Biopod Aqua: The Experience, Review and Setup

Discussion in 'Vivarium General' started by BraedenW, Jan 15, 2018.

  1. BraedenW

    BraedenW Member

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    About a month and a half ago I decided to purchase a Biopod Aqua and just today I decided I was finished planting it. I will be writing a fairly extensive review on the system because there are very few out there and I would like to help those interested in Biopod. So, those of you who are on the fence please continue to read, others may skip directly to the plant list and pictures below.

    I would like to emphasize that this review is strictly based off of my personal experience and opinion so please don't take it as if it were gospel.

    Initial Thoughts:

    When I first took it out of the box I was rather impressed with how the Aqua looked, but I quickly became somewhat disappointed. Multiple clips on the lid were broken, the screen mesh on the lid was warped and lifted so I had to fix that, and the living wall was a mess to say the least. The living wall consists of several pieces that join together and are held up by the land platform. However, it was blatantly obvious that my living wall was hastily built and not properly put together. Many of the pieces needed to be refitted together and I had to realign the entire wall and silicone it to the glass so that it was straight and pressed up against the glass like it should be. I ended up removing the land platform so that I didn't have to deal with more hassle and it gave me much more room to work with and made it more suitable for frogs in my opinion. A bit of a disappointment for a $600 unit to require some major repairs before even setting it up.

    Design and Components:

    The Aqua is aesthetically pleasing and there are some great features. Once you get the living wall sorted out and the entire enclosure planted it takes the unique look of the Biopod to the next level. I often find myself sitting in front of this tank just gazing and letting my mind wander, more so than all of my other displays and I think that its due to the type of glass. The low iron glass is noticeably more clear than what is typically used for tanks and makes viewing that much better. It also helps that the ventilation system does a great job keeping the front glass clear at all times. The humidity and temperature probes are fairly accurate as well and are off by roughly 0.5-1.0 according to the devices that I use to accurately measure temp. and RH in all of my other tanks when I do my rounds. There are a few things however, that I feel Biopod unnecessarily cut corners on to get these on the market quick; especially when customers are paying $500 or more for one of their systems.

    Here's why:
    - The lid is quite flimsy and the clips are very cheaply made, but I suppose it's a lid nonetheless.
    - The control box for the system was very poorly placed. It's located under the entire tank so if a check valve ever fails water will drip right into the control box and fry all electronic components. Not to mention if an individual ever needs to access something under there should something go wrong after setting up and planting the tank.... well, good luck.
    - The aeration system is obnoxiously loud and is likely caused by the air pump vibrating off of other components inside of the control box
    - The water reservoir for the misting system is incredibly small at 2L so you are required to refill it often. It's placement on the back of the unit makes it difficult to access, especially if you have the tank against the wall.
    - I can't comment on the camera feature because mine has never worked and after a week I have yet to receive a response from Biopod
    - The lighting panel on the Aqua that the customer receives is completely different from the ones that they advertise. If you look closely at the the units they post pictures of on social media there are 2 LED panels that illuminate the entire tank quite well. On the Aqua you receive there is only one LED Panel that is placed near the front of the tank which creates a dark strip that spans across the top 2 inches at the back of the tank. I contacted Biopod regarding this concern and was told that the tanks they have running in HQ, not the ones they use for advertisement, only have 1 LED panel and are working well. I'm not totally sold on its ability to grow plants quite yet as it doesn't seem to be enough light for a tank it's size, but I will remain optimistic and refrain from coming to a conclusion.

    I have 3 viv's that are all lit by a single 48" Sunblaster LED, one of which I finished planting 3 months ago so I was able to use it as an accurate comparison. It allowed me to observe how quickly the plants grew after they went through acclimation under the Sunblaster, then compare it to the growth I would see in the Biopod. The RH and temp's remained constant and similar to what the Biopod is able to create, so it can be assumed that conditions inside each enclosure were very similar. The only difference being that the Biopod has UVB, whereas my enclosures do not. I am extremely impressed with the Sunblaster's ability to grow, so I expect to see at least the same or better with Biopod because of it's 'high-tech' design. Approximately 80% of the plants have been inside it for a month and when I compare the growth between the two enclosures at the one month mark, the Sunblaster is in the lead.

    This information is purely anecdotal so give it as much value as you would like, but I am remaining optimistic and giving Biopod the benefit of the doubt.


    The Biopod App:

    Once the unit is plugged in and powered on you are required to connect to it with the Biopod app. This process is very simple and was relatively quick and painless and the features are exactly what Biopod has advertised.

    I believe that the app is in need of a significant update (as do their servers) for a few reasons. The connection to apply, make changes, and attempt to connect to the camera is quite a slow process. My tank is well within range of my WiFi which is above average for signal strength and speed, which are Biopod's first questions for these issues, and I still have connectivity problems. For example, I have my ventilation set to be on for 20min/hr and it stays on all day long. I have the aeration pump shut off completely but it still randomly turns on and I have no means of turning it off. It's a problem that is certainly tolerable, but I hope that it will be resolved sooner than later.

    The second concern I have with the app is the customization options the user has. You are only able to set the misting system to go on for a maximum of 60sec/day and I find myself hand misting the entire tank several times throughout the day. I think a solution to this even if they keep the max, would be to allow the user to set it to mist multiple times throughout the day, much like MistKing's digital control timers. I have adjusted the the direction of the misting nozzles countless times to get the best coverage but no matter what I did, the tank still dried out too fast.

    I believe the largest contributor to this problem is the ventilation fan being on all day, which makes me reiterate the need for a significant app update.


    Bottom Line:

    So, what is the bottom line? I believe that there are two answers to this question.

    I do like some of the features that the Biopod offers and it's overall look, as well as it's relative simplicity to set up as long as everything arrives intact and is properly assembled. I also like the ability to connect to the enclosure with my phone. Although it needs some improvements, its a great feature. The Biopod is an all in one package that I would recommend to someone looking for just that, or to someone who might not be as confident in caring for an amphibian or reptile because Biopod has a "push and play" feature. It is something that you will enjoy staring into as long as you are willing to fork out for it.

    As for myself and more experienced keepers, I would advise sticking with your traditional ways and, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Some of the features are neat, but not a necessity that make it worth spending $500+ to get yourself a Biopod. Building your own tank also gives you far more options in regards to the design of the background/hardscape and enclosure (I'm not saying that it can't be done, but I prefer the appearance of a foamed and sculpted background where I get to decide how much background coverage I want). Not to mention you can build a tank similar to the size of the Aqua and set it up with a good lighting system and other accessories for significantly less cost.

    At the end of the day, all that matters is your enjoyment of the enclosure you choose and the inhabitants within.


    Now we can move on to the good stuff.


    Flora:

    Orchids:
    Anathallis minutalis
    Ano. formosanus polyploid x (Ludisia discolor alba x L. discolor) — I think....
    Masdevallia herradurae
    Epidendreae polybulbon ‘Golden Gate’(I was lucky to buy this just as it was beginning to bloom)

    Others:
    Begonia ‘Iran Jaya’
    Begonia ‘Lita’
    Biophytum sensitivum
    Epiprenmum pinnatum ‘Cebu Blue’
    Ficus villosa
    Ficus ‘Panama’
    Ficus pumila ‘Quercifolia’
    Marcgravia sp. ‘Peru Bronze’
    Marcgravia rectiflora
    Neoregelia ‘Bonkers’
    Neoregelia ‘Mo Peppa Please’
    Neoregelia ‘Pauciflora’
    Pearcea hypocyrtiflora
    Peperomia emarginella
    Peperomia jamesoniana
    Peperomia prostrata
    Peperomia ‘Red Stem’
    Peperomia sp. Peru
    Peperomia sp. Costa Rica
    Philodendron ‘Wende Imbe’
    Philodendron ‘Burle Marx Fantasy’
    Pilea glauca
    Rhaphidophora pachyphylla
    Utricularia graminofolia

    Fauna:

    Frogs TBA ;)
    Purple Isopods
    Tropical Springtails

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    Pep. 'Peru Spade'
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    No ID Pep.
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    Epidendreae polybulbon in bloom
    file7.jpeg


    Thanks for viewing,

    Braeden.
     
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  2. Carlos

    Carlos Contributing Member

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    Great review.

    Pictures look great.
    I’ll post a quick review of mine once it’s been running for a few weeks as I just planted mine yesterday.
    But my initial thoughts are very similar to yours. The only difference is that my ventilation seems to be working properly.




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  3. BraedenW

    BraedenW Member

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    I can't wait to see how yours grows in and matures, especially with your hardscape. I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for your update.

    I seem to be the only one with that issue... still waiting for Biopod to respond back to me but I hope there is a quick and easy solution.
     
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  4. harrow_33

    harrow_33 Member

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    Great review. I myself have two Biopod Terras and what you have said completely echos what i had to deal with. Although I did contact support because my UVB bulb was not working and were relatively quick to get back to me but have yet to receive the part and have been waiting a month at least.

    My experience with the living wall was horrendous as both arrived like yours in complete shambles. In the end I did not like the gap and the clips to hold the live wall at the top snapped on one tank. Very very cheap so i ended up putting in my own background.

    The lights are nice but agree that their should be two panels like you mentioned as the back of the tank is quite shaded.

    I also had the same issue with the ventilation and aeration and contacted support they told me to update the firmware and once I did that the ventilation and aeration work fine. Another note on the ventilation and aeration is that they are also tied to your humidity levels so for example you have your humidity set to 95-98 and humidity is below your low set point the aeration will turn on automatically to try and increase the humidity and vice versa if to high the ventilation will turn on if you are above the set point.

    I agree about the glass though it is very nice and clear.

    I will be posting pics of mine once they grow in a bit as well.
     
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  5. BraedenW

    BraedenW Member

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    Here's another little update with the Aqua:

    I was able to get more moss and placed it onto the living wall, B. lyalli was added and this time around it has inhabitants. 2.1 R. fantastica 'Monte Cristo' from UE

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    Begonia lyalli
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    Anathallis minutalis in bloom. It's been sending out flowers over the last two weeks with more and more continually popping up. How many flowers can you spot?
    A. minutalis 2.jpeg

    Here's one of the flowers with a dime for scale. Really wish I had a camera so I could get a macro shot of it, these pictures don't do it justice.
    A. minutalis 1.jpeg

    Finally, some frog pic's.
    Monte Cristo 2.jpeg

    Monte Cristo 1.jpeg

    Monte Cristo 3.jpeg
     
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  6. illucam

    illucam New Member

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    Looks great! What an impressive orchid that is - I can't begin to imagine how long it took to grow that size.
    Seeing yours in bloom makes me incredibly impatient for mine. :D Have a couple Masdevallia and Pleurothallis in my Biopod that've been pushing lots of new growth for me but no flowers as of yet!

    Any sign of action from the fants?
     
  7. BraedenW

    BraedenW Member

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    Thanks! It took years and years for it grow like that, but totally worth it!
    I'm seeing lots of new growth on the Masd. herradurae I have in here as well and it's the only one that hasn't flowered yet so I can't wait for that day to come! You'll have to post pictures of yours when things are in bloom.

    To my surprise, less than 12 hours after being introduced one of them began calling! Since then, every morning for roughly 4 hours he sings his heart out and I have seen courting behavior with the suspected female. I believe it's only a matter of time before I see eggs and/or tadpoles (depending on how well they hide the clutch) so I am going to place a few more film canisters inside to hopefully entice them...
     
  8. BraedenW

    BraedenW Member

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    I grew tired of having to constantly pull the Biopod forward to access the 2L reservoir so I opted out of using their misting system, bought a premium double nozzle from Mist King and connected it to my Ultimate system. I really wish I had done this from the beginning and it made me appreciate Mist King that much more. The mist quality is unparalleled and since the changeover there has been significant moss growth everywhere, I love it! As you can see, everything else is growing great.

    I am also pleased to announce that they are breeding and raising tads inside the viv! Looking forward to watching them develop and grow over the next few months. I know most would pull them but I thoroughly enjoy watching them do what nature intended. Plus it's exciting to one day see little froglets cruising around.

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