Bioactive Mentor

Goose502

Chameleon Enthusiast
I’ve done a lot of research, and have successfully implemented bioactive substrate for years now. Not sure I’m qualified to “mentor”, but I would love to try and trouble shoot any issues you may have. I feel like there may be a lot to learn here, I will follow this build thread for sure. I’d love to help though.
 

SharpShooter

Avid Member
Crikey, you know way more about keeping chams than the majority of folks. The bioactive bit is the easy part of the equation. Just looking after the garden in miniature ;-)
 

Brodybreaux25

Chameleon Enthusiast
Awesome! Thanks to all three of you. That pic was from about a week ago when I was had just finished all the mods. The only major apart of the build I have left is to make the epoxy background which I will do tonight. Once that’s done I’m going to do a dry fit and makes sure every thing fits correctly then I’ll post pics of everything and get some input from you guys on any thing that may need to be changed before I do the final install.

Thanks again and I’ll post my plans in the morning!
 

dshuld

Chameleon Enthusiast
I’ve done a lot of research, and have successfully implemented bioactive substrate for years now. Not sure I’m qualified to “mentor”, but I would love to try and trouble shoot any issues you may have. I feel like there may be a lot to learn here, I will follow this build thread for sure. I’d love to help though.
Personally, I feel you are but what do I know haha.

I know many of the bioactive people here like to use hydroballs but I prefer safe-t-sorb from tractor supply. I put down a layer or weed block, then safe-t-sorb drainage layer, then weed block, decide where I want my bushes/ plants, put a thin layer of safe-t-sorb under the rootball with a touch of jobes trees, shrubs, evergreens with biozome, fill with organic dirt/ sand mixture, top with oak, maple and magnolia leaf litter, add giant canyons and springtails. Safe-t-sorb is calcined clay (Montmorillonite Clay specifically) and is something I've carried over from my planted tank days. The jobes with biozome is something I had seen extensionofgreen mention in a thread as a way to add additional microorganisms to the dirt.
 

Goose502

Chameleon Enthusiast
Personally, I feel you are but what do I know haha.

I know many of the bioactive people here like to use hydroballs but I prefer safe-t-sorb from tractor supply. I put down a layer or weed block, then safe-t-sorb drainage layer, then weed block, decide where I want my bushes/ plants, put a thin layer of safe-t-sorb under the rootball with a touch of jobes trees, shrubs, evergreens with biozome, fill with organic dirt/ sand mixture, top with oak, maple and magnolia leaf litter, add giant canyons and springtails. Safe-t-sorb is calcined clay (Montmorillonite Clay specifically) and is something I've carried over from my planted tank days. The jobes with biozome is something I had seen extensionofgreen mention in a thread as a way to add additional microorganisms to the dirt.
Ive been curious about using the mesh filter media you’d find in pond filters. I think Matala is one of the brands I’ve seen. I know the bio dude uses and sells something similar. I’m more concerned with overall weight when using glass terrariums. But going full custom means you can build to suit any material you want to use. I would think any media would eventually provide beneficial microorganisms.
 

Zevil

Established Member
That's a huge project. There are many ways to create a natural looking background but for something as big as your cabinet, it's gonna take a lot of work but satisfying when it's done.
 

dshuld

Chameleon Enthusiast
Ive been curious about using the mesh filter media you’d find in pond filters. I think Matala is one of the brands I’ve seen. I know the bio dude uses and sells something similar. I’m more concerned with overall weight when using glass terrariums. But going full custom means you can build to suit any material you want to use. I would think any media would eventually provide beneficial microorganisms.
 
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Brodybreaux25

Chameleon Enthusiast
Ok let’s start with the actual build so we’re all on the same page as far as the cage setup. It’s going to be a lot so I’ll try to keep it punchy, and thank you all again for going through this with me! Goal here is for this viv to be 100% automated. I know that’s impossible but I know I can get it pretty damn close. See the pictures I posted above for visual references for what I’m covering next...

Dementions- 48”Wx48”Tx18”D solid back, front and sides are wrapped in High Visibility screen

Lighting -48” T5HO quad fixture from Lightyourreptiles.com. Single 6% Arcadia UVB and three daylight grow bulbs

MistKing - one normal nozzle, one rain nozzle. Hooked up to a self-refilling resovior

The entire top inside rim has 1/2 PVC running around it to make a full fog curtain to keep night time humidity up. Hooked up to a regular fogger

Every interior surface has 3 coats of FlexSeal on it, floor has 5

Drainage - the floor has multiple drainage channels cut into it and all sloped to the center shower drain. It holds no excess water whatsoever. The shower drain is tied into the house plumbing so there are no buckets to empty

The background is a custom epoxy resin piece of my own design

The soil bin is a removable 6” deep bin and covers the entire bottom of the enclosure. The bottom is made of 3 layers of fine Stainless Steel mesh
 

Brodybreaux25

Chameleon Enthusiast
So I guess the next thing to cover is what actually goes into the soil bin. And this is where I’m asking for input...

As of now I plan to put expanded clay on top of the SS mesh, have a good bit left from my hydroponic days. Then some type of barrier so the soil doesn’t get washed down the drain, then the dirt on top. Is that right?
 

SharpShooter

Avid Member
So I guess the next thing to cover is what actually goes into the soil bin. And this is where I’m asking for input...

As of now I plan to put expanded clay on top of the SS mesh, have a good bit left from my hydroponic days. Then some type of barrier so the soil doesn’t get washed down the drain, then the dirt on top. Is that right?
It's an awesome setup you will have there when done. Yes, drainage, permeable layer then top soil.

The top soil mix will raise up a myriad of differing opinions here!
 

Brodybreaux25

Chameleon Enthusiast
It's an awesome setup you will have there when done. Yes, drainage, permeable layer then top soil.

The top soil mix will raise up a myriad of differing opinions here!
Well I’m asking for those opinions... does it have to be a special type of soil? Can I just put dirt from my vegetable garden(100% organic)? What about the bugs and cleaning crew? If I were to give you this viv how would you set up the bioactive part?
 

dshuld

Chameleon Enthusiast
Well I’m asking for those opinions... does it have to be a special type of soil? Can I just put dirt from my vegetable garden(100% organic)? What about the bugs and cleaning crew? If I were to give you this viv how would you set up the bioactive part?
If you gave it to me I would set it up exactly like I noted above except using your hydroballs instead of safe-t-sorb since you have it already. I get my dirt from a company that composts plant/ tree materials in the county below me. If you know there's no pesticides in the dirt in your garden then it should be fine to use that. Put your leaf litter over the dirt and add some giant canyons (porcellio dilatatus) and springtails for clean up. I do keep a small piece of cuddle bone hidden in the leaf litter for the giant canyons too as a source of calcium.
 

SharpShooter

Avid Member
Well I’m asking for those opinions... does it have to be a special type of soil? Can I just put dirt from my vegetable garden(100% organic)? What about the bugs and cleaning crew? If I were to give you this viv how would you set up the bioactive part?
Assuming this is for a male then my recipe would be a base of organic soil followed by a mix or organic soil, forest bark mix and also live moss, topped with leaf litter.

As for the cleanup crew, I use the giant orange woodlice and springtails. Just chuck them in and as mentioned in the other thread, feed with Arcadia Custodian Fuel or similar.

As all the internal decoration, vines etc. in mine are all natural, including some nice pieces of oak, that also helps provide a natural environment for the critters.

That's my way, no doubt others do it differently or at least by variation.
 

Syreptyon

Chameleon Enthusiast
I like to use ABG substrate, personally! I've tried the pre-mixed, ready to go formulations from Josh's frogs for smaller vivariums, but have mixed up my own, too (which is much cheaper if you need a larger volume). There are a variety of different formulations of ABG, but in general they include: charcoal, sphagnum moss, peat, and tree fern. I like to use a mixture with a certain ratio of specific components as opposed to just dirt from my garden. The charcoal, especially, is something I love in the ABG!

Josh's Frogs also offers their "biobedding" formula, which includes "beneficial fungi" for setting up bioactivity. Don't know what that means specifically, though!

As for springtails and isopods, I get tropical springtails locally from a reptile specialty shop. I've only ever bought them once to seed my first viv and, since then, I've just been taking from that source and re-seeding my newer enclosures. I like to get fun with isopods, so some of my faves are the giant canyons for their size, orange for their color, and zebras for their patterns. Really want to start a colony of clowns because they're so pretty, but it's hard to justify spending $80 on like 12 microfauna lol. For my pygmies and C. linotum I can only use dwarf white/purple isopods, though, or else they get eaten up quickly as a tasty, calcium-rich snack. There are also people on ebay that sell upwards of 100 isopods (armadillium sp. usually, or some other very bland common ones) for $20-ish, which is a great price, but they're probably wildcaught hence the low price tag.

Then I top off the soil with whatever leaf litter I have lying around. Which is usually a lot, from my various cham enclosure and other plant-based projects. Oh, and I like to feed the microfauna every other week or so with a commercially available food made for them
 
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