Cool vivarium – a drip system modification

I have got to admit… growing orchids is easy compared to growing moss! Well, my moss is doing just fine actually, but not without effort. All the time on the brink of drying out, and dry moss equals dead moss, so it has been a bit of a challenge. Providing enough water for the moss on the EpiWeb walls without over watering the orchids mounted on the very same walls is not easy. I believe that once the moss is established the problem will more or less solve itself, but until then I have to figure out how to make everyone happy.

Originally I wanted to water the whole vivarium using only the rain system, and although it works beautifully for the orchids, it is not keeping the walls hydrated enough. Unfortunately the drip watering system I installed to resolve this issue is not quite cutting it… The concept is simple, a PVC pipe with tiny holes drilled into it and water is supposed to drip out of the holes to water the wall. My pump is supposed handle vivariums up to 2 meters, mine is just under 2 meters tall including the stand, and even though the water makes it all the way up to the top it does not seem to have enough pressure to make it over to the far end of the approximately 2,5 meter run very effectively.

The right wall is getting a lot of water and the back wall is working ok too, but the left side is always drying out. I know water makes it over that far, but I guess there is not enough pressure left to push it out the holes. I have tried drilling the holes larger, without results, so now I wanted to give gravity a go. I decided to cut down the EpiWeb wall panels at an angle at the top, from about the middle of the back wall down towards the left side. To do this I had to pull the vivarium out from the wall and undo the carriage bolts holding the EpiWeb panels up then carefully cut them with a hacksaw blade. I made the left side about 2 cm lower than the right side in total. The water is definitely flowing a little bit better now so I think I am on to something, but hardly good enough to be worth all that effort. Damn. I will try to make the holes on the left wall slightly larger to see if that helps. I humbly welcome more ideas on this…

Still a lot of dialing in…  this is a big build… but that is all part of the game – and the fun. At least all the orchids in there are thriving and that is definitely reward enough!

Orchid cool vivarium - drip system modificationOrchid cool vivarium - drip system modification

By | 2017-10-13T11:25:58+02:00 July 22nd, 2010|Categories: Cool vivarium build, Projects|Tags: , , , , , |6 Comments

About the Author:

Karma is a digital nomad graphic artist and writer, orchid nerd and long-distance hiker from Gothenburg, Sweden. Former editor-in-chief for the Swedish Orchid Society magazine, published internationally and held lectures on orchid culture.


  1. Marius July 22, 2010 at 15:25 - Reply

    Hi there! 🙂
    Have you tried making a split of the main PVC pipe into three separate, smaller pipes? Kind of like a “junction”, where you have 3 exits, each one with a small paddle/lever that you can adjust the waterflow? I know I had something like that in my aquarium, with the possibility of directing the airflow differently, and at individual pressure.
    It’s an impressive build you’ve got there now! Respect!

  2. gillt July 24, 2010 at 05:01 - Reply

    I take it you have the pump on a timer. Why not just buy a more powerful pump? I set up an epi-web drip system (nothing as big as yours) and had moderate success with growing moss on it. I think the epi-web doesn’t retain water long enough to allow the moss to soak it up. Perhaps the mesh needs to be woven tighter for moss, which might make it too tight for orchid attachment, I don’t know.

    Have you tried leaving your pump on longer, or using two pumps and two separate drip bars?

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Karma July 26, 2010 at 18:27 - Reply

    Thanks a lot for the ideas guys!! 🙂 I have been thinking about this for days now… Yeah, the obvious solution would be to get a more powerful pump… but I kind of want to make this one work as I have already spent a lot of money on it. You are right Tony, the EpiWeb does not hold as much water on its own as when it has moss on it, kind of one reason i think that once the moss is established the problem will work itself out.

    I am actually testing running the system longer now, primarely because the digital timer I had for it burned out – second one in a row (crap timer) so I just got my money back and am using a old mechanical one. The shortest interval you can set it to is 15 minutes (used to run it for 5), so that will have to work for now. I run it 4 times a day and going in yesterday the system seem to be functioning ok actually, even on the dry side (we are at the summer place and I go in every 5 days to water). The left side is a little bit dryer still, but the moss seemed ok. It is good that one side is wetter than the other actually, it gives me better flexibility with the orchids who like it dryer/wetter.

    I think I will cruise for a while as it is and see if it works itself out. Otherwise I think I might try what you suggest Marius, splitting the pipes into perhaps two and running it up each side to see if that helps, and maybe getting a lever to adjust the flow. Or… getting a second pump, but I rather not have to.

  4. patricia July 29, 2010 at 17:13 - Reply


    With the rain system running so often, how do you keep the water from creating crown rot in the leaf junctions? Thanks in avance for the reply. I am fascinated by your vivarium. I would like to build one for myself and am trying to collect as much information as I can.


  5. Karma July 29, 2010 at 17:24 - Reply

    Hi Pat, Most of the plants I grow thrive in wet mountain forests with constant wet fog and frequent rains. But you can water a lot as long as you provide adequate air circulation inside allowing the plants to dry up a little bit in between watering cycles. I have four 80 mm computer fans going 24/7 circulating the air. Then the cool air intake blows in a lot of cool air in when needed. This is providing additional air flow as well as some fresh new air, which I believe is important too.

    Nice to hear you like my vivarium, hope my build documentation is helpful to you. Good luck on your build. 🙂

  6. Karma August 5, 2010 at 17:20 - Reply

    Hmmmm…… I actually think that my gravity adjustment is working pretty well. Sweet!!! Perhaps I was too fast to judge… impatience… one of my faults. 😉

Leave A Comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.