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Discussion Starter #21
Thanks Jason! High praise indeed. I couldn't have put this together without you.
 

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I read allot more. and it make a little more scene now. just got to the substrate on my tank and just wandering whats the best for these tank . it make scents what ed said by being incomplete . what is the PH after done with your substrate ? It seems to only benefit every thing . the only thing I wonder if the PH is higher . thanks for the feed back
Most clays have an akaline based pH of around 9-10. This includes both sodium and calcium bentonites.

Red Art Clay which is actually Hydrous Aluminum Silicate has an acidic pH range of 4-6.

When mixed depending on your proportions used, you can assume the pH will fall somewhere in the middle (a soil test kit is the only way to get an accurate reading). I personlly use about 1:2 ratio of red art to bentonite clay which would puts my soil pH just over 7 on average.

If you are trying to mimic true rainforest soil then you would need a lower pH. Most rainforest soil has a pH range of 4-5. So a good way to lower the pH of the clay substrate is to add peat moss. Sphagnum peat has a pH of 3.5. When it is added you can drastically lower you pH to an optimum level without having to add an sulfur product. There are other forms of peat that are not as acidic because the soil content contains lime.

I just play around with it and see what pH levels I can get that are best for the plants in the viv. I am not sure if there is an optimum level of soil pH that are trying to achieve for the darts. Ed is there any literature on this?

This is a good thread thank you.
 

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Pumilio, just curious how the clay holds up over time. With heavy misting and high humidity, would it naturally clump and become impermiable over time? Also, how do you think the nutrient base would hold up over time? Would this have to be replaced over time, or do you think you could get several good years out of it?

Very informative, thanks for sharing.

Pat
The clay even under heavy misting retains it shape well. Several people on this board have made drip walls and ponds out of clay and experienced little to no erosion. My oldest viv that contains a clay based substrate is about 18 months old now, and I do not see any signs of the granules clumping. Just make sure to dig around as little as possible. The clay will press together very easily when wet.

One method I use that helps prevent the shape of the clay from eroding is to add Turface into the wet bentonite/red art clay mix before baking. The clay will bond to the Turface during the baking, yet still is small enough to be pressed through a screen.

As for the nutrient base, the frogs obtain calcium when a particle is stuck to microfauna and then eaten by the frog, not by the microfauna eating the particle and then passing the nutrient onto the frog. It is not like an organic substrate where bacteria and micro-organisms break down the organic material. Plants can potentially absorbed most of the nutrients over time, but I imagine by the time a clay substrate would need to to be replaced you be ready to change the viv anyway.
 

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The clay even under heavy misting retains it shape well. Several people on this board have made drip walls and ponds out of clay and experienced little to no erosion. My oldest viv that contains a clay based substrate is about 18 months old now, and I do not see any signs of the granules clumping. Just make sure to dig around as little as possible. The clay will press together very easily when wet.

One method I use that helps prevent the shape of the clay from eroding is to add Turface into the wet bentonite/red art clay mix before baking. The clay will bond to the Turface during the baking, yet still is small enough to be pressed through a screen.

As for the nutrient base, the frogs obtain calcium when a particle is stuck to microfauna and then eaten by the frog, not by the microfauna eating the particle and then passing the nutrient onto the frog. It is not like an organic substrate where bacteria and micro-organisms break down the organic material. Plants can potentially absorbed most of the nutrients over time, but I imagine by the time a clay substrate would need to to be replaced you be ready to change the viv anyway.
There are several routes calcium from the clay can end up inside the frog

1) through accidental ingestion while capturing or attempting to capture a prey item. The tongue is sticky and small particles of all kinds adhere to it. This also needs access to bare clay.

2) through accidental ingestion of particle stuck to the prey species

3) through particles that have been ingested by the prey species (clay can be ingested while feeding by invertebrates either accidentally or deliberately (as they need some level of calcium for their own metabolic needs)

4) deliberately by absorbtion through the skin (particularly on thier ventral side (thier drinking patch)). Not that the frog has to have access to the clay for this to work so covering all of the clay inhibits this...

Clay also fosters a microbial enviroment that tends to lock up as much of the nutrients as possible and this along with the continued influx of nutrients (dusted feeders, leaf litter, new plants) makes this unlikely that you decide to break down the enclosure based on aesthetics before you have to break it down based on nutrients. This does not mean that you cannot experience localized pockets of nutrient deficiency for the plants as nutrient input and cycling are not going to have as many processes as those seen in the wild for distributing nutrients but if that does show up it can be handled on a localized level without tearing down the tank.

Some comments

Ed
 

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There are several routes calcium from the clay can end up inside the frog

3) through particles that have been ingested by the prey species (clay can be ingested while feeding by invertebrates either accidentally or deliberately (as they need some level of calcium for their own metabolic needs)
Does this mean that invertebrates pass on nutrients that have been broken down within their own system or it is in their system not yet digested while they are eaten by the frog?

Clay also fosters a microbial enviroment that tends to lock up as much of the nutrients as possible and this along with the continued influx of nutrients (dusted feeders, leaf litter, new plants) makes this unlikely that you decide to break down the enclosure based on aesthetics before you have to break it down based on nutrients.
Sorry I am little confused. Are you saying the nutrient base will be used up and will have to be replaced, or the addition of nutrients will sustain it over time except for localized areas? I thought microfauna helps to redistribute and free up nutrients.
 

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Sorry I wasn't clear, I was tired when I typed it.

Does this mean that invertebrates pass on nutrients that have been broken down within their own system or it is in their system not yet digested while they are eaten by the frog?
Actually yes to both depending on the species in question.. for example isopods and snails consume calcium containing substrates due to the increased calcium requirements for deposition into thier respective cuticle or shell while annelids (as an example) contain undigested calcium particulates in thier digestive tract. If you look in the bibliography for the Nutritional chapter in Mader's Reptile Medicine and Surgery, there are some great references (One is a thesis I haven't been able to get ahold of yet) as well as some minor discussion in the text.



Sorry I am little confused. Are you saying the nutrient base will be used up and will have to be replaced, or the addition of nutrients will sustain it over time except for localized areas? I thought microfauna helps to redistribute and free up nutrients.
What I am saying that due to the lack of diversity in the microfauna in our enclosures, we may not see the same level of nutrient distribution or movement as is seen in the wild. This may mean that localized spots in the enclosure end up being nutrient deficient compared to other sections of the enclosure. This is probably going to take a long time to occur as clay based substrates are pretty robust.. so a person may want to take down a tank due to aesthetics as opposed to it actually becoming nutrient poor. Even if you do start to see signs of localized deficiency of nutrients top dressing the site should alleviate the issue.

Does that help?

Ed
 

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Here is a webpage that breaks down soil and microfauna interaction into an easy read. Its a student wiki article, not a journal, but it seems to be fairly accurate.

Soil environment and physical factors controlling microbial activity - MicrobeWiki

If you search long enough through google scholar.. you can access free journal articles on nutrient cycling of various types of leaf litters..
Or if you have access through as institutional subscription, a lot more articles are readily available.
Ed
 

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Discussion Starter #30
Ed, if you did decide that a top dressing was in order after a few years, would you put a small batch of new, complete clay mix over the top, or do you think that you could mix some Calcium Bentonite with a little Calcium Carbonate, both in their dry form. Sprinkle that over the top of your moist clay, and perhaps cut off the misting for a couple days to allow time for the Bentonite and calc. carb. to adhere to your old clay? I guess I'm thinking maybe 90 percent calcium bentonite and 10 percent calcium carbonite.
 

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Ed, if you did decide that a top dressing was in order after a few years, would you put a small batch of new, complete clay mix over the top, or do you think that you could mix some Calcium Bentonite with a little Calcium Carbonate, both in their dry form. Sprinkle that over the top of your moist clay, and perhaps cut off the misting for a couple days to allow time for the Bentonite and calc. carb. to adhere to your old clay? I guess I'm thinking maybe 90 percent calcium bentonite and 10 percent calcium carbonite.
I would probably simply just move where I was dumping feeders into the tank...

Ed
 
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Thanks Ed, I didnt realize there was a Google journal search engine. I lost my J-Stor password access a few months back, and have been only been able to access abstracts lately.
 

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Ed, if you did decide that a top dressing was in order after a few years, would you put a small batch of new, complete clay mix over the top, or do you think that you could mix some Calcium Bentonite with a little Calcium Carbonate, both in their dry form. Sprinkle that over the top of your moist clay, and perhaps cut off the misting for a couple days to allow time for the Bentonite and calc. carb. to adhere to your old clay? I guess I'm thinking maybe 90 percent calcium bentonite and 10 percent calcium carbonite.
When current leaf litter layer is almost decomposed I sprinkle a small amount of dried clay mixture on top of it before adding a fresh layer of leaves. This helps to ensure that clay will come into contact with the frogs. Also any microfauna that comes to the surface has to pass through this layer. A simple glass salt shaker is a great tool to use when adding the dried clay.
 

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Thanks Ed, I didnt realize there was a Google journal search engine. I lost my J-Stor password access a few months back, and have been only been able to access abstracts lately.
This is a problem I can well understand...

Ed
 

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After all the technical information in the four pages...I have a really...really simple question: is the screen that you refer to what I call "hardware cloth" or is it screening material that would be used in a regular screen door..? This is a very informative thread, but I used Ed's method and it was very, very difficult to force the clay through those itsy-bitsy holes... thanks for your patience...
 

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Discussion Starter #36
HARDWARE CLOTH! Yes, that's it! Thank you Judy! That was the name of the product I use. I just couldn't remember it. So what Judy and I mean here is the name of the wire mesh screen product that I force the clay through is Hardware Cloth. If there are different sizes, you need the 1/4" by 1/4" size.
 

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After all the technical information in the four pages...I have a really...really simple question: is the screen that you refer to what I call "hardware cloth" or is it screening material that would be used in a regular screen door..? This is a very informative thread, but I used Ed's method and it was very, very difficult to force the clay through those itsy-bitsy holes... thanks for your patience...

No, as a cheat I use a screen lid for a 20 gallon aquarium with the larger screening holes.. not the finer one.... (although the finer screen would probably make a good surface dressing..hmm)... It isn't that hard to push it through the larger mesh size.


Ed
 

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Pumilio, just curious how the clay holds up over time. With heavy misting and high humidity, would it naturally clump and become impermiable over time? Also, how do you think the nutrient base would hold up over time? Would this have to be replaced over time, or do you think you could get several good years out of it?

Very informative, thanks for sharing.

Pat
Hi guys, interesting thread here. Nice work on the recipe Doug. I look forward to seeing how it holds up over time. Here's an update on the recipes I've used:

- Cheap non-clumping kitty litter - the first clay substrate I used. I have the original tanks set up in 1995 or 1996 still growing strong. The litter simply does not break down and plant growth remains healthy.

- DOB Redart mix (described in the other clay thread). How long has it been now - 4-5 years since I set that up? I have mixed results to report. The clay remains fairly stable but the sand-like aggregate structure has broken down over time. A coupld times of aerated it by poking holes clear through to the drainage layer to keep it draining well. I still like the look of it but there is room for improvement. I'm curious to see how these newer recipes hold up because they sound promising. Also, this mix does not support as much microfauna as kitty litter substrate. I'm pretty sure that is a function of the aggregate breakdown. There just isn't as much surface area between pore spaces. Again, stabilizing that sand-like structure is an important goal. Also, this stuff eats leaf litter rapidly. I actually think that is a good thing so just an observation. I suspect it has more to do with the night crawlers that were added hoping to maintain porosity than the clay itself.

Someone asked if it helps with pumilio. All I can say is that a combination of UVB lighting and calcium supplemented substrate seems to completely eliminate calcium deficiency issues in froglets. It has now been over 10 years since I've seen a case of hypocalcemia and I would guess something like 40 froglets have come out of that viv.

I haven't tested the pH of my substrate but I did test the effluent water that drains out after water has filtered through. One year after putting the substrate in, that pH was running about 8.6 so the substrate was pretty alkaline. I should test it again as I suspect it has dropped due to leaching. I also used slaked lime as the calcium source in mine which, as has been pointed out, is not the best choice since it is so reactive. But I haven't seen any issues and plants root and grow in the substrate just fine.

Overall I would say that early recipe was a step forward but not perfect. Maybe one of these new recipes will prove to be the ultimate clay-based substrate.
 

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Discussion Starter #40
Hey Brent! Thanks for chiming in with an update on yours. This is obviously based heavily on your hard work (and Matt's). I couldn't have put this how to together without you guys being so willing to share your knowledge. Thank you and thanks for the kudos on my guide.

Can I ask about your kitty litter substrate? If that is the old fashioned, non clumping, fired litter, then how do you supplement that with calcium? Or is that not used with Pumilio as a calcium supplementing substrate?

Learning more about the possibilities of UVB lighting is something I want to research more, too. Got ant good threads you might be able to link me to about getting around the fact that glass tops apparently filter it out? My homemade slopefront glass vivs are kind of stumping me there.

Thanks again for adding your input here!
 
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