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Old 03-04-2017, 08:15 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Bioactive Vivarium

I'm really attracted to the behavioural and health improvements noticed by Bente the author of 'Hedgehogs of Asgard' when she started to use a bioactive enclosure for her African Pygmy Hedgehog:
http://hedgehogsofasgard.com/post/15...-habitats-pt-4

I was going to use my blog for a summary of what I've done and how I feel about it, but I was hoping to use here to hive mind what I'm thinking of trying before I give it a go.

I'm at the 'Research' stage and I'm planning on trying out Savanna/Grassland inspired bioactive enclosures (probably in plastic tubs until I stop messing it up housing plants and bug life adding the hog for foraging/enrichment playtime to see how it goes before planning to convert the vivarium.

Some reading

Reptile Bioactive Vivariums
http://www.reptilecentre.com/blog/20...thon-vivarium/
http://reptileapartment.com/bio-acti...g-reptile-art/
http://geckoforums.net/f175-vivariums/102660.htm
http://bioactiveherps.co.uk/setting-...ive-enclosure/

Got more reading for me? Let me know!

Chai's hedgehog enclosure is currently:
  • Carefresh Substrate
  • Soft Hay (meadow) to rummage
  • Forage box made from a shoe box with a hole cut in the side, cardboard based bedding and carefresh.
  • Trixie House
  • Cardboard tunnel she politely ignores
  • Wood (aquarium) to climb and to hide food in the nooks and crannies
  • Water bowls (2) Food bowls (cat biscuits in one, insects and fresh cooked food in the second)
  • UK advice is to not give a hog a wheel until a hog is 12 weeks old; she has one but it's offered during playtime and isn't in her vivarium per contract with breeder. I've learned that there's little evidence supporting this from a European owner.

My Current Thoughts are:

Savannah/Grassland is the best kind of biome to try and replicate. It restricts me back from MY preference for rainforests, but I don't want to find some kind of weird and wonderful bumblefoot from having a hog in an environment which is too wet. I'm currently looking at how gecko set ups have been approached by their owners. I have to keep reminding myself that an APH/White Bellied Hog is not the European Hog I'm more familiar with.

Want
I want to use worms as part of my cleanup crew in the hope that the hog would be able to 'self feed' from them and I'd add more as it seemed their numbers were going down (I have no idea how I'd be able to tell this in the vivarium but I can add new food to do a head count in the tub when they come up to feed)
Problem
The worms I'm buying in don't like warm conditions and might not be able to handle a savannah/grassland environment.

Want
Dubia roaches to be residents; they're cute and I think the moisture of the soil would benefit them as they grow instead of me currently failing to keep them humid.
Problem
They're not a member of the clean up crew and would be an additional load... and it feels like I'm making roaches a pet when I'm trying to get them to be eaten by my hog.
https://dubiaroaches.com/pages/dubia...-cleaner-crews

Want
The goal should always be that the bioactive vivarium is able to provide a stimulating environment where my hedgehog can forage for bugs in a way which stimulates her inner 'Wild Hog' I want to see her moving, digging and being excited to visit the tester Bioactive Box.
Problem
SO MUCH INFORMATION D:
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Old 03-04-2017, 11:06 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Ohhhh, awesome!! I want to try this out too, once I'm done moving later this year. It's going to be one of my next big animal projects.

Okay, I do have another FB group rec for you, hah. I don't even like FB groups that much! But the few I have are really good resources. This one is for bioactive & while they don't allow discussion of mammals on there because it's not in the group description, they have a lot of info for reptiles & some of the stuff for ball pythons, bearded dragons, and leopard geckos should still be useful - https://www.facebook.com/groups/bioactivegroup/

Most of the links I still have bookmarked are centered around plants that are salt-resistant due to my theory that salts from the urine are likely to build up in the soil, as well as trying to find hardy plants that are safe around animals.

Which worms are you planning to get? If you mean earthworms, there are different species that do handle or require warm temperatures better. I think African nightcrawlers is the one I saw mentioned when I was researching worms.

Roaches actually can be part of the cleaner crew & there are some people in the RABS group that have them in there for that reason. But yeah, I feel you on the "pet" thing when they're actually meant to be food.

So some other ideas for cleaner crew - I'm planning to put in mealworms, dubia roaches, isopods, maybe some earthworms?, and possibly also dermestid beetles. I might try putting in some springtails, but I don't know that they'd survive, even with some moist retreat areas. All of those would also be fine for hedgie to eat. I'm already raising isopods and plan to get them into a bigger container & see if they expand more as I'd like to add them to Bindi's diet. I already have a mealworm colony & have some dermestid beetles in with them.

Super interested to follow along & see how things go for you!
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Old 03-04-2017, 12:37 PM   #3 (permalink)
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The worms being part of the cleanup crew is just because I don't want to end up keeping loads of live bugs (or frozen bugs since half the freezer is already raw cat food!) in separate containers... soon I'll end up with enclosures/tubs for: Dubia Roaches, Crickets, Mealies, Worms and Snails... which I didn't expect and I'm not sure my partner expected either

I'd wanted to keep them alive in the hope I'd be able to encourage some hog-hunting-action in the future... - cue the playing of The Circle of Life

When I mentioned Dubia roaches needing a clean up crew I didn't consider... doh... that each member of the crew will have its own job and it's likely they all clean up after each other. First daft statement haha!

The bioactive vivarium I mentioned above just has air plants in the vivariums; if you find more (non-herb, peppermint is my cop out for background foilage... which is of course a 'popular plant in the savannah....' ahem... suuuuree ) I'd be delighted to hear. I'm not a plant person so the plants I focused on were mainly those which wouldn't do well in dry conditions and produce edible fruit.

I think I'm in a bit of conflict between assuming I'll fail to make test bioactive enclosures and wanting the safety of just making an indoor 'garden' that happens to have plant friendly bugs (worms) snaking around in it. At least with the garden I know I wouldn't eff it up!

Let's brainstorm together!
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Old 03-04-2017, 12:51 PM   #4 (permalink)
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A mammal bioactive group on facebook has been created to so mammal owners can discuss bioactive enclosures without being thrown out!

Bioactive And Naturalistic Mammal Setups
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Old 03-16-2017, 07:02 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I'm going to do it. I'm going in.

Well, technically... I'm going to dip my toe in and I'm keeping my towel on.

I don't have a second cage or vivarium where Chai can live while a bioactive vivarium establishes, so the 'bioactive' section will be enclosed in a box and the rest of the cage will pretty much stay the same for now.

I'm still waiting on the rest of the substrate material arriving, then I'll start building up a deep and shallow layer of coco peat which I'm hoping will hold its structure by adding plants and cleverly placed cork bark and plants - though it'll be interesting to see how the clean up crews activity and the hog will change the landscaping.

I'm letting the plants get settled to living indoors after being at a garden center, then I'll let them spend some time in the vivarium to see how they do. Both grasses were chosen because they're supposed to tolerate dry, directly lit locations well. Being in a container means that if they aren't doing well I can remove them easily and the cats can use them as floss instead.

I have feeder worms who are tolerating being in their transport container well - they're doing all the right things with their food and damp newspaper. It's likely they'll be the first clean up crew members, but I'm nervous about what they'll think of the sand mixture and since they're supposed to stay cool I'm worried they'll be too warm in the vivarium; I'm hoping that using the larger plant in the deep section of substrate will give them somewhere to camp out.

I'm due another bug-purchase and plan to select some Dubia roaches for the clean up crew too as well as springtails and mealie-beetles (who will be prime candidates for being eaten) to see how it goes. If they do well I might add more, if they're all eaten I'll need to increase the foraging difficulty

Fin on an unrelated image - I tried to have a tea party
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Old 03-16-2017, 08:52 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I'm so excited for you! What did you buy for grasses?

There had better be pictures once it's up and running! And I'm super curious to see how often you have to replenish the clean up crew due to being eaten
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Old 03-24-2017, 12:43 PM   #7 (permalink)
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This sounds like a fantastic idea. Any updates on how it's going?
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Old 04-01-2017, 05:50 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I wrote such a long post but took too long to finish and send it, so here is the summary

The Experimental Forage Box (naturalistic with some bugs)


I've learned a lot from my experimental box before I put it in to the vivarium!
Worms will disappear once established and I'll never quite know how they're getting on. I hope that they'll pop up to the surface and try to move out if conditions become too hostile for them.

Just because a plant description describes it as being able to tolerate dry and sunny spots in the garden doesn't mean that it is Emma-proof when indoors. I think I've managed to kill both of the grasses before they were put into the vivarium.

I don't think a sand-only section separated by pebbles is a good way to divide a cage. Bugs have had to be rescued from the sand pit a few times or get stuck between the pebbles when their shells don't let them rotate properly.

My soil mixture is wrong; I mixed compost in with cocopeat and the substrate the worms were in. I think the compost has introduced something that I don't want and it means that mould pockets are forming... planning on using a different mix if this goes vivarium-wide.

It's really hard to balance the line between damp substrate and soaked substrate. I have absolutely no patience over watered in response to the plants failing. I think I'll choose fake plants in the future if I want to look at something green.

Hay rots. Never use hay if you're going to drench the top layers.

Chai the hedgehog is very, very lazy and I give in to her looking at me expectantly too quickly and discourage her from foraging.

But she's so cute


Next Steps
I've put the naturalistic/bug box into the vivarium, but not before tossing in some mealie beatles for good measure and to encourage foraging. I've lost the dubia roaches (I'm sure they're somewhere...) but when more come they'll go in too.

I have the feeling that I'm making it harder for myself by dipping in my toe and that I should just switch the carefresh to the substrate and go 'naturalistic' if not bioactive. Especially bcause I just had to make a friggin' cardboard box and re-enforced ramp to help her get into the box and out of it safely.

It's in now. Hopefully it goes well and I find evidence that a little hog had a feast last night
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Old 04-01-2017, 07:29 PM   #9 (permalink)
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For the mold issue - if you would like, springtails will help take care of that. It's what they eat! You can order them from bio & frog websites, one of the popular ones I've seen is Josh's Frogs. I feel like I remember reading that mold can just kind of pop up in new bio set ups in general & that springtails/isopods/etc. usually take care of it fairly quickly. But that's from reading, not personal experience.

Honestly I like this idea as a possibility to add to fleece-only set ups for people unwilling or able to change that, and I might give it a shot with my girls as I don't know that I'll make the jump to bio for them until after potentially moving this summer. But I really need to get more enrichment stuff in for them, I've been awful about that. Both would probably love digging and Pancake already likes rooting out mealworms in her shallow rock pan.

Let us know what Chai thinks! I can't wait to hear.
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Old 04-02-2017, 05:38 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I'm glad the tub idea worked out so well for you!
For easier access, a tub with taller sides (if it fits in your viv) might be better, that way you can cut out an opening in one of the sides so the hedgehog can get in more easily.

When setting up a bio viv it's actually recommended to add partially decomposed leaves because they provide "start up" food for the cuc. Springtails are the backbone of the bio viv and they will take care of mould (I've had mould and mushrooms show up in moist rainforest vivs, that's totally fine).
However, hedgehog enclosures should be so arid that mould doesn't show up - I haven't seen any mould at all in mine.
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