Terrestrial Substrates: what do you use?

SludgeMunkey

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Hello folks!

I am doing a bit of research on substrates for terrestrial/ semi-aquatic vivaria.

I am curious what you folks use, prefer and suggest.
personally, I am just a coir (coconut mulch) type person, but I would like to see what you terrestrial keepers prefer. I know some of you are big fans of cypress and fir bark, and I know a few of you use the fancy clay balls and the like.

Please include brand names where applicable so I can contact the manufacturers for my research.
 

madeve

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I only keep two fully terrestrial species: A. Tigrinium and A. Laterale, for both tanks a use a 50/50 mix of organic top soil (bought from a local tree nursery, no brand name) and Eco-Earth coconut fiber.
 

malduroque

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I start with a layer of generic aquarium gravel, though one of these days I'm going to try the clay balls, then a a combined layer of orchid bark and charcoal (or sometimes a thin layer of each) both from a local nursery then top it off with a combo (or layers) of R-Zilla Jungle Mix and organic potting soil bought from a local nursery.

Never done the coconut thing.

Mal
 

Mark

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Levington organic topsoil and collected leaf litter. That's it. I've never found a coconut in the woods so I don't bother with it ;).
 

RPM

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I use dirt from my back yard as I have done for the past 25 yrs. They seem to like it and have never tried anything else.
Richard
 

Jan

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I only keep ambystomas and use either a 50/50 mix of organic topsoil (no additives, bought at garden center) and coco-fiber expandable blocks (Eco-Earth, Bed-a-Beast) or coco-fiber alone. I have used other substrates such as jungle mix, cypress, etc., but tend to gravitate back to the above - which is moisture retentive, easy to burrow in, and doesn't have the sharp edges that some wood barks/chips do.

I reconstitute the coco-fiber blocks with dechlorintaed/dechloraminated H2O.
 

Azhael

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For terrestrials i use organic soil fertilizer/pesticide free, moss(both of these for adults) and moist paper towels (for juveniles).
I find that paper towels are by far the best for juveniles(just in my experience of course), while soil works best for adults, specially if they are used to being hand-fed.
 

tonymontanaflows

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my tanks are setup as follows
2cm of sand
1.5cm of active charcoal
mesh screen
3-4cm packed topsoil floor
loose top layer of coco fiber, leaf litter, topsoil, cypress mulch

pretty much kept it this way for 3years before i had some acidity concerns due to hoping used shreaded sphagnum would be broken down but that didn't happen so i had earthworms starting to die off in the tank. the salamanders never showed any skin problems but did a total replace of the coco fiber layer which was pretty easy with the floor layers setup.
 

pondkid

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In the past I've layered 1.5 inches of pea gravel, fine wire mesh, and then a 1:1:1 mixture of organic potting soil, coco fiber, and leaf litter (collected from a local nature preserve). I've never had skin problems show up with this mixture and it grows plants pretty well too.
 

malduroque

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I use dirt from my back yard as I have done for the past 25 yrs. They seem to like it and have never tried anything else.
Richard
Ah yes, I remember the days of of going into the backyard and just digging up dirt. There were no commercial pet products of this sort way back and as a kid, I felt that potting soil was just for my mother's plants. However, the soil out here in Southern Cal is either very clay-like at levels or very powdery when loose which turns so quickly to annoying mud when introduced to any water. I was so pleased when I realized that potting soil would isn't just for mom's plants; I could use it too.

As far as the creatures go, I don't think they care either way.

Your soil in New England is probably much more conducive to a good setup than my native So Cal soil.

Mal
 

Melmo

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I start with blackjungle.com's Terra-Lite (Drainage), a mesh screen also from that site, then I use a 75-25 mix of organic top soil (From a tree nursery) and eco-earth. I do this kind of mix because when I tried 100% Eco-Earth, mold grew extensively. I heard it is also a good idea to put in a small amount of peat to help prevent mold. Then I usually put on moss I find outside during the spring (I search it for any critters to remove and I look underneath too for anything growing there).
 

Jan

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I start with blackjungle.com's Terra-Lite (Drainage), a mesh screen also from that site, then I use a 75-25 mix of organic top soil (From a tree nursery) and eco-earth. I do this kind of mix because when I tried 100% Eco-Earth, mold grew extensively. I heard it is also a good idea to put in a small amount of peat to help prevent mold. Then I usually put on moss I find outside during the spring (I search it for any critters to remove and I look underneath too for anything growing there).
I would be cautious of using peat as it is acidic (pH 3-5). A small amount in a large viv may be one thing. A small amount in a small viv would be another. See here for a discussion of peat:
http://www.caudata.org/forum/showthread.php?t=58082&highlight=peat+moss

Regarding coco-fiber when used alone, I do not have problems with mold. I do however change the substrate every 6 weeks or so and use mesh-screened tops on my vivs to allow for circulation.
 

freves

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I use a mix of topsoil, coco fiber, and sand with leaf litter on the surface.
Chip
 

Badmungo

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I use diffrent kinds of dirt (ist that the right word? Top-soil maybe) and by that i mean the bags you can bye at a big flowermarket. Of course i see it has no pesticies or fertilizer iin it.

Other than that i bring in diffrent kind of moss (i have learn here wich ones that survives good indors) and then i put some leaves over it all. Also i take bark outside that i use for hideouts. Same goes for nicelocking bits of tree or roots that i find.

This seams to work fine for me. The biggest problem as far as i see it (someone that see anyelse plesae corect me) is that it gets a rather unpleasnt smell pretty fast.

I have thought about going over to Papertowels to some of my Salamanders but i havent really got my self to do it. The above seams to work fine though. Pretty often you get in some spiders that makes nice locking webs that gives thy enclusere a nice look. But they mycticaly disepears after a while...

regards

Fredrik
 

ODell

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I like most, or at least a good portion of keepers, use coco fiber. In addition I also use the clay balls other wise known as hydroton (in the hydroponics world). The two layers are seperated by eggcrate and screen. I find that this helps the cocofiber maintain its moisture better, and helps it last longer, than when the cocofiber is used alone. I also live in So Cal and neither the dirt, or what you could call leaf litter, seem good to use.
 

JSTER720

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You should use some gravel some sphagnum moss as well, but make sure it stays moist by spraying it every so often.
 

Jennewt

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I use a mixture of coco-fiber + bagged organic top soil + Repti-Bark (fir bark chips). I don't do anything fancy for drainage, just dump the mixture into the container to about 2 inches deep. I monitor moisture carefully by eye, adding water to one end of the enclosure when it looks like it's getting dry. I change it to fresh substrate when it looks like it's getting very heavy/compact/black; this is only about every 6-12 months.

I have in the past included cypress mulch and/or leaf litter in the mix.
 

SludgeMunkey

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Outstanding information so far! Thank you all! It is very interesting to see what other folks use. I have lived all over the US and had to use different mixes/ substrates dependent on what was available locally. It is good to see that I am not alone in this.



Have any of you tried the egg crate plastic light diffuser method as a first layer to help with drainage in wet terrestrial/ bog type set ups?
 

freves

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For the few terrestrial enclosures that I have that do not contain rooted plants I also change the substrate and wash the tank every so often. For my planted tanks I generally only replace the upper portion about once a year or so.
Chip
 
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    They are about 2-3 inches long and I have them in a bare bottom tank
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