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Last sync:2023-01-22 04:30
Jessi shows off a newly built bioactive enclosure for Pearl the Colombian black and white tegu lizard. Includes adorable lizard, plants, soil, and tiny clean up crew.

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Hi guys, welcome back to Animal Wonders.  This is Pearl, the black and white Columbian tegu.  Last week, I did something really exciting.  We got a new enclosure and I wanted to give Pearl an upgrade.  I made it completely bioactive and I want to show you what it looks like.


Alright, I'm going to put her back in so we can talk about what this enclosure has in it.  Let's start from the ground up.  I started with a soil base and this has a lot of good stuff in it, and the reason I want to make sure that this soil has not just dirt in it, it has a lot of good organic material because it needs to be bioactive.  

Bioactive means there are basically bugs or decomposers, detritivores, living in the soil, breaking down anything like poop or old wood to dead plants and then they're pooping, which leaves nutrients in the soil for the plants to absorb.  This creates a complete ecosystem within the enclosure, and Pearl is doing a great job showing off the next thing I wanted to talk about: the furniture I put in here.

By 'furniture', I mean basically anything that she can interact with, so all of the wood and the little shelves that I put in here, the plants, and this little--hi Titus.  Do you want to join in the video, too?  So all of this stuff is considered furniture.  When I'm considering what kind of furniture to put in a bioactive enclosure, I want to make sure the majority of it can support the clean-up crew.  

For example, this cork wood.  This is very easily digested by isopods and it will break down into the soil very nicely, but I don't want all of the wood to be able to decompose so quickly.  I do want some that will hold its structure.  I want her to be able to crawl on top of it and have it support her weight for a long period of time.

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One of her favorite places right now is, you can see there's some pine bark and I made it into a shelf so she goes up on to there and basks in her light while she can also tunnel under it and hide in there.  So once I have the soil and the basic structure of my enclosure, I want to add in the plants. 

This is one of my favorite parts.  It kind of looks like bare bones until you get the foliage in there and it really brings it to life.  Adding live plants is the next step in creating a fully bioactive enclosure.  The plants absorb the nutrients that the detritivores provide and then they grow nice and full, providing a lot of hiding places for the animal and when they do eventually die or leaves fall off of them, they provide more nutrients for the cleanup crew.

In some bioactive enclosures, the animal that is living in the enclosure can sometimes sustain themselves off of the isopods living in the soil, but in this case, Pearl needs supplemental food.  Pearl eats a lot of insets.  Her favorites are hornworms and cockroaches.  She also eats some vertebrates, mice and rats, and she also really likes scrambled eggs with banana.  

This bioactive enclosure is just over a week old, so it's still trying to establish itself.  It generally takes about two months for everything to fall into a stable cycle, so the isopods right now, they're just breeding and trying to figure out the environment they're in.  The plants are still trying to find where their root systems are going to go, and the animal, in this case Pearl, is still figuring out her routine and making the changes that she's going to make.

What I've seen Pearl doing so far is hanging out on that bark shelf right there and also going back there and making little tunnels in the soil.  I still have some things that I want to add to this enclosure, but I didn't want to do it until I knew what she was going to do and how she was going to change the landscape.

I don't want to put a plant right where she's going to dig a tunnel and lay most of the time because the plant wouldn't survive.  Now that I have a better idea about what her routine is going to be, I'm going to go ahead and put another plant in.  I've had this bromeliad for about three years and it's come and gone.  

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I mean, it's died off and then it's sprouted again.  I know it's a safe plant because I've not used pesticides, but it's not really doing anything, so I wanted to put it in here and see if it would thrive.  The first thing I wanna do is I wanna mist everything down in here.  Just get it nice and wet and when I do this misting twice a day, that's super important because, like I said, it's still establishing itself and so I want to make sure the roots get nice and wet in there so that they can, you know, branch out and the isopods are not dying off 'cause it's getting too dry, so a nice misting and I think I want to put this bromeliad right here in the front, prepare this soil, get it nice and damp and then if I find my--where the root bulb is, and I wanna make sure I break out the roots so they're not just in one tiny little clump.  This will help it stretch out into the new soil.  There we go.

I'm gonna take some of this soil that it already has in there and mix it with what I got going in the enclosure so it's not too big of a shock.  Alright, now, I bet Pearl is going to want to investigate this so it's a little bit fragile here and if she just walks by it and lays on it--hi, Pearl--did you think I was an animal?  I have to be careful because Pearl does have a very high predator drive and she will come after my hand. 

So I'm gonna go ahead and get something to stabilize this plant and also protect my hands.  Alright.  I got my handy spatula.  I like using spatulas because I can just go ahead and put it right in front of her face so that she cannot come after me while I go ahead and place my stabilizer.

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So I'm just going to go ahead and put a rock on this side and another rock on the other side so that if she does come climbing along here, she walks on the rocks first and kind of goes around the plant.  Gonna go ahead and mist it down again, settle the soil down in around the roots, give it a nice, good drench.  What do you think, Pearl, do you want some mist?  

So we already have the soil and the furniture and the plants established, but we have to make sure it continues to grow and she continues to thrive so we need some heat in here.  We have a ceramic heat bulb, then we have a UV light strip there.  That's for Pearl's health, and then we also have some LED lights way up at the top there and that's for the plants' health.

Pearl is a diurnal lizard, so in the wild, she'd be out absorbing a lot of sunlight and she uses sunlight to synthesize into vitamin D, which is essential for her health.  Hey, Pearl.  You wanna come here?  Wanna say hello again?  Oh, look at this shed.  The thing I really enjoy about bioactive enclosures is that they really hold moisture well and so that she can shed really easily.  

So over the next few months, I will continue to support and monitor this little bioactive enclosure because it is not self-sustaining.  Some of the plants might not take root and they'll die off, so then I'll add more.  As I mentioned earlier, the enclosure needs water to survive, so I'll continue misting it twice a day.  

Since there is no water filtration system, I'll need to clean out the water by hand every couple days and if the isopod population does drop, I'll need to add some more in.  For now, I'm just enjoying watching Pearl explore and discover new areas in her new space.  I'm always looking for ways to improve the animals' lives and going bioactive is a great way to do that.  

I hope seeing Pearl's new enclosure has inspired you to improve whatever animal you have in your life, improve their life and really enjoy them to their fullest.  

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