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Old 01-21-2018, 09:49 PM   #1
Question BP Bioactive vivarium questions

I plan to make a bioactive vivarium for my BP and have done mountains of research. I'm curious as to how to make a long lasting substrate without a drainage layer. I know ball pythons need belly heat and a heat mat isn't necessarily recommended for tanks with a false bottom. I also know that a false bottom can be necessary for a bioactive viv. any suggestions would help concerning how to work around the false bottom or how to make a lasting substrate

thank you
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Old 01-21-2018, 11:38 PM   #2
Bioactive enclosures and UTHs ( in the conventional sense, i.e. underneath the enclosure) do not work well. If you want a low maintenance, bioactive setup, you are going to have to re-think your approach -

1. I would always recommend a drainage layer for bioactive enclosures. The only time my recommendation gets complicated is when you are dealing with a burrowing species. For a ball python, there is no such concern. The drainage layer performs several important functions, but of particular note, is that a water table in the lower portion of the tank allows for a drier top layer while maintaining a moist lower layer where your cleaner microfauna reside and help keep humidity up. This also keeps your inhabitant from sitting on wet substrate. An enclosure without a drainage layer is far trickier to maintain, and if you have an opaque enclosure material (i.e. not glass or acrylic) you cannot see below the surface and tailor your water usage more appropriately. In addition, a bulkhead is near useless in this scenario.

2. First, ball pythons don't need belly heat, they do however need to thermoregulate to digest meals properly. To accomplish this, people generally offer a "hot spot" of approximately 88-92F. This creation of this hot spot can however be accomplished in any fashion as long as a thermal gradient within the cage is provided. For heating a bioactive setup, I would suggest using a RHP (radiant heat panel) to create a hot spot/hot hide while also aiding to heat the enclosure. Bob at Pro Products along with Reptile Basics sell them. The degree to which an RHP can heat an enclosure depends on how well the enclosure insulates, the wattage of the panel, and how your vents are oriented. Some of the best cages, with respect to insulation and conserving heat, are typically plastic enclosures (Boaphile, Animal Plastics, Constrictors NW, etc.) with acrylic doors as their thermal conductivity values are lower and the materials themselves are thicker (most are made using ~1/2").

You can use UTHs with this type of setup, but you will have to be a bit cleverer (definitely use a thermostat). You can't really put the UTH on the outside of the enclosure due to substrate depth, but you can put it on the side or in the enclosure itself. If you integrate a hide into one the sidewalls of the enclosure and attach a heat pad to the outside, you can heat through the sidewall and the heat gets quasi-trapped within the hide allowing for a warm surface and a pocket of warmth. You can also use a UTH that is designed to go inside an enclosure (i.e. is it designed with safety and water resistance in mind). StarPythons, for example, uses rubber heat mats that go inside their setups.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to PM me and good luck.

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