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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey everyone,
A while back I made a post about at 55 gallon terrarium I set up, with the hopes making it as self sustaining as possible. Here is a short update...

My hopes were always to make the tank as self-sustaining as possible, realizing that there are practical limits. I know that it is frowned upon, but I approach my tank as scientist rather than a pet owner. Which is to say, the well-being of my animals is not always the single most important factor to me.

At some point, it became obvious that snails and slugs were in the viv permanently. When I accepted that, my attitude changed again. No longer was I worried about pretty plants and no longer was I worried about accidentally introducing pests from my garden. I quit culturing flies. I quit dusting food. Instead, I started putting jars of vegetable matter in my compost bin for a few days and then moving those jars into my terrarium when they were full of maggots. I leave them in my terrarium for a month of two, until it looks like no insects are living in them, and replace them. I've been doing this for about a year. Today I looked into my viv for the first time in a few weeks, and was greeted by a healthy froglet. I don't even know where there is currently standing water.

-Mark
 

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Thats certainly an interesting way to keep a tank. Can you post some photos? I'd like to see.

someone commented to me that with the vivariums I am trying to make the environment as "wild" as it could be, but thats not true at all - I'm trying to make it nice for me to look at and a good place for the animals to live. In the wild, birds would eat my geckos and they would hunt instead of being given worms in a bowl.

You are trying to create a vivarium that is very low maintenance. I think you should consider how to get the bugs into the viv without your help? LOL, one way fruit fly valves.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'll try and post pictures later. The tank was set up to sit in the center of the room, which clearance on both sides for viewing. I have since moved twice, and one of the sides is now against the wall. I would love to redo the tank to fit with its current placement, but won't have time for the foreseeable future.

However, when I do make another tank someday, I am definitely making feeding ports. These will be openings on the side of the tank which I can screw jars onto.
 

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Mark,

In September 2010 I put two juvenile cristobal froglets in a large tank with clay-based substrate that was heavily seeded with microfauna three months prior. I just removed them and placed them in another tank two weeks ago due to dwindling available food sources. I re-seeded the tank twice over that period and to be honest, I'm satisfied with the results. Both juveniles developed healthily and one is currently in a breeding pair.

I will probably be trying this again soon but with younger froglets.

Ashton
 

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Didn't want to bump that old thread, but you used miracle grow organic potting soil? i learned that that is bad stuff....?
 

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Didn't want to bump that old thread, but you used miracle grow organic potting soil? i learned that that is bad stuff....?
"Organic" potting soil is just packaged peat in an expensive bag
It shouldnt have any fertilizers or additives
 

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"Organic" potting soil is just packaged peat in an expensive bag
It shouldnt have any fertilizers or additives
in another thread we learned that it can have manure in it and additionally it breaks down too fast, doesn't have enough space or air pockets for microfauna to flourish and won't maintain the healthy bioactive environment that we want for long term healthy growth.
 

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I really don't mean this in a jerky way, but I'm not really sure that you've achieved much with this project. In a lot of ways it sounds less like science and more about minimal effort with minimal results. You still have to add food and there's no telling what the viv looks like until we see current pictures. Does it look nice enough to be enjoyed or does it look like a neglected vivarium with a gazillion dead flies littering the bottom? How does it smell?

The original idea is interesting to some degree, but I think you would have been better served to simplify the things that can be simplified and to sustain the things that can not sustain themselves. For instance, I have automated the lights and misting in all of my vivariums. Adding a drain cuts down on a lot of work as well. Honestly, feeding the frogs and maintaining cultures isn't much work at all. Especially once you have removed all of the other daily maintenance chores through automation. There are many other areas where science could be better applied and I can't help but feel that you have robbed yourself of fully enjoying the hobby.
 

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I really don't mean this in a jerky way, but I'm not really sure that you've achieved much with this project. In a lot of ways it sounds less like science and more about minimal effort with minimal results. You still have to add food and there's no telling what the viv looks like until we see current pictures. Does it look nice enough to be enjoyed or does it look like a neglected vivarium with a gazillion dead flies littering the bottom? How does it smell?

The original idea is interesting to some degree, but I think you would have been better served to simplify the things that can be simplified and to sustain the things that can not sustain themselves. For instance, I have automated the lights and misting in all of my vivariums. Adding a drain cuts down on a lot of work as well. Honestly, feeding the frogs and maintaining cultures isn't much work at all. Especially once you have removed all of the other daily maintenance chores through automation. There are many other areas where science could be better applied and I can't help but feel that you have robbed yourself of fully enjoying the hobby.
First off, enjoyment of the hobby is all based on perspective.

Second, self-sustaining enclosures are ALL but minimal. Just the clay substrate I have in most of my tanks takes about a week to make, not including the weeks spent gathering ingredients. When I left my pumilio in a tank with little to no feeding supplementation for nearly a year, I saw it as an experiment to see if the frogs could be kept in the most naturalistic way possible. The frogs hunted for prey, which included many varieties of springs, isopods, worms, and other soil invertebrates (as opposed to the same flies and bean beetles), there was minimal invasion in their enclosure so they may have felt more secure, and you get to enjoy their natural behavior more so than if you trained them to wait in a spot for flies (not saying that that's not an enjoyable experience in its own). Not to mention it's very rewarding to see something you planned for months to survive on its own.

Also, I am not quite sure where you got the image of dead flies, but with a heavy microfauna population, I am sure any decaying insects would disappear within a few days.

Just some thoughts!

Ashton

Edit: My self-sustaining tank smells like very wet leaves.
 

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in another thread we learned that it can have manure in it and additionally it breaks down too fast, doesn't have enough space or air pockets for microfauna to flourish and won't maintain the healthy bioactive environment that we want for long term healthy growth.
I should have worded my post differently. It shouldnt have chemical additives like synthetic fertilizers. If it had manure in it, it would likely have been well rotted manure, which would essentially be a rich dark soil. Fresh manure wouldnt have been added, as it would burn any plants exposed to it.

As a sole substrate, yes, peat would be bad. It would become a saturated, anaerobic, and unhealthy mess that would deprive the microfauna of habitat and not provide enough oxygen to the plants roots.

However, in the vivarium in question, it only covers 20-25% of the total floor space AND it is only used as an organic topping for a clay based substrate. The clay based substrate provides plenty of habitat for microfauna, prevents large pockets of anaerobic conditions, and plenty of space for oxygen around the plants roots. In addition, it provides plenty of minerals (including calcium) that the microfauna, plants, and frogs need. There have been many discussions of clay based substrates with an organic top layer and how they benefit the vivarium.
 

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I really don't mean this in a jerky way, but I'm not really sure that you've achieved much with this project. In a lot of ways it sounds less like science and more about minimal effort with minimal results. You still have to add food and there's no telling what the viv looks like until we see current pictures. Does it look nice enough to be enjoyed or does it look like a neglected vivarium with a gazillion dead flies littering the bottom? How does it smell?

The original idea is interesting to some degree, but I think you would have been better served to simplify the things that can be simplified and to sustain the things that can not sustain themselves. For instance, I have automated the lights and misting in all of my vivariums. Adding a drain cuts down on a lot of work as well. Honestly, feeding the frogs and maintaining cultures isn't much work at all. Especially once you have removed all of the other daily maintenance chores through automation. There are many other areas where science could be better applied and I can't help but feel that you have robbed yourself of fully enjoying the hobby.
A few members have set up large tanks with the appropriate planning and design to support a small population of thumbnails with minimal feedings. Its not something I personally feel I could pull off, but some people have been able to do it. This is one of those few tanks, and at last update, this tank looked really good.
 

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I think it makes since to want a low maintenance viv. In the wild everything takes care of its self without the help of us (humans). I think this is a very good convo. If I had all of my tanks on a rack I would have to do little to no work. Bugs are in the wild, so I doubt too many bugs that appear in the viv will be so harmful to them.
 

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I should have worded my post differently. It shouldnt have chemical additives like synthetic fertilizers. If it had manure in it, it would likely have been well rotted manure, which would essentially be a rich dark soil. Fresh manure wouldnt have been added, as it would burn any plants exposed to it.

As a sole substrate, yes, peat would be bad. It would become a saturated, anaerobic, and unhealthy mess that would deprive the microfauna of habitat and not provide enough oxygen to the plants roots.

However, in the vivarium in question, it only covers 20-25% of the total floor space AND it is only used as an organic topping for a clay based substrate. The clay based substrate provides plenty of habitat for microfauna, prevents large pockets of anaerobic conditions, and plenty of space for oxygen around the plants roots. In addition, it provides plenty of minerals (including calcium) that the microfauna, plants, and frogs need. There have been many discussions of clay based substrates with an organic top layer and how they benefit the vivarium.
I'm still confused. In that "other" thread, the organic soil has cow and chicken manure in it, but now i'm hearing that if it's old that it's ok? I'm still not taking any chances with using it.
 

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First off, enjoyment of the hobby is all based on perspective.

Second, self-sustaining enclosures are ALL but minimal. Just the clay substrate I have in most of my tanks takes about a week to make, not including the weeks spent gathering ingredients. When I left my pumilio in a tank with little to no feeding supplementation for nearly a year, I saw it as an experiment to see if the frogs could be kept in the most naturalistic way possible. The frogs hunted for prey, which included many varieties of springs, isopods, worms, and other soil invertebrates (as opposed to the same flies and bean beetles), there was minimal invasion in their enclosure so they may have felt more secure, and you get to enjoy their natural behavior more so than if you trained them to wait in a spot for flies (not saying that that's not an enjoyable experience in its own). Not to mention it's very rewarding to see something you planned for months to survive on its own.

Also, I am not quite sure where you got the image of dead flies, but with a heavy microfauna population, I am sure any decaying insects would disappear within a few days.

Just some thoughts!

Ashton

Edit: My self-sustaining tank smells like very wet leaves.
Certainly many things in this world are based on each individuals perspective. Obviously a "show tank" isn't the goal in this scenario, but I'd think that most people would share a similar perspective regarding a vivarium that looks horrible. Even if the goal is JUST to make things sustainable it's hard to believe that a vivarium wouldn't be enjoyed more if it at least looked presentable.

Obviously it takes more effort to setup a viv that is designed to require less effort. I know that from automating my own racks, but setup and maintenance are completely different things. While my vivs aren't completely self sustaining, I feel that my frogs do indeed enjoy the fruits of life just as much as you say your frogs do in your sustained vivarium. They interact with their environment and breed while I watch. If anything, my involvement seems to increase their lifespan and the number of successfully reared young. The fact of the matter is that the frogs do seem to adapt to and benefit from my involvement.

As for the dead flies, that was more of a worst case scenario visual, but ultimately it would depend on the size of the enclosure and whether or not the microfauna could keep up with the volume generated by the fly culture.
 

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Certainly many things in this world are based on each individuals perspective. Obviously a "show tank" isn't the goal in this scenario, but I'd think that most people would share a similar perspective regarding a vivarium that looks horrible. Even if the goal is JUST to make things sustainable it's hard to believe that a vivarium wouldn't be enjoyed more if it at least looked presentable.

Obviously it takes more effort to setup a viv that is designed to require less effort. I know that from automating my own racks, but setup and maintenance are completely different things. While my vivs aren't completely self sustaining, I feel that my frogs do indeed enjoy the fruits of life just as much as you say your frogs do in your sustained vivarium. They interact with their environment and breed while I watch. If anything, my involvement seems to increase their lifespan and the number of successfully reared young. The fact of the matter is that the frogs do seem to adapt to and benefit from my involvement.

As for the dead flies, that was more of a worst case scenario visual, but ultimately it would depend on the size of the enclosure and whether or not the microfauna could keep up with the volume generated by the fly culture.
It is not fair to claim that a self-sufficient tank is not presentable. The original poster's tank, in my opinion, is stunning with the amount of plant growth it has. And this tank here, one of my own that actually happens to be for sale, was self-sustaining for 2 months at one point due to a leave I had to take. I consider it fairly presentable.



As for your involvement of feeding your frogs by hand, I cannot see how it would make much more of a difference than letting them feed themselves. Either way, they will benefit from being fed... I just prefer a more "hands-off" approach.

There are no fruit fly cultures involved in our self-sustaining tanks that we described. I do not know where you got that image as well.

Ashton
 

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I'm still confused. In that "other" thread, the organic soil has cow and chicken manure in it, but now i'm hearing that if it's old that it's ok? I'm still not taking any chances with using it.
When manure is fresh, it will burn plants. After it has had time to decay, it becomes a nutrient rich soil. Rabbit manure, however, doesnt have to be rotted first because it doesnt burn plants. Which is why I have rabbits with a compost pile under their hutch for my garden. Organic gardening and reading about gardening teaches you a lot about composting and nutrient cycles...
Im not saying that it is great to start throwing manure into the tank. It adds too many nutrients at the start up. This was explained by Ed in an earlier thread where someone added bat guano to a tank. What was used in this tank should have been (and was likely) 100% peat.
 

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It is not fair to claim that a self-sufficient tank is not presentable. The original poster's tank, in my opinion, is stunning with the amount of plant growth it has. And this tank here, one of my own that actually happens to be for sale, was self-sustaining for 2 months at one point due to a leave I had to take. I consider it fairly presentable.



As for your involvement of feeding your frogs by hand, I cannot see how it would make much more of a difference than letting them feed themselves. Either way, they will benefit from being fed... I just prefer a more "hands-off" approach.

There are no fruit fly cultures involved in our self-sustaining tanks that we described. I do not know where you got that image as well.

Ashton
I think you're confusing what I've said about the OP's viv with your own. I never claimed that all self sufficient tanks aren't presentable. I felt the OP alluded to his viv not being very attractive when he stated that he was no longer concerned about the pretty plants and leaving fly cultures in the vivarium. In another thread he mentioned that the glass was covered in algae and difficult to photograph. For all I know his viv looks awesome, but based on the information given (without recent pics) it seems logical to assume it's not as spectacular as it once was.

Don't take my comments as personal offence. I'm not saying that all or your self sustaining vivs are horrible things. I think the idea is interesting if it can be truly obtained.
 
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