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I found one at the local kitchen store that makes half inch squares. The steel is sturdy and it has handles on the side that help you push it down into the clay.

The pictures that I posted are just for example, but I assume you can get them in varying sizes.
 

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- 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.
Hi Brent,

I have some variations on the clay mix and do not have drainage issue with the redart mixes I've tried. The water flows through pretty well even at high misting volumes (3 minutes/2 times a day for 6 months in ten gallon verticles). Under the same conditions with a microfauna population, I lost the ABG style mixes during the same period as they appeared to breakdown and disappear into the gravel layer (the effluent from this tank was full of small particulates and humic acids).
One of the better mixes seems to be where I included a thin layer of clay mixed with organics ontop of the clay layer and included a mixture of cypress fines into that layer with the leaf litter.

Here is a picture of that layer after one year (after I pulled the leaf litter aside... unfortunately the microfauna disappeared while I was getting the camera ready).
 

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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!
If I remember correctly, Brent uses a custom made Solacryl (the plastic material used in tanning beds for UVB transmission) top on the pumilio tank.

I'm playing around with using saran wrap on a screen top since Solacryl is expensive, hard to get and supposedly is supposed to be replaced after 2 years.
 

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All of my red art clay substrates drain extremely well and have been set up for about 18 months. There is a substantial portion of my mix that is organics (peat, coco fiber, tree fern) and turface.

Do you find that tanks where you have used clay substrates tend to dry out a bit faster? Mine drain quite well, but water also seems to evaporate quicker. I have tanks side by side, one with clay/organic substrate and the other with just sphagnum. They both are the same shape with the exact same ventilation. I constantly have to drain the tank that has pure sphagnum and add water to the one that is clay.
 

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If I remember correctly, Brent uses a custom made Solacryl (the plastic material used in tanning beds for UVB transmission) top on the pumilio tank.

I'm playing around with using saran wrap on a screen top since Solacryl is expensive, hard to get and supposedly is supposed to be replaced after 2 years.
You can also use starfire brand glass as it is also transparent to UVB.
 

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- 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.
In one of my histrionicus tanks, I used only Matt's from scratch recipe on top of the drainage layer, the particle sizes were ranging from small rock to sand consistency, after lots of misting it pretty much congealed into large wet chunks of clay, this tank has been producing a crazy number of froglets though and supports lots of microfauna, but the walls of the tank are also a good refugium for the microfauna (curved virgin cork bark with sunstrate stuffed behind it etc) so it's hard to tell if it's the substrate supporting it, here's when it was first set up:




here's what it looks like now with a froglet on the clay so you can see how it congealed:



Lately I started using a thick layer of Turface infield conditioner on top of the drainiage layer for a more stable particle layer (and also because Matt's recipe is such a pain to make :p ), then a thin layer of Matt's recipe on top of the infield conditioner.
 

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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!
Hi Doug,

The kitty litter was the first substrate I experimented with and yes, it is the old fashioned fired stuff. I actually didn't supplement it with Ca as that was long before we realized there was a calcium issue with pumilio. I had that same substrate in my pumilio viv and did have issues with froglets (and even a couple adults) crashing with hypocalcemia. Adding UVB lighting and being deligent about calcium dusting completely eliminated those problems. I think the lesson here is that UVB may be more beneficial than calcium supplemented substrates for this particular issue. But what I think the enriched substrates do is provide a more steady and natural supply of calcium and reduces or eliminates the reliance on dusting food with Ca (but not other supplements). Getting back to kitty litter, I think you could probably supplement it with CaCO3 just as you do with other clay mixes. I'd mix them together dry and would guess that when the substrate is moistined, the CaCO3 would adsorb to the clay just fine.

As Chris said, I use solacryl tops on all my tanks or I just mount the UVB light bare bulb inside the viv. Either works well although the Solacryl obviously allows you to deal with excess heat more easily. As Ed mentioned, there are other UVB transparent options but the last time I priced starfire glass, it seemed about the price of gold. There is some misinformation out there about transparency of materials. There is an old site that claimed that thin (1/8") plexiglass allowed most UV light to go through. I tested a sample purchased at the local HD and found that transmission was 96%+ through the visible spectrum but rapidly dropped to 5% to 0% as soon as you crossed into UVA and beyond. Clearly there are UV stabilizing additives in at least some of the stuff sold at hardware stores. We also tested Solacryl and it maintained 96%+ transmission through the UVB wavelengths but filtered out all UVC light. The cool thing about that is that you could use Solacryl to filter unshielded halogen or other UV producing light sources to avoid the possiblity of exposure to dangerous UVC.

Of course with any UV lighting, you need to match the right bulb to the viv. I think there is some discussiong in that epic pumilio thread that happend a few years ago.
 

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here's what it looks like now with a froglet on the clay so you can see how it congealed:



Lately I started using a thick layer of Turface infield conditioner on top of the drainiage layer for a more stable particle layer (and also because Matt's recipe is such a pain to make :p ), then a thin layer of Matt's recipe on top of the infield conditioner.
Chris,

That is pretty similar to what my aged redart mix looks like. Just to clarify, the mix still drains well without puddling of water on the surface. And I run the misters as much as 5X per day for a minute each. But that congealing you show is what I'm certain limits microfauna. With kitty litter you can look into the substrate profile and see a labyrinth of cracks and fissures that allow microfauna to live deep throughout the soil profile. When those fissures seal up, the area available for microfauna because limited mostly to between the surface and leaf litter. Imagine if you had a 1,000 gallon aquarium but fish only had access to the top 6" of water. That would seriously limit the number of fish the tank could support.
 

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Discussion Starter #50
I looked into the UVB transmittance of glass. I cannot find any spec sheets from PPG about Starphire glass. PPG is the manufacturer. Borofloat is supposed to be clearer, and have more transmittance in th UV range than Starphire. Can't prove this as apparently PPG has not made specs available. Borofloat, however, drops uvb transmittance rather sharply with thickness. By the time you get up to DS, (1/8" or 3.3mm), the UVB transmittance drops clear down to only about 45 percent. It appears that much more testing has been done, or at least made available by the manufacturer, than with Starphire.
 

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I looked into the UVB transmittance of glass. I cannot find any spec sheets from PPG about Starphire glass. PPG is the manufacturer. Borofloat is supposed to be clearer, and have more transmittance in th UV range than Starphire. Can't prove this as apparently PPG has not made specs available. Borofloat, however, drops uvb transmittance rather sharply with thickness. By the time you get up to DS, (1/8" or 3.3mm), the UVB transmittance drops clear down to only about 45 percent. It appears that much more testing has been done, or at least made available by the manufacturer, than with Starphire.
That's all true, actually I corresponded with a Borofloat (and other low iron glass) distributor near me and they sent me some info on the UVB transmittance levels, I'll see if I can find it.
 

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So here is my questions,
Do plants grow well in that soil, compacted or loose
Can you have multi types of springtails and isopods in one tank,
Could you add some peat or coco fiber to the loose clay mix?

Thanks
Kp
 

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So here is my questions,
Do plants grow well in that soil, compacted or loose
Can you have multi types of springtails and isopods in one tank,
Could you add some peat or coco fiber to the loose clay mix?

Thanks
Kp
Some yes and some no, it definitely takes a while for them to take off,

Yes,

Yes but it's probably better to add it during mixing process
 

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Discussion Starter #54
So here is my questions,
Do plants grow well in that soil, compacted or loose
Can you have multi types of springtails and isopods in one tank,
Could you add some peat or coco fiber to the loose clay mix?

Thanks
Kp
I use a couple handfuls of ABG mix around the roots of each plant. I cover thi in a thin layer of clay mix. I think its helpful for the plants to get started. I put multiple types of springtails and isopods in every setup.
 

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So here is my questions,
Do plants grow well in that soil, compacted or loose
Can you have multi types of springtails and isopods in one tank,
Could you add some peat or coco fiber to the loose clay mix?

Thanks
Kp
One note. If you use organic matter like peat or coco fiber to open up the structure of the clay to create more porosity, it will likely be a temporary solution since the OM will break down into humus and the open structure will collapse. That was one of the main reasons I started using mineral substrates to begin with because I wanted a substrate that would hold its structure indefinately. But a little OM in the mix is still a good thing for a number of reasons. But I would probably keep it to no more than 5% of the mix or so other than the thin layer of leaf litter on the surface.

Because we tend to keep frog vivaria wet (probably too wet), most of the old standards for viv plants that aren't epiphytes seem to be tolerant of constantly wet feet and grow just fine in the clay substrates. I tend to plant few plants in the substrate and instead plant the tank with epiphytes or lithophytes on branches and rocks. For terrestrials that need a more organic substrate, I do like Doug and just make a little planting pocket with the appropriate mix.
 

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I have a question, after everything has been mixed and oven dried and split apart, can it then be stored away for later use in an air tight container? I want to make some of this but i won't be ready to use it for a few weeks. Just wanted to know if it would be okay to dry store it.
 

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I have a question, after everything has been mixed and oven dried and split apart, can it then be stored away for later use in an air tight container? I want to make some of this but i won't be ready to use it for a few weeks. Just wanted to know if it would be okay to dry store it.
Yeah .
 

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I have a question, after everything has been mixed and oven dried and split apart, can it then be stored away for later use in an air tight container? I want to make some of this but i won't be ready to use it for a few weeks. Just wanted to know if it would be okay to dry store it.
I keep a pre-made wet mix on hand in a large tupperware. When I am close to making a tank I just put it out to air dry for a few days to help speed up the baking process.

You can keep it in dry storage forever if you liked, the clay will not break down or need to be sterilized. You can always re-bake it if you are concerned.
 

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Discussion Starter #59
You can store it dry for as long as you want. I would think that trying to store it wet would cause the pieces to clump together badly when you try to get it out and spread it in your new viv. The finished clay product should not be handled when wet or it will clump together.
 

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Chris,

That is pretty similar to what my aged redart mix looks like. Just to clarify, the mix still drains well without puddling of water on the surface. And I run the misters as much as 5X per day for a minute each. But that congealing you show is what I'm certain limits microfauna. With kitty litter you can look into the substrate profile and see a labyrinth of cracks and fissures that allow microfauna to live deep throughout the soil profile. When those fissures seal up, the area available for microfauna because limited mostly to between the surface and leaf litter. Imagine if you had a 1,000 gallon aquarium but fish only had access to the top 6" of water. That would seriously limit the number of fish the tank could support.
Here's a side view from tonight of the tank I pictured (it's about 2" of clay on top, a thin layer of sphagnum under it, landscape fabric, then feather-lite drainage layer), the sand-like particles seem to have "melted" into the larger stone type particles, but those larger ones seem to have kept a nice amount of separation:

 
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