Arboreal reptiles are fascinating and unique creatures that are commonly kept as pets by reptile enthusiasts. When it comes to creating an enclosure for them, the goal should be to replicate their natural environment as closely as possible. This is where biologically active setups come in handy. By adding certain elements to the enclosure, in addition to the standard decor, owners can create a thriving ecosystem, improving the environmental quality and enriching the lives of their pets.
One element that has gained popularity in recent years is the addition of isopods to create bioactive enclosures. Isopods are small, crustacean-like creatures that can help break down, process and recycle waste, dead plant material and other organic matter in the terrarium or vivarium. This reduces the need for constant cleaning and maintenance plus enhances nutrient cycling and soil health.
In this blog post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about creating a bioactive enclosure for arboreal reptiles using isopods, including terrarium design, materials, plant selection, and care required.
Before you dive into the process of setting up the enclosure, it is important to consider the type of arboreal reptiles you are keeping. Each species has specific requirements regarding temperature, humidity, light and substrate. Additionally, it is important to build a terrarium that has enough space for your pet to climb and explore.
When creating an arboreal enclosure, it is recommended to use a vertical terrarium, as arboreal reptiles tend to spend a majority of their time in the trees rather than on the ground surface. Generally, the terrarium should be tall enough to allow the reptile to climb and move around with ease.
The material used for the enclosure should be sturdy, non-toxic, and safe for the reptile’s health. avoid using materials like metals and plastics as they can cause injury to the reptiles. However, materials such as rocks, driftwood, cork, and orchid bark are recommended. These materials provide a natural look and feel of the reptile’s natural habitat while allowing them to move, hide, and bask as they would in the wild.
Substrate selection and layering
The substrate is the material that lines the bottom of the enclosure in which your reptile lives. It is important to choose a substrate that suits your reptile’s needs and preferences. It must also be able to hold moisture and humidity, absorb waste and odors and provide a suitable environment for isopods to thrive and do their work.
Bioactive terrariums often use substrates that are rich in organic matter. Commonly used substrates include coconut coir, sphagnum moss, and forest floor soil mixtures. These materials provide a natural look and feel to the enclosure plus they retain moisture and provide the necessary aeration for the roots of the plants.
When layering substrate in a bioactive enclosure, it is recommended that you have a minimum of three layers – drainage, charcoal, and soil. The drainage layer is made up of coarse materials such as rocks and pebbles that allow excess water to drain through, away from the root system. The charcoal layer sits on top of the drainage later and helps to filter and purify the water that seeps through, removing harmful chemicals and contaminants. The soil layer sits on top of the charcoal layer and will hold the roots of the plants, provide the necessary nutrients for the plants, and also serve as a substrate for the isopods to break down organic matter.
In bioactive terrariums, plants play a vital role in creating a natural ecosystem. Besides, they enhance the aesthetic appeal, provide cover, and create hiding spots for your pets. Plants also help regulate the humidity in the terrarium, which is essential for the health of the reptile.
When selecting plants for the arboreal terrarium, it is important to choose those that can tolerate and thrive in the same environmental conditions and those that can withstand the weight and activity of an arboreal reptile. Make sure you research the specific plant requirements before adding to your enclosure.
Some plants that work well in a bioactive arboreal enclosure include bromeliads, pothos, ferns, orchids, and Ficus. Bromeliads are low-maintenance, humidity-loving plants that grow well in the high-humidity environment of a terrarium. Pothos and ferns are excellent climbers and provide hiding spots for the reptiles. Orchids are also good climbers and add colour and beauty to the enclosure. Ficus can be trained to grow against the walls giving a more naturalistic feel.
After setting up the enclosure, it’s time to add the isopods. These tiny organisms have an essential role to play in a bioactive enclosure. They are scavengers, breaking down the waste materials into nutrients that the soil and plants can utilise.
There are many different types of isopods that can be used in a bioactive enclosure, with Armadillidium vulgare being a common choice because of their ability to thrive in a warm, humid environment. A few isopods should be added initially and then a few more after some time, to adjust to the rate at which they reproduce. Typically, 10-15 isopods per square foot is recommended for standard biological load.
Caring for the Isopods
Isopods require very little care, but it is important to monitor their population and make adjustments to keep their numbers in check. Excessive population of isopods can lead to competition for food and space, reduced nutrient cycling and other issues.
If you notice that the numbers are increasing, consider reducing the amount of food, or only feeding the reptile when it is present, so that the isopods don’t consume all the food and have an opportunity to break down organic matter. Alternatively, you could remove some from the enclosure, and give them to other bioactive setups around the house or sell them to other enthusiasts.
Creating a bioactive enclosure for your arboreal reptile is an excellent way to provide a natural, healthy environment for your pet. By adding isopods to your enclosure, you create an ecosystem that is self-sustaining and reduces the need for constant cleaning and maintenance. It is important to remember that each species has specific requirements, so it is essential to research the needs specific to your pet. With the right materials, substrate, plants, and isopods, you can create a thriving ecosystem that is both beautiful and beneficial to your pet’s health.