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Jessi makes a new habitat for Terd the red eyed crocodile skink. Every animal in captivity deserves to thrive. Bioactive enclosures are a great way to provide excellent care and help them thrive!

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 (00:00) to (02:00)

Hi guys.  I'm Jessi and we're here at Animal Wonders.  Today we're in the reptile room because I wanted to make an improvement on one of the animals' enclosures and I wanted to show you how I do that.


The animal I have in here is a red-eyed crocodile skink.  His name is Terd and I've already pulled this enclosure out of my shelving unit so that I could be all all ready for you.  I wanted to start not clean, because a lot of you might already have a reptile and you might want to improve their life by switching over to a bioactive enclosure and so that's what I'm going to show you how to do today.  

So the first thing you need to do is pull your animal out and put them in a safe temporary space.  I have a tupperware here.  It has holes drilled in the top.  I'm going to find him.  That's probably going to be the most challenging part here because Terd is a baby and I'm never quite sure where he's going to be.  He does like to hide in here.  Oh, there he is!  He's like, all the way in here, so actually, I'm just going to put this right in there.  Wow, that was easy.  A lot easier than I thought.

Alright, there you go, Terd, you're gonna just get set to the side.  Now I have to clear all this stuff out.  I'm just going to go ahead and put it in another bin here, just to keep everything contained.  If you don't have a bioactive enclosure set up, you're going to need to change out all of this substrate every month or so.  Otherwise, it'll become saturated and compacted and then it'll turn--it'll actually turn acidic and you can get some kind of hazardous stuff going on in the enclosure.

I love switching my enclosures to a bioactive so isopods and springtails, they are detritovores, or decomposers and they will clean up the feces and then the dead plant material and make it just like it would be in the wild where it wouldn't become--the soil wouldn't like become dead or acidic and you don't have to clean as much.

 (02:00) to (04:00)

Alright, now that I have most of my substrate out, I don't really need to clean it that well because I am going to a bioactive enclosure and it'll be fine that it's not perfectly cleaned out.  The first thing I want to do is kind of get situated for my water feature.  It's a real simple waterfall.  It's got a little pump here and I'm just going to set this up in the back behind my styrofoam board.  I'm going to measure how big I want the waterfall and it's about right there.  I can always change this up.  Cut it to size.  This little tube is gonna bring the water up from the pump, rr, get on there.  Just gonna poke a hole right in here to fit the little tube.  Gonna use this little extender to shape where I want the water to go, so I want it to come right out that little hole there and kind of shoot down. 

Alright, now I'm going to add the drainage layer.  That is basically where you want all the water to collect and not get your substrate super sopping wet.  I use hydroballs and they're a clay ball that will just sit on the bottom.  I like to see it about huhh, about 3/4 of an inch deep and that's just going to allow the space for the water to kind of fill up and then not touch the substrate above it.  

Alright, next up is I want to put my mesh layer on top.  This is going to go above the drainage layer and below the soil so that we're not getting the soil substrate into the water layer at all, and depending on your tank size, you may have to trim this and because I have the backdrop in there, you can see that I have extra, so I'm just gonna go ahead and trim it off.  Alright, and now we're ready for the substrate.  You can mix your own substrate, but I find it much easier just to get this pre-made package from (?~3:58).  It has a lot of great things in there.

 (04:00) to (06:00)

It has coconut bark, it has topsoil, it has this sphagnum moss all mixed together.  You can see it's kind of um, separated, so I'm just going to mix it back up.  This is great kind of starter food for the bugs that are going to be in your enclosure, the clean-up crew.  Alright, now this looks like a nice layer on top, but it's actually not deep enough so what I'm going to do is I could use another bag of this substrate, but I'm actually gonna use some of the old substrate that I had in there, because it has some good nutrients in there and that'll be great for the isopods. 

I'm going to now start kind of doing more of the design of the enclosure.  I'm going to have the water come out of the back here and it's going to kind of percolate down into the water and so I want to make a little bit of a stream through the middle of this.  I'm going to go all the way down to the mesh because now I'm going to add some of my rocks again to try and keep the substrate back so it's kind of the banks to a little river.  I want to add some plants and some, what you would call furniture, so branches and stuff for him to hide so you can also call them hides.  

So when I'm deciding where to put the hides, I want to make sure that everything is kind of easily accessible, the things that I need to get to, so the water dish should come right in the front here and any feeding dishes should also kind of be in the front, so I can put the food in there so you wanna leave space for those.  I love corkwood, cork bark, I guess, because this stuff is going to break down.  It's gonna hold its shape for quite a while, but it's also food for your clean-up crew, so it's going to break down as well.  They're going to eat the edges off of this. 

Alright, now I'm going to put in some plants.  You could use fake plants, but that's not really going to have the full bioactive thing going on, so you'd still have the decomposers decomposing the feces and some of the detritus in the bottom, in the wood and stuff like that, but the plants, they are going to clean the soil and clean the air, and it's going to make it more humid in there and it's just going to create a much more cohesive environment and so I like to use live plants.

 (06:00) to (08:00)

I have a lot of pothos growing in the reptile room already, and this is an incredibly hardy plant.  All I have to do is plant this in here.  This has a--this soil is perfect.  This pothos is going to be clean.  There's going to be no pesticides on it because it grew here, and that's really important if you're going to use your live plants, you have to make sure it's from a place that does not use any sort of pesticides or insecticides 'cause that will harm not only your animal but also all the little arthropods that you have as your clean-up crew.

One of the things that I really enjoy about enclosure design is that you're basically creating your own little world and it's fun to just get really creative with it.  You put your plants where you want to and kind of imagine how they're going to grow into this, I don't know, fun little, fun little forest scene.

Okay, this is looking really good.  I want to add my final layer which is some sphagnum moss.  I'm just going to create a little layer over the top here.  This is gonna keep the humidity as high as I want it.  These guys like it about 80% humidity, 90% even sometimes.  Here goes the water.  Gonna make a little dent in my drainage layer here and just push it down a little bit so it creates a little pond.  You can see the water's a little bit muddy right now.  That's alright.  As things settle down, all of the mud's going to settle to the bottom and it'll get clear again.

Before I put Terd in there, I want to turn the pump on, make sure everything's running smoothly, and make any adjustments.  Here we go.  Moment of truth.  Wait for the water.  My pump isn't down enough so it's not getting the water moving.

 (08:00) to (10:00)

That's alright.  That's an easy fix.  Let's put a little bit more water in here, and this is--this is ready to go.  One last mist, and let's put Terd in.  Hi, buddy.  He has come out of his little hide in here.  Look how cute he is!  Good job, buddy.  He's growing nice and strong.  Here you go, bud.  Here you go.  Alright, guys, it's looking really good, but I didn't like this bare spot in the front.  I want to give him more options to hide so he wants to come up into his water and come eat his food so I grabbed a couple more (?~8:45) here, and I'm just gonna go ahead and put them in the front.  

Red-eyed crocodile skinks are very elusive and they will not come out if they're feeling exposed, so having a lot of places for them to feel safe and hidden is gonna make them less stressed and much more healthy in the long run.  Alright, guys, I'm gonna move his enclosure back into the shelving unit and get his light on him.  

So you remember we were talking about a bioactive enclosure.  That's what this is.  So you saw me put in the drainage layer and the substrate, that was really good for the isopods and springtails.  You saw me put in plants and a water feature.  You didn't actually see me put in the decomposers, the detritivores.   The substrate that I had in his previous enclosure had a healthy population, but I want to make sure with all this disturbance and new substrate, I want to make sure that they have a really healthy population in this new enclosure, so I'm going to take a little culture from one of my established bio-active enclosures and I'm just gonna repopulate this one.

Alright, so I have the parents of Terd, the adult red-eyed crocodile skinks, and I just took some of their substrate.  I'm gonna go ahead and just put it right here in the front.  You can see it's got some old leaves that are decomposing in there, so that's going to be where I'm going to mist that down a little bit and all the springtails in that soil will eat all of this delicious substrate, any feces that Terd gives them.  

 (10:00) to (11:09)

Turds of terd, and they will repopulate this whole place, and there you have it!  A bioactive enclosure that you guys can do at home.  I am really excited about the direction that reptile care is going.  There's so much information out there on how to create a bioactive enclosure.  That is the best thing that you can provide for your reptiles in captivity.  I hope that this has inspired you to do an improvement on any reptiles that you keep as pets and I hope that you want to go on an adventure with us every week.  If you would like to, subscribe to our YouTube channel AnimalWondersMontana, and I'll see you next week.  Thanks, guys.