Are you tired of traditional tanks that only provide a limited environment for your pets or plants? If so, it’s time to consider a bioactive vivarium. These enclosures are designed to replicate natural ecosystems, creating more diverse and sustainable habitats for your custodial critters or plants. Not only that, but bioactive vivariums also allow for the introduction of beneficial bugs to help maintain the ecosystem.
Simply put, a vivarium is an enclosure that contains live plants, habitats, custodial critters, insects and microorganisms that help maintain the environment. Unlike traditional tanks, which rely on filters and chemical treatments, bioactive enclosures use nature itself to regulate the ecosystem. Whether you’re interested in a desert terrarium or a rainforest one, there are endless possibilities.
From choosing the right inhabitants to setting up the vivarium or desert terrarium, we’ll cover everything you need to know about making your own bioactive habitats and enclosures.
Layers and Materials for Bioactive Terrariums
Bioactive vivariums are a great way to create a natural environment for your pet reptiles or amphibians, including leopard geckos, crested geckos, and other small lizards. These vivariums mimic the natural habitats of these animals, providing them with a stress-free and healthy home. One of the most important aspects of creating a bioactive vivarium is selecting the right layers and materials.
- Drainage Layers
Drainage layers are an essential component of bioactive habitats such as vivariums for lizards because they help prevent waterlogging in the substrate. This layer allows excess water to drain away from the soil, preventing root rot and mold growth. The ideal drainage layer should be made up of materials that don’t break down quickly or retain moisture, such as gravel or clay balls. It also creates a suitable environment for microfauna to thrive in.
The substrate is another critical component of bioactive vivariums. It provides nutrients for plant growth, helps maintain humidity levels, and creates a natural environment for your pets, including lizards and bugs. The best substrates for bioactive habitats are those made up of organic material like coconut coir, sphagnum moss, peat moss, or soil.
A thick layer of substrate is necessary for desert terrarium inhabitants to provide enough space for plant roots to grow deeply into bioactive substrates. A depth of at least 3 inches is recommended to ensure that there’s enough room for both plants, beneficial microorganisms, and habitats.
- Decorative Materials
Cork bark is a versatile material that can be used for both decoration and function in bioactive habitats and vivariums. It creates ideal hiding spots for lizards and geckos, while also retaining moisture within its crevices. Other decorative materials such as rocks, driftwood, branches, and artificial plants can also be added to enhance the overall look of the habitat.
Pillars of Bioactive Terrarium
Creating a vibrant, self-sustaining bioactive terrarium can be a rewarding experience, offering a unique insight into the workings of natural ecosystems. To achieve this, there are several core elements, or the”pillars”, to consider that play pivotal roles in this miniature world.
Each of these components provides an essential function within your terrarium, contributing to its overall health, balance, and aesthetic appeal. Let’s explore each of these pillars in more detail.
- Microorganisms: The Custodians of your Bioactive Ecosystem
Your bioactive ecosystem heavily relies on certain small organisms, essentially acting as the stars of this miniature world. Various options are available for these crucial characters, and we’ll delve into some top choices in the sections below.
As detritivores, they primarily engage in decomposing organic matter, transforming it into valuable nutrients for your terrarium’s flora. Some of these tiny organisms come with added features, providing additional advantages.
- Fungi: Unrecognized Contributors within the Terrarium
Contrary to the prevalent misconceptions within the terrarium community, fungi, including mushrooms and mycelium, are indispensable components of nature. Much like the microorganisms mentioned earlier, fungi excel in decomposing waste and converting it into useful substances.
The nutrients produced are utilized by plants for their growth, oxygen production, and fostering a humid environment within the ecosystem.
It’s worth noting that many soils, plant types, and woods naturally harbor beneficial fungi spores, ready to grow into mycelium.
- Natural Ornaments: Using Wood and Rocks
Some types of wood, like mopani, offer natural resistance against decay. Over an extended period, these woods can decompose and contribute additional nutrients to your microorganisms.
On the other hand, if you’re aiming for a rugged, mountainous appearance, lava rock can be an excellent choice. Its high porosity helps with water retention and facilitates the formation of stunning natural structures.
This component is generally best introduced after setting up your substrate layer but before introducing the plants.
- Leaf Litter: Nature’s Bioactive Feed
There’s a wide array of bioactive feeds available for your clean-up crew in the market. However, a more organic approach would be to lightly scatter leaf litter within your terrarium during its set up. This provides an excellent initial source of nourishment for your microorganisms.
Collecting leaves from the wild is an option, but remember to microwave them beforehand to eliminate any harmful bacteria.
If it’s not autumn, or if the idea of microwaving leaves from your backyard isn’t appealing, you can conveniently purchase a bag from Etsy. Adding dry leaves marks the final step in making your terrarium bioactive!
Tips on Creating Bioactive Terrariums
- Choose appropriate plants: Select terrarium inhabitants that thrive in humid habitats with low light conditions. Here are some bioactive tips for lizards: consider adding plants that can provide a natural hiding spot and help regulate humidity levels in the enclosure.
- Bioactive tips: Avoid using pesticides in habitats with bioactive substrates to protect beneficial bacteria living in the substrate.
- Clean regularly: Regular cleaning with appropriate cleaners ensures that mold and other harmful bacteria don’t grow in bioactive vivarium habitats. Here are some bioactive tips for maintaining a healthy habitat.
- Use a hygrometer: A hygrometer helps you monitor humidity levels to ensure they remain within the optimal range for your geckos and dragons’ habitat. Check out some bioactive tips to maintain a healthy environment for your pets.
- Research before buying: Before purchasing any plants or animals for your vivarium habitat, research their specific needs to ensure that they’re compatible with your bioactive substrate. This is especially important if you plan on housing dragons in your vivarium.
Types of Bioactive Substrates
The type of bioactive substrate you use will depend on the primary species you choose for your habitat or vivarium. Here are some options:
- Soil-based substrates: These substrates typically contain soil mixed with organic matter like coconut coir or sphagnum moss. They’re great for burrowing animals and can provide a suitable habitat in bioactive vivaria. However, it’s important to note that not all plant types may thrive in bioactive vivarium setups.
- Sand-based substrates: These substrates usually contain sand mixed with clay or loam soil. They’re good for desert-dwelling animals and can be used in a bioactive vivarium habitat or bioactive vivaria, but may not hold moisture well enough for some plant species.
- Clay-based substrates: These substrates containing clay mixed with organic matter are great for plants that require high humidity levels and are suitable for bioactive vivarium habitats. However, they may not be appropriate for all animal species.
Bulk Substrate Options
Bulk substrate is a popular option for bioactive setups, as it provides a natural habitat for your organisms to thrive in. However, it’s important to be careful of bad bacteria that can harm your species. Here are some bulk substrate options:
- Coconut coir: This is a popular choice as it’s affordable, holds moisture well, and doesn’t compact easily, making it an ideal bioactive substrate for creating a habitat in a bioactive vivarium.
- Sphagnum moss: This is another good option that holds moisture well and can help maintain humidity levels in your bioactive vivarium habitat with the use of bioactive substrate.
- Soil: If you choose to use soil as your bulk substrate, make sure it’s free of pesticides or other harmful chemicals that can harm the habitat.
Best Bioactive Plants
Choosing the right plants for your bioactive setup will depend on the primary species you’ve chosen and their habitat preferences. Substrate type is also an important factor to consider when selecting plants. Here are some popular choices:
- Pothos: This plant can thrive in both bright light or low light conditions with the help of bioactive substrate, and requires low maintenance.
Steps to Setting Up Heating and Lighting Devices
Setting up heating and lighting devices for your bioactive terrarium is crucial in ensuring that your plants and animals thrive in a suitable environment. One important factor to consider is the substrate, as it can affect the overall temperature and humidity levels in the enclosure. Here are some steps to follow when setting up the heating and lighting system for your bioactive terrarium:
Determine the heating and lighting needs of your bioactive terrarium setup.
Before you start setting up the heating and lighting devices, it is essential to determine the specific needs of your bioactive terrarium. You need to consider factors such as the type of plants and animals you want to house, their temperature requirements, humidity levels, light intensity, duration, and substrate.
For instance, tropical plants require higher temperatures than desert plants, while nocturnal animals prefer dimmer lights than diurnal ones. Once you have determined these factors, it will be easier to choose appropriate heating devices and a lighting system that complement your choice of bioactive substrate.
Choose the appropriate heating devices and lighting system for your terrarium.
There are several ways to heat a bioactive terrarium setup. Some options include using under-tank heaters or heat mats placed beneath the tank’s bottom surface or installing ceramic heat emitters (CHEs) or infrared bulbs on top of the tank’s screen lid. The substrate can also play a role in maintaining proper temperature levels.
When choosing a lighting system, ensure that it provides adequate light intensity needed by your plants while also considering energy efficiency. LED lights are an excellent option since they produce less heat while providing sufficient light intensity. It is important to consider the substrate used for your plants when selecting lighting to ensure optimal growth.
Plan the placement of your heating and lighting devices to ensure even distribution.
The placement of your heating and lighting devices plays a critical role in ensuring that there is even distribution throughout the enclosure. For example, placing CHEs on one side of the tank can cause uneven temperature distribution leading to hot spots that may harm animals or damage plants.
To achieve even distribution in temperature and light intensity across all areas of your bioactive terrarium setup, place multiple heat sources strategically around different parts of the enclosure while ensuring that the lighting system is evenly distributed.
Build a heating and lighting system that is easy to use and maintain.
When setting up your bioactive terrarium’s heating and lighting devices, ensure that you build a system that is easy to use and maintain. This includes choosing devices with adjustable thermostats, timers, or dimmer switches for controlling temperature and light intensity.
Ensure that the system has proper ventilation to prevent overheating or moisture buildup. It would help if you also considered using a surge protector to safeguard against electrical damage.
Start with the basics and add more devices as needed to achieve the desired temperature and light levels.
It’s best to start with basic heating and lighting devices when setting up your bioactive terrarium setup. Once you have monitored their effectiveness in maintaining suitable temperatures and light intensity, you can add more devices as needed.
For instance, if your plants require higher humidity levels than what your current setup provides, consider adding misting systems or foggers. If you notice hot spots in some areas of your enclosure, consider installing additional heat sources.
Adding Invertebrates and Decomposers to Your Vivarium
In a bioactive terrarium, invertebrates and decomposers are essential for maintaining a healthy and balanced ecosystem. They serve as the vivarium’s cleanup crew by breaking down waste products such as feces, uneaten food, and dead plant matter.
Importance of Invertebrates and Decomposers
Invertebrates and decomposers play a crucial role in the vivarium’s ecosystem. Without them, waste products would accumulate, leading to poor air quality, foul odors, and potential health issues for the inhabitants. By breaking down these waste materials, they help to maintain a clean environment that is conducive to healthy plant growth and happy animals.
Some examples of invertebrates commonly found in bioactive terrariums include earthworms, worms, fungi, microfauna (such as springtails), isopods, millipedes. These organisms not only break down waste but also provide additional benefits such as aerating the soil and providing a food source for larger animals like geckos or snakes.
Benefits for Macro Organisms
Geckos and snakes are macro-organisms that can benefit from having a diverse mix of invertebrates and decomposers in their vivarium. In addition to serving as a food source for these animals, some species of isopods have been shown to reduce parasitic infections in reptiles when used as part of their substrate.
Including these organisms also adds an extra layer of complexity to the vivarium’s ecosystem. Watching them interact with one another can be fascinating for both children and adults alike.
Examples of Invertebrates and Decomposers
Here are some examples of common invertebrates that can be added to your bioactive terrarium:
- Earthworms: These organisms burrow through soil aerating it while consuming decaying organic matter.
- Springtails: Microscopic organisms that consume fungi and bacteria, they are an excellent food source for smaller animals.
- Isopods: Also known as pill bugs or roly-polies, these creatures feed on dead plant material and help to control mold growth.
- Millipedes: These arthropods consume decaying plant matter and also provide a food source for larger animals like snakes.
- Fungi: Mushrooms and other types of fungi break down organic matter in the soil.
The Pillars of a Bioactive Setup: Why Make One?
If you’re looking for a new and exciting way to take care of your pets, then a bioactive terrarium might be just what you need. A bioactive setup is more than just a place for your pets to live; it’s an entire ecosystem that replicates the natural habitat of your pets while also being self-sustaining.
Pillar 1: Natural Habitat Replication
One of the most significant benefits of having a bioactive terrarium is that it allows you to replicate the natural habitat of your pets. This means creating an environment with the right temperature, humidity levels, lighting conditions, and substrate that they would experience in their natural habitat. By doing so, you can create a space where your pets can thrive and be happier.
For example, if you have reptiles or amphibians as pets, then creating an environment with plenty of hiding spots and climbing areas will help them feel more comfortable. You could add rocks, branches, or other objects that mimic their natural surroundings.
Pillar 2: Self-Sustaining Ecosystem
Another key benefit of having a bioactive setup is that it creates a self-sustaining ecosystem. Unlike traditional setups where you have to clean out waste regularly, in a bioactive terrarium, waste becomes food for microorganisms like springtails and isopods.
These tiny creatures break down waste materials into nutrients that plants can use as food. In turn, these plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen back into the environment.
This cycle creates an equilibrium where everything works together to sustain life within the terrarium without outside intervention.
Pillar 3: Healthier and Happier Pets
When animals are kept in environments that mimic their natural habitats, they tend to be healthier and happier. For example, reptiles that are kept in a bioactive terrarium with proper temperature and humidity levels are less likely to suffer from respiratory infections or other health issues.
Furthermore, because the ecosystem is self-sustaining, your pets will have access to a more varied diet than they would in traditional setups. This can lead to better overall health and well-being.
Pillar 4: Low Maintenance and Cost-Effective
Finally, a bioactive setup can be low maintenance and cost-effective in the long run. While it may require some initial investment to set up the ecosystem, once it’s established, you’ll spend less time cleaning and maintaining the environment.
Because waste is used as food for microorganisms instead of being thrown away, you won’t need to purchase as much substrate or food for your pets over time.
Habitat Features and Decorations to Include in Your Bioactive Terrarium
Creating a bioactive terrarium is an excellent way to provide your pets with a natural habitat that mimics their wild environment. To make your bioactive terrarium as close to nature as possible, you need to include specific features and decorations in the enclosure. Here are some of the essential elements you should consider when setting up your bioactive terrarium.
Incorporate Natural Features like Leaves and Bark to Mimic a Natural Habitat
One of the most important things you can do when creating a bioactive terrarium is incorporating natural features such as leaves and bark. These items not only add aesthetic value but also mimic the natural habitat of your pet. For instance, if you’re creating a desert-themed bioactive terrarium, adding rocks, sand, or driftwood will create an ideal environment for desert-dwelling pets.
Use Cypress Mulch or Orchid Bark as Substrate for Your Bioactive Terrarium
The substrate is another critical aspect of any bioactive terrarium. It provides foundation support for plants while also providing hiding places for pets. Cypress mulch or orchid bark is an excellent choice because it’s organic and retains moisture well. These substrates help break down waste material in the enclosure.
Create Hiding Places for Your Pets to Feel Secure and Safe
Pets need hiding places where they can retreat when feeling threatened or overwhelmed. Hiding spots also provide shelter from bright light sources that could be harmful to their eyesight. You can use cork bark tubes, coconut shells, or even PVC pipes cut into half-moon shapes to create perfect hiding spots for your pets.
Include Plants in Your Enclosure to Create a Thriving Ecosystem
Plants play an essential role in any ecosystem by providing oxygen through photosynthesis while also absorbing carbon dioxide from the air. They also help regulate humidity levels within the enclosure by releasing moisture into the air. Some of the best plants to include in your bioactive terrarium include pothos, spider plants, and ferns.
Consider the Natural World When Selecting Decorations for Your Bioactive Terrarium
When selecting decorations for your bioactive terrarium, it’s essential to consider elements from the natural world. For instance, if you’re creating a rainforest-themed enclosure, adding vines or moss-covered rocks will create an ideal environment for pets like tree frogs or geckos.
Tips for Monitoring Temperature, Humidity, and Water Levels
Maintaining the right temperature, humidity, and water levels in your bioactive terrarium is essential to keep your plants and animals happy and healthy.
Use a Hygrometer to Monitor Humidity Levels Regularly
Humidity is an important factor in a bioactive terrarium as it affects both the plants and animals living inside. High humidity can lead to mold growth while low humidity can cause dehydration. Therefore, it is crucial to monitor humidity levels regularly using a hygrometer.
A hygrometer is a device that measures relative humidity in the air. It should be placed at different locations inside the terrarium to get accurate readings of the overall moisture content. If you notice that the humidity level is too high or too low, make necessary adjustments by adding or removing water from the terrarium.
Place Water Dishes on the Cooler Side of the Terrarium to Help Balance Humidity
One way to balance humidity levels in your bioactive terrarium is by placing water dishes on the cooler side of the enclosure. This helps create a humid microclimate around that area while keeping other parts of the enclosure dry.
When choosing which type of water dish to use, look for ones that are shallow but wide enough for your animals to drink from comfortably. Also, make sure that they are easy to clean and do not take up too much space inside your terrarium.
Try Adding a Small Amount of Sphagnum Moss to Increase Moisture and Prevent Mold Growth
Sphagnum moss is an excellent addition to any bioactive terrarium as it helps increase moisture levels while preventing mold growth. This type of moss absorbs water quickly and releases it slowly over time, keeping moisture levels consistent throughout your enclosure.
To use sphagnum moss, simply place a little bit of it in areas where you want to increase humidity levels. You can also mix it with the substrate to create a more humid environment for your plants and animals.
Monitor Water Levels Regularly
In addition to monitoring humidity levels, it is also essential to keep an eye on water levels inside your terrarium. Animals need access to clean drinking water at all times, so make sure that their water dishes are always full.
If you have live plants in your enclosure, they may require watering from time to time as well. Check the soil moisture level regularly and add water as needed.
Conclusion: Maintaining a Healthy and Thriving Bioactive Vivarium
Congratulations on taking the first step towards creating your own bioactive terrarium! By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can create a thriving ecosystem that will not only be visually stunning but also beneficial to your plants and animals.
Remember to choose the right materials and species for your setup, set up heating and lighting devices correctly, add invertebrates and decomposers to your vivarium, include habitat features and decorations, and monitor temperature, humidity, and water levels regularly.
Creating a bioactive terrarium is not only rewarding but also sustainable. By mimicking natural ecosystems, you are providing a healthy environment for your plants and animals while reducing maintenance time.
So go ahead and start building your own bioactive terrarium today! You’ll be amazed at how quickly it becomes a self-sustaining system.
Q: Do I need to clean my bioactive terrarium?
A: Yes, but less frequently than traditional setups. The decomposers will help break down waste products naturally. However, spot cleaning may still be necessary from time to time.
Q: Can I use any type of plant in my bioactive setup?
A: It’s best to research which plants are suitable for the specific species of animals you plan to keep. Some plants may be toxic or harmful if ingested by certain animals.
Q: How often should I feed my animals in a bioactive setup?
A: This depends on the species of animal you have. Research their feeding habits and adjust accordingly. Keep in mind that some decomposers may also consume uneaten food.
Q: What types of lighting should I use for my bioactive terrarium?
A: This depends on the needs of your plants and animals. Consider factors such as UVB requirements for reptiles or full spectrum lighting for plants.
Q: Can I use a bioactive terrarium for my pet snake?
A: Yes, bioactive setups can be beneficial for snakes. However, it’s important to research which species of plants and animals are suitable for your specific type of snake.
Q: Do I need to add supplements to the soil in my bioactive setup?
A: This depends on the needs of your plants. Some may require additional nutrients or minerals that are not present in the soil.
Q: How do I prevent mold growth in my bioactive terrarium?
A: Proper ventilation and monitoring humidity levels can help prevent mold growth. Avoid overwatering and remove any decaying organic matter promptly.
Q: Can I keep multiple species in one bioactive setup?
A: It’s possible, but it’s important to research which species are compatible with each other and have similar environmental requirements.
Q: Do I need to provide a water source for my decomposers?
A: Yes, some decomposers such as isopods and springtails require a moist environment to survive. Providing a water source such as a shallow dish or misting regularly can help maintain proper moisture levels.