Westinghouse Lighting 2-Lamp Socket[/amazon_link] which I hope to adapt to control the light separately. In the mean time I’m just using them with [amazon_link id="B00303FNRO" target="_blank" ]T2 13-Watt 5000K Compact Fluorescent Lights[/amazon_link]. At least until I know how much two will effect the temperature. Either way they are much more adaptable to screw into the top of the vivarium.

From previous posts you’ll see I build an air-circulation system. This may cool the temp, or at least even the temp out all over the enclosure in the high 70′s, and provide the air circulation I need so the vivarium doesn’t become so stagnant and a breeding ground for bacteria. I might replace one of those lights with a [amazon_link id="B001AARCUK" target="_blank" ]black light[/amazon_link] to help in this matter. I’m not sure how well it really does in killing microorganisms, but it does make a great night light. I’m still not clear if the dart frogs can see UV light.

The water pump was a big issues. I tried the [amazon_link id="B003JVCYHY" target="_blank" ]Eco-Plus 66 Pump[/amazon_link] but it was just too loud, and I had to cut the end off the plug to get it into the tank, then buy a new plug to replace the old one. Next I tried the [amazon_link id="sunterra pump" target="_blank" ]Sunterra Table Top 30GPH pump[/amazon_link]. It’s quieter, but not by much. But it is much smaller and it means I requires less water at the bottom of the tank. In desperation I pulled the pump off a water fountain I have on my desk at work. It’s a Jeabo 40GPH pump that has a light attached. It was amazingly quiet. However the water pressure topped out at 18 inches which is about the height I wanted the water to go.

After doing some research I have decided to go with a Jebao PP-333LV 65GPH pump. These were the reasons. The PP-300LV I tested was quiet but topped out at 18″. The PP-333LV will top out at 25″ giving mean some safety space. I’m hoping it will be just a quiet. The pump uses only 2.5w of electricity, so it’s energy efficient. I elected to get the 12V version, and not the 115V version. This means you must plug it into a transformer, making it easier to pull the cord into the tank though a small hole and attach it to the transformer after it’s connected. It also makes it easier to remove from the tank. Since there is a small light connected by a 7″ cord, I’ll either use the light to place in the water, or cut off the light, and attach the 12v fan internally. We’ll see how it works once they show up next week.

my install of the air circulation system

•November 21, 2010 • Comments Off

I finished off my version of the air circulation system and installed it on a 3/16 piece of ABS plastic. I also added in a dual lighting system. The parts for the final version of the air circulation system is as follows:

From Fry’s Electronics:

From Home Depot:

From Orchard Supply Hardware:

  • Servalite Rubber Washer 7/8×3/8 $0.49
  • Westinghouse Steel Nipples Zinc-Plated 1/8-IP Thread 1″ Length $2.19 for 4 = $0.55 for 1
  • Westinghouse Hex Nuts $2.19 for 12 = $0.37 for 2

So that’s running about $5.00 for the actual fan and $2.50 for the mount. You still need to cut the cut-off riser and the shrub adapter, but the fan when modified fits right into the riser with little glue necessary. I’m still going back and forth about adding the mesh around the fan. I realize it’s safety precaution and may be a good idea just to be safe.

For $20.00 today I also bought some really nicely etched 1/4″ thick glass. But now I’m realizing it’s a waste, simply because of how difficult it is to make these vivariums from scratch, let alone modifying an aquarium.

air circulation revisited

•November 20, 2010 • Comments Off


I decided to take a trip to Fry’s Electronics, Home Depot, and Orchard Hardware Supply to see if I could make this air circulation system myself. I was surprised about some of the mistaken parts I listed and what other parts I found that would work just a well. Rather than change my list, I’ll create this new one.

From Fry’s Electronics:

From Home Depot:

From Orchard Supply Hardware:

  • Servalite Rubber Washer 7/8×3/8 $98 for 2
  • Westinghouse Steel Nipples Zinc-Plated 1/8-IP Thread 1″ Length $2.19 for 4 = $0.55 for 1
  • Westinghouse Hex Nuts $2.19 for 12 = $0.55 for 3
  • 30 x 12 in. Cut of Charcoal Mesh $0.79

Total Cost for 1 Air Circulator = $12.77 + tax (excluding the cost for extra parts to build more systems)

Conceptually everything fit together well. The reducer/increaser works pretty well to hold the fan. I connected it to a sawed off 1/2 male adapter and it all connects well to the swing joint elbow. And using the shrub adapter with a steel nipple held in place by hex nuts worked perfectly. Even adding in the fan and surrounding it with some mesh wasn’t hard.

The down side was connecting it to an electrical current. You do the polarity wrong and the fan motor will overheat and break. So test it at a lower voltage until you have it the way you want it. I blew mine out playing around.

The fan runs at 30db which is loud when there is nothing to bring the sound down. After this tests I may be looking to a quieter fan should the plan to be to run this all the time.