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HUGE 350 Gallon Dripwall Paludarium is DONE (Build Part 3)

By SerpaDesign on


00:03 Tanner Serpa: Yo, what's up, Serpa Squad. Tanner here, and I'm back with the third installment of the 350-gallon paludarium build. In this one, I'll complete the project and go over all the mechanics about how it works. It's been quite the journey, but I'm ready to get this thing done and stocked. Let's get to work.

00:22 TS: Let me bring you up to speed in case you missed the previous episodes. In part one, I installed the background and added the hardscape. In part two, I planted the setup. Since then I've done a lot, but to better understand where we're at now, let's go back before the background was installed.

00:38 TS: I cut along this line using the knife from earlier. This slit will accommodate a PVC pipe I added between the previous step. I'll discuss more about that later in the series. This pipe is a really important component for the setup and something I planned from the very beginning. Per my request, the tank was drilled to accommodate bulkheads for plumbing. The two on the sides are for 3/4 inch bulkheads. I used one of these for the filter's return and the other for the PVC pipe apparatus. The center hole will accommodate a 1 1/2-inch bulkhead for the overflow into the sump. All of these pieces were attached and tested prior to installing the background.

01:25 TS: To make the pipe apparatus, I have a few 3/4 inch PVC pipes, two 90-degree elbows, a cap and a few suction cups. I cut a short piece of pipe and attached it to one of the elbows. I adjusted it so the elbow is as close to the glass as possible. I measured from the elbow to the top of the tank and cut out a pipe based on this measurement. The other elbow went on this pipe and was placed inside the tank. I measured for the horizontal length and cut the final pipe. This one was capped off and added to the pieces in the tank. I used the suction cups to support the weight of the pipe prior to adding the background.

02:19 TS: Now that I have a plan and dry fit all of the pieces, I can fuse them together. I used Oatey FUSION Cement. I started with the piece that fits into the bulkhead, the elbow and the vertical length. Once all of those were together, I attached this to the bulkhead. I let them fuse together for a little while prior to adding the horizontal segment. Again, this piece was supported with the suction cups. After that, I cleaned off the glass and installed the background as outlined in the first video.

03:06 TS: The pipe was embedded in the background with zip ties and expanding foam. I concealed all of that with silicone and pigments. Once everything was cured, I went back with a step bit and drilled holes along the entire length of pipe. This will create a drip wall effect once it's hooked up to a pump. From there, I secured the overflow elbow with cement. It was capped off with an H2Overflow. 1 1/2 inch flex tube and a slip elbow were secured to the outside of the same bulkhead. A siphon stopper output nozzle was attached to the remaining bulkhead. Both 3/4 inch bulkheads will have a barbed elbow on the outside. These two were secured with cement. I used 3/4 inch final tubing to attach these to the other components. They were slid over the barbed fittings and secured with hose clamps.

04:16 TS: Here's a look at how the tubes are plumbed through the back of the stand. Everything is tidy and well secured. On the inside of the stand, I have a Seamless Sump. The flex overflow tube feeds into the first compartment where fine particles are filtered out through a filter sock. The next compartment overhouses the biological media. I'm using Seamless Sump bio media, which are high-surface area ceramic balls. I filled the media baskets and stacked them up in the sump. The top basket is covered with a coarse filter sponge.

04:50 TS: Moving over to the final compartment, I have the return pump. For this one, I'm using a pump I already had, which is a Fluval Sea SP4. It's hooked up to the return hose which feeds into the tank via a dual-output adjustable return. The tube includes an in-line ball valve as well. I also have a PVC elbow on the intake, so the pump can run with less water without pulling in air. All the cords and tubes were secured with conduit clamps to keep things tidy.

05:19 TS: In addition to that, I'm using a Sicce Syncra SDC pump to run the drip wall. I drilled a hole into the right side of the return compartment to accommodate a bulkhead. I used a 1-inch flex tube and various fittings to attach this to the pump. It feeds into the tank from there, creating the drip wall. Something cool about this pump is that I can control it from my phone. I can set up a schedule and adjust the flow. I found that the optimum setting for this tank is around 45%. I marked for the ideal fill line on the sump so that I know when the water needs to be topped off and so that I don't accidentally overfill the system. Doing so could result in a flood during a power outage or if there's ever equipment failure.

06:02 TS: Oh yeah, I should also mention that I hooked up a waterproof RGB LED strip light along the top so that I can see what I'm doing. There's a control in the back left, and it can be controlled by a remote. I'll never need to adjust the settings, but it's a cool feature to have, nonetheless.

06:18 TS: The last thing under the stand worth mentioning is the Oase OxyMax 400 air pump. This has two adjustable outputs. One goes into the biological compartment of the sump for better aeration and the other goes into the tank. It's hidden behind the background and pops out at the bottom where it's hardly visible.

06:37 TS: Back to the tank itself, I decided to install a window tint film on the sides of the tank to hide the silicone and outside of the background. To attach this, I sprayed a solution on the glass, put down the film and used a scraper to remove the excess solution.


06:57 TS: Now that looks much cleaner. Let's add the substrate. For this one, I use Red Flint Sand. It has coarser granules and will match the background colors perfectly. I was able to fill the bottom of the tank with two and a half 50-pound bags. I used a hose and a paintbrush taped to a stick to distribute the sand throughout. After all this, I had to make a few adjustments to the plants. First, I had to remove a few that perished. These were supposed to be watered by the drip wall, but I added them too far in advance and didn't keep up with the watering. I added several new plants in their place that look better anyway.

07:43 TS: I added a few Guzmania bromeliads, bird's foot ferns, Swiss cheese vines, and several air plants. To secure these in the setup, I used gel super glue. No paludarium is complete without moss, and that's something I didn't add in the previous video. I created the soaks out of stainless steel wire and hooked them up to the hose of the drip wall. I used the hooks to hold Java moss in place and in line with the flow of water. Over time, it will cling to the background, but these will keep it situated till then. I also added moss in areas where the driftwood wakes water.

08:33 TS: You'll notice that I also removed the water hyacinth I featured previously. Although they were doing quite well, I decided they didn't mesh well with the design and created unnecessary clutter. I know many of you will also be curious about what I'm lighting this tank with. The overhead lighting are three aquarium essentials Adalight LED spotlights. Since I have a drop ceiling, I was able to mount them above the tank cleanly and tied all of the wires. I have control of these lights as well via a smart power strip behind the tank. They're on the same schedule as all the lights in the animal room with a six-hour photo period. The lights come on at 4:00 PM and go off at 10:00 PM The only difference with these lights is the two on the sides go off at 8:00 PM, so the last two hours of viewing are something like what you would see at dusk.

09:21 TS: I really like how dramatic the tank looks during this time. I also installed three Aquascape submersible lights in the water feature. I really wanted the tank to have dramatic shadows and resemble something like what you'd see in nature. I didn't want perfect even lighting throughout, and the overhead lights allowed me to do that quite well. However, there were a few areas that were darker than I would like so I added these lights to compensate. I think they really add to the look of everything and are also adjustable from my phone. I can alter the color, brightness and set schedules, which is really helpful. I'm still experimenting with what I like best though.

10:00 TS: Something else I should mention real quick is that I installed a high-door Koralia 3G 1530 pump inside the tank for circulation. Although I would like it to be totally hidden, the spot I chose is fairly inconspicuous and provides great water movement. Another thing the setup will include is an array of various botanicals and leaf litter. These will really add to the aesthetic of the tank, help fulfill the vision I have for it, and provide various benefits for the future inhabitants.

10:31 TS: Before use, I boiled and soaked everything. This will help get them waterlogged and remove most of the tannins. After that process, I dropped them throughout the tank to complete the design. Last minute, I decided to add a mist maker to the setup as well.


12:03 TS: And there you have it, the completed 350-gallon drip wall paludarium. I don't know about you, but I really like how it turned out. It's something I've had a vision of for so long, and to see it finished is absolutely surreal. Plus, it's only going to get better with time as the plants matures. The roots have already started to work their way into the water feature, but picture it with a vast network that will really add to the natural aesthetic. I also like how the drip wall looks through the spaces between the plants. It's not something you see immediately, but it adds another layer of depth and interest that really sets this design apart. Plus, it acts as a self-watering mechanism for the plants along the background, so it also serves a function. I think there's great texture variation among the plants as well. Overall, though, I cannot be happier with how this setup turned out. It looks very close to how I imagined it would, and I'm so excited to get it stocked. I'll save that for another time though.

13:00 TS: A huge thanks to all the companies that helped make this build possible. Custom Aquariums provided the paludarium, majestic stand, seamless sump and plumbing components. Sicce provided the Syncra SDC pump. Aquascape provided the submersible lights. Universal Rocks provided the crevice background and faux rocks, and OASE provided the OxyMax 400. I received all these items for free, but showing them does not include a paid promotion or anything like that. I simply received the products. Also huge thanks to the folks over at SR Aquaristik. I was able to speak with someone directly about my project and get images of the driftwood before use. Doing so really helped me get items that had a lot of character and were substantial enough to fill the space. Anyway, that's all for now. In the next installment, I'll get the tank stocked, and we can enjoy it to the fullest. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss that upload, and let me know if you like the final design with a thumbs up. Until next time, Serpa Squad, take care and peace.

About SerpaDesign

"Hi I'm Tanner! I am an artist, designer, photographer, nature lover and DIY fanatic. My passion is to bring nature indoors and share my projects/ideas with others."

"The focus of my channel is to show how I use nature as an artistic medium. If you want to make a beautiful, long-lived terrarium or a bioactive vivarium, then this is the channel for you! I go in depth on every topic, teaching you exactly how and why I do what I do. I also push the boundary, in hopes to create some of the most unique projects you'll see on this side of YouTube."

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