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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've starting building a 12x12x18 Zoomed and am attempting to use the kitty litter clay background method. I picked up cheap litter at Walmart and have let it sit overnight. The ingredient listed was Fuller's Earth, and not bentonite. I looked it up and thought this might work. At only $1 per bag, I couldn't pass it up.

After letting it sit overnight, with some stirring, it seems like mush rather than consistent clay. There definitely is clay-ness to it, but there are also still solid pieces that aren't softened up. I can work it into a fairly sticky ball after adding in some peat and sphagnum and it's , but it appears to crumble a little too much. I don't think I'll be using this as the background material, but maybe for some of the substrate. Should the mix break when squeezed, or should it be more smushy? I've got a small brick of redart clay I was going to make mushrooms with which I could add, but I don't want to waste it if it's not going to help.
 

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I used Doug's clay recipe of bentonite and redart and have been very impressed with it. I feel like you want it to hold it's form pretty easily otherwise your substrate will just turn into mush and affect drainage and microfauna population.

Even though the kitty litter is cheap and seems like a great deal, I've seen too many people attempt to use it and just ended up having a big mess to clean up. If you find a local pottery/ceramics store the ingredients can be very cheap as well.
 

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Yes, some people have been successful with kitty litter. There are also a lot of collapsed walls using kitty litter or even just bentonite. I for one, don't want to be the one to have frogs smothered under the avalanche of collapsing kitty litter. The red art recipes I use were put together with the help and research of many here on DB. They are detailed here http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/parts-construction/63732-clay-substrate-how.html
You can see my latest red art viv here using both red art walls and substrate. http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/members-frogs-vivariums/78189-not-another-pumilo-build.html
 
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I've read through many of the threads involving clay backgrounds, and am planning to add the redart clay to my mix. I ended up replacing the litter I purchased yesterday with the brand that most successful vivs have used. Dr. Elsey's Precious Cat. Right away, I noticed a great different in quality and consistency. I'll post some pics for comparison later today. Within 10 minutes of soaking, Dr. Elsey's already looked more clay-like than the cheapo Walmart stuff has after more than 24 hours. I think this stuff will work far better, especially with the redart and organics added in.

I will be supporting the clay with some eggcrate supports throughout. This is for a smaller viv (12x12x19), but for my larger viv in progress ( ) I'm planning a combination of concrete, clay, and possibly Great Stuff/Silicone backgrounds.

I guess I can use the cheapo as part of my substrate. No point in it going to waste, all $2 worth.
 

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it seems like mush rather than consistent clay. I can work it into a fairly sticky ball
Adding mush to your substrate is not a good plan. You need to be striving for an extremely well drained substrate. Your $2 in savings could cost you root rot, the loss of your plants, and many with saturated, mushy substrates have even lost frogs to foot rotting bacterial infections.
 
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Gotcha. I wonder if it would work as a component to a cement background. Any ideas how add clay would affect cement? I'm thinking a 10-20% mix only.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the info on the substrate. With this tank, I'm going simple, with some basic ABG mix. For my larger build, I'm looking to follow some of the suggestions in "The Ulitmate Clay Substrate" thread. Oh, and after my last post, I realized you probably took my comment about adding the cheapo kitty litter as it currently is, a wet clumpy mess. That wasn't what I meant. I meant, that I thought I could bake it back to solid chunks and add that to something such as ABG mix.


Ok, so here are some comparison photos.

First off, the Walmart $2 cheapo kitty litter.
Here is the bag.


Here it is one day later after I've spent about 30 minutes trying to mash it up. I couldn't even get it to stick together enough for a full comparison.


Now here is the Dr. Elsey's Precious Cat Kitty Litter after only two hours of soaking (sorry, forgot to get a photo of the bag, but you can find it elsewhere on Dendroboard).


And here it is with sphagnum and coco fiber mixed in.


Once I mixed in everything, is was a perfect consistency.

I'll be posting photos of how it worked at my next viv build here:
http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/parts-construction/78661-zoomed-12x12x18-build.html
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Quick question. After setting it all up, would it be ok to start planting now, or should I wait a few days for the clay to settle?
 

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I don't understand why people are still wasting time with kitty litter...


bentonite + redart is a perfect mix, easy to control, and is the same price, if not CHEAPER than buying the crappy inconsistent kitty litters....


I got 5# redart for $2.47 and the bentonite was around the same price...


With that said though....I have personally had awful experiences with all the clay variety backgrounds I have tried (including reinforcing it with eggcrate and other methods) and am done with clay backgrounds. Not worth the few minutes saved for the long term hassles imho.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
For me it was availability, effort, and plenty of successful attempts with in smaller setups. I did add redart clay in with the kitty litter. After testing different varieties, I'm willing to bet the majority of problems have been with subpar litter. There is no way the "clay" made with the cheapo stuff would have held up. The mix I used is a very nice consistency and I think it will do well. With that said, a more complex setup, such as the other viv I'm working on, would be to risky using this mix. The majority of that tank will be of the grout concrete type, with some clay mixed in to vary things up.
 

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. Not worth the few minutes saved for the long term hassles imho.
In my experience, the best way to get clay to work as a background is to not try and save time with it.. The longer everything has to establish the better it works...

Ed
 
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Beside which the point of a clay background or substrate shouldn't be to try to save a few minutes. It can be very beneficial to the frogs. You can find more of the details about that on any of the clay substrate threads.
 
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Beside which the point of a clay background or substrate shouldn't be to try to save a few minutes. It can be very beneficial to the frogs. You can find more of the details about that on any of the clay substrate threads.
That was the reason I went with a clay background for this setup. It might seem like I've gone the quick and easy route since I used kitty litter and not powdered bentonite, but that is not the case. All the threads that were recommended here, I've read through multiple times. I went with the kitty litter method because I wanted to play with it myself and see if I could tell a difference.

This tank was a test setup and it's very likely I'll break it down and try other methods. I have something up my sleeve that I'm hoping to share with my other setup. Something that I've not seen tried for a background. It's nothing revolutionary, and the basics have been documented before, minus some simple additions that might make for a completely different look.
 
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