Substrate

danny_cham

Member
Danny’s XL cage is on the way! I’m ordering some trays for the substrate but I wanted to know what substrate would work best.
Currently I’m using exoterra rainforest terrarium substrate with a layer of moss on top.

I want something that will be friendly to plants. I want to be able to grow the plants directly in the cage rather than in a pot as I am currently doing because I think it’ll look nicer.

Any substrate suggestions? Or is what I’m using okay?
 

bruce the cham

Established Member
i would not use any at all it is a big impaction risk even with moss on top i keep it bare and just pick up poop and leaves as needed
 

MissSkittles

Chameleon Enthusiast
If you’d like to use substrate and have your plants directly planted in it, you’ll need to set it up bioactively. While it’s actually much simpler to set up than it may seem, there are some things that are important to do correctly. You’ll need a way to contain your substrates. I use fabric root pouches, which have worked very well for me in my screened enclosures. https://www.homedepot.com/p/Root-Po...Pots-with-Handles-Planter-BB900-45H/306677187 You’ll also want a tray of some sort below that to catch excess. Others have built/used waterproof boxes and run a pvc pipe from the bottom (notched at the bottom) above the top so they can siphon out excess drainage. Having a good drainage layer of clay balls or lava rock is essential so your plant roots won’t rot. Here’s a great blog on the various layers of substrates to use and how to set up. https://www.chameleonforums.com/blogs/intro-to-bio-activity.2429/
Lastly of importance, you’ll need a clean up crew of isopods and springtails. They will keep your enclosure clean and help create a healthy biosphere. Avoid use of moss except for some cut up and mixed well in the substrate.
 

danny_cham

Member
Thank you both for the advice. I still have about a week until the cage gets here (curse you Amazon for not delivering faster), so I’ll have to think over my options and figure out what’s going to be best.
 
@jamest0o0
Tried searching google and on here couldnt find anything.
Any key words or topic I should search? I’m always up to read a bad review.lol 🤓

I haven’t had a bad experience with that company or their products.🤷🏻‍♂️
 

MissSkittles

Chameleon Enthusiast
When I set up my very first bioactive tank (for a leopard gecko), I felt intimidated by making my own substrate and bought some from the Bio Dude. It’s still working just fine in the tank and my only complaint about it is it’s price. For what I spent on one big bag of his substrate, I can buy all of the various components needed to set up several tanks.
 

jamest0o0

Chameleon Enthusiast
@jamest0o0
Tried searching google and on here couldnt find anything.
Any key words or topic I should search? I’m always up to read a bad review.lol 🤓

I haven’t had a bad experience with that company or their products.🤷🏻‍♂️

When I set up my very first bioactive tank (for a leopard gecko), I felt intimidated by making my own substrate and bought some from the Bio Dude. It’s still working just fine in the tank and my only complaint about it is it’s price. For what I spent on one big bag of his substrate, I can buy all of the various components needed to set up several tanks.

Yup for the most part that’s why I wouldn’t. He also has done some shady things making him someone I’d prefer not to support. As for the substrate itself, it’s fine and won’t cause any problems.
 

Uri

Avid Member
For bioactive I’ve mixed my own because it’s always cheapest I mix zilla jungle mix with some cococoir, sphagnum, some mulch and leaf litter and washed organic play sand as well as charcoal and it lasts me for many enclosures and drains pretty well use it for all my tropical animals I’ve also used biodude for a crested gecko and it’s still running strong and their Sahara for a leopard gecko they are very expensive tho I’ve had my eye on leaps substrate but but it does get pricey
 

Uri

Avid Member
No substrate... Floating garden is the way to go for indoors imo.
I disagree with this to an extent it’s very species dependent and just in general depends I will admit for a chameleon that lives 20 feet in the trees there’s no real benefit besides humidity retention but for babies and smaller species of chameleons most live closer to the ground and it also depends on what kind of substrate just plan eco earth is no good if you use substrate indoors it’s gotta be bioactive to have those natural waste recycling and all that for starting out its 100% easier just bare bottom but I don’t think we should say just no soil it has to be done right
 

DonKeesh

Chameleon Enthusiast
It looks like OP has a panther... So floating garden with a clean cage floor and drainage outside the cage would be appropriate. Yes I agree bioactive is a great option for hatchlings and smaller species when executed properly.
 

jamest0o0

Chameleon Enthusiast
I disagree with this to an extent it’s very species dependent and just in general depends I will admit for a chameleon that lives 20 feet in the trees there’s no real benefit besides humidity retention but for babies and smaller species of chameleons most live closer to the ground and it also depends on what kind of substrate just plan eco earth is no good if you use substrate indoors it’s gotta be bioactive to have those natural waste recycling and all that for starting out its 100% easier just bare bottom but I don’t think we should say just no soil it has to be done right
To add to your point, most chams aren’t 20 feet above in their natural habitat, mostly just the Montanes in thick rainforests. Many even come down and occasionally hunt on the ground. Bioactive is absolutely a way to go, looks the nicest and IMO is beneficial to the animal.

I’ve never had problems with all of my chams being bio active, and many of my friends that even breed keep all of their animals bio.

Not going to argue with anyone, to each their own, but it is a very nice and little maintenance option.
 

Jpeff

Chameleon Enthusiast
Keep my panthers and parson in bioactive. And they all go lower in cages. Only one I don't have is my veiled. He in bare bottom cage with a drain. Bioactive is less work if setup right
 

Uri

Avid Member
To add to your point, most chams aren’t 20 feet above in their natural habitat, mostly just the Montanes in thick rainforests. Many even come down and occasionally hunt on the ground. Bioactive is absolutely a way to go, looks the nicest and IMO is beneficial to the animal.

I’ve never had problems with all of my chams being bio active, and many of my friends that even breed keep all of their animals bio.

Not going to argue with anyone, to each their own, but it is a very nice and little maintenance option.
I’ve absorbed my Jackson’s and hoehnelii hunt on the ground for burrowing isopods and black soldier flies that emerges from their pupae very cool to watch sometimes they get a leaf with them but they haven’t been impacted by a small leaf and usually it breaks and they only get a small bit of leaf litter
 

Jpeff

Chameleon Enthusiast
My parson will hunt at bottom. But I also switched to free-range feeding. Just keep food in cages for bugs. They seem happier that way and they are more active. I've haven't had a bite yet and it's been about 4 months with no feeder dishes. I don't do that with roaches though I hand feed them. Mine also eat the leaf liter. Mainly 1 panther and my parson will eat a leaf once in awhile even before I switched to free range feeding. But I don't just dump them in I put near them on branches
 
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