Bioactive / Planted Enclosure

Capybara25

New Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2018
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Phoenix, Arizona
Hello Tortoise Forum!

I've spent a lot of time lately researching bioactive and planted indoor tortoise enclosures. I'd like to create one of my own for my 4 month old redfoot. I have found a great deal of conflicting information, and I was hoping I could get some input from those of you who have some experience with these enclosures. Here are my plans so far, and I welcome any and all advice or recommendations for the best way to proceed.
  • I have a giant plastic storage container that is about 16 inches deep
  • I plan to put a layer of lava rock for drainage in the very bottom
  • Next, a layer of active charcoal
    • I've read conflicting opinions on this. Is it necessary and what function does it serve?
  • Then a layer of topsoil
    • This is where I could really use some help. What type of topsoil do people recommend? I found this organic raised bed soil at home depot, will it work?
    • I've also read that some people mix the topsoil with sand, does anyone recommend this? I haven't included it yet as I've read there's a risk for impaction if ingested.
  • Next layer is this sphagnum peat moss
    • Should I also mix this with cypress mulch or is just the peat moss fine?
  • I will purchase some isopods to serve as a trusty clean up crew
  • I have a bromeliad, spider plant, polka dot plant, and pothos which I will plant directly in the substrate, and then likely move to pots once my tort gets a little bit bigger and turns into a trampler.
    • after I got the pothos plant I read some conflicting reports. Safe or not?
  • I also have cat grass and wheat grass seeds which I will plant in the top layer of soil
  • What is the best method for watering? Injecting via tube down to the bottom of the tub? How can the water level be measured down there?
Any and all advice on these questions (and any additional information on bioactive enclosures) welcome!

Thanks in advance for your help!!
 

Pearly

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jul 14, 2015
Messages
5,294
Location (City and/or State)
Central Texas, Austin area
Hello Tortoise Forum!

I've spent a lot of time lately researching bioactive and planted indoor tortoise enclosures. I'd like to create one of my own for my 4 month old redfoot. I have found a great deal of conflicting information, and I was hoping I could get some input from those of you who have some experience with these enclosures. Here are my plans so far, and I welcome any and all advice or recommendations for the best way to proceed. [emoji277][emoji837][emoji277]I kept my babies on bioactive for couple yrs and LOVED IT! Let me just share with you the things that come to mind that you may want to consider[emoji835]️[emoji837][emoji277]
  • I have a giant plastic storage container that is about 16 inches deep. [emoji837] growing plants was hard enough for me in the 40 gal breeder tank, in plastic container you will probably need growth lights[emoji837]
  • I plan to put a layer of lava rock for drainage in the very bottom. [emoji837]great idea, will you put some sort of a screen or something on top to keep the soil from falling down between the rocks which is very likely to happen when you disturb the soil by planting. Can also use Hydroballs but to get enough for good terrarium bottom of this size, it’s cost prohibitive, in my view[emoji837]
  • Next, a layer of active charcoal
    • [emoji837]great idea, but again, expensive! 10$ worth of a bag will be enough to just sprinkle your container bottom[emoji837]
    • I've read conflicting opinions on this. Is it necessary and what function does it serve?
    . [emoji837]is it necessary? I don’t think so, but I would rather have it than not. It removes toxins and absorbs odors created by decomposition of organic material. I had „sprinkled” my 10$ bag of it under the soil and coco coir in my 40 gal tank and it never had unpleasant odor in the 2 or 2&1/2yrs I had it going[emoji837]
  • Then a layer of topsoil
    • This is where I could really use some help. What type of topsoil do people recommend? I found this organic raised bed soil at home depot, will it work? [emoji837]I had a thick layer of coco coir, and whenever brought transplants from my garden I’d just sit the rootball with my garden soil undisturbed around it in the coir and just let the roots start spreading in the tank. The main thing is to avoid chemicals and pesticides[emoji837]
    • I've also read that some people mix the topsoil with sand, does anyone recommend this? I haven't included it yet as I've read there's a risk for impaction if ingested.[emoji837]The only time I mess with adding sand is when planting cactus or succulents, and even then I’m usually too lazy to bother with that. Sand is for drainage, to make your soil more porous. I wouldn’t bother with itin my tort enclosure[emoji837]
  • Next layer is this sphagnum peat moss
    • Should I also mix this with cypress mulch or is just the peat moss fine?
  • I will purchase some isopods to serve as a trusty clean up crew[emoji837] YES! But why „buy” your isopods??? Can you just go to your or your family/friends garden and collect few rollypollies? I tasked my kids with that bcs back then they used to gross me out[emoji38] That year they were VERY scarce in my garden but my little son Adam found 4 adults and 1 juvenile. We put them in the tank and it didn’t take long for them to populate it. The only thing is that once you have this large colony of isopods, you need to put in new cuttle bone much more frequently, as those babies looooove all that calcium! I also must have brought in some garden snails that hitched a ride with the plants from my garden and they had babies... oh, and at the very beginning of my biosubstrate I dumped out a small box of earthworms in there thinking my baby torts would eat them, but they never did, and those also started having babies! It was very cool to watch through that glass:) oh, and at some point I had started noticing some tiny soil centipedes that never got bigger than 5-7 mm in length and never seemed to bother anything so I let them be. [emoji837]
  • I have a bromeliad, spider plant, polka dot plant, and pothos which I will plant directly in the substrate, and then likely move to pots once my tort gets a little bit bigger and turns into a trampler.
    • [emoji837]your bromeliad will do great in there bu you might need to suspend the roots above the substrate or mount it on something so the roots don’t get too soggy. Pothos would do awesome in there, but i ended up removing mine, my babies were eating it and I also read conflicting messages on it being potentially harmful to my torts so was not willing to take any chances. Spider plant is also great but I could never keep mine directly in substrate bcs my babies would walk all over it bulldozing the pretty crown of the plant. I was also not too comfortable on them chewing too much on it though most keepers seem to agree that it’s a safe plant but I had recalled reading something about it being an irritant (due to oxalates? can’t recall) and decided to go mostly with whatever pretty weed in my garden looked good at the moment of plants that would grow there from seeds. [emoji837]
    • after I got the pothos plant I read some conflicting reports. Safe or not?
  • I also have cat grass and wheat grass seeds which I will plant in the top layer of soil [emoji837] sure, if your tort is a grazing species, mine (RFs) never took any interest in grazing fresh grasses so I didn’t want to take away their precious foot space, instead I one of our [email protected] here gave me an idea to look into the live moss! And I’ve been in love with it ever since[emoji837]
  • What is the best method for watering? Injecting via tube down to the bottom of the tub? How can the water level be measured down there?[emoji837] yes but only at planting time, after that I’d run my fogger daily and humidity inside remained in the 90’s%, no need to water when everything is that humid[emoji837]
Any and all advice on these questions (and any additional information on bioactive enclosures) welcome!

Thanks in advance for your help!!
[emoji837][emoji837][emoji837][emoji837]. Here is a link to my old thread on what I did with my tank, this one is mainly about how I covered the top to keep the heat/humidity in, but you may find some helpful ideas there too[emoji837][emoji837][emoji837]
Pearly's 40 gal tank- covered top
https://tortoiseforum.org/index.php?threads/Pearly's-40-gal-tank--covered-top.139373/. [emoji837]hope I have addressed everything here for your
 

Capybara25

New Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2018
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
Phoenix, Arizona
[emoji837][emoji837][emoji837][emoji837]. Here is a link to my old thread on what I did with my tank, this one is mainly about how I covered the top to keep the heat/humidity in, but you may find some helpful ideas there too[emoji837][emoji837][emoji837]
Pearly's 40 gal tank- covered top
https://tortoiseforum.org/index.php?threads/Pearly's-40-gal-tank--covered-top.139373/. [emoji837]hope I have addressed everything here for your

Hi Pearly, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to respond to all of my questions. This is exactly the type of help I was looking for, and I'm really grateful for your advice!

I'll definitely take all of your suggestions - I've gone ahead and ordered a mesh screen on amazon to prevent the soil from mixing with the lava rocks. I've also found some gardening charcoal at walmart for a reasonable price, so I'll add a thin layer of that on top of the lava rocks (and below the screen). I can't believe it didn't occur to me to just go look outside for some isopods - I should be able to find a ton! And that's a great tip about the cuttlebone, I'll be sure to stock up on more of those.

I'll also hunt around for some live moss, I love the look of it in your enclosure. That is definitely the type of space I'd like to create for my little guy.

Again, thank you so much for the help - I've done a lot of reading and research on the forum and elsewhere, but as first time tortoise parent I really appreciate the chance to have someone experienced answer some of my questions directly :) I'll be sure to post some pictures once I've put it all together!
 

CarolM

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 30, 2017
Messages
19,442
Location (City and/or State)
South Africa - Cape Town
Hi Pearly, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to respond to all of my questions. This is exactly the type of help I was looking for, and I'm really grateful for your advice!

I'll definitely take all of your suggestions - I've gone ahead and ordered a mesh screen on amazon to prevent the soil from mixing with the lava rocks. I've also found some gardening charcoal at walmart for a reasonable price, so I'll add a thin layer of that on top of the lava rocks (and below the screen). I can't believe it didn't occur to me to just go look outside for some isopods - I should be able to find a ton! And that's a great tip about the cuttlebone, I'll be sure to stock up on more of those.

I'll also hunt around for some live moss, I love the look of it in your enclosure. That is definitely the type of space I'd like to create for my little guy.

Again, thank you so much for the help - I've done a lot of reading and research on the forum and elsewhere, but as first time tortoise parent I really appreciate the chance to have someone experienced answer some of my questions directly :) I'll be sure to post some pictures once I've put it all together!
I would love some feedback on how it worked out and if your bio active enclosure worked out like you wanted it to?
 
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