All images and information ©Matthew Schwartz | Another World Terraria

“The Cliff” is a drip wall tank which features water that runs down a stone background, and is clothed in an array of moisture loving tropical plants.

The tank, hardscape, and plumbing setup took several months to construct.

From the first planting, until the final tank photos were taken, took almost one and a half years, and involved countless hours of tediously adjusting plant species, planting arrangements, and bottom rock compositions.

Believe it or not, the overall concept for this build was sketched nine years before the finished tank was finally produced.

General Info

This terrarium is lit with the LED hood that came with the tank, as well as an additional generic LED puck light which is 300 lm and 6K. (Puck light Amazon link). The puck light is placed on the tank lid, at the very front, which increases illumination at the lower levels of the design, as well as under the overhanging rock ledges and plants.

The background is 100% real stone. It’s a relatively lightweight volcanic type, often called “feather rock.”

The bottom substrate is a layer of sand, with strategically placed feather rock pieces to conceal the bulkhead drain and create a flowing composition that naturally leads up to the background cliff.

A basic summary of the water feature setup is:

  • A sump, which sits below the tank, inside the stand
  • A water pump that feeds water to the top of the tank through a flexible hose (Water pump Amazon link)
  • A bulkhead drain in the bottom glass, which returns the water to the sump (Bulkhead fitting Amazon link)
  • An out-of-loop filter that draws from the sump (more info below).

Container Info

The container is an Aqueon 15 gallon square column aquarium kit, which comes with the glass tank as well as an LED hood.

The tank dimensions are approximately 13.75″ x 13.75″ x 25″

It sits on the Aqueon stand that is made specifically for the 15 gallon column tank.


On occasion I mist the tank, particularly the filmy ferns, although it’s not totally necessary due to the high humidity and frequency of the drip feature.

Only distilled water is used for the water feature and misting.

The water is filtered with a Zoo Med Nano 10 External Canister Filter, which cycles water from the sump (separate from the tank plumbing loop). (Canister filter Amazon link)

An 80% water change is done once or twice per month.

The light is kept on for about 13 hours, using a digital timer. (Digital timer Amazon link)

The drip wall pump turns on for two hours in the morning, and five hours in the evening, using a digital timer. Periodic water flow (as opposed to constant) has many benefits, particularly that it reduces algae and biofilm growth, and results in better plant growth. (Digital timer Amazon link)

There are two PC fans at the top of the tank that turn on intermittently for 30 minutes, every three hours, using a digital timer. The fans reduce mold and help dry some of the standing water on the plant foliage and rock wall. (PC fan Amazon link) (Digital timer Amazon link)

Plant List

  • Selaginella sp. “White” Peru (primary / focal species)
  • Selaginella cf serpens
  • Leptochilus pteropus subsp. pteropus
  • Asplenium holophlebium
  • Crepidomanes minutum
  • Cochlidium serrulatum
  • Microgramma sp.
  • Miscellaneous unidentified miniature ferns
    • Asplenium sp? Micro Ecuador
    • Asplenium sp? Unknown origin
  • Miscellaneous unidentified filmy fern species (family Hymenophyllaceae)
    • sp. Borneo
    • sp. Ecuador
    • and others
  • Miscellaneous bryophytes
    • Riccardia spp.
    • Fissidens spp.
    • Plagiochila spp.
    • Plagiomnium sp.
    • Hypopterygium sp. Indonesia
    • Monosolenium sp.
    • Marchantia sp. (mini striped from Indonesia)
    • family Hookeriaceae sp.
    • cf Pellia sp. (thallose from Indonesia)
    • Trichocolea sp.
    • and others