What is a bioactive terrarium?


Bioaktív kaméleon terrárium

We've already talked about terrariumswith plants (whether planted in coconut fibre soil or in a thin layer of soil), but let's look at an other type of terrarium for chameleons. Let's talk about bioactive terrariums in this post!

First, what is a bioactive terrarium?

The easiest way to introduce the term bioactive terrarium for beginners is to say:

The bottom of a bioactive terrarium consists of a 10-15 cm high, layered soil system in which various plants are planted and some kind of "cleaning staff" is added, usually aphids, woodlice, springtails, jumping insects.

This in itself creates a moderately self-sustaining system, providing a natural environment for your pet, a mini ecosystem.

But let's look at this in a little more detail.

Soil layers:

1., The first element of the soil is a so-called drainage layer, which is spread a few centimetres thick at the bottom of the terrarium (usually a ball of clay). This layer ensures that any excess water in the system is captured, thus avoiding stagnant water in the terrarium and allowing just enough water to return to the ecosystem from below. Without this, our soil will quickly become clogged, providing a breeding ground for fungal growth and bacterial growth, mould. This layer should be filled with fresh water from time to time to prevent the ecosystem from drying out.

2., A second element is placed on top of this drainage layer to provide a connection between the soil and the drainage layer. This is actually a fabric layer. Another function of this is to prevent the soil layers from mixing and the drowning of woodlices and springtails (collembola).

3., The third layer provides an excellent medium for planting and keeping plants alive. This layer is a mixture of different soils, ideally using at least 4-5 soil types. All of these are nutrient-rich, with the addition of dead plant parts, tree trimmings, leaves and sphagnum moss. These additional ingredients are visible to the naked eye and provide food and shelter for the cleaning crew. The soil should be thick enough to provide sufficient nutrients for each of the plants planted. Without the right soil mix, our soil can dry out quickly, possibly not absorbing the added water well later on, and as a result, plants can dry out, wither and die.

After planting the plants, cover the top of your soil with dry leaves and pieces of bark, which will serve as a hiding place for your aces. To keep the woodlice alive, you also need to keep the moss moist, the best moss for this is the spaghnum moss mentioned above. We recommend adding other moss species only on the ground, not elsewhere, as we will not be able to keep them alive in the long term. Mosses need high humidity and moisture to survive, unfortunately they will quickly dry out under a heat lamp. If we try to provide high humidity for mosses in the terrarium, preventing them from drying out, we are risking the health of our chameleon. The combination of too high humidity and the use of a heat lamp can cause respiratory illnesses and can also encourage the growth of bacteria and fungi that are harmful to its well-being.

Now all we have to do is choose a species of isopod to keep our terrarium clean. We should also introduce tropical springtails to make the system work even better. We would like to point out that even they cannot keep a bioactive terrarium completely clean, they need human help.


What plants should we plant in the terrarium?

The choosing of the plants is one of the key issues in the system, as we obviously want it to be a long-term joy not only for our animals, but also for us, so that it can be a decoration in our home. Therefore is worth choosing species that are easy to keep alive in the terrarium, and thus avoid failing. If planted in properly mixed soil, some plants may soon need to be pruned back because they have become overgrown in your terrarium.

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