aaah substrate - the eternal reptile debate!
You are going to read a lot about substrates if you do any research on
the net - but for reference purposes here is my two pennies worth!
Search ebay for Eco Earth (US)
Search ebay for Eco Earth (UK)
Eco earth is basically coconut fibres shredded up and you will receive it as
a desiccated hard block. It works amazingly similarly to the way Wiley Coyote would make things
from ACME. Add water and watch it grow! I find this stuff
excellent for setting up a miniature biosphere in my Terrarium's.
You can use it one of two ways:
place a suitably thick layer of it onto the base of the
Terrarium and moisten it well so that it appears dark brown and obviously wet. this has the
benefit of evaporating it water content during the day and helping to keep the humidity levels
of the Terrarium constant and/or elevated.
It will dry out and will need wetting sometimes daily in the hotter months -
to help keep the water locked into the Eco earth for a bit longer I add the following.
acquire a substance called Hydroton.
Search ebay for Hydroton (US)
Search ebay for Hydroton (UK)
these are little porous clay balls that are used in gardening - If you're
going to use these then they have to go in first - I spread a fairly thick 1-2 inch layer of them
onto the base of the Terrarium and spray them with water so they get saturated -
Then - I put a layer of plastic mesh above them to act as a barrier. - more
on this later....
being a mesh it will allow moisture to evaporate through it. Above
that then I place a thin layer of sphagnum moss - this holds a massive amount of water when wet and
also acts as a further barrier.
Search ebay for Sphagnum Moss (US)
Search ebay for Sphagnum Moss (UK)
I then place a nice thick 2-3 inch layer of Eco earth on top and wet it all
the result will look like this:
Now this may seem like a lot of effort - but these products are really not
that expensive. The Hydroton holds a massive amount of water - the plastic mesh then acts as a
permeable barrier letting that water evaporate - next comes the sphagnum moss which will absorb
that moisture and also let it pass through to the Eco earth above. The Eco earth stays wetter for
far longer than if it was just the only substrate.
Now over time that Eco earth will become naturally populated with bacteria
that will feed on the waste produced by your geckos. There are even small species of insects -
called springtail's - that can be purchased to establish a colony in the substrate who actively
feed off the waste your geckos produce and reduce it to harmless by products - effectively cleaning
up after your gecko for you!
Once set up, this substrate can last for years! Yes years! All you need to
do is every few months scrape of the top most layer of Eco earth - throw it away and sprinkle on a
new fresh layer and then let the existing bacteria and insects re-populate it in time.
When doing this it is crucially important to never use a disinfectant to
clean anything inside the Terrarium or you will destroy all that natural bacteria and insects
Just clean down the vivarium insides with clean water and a sponge or
scraper and remove the decor - clean in the sink - rinse thoroughly and replace- that's
It never gets that smelly even when really dirty - and if well and regularly
maintained will smell slightly brackish like being near a stream or river bank.
It also has the benefit of looking more natural and pleasing to our eyes as
well as being a natural Gecko waste disposal system. - of course - your geckos don't actually care
or require it! - they don't spend much time on the ground.....
They will absolutely love this set up when it comes to laying eggs! - If you
have females with a male - they will mate and she will lay eggs and she will lap up the opportunity
to lay her eggs in this substrate - and then comes the second reason we have the plastic mesh as a
barrier between the moss and Eco earth and the Hydroton balls.
Females will dig down a fair old way to lay their eggs and of you didn't
have the moss and the plastic mesh as a barrier then the eggs would get lost amongst all the other
objects that are round and egg like!
Finding and removing the eggs to either dispose of them or incubate them; is
now easy because of the little bit of preparation we made in the very beginning
with setting up the Terrarium.
Kitchen towel and/or
The old steadfast favourite is kitchen towels - and they are great. They do
have the ability however to suck up the moisture from the air like a sponge - so keep an eye on
your humidity levels if you intend to use kitchen towels as your sole substrate medium. I prefer
not to use it as the sole substrate as it does have any aesthetic appeal to me - not that the
geckos would mind!
I do however use kitchen towels exclusively in my breeder Vivariums which
are medium and large exo terra faunariums. Every two days I take out
the old towels and replace - cleaning is simple this way!
Bear in mind there is nowhere for a female to lay her
eggs this way and you may need to provide some sort
of hide filled with Eco earth to let her do