Bioactive Questions You've Probably Answered!

AnamCara

Chameleon Enthusiast
Since I am not adding another chameleon to my home (at this time) -- I want to focus on trying to build a bioactive enclosure. I have a few questions I want to ask some experienced Bio Keepers before anything. I tried to scour these forums before asking but I can't find an answer to these.

1. CUC -- what's your favorite? Is there any *two* that should not be kept together? Any good options are there besides Isopods and Springtails?

2. As with all animals -- the poop is a major way to evaluate health. If you have bioactive, how are you seeing the poop? IE -- how long after the poop hits the floor before it's being broken down by the CUC? Even just a peek.

3. I would be building bioactive for a female panther. I've read that the substrate IS the lay bin -- but in lay bins, lots of keepers use play sand or a mix of play sand. How would the CUC / Plants handle a sand/dirt mix?

4. How long do you have your setup running before introducing the chameleon?

5. What are some good lower-light plants to go on the floor? Are there any mosses I absolutely should not use?
5a -- anyone have carnivorous plants in their bioactive?

6. I am in Colorado -- so dry here. Could I get away with not having drainage outside the cage? Just a thick (7-10 inches) substrate and clay balls on the bottom -- or am I asking for trouble? I feel like it would be hard to get it soaking all the way through the clay balls here in the desert, but I'm notoriously wrong on just about everything. Has anyone done Bioactive in CO? (Some of the youtube videos I have watched do not have drainage going outside the enclosure.)

I'd love a bioactive mentor! Woot woot! Thanks Chamily!
 

GoodKarma19

Chameleon Enthusiast
Hiya! I'd never call myself an expert, but I've done a lot of research, spoken a lot with @jamest0o0, and am currently in the middle of two bioactive builds. I'll answer to the best of my ability!

1. CUC -- what's your favorite? Is there any *two* that should not be kept together? Any good options are there bes

I have two mixed CuC cultures and one temperate springtail culture going at the moment. I currently keep o. Asellus isopods in one tub, and a. Vulgare in the other, with a mixture of springtails, detritus millipedes, soil/pot worms, and red wiggler worms in both. Both cultures can fully devour a small pinky mouse within two days. I can't think of any offhand that you shouldn't house together, though if you have multiple CuC with similar feeding niches you may need to supplement their diet with Repashy Morning Wood or Arcadia Custodian Fuel (or similar)!

If I had to pick a favorite, I'd say the detritus milipedes. They'll eat pretty much anything, are very effective at their job even in smaller numbers, and aerate the soil, to boot!



2. As with all animals -- the poop is a major way to evaluate health. If you have bioactive, how are you seeing the poop? IE -- how long after the poop hits the floor before it's being broken do

How long the poop lasts depends on how many/what kinds of CuC you have; I imagine with my crew, I'll have a real heck of a time finding poop unless I catch my cham in the act! I see this as one of the few potential downsides of bioactive

3. I would be building bioactive for a female panther. I've read that the substrate IS the lay bin -- but in lay bins, lots of keepers use play sand or a mix of play sand. How would the CUC / Plants handle a sand/dirt mix?

What I'm planning on doing for my girl is mixing a good tropical potting mix with a sand/succulent mix in approximately a 3:1 ratio. This should be nutritionally adequate for most plants (especially if you add some slow release fertilizer, like I will be), and will hold a tunnel very well. You dont need to go too crazy with the sand; just enough to so the job! This technically links to question 6, as it also speeds soil drainage.

4. How long do you have your setup running before introducing the chameleon?

Ideally, 2 weeks to a month. Most problems (mold, condensation, etc) will show up within the first week, and this buys time for your CuC and plants to get established.

5. What are some good lower-light plants to go on the floor? Are there any mosses I absolutely should not use?
5a -- anyone have carnivorous plants in their bioactive?

I can't think of any mosses you shouldn't use, but live moss can be very picky. What dimensions are your cage, and what sort of lighting are you running? Lighting pretty much determines what will and won't survive, particularly toward the bottom of the enclosure.

Yes, you can incorporate carnivorous plants, though I wouldnt put any butterworts, sundews, or any other sticky plant where your cham can get at it! Tropical pitcher plants (particularly highland nepenthes) are especially well suited for cham enclosures! I have 3 nepenthes that I plan to use between my two enclosures (n. Burkei, n. Varicosa, n. Spectabilis). Mount them somewhere with good light where they'll get plenty of water, and let them go nuts!

6. I am in Colorado -- so dry here. Could I get away with not having drainage outside the cage? Just a thick (7-10 inches) substrate and clay balls on the bottom -- or am I asking for trouble? I feel like it would be hard to get it soaking all the way through the clay balls here in the desert, but I'm notoriously wrong on just about everything. Has anyone done Bioactive in CO? (Some of the youtube videos I have watched do not have drainage going outside the enclosure.)

You probably don't need outside drainage, but I'd at least leave a PVC pipe in so you can siphon off excess water from the drainage layer, just in case. Better safe than sorry!

241765
 

AnamCara

Chameleon Enthusiast
Hiya! I'd never call myself an expert, but I've done a lot of research, spoken a lot with @jamest0o0, and am currently in the middle of two bioactive builds. I'll answer to the best of my ability!



I have two mixed CuC cultures and one temperate springtail culture going at the moment. I currently keep o. Asellus isopods in one tub, and a. Vulgare in the other, with a mixture of springtails, detritus millipedes, soil/pot worms, and red wiggler worms in both. Both cultures can fully devour a small pinky mouse within two days. I can't think of any offhand that you shouldn't house together, though if you have multiple CuC with similar feeding niches you may need to supplement their diet with Repashy Morning Wood or Arcadia Custodian Fuel (or similar)!

If I had to pick a favorite, I'd say the detritus milipedes. They'll eat pretty much anything, are very effective at their job even in smaller numbers, and aerate the soil, to boot!





How long the poop lasts depends on how many/what kinds of CuC you have; I imagine with my crew, I'll have a real heck of a time finding poop unless I catch my cham in the act! I see this as one of the few potential downsides of bioactive



What I'm planning on doing for my girl is mixing a good tropical potting mix with a sand/succulent mix in approximately a 3:1 ratio. This should be nutritionally adequate for most plants (especially if you add some slow release fertilizer, like I will be), and will hold a tunnel very well. You dont need to go too crazy with the sand; just enough to so the job! This technically links to question 6, as it also speeds soil drainage.



Ideally, 2 weeks to a month. Most problems (mold, condensation, etc) will show up within the first week, and this buys time for your CuC and plants to get established.



I can't think of any mosses you shouldn't use, but live moss can be very picky. What dimensions are your cage, and what sort of lighting are you running? Lighting pretty much determines what will and won't survive, particularly toward the bottom of the enclosure.

Yes, you can incorporate carnivorous plants, though I wouldnt put any butterworts, sundews, or any other sticky plant where your cham can get at it! Tropical pitcher plants (particularly highland nepenthes) are especially well suited for cham enclosures! I have 3 nepenthes that I plan to use between my two enclosures (n. Burkei, n. Varicosa, n. Spectabilis). Mount them somewhere with good light where they'll get plenty of water, and let them go nuts!



You probably don't need outside drainage, but I'd at least leave a PVC pipe in so you can siphon off excess water from the drainage layer, just in case. Better safe than sorry!

View attachment 241765
I love you.
 

Zevil

Avid Member
1. CUC -- what's your favorite? Is there any *two* that should not be kept together? Any good options are there besides Isopods and Springtails?

Dwarf grey and dwarf white isopods. But the greys eventually push the whites into extinction. I don't see any dwarf whites anymore. I also have earthworms and silver springtails.

2. As with all animals -- the poop is a major way to evaluate health. If you have bioactive, how are you seeing the poop? IE -- how long after the poop hits the floor before it's being broken down by the CUC? Even just a peek.

I usually see the poop on the leaves of the plants. The brown part gets wash into the substrate eventually but the urates will get stuck on the leaves. I have never seen any brown part of the poop on the substrate.

3. I would be building bioactive for a female panther. I've read that the substrate IS the lay bin -- but in lay bins, lots of keepers use play sand or a mix of play sand. How would the CUC / Plants handle a sand/dirt mix?

I have a male so I might not have the right answer. My substrate is my own mixture of potting soil, fine sand, peat moss, cocopeat, fern fibers and sphagnum moss. It takes time for the CUC and plants to adjust. Sand and dirt mix might work too, provided you put in some leaf litter for the CUC to eat.

4. How long do you have your setup running before introducing the chameleon?

A few weeks.

5. What are some good lower-light plants to go on the floor? Are there any mosses I absolutely should not use?
5a -- anyone have carnivorous plants in their bioactive?

I use the Arcadia jungle dawn megaspot. Shine right to the floor. You can use mosses but they need to be moist most of the time to survive.

6. I am in Colorado -- so dry here. Could I get away with not having drainage outside the cage? Just a thick (7-10 inches) substrate and clay balls on the bottom -- or am I asking for trouble? I feel like it would be hard to get it soaking all the way through the clay balls here in the desert, but I'm notoriously wrong on just about everything. Has anyone done Bioactive in CO? (Some of the youtube videos I have watched do not have drainage going outside the enclosure.)

I only have clay balls for drainage and have no problems. But it depends on how much you mist and how well the moisture evaporates.
 

AnamCara

Chameleon Enthusiast
1. CUC -- what's your favorite? Is there any *two* that should not be kept together? Any good options are there besides Isopods and Springtails?

Dwarf grey and dwarf white isopods. But the greys eventually push the whites into extinction. I don't see any dwarf whites anymore. I also have earthworms and silver springtails.

2. As with all animals -- the poop is a major way to evaluate health. If you have bioactive, how are you seeing the poop? IE -- how long after the poop hits the floor before it's being broken down by the CUC? Even just a peek.

I usually see the poop on the leaves of the plants. The brown part gets wash into the substrate eventually but the urates will get stuck on the leaves. I have never seen any brown part of the poop on the substrate.

3. I would be building bioactive for a female panther. I've read that the substrate IS the lay bin -- but in lay bins, lots of keepers use play sand or a mix of play sand. How would the CUC / Plants handle a sand/dirt mix?

I have a male so I might not have the right answer. My substrate is my own mixture of potting soil, fine sand, peat moss, cocopeat, fern fibers and sphagnum moss. It takes time for the CUC and plants to adjust. Sand and dirt mix might work too, provided you put in some leaf litter for the CUC to eat.

4. How long do you have your setup running before introducing the chameleon?

A few weeks.

5. What are some good lower-light plants to go on the floor? Are there any mosses I absolutely should not use?
5a -- anyone have carnivorous plants in their bioactive?

I use the Arcadia jungle dawn megaspot. Shine right to the floor. You can use mosses but they need to be moist most of the time to survive.

6. I am in Colorado -- so dry here. Could I get away with not having drainage outside the cage? Just a thick (7-10 inches) substrate and clay balls on the bottom -- or am I asking for trouble? I feel like it would be hard to get it soaking all the way through the clay balls here in the desert, but I'm notoriously wrong on just about everything. Has anyone done Bioactive in CO? (Some of the youtube videos I have watched do not have drainage going outside the enclosure.)

I only have clay balls for drainage and have no problems. But it depends on how much you mist and how well the moisture evaporates.
Thank you so much!
 

Trailgem

Avid Member
I needed to add more oak leaves. Refusing to pay for old leaves, and I have oak leaves outside my yard. I put them in the oven at 400 degrees until I smelt them almost burning. Ya think that killed everything on them?
 
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cyberlocc

Chameleon Enthusiast
1. Dwarf Whites and temperate Springtails. Not sure how well they will fair with large poop, it would get broken down into the soil more than eaten I think. P. Scaber are good for poop duty.

2. Depends on your CUC, just watch for them on the act is best way as has been said.

3. Very well, if you pick the right plants, and the right sand. Sand will add a course texture to the soil, it helps with draining. It will also greatly increase your soils PH level. The plants you choose and how you choose to plant them, may or may not like this. Some plants like low PH some like High, with Sandy soil it will be higher. You could add coffee grounds (used) to help balance this out, or Sphagnum Moss, ect.

4. Couple weeks +

5. Ferns

5A. Yep, Nepthenes are good for picking up loose feeders and look good. Butterworts and Sundews are good for picking up fungus gnats. The Butterwort, may be dangerous to a Cham but I doubt it. Sun dews are 100% not.

Those CPs excrete a stick substance to trap the insect, then they curl around it. They are way way way too small to trap a Cham, and their sticky substance can be pulled right away think when you get syrup on your hands, it's super annoying but it won't hurt you. They eat fungus gnats and the likes, they won't even trap a roach. The pitchers are a bigger concern to the Cham, some Neps get large enough they can eat a Cham, and they do eat lizards and amphibians in the wild.

Rule of thumb with that, get one with smaller pitchers at full growth, they vary. Some have pitchers 2inches in diameter some get 8. Base your choice on that, and if the pitchers get large enough to eat the Cham, take it out. It will take alot of years to get that large, so you could use any plant until it starts getting close to big enough. Pretty much any mid life pitcher could eat a baby, so be mindful of that. If the Cham can climb in, don't use it.

6.
You don't need a drain. And I wouldn't use clay.

Clay balls are cool, but they weigh alot, and they hold less water than the Egg Crate method. You can buy egg crate light diffuser at a home store, like 16 dollars, and you make a pedestal, well enforced. (There is videos) and make it as high as you want. If you are worried about drainage make it high, 2-3 inches. That will hold alot of water.

In an enclosed cage like glass or glass live. A Vivarium, (that's what it is your making) doesn't need much water, I mist 1 min in the morning, 3 in the afternoon and 1 at night.

Even then is more than really needed, but I am trying to acclimate epiphytes to grow correctly with out Moss covered roots and that takes lots of water. Eventually I will likely do 1 in the morning, 1 at night, and 5 with a rain system 2-3 times a week.

That Viv has drainage, and it never uses it. No water ever really drains out. When it does it's drips, and the bucket just has some evaporated water and dirt coating on the bottom from the slight dripping.

You can add a saftey drain without adding a drain per se. You put a piece of pipe in the front corner, and silicon it on, make sure drainage area water can get in. Then if needed you can siphon water out.

That all only applies to a Vivarium, if you are doing this in a full screen cage, Your water needs just shot up, and drainage will likely be needed.
 
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AnamCara

Chameleon Enthusiast
1. Dwarf Whites and temperate Springtails. Not sure how well they will fair with large poop, it would get broken down into the soil more than eaten I think. P. Scaber are good for poop duty.

2. Depends on your CUC, just watch for them on the act is best way as has been said.

3. Very well, if you pick the right plants, and the right sand. Sand will add a course texture to the soil, it helps with draining. It will also greatly increase your soils PH level. The plants you choose and how you choose to plant them, may or may not like this. Some plants like low PH some like High, with Sandy soil it will be higher. You could add coffee grounds (used) to help balance this out, or Sphagnum Moss, ect.

4. Couple weeks +

5. Ferns

5A. Yep, Nepthenes are good for picking up loose feeders and look good. Butterworts and Sundews are good for picking up fungus gnats. The Butterwort, may be dangerous to a Cham but I doubt it. Sun dews are 100% not.

Those CPs excrete a stick substance to trap the insect, then they curl around it. They are way way way too small to trap a Cham, and their sticky substance can be pulled right away think when you get syrup on your hands, it's super annoying but it won't hurt you. They eat fungus gnats and the likes, they won't even trap a roach. The pitchers are a bigger concern to the Cham, some Neps get large enough they can eat a Cham, and they do eat lizards and amphibians in the wild.

Rule of thumb with that, get one with smaller pitchers at full growth, they vary. Some have pitchers 2inches in diameter some get 8. Base your choice on that, and if the pitchers get large enough to eat the Cham, take it out. It will take alot of years to get that large, so you could use any plant until it starts getting close to big enough. Pretty much any mid life pitcher could eat a baby, so be mindful of that. If the Cham can climb in, don't use it.

You don't need a drain. And I wouldn't use clay.

Clay balls are cool, but they weigh alot, and they hold less water than the Egg Crate method. You can buy egg crate light diffuser at a home store, like 16 dollars, and you make a pedestal, well enforced. (There is videos) and make it as high as you want. If you are worried about drainage make it high, 2-3 inches. That will hold alot of water.

In an enclosed cage like glass or glass live. A Vivarium, (that's what it is your making) doesn't need much water, I mist 1 min in the morning, 3 in the afternoon and 1 at night.

Even then is more than really needed, but I am trying to acclimate epiphytes to grow correctly with out Moss covered roots and that takes lots of water. Eventually I will likely do 1 in the morning, 1 at night, and 5 with a rain system 2-3 times a week.

That Viv has drainage, and it never uses it. No water ever really drains out. When it does it's drips, and the bucket just has some evaporated water and dirt coating on the bottom from the slight dripping.

You can add a saftey drain without adding a drain per se. You put a piece of pipe in the front corner, and silicon it on, make sure drainage area water can get in. Then if needed you can siphon water out.

That all only applies to a Vivarium, if you are doing this in a full screen cage, Your water needs just shot up, and drainage will likely be needed.
Thank you very much! This is all wonderful information!
 

AnamCara

Chameleon Enthusiast
Hiya! I'd never call myself an expert, but I've done a lot of research, spoken a lot with @jamest0o0, and am currently in the middle of two bioactive builds. I'll answer to the best of my ability!



I have two mixed CuC cultures and one temperate springtail culture going at the moment. I currently keep o. Asellus isopods in one tub, and a. Vulgare in the other, with a mixture of springtails, detritus millipedes, soil/pot worms, and red wiggler worms in both. Both cultures can fully devour a small pinky mouse within two days. I can't think of any offhand that you shouldn't house together, though if you have multiple CuC with similar feeding niches you may need to supplement their diet with Repashy Morning Wood or Arcadia Custodian Fuel (or similar)!

If I had to pick a favorite, I'd say the detritus milipedes. They'll eat pretty much anything, are very effective at their job even in smaller numbers, and aerate the soil, to boot!





How long the poop lasts depends on how many/what kinds of CuC you have; I imagine with my crew, I'll have a real heck of a time finding poop unless I catch my cham in the act! I see this as one of the few potential downsides of bioactive



What I'm planning on doing for my girl is mixing a good tropical potting mix with a sand/succulent mix in approximately a 3:1 ratio. This should be nutritionally adequate for most plants (especially if you add some slow release fertilizer, like I will be), and will hold a tunnel very well. You dont need to go too crazy with the sand; just enough to so the job! This technically links to question 6, as it also speeds soil drainage.



Ideally, 2 weeks to a month. Most problems (mold, condensation, etc) will show up within the first week, and this buys time for your CuC and plants to get established.



I can't think of any mosses you shouldn't use, but live moss can be very picky. What dimensions are your cage, and what sort of lighting are you running? Lighting pretty much determines what will and won't survive, particularly toward the bottom of the enclosure.

Yes, you can incorporate carnivorous plants, though I wouldnt put any butterworts, sundews, or any other sticky plant where your cham can get at it! Tropical pitcher plants (particularly highland nepenthes) are especially well suited for cham enclosures! I have 3 nepenthes that I plan to use between my two enclosures (n. Burkei, n. Varicosa, n. Spectabilis). Mount them somewhere with good light where they'll get plenty of water, and let them go nuts!



You probably don't need outside drainage, but I'd at least leave a PVC pipe in so you can siphon off excess water from the drainage layer, just in case. Better safe than sorry!

View attachment 241765

Back on this ish again....

Did you create a custom bottom for the enclosure to add extra depth? Seems the standard atriums/enclosures don't have enough space on the bottom for 4+ inches of substrate.
 

GoodKarma19

Chameleon Enthusiast
Back on this ish again....

Did you create a custom bottom for the enclosure to add extra depth? Seems the standard atriums/enclosures don't have enough space on the bottom for 4+ inches of substrate.

I have one if the newer glass 36x18x36 ExoTerra enclosures, with a "paludarium" base - there's 8.5-9 inches of useable space between the bottom and the vent strip. I'm not sure how much more space that is than the original model without checking, but I know it gives you a couple inches extra!

For the ReptiBreeze build, I just popped it on a custom planter base, which holds about 9 inches of substrate (including drainage).
 

jamest0o0

Chameleon Enthusiast
Can't believe it's been about 3 years since i built this... always like a good reason to show it off :) but anyway, I made a base, sealed it, and lined with pond liner inside. I made 2 and half ass sealed the one. It got mold even where water didn't touch, lessen learned... seal it well!

Forgot to mention, Almost 2 feet deep. Long shallow drainage bin hidden underneath with a pump that removed excess water into my back yard.
 

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JoXie411

Chameleon Enthusiast
Can't believe it's been about 3 years since i built this... always like a good reason to show it off :) but anyway, I made a base, sealed it, and lined with pond liner inside. I made 2 and half ass sealed the one. It got mold even where water didn't touch, lessen learned... seal it well!

Forgot to mention, Almost 2 feet deep. Long shallow drainage bin hidden underneath with a pump that removed excess water into my back yard.
All those beautiful broms bro :love:
 

CJ's Exotics

Chameleon Enthusiast
Just a question, you put earthworms in the enclosure? I thought earthworms could carry some sort of parasite that can be transmitted upon consumption, was it lung worm? Or am I thinking of something else?
 

GoodKarma19

Chameleon Enthusiast
Just a question, you put earthworms in the enclosure? I thought earthworms could carry some sort of parasite that can be transmitted upon consumption, was it lung worm? Or am I thinking of something else?

Rat lung worm, yes; I'd hesitate to use earthworms of any sort, especially wild caught! Red wigglers, however, are fabulous composers and do well in bioactive set ups :)
 
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