• Welcome! Are you interested in tortoises? If so, we invite you to join our community! Our community is the #1 place for tortoise keepers to talk online. Once you join you'll be able to post messages, upload pictures of your tortoise and enclosure, and discuss any tortoise topic with other tortoise keepers. Get started today!

Bioactive Substrate Update

Status
Not open for further replies.

Madkins007

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Joined
Feb 15, 2008
Messages
5,379
Location (City and/or State)
Nebraska
Back in August, I made a 9' x 4' indoor habitat for my herd. The plan was to try a 'bioactive substrate' as espoused by Philippe de Vosjoli's "The Art of Keeping Snakes" (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1882770633/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20) in which you basically recreate natural soil that has healthy micro-organisms and breaks down wastes, etc.

I did not have the book, but based on what I read other places, I put down a layer of lava rock, then a few inches of mixed topsoil, hardwood mulch, sand, peat moss, and some other bagged stuff in no specific ratios, then a top layer of cypress mulch. I added in some isopods or rolly pollys.

Well... it did not take long before the lava rock started to migrate to the surface and the soil compacted. Dang. Oh well, it was a nice idea.

Then I got a copy of the actual book- and it was a lot different than the other stuff I had read, and I think the thing may have worked after all!

The book discusses that bioactive soils feel 'silky', do not tend to stick to the animals, and are free of smells. My substrate meets all of these criteria- after all this time, there is almost never a smell and I do not often have to remove wastes.

In the book (which has a lot of cool ideas), the substrate is pretty easy-
- Make up a soil mix that allows for the right humidity/moisture and other needs of your species
- Make sure there is something in it that can culture helpful bacteria- like sand or clay-based kitty litter
- Moisten it so as to keep the lower layer damp. The moisture will keep the bacteria alive and percolate upwards to provide humidity. Increase moisture levels for more humidity if needed
- Add a 'top dressing' if desired to keep the animals off the wet soils and for looks
- Add some garden soil, earthworms, isopods, etc. as desired. Isopods are especially useful in eating the eggs of pests. I have not had fungal gnats in there for several months, and only occasional outbreaks of springtails.
- Remove waste items, or stir them in. The more soil, the more wastes it can process.
- Stir everything every so often. I only stirred a couple of times in the winter, and probably should have done it more often but was afraid of hurting my undersoil heat strips.

The book also suggests that the contact of the animals with the bioactive soil provides health benefits for the animals. I may share more of this in a review of the book later, but it makes sense.

Bottom line- I think this worked! It turned out to be fairly low cost, fairly low maintenance, and no real downsides. When I rebuild the indoor habitat over the summer, I will try this again!
 

dreadyA

New Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2009
Messages
646
Location (City and/or State)
southern cal.
Nice to hear, Mark! I was wondering what happened to this experiment. You hardley post anymore unless its RF related.
Di Vosjoli is a snake expert as well??
 

Madkins007

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Joined
Feb 15, 2008
Messages
5,379
Location (City and/or State)
Nebraska
dreadyA said:
Nice to hear, Mark! I was wondering what happened to this experiment. You hardley post anymore unless its RF related.
Di Vosjoli is a snake expert as well??
de V is mostly snakes and lizards as far as I can tell.
 

Stephanie Logan

Active Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Aug 17, 2009
Messages
3,415
Location (City and/or State)
Colorado
What are isopods and where do I get some? I need to do this next year so those stupid gnats are not a constant nuisance in Taco's cage.
 

dreadyA

New Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2009
Messages
646
Location (City and/or State)
southern cal.
I hear ya, ssista! Dang nats love multiplying ;)
isopods are "Rolly Pollies"
 

Madkins007

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Joined
Feb 15, 2008
Messages
5,379
Location (City and/or State)
Nebraska
Isopods, rolly pollys, pillbugs, wood lice, sow bug... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodlouse

I just flipped a few chunks of bark or flat rocks and caught about 5 of them- I did not think it was enough, but they are pretty well integrated in the habitat.

They don't need much, but breathe through gills, so need some moisture.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

New Posts

Top