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Old 04-20-2017, 09:06 PM
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Default Clay Substrate

I've been working on a couple of vivariums (a vertical 20L and 29 horizontal) and through building these , I've been learning a lot from mistakes and exploring a lot of different things. As a note, I'm going to post a small build log of the 29G soon as I've done some interesting things to the tank that might peak peoples interest.

Anyways, on to the point - my 20L is using a fairly standard premixed ABG from glassbox tropicals. The substrate is OK, but after having a first wave of plants die from overwatering (retraining my green thumb - oops), and looking to set up a automatic misting system in the 29G and future tanks, I've been trying to find a solutions to a) get as much drainage as possible while still being frog safe and b) get as much nutrients as possible to plants while still maintaining microfauna life. Another mistake I made was I introduced springtails/isopods then proceeded to mist the terrarium once a week for a few weeks with a transplant/rooting enhancing fertilizer. Looks like it killed everything off, whoops! I guess you learn from your mistakes haha. Luckily, I have cultures of each so I didn't lose them all.

Now, here's the bit about clay - I know some people are experimenting with clay substrate but unfortunately, either my google-fu is failing me, or there still isn't much info on the topic.

My very basic initial understanding of clay substrate is you take a clay mix (amphibian safe) and basically use it to build a ground, and cover it in leaf litter. Add holes and use some ABG to plant in those holes, and cover with more clay. My understanding too is that people use a very cubed up clay (either bought so, or baked and broken up) so that when you lay it out and mist it, it retains pockets for air and microfauna and I assume drainage as well.

Here's the parts I don't know or am looking at some added info on. People are NOT mixing the clay with much except maybe according to Clay Background and Substrate Recipe, correct? Do you guys who use a clay substrate omit a false bottom? Do you use a screen/weedblock/whatever other substrate barrier to separate the two if you do? I imagine that will get pretty messy and potentially "clog up" if so, but also watering clay right onto rocks (or in my case, rocks + egg crate) would be pretty messy too. How does clay substrate fare with water features? I am building a waterfall + pond into the 29G tank and I am curious on if I decided to go the route of clay, that it wouldn't last very long. The waterfall wouldn't be dripping onto the substrate. Lastly, according to Clay Background and Substrate Recipe, it sounds like they intend you to put clay on top of ABG. Would it then be advantageous on a more heavily planted vivarium to create "holes" in the clay that lead to an ABG layer - or would that sort of defeat the purpose? I would love the calcium the clay adds to the substrate, but worry that I won't be able to actually get many plants - especially ground cover pants - to grow quickly.

So, would love some brain storming on these points/questions and whatever info anyone has that I've missed or misunderstood!

((random note, first post, hopefully this is a good place for it!))
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Old 04-20-2017, 11:01 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate

Somebody here must know something about clay...someone?...anyone?...

Clay Substrate How-To

I think that will answer your questions.

By the way, I know you didn't ask this but, fertilizer is not really used in this hobby. Pushing plant growth is not an issue. Cutting it back over and over is more what you'll see, if you set it up right.

I would never use a fertilizer in any of my vivs.
You know a frog's skin will absorb anything it touches, right? You aren't concerned about nutrient salts building up?

Oh, and clay substrates are nutrient poor. Why? Because that's what was in the clay samples that Matt Mirabello went out and collected samples of, so we could try to imitate them.
If you want nutrient rich, that's not clay substrates. If you wish to duplicate the rainforest floor as closely as possible, see increased survival rate in delicate, tiny froglets, and give your rainforest plants the type of soil they originally came from, that is clay substrates.
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Old 04-20-2017, 11:02 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate

Clay Background Vert

False bottom question

Do I really need a false bottom?

Confused about the bottom of the tank

Clay Substrate How-To

there are many more of these discussions, I just called it quits at that point

some comments

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Old 04-22-2017, 02:27 AM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate

Thank you both for the replies! I guess the search function here didn't like me and google wasn't being too friendly either. I'll definately search through that.

And yeah - I've discovered that problem with fert a bit after I started that first viv. My knee jerk reaction was just trying to get the plants to set up quicker - didn't think too much about safety or the fact that I'd reasonably never be replacing the substrate over time. At this point, I think I'm just going to leave the 20g as a terrarium until I can tell it's safe and flushed of everything. That's an interesting note on the nutrients but ultimately makes sense. Looks like I'll be going through those threads before I think my next steps through then.
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