Purging gnats, saving the residential Amber Snail, ordering Seed Mix, and planning for Roly Polys...

tinytortoise

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Here's a little splurge of an update; posting here as to be open to insights, criticisms, etc.

Okay where to begin,

Since day 1 my substrate has had some gnats, I'd kept calm as they're just gnats - but this weekend I decided IPM has to be addressed as I've approached my closed chamber with a bioactive mindset - theres lots of room to grow on this idea. With more research I realized how horrible the gnats really are for all the plants, and decided to take action.

I ordered food-grade DE (OMRI listed), Yellow Sticky Traps (non-toxic), and an indoor UV bug lamp.

Upon receiving, we removed Apis for an extensive soak, she was watched by my partner, who had a fun extra long soak time, while I lightly sprinkled and then "poofed" through the enclosure (blew it around from what I'd sprinkled on substrate. I did avoid Apis' hide, and didn't leave DE on the basking rock. I also avoided leaving lots on the foliage as to prevent her from eating it. After spreading thoroughly, I used a fork to rake some of the thicker areas into the substrate to avoid excess moving through the air as Apis roams.

The sticky traps have been applied to my indoor potted plants, as well as, I've been laying them on the substrate when Apis turns-in for the night - not many have been caught in my indoor planters, but tons have landed on the sticky trap in the enclosure (tonight I've doubled up, hoping to get the rest of them). I can't say if the DE effected the gnats much, as some are still flying (2 days later), but I hope some of the larvae have been dehydrated.

The bug lamp has been working hard as well, while not catching as many as the sticky traps, there is a good number that have met their end, hopefully this will help "guard" the enclosure from any coming or going.

Oddly, another type of... pest? has been spotted. I assume this is an effect of the DE, but each 8 hours after dusting I've found a small cluster of VERY tiny (can't see their shape) specks, that look to be trying to jump, but are stuck in the water. I assume they naturally would be able to get out, but since they're dehydrating, are sticking into the water, clustering. Any idea what this could be? These specks also seems to get stuck on my sticky traps, they look like dust.

There have also been some light, yellowish, Aphids (I think?), I'm not too worrid about them, as other treatment should work on them over time (DE).

I had been aware prior to dusting that there was a snail in my violets, but neglected to find her, luckily when I got home (1.5 days after dusting) she was on the water-bowl and seems to be doing well, I've removed her into a temporary snail enclosure until I moisten the substrate (once gnats have dwindled). She's been identified as an Amber snail who eat Fungus, algae, and such. I'm not to worried about her singularly, though am wary of snails reproducing inside.

I'm hoping to adopt a substrate cleanup crew, been planning to introduce Roly Polys (Pill Bugs), and have also considered Earthworms. People have said that Roly Polys will eat Gnat Eggs, in the soil, but it also seems they may eat eggs on foliage as well. The Earthworms interested me in hopes to keep the soil aerated and help to break down waste materials, which the Roly Poly should also help with. I'm hoping the two will help me prevent huge gnat problems in the future, as well as provide nutrient rich soil as new substrate develops. For the Aphids, maybe I could introduce a lady bug when the time comes (temporarily, haven't researched this much).

Prior to introducing more exoskeletons I'd obviously need to counteract the dusting of DE, which I hope to do once the gnats are under control by "tilling" the substrate, planting new seed mix, and then adding more moisture to the soil, misting for at-least a few days. Although my enclosure is very humid, so the DE is likely not too effective anymore, I want to be sure before I add new lives.

The seed mix is Tortoise Supply's "Testudo Seed Mix", I do plan to plant some inside my enclosure to see how it fairs, though I'll also be planting it outside in a planter to grow without a baby stomping all over it. I've had some success with grass thus-far, but my baby isn't really interested in grass, so I hope this broad leaf mix will be more suitable for her to graze on her own as it grows. An interesting part of this will be seeing what grows well in different parts over time.

Okay so there's a wall of text, hopefully someone finds this interested. Please let me know what you think!
 

tinytortoise

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Looking good! I too have a giant problem with gnats. I'm going to try the sticky traps.
A great part about the traps I linked are that they're doubled-sided, so you can remove one side and lay it flat on the substrate (people have less success when they're not directly on substrate), then once it's all gunked up, you can just flip it, and peel off the other side. So a pack of 12 can be 24 applications. Each single side could be used for quite awhile too!
 

Pastel Tortie

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I read this post a few days ago but hadn't had the time to respond. I agree with @Will in that I like the direction you're going. You had my attention at IPM. :)

I apologize for the long post and any tangents or detours involved. However, as you're doing a great job in considering the whole system, I hope you won't mind a few details that may or may not have bearing on your tortoise's setup.

I don't have a tortoise, I have a Gulf Coast box turtle. She's 1.5 years or so old, about 3.5 inches long, and omnivorous. Actually, she's mostly carnivorous right now, so that factors into what gets incorporated into her enclosure. My boxie is still an indoor turtle until we can make her a proper outside enclosure. (We have a wide variety of predators in this region, some of them being quite clever and formidable.)

Anyway, in my box turtle's indoor enclosure (approx 54 gallon tote), there are earthworms and earwigs living in the substrate. If I could find roly-polys locally, I would happily add them to her enclosure. I have seen small gnats and springtails in the box turtle's enclosure from time to time, usually after adding plain topsoil (from Home Depot, I think, with no additives). However, since the earthworms and earwigs have been established (since spring 2018), the sudden population spikes don't seem to last as long. I can't say that's causative, but I like to think the resident earthworms have helped.

The earthworms are in there by design. My box turtle goes through phases on what she will or won't eat, or what size or how much. She's gotten big enough to subdue and manage eating all but the very largest red wigglers, and red wigglers are one of her favorite foods. She likes eating (sometimes) during or right after her soaks on the bathroom counter.

While she is soaking, I will clean out and remove the turtle pool (large shallow plastic plant saucer) from her enclosure. That provides me access to the earthworms underneath. It also gives me a chance to "compost" in place, under the turtle pool. Any greens from the fridge that don't look as appealing any more (aren't as fresh) can be put under the turtle pool to feed the earthworms. And the earwigs. And any other invertebrates that are in the box turtle's enclosure, whether I like it or not.

The earwigs were not intentional, they took up in the boxie's enclosure on their own. I was trying to figure out whether I was going to have to redo the enclosure/substrate completely (back in February or March 2018). Then, frustrated, I dropped one in the soaking water with my boxie and asked her, "Do you eat these?" She looked at it, chomped it, and told me, sure, they're edible. So they stay in her enclosure along with the earthworms to give the boxie a protein source she can obtain on her own, if desired.
 
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Pastel Tortie

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I haven't had to buy live food for my boxie in over a year. When I take her out to soak, the invertebrates I feed her come from her enclosure. I put commercial diet pellets in her soaking tub and her turtle pool, and she does eat some of them. The brands of pellets she doesn't like, I use to feed (read: gut load) the earthworms and earwigs.

But then again, my box turtle is omnivorous, mostly carnivorous right now. What works for her and her enclosure might translate better for a redfoot than more herbivorous tortoises. Still, I'm hoping you can use some of the context from my experience in your planning and considerations.

I hope that helps. :)
 

tinytortoise

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I haven't had to buy live food for my boxie in over a year. When I take her out to soak, the invertebrates I feed her come from her enclosure. I put commercial diet pellets in her soaking tub and her turtle pool, and she does eat some of them. The brands of pellets she doesn't like, I use to feed (read: gut load) the earthworms and earwigs.

But then again, my box turtle is omnivorous, mostly carnivorous right now. What works for her and her enclosure might translate better for a redfoot than more herbivorous tortoises. Still, I'm hoping you can use some of the context from my experience in your planning and considerations.

I hope that helps. :)

Yes thanks for the insights. I am very interested in the earthworms even just for the livelihood of my plant-life (food) (similar to your omnivorous-life (food)). It’s reassuring to know they can help with the Gnat load.

I am also taking note of the compost system you mention. This will occur naturally with foliage that falls off, everywhere, but I’ll also consider a compost location for uneaten food from the bowl, presently under the basking rock seems viable, but I’d need to think it out. Roly Poly and earthworm should really speed this process up, providing healthier plants and ample nutrients for said plants. Translating to endless tortoise graze, as long as she doesn’t stomp it *all* down.

As I’m planning to plant new seeds, I’m wanting to really go through and resituate things where needed. Such as, maybe adding some pebbles on my lower dark side, as it doesn’t currently seem as viable for plant growth. That said, I also am hoping to have a plant light located outside the enclosure, shining more light in, so this may make for a wider spectrum of viable plant locations; not just near/towards basking and uvb light - which is where they’re all growing towards.

I appreciate the input. I just got in some Mazuri tortoise pellets, paired with all the plants I’m growing, it should last a very long time, and by the time I run out there should be a plethora of home-grown food, though I’ll likely keep pellets on hand to toss in here and there, to fortify it all.
 

Fatnhappy

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I haven't had to buy live food for my boxie in over a year. When I take her out to soak, the invertebrates I feed her come from her enclosure. I put commercial diet pellets in her soaking tub and her turtle pool, and she does eat some of them. The brands of pellets she doesn't like, I use to feed (read: gut load) the earthworms and earwigs.

But then again, my box turtle is omnivorous, mostly carnivorous right now. What works for her and her enclosure might translate better for a redfoot than more herbivorous tortoises. Still, I'm hoping you can use some of the context from my experience in your planning and considerations.

I hope that helps. :)
Thanks! I hadn't thought about feeding the worms I plan on adding.
 
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