Yes, it’s true….You can have a nearly maintenance-free vivarium by using microfauna; bugs and fungus that eat poop and waste, keep smells down, eliminate mites & other pests, and ensure a healthy ecosystem for your pet.
The trick to a Self Sustaining Microfauna Vivarium is in mimicking nature, and nature has perfected this balance to allow a healthy population of micro-fauna to thrive, as well as for plant health. All we need to do is steal her tricks!
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The “Self Sustaining Microfauna Vivarium” Method:
It all starts with your substrate. This is where most people get it wrong by just using one ingredient, such as peat moss or coconut fiber. Your soil should contain several ingredients, all with key roles to play in the healthy ecosystem. This will act as the home & sustenance for the micro-fauna, plants. The ingredients should be added in equal parts, with amendments to your own specific consistency.
- Peat Moss
- Sphagnum Moss
- Coconut Fiber (expanding bricks)
- Coconut Husk (like bark mulch)
- Fir or other non-toxic bark mulch
- Leaf litter such as:
- Optional: 1/4 cup of Activated Charcoal, mixed thoroughly into substrate
- This will absorb toxins and is ideal in the beginning stages of the vivarium build, before the micro-fauna has had a chance to establish.
- Optional: Sand ‘to taste’ will help with binding the substrate together. Do not add too much sand, just enough to keep the substrate firm, without collapsing when you stick your finger in.
- Advanced: Certain mixes of clay are beneficial to plants and microfauna
- 1-2 Cups of CALCIUM BENTONITE CLAY will provide essential calcium & trace elements to your microfauna, which in turn will provide calcium to your pet if ingested!
- GURU TIP: You can cheat, and buy this all-in-one premixed substrate called the ABG or Atlantic Botanical Gardens mix
The next key factor is the BULK of the environment. This offers aeration, secure places for micro-fauna to establish colonies, an anchor for plants, and sometimes acts as a stable place for egg-laying reptiles.
- Malaysian Driftwood
- The wood will be a favored place for the micro-fauna, and a stronghold for beneficial fungus.
- Porous Rock
- Lava, and other porous rocks, provide small holes which act like ‘apartment units’ for the micro-fauna.
- Coconut Shell
- The concave shards of a broken coconut shell create perfect dwellings for micro-fauna. They also provide a good place to hide food underneath for the micro-fauna!
Okay, so what’s this micro-fauna you keep mentioning?
Microfauna are microscopic creatures which thrive everywhere in nature, they are the cleaning crew when trees fall, animals die, and the waste produced by all of Krishna’s creatures. The inhabitants of your ideal Self Sustaining Microfauna Vivarium should include the following. There will be volunteer tenants in your viviarium such as small millipedes, small worms, and tiny snails, which will come in on plants and soil. These should also be welcomed with open arms as they add diversity to the multicultural utopia.
- Tropical White Isopods (Woodlice)
- These wonder-bugs will eat poop, decaying plant matter, shed skin, and dead feeders. These are the night-shift janitors which keep your vivarium clean.
- Tropical White Springtails
- These microscopic insects will keep fungus at bay, keep soil fresh, and maintain the balance which reduces harmful ammonia buildup in the vivarium.
- Tiny Snails
- This is more of an advanced addition….snails can wreak havoc on sensitive plants, and eat frog eggs. The population must be kept in check, and only a few are required to help maintain
- Tardigrades & Nematodes & Protozoans
- You won’t see these, but they’re there. The substrate mixture, along with the decaying leaves, wood, waste, and live moss/plants will provide a utopia for the tiny little critters responsible for keeping harmful bacteria and fungus under control.
- This will begin to occur naturally in your vivarium over time, it will be noticed on the roots of plants and on the wood as it decays. Fungus helps break down waste, and acts as a foodsource for the other micro-fauna
Caring for your micro-Eden.
- The waste produced by your pet, as well as waste produced by feeders or other foodstuffs…will provide most of the nutrition for a healthy population of micro-fauna. However, to boost the available nutrition, you may sprinkle something nutritious like ground up cereal, or Crested Gecko Diet (powder only) underneath a piece of coconut husk.
- Keep the substrate moist, but not wet – think of grabbing a handful of soil from the forest floor, it’s moist, crumbly, and airy.
- GURU TIP: To keep substrate from becoming saturated with water, add plants which suck up a lot of moisture such as pothos (we like this neon variety). The more roots drinking the excess water, the more balanced your water-table will be.
And there you have it. Having your Self Sustaining Microfauna Vivarium established for 3-6 months before adding a reptile or amphibian (or invertebrate!) is a surefire way to have a self-sustaining ecosystem. All you’ll have to do is water and feed your creature!