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The Substrate Saga

Discussion in 'African Fat-tailed Geckos' started by Armatron, Jun 12, 2012.

  1. Armatron

    Armatron New Member

    I am new to caring for reptiles and have recently adopted two ~1 year old AFTs from a friend. They came in a ~20 gallon 'shallow' tank which was setup well - hot / cold sides, hides for each side, and an under tank heater. I have carefully monitored all temps (with IR tempgun and probes, both day and night) and made some small changes to better match all of the care sheets and they seem very happy overall.

    The one thing I am having some issues with is the substrate material. They came to me on large bark pieces - it actually looks like bark you would buy from home depot (very large chunks) rather than actual reptile bark. After a ton of research I settled on eco-earth as a substrate and they love it. One of them likes to dig holes and then lay in it (I suspect for the humidity, and I have added a humid hide due to this behaviour) the other one will race around the tank every now and then to play which they wouldn't do on the bark.

    Of course, I have read that some people have impaction problems with eco-earth. I suspect this has to do with what you feed them, as mine only 'strike' at crickets - when they do this, I would guess 5-10% of the total food they ingest is actually eco-earth substrate. I've tried feeding them super worms to avoid the 'striking' and ingestion of eco-earth, but one of my lizards simply hates the worms. He will lick the worm and then ignore it, running up to stare at me clearly wanting a cricket. He went to bed hungry last night, and still didn't have much interest in these super worms. He (she?) is otherwise healthy, although smaller than the one that eats anything put in front of his face. I think he just doesn't recognize that the worm as food.

    Long story short, they like the eco-earth and I want to keep them on it. The packaging claims it is digestible, which insinuates that it's ok for them to ingest a bit of it. I keep a fairly close eye on them, and I believe I could deal with an impaction if required (warm water soak and massage or vet).

    Thoughts?? There really is not a perfect material. I don't care for the carpet, I would rather deal with impaction than a ripped off toenail or tooth aside the fact that the carpet looks and smells disgusting. I don't like papertowels or paper, both due to appearance and the fact that my lizards seems to really enjoy playing in the substrate. Basically, I want something that they can dig in and strike on but with 0 impaction risk.

    The one thing I haven't read a definitive answer on is if it's ok for them to ingest this stuff. Eco-earth is made up of very small pieces, so it seems unlikely to get impacted, but I have read one case where someone had an AFT die and their vet determined without any doubt it was due to impacted eco-earth. However, who knows - maybe the lizard was starving and ate it or some other unknown variable.

    Another thing I've considered is splitting up the tank... 1/3 eco earth with a ramp down to repti carpet where they can feed... However, I would almost rather deal with impaction than claws/teeth caught on carpet and ripped out.

    Basically, what substrate is loose (to dig and play in) but completely edible? Has anyone messed with the bricks of compressed moss?
  2. Releep

    Releep Elite Member

    All i have is ball pythons and i use astro turf but i bought long blade 60oz astro turf the only place i have found it so far is online. Most of the companys are willing to send you samples and that might be big enough to make a feeding area. 1in high blades on the turf should keep claws and teeth safe.
  3. NudistApple

    NudistApple Well-Known Member

    Instead of doing reptile carpet on the feeding end, why not use slate tiles from a hardware store? They hold heat nicely, have no risk of snagging claws or teeth, and in my opinion look very attractive.
  4. nikkistorms

    nikkistorms Elite Member

    I use coco fiber, the kind that is made for reptiles. I also don't feed on that. I put him in a lil tupperware container with crickets. However, my lil one is brand new to the family and is having relocation stress so it hasnt eaten yet. And coco fiber is non toxic and completely natural.

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