It has been months since we last gave an update on this enclosure. With Frog Week coming next week, this is the best time to release a new update on the Woods and Forests flagship project. The 240+ Gallon has arrived and is on the stand we built. We had to take parts of the ceiling down to get the enclosure into our planned room. The aquarium stand took two hours to get into position just weeks earlier. Now that we have the enclosure and many inhabitants, we can start planning for the grand opening of this tank. Below we will discuss the inhabitants, the camera gear, the plan for live videos, and much more! I (AAron will be telling this update in first person.)
Executing the plan trying to put this enclosure together has been one of the most challenging things in my life. When we measured correctly to fit the stand and tank, there were so many complications, and it appeared for a brief minute that this project might not happen because the enclosure was just big enough to give us trouble when moving it to the desired room. I want to give a special thanks to those who made this possible. Thank you to Fish Tanks Direct for working with me on the design. Jake is not with the company, but he was one of the best people to deal with in customer service. I hope he can see the enclosure when it is on social media because he spent hours helping me with the design and finding gadgets. I want to thank the treasurer of PA Woods and Forests, Malcolm, for helping to measure and build the stand for the enclosure. It took many months, but we did it! I want to thank my dad for using his truck to haul the tank and taking the ceiling parts down to move the tank into place. Thank you for helping me to fit the background into place and letting me use your tools to adjust the background. Thank you to Tsunami Aquarium for building the enclosure. Scott is a very genuine guy who was excellent to work with.
I want to give a special shoutout to the sponsors for products and organisms. Thank you to Ryan from MistKing for donating many nozzles for the advanced misting system. Thank you, Josh's Frogs, for donating one of the LED lights and the building materials. Taylor and Rylee have always been supportive, and I enjoy working with them. I look forward to giving back to Josh's Frogs in any way I can. I want to thank Colin and the Carnivorous Plant Nursery for donating many plants and being willing to talk over multiple phone calls. I am grateful for the plants, and I love going to visit the nursery. Thank you to Mack Pridgen and Tar Heel Ants for being willing to raise the black field ants for almost a year, giving me time to complete the enclosure.
I am looking forward to incorporating ants into this project at a much later date. Special thanks to everyone else for having a role in helping me to accomplish this dream and promise to Ace.
The animals going in here are set for the females, at least. Of course, Ace is going to be in this enclosure. This vivarium is, after all, her home that I promised. She looks to be in great shape heading into the enclosure. It will be fascinating to see how she will use the water feature because Ace loves it more than an average toad. I want to watch her hunt and explore the enclosure. More than anything else, I want her to feel safe and to be as happy as possible. She lives with Esther, the female wood frog, who also is ready on day one to enter the enclosure. She will be able to handle herself. Ace and Esther seem not to mind each other as much as when they first were introduced. Esther can hunt, and she can get hers at dinner time. I am not concerned for her. The ample space is perfect for wood frogs because they are active animals. I will be excited to see what Esther will do when she enters the massive enclosure. I will likely see her less because I expect her to hide until it rains if she is hungry or wants to wander the enclosure.
One inhabitant I did not initially plan for was the rescued toad, Junia. Junia is a female toad from California University of Pennsylvania. From what we know, she appears to be around ten years old, with how long she has been at the college. She comes from a 10-gallon aquarium for most of her life. I am so thankful for her and want to give this little toad the best I can. She needs to have one poop sample before she can go in. She also is in rehab to build muscle because the vet said she lacked strength which was most likely from her life in the 10-gallon for so long. She was starting to whither away. Hopefully, she will be nice to Ace, and they can co-exist. This experience will be my first attempt to combine two female American toads. These two toads have incredible stories, and Junia has a big appetite. I am very hopeful she can get along with the others.
Earlier this year, I was part of a project to reintroduce the pitcher plant to a natural area in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. I was offered to take a plant home, which I was not expecting. I could not pass this opportunity up. I have been growing the pitcher plant outdoors since this is the ideal time for this plant. Soaking up the sun and eating a buffet of bugs has helped this plant to grow more significantly than any other plant I had. This plant will be the centerpiece of the plants. They are so challenging to grow in captivity. I can help this plant thrive in the 240+. None of the three frogs have ever seen a pitcher plant because the plants are native to a small range along the mountains. I treat the pitcher plant like an animal giving it a higher priority than any other plant. The pitcher plant is much bigger than the picture below. It will be removed from all the soil and all the plants around it so I can make it as sterile as possible. It is estimated to be a 20+-year-old plant. Nobody going into this enclosure will be younger than five years old.
Ace - Female American Toad
Esther - Female Wood Frog
Junia - Female American Toad
Purple Pitcher Plant
One more toad will enter these grounds on day one. After much deliberation, Wellsboro, the male American toad, will join the 240+. He lives with Navi and is a foundational piece of the Wild Vivariums show. I have seen that Navi has begun to dominate and is not letting him eat. I recently had to start working with Wellsboro to ensure he is eating enough. It is something many people try to tell me does not exist or something that I have no idea what I am talking about when I explain female frogs (especially the native species) will starve the males if they can do so. Many keepers who believe they know everything about keeping these animals will swear that their toads are fine, and if you keep many together, it is "wonderful." I do not have all the answers, but I have a network of herpetologists, professors, and a vet, and if I have a question, I can ask and get an immediate answer. I also have been working with these animals out in the field. I have been keeping these animals for years and have seen a lot. Despite many hobbyists talking down to me and believing they know it all, I know what is happening and what could eventually happen to Wellsboro if I do not intervene. He does have a long-standing rivalry with Ace, but with that much space and more behind-the-scenes details to ensure an animal can recover if something happens. Instead of quarantine enclosures, I hope to create one or two "recovery" enclosures. These will be enclosures like in quarantine, but only to ensure the animal gains weight, recovers from illness, and for whatever reason. This approach will provide an at-risk animal has the attention it needs.
Wellsboro is also around ten years old. He is one of the two frogs to be the cover of the Frogs and Toads Facebook Group, which is an asset of Woods and Forests Media. He and Ace are the last two survivors from the 125 Gallon PA Woods Vivarium from 2017 - 2018. It is only fitting they meet again in the largest and most advanced enclosure I have ever created. I am proud to have him here because he earned his spot. Wellsboro is one of the most fascinating toads to watch hunt. Without Navi stressing him out, he can hunt and be himself.
Wellsboro - Male American Toad
The gear to film this project will be as follows:
Blackmagic Pocket 6K Cinema Camera (Original) with Laowa 24mm Macro Cine Lens or Laowa 15mm Macro Lens
Sony a6700 with Super Takumar 50mm and Sony 24mm - 240mm
iPhone (Whatever one shoots in 8K)
Sony a6300 with Super Takumar 50mm and Sony 24mm - 240mm
X2 M Morvelli Security Cameras
Anker 2K Webcam
I have decided to get the a6700 over the FX30 because the a6700 does insect tracking, has AI auto tracking, and shoots 4K120FPS. The goal of the three leading cameras is to hit higher frame rates. I am also excited to announce the 240+ Gallon PA Woods Vivarium will be the first project to have live videos! I will use the Anker webcam and show live videos of the animals hunting. I will also show random events like the weather inside the enclosure and even showcase a regular day inside the enclosure because I believe someone could watch this over a live video. It could help them with anxiety just watching how the animals and plants coexist peacefully. I am very excited for this to share my animals' live with you. Another excellent note is that the a6700 is a good webcam, too, so I could have different camera angles for the live video. How cool would that be? We have a podcast and a pet care show already. This project will fill two roles. It will be the first live project, but it will also be a nature documentary that I will use to incorporate filming the animals in the wild and try to replicate their habitat best inside this enclosure to showcase how these animals and plants adapt to changing seasons, how they compete for food, how they interact with their environment, and more. I plan to use this project to showcase what pollution and invasive species do to the ecosystem.
A few side notes, I would like to incorporate so much more into this enclosure and this project. I bought a rain barrel and hoped to convert the rainwater into another water source. The rainwater will stimulate the toads, Esther, and the pitcher plant. I am seeking a sponsor to help me create one of the first hybrid-powered enclosures. I plan to work with solar energy, get a solar generator from a sponsor, power up to ~71% of the energy and use ~29% electricity to power the rest. I plan to use the ants after their colony grows large enough to be a part of the staple diet for the frogs and toads. I am breeding two colonies of Dubia roaches and a colony of canyon isopods as additional feeders.
I plan to start breeding most feeders to be even more self-sufficient. I am going to introduce the oyster mushroom as an additional primary organism. Rumor has it the oyster mushroom eats nematodes. If they are in the enclosure with my frogs, they may eat the nematodes that attack my frogs and toads. This mushroom experiment could be a scientific breakthrough if the mushrooms help the health of the toads. I am also trying to breed leafcutter bees as a pollinator outside and a food source by taking a few male bees to pollinate my plants inside the enclosure, and the toads and frogs may eat them. I have seen leafcutter bees digging nests where toads have fallen into pit traps. They may be a feeder for a short period. I love bees and see this as an additional aspect of having them. Don't worry, I plan to set a timer, and if the bees are in the enclosure and done pollinating the plants, I will gladly take them out and allow them to join the others outside.
As you can see now, there is so much to do for this project. I am happy that the next update will have the finished enclosure with the animals inside. What part of this update made you the most excited? What are your thoughts on Wellsboro joining the group? Are you excited about live videos from this enclosure? What are your thoughts on the side notes? Comment below!