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I'm %100 new to the whole frog stuff. I currently have two Mantella frogs in a 12x12x18 enclosure (this is their temporary home of course).
I want to make my 40 gallon into an epic home for them including tons and tons of live plants and a waterfall. I also saw some vivariums that have like a small shallow pond thing going on with a couple of small fish and I'm really interested in adding that in the tank as well. If it's not possible then oh, well.
Yes, I know Mantella's are not swimmers and I understand that as I would but multiple tall rocks, plants, and driftwood for them to get out if they were to ever fall in.

So here's my dilemma, where do I start? I mentioned already that I do want live plants, a waterfall, a small pond if possible, and a background as well.

I legit need like a step by step process on what to buy and what needs to be done first (i.e. does the background go first because of the silicone and foam stuff or what?)

Suggestion on what plants too! Like foreground, viney plants, tall plants, short plants, the whole mumbo jumbo for an awesome tank. I own many fish tanks and I love to go all out and give as much of a natural environment for the fish as I can and I want to do the same for my beloved frogs.

Thank you in advance! Also, I work at a PetCo and I would like to get as much as I can from there (employee discount! WOO!) but if I can't get everything there, which I won't, that's fine by me!

Do some reading here - the new hobbyist section has some 'stickied' threads that address almost all your initial questions.

The plant subforum has a good start on all your plant questions too.

I would 'go easy' on any complex water features for your first vivarium - too much can go wrong. A small pond is a much better choice than any moving water and just as effective.

Your background choice is going to be up to you. Foam vs tree fern panel ect. NO background is nessa, as there are many hobbyists that go that route.

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana".

I've always read "avoid ponds" if the frog cannot sit in it with its head well above the waterline; thus, I avoided it myself. I like to circulate water through my vivs to help maintain humidity and to promote aerobic bacteria growth. If you're going to do this via an aquarium/pond pump, make sure you build a structure either using eggcrate or wide PVC pipe to allow easy access to the pump. Pumps clog and fail quite readily.

Once you do that, hook the pump up to some vinyl tubing, "T" fittings, etc. to pump the water wherever you want it to go. If you're doing a foam background, you can organize your plumbing first using hot glue to tack tubing and pipes in place and then foam over them. The foam will keep your plumbing where you positioned it. You can foam first, and then cut into the foam for your plumbing, but obviously, then you will have to cover up the plumbing with more foam once it's in place. Not a big deal, but it's another step.

If you're going to do a waterfall, you should probably get a pump allowing control of effluent rate, or use an in-line valve on your pipes. I would pump the water into a collecting pool, and then allow the water to cascade down naturally, as opposed to having the pipe pointing in the direction you want the water to flow. If you do, your waterfall may look more like a waterslide (I'm assuming you want a natural-looking waterfall).

Good luck! Take your time, and plan out the stages of your build. Let me know if you have any specific questions.

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