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Watch Out for These Bioactive Dangers

Golden dart frog in natural habitat

Are you considering a bioactive setup for your reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate? Bioactive enclosures are a popular choice for exotic pet keepers, and they can add enrichment to an animal’s life.


It’s important that you do bioactive the right way; otherwise, your animal won’t reap the benefits of this unique type of environment.

That’s why you need to watch out for these common bioactive mistakes and dangers.

The wrong substrate

Substrate plays a lot of roles in your exotic pet’s enclosure. It’s the main bedding that your animal will walk and rest on. It’s also where your reptile or amphibian will leave its waste. And for many bioactive enclosures, the substrate is where your cleanup crew lives.

Moist soil

Which substrate you need depends upon the particular species you keep. In general, though, you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t irritate their skin and it isn’t dangerous if ingested.

You don’t have to use anything expensive, and although you won’t need to replace substrate as often in a bioactive tank with a cleanup crew, you will occasionally need to top off the substrate after removing larger waste material that the detritivores can’t take care of.

Inability to clean a bioactive tank

As mentioned above, you’re not going to be taking out and replacing substrate in a bioactive enclosure because the cleanup crew of invertebrates, such as isopods or springtails, is going to be taking care of much of the waste for you.

This introduces one of the big dangers of keeping your exotic pet in a bioactive setup: you can’t really clean it.

Golden dart frog in natural habitat

Because the tank custodians live in the soil, and a bioactive enclosure is often filled with live plants, as well, it’s nearly impossible to really clean the tank unless you take everything out, clean, and rebuild it all.

If you’ve set up the enclosure properly, it should be mostly self-cleaning, but if things go wrong, it is definitely a hassle.

Parasite problems

Another danger of bioactive enclosures is that if your reptile gets sick with a parasite, the custodians in the soil may pick up that parasite from the animal’s waste. Then, if your pet eats the invertebrates in the tank, it can be reinfected with the parasite.

Leopard gecko resting near sandy branch

This can be a vicious cycle that makes it hard to treat your animal, especially if you don’t realize what’s happening. Having a separate quarantine enclosure will help, but you’ll likely need to replace the custodial crew and all the natural décor in the enclosure if your animal becomes ill.

This holds true even if you take your animal to the vet for treatment. Getting rid of the parasite in your pet does not get rid of any remaining parasites in the environment.

These dangers are not meant to turn you away from the project of keeping a bioactive enclosure. They’re merely a heads up to help you plan ahead for doing bioactive in the easiest, most hassle-free way.

If you have more questions about bioactive reptile keeping, follow advice from The Tye-Dyed Iguana on Facebook.