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.