Isopods and springtails for bio active substrate?

guanagator

Avid Member
I've been researching bioactive substrates out of curiosity for some time now and am finally going to make the switch in a few of my males enclosures and possibly one female. I've got the basics down and have started to get things together and ordered springtails today from Josh's Frogs but am having a hard time finding info on the isopods, any species I should be looking for in particular or tips on where to buy would be appreciated. Any general advice from someone doing this already would also be nice! Thanks.
 

TheCoop

Member
Well you have dwarf white, dwarf purple for small isopods the giant orange for large.. All 3 species will work. Isopods are a great cleaning crew and have also been known to eat mites, they are also a safe feeder source if they are eaten. NEherp is great, http://www.neherpetoculture.com.. I would just mail you some but im out of starter cultures..
 

guanagator

Avid Member
Thanks Coop, I'm looking at using Florida Fast Isopods and or some dwarf striped, Dwarf Purple, Dwarf white. Original plan was to use them all mixed together but now thinking I may seed a few set ups with different types and compare how they perform against each other. It would be interesting to see what each part of the clean up crew excels at or if they are all more generalist. I'll rate them on fecal decomposition time, dead insect consumption, shed skin consumption, potential for plant eating as I use all live plants.
 
I originally bought the dwarf whites for my set-ups.. The reproduced slowly.. So I started collecting from outside locally and brought in my own isopods and millipedes.. All my cages are completely seeded now and I haven't had to clean an enclosure in at least 8 months
 

guanagator

Avid Member
I originally bought the dwarf whites for my set-ups.. The reproduced slowly.. So I started collecting from outside locally and brought in my own isopods and millipedes.. All my cages are completely seeded now and I haven't had to clean an enclosure in at least 8 months
That's what I'm hoping to achieve! When you started with the dwarf whites how big was your starter culture?
 

TheCoop

Member
Please remember WC isopods carry parasites, so unless bred over several generations i would caution tossing fresh collected isopods in any enclosure.
 
I've heard of isopods being used as a feeder for chameleons, but did not know they could be used for cleaning enclosures? More info or links about this would be much appreciated. Otherwise I suppose I could search too
 

guanagator

Avid Member
The basic concept is you create a bioactive substrate that supports the natural decomposition processes by having organisms that consume decaying plant material, waste, dead feeders etc. From what I've read it's more common among European keepers and also the dart frog community. If done successfully then the enclosure will maintain itself as far as daily cleaning duties go.
 
My dwarf white starters were from Joshs frogs and probably about 50-75 like coops... However they rarely have them in stock.. As for the parasite debate.. Yes they can carry parasites... I also feed wc bugs of all sorts probably 6 months out of the year... And have fecals done biannually...
 

guanagator

Avid Member

Got things started today, springtails didn't show up yet unfortunately but I got the soil, isopods and leaf litter in anyway. Both have Florida fast isopods, one with close up has dwarf whites the other dwarf purple. These are both female set ups so instead of a drainage layer under the soil is about 8 inches of washed play sand. Younger one on the left is gravid with her first infertile clutch so figured that would be good test for how egg laying and tunnel construction go with the bioactive layer.
 

guanagator

Avid Member
Update time, over the last few months I have been keeping 3 of my Panther Chameleons on the bioactive set ups, two female one male. I haven't cleaned any of those enclosures other than rotating a few of the leaves that had feces on them the first few weeks as the cultures established. They don't smell any different than the other enclosures with bare floors and it has been easier so far once I dialed things in. Fecal matter typically is broken down within a few days and the one set up I planted directly into has really taken off. I did slightly adjust my misting schedule to compensate for humidity changes but with the weather patterns we have been having in Florida I think I would have had to do that anyway, typically our dry season its rained almost every week this winter.

I planned on the first clutch being an infertile one however as often happens the chameleons had other ideas. Blue my young female ended up retaining her clutch while Ruby the older one laid a fertile clutch from retained sperm on new years. She tunneled into the bioactive substrate with no issues, only difference between this clutch and the last one in a typical laying bin set up was the false tunnels. Last clutch she dug 3 tunnels, laid in deepest one and this time around she dug one big hole with a couple side tunnels it was easier to tell where she had dug because she reburied with soil mixed in. Instead of laying the eggs in deep tunnel the clutch was in a side tunnel that came back to the front wall of the bin. A bit nerve racking I had overlooked that one at first, I was quite confused for about 10 minutes of searching as she had obviously laid her eggs.

Overall happy with these and am planning on transitioning the rest of my enclosures over once I can culture enough bioactive soil myself. Next up will be one of the quads probably Larry my Male Quad Quad is at the end of his quarantine and getting ready to be upgraded to a dragonstrand. The breeder series laying bins make a great bioactive container that is deep enough for plants to root in and can serve double duty as a laying bin for females.
 

Lathis

Chameleon Enthusiast
This is good to know! Thanks for the update. I've just set a bioactive viv up for my frog and am letting it "cycle" before moving him over. I'm not sure if the live sheet moss will go through a die off and grow back or settle in just fine. I need to order springtails.

I'm a little worried about adding isopods to the mix. I have bred two species so far, orange and giant canyon, and both were prolific breeders (to the point where with the giant canyon isopods, I have to cull the colony regularly). I'll keep my eyes open for dwarf whites for sale.
 

guanagator

Avid Member
So far I haven't noticed one species being more prolific than the rest, sometimes I flip some leaves over and just watch and I can clearly see both the whites and purples still moving around, the springtails are smaller I have trouble seeing them in the enclosures but pretty sure I saw some in the scoops I took out to start more cultures.
 

nick barta

Chameleon Enthusiast
Site Sponsor
Isopods retain heavy metals in addition to parasite risks. In your (awesome) enclosures, it would probably be rare that they would come out and attract a chameleons attention I would think, so not so much of a worry about metals and parasites IMHO.

CHEERS!

Nick
 

guanagator

Avid Member
Thanks! They are well fed (y) don't think a tiny isopod will attract much attention. I've yet to see them hunting anything on the ground but have regular fecal checks just in case anything develops.
 
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