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What kind of paper substrate do you use?

This is a discussion on What kind of paper substrate do you use? within the General Discussion forums, part of the Vivaria, Enclosures & Product Reviews category; What kind of paper substrate do you use for amphibians? Paper substrates are commonly used, but there is much debate ...

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View Poll Results: What kind of paper towel substrate do you use most commonly?

Unbleached paper towel roll 11 18.64%
White paper towel roll 21 35.59%
Other type of unbleached paper product 4 6.78%
Other type of white/bleached paper product 0 0%
I don't use paper towels ever, but I like answering polls 23 38.98%
Voters: 59. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 23rd September 2009   #1 (permalink)
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Default What kind of paper substrate do you use?

What kind of paper substrate do you use for amphibians? Paper substrates are commonly used, but there is much debate over the merits of unbleached vs. bleached paper towels.

In addition to the poll, tell if you have a specific brand or type that you have been happy with for a long time.

Also tell whether you use this substrate for long-term housing, or only for short-term or quarantine housing.



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Old 23rd September 2009   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

I use Seventh Generation paper towels. As far as I know they are the only chlorine, phosphate and caustic soda free paper towels on the market. They cost a bundle, so I only use them for emergency pet situations.

Working in a factory that specializes in paper products, I learned way too much about what goes in to the wood pulp products. In many cases, the wood pulp used can be toxic to amphibians.

Here is just some of the stuff in a standard paper towel, bleached or unbleached:
cornstarch
sodium pentaborate
sodium hydroxide
chloramine

Here is some of the stuff it is exposed to in process:

Numerous chemicals from boiler water treatment (too numerous and varied to list, but all very nasty)
lead
copper
sodium hypochlorite
sodium hyperchlorite
bromine
numerous hydrocarbons



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Old 24th September 2009   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

Sure it has all those chemicals in it but has there been any studies to show just how much of those leach out enough to be toxic to newts?



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Old 24th September 2009   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

Not that I have found, but I firmly believe in when in doubt, leave it out. I feel there is plenty of doubt.



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Old 24th September 2009   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

I use paper as a substrate in hospital tanks for my Ambystomas, usually a short term experience. I have used unbleached paper towels when I could find them, but generally end up using white (no prints) Bounty paper toweling moistened with Poland Spring bottled water or tap water chemically treated with dechlorinators/dechloraminators. SludgeMunkey indicates that chloramine may be contained in paper towels...I'll have to ponder on that.... perhaps the chemically treated water may be better to use.



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Old 24th September 2009   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SludgeMunkey View Post
Not that I have found, but I firmly believe in when in doubt, leave it out. I feel there is plenty of doubt.
Doubt yes, but you made a definitive statement, "In many cases, the wood pulp used can be toxic to amphibians."

I had the same question as Justin - what data are we looking at. Or if there are not supporting data, should we say something more like, 'in many cases, the chemicals used in the manufacture of wood pulp could theoretically pose a potential risk to amphibians' ?



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Old 24th September 2009   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

Ive used white kitchen paper towels for extended periods of time with no apparent problems. My generations of Cynops have been raised mostly on paper towels as a substrate. Same for my noto juveniles.
I also keep my L.vulgaris in the same type of set-up while they are terrestrial.

I have to say that while i see several advantages to using paper, i dont particularly like it that much and im always tempted to change it for a soil based substrate. In the end i never do because my biggest problem with soil is accidental ingestion.



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Old 24th September 2009   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

I stopped using paper towels at Jennewt's urging a while back (in favor of soil).



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Old 24th September 2009   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

I use unbleached bulk paper towels (either giant roll or single fold for dispensers) from a food service vendor that has retail stores in the Midwest (Gordon Food Service). They work very well for quarantine in plastic shoeboxes or deli cups, changed ~2x/wk. Usually I keep wild caught animals on paper towels for at least a month before transferring to a more naturalistic setup, sometimes much longer.

On at least 4 occasions now I have had recently collected groups of plethodontids (multiple species/genera) absolutely melt down when moved straight into fancy enclosures. Usually this manifests itself as loss/erosion of toes and limbs followed by immobility and twitchy body movements. Even when quickly preserved or submitted for histopathology there is nothing substantial found, just disseminated generalist infections in the limbs if anything. Nothing like chytrid or more treatable pathogens.

My best guess is that the stress of the move to captivity weakens the immune system and allows fairly widespread environmental bacteria in the "naturalistic" enclosure to infect the salamanders in their compromised state. By putting them on paper towels in a relatively sterile setup you substantially reduce the population of environmental bacteria present which could infect the animals. After a month or so the animals have adjusted and do just fine in the exact same conditions which cause a meltdown when first collected.

Interested in hearing other's thoughts on this too.
-Tim



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Old 24th September 2009   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jan View Post
Doubt yes, but you made a definitive statement, "In many cases, the wood pulp used can be toxic to amphibians."

I had the same question as Justin - what data are we looking at. Or if there are not supporting data, should we say something more like, 'in many cases, the chemicals used in the manufacture of wood pulp could theoretically pose a potential risk to amphibians' ?

I am on vacation at the moment, but when I return to work next week I will get a copy of the "source woods" used in bulk paper products. (Such as those used in paper toweling, butcher paper, and the like.)

Pine, cedar, and walnut are a few I can remember off the top of my head.

I have to agree with your rewording of the definitive statement I made in the previous post.

Where the doubt factor for me is in the actual processing of the pulp. Chemicals used in the process of turning the wood to pulp are what scare me the most. The chemicals used to treat the boiler water (and the process steam) are the worst of the bunch. These come in direct contact and often saturate the paper in process.



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Old 24th September 2009   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

I raise all of my fire salamanders on paper towels. They hold in moister and and are easy to clean and in my view much better to use. I use it for my adult fire salamanders. I have the cheapest tank setups ever for them. Its just a plastic tub $8, a big hide $12 and then the paper towels. $2. It works fine because my salamanders even bred with this style housing. I just mist the paper towels everyday to retain moisture and humidity. If the temps get to warm I throw in a frozen water bottle. I think paper towels are the way to go when you dont have a show room tank set up for certain salamanders and newts.



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Old 24th September 2009   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

I use regular paper towels, and one thing I noticed about them, is that although they do seem to hold water well, this effect tapers off as the towels age, especially at the edges of the papertowels. I have lost only one juvie to this "quick" drying effect so far, and now that my attention has been drawn to this problem there will hopefully be no more losses. Other than the "quick" drying effects I haven't noticed any other ill effects, and my juveniles have been on them since metamorphosis, on the other hand this is my first batch of juveniles (they're notos).



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Old 25th September 2009   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

Quote:
Originally Posted by taherman View Post
My best guess is that the stress of the move to captivity weakens the immune system and allows fairly widespread environmental bacteria in the "naturalistic" enclosure to infect the salamanders in their compromised state. By putting them on paper towels in a relatively sterile setup you substantially reduce the population of environmental bacteria present which could infect the animals. After a month or so the animals have adjusted and do just fine in the exact same conditions which cause a meltdown when first collected.

Interested in hearing other's thoughts on this too.
-Tim
I've had similar experiences with Plethodontids and would agree with your theory, Tim. Towel enclosures are an effective method of treating sick animals and one could assume that most, if not all wc salamanders experience suppressed immune systems during the first few weeks/months from stress of capture. I wonder if animals kept long term on towels experience reduced immune systems from lack of exposure to bacteria.

At Cincinnati zoo I noticed that nearly all of their salamanders were kept exclusively on brown paper towels - Ambystoma, Plethodontids and Salamandra. I'm certain this was long term housing. Plethodontids seem quite at home hiding in folds of damp paper. My only concern would be a lack of moisture gradient.

I've personally kept Tylototriton on kitchen towel (Bounty, or whatever it's calling itself this month) for over a year with no obvious ill effects. I'm a soil convert these days and would only resort to towels for vulnerable or sick animals.



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Old 25th September 2009   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

I use the brown napkins from Taco Bell, I grab a handful everytime I go in there. I've never used paper towels long term, only for quarantine and sick animal enclosures.



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Old 25th September 2009   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

For those of you who use paper as substrate - with what do you moisten the toweling? Treated water, spring water, tap water, etc? Not to highjack the thread, but the paper toweling has to be wetted with something.



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Old 25th September 2009   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

I use either RO water or carbon filtered tap water.



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Old 25th September 2009   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

I use dechlorinated tap water.



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Old 26th September 2009   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

I use tap water that is allowed to sit outside in the sun for 3 days or more. I would use rain water but I have found that the PH is unreliable. I guess that is from those "safe" coal plants! No such thing.



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Old 26th September 2009   #19 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

haha! yes, even though the steel factories are critically endangered in Pittsburgh, we still have one of the worst air qualities in the country. I don't trust our rain water either, though for water saving measures, we are installing rain barrels and I will water my plants and garden with it next year. But dechlorinated tap water has worked fine for years for me. I only use white paper towels, but this has only been for temporary housing. I use coco fiber for my marmoratus.



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Old 5th October 2009   #20 (permalink)
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Default Re: What kind of paper substrate do you use?

I use the average plain ole' white paper towels. I am not too worried about the bleach issue (bleach becomes inert relatively quickly and should pose no harm as a temporary substrate.) I only use paper towel substrate for "nursery" set-ups and change them out daily. I have never seen any of the "babies" react adversely to the bedding, besides I furnish clumps of moss for them to hide in anyway.



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