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How to set up a high-humidity riparium

Discussion in 'Terrariums, Paludariums and Vivariums' started by hydrophyte, Sep 4, 2010.

  1. hydrophyte

    hydrophyte AC Members

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    Riparium How-To: High-Humidity Setups

    I am starting this thread with a semi-organized description of considerations and methods to have in mind when assembling a high-humidity riparium setup. This kind of tank is best for growing certain emersed aquatic plants that require very humid air. It is important to note that not all emersed aquatics need to grow in such conditions. Emersed Echinodorus swordplants, for example, are best grown with plenty of air circulation and somewhat drier air. The following lists the main groups of emersed aquarium plants that do require high-humidity:

    • Cryptocoryne--all crypts that I have grown, with the exception of C. ciliata, require very moist air
    • Anubias--especially A. barteri varieties. Some of the larger species, such as A. hastifolia, might be less demanding of high-humidity.
    • Microsorum (Java fern)

    There are certain other groups of plants that can grow and look right in a high-humidity riparium, but these are the most useful ones that I have applied. These groups of plants are of special interest to aquarium hobbyists because they are readily available.

    High-humidity ripariums display can have a lot of visual appeal. The combination of the above water and below water areas in the same frame offers unique design opportunities. The next shot shows the best riparium of this kind that I have put together so far, a setup that I had going last year in a 55-gallon tank.

    [​IMG]

    In addition to the enjoyment of the whole planted layout, a high-humidity riparium can be appealing in several other ways. It is intriguing to grow the emersed forms of aquatic plants and compare them with the underwater growth habits, which are often distinct. High-humidity ripariums can be used for a particular hobby area that has been gaining in popularity in recent years, the culture of emersed Cryptocoryne for the sake of encouraging the development of spathes, their unique floral structures. The following picture shows a fresh spathe produced by the C. usteriana that I currently have growing in a 20-gallon high-humidity riparium.

    [​IMG]

    This brings to mind an important specific point:

    This post will quickly become too long with much additional explanation, so I intend to break up the narrative into several posts to follow. Here is the general organization that I have in mind.

    1. Aquarium setup and life support.
    2. Plant selection.
    3. Riparium planters and planting methods.
    4. Adapting aquatic plants to emersed growth and growing in the riparium.
    5. Livestock
    6. Additional specific observations and tips.

    With the next organized post that I write I'll start with topic #1, considerations to have in mind while planning out the aquarium enclosure for a high-humidity riparium.
     
    #1 hydrophyte, Sep 4, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2010
  2. RazzleFish

    RazzleFish AC Members

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    This sounds like a very interesting thread. Subscribed!
     
  3. hydrophyte

    hydrophyte AC Members

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    I'll have another detailed post on the way soon.
     
  4. eraagne

    eraagne AC Members

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    If you could include discussions about livestock other then fish I would love that. I'd like to keep tree frogs in my riparium but not certain how. Thanks for writing all this up!
     
  5. hydrophyte

    hydrophyte AC Members

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    Frogs and other herps are not really very good choices for ripariums because there is no real land area. Ripariums are best for displaying plants and fish and they offer lot and lots and lots of options for doing so. You can make a really nice planted display in a riparium setup.
     
  6. eraagne

    eraagne AC Members

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    Can you keep fish in a paludarium?

    Edit: NM kinda a dumb question. Really meant can you keep cichlids. However I'm also interested in killifish which seem great for pauldarium.
     
  7. GotTanked

    GotTanked 30g Planted Barb Tank

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    I can't wait to start my riparium :) Thank you for all the great info I've learned from you hydrophyte!
     
  8. saveone

    saveone AC Members

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    I am excited. I have been considering this but just haven't figured out where to begin.
     
  9. hydrophyte

    hydrophyte AC Members

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    You can keep cichlids in a paludarium provided that there is enough water. You might need to use a pretty big tank to have enough water left over in a paludarium for cichlids.

    Ripariums are in general better for fish than paludariums because much of the underwater space in a paludarium is taken up by the hardscape. In a riparium, on the other hand, almost all of the area under the plants is water.
     
  10. hydrophyte

    hydrophyte AC Members

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    Here is the first section.

    1. Aquarium Setup and Life Support.

    Aquarium Selection The most important thing to have in mind while starting with a high-humidity riparium setup is that you should plan for the tank to be nearly completely covered with a canopy. The top covering will retain the moisture that evaporates from the water's surface and maintain proper humidity levels inside. Since the tank will have a canopy, you can just place a strip light right on top, thus avoiding having to hang up a pendant light fixture, as is necessary for some other kinds of riparium setups.

    Since you will need to lower the water level and still accommodate the emersed plant growth it is best to use a tank that is somewhat taller than it is deep (front-to-back). You might already have a tank setup on hand that will work very well for a high humidity setup. Here are several real good choices.

    • 20 high (24 X 12 X 16)
    • 25 gallon (24 X 12 X 20)
    • 29 gallon (30 X 12 X 18)
    • 38 gallon (36 X 12 X 20)
    • 55 gallon (48 X 13 X 20)
    • 65 gallon (36 X 18 X 24)

    Notice that all of these save the 65 are 12" in the depth (front-to-back) dimension. These are very nice for crypts because most species/varieties will be able to fill into that space pretty well. You can also consider a tank 18" or more deep, but you will want to select the larger growing Cryptocoryne and Anubias to fill the background. If you wish to grow the larger Microsorum Java ferns then it would be best to use a larger tank because they can grow to a pretty massive size rather fast.

    The taller 12" deep tanks (such as the 55) can be difficult to work in because there is relatively little depth to work in. However, they will function just fine with some experimentation and careful training/pruning of plants.

    Aquarium Setup: The important point to have in mind while setting up the tank is that you will want to have some measure of control of ventilation, that is, the degree to which the canopy covers the top of the tank. The surest way to create a very humid environment inside of the tank is to maintain a completely covered top. However, if you do this you can expect the glass to be foggy much of the time.

    I have been able to maintain high humidities inside of the riparium while also preventing glass fogging by creating a narrow gap in front of the canopy and along the front of the tank--the warm air rising slowly along the front pane of glass is usually enough to prevent fogging. I don't have a great picture to illustrate this, but you can see it pretty well in this shot...

    [​IMG]

    Keep in mind that you will likely have to do some adjustment and experimentation to find the right amount of canopy cover. If you have your display in a room that has very dry air because of air conditioning, central heating or your local climate then that 1" gap shown above might be too large and cause dry conditions inside of the tank.

    I have not done any careful measurements, but I get the impression that most crypts and Anubias plants require a relative humidity of about 80% or higher to grow very well in the emersed condition. To review and add a few additional points, here are several factors that I have found to be important influences on the riparium enclosure humidity and glass fogging:

    • Degree of tank canopy coverage--tighter canopy = higher humidity
    • Water temperature--warmer water = more evaporation = higher humidity
    • Air temperature inside riparium and difference with room temperature--cooler air relative to inside of tank = more glass fogging

    Like I said above, you will probably need to do some experimentation and readjustment to get the correct relative humidity inside of the riparium. The best way to assess conditions is with careful observation of your plants. If there is adequate humidity in the air your emersed crypts will have attractive, erect foliage and bright colors. If the air becomes too dry, on the other hand, they will begin to loose their colors, droop and suffer burned leaf tips. Here are a couple of pictures of pretty happy emersed crypt plants from my collection...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    As a final not, you might also find it useful to acquire a hygrometer with a remote sensor to place inside your riparium for accurate measurement of air relative humidity. With careful observation of your emersed plants this won't really be necessary, but it could be another fun gadget to add to your setup.

    This post has also run long, so I will divide this topic in half and return with some ideas about Life Support. This will include a discussion about misters, a continuation of the humidity topic, as well as water filtration and water heating.
     
    #10 hydrophyte, Sep 5, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2010

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