Substrates.

TragicallyHerc

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Hey everyone, I was at the Pet Store today looking to buy substrate for my salamander. Usually I go with that shredded coconut bark stuff that comes in bricks. Today the guy there seemed certain that what I needed was this stuff called Calci-Sand. I looked at it and was skeptical. It looks like rough beach sand, with large chunks that I am sure would get accidentaly eaten. After explaining to me that it is good stuff and that it is like what they have in the wild (I have never seen a forest with beach sand mind you :rolleyes: ) I decided I might try it. I bought 1 5lb bag, instead of the four that he said I should get to fill the bottom of the tank. I was still really skeptical but hey, I could always return the bag. I guess I don't really believe a word out of pet shop employees mouths after some very shoddy information led to my brothers frog dying.

So reading the bag of the bag it says substrate for snakes, lizards, tortoises and turtles. No salamanders there. So I did a little reading on the internet and reception to this Calci-Sand seems to be less than enthuisiastic. Some claim it to be downright dangerous.

(I should throw a disclaimer that this link does have a dead and cut open gecko, so if you don't wanna see it, don't look) http://www.petzoo.co.uk/extra_info_pages.php?pages_id=29

Right there is a picture and description of what many people had been saying to watch out for.

I am pretty sure I am going to return it and not use it. Never had problems with the bark bricks. No sense in risking this.

What are your thoughts on this Calci-Sand? Also, what would you reccomend as a substrate? Soil (no vermiticulites (spelling?)) or that coconut bark bricks?
 

tonymontanaflows

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the pet store guy must have confused a salamander for some reptile. some sals do inhabit sandy areas, but not the deserts like reptiles. from what i've read about calci-sand the impaction is caused by the geckos seeking calcium and eating the calcium fortified sand. that other stuff in that link you posted looks like ingested fir chips. all substrates have some risk of ingestion just need to be careful and plan according to your pets size and how they eat on which substrate to use. the way the tongue functions and mouth size in salamnders vary so what may be a risk to one species may not to another example a rock or fir chip may be too large for a slimy sal, but just the right size for a big mouthed tiger.

i've seen both my sals and frog ingest the coco stuff stuck to worms and slugs, but they seems to pass it without problems. bigger stuff like fir chips, cypress mulch, moss, and rocks can be fatal. in my case i shred old moss so it isn't long and stringy and just sort of mixes with the coco brick. my frog is more of a risk to ingest stuff since it lunges at prey so anything that can potentially be swallowed was moved to a corner where the bugs hide and the frog doesn't go since it can bury itself there.

i use a mix of the coco brick, dry crushes leaves from my yard, shredded old moss,topsoil, and cypress mulch. for me this mix seems a good combo, it holds moisture well, doesn't smell or mold, although i do get shrooms occasionally. i was a little worried about adding the cypress mulch since some pieces looked big and sharp, but after some mistings it softens well. i have other stuff like twigs, sweetgum balls, acorn tops mixed in too. the mix sits on top of a packed floor of a bottom layer of sand, middle of charcoal, and about and inch of topsoil. i have pill/sowbugs,springtails,millipedes, and worms in my tank to help recycle waste and be a food source.... house bugs like silverfish,spiders, and house centipedes sometimes accidentally welcome themselves into the tanks too.
 

JWERNER

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Coco bricks and top soil like you mention with out the additives are great. Calci-Sand is bad, IMO. The worst part about Calci-Sand for just about any small-medium reptile is that it is very dusty ( in a dry, desert/arid climate no mater how many times you rinse it, it will break down ) and can cause a number of problems. The worst seeing how its made of calcium is that the dust can actually fill up the lungs and create a *black lung disease much like a old time coal miner. Knocks years and years of life off of us Humans, just think about an animal with way less of a lung capacity. The most common is eye infections. I have seen so many reptiles like Leopard Geckos for instance ( mostly Albinos tho ) get nasty infections that gunk up the eye. And in my belief no Amphibian should be kept with this stuff regardless.
 

Abrahm

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Sand is bad choice for terrestrial amphibians/caudates because it does a poor job of holding in moisture. Calcium sand is also bad because it can dissolve in water making it unsuitable for aquariums. A combination of soil and coconut fiber is the substrate that a majority of people use here, including myself. I would return that bag of sand if I were you.
 

Jennewt

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thumbs down to Calci-sand

Calci-sand is pure calcium carbonate. Thus, when mixed with water, it becomes alkaline (like limestone). It has some appropriate uses:

  • for reptiles, the kind that live in a totally dry substrate, perhaps as a way to help boost their calcium intake. I assume this is its ordinary use, though I certainly have no experience with it.
  • as an additive (in small amounts) to aquatic tanks that have problems with the water becoming too acidic.
  • as a substrate that would mimic a karstic (high-limestone) environment.
I don't see any purpose for using it for a salamander, unless perhaps it could be mixed with peat moss to neutralize problems with acidity. But this wouldn't be needed for coco-fiber.
 

Ed

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In small amounts it can also be added to earthworm cultures to increase the calcium content of the earthworms (otherwise it bumps the soil pH up too much).

We use calc-sand at work to provide a free access calcium supplement with some herps but we also make sure to supplement thier insects with a vitamin-mineral supplement so they do not impact attempting to meet thier calcium metabolism needs.
But I wouldn't use it for most amphibians...

I use mainly cypress mulch for many terrestrial caudates. Try to limit the use of peat and/or long fiber sphagnum moss as the low pH can cause issues with the caudates.

Ed
 

Jan

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In small amounts it can also be added to earthworm cultures to increase the calcium content of the earthworms (otherwise it bumps the soil pH up too much).

We use calc-sand at work to provide a free access calcium supplement with some herps but we also make sure to supplement thier insects with a vitamin-mineral supplement so they do not impact attempting to meet thier calcium metabolism needs.
But I wouldn't use it for most amphibians...

I use mainly cypress mulch for many terrestrial caudates. Try to limit the use of peat and/or long fiber sphagnum moss as the low pH can cause issues with the caudates.

Ed
Ed,
For fossorial caudates, do you also use cypress mulch? If yes, given a choice of this vs. coco-fiber or organic topsoil or some mix thereof, what would you recommend and why?
 
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