, the venerable dartfrog email list, is a funny beast. It goes dormant for long periods of time, but just when you think it's died, it comes roaring back with top class discussions that really make you think.
That's exactly what's happened in the last week with an interesting discussion about vivarium design and substrates (the latter being a perpetual topic on Frognet). The part I was interested in concerned flow-through vivarium designs which water drains continuously from the viv rather than collecting in the substrate. This rapidly gathered the strapline "Your frog is a sponge", the idea being that flow-through substrates remain "cleaner", which is beneficial to frogs.
As ever, the sides in this debate involved more emotion and intuition than scientific evidence, but the thought that cleaner substrates and lack of stagnant water mean healthier frogs is an attractive argument. My vivaria are not set up for flow through, and ripping my frogroom apart to install drains just isn't going to happen, especially since it's clearly not essential (as my frogs have told me over many years). But that doesn't mean that I haven't taken something from the debate. Although I periodically used to flush and siphon out my substrates, I've resolved to do this more frequently, at least once a month.
I'm a huge fan of using your nose to diagnose the condition of a vivarium or aquarium (aiming for an "earthy" smell rather than something you would describe as excessively stale or "smelly"). Interestingly, the water I siphoned out of different vivaria smelt quite differently, better in some cases than others, but because I'm sure this will do no harm, this has now become a more regular part of my maintenance regime.
In another part of the Frognet thread, one of my frogkeeping gurus, Brent Brock, put forward one of his favourite theories - diversity is good. In this case, Brent was advocating that vivarium "health" is supported by having the biggest diversity of plant species possible. In addition to fast growing, nutrient hungry species, slower growing plants also play an important role by potentially absorbing different compounds. Although Brent admits that it's easier to do this in bigger vivs (and Brent's vivs are pretty big) than smaller ones, it's still influenced my thinking, and I've moved a few cuttings around this morning.
Change for change's sake is generally a bad thing, but sometimes, it pays to think different.