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Number 1,129, November 10, 2021

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Adventures in Herpetology:
Revival of the Florida Room

Part One
by Jeff Fullerton

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Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

It’s come a long way from it’s humble beginnings in the early 1990s.

Or a few years ago when I decided to bring it back and restore it above and beyond it’s glory days that ended when I decided to mothball the setup and repurposed the space later in that decade. And this week I finally hit some milestones where I am very close to achieving the goal.

Week before last I got the Anthurium scherzerianum—one of my holy grail plants of the original setup that arrived by UPS.

The classic Anthurium or Flamingo Flower that was once a staple in the retail house plant trade but now a rarity next to impossible to come by and when available- often commands a really stiff price. I managed to get a fairly decent deal on it. To add to the excitement the plant even had a flower coming on!

And an Anthurium clarinervium that I had to pick up from the post office Monday.

I figured I’d get this species thinking it might do better than the crystalinium that keeps crashing and I’ve brought back from near death since 2019. But things have not gone smoothly as hoped for. This one is supposed to be a little less sensitive to growing conditions a little more forgiving of mistakes.

Never the less it stated having issues with root rot because I may have placed it in too big a container initially.

It still had some good roots left so I downsized it to a small net pot with the sphagnum and husk fiber packed more loosely so the roots can breathe better and placed it up on the lid of the big vivarium along with the clarinervium and a flat of bromeliad seedings ; Guzmania lingulata started from one of my plants that bloomed last winter.

At least some things are going well.

And there are more issues.

Here is the Flamingo Flower Anthurium in bloom a week later. Instead of a tail- or spadix it produced another min spathe within the spathe and I’m hoping this is a freak somatic variation and not the result of mutation or a plant virus. Go figure the momentous event of a first flowering has to be spoiled by something like this. Otherwise the bright color does liven up the place.

What else can I complain about?

The Texas Cichlids.

Two of the four that I put in the upper tank of the 40B duo outside the door to the Room paired off and spawned a few weeks ago after murdering the subdominant male which prompted the evacuation of the remaining female and the two catfish and a young Redbreasted Sunfish that shared the tank to the vacant one below. A small inconvenience in light of the successful first time spawning of a fish species that had long interested me. However that success turned sour very  quickly with the failure of the brood to survive after I collected and transferred the fry to a simple 10 gallon rearing tank. Subsequently followed by the male murdering his mate and then the spare female in the lower tank  beaten to death by—I presume the sunfish who is getting bigger and more territorial. So much for the idea that they ignore other species when it comes to these issues.

Maybe better luck with these in a pond which is where I have better luck breeding fish—other than livebearers- and getting a decent recruitment of young that are big enough to raise on something besides infusoria.

Or in the 150 gallon tank I got for free last year.

Unfortunately that project got stalled by issues earlier this season when I got issues with leaks when I did a water test. It was coming from the bulkhead drains so I promptly stopped filling and drained the tank  with the intent to tighten and maybe even plug them and not bother with the elaborate system of flush drains that I crafted. And then there was more moisture issues.  Either a leak in the seams or from the glass sweating during the summer. Either way, not good for the birch wood stand that started molding and some of the laminated wood peeling away! Yikes! I’m trying to figure out what to do. And soon as winter is coming and it would be nice to have that tank space.

Maybe boards painted and stained like the stands of my other tanks that don’t have such issues. With pillars of concrete blocks for support. But the bulkheads complicate things as opposed to a flat bottomed tank. Not to mention getting the manpower again to lift the massive thing and do the swap. Talk about fun!

These are the times that try my soul.

And there’s the world out there. But I won’t go there today.

Another day another dollar. The show goes on.

I shouldn’t carp so much about things.  It’s a big undertaking and with all the things that are in play something is bound to go wrong at some point. I tell myself that and I tell Ray when he complains about his problems. The kind that often make you want to throw in the towel and give up.

I can’t do that. Not after putting so much into it and getting so close to the goal. Not in light of what the Florida Room means to me. And so the show must go on.

Today the Epiweb panel for the green wall I want to put in the space between the Emerald Swift cage and the cork covered column by the window.

I installed it this afternoon after using the  6” plaque on the opposite side as a guide for trimming off the same width to make another plaque which I’ll grow a creeping epidendrum orchid like I once had on the column in the greenhouse. Hope to have two such specimens—one for each place for redundancy. And the bigger 12 inch piece will support a wall of philodendron to fill in to the right of the cork “tree trunk” for better contrast. 

And there was the newt tank that I did a major tidying up in the way of a water change and major thinning out of the plant growth.

I also got the Jerry rigged bio filtration system going again after a long hiatus that would be a long story involving the purchase and exchange of a replacement pump that was not powerful enough and subsequent stall on the account of compatibility issues with the tubing. Which was resolved by trying the original pump again. And it worked!

Must have been a strand of moss or other debris jamming the impeller that got brittle from drying out and crumbled away. Or maybe witchcraft?

Meanwhile on the stand above is the big metal frame tank that is the Marsupial Frog habitat which I recently did a similar thinning and trimming  about a month ago.

Above that ; the two front opening cages that were still old aquariums a year ago that I was in the process of cleaning and prepping amid my water line woes that were at the time even worse than my current concerns.

That are now finished with sliding glass fronts and plants getting well established. And now ironically I may have to break them down to change the design of the front vents to that of the other two—which are better designed for the health of future animal occupants. Maybe the Mexican arboreal alligator lizards. I’ve been putting off that acquisition until I’m certain I have it just right for that sensitive and pricy species.

And there you have it. At least what I was able to put together after trying to write a more comprehensive article that embodies what those whole thing—this work of art means to me. It seems like I just keep loosing focus on that objective that I might be in a better position to articulate when I’m a little father along. There is still a few more important things that need to be done.

I see this whole thing as an art form that I’m constantly tweaking and evolving to create something of value to be appreciated for generations to come.

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