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Bioactive Substrate

alexx

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Hello!
Technically not a caudate specific question but a viv one all the same!

I'm wondering if anyone has any experience with bioactive substrates and plants, because I'm thinking of setting one up for my newest snake viv.

I have read around about how they work and roughly what goes into it, but have had some conflicting information.

The basic idea is to have a living ecosystem in your substrate (the same way live rock/sand works in a saltwater aquarium) including springtails, beetles, earthworms which work together with the beneficial bacteria to recycle all of the waste from your animals (lizards snakes caudates).

This system does not need to be replaced ever if set up and maintained correctly, meaning no monthly tank disinfecting!

My newest viv is 4x2x2 and will house a small boa, I have heard different things about drainage and was wondering of I should use some sort of absorbent pebble layer under the 3 ish inches of earth to prevent stagnation.

Any suggestions for plants that could live in this environment would be very welcome, as they will be needed to absorb the nitrates. The temperature will be 32C max at the basking end, less at the cooler end, humidity will be around 60%, and there is a tube bulb in there at the moment (nothing special afaik)

Thanks!
Alex
 

peter5930

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Coconut fibre works for me. Worms are happy to burrow through it, springtails will live in the network of worm burrows, the burrows keep it aerated and the worms pull surface waste (like poop) down into the substrate where bacteria convert it to nitrates and eventually to nitrogen gas. You can use a layer of pebbles under the coconut fibre for drainage and either lay some airline in the pebble layer that you can use to periodically siphon off excess water, or drill a hole in the glass (using one of these) and silicone some airline in place that'll drain water into an external container.
 

alexx

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Thanks for the reply!

The viv is wooden with a glass sliding front, would this 'cause a problem? Should I coat the wood in something (can't remember if it was porous or not)
 

peter5930

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Some worms will crawl out of the gaps in the glass sliding front, so it depends on how much you mind occasional escapees. I used to have a viv with a glass sliding front on a shelf above my bed, and I woke up several times to find myself sharing my bed with a worm.

If you need to waterproof the wood of the vivarium, you can use a polyurethane varnish. It'll be perfectly safe once it's fully dry. Clear gloss varnish is the best; satin and matt finish varnishes have additives that can make them weaker and more porous.
 

alexx

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Thanks for the help that's great. There's 4 inches of wood below the glass sliding door so I'm planning on the substrate stopping at the door level, would escapees still occur?

I'm not entirely sure what creatures I'll be putting into it, I've bought a couple packs of ready made concoctions which have different springtails and woodlice in afaik.
I'll probably collect some leaf litter and hope for more springtails, add earthworms? (I have lobworms in a worm bin that I breed as axie food anyway could I use these monsters?) and some have suggested centi/millipedes and beatles/roaches?
 

peter5930

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Yes, escapees will still occur. At night, worms like to come to the surface and cruise around, and they'll often climb up the glass walls of a tank and find their way through any openings. There's no easy way to keep them from escaping, but most of them will remain inside the tank. Lob worms are less likely to escape than compost worms, since they're larger and aren't good at climbing.
 
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