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Bioactive substrate question

Brian A

New Member
Some background before my questions. I have an adult male Argentinian Black & White in an 8x4x4 Animal Plastics enclosure. I recently relocated for a new job and I want to redo his substrate arrangements.

I previously used several inches of cypress mulch for substrate and these are my observations on that. It was extremely expensive. Water tended to accumulate on the bottom of the enclosure since I would occasionally splash the inside with a bucket of water to keep up the humidity. He never burrowed in it, just pushed it around. These were my three biggest issues prior to the new job.

Now I have a fourth issue to consider. I am away for a week at a time at least once a month for the job. I have someone who can stop in and feed him, change his water, etc mid week while I’m gone. I have his lights on a timer. His humidifier almost lasts until my check-in person comes to visit him. My only issue is his “business” while I’m gone.

Would bioactive substrate with isopods and stuff alleviate this issue? One person at my local reptile store (DFW Reptarium if anyone is from Dallas) told me it would work perfect and I could avoid having to do just about anything. The next person I talked to said there’s no way it would work with an animal and enclosure this large and that it would require attentive spot cleaning. He said that bioactive substrate that can accommodate an animal’s business and allow substrate to be used for more than a year at a time only worked for smaller animals. I asked if it wouldn’t be possible to just scale up the isopods to match the animal and enclosure size. He told me that I could but then the creepy crawlies would overwhelm the enclosure and eventually need to be replaced as a whole because they would be out of control.

What are the community’s thoughts? Am I better off just using a tried and true substrate and paying my check-in person to come twice as often and clean up after him, too? Does anyone have first hand success at accomplishing this level of “automation” in enclosure maintenance? If so, how did you do it or how do you suggest doing it? I’d prefer to spend a little more and buy from a reputable source rather than learn as I go and potentially mess it up, if that makes sense. Any online vendors recommended? Or any within Texas? Any thoughts of the other issues I had with cypress?


I personally would just switch to an easier to keep clean, scoop-able substrate such as topsoil/peat/sand and spot clean as needed. You would have to have a huge clean up crew to maintain an enclosure that large......and it would take a long time for it to become established.


New Member
We don't have any tegu's but do have 8 bioactive enclosures ranging from small paludarium's to large monitor enclosures. The largest is 7' x 4' x 4' containing a pair of Green Tree Monitors. None require little more than occasionally blasting a plant or log with a strong mister with the exception of the water dish or filter. I have a dish in the bottom to leave bugs & each time they use that as a toilet it reminds me of how grateful I am for going bio.
Also have a much drier 6' x 3' x 2' containing a 2.5' Savanah Monitor that is an absolute garbage disposal & the only cleaning we have to do in his enclosure is when he uses his water dish. My oldest bio-active enclosure is a 100 gal paludarium that has been active for about 10 years, it's full of bugs but has never become "over run".
For these larger animal enclosures I include red worms & super worms to the standard springtails & isopods.
Throwing in a few house gecko's can quickly get your bug count back in check while giving your pet something to chase around along with the worms & beetles they turn into.

I documented the GTM enclosure build here if that helps:


New Member
If your still here, thanks for sharing this. It's the closest I can find to my build for my caiman lizard. Are the GTM still going strong?

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