My Ball Python, Monty, in her planted tank after a watering. This is from a while back so it’s changed a bit, it has moss and a layer of autumn leaves that are crumbling into mulch.
Both my snakes have planted tanks and they are more active in them. I’m experimenting with a bioactive system that composts poop and other organic matter (such as spent foliage). There are earthworms and isopods (pill bugs) to aid these natural processes.
Opal lives in a 3 x 2 x 2 custom enclosure that I designed and built. Her substrate is bioactive. There’s about an inch and a half of Growstones at the bottom for drainage, on top of which sits 5-8 inches of top soil, peat and coir, with a little shredded sphagnum moss and charcoal thrown in the mix. Over that goes dried leaf litter and bits of bark and moss. My cleaner invertebrates are isopods and springtails. They’re still in the process of getting fully established, so I spot clean any waste and will continue to do so until I see evidence that they can deal with it quickly.
For heating I use an 80W radiant heat panel on a Hydrofarm thermostat. Surface temperatures range from 88-90F directly under the panel to 78-80F under the hide on the cool end. Lighting is a 6500K LED bar on a 12h timer. I also have some colour-variable LED strip lighting for night viewing, but I usually leave it off overnight so I don’t disrupt her day/night cycle too much.
Six vents, three up high and three lower down, provide ventilation and keep the air circulating a little bit.
Plants have been a trial-and-error experiment to see what adapts well to the conditions in the vivarium (and Opal’s exploring). A lot of common tropicals don’t actually do very well in constant heat, and others need a lot of air circulation. The plants that are thriving and putting out new growth right now are Dracaena compacta, Maranta leuconeura (prayer plant), Pilea cadieri, Pilea depressa and Gibasis geniculata (bridal veil plant). Plants that are not doing so hot include Wandering Jew (oddly? I might try it again in another location because this one surprised me) and a couple fern species. Species that died almost immediately include Peperomia puteolata, Hypoestes phyllostachya (polka-dot plant) and a patch of golden club moss. Fortunately I have a couple good sources for plants and they were all $2-$3.
Before adding a new plant I bareroot it and wash it well to avoid introducing any pesticides or other unpleasant chemicals.
The enclosure has been up and running now for almost three months and I’m really happy with it. The substrate smells as fresh as it did when I started and it’s been a lot of fun observing and cultivating a dynamic environment for Opal. She gets a lot of great sensory stimulation as well as the opportunity to do plenty of fun snake things like climb around and hide under leaves. I see evidence most mornings that she was out messing with stuff in the night.
She’s always been a flawless eater and continues to be. The bioactive set-up is terrific for humidity, too, so no trouble with sheds. It usually sits somewhere between 70%-85%.
If you have any questions about my set-up feel free to ask! I like talking about it! If you wanna see more about the particulars of construction I put together this build journal a while back.