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!))