Thinking up The Paludarium 3.0

As I have moved between houses, I decided to not move the paludarium with me. A hard decision, but also an important step forward; building something new will allow me to think different once again.

One primary reason not to move the current paludarium (v2.0 if you will) was the fact that the new place where the paludarium would sit should again have access to tapwater and sewer. Then add the complexity of the move itself. Another not totally unimportant reason was the fact that my new home really did not have a decent space to fit a paludarium of this shape. So I found a new home for the inhabitants and sold the glass box. Including the “canopy” (after I removed its “brains” though).

Next I figured out that it would actually be an awesome chance to think up something new again. The next step in a journey to figure out how to build these jungles inside boxes and have the thing maintain itself. Some corners I cut I can now ‘uncut’, like for example the fact that tapwater pressure generated the rain through sprinklers. Not realistic and unwanted to rain tapwater directly into the paludarium.

Next question: What will this new paludarium look like? Will I need to solve new issues? An answer to the last question: “Definitely”. I have a lot new ideas running through my brain, including a way to have realistic rainfall, no more fogging up windows and a clean, less complicated setup (so no more required access to tapwater and sewer yet still able to do refreshes automatically).

What will this all look like? Right now the plan seems to be to build a glass (or rather a combination of glass and acrylic) square. I think size will turn out to be around 65x65x65cm (or 25x25x25″). Rain should fall naturally this time, lighting should be upgraded to the new high-power 10W LED chips. And be of a more realistic color temperature (not just cold white).

Example of a cube-shaped Paludarium

There will also be less water. The old paludarium had a massive 50cm (or 19.7″) water level. The new “cube” will probably have less than 12cm of water. So yes- no more Anableps (four eyed fish). This time round I think I’ll focus more on poison dart frogs! There should still be some fish around though, but just some tiny ones.

So called “Blue jeans” poison dart frog which I photographed in Costa Rica.

Still I have several “issues” to solve. Like how will I build a cube without an ugly “canopy” on top, but rather a transparant cover where all things like rain and lighting do reside without being intrusive to the eye. Cleanly designed, looking like design and not some big wooden construction. It should be glass/acrylic, metal and first and foremost “clean”. Easier said than done; where will the wires for the lighting go? Where will the LEDs go? How will I cool them? How to make proper rain without ugle pipes and hoses? And most of all, how to access the thing easily as I no longer want sliding doors.

Next question: How to make sure the glass does no longer fog up? One of the original “issues” that I never really solved was how to keep the glass from fogging up. I want the new design to be clean, viewable… Also at night or early morning when humidity levels are over 95%… Ventilation is a must but does not solve the problem completely. Right now I am considering heated windows. Either by using razor thin resistance wire (like rear car windows have) or use some kind of tin-oxide layer on the glass that can be heated by applying a current. I could use this glass as a heater for the air while I’m at it too…

Loads of things to consider, to solve, to work on! I hope I’ll have time soon for some fun experiments around these problems that need to be solved. Stay tuned!

4 Responses to Thinking up The Paludarium 3.0

  1. Interesting new project, Ill follow it definitely. Regarding the light: I am currently working on a LED light fixture for my 300l aquarium with tilted RGBW lights like this one:
    With a driver like this one:
    one can daisychain up to 4 of these lights (you need one per channel) and control them directly with an arduino or via a TLC5940 which gives more precise transitions. I have done that as a prototype on a small vase and it works great. They give up to 12W of light per LED – so maximum about 48W with 4 LEDs and 4 drivers, which is a lot of light. For the 300l I am planning to 6 RGBW Leds together with 2 30W pure white LEDs. The RGBW Leds can be easily cooled passively – the larger ones get a shared 120 mm PC fan.
    Keep us updated about your project – especially the rain will be very interesting

  2. Seems good, just one minor comment: the required voltage changes with the temperature of the led. Therefore a constant current (CC) source is definitely preferable. I am not sure if all CC drivers are suitable to be turned on and off by PWM. Your setup and experience over time would be interesting.
    For the LEDs: I had similar (but 50W) cheap LEDs from China. They blew up after a few months of usage, because of bad quality. What happpened and how to check for good quality is well described in this video from bigclive: Definitely recommend good quality – its not worth the time taking everything apart again.
    Looking forward to your experience

    • Hi Alex,

      Progressing in the selection of some experimental stuff to play with leds, cooling and control 🙂

      Looking at the leds you selected they drive 12W in total, not per color (max drive current=1A and voltage falling over each LED channel is around 2.5-3V delivering 2.5-3W per channel). So I think I’ll try to stick to the larger (warm)white 10W LEDs for lighting, then add some smaller RGB leds for coloring. Maybe I can find RGBW or RGBWW leds that have some more ooooomph, because I used to have around 38 1W white power LEDs and that wasn’t really sufficient! I’d love to drive like 4 LEDs with 10W of (white) light each, and only having to power them with like 75% PWM to leave them some headroom.

      I can imagine the 50W leds burn down; that is a LOT of heat coming from these packages, and will be hard to keep cool for sure. And I agree, there is difference in quality for sure.

      I won’t budge from doing a direct PWM-controlled mosFET to control the LEDs though. Yes they’re intensity won’t be completely linear, but that is easy to solve in software. Constant current is nice to have, but complex if you have a lot of leds to power separately.

      I love the simplicity of using a bare mosFET and nothing else per channel. Cold and direct control. Not even a resistor required. I used IRF540’s previously, now maybe for the smaller RGBWW leds I’ll use something like the 2SK163 (TO-92 package). Smaller, but a relatively low Rds(on) of around 0.2 ohm. Not as good as the IRF540’s with their Rds(on) around 0.077 ohms. They can drive a 10W led and not even heat up (especially when you keep the PWM frequency low at like 120Hz)

      Using these mosFET’s to drive power LEDs is something I’ve done successfully for around 6 consecutive years. Now the “Canopy” has finally been discarded and I’m looking into building clean “LED towers” with leds like these:

      With a “cooling tower” that should arise above the glass cover like this:

      And maybe have an Arduino Lillypad sitting on top:

      Just add 4 mosFETs and an 78L05 to each Lillypad, power each “tower” from metal strips running on top of the glass (just a crude 0 and +12V), and give each Lillypad an IR receiver so there are no messy wires 🙂

      Slowwwly thinking it up 🙂

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