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  • Fungus + Humidity Problems in Bioactive Vivarium

    Hi,

    I am new to reptile keeping and I maybe bit off more than I could chew. Over a year ago I began doing some serious research into crested geckos and into bioactive setups. I knew from the get-go that I wanted to offer my animal a bioactive vivarium and I spent many months gathering all the supplies I needed to make one. A few months back I finally put it together with live plants and a cleanup crew and all that jazz. I had some small outbreaks of fungus, but I had read this was perfectly normal and it would eventually die down once the environment balanced out. It eventually did die out and the parameters of the environment seemed to settle down. Temperature and humidity was good and fairly consistent (for humidity, reaching the low 80s at night after misting, but drying up to around 55 during the day).

    I finally adopted by crested gecko (he's an adult) and for the last couple of weeks he's been getting used to his new home. However the fungus has returned, and it is now fairly prevalent throughout the setup. I wanted to ask people on this forum if this was normal or not as I had previously read that major outbreaks would be in the first month or two.
    I am also concerned by the amount of it, which consists of at least 2 species (one producing small white mushrooms, the other yellow mushrooms) with the addition of very visible mycelial networks beneath the earth, and sheets of white mold across the surface of the ground.
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    In addition to the fungus, my humidity has become really difficult to control, as it refuses to dry out much during the day (even if I mist VERY sparingly once a day in the evening – enough to offer some water for the gecko to drink). It stays consistently in the 70s (mid-to-high 80s after misting), on occasion dropping down to 65 during the day.
    If anyone has any experience with crazy fungal blooms and all-of-a-sudden uncontrollable humidity, please let me know.

    SETUP INFORMATION:
    Tank: 24''x18''x36'' Exo Terra with one Exo Terra light canopy
    Equipment: digital thermometer + hygrometer combo, compact fluorescent lights (for the plants)
    Soil: a mix of repti-soil, fir bark, coconut fiber and sphagnum moss
    Cleanup crew: springtails (I had isopods when starting out, but I haven't seen a single one for many weeks)
    Plants: parlour palm, sansevieria, lipstick vine, pothos, fittonia, pepperomia
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    Thank you for taking the time to read this,
    -T

  • #2
    I don't have a vivarium, so I'm afraid that I'm not too much help on the fungus, substrate, etc. But I do see you have grapewood in there, and that I KNOW will mold in a humid environment. So you might want to replace that with mopani or some other wood that is water-resistant. I hope others with viv experience will chime in to help you. Your tank looks terrific, but I know you need to get the fungus/mold issue under control. Do you have a layer of hydroballs with mesh under the substrate? That would help with drainage.
    Eileen
    TAD "Tiny Ancient Dinosaur" (Crestie), Hidey (Garg), O.G. "Office Gecko" (Bauer's Chameleon gecko), TBD "Tiny Badass Dragon" (Western Bearded Anole), 3.1.0
    Rody Jane (cattledog/stinkwad mix), Dixie Moonpie (rattledog) George P-Dog (lab/Great Pyr) 1.2.0, Ringer (barn cat) 1.0.0

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    • #3
      Regarding the fungus, I wouldn't worry at all. What you've got there are mushrooms, and they won't be producing spores if you keep harvesting them when they are immature like that. The mycelium (weblike tissue going through the soil) is harmless. These fungi are eating broken down and dead plant material -- and gecko turds -- in the soil. The only fungus to really worry about is mould, i.e. microfungi that produce spores in tiny, scattered structures (*not* in mushrooms), because the spores reduce the air quality (and are often allergenic and/or toxic).

      Mushroom production will probably die down as you get your humidity under control and as the daylight decreases -- we're hitting peak mushroom production season in the northern hemisphere around now (August-October).

      Another tip to keep humidity under control: don't water the plants until the soil is dry a finger depth down, and then water the soil only near the plants.
      3.3.0 Correlophus ciliatus (crested geckos)

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      • #4
        You're right about the grapewood, that was an oversight on my part. I will definitely start to look around for alternatives that could be used to replace it.
        And I do have a drainage layer (I had forgotten to mention that in the original post). So far I have never had any water accumulate in it, though this might be because my layer of soil is quite thick (especially near the back of the tank).
        Thank you for taking the time to reply, I will keep an eye out for mopani or other hardwoods.

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        • #5
          Thank you for taking the time to reply. Hearing that it is peak mushroom season helps put my mind at ease. I was worried having had this spontaneous bloom all of a sudden, but hopefully it will pass as the weather changes.

          I have taken care to not water the plants unnecessarily, for most of them I do try to wait until the top inch or so dries out. Most of the water introduced into the tank on a regular basis is from misting (to have water available for the gecko, and for the cleanup crew to not end up living in too dry a space).
          I know that springtails/isopods need a humid environment to breathe, though I am unsure if that means it's okay to let the soil dry out as long as the humidity gauge reads high enough, or if the invertebrates need the soil to remain moist in addition.

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          • #6
            It's really important for me to learn more about humidity... Thanks for the published thread! I appreciate your assistance!
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            • #7
              I've only had a bioactive tank for a few months but I will share what I know. First of all, I agree with the others about mushrooms. Springtails are supposed to do a good job of taking care of "bad" mold and other unwanted stuff, so it's good that you have them in your viv. Perhaps some more wouldn't hurt. For a bioactive enclosure it would be beneficial to have isopods, as well. They need to be replenished at times. I would suggest dwarf white and dwarf purple/orange. The dwarf whites tend to stay hidden and the dwarf purple/orange tend to be more visible. I keep separate cultures in plastic shoeboxes with holes for each species of isopods, with springtails in each culture, so I can replenish my tank. I also keep leaves and bark on the bottom for the CUC (clean up crew) to eat, in addition to poop. I feed my cultures Repashy Morning Wood. I hope that this was helpful. There are many places to buy isopods, just google it.

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              • #8
                Thank you for the suggestion. I have been looking into getting more isopods and springtails. I have had awful luck with them so far, but I am hoping adding more will eventually lead to them settling in and breeding.

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                • #9
                  I have a natural vivarium with a substrate mixed according to Rex Lee Searcey’s “Flourish Over Failure” article in the 2009 Reptiles USA. The tank is set at 85 degrees Fahrenheit on the hot side with a small tree boa (Candoia carinata) that I water every day. My problem is that I set up the tank four days ago, and I can already see something white (fungus?) growing between the glass and the substrate. How can I fix this and prevent it from happening in the future?
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Tim25N View Post
                    I have a natural vivarium with a substrate mixed according to Rex Lee Searcey’s “Flourish Over Failure” article in the 2009 Reptiles USA. The tank is set at 85 degrees Fahrenheit on the hot side with a small tree boa (Candoia carinata) that I water every day. My problem is that I set up the tank four days ago, and I can already see something white (fungus?) growing between the glass and the substrate. How can I fix this and prevent it from happening in the future?
                    Tim this is a good sign of your tank cycling itself into a healthy little eco system and is natural. As long as you have the proper clean up crew in there, they will keep it from growing wild beyong control. But it is normal and healthy for soil to have some fungus in it as a lot of fungus actually works with the plants to help fix nitrogen. But if youre terribly concerned, don't water the substrate, there is no reason to. If you have plants in the set up they will not need to be watered all that often if you are misting the tank. I generally water my plants only once a week, and it is a light watering as they get water from daily misting.
                    Last edited by Sublime Reptiles; 06-19-2019, 09:35 AM. Reason: added info
                    lets just say I have a lot of stuff
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                    • #11
                      Do springtail populations ever get out of hand? I am going to be starting my first viv soon. Like this week. I will also have some isopods.
                      Eileen
                      TAD "Tiny Ancient Dinosaur" (Crestie), Hidey (Garg), O.G. "Office Gecko" (Bauer's Chameleon gecko), TBD "Tiny Badass Dragon" (Western Bearded Anole), 3.1.0
                      Rody Jane (cattledog/stinkwad mix), Dixie Moonpie (rattledog) George P-Dog (lab/Great Pyr) 1.2.0, Ringer (barn cat) 1.0.0

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                      • #12
                        I know that springtails/isopods need a humid environment to breathe, though I am unsure if that means it's okay to let the soil dry out as long as the humidity gauge reads high enough, or if the invertebrates need the soil to remain moist in addition.
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                        • #13
                          The viv is misted daily, so the soil is staying moist. It's been about a week now, and my plants are thriving, but I haven't seen hardly any of the springtails and isopods I put in there. I'm assuming all is well, but I may add another small supply, just to be on the safe side.
                          Eileen
                          TAD "Tiny Ancient Dinosaur" (Crestie), Hidey (Garg), O.G. "Office Gecko" (Bauer's Chameleon gecko), TBD "Tiny Badass Dragon" (Western Bearded Anole), 3.1.0
                          Rody Jane (cattledog/stinkwad mix), Dixie Moonpie (rattledog) George P-Dog (lab/Great Pyr) 1.2.0, Ringer (barn cat) 1.0.0

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                          • #14
                            Have you looked in your tank at night? Isopods are most active at night.

                            Also, if you water the plants, isopods will flee the area that's too wet for them.
                            3.3.0 Correlophus ciliatus (crested geckos)

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                            • #15
                              Just checked now (10pm), only saw one springtail, no ispods. I don't water heavily, just mist twice a day, a little heavier at night, but still not drenching, by any means. I used BioBedding from Josh's Frogs, with hydroballs and mesh under it, and put in a couple of CUC tabs to help jump-start things. There is some fungus growing in amongst the leaf litter and plants; not worried about that, but just thought it odd that I haven't seen but a very few of the clean-up crew. (Not sure why my pictures all seem to come through sideways. Grrr...)

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                              Eileen
                              TAD "Tiny Ancient Dinosaur" (Crestie), Hidey (Garg), O.G. "Office Gecko" (Bauer's Chameleon gecko), TBD "Tiny Badass Dragon" (Western Bearded Anole), 3.1.0
                              Rody Jane (cattledog/stinkwad mix), Dixie Moonpie (rattledog) George P-Dog (lab/Great Pyr) 1.2.0, Ringer (barn cat) 1.0.0

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