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Setting up a Paludarium
I assembled all the needed equipment
and supplies to start the construction. The last Item I received was
the standard 55 gallon aquarium. I guess my hints paid off as my two
loving daughters gave me a certificate for fathers' day that allowed
me to purchase the tank. Thank you! The first step was to refer to my
original plan and see if I want to make any changes. I do. (Of course)
I have decided to make the whole thing a more rounded natural looking
shoreline. I have also decided to add a small waterfall in one corner.
This may change my filtration plan, but I wont know until I get the
form built and sealed. Here is an updated plan for the set up.
Notice the overall more rounded appearance
of the shore line and the waterfall in the right hand corner. The height
of the wall for the waterfall is about ten inches and the rest of the
water level will be seven inches. I have also decided not to use my
submersible heater, mostly because it is too long. Instead I will use
a side mounted outside heater that is only eight inches long. This heater
will be easy to adjust and will be hidden in the waterfall well. The
water fall well is constructed of two separate pieces of Lexan (similar
to plexi, but more flexible). The front or fall section has been heated
and formed to form a two inch slope for the water to flow down. The
side of the waterfall is the same material; but 1/2 inch taller to allow
the water to flow and not spill into the land area. The rest of the
wall is constructed out of a single piece of Lexan, again molded with
heat. The power head in the corner will be covered by another piece
of Lexan, molded and sloped to form a removable beach. I hope this design
will only have three horizontal seams and will minimize the chance of
water leaking into the land portion. The material has been checked for
square and is just awaiting the addition of the silicon sealer.
Molding the Lexan
Shaping the Lexan into the shapes you desire is not that hard.
There are two ways that you can do this. You can use a commercial
heat gun, which will give you very even heat and will not blister
the material easily. The second way is by using a plumbers blow
torch. I used the blow torch because it is fast and I have experience
in their use. Either method you choose you must be careful as
both the equipment and material will get VERY
HOT. I started by cutting my material into the widths
needed. Once this was done I started to form them with the torch.
First I measured where I wanted my bend to start and I drew
a line to mark it. Once I had the line I placed the material
on a flat level surface with the line extending out over empty
space. I then started moving the torch in a back and forth movement
over the entire width. I also repeated this on the underside.
You must be careful as you do this as the material is flammable
and can catch fire and ruin the whole piece. Once the material
had become pliable I placed a small board perpendicular to the
line. I then carefully bent the material into the shape I wanted.
You must be fairly quick as the material will re-harden quickly.
As you can see from the pictures the blow torch will distort
the material, but for me this is fine as it will not be visible.
You can do this with the heat gun as well and the lines will
be more clear, but it will take a longer time. Click on any
thumbnail for a close up picture.
Sealing the Lexan
As you can see from the pictures the holes for the PVC piping
that will be buried are cut using a hole saw. This type of saw
will give you a perfectly round cut with very little burring
of the Lexan. You could also use a spade point drill bit for
this, but the cut may not be as round. No that all the bends
ands cuts have been made the form is ready to be siliconed into
the tank. If you look closely on some of the pictures you will
see a series of lines. I measured out the tank dimensions and
drew them on the wood. This gave me a better idea of how I wanted
my layout to be. Now that everything is ready and I have
my tank it's time to seal it up. After looking up different
silicones on the web I found that GE silicone I #012a is suitable
for aquarium use. You must be careful because types many contain
mildicides that will be harmful to your inhabitants. I placed
my completed form into the tank and positioned where I wanted
it. I again checked for square on the waterfall portion. Once
I was satisfied all was well I applied tape to hold everything
in place. Once this was done the silicone was applied in a slow
even bead. I like to run my finger gently across the seams top
make sure of good penetration. Once done I will allow it to
cure overnight. Next I inspect the dried silicone and apply
more to the areas that I could not get the first day and to
the PVC tubing that connects the two sides. While that is drying
I cut with the table saw the fiberglass background into the
height and lengths I will need to hide the Lexan. Again I will
let this cure overnight. I once again inspect all seams and
corners. If I am satisfied now the water test will be next.
With the tank on a level surface I will fill the water area
up and check for leaks. Once again I will let this sit overnight,
it may seem overkill but I want to make sure I will have no
water leaking into the land portion because I do not want to
land up with a mudbowl. With all the leak testing complete I
am now going to hook up the pumps and regulate them. I want
the Micro jet to pump more water than the Dueto filter. This
will keep the waterfall well full at all times and let the Dueto
filter the water in the well. While this is running I will measure
for the beach area and cut and form the Lexan. This has completed
the construction phase. The next section will show the addition
of the rockwork and other items that will hide the Lexan and
hopefully bring the Paludarium to life. Click on any thumbnail
for a close up picture.