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Old 02-23-21, 12:01 AM   #1
Join Date: Jan-2021
Posts: 7
Substrate advice for bearded dragon bioactive enclosure

Hi all!!
So I have this newly finished 4x2x2 bearded dragon enclosure that I need to fill with substrate. The inside dimensions are 46.5 inches x 22.5 x 22.5. I have a 8 inch deep wall on the front that I want 6 inches of substrate that is safe for bearded dragons and able to hold live plants. With an inch on top of oak woodchips. I've chosen spineless prickly pear to go around the walls and sides. I feel it's a great choice as it's safe for them to eat and survives in arid to semi arid environments. I'm hoping to make a semi arid bioactive enclosure because I want to add a mulberry bush inside as well.
I'm thinking if I mixed 100lbs of play sand to 100lbs of organic compost and 6 or so coco coir bricks hydrated all together I'll get a sandy loamy soil that I can pack a bit so it's not too loose. I would then cover that with oak wood chips to hold in the soils moisture.
So what do you guys think? I want to add isopods, nightcrawlers, springtails and whatever else for a cleanup crew. Any advice would help. Cant figure out how to upload pics or I'd post my enclosure.
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Old 02-27-21, 04:15 PM   #2
Join Date: Nov-2014
Posts: 841
Re: Substrate advice for bearded dragon bioactive enclosure

It sounds like you want about 4 or 5 inches of dirt and 1 or 2 inches of mulch.

For the mulch, instead of oak, I would use coconut husk mulch. I have used ReptiChip in the past, I'd recommend looking at it as an option.

You don't want to use compost. It tends to not work well in indoor enclosures. Just use regular top soil if you want dirt.

I would use all purpose sand instead of play sand. All purpose sand is coarse and its grains vary greatly in size. It works very well to hold the structure for burrows (yes, beardies dig burrows when given enough dirt) and it serves as a service for microfauna just like play sand.

I would strongly consider using a 70 lb bag of coarse sand, two 40 lb bags of top soil, and fill out the rest with the coco coir bricks. It may be a little dirt heavy for spineless opuntia cactus but should be good for mulberry.
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Old 02-27-21, 06:28 PM   #3
Join Date: Jan-2021
Posts: 7
Re: Substrate advice for bearded dragon bioactive enclosure

Thanks. I appreciate it!
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Old 03-02-21, 03:21 PM   #4
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Join Date: Oct-2011
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Re: Substrate advice for bearded dragon bioactive enclosure

While I very much agree with your use of live plants with the enclosure, I have to warn you about bothering with the prickly pear. Mine usually lasted about a week maybe? They are apparently quite delicious, so never lasted long enough to grow... or live, for that matter.

About the only live plants I could get to thrive in the heat and brightness (light) that are needed for dragons were aloe (they grow like weeds with all that heat and light) and desert grasses. All the other stuff that isnt toxic, was also apparently quite tasty, and quickly devoured.
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