Bioactive Setup and Lighting Suggestions


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Good Evening All,

I've seen a few posts recently about bioactive builds and lighting. I thought I would share the enclosure I setup for my two year old panther Chameleon Spicoli back in December, with lighting and drainage specs for anyone trying to build something similar. Spicoli in a 36" x 36" x 18" Exo-Terra. I removed the strip of plastic at the vent and glued mesh over it to ensure ventilation. I also have computer fans integrated into my T5 light fixture that pull air up. My pictures aren't the best, but I will include a couple images:



Lighting: I currently have 50 unique species of plants in his vivarium. For lighting I am using a 36" T5 fixture with four T5 tubes, one of which is his UVB. I also have a home depot 75 watt incandescent grow light as a basking lamp, a ~17 watt 5000k LED bulb for diffuse lighting opposite the basking bulb, and two 5000k PAR38 15 watt floodlights from Lowes with a beam angle of 40 degrees. These floodlights were chosen for price and availability, not because the wattage or beam angle is necessarily ideal. They do produce about 300-500 foot candles at the understory of the vivarium though, which is sufficient to grow most vivarium plants (extremely hardy low light plants like pothos need 75+ foot candles, most other low light plants want 200+ foot candles). So far, this lighting setup has been fairly effective at growing my plants, though I recently had to decapitate one of my schefflera trees (top left) because it was shading my nepenthes and I was no longer getting pitchers. I am hoping it grows back a bit shorter than it was before, I left a branch on it so it wouldn't die off completely.

For watering and drainage: I am using a MistKing, and have a eggcrate/light diffuser false bottom to separate the substrate from the drainage. I have drilled out the back of the enclosure and fitted it for a bulkhead. I would not recommend doing this, it is sort of a pain and didn't end up being easier to use than a piece of PVC pipe hidden in the enclosure that lets you get through the false bottom. I have been draining the enclosure with an inexpensive manual aquarium siphon.


I have been running this setup for six months now, and everything seems to be working and Spicoli seems healthy and happy. Almost all of the plants I have tried have successfully taken to the setup. I have isopods and springtails for cleanup, and a few butterworts to clean up any fungus gnats.

Let me know if you have any questions, or have found your own lighting solutions to large vivariums.

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