Bio-active Leopard Gecko Vivarium.

JessJohnson87

New Member
Messages
290
Location
Portsmouth VA
I have been toying with the idea of going bio-active with my leopard gecko tank. Today I made the first steps in getting this project up and running. I went out and purchased the other materials that I needed and have been drawing out a plant for everything, don't worry there is a method to my madness if you think to yourself "What in the hell is she doing?" Trust me, it should work.
My fun filled afternoon of shopping:
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Right now I'm in the planning stages of this: I have been picking my brain, reading an article on bio-active and indyana's thread and getting advice from a wonderful bio-active Facebook group. Finally, I came to the conclusion that this is how I want it to be, excuse the crap handwriting.
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Now for the soil mixtures. There will be two different types of soil mixtures in this. One for my clean up crew (CUC) and one for the rest of the tank (Note: I will not be using the current hides in my tank, I will use one that I already have and make burrows for the other two hides that I need).

Humid Mixture-this is for the clean up crew and taken from a recipe from the bio-active article but I will be using almost the same things.

3 parts Zilla Jungle Mix (sphagnum peat moss and fir shavings)
2 parts sand
3 parts topsoil

I will be playing with this mixture tomorrow and see if I want to add less or more and then I will edit this mixture to my experimental findings.

Hard Packed Clay Mixture-for the rest of the flooring of the tank, also taken from the bio-active article.

4 parts Excavator Clay
3 parts sand
2 parts topsoil

Also going to experiment with this tomorrow and update the ratios to what I like best.

Plants:
I picked up a not so prickly Agave, a harwarthia, hens and chicks. I also have 3 succulents that are of the sedum species that I may choose to add one of those, still debating on that. I will be adding a fluorescent light fixture for these plants to aide in their growth and over-all well being, it will be on the same timer as my crested geckos light.
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Clean up crew:
I have decided to utilize a mealworm beetle, a couple of meal worms, isopods, millipedes and I may order a Blue Death Feigning Beetle if the Black Death Feigning Beetles will not be in stock for a while. These guys will go into the humid soil and be nestled behind a wall of plants with a piece of cork bark for cover. I will put a drainage layer underneath the soil mixtures for both the succulents and CUC, then put a hard packed clay barrier around it to hopefully discourage digging. Ziggy will have his own little digging corner on the warm side by his warm dry hide.
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Some isopods and millipedes from my yard with a bit of soil to add to their "home" in the tank to encourage microbial growth.

This one was a little bit harder to plan, I want to utilize my UTH still so any clay that goes under the hides, will be a thin layer (maybe 1/4" at the most) that way he can still get some belly heat inside of his hides. The thickest parts of this will be the cool side with the drainage layer, I plan to only do 1/2" of rocks then cover it with weed barrier cloth then soil, clay mixture and build the burrow (still debating on making that the moist hide since it will be over top of the drainage layer). I will be playing with soil mixtures tomorrow and when I find the one that works, I will begin construction either tomorrow or Monday and it should be dry within a week from the day I start. Ziggy will be renting out the 10 gallon during this process.

Inspiration for this goes to Rachel Gratis, without that gecko time article, I may never have become addicted to bio-active :)
Creating a Bioactive Leopard Gecko Setup - Gecko Time - Gecko Time
http://geckoforums.net/f175-vivariums/102660.htm

Also a big thanks to the folks of Reptiles and Amphibians Bioactive Setups Facebook group, they are a huge help with anything bio-active :)

Stay tuned for an edit to the recipes for the soil and clay mixture and also updates on the progress of this build. It should be a fun pain in the butt :shocked:
 

JessJohnson87

New Member
Messages
290
Location
Portsmouth VA
I am to! So many desert beetles to choose from but I think I'm set on the Blue or Black Feigning Death Beetles, though the dung beetles would be cool.
 

JessJohnson87

New Member
Messages
290
Location
Portsmouth VA
So today I mixed together the two soils and I only changed one.

For the humid mixture I did this:
3 parts Zilla Jungle Mix
2 parts sand
2 parts topsoil
1 part dirt from my yard for microbial growth.
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I mixed the clay, sand and top soil together afterwards.
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The dry mixture of the three.

I then added water to the clay mixture until I could form a ball. I added the drainage layer on the cool side of the tank, then packed clay around the lava rocks to keep them from sliding around on the bottom while I was placing the weed barrier cloth on for the mesh between the drainage layer and substrate. Once I placed the barrier, I began making a wall around the area that the CUC and plants will be. Then I started making the walls to the moist burrow on that same side. I did run out of sand so I was only able to get the rest of the tank packed down with the clay mixture. I will be going out tomorrow to pick up some more sand and finish constructing the rest of the tank.

Progress so far:
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JessJohnson87

New Member
Messages
290
Location
Portsmouth VA
I picked up another bag of sand today, 40lbs this time, and finished making my burrows and putting together the rest of the tank.

For the burrow roof, I had to use some travertine tile I had in the tank before I tore it apart, then I gently packed the clay onto the tile to cement them on there. Once that was done, I began shaping the hole for the entrance to each burrow and it seems to be holding up pretty well.

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I went ahead and planted the succulents into the corner where CUC will be as well. I used Black Gold cactus and succulent potting mix around the succulents and then poured the humid mix for the CUC into the rest of the area. I then went outside and picked up some leaves to crush up and lay on top of the mixture and then placed the cork bark on top of that as a refugee camp for the CUC. There are no bugs in there yet, I'm waiting for everything to dry before I seed them in there. For the plant light I'm using an 18" T8 6500K fluorescent bulb.

I did not use the hens and chicks because it was towered over by the harwarthia so I changed it for another one I had in my "cactus" garden.

When everything is dry, I will water the succulents and seed the area with the cleaner bugs. I will be adding more decorative things to the tank when the clay is dry and I go out to find some nice rocks. When everything is established pretty well, I will be moving Ziggy back into his newly renovated home.


Bird's eye view of the tank. For the rest of the floor of the tank, I took the left over hard packed clay I had and mixed in some more sand and some jungle mix to give it a crumbly texture, so if Ziggy wants to dig....he has plenty of places to dig to China.
 

indyana

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,336
Location
Massachusetts, United States
Looking good! How are you going to keep the humid hide moistened?

Also, you may find you need to make some "ramps" to let the cleaning crew get up onto the burrow rooftops. They might have trouble getting up there to clean with the straight sides (although I'll admit I've found cleaners in some pretty high places).
 

JessJohnson87

New Member
Messages
290
Location
Portsmouth VA
I made a ramp from the edge of the wall around that area to the rest of the tank and completely spaced on one to the top of the hide. Where the moist burrow is, that's where Ziggy used to poop so I don't know if he's going to change his bathroom corner or not and I really hope he does not poop in there but that's what cleaner bugs are for. I'll see if I can find a stick or something to put up there or just mix up a small batch of clay and make a ramp.

I was running on a few hours of sleep yesterday and was constrained with time because my son had an early release from school.
 

JessJohnson87

New Member
Messages
290
Location
Portsmouth VA
I wanted the blue ones but then I saw those, I'm waiting for them to arrive and I have to go out shopping today so I'll try to hold out until they get here :)

I'll add them straight to the tank once they get here with a piece of carrot and a small slab of bug burger, the least I can do after they traveled from Oregon to Virginia. I'll record a video of them and post it here once I get them settled in :)
 

JessJohnson87

New Member
Messages
290
Location
Portsmouth VA
They have arrived!!! I have been anxiously waiting most of the day and started to wonder if the USPS guy forgot to deliver our mail :anxious:

They are in the tank and settling in, once they are done exploring their new home, I'll record a video and upload it.

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The bigger of the two was playing dead on the paper towel so I had to give it a little nudge off.
 

JessJohnson87

New Member
Messages
290
Location
Portsmouth VA
Added some of the cleaner bugs today. Some native woodlouse, sow bugs and millipedes. I will add the darkling beetles and mealworms at some point today as well.
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The clay seems to be drying out and I plugged the UTH back in to start testing temperatures in the 2 warm side burrows. Both fluctuate between 88-91* and I'm still trying to find a good place for the probe to the termostat to remain. So far in the spot that I have it in reads between 85-89* on the thermostat but when checking with my temperature gun, it's higher. It's a work in progress....

Hopefully I can add Ziggy back to his home within the next week or so, I know he will be happy to get out of his rental 10 gallon aquarium.
 

JessJohnson87

New Member
Messages
290
Location
Portsmouth VA
The excitement was killing me and Ziggy has had enough of being in the 10 gallon so I added him in his tank tonight. He's doing the usual checking stuff out, wall surfing and staring at my husband trying to say "Get me out of here!" I'm sure in a few days he will settle in more. I snapped a couple of pictures before walking off to let him do his thing.
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Checking out his burrow.

I'll add more pictures and maybe a video as he settles in. Hopefully he will enjoy having a more natural tank.
 

wicked gecko

New Member
Messages
58
Location
Wisconsin
Congrats. . It looks fun. I'm not ready to attempt it yet but the weather is finally getting warm enough to work out in the garage again so I can build some stands and covers.
 

JessJohnson87

New Member
Messages
290
Location
Portsmouth VA
It was fun and less messy than building my crested gecko bio-active. The excavator clay is really heavy so I suggest building everything with the tank in the place you want it, I'm sure it weighs more now than it did when I put the flooring, drainage layer and clay barriers in. The mixtures for the soils is what indyana used in her's and it seems to be holding up really well. Before I went to bed last night, Ziggy was in one of his burrows. He's been kept on paper towel or tile his whole life, that I know of, so this will be a big change for him.
 

JessJohnson87

New Member
Messages
290
Location
Portsmouth VA





I have not seen the bigger of my two feigning death beetles (Biggie) so I hope that one is ok and didn't die from shipping stress. I may have to re-do the burrows at some point to make the tops remove able.

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