Barking Geckos Bioactive Vivarium Setup

Discussion in 'Australian Lizards and Monitors' started by Lukian, Mar 18, 2020.

  1. Lukian

    Lukian New Member

    Jan 30, 2020
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    So I just got a pair of thick-tailed geckos about a month ago, and have been working on a bioactive vivarium to move them into once they grow out of their current home. However, it does seem like bioactive tanks are generally done for more tropical species, and because of this I couldn't find a ton of info or examples of vivariums for species similar to mine, and ended up playing much of the setup by ear. For that reason I thought I'd check in here before thinking about putting them into their new home, and see if there are any suitability issues I should be looking out for :)

    The tank itself is a 60x35x35 aquarium, and although I have a lid available I plan on keeping it open top to stop excess humidity from building up. The plants I have in so far are a spider plant, a pothos and a fittonia, although I plan on adding a few more in. I am thinking of putting in a succulent in the front right corner which is looking a little bare, but considering I am using artificial light I will need to find something which isn't too photon hungry. I am heating the right side with a 7w heat mat on the side of the glass, and will try to keep that side drier, as I know they prefer a cooler wet side and a hotter dry side. I have some nice rocks and hides I will put into the tank eventually to give a bit more structure for them to explore and play around with, but for now they are in use in their hatchling tank so will be moved over with the geckos.

    One concern I have is with the light, which I need for the plants to grow, as the tank doesn't get much light from my window. Right now I am using a flourescent art light I had lying around which seems to be working, but I'm not sure whether it is a long term solution. I have an option of borrowing an aquarium light from my brother, but it has a 10k temperature which I know isn't ideal. How concerned should I be with light sensitivity for the geckos? I know they are nocturnal so don't want to fry their eyes too much.

    Onto the substrate, I went with a multilayered approach. The idea is that the top layer will hold water less than the bottom, allowing the plant roots to get the water they need without too much moisture on the top layer. All three layers are made with a mix of washed play sand, coir peat, vermiculite, perlite, sphagnum moss and horticultural charcoal, with varied ratios in each layer. The top layer has about a 2:1 ratio of sand to coir peat, with the middle at 1:1 and the bottom at 1:2. On the very bottom I have about a 4cm layer of clay pellets for drainage. In retrospect 4cm may have been excessive, but I don't see it causing a huge problem. I was originally planning on putting a layer of pure sand on the top, but I quite like how it looks now so I might leave it as is.

    In order to help with plant growth I mixed some leaf litter from our garden japanese maple into the substrate, which will break down to release nutrients into the mix. As a cleanup crew I put in a colony of springtails, and also plan on putting in isopods if I can find any to buy in Sydney. Are isopods essential in a setup like this, or can I easily go without?

    In terms of humidity I am finding it isn't much higher than the background humidity rate of our house, which at the moment is a bit high at ~75%. If necessary we have a dehumidifier which I can use it my room, as I know that they prefer lower humidity than that.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated as to how I can make the tank as suitable for my geckos as possible. I don't see any reason it wouldn't be a good fit for them, but considering my inexperience I think it might be good to check in with people who know more than me before accidentally putting my new pets in mortal peril. Cheers

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    Last edited: Mar 18, 2020
  2. Bluetongue1

    Bluetongue1 APS Veteran APS Veteran

    Aug 10, 2015
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    @Lukian, If the plants are surviving under the current light then there is no need to change. Sounds like your brother’s aquarium light is for a marine reef aquarium and you are correct in that it is not suitable. However the lights they sell for planted freshwater aquaria are excellent. These lights have peaks in the red and blue sections of the light spectrum, which is what plants absorb to photosynthesise. I used to use Sylvania Growlux fluorescents but there are plenty of other types/ brands just as suitable. These days LEDs are taking over – half the cost to run, last 5 times as long and better control over the spectrum emitted.

    You can buy a power timer at a hardware or supermarket for $10 or less, to run your lighting. I set mine at the beginning of each month to come on about 15 minutes before sunrise and to switch off about 15 minutes after sunset. That way the animals get a normal day length of bright lighting. Room lighting at night I figure is a bit like a full moon, which can switch on and off with cloud cover. They seem to cope ok with it. You can try a blue night light if you want to be able to see them more clearly or even run a less bright white light for a few hours in the evening to observe them.

    With respect to using succulents, as a general rule their roots need to dry out in between waterings or they will rot. Many of the smaller succulents do not like full sun and will grow well in lower light conditions. Gasteria, for example, is a whole genus that is shade-loving and will burn in direct sunlight. Small ornamental Aloes, Haworthia, Echevera, Sansevieria and Senecio are all potentials. Air plants (Tillandsia) can be attached to rock or branches at any desired height. You can google something like “small succulents for indoors” or “for terrariums” to get more specific information. I would make the point that succulents are designed to survive in less humid environments. So their leaves do not release as much moisture during photosynthesis as compared to non-succulents.

    It is relatively easy to collect your own isopods if you want to. If you know someone with potted plants on the ground who does not use snail pellets, slaters love to shelter underneath and in the bottom of the pots. I once counted over 50 in amongst the old bark mix in one medium sized orchid pot. Also try looking under debris on the ground where there is leaf litter or garden plants nearby and full shade so the soil underneath does not dry out.

    Following is the best care information that I know about for this species. Worth downloading a copy.

    In addition to the above, Reptiles Magazine produced a couple of good care articles for this species.

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