Subs

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Kelly Mc
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Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 6th, 2014, 8:56 pm

I think about subs alot. I envy people who live in wholesome lands who can collect their own media. I would do that if I trusted the ground and materials where I live, but I dont. Its not undesirable biologicals in the media and soils here I worry about, I know how to process those out. Its pesticides, herbicides, industrial residues and toxins that I know I cant make gone.

I have always felt a shadowed pang when snipping open the ties on a new bale of moss, that pang blended out and admittedly dominated by a really good bale with soft, bright ferny flakes in it. Even before I knew it for sure, I knew this stuff was Taken. It couldnt be an unlimited supply. Same with the ground peat.

The bales arent available any more, but the peat is. I dont waste it and Ive even developed a method of cleansing and re using it in certain ways.

Its acidity has never caused me to consider not using it. Studies about acidic effects in laboratory cultured tests do not surprise nor make me afraid to use it. I know how I keep, how I compose living spaces. I apply options and gradients purposefully for reasons others may not agree, and Ive liked the results.

When coco fiber became available I was Very interested, and optimistic. Little by little in comparison, events and very engaged involvement, I became less enthused.

I wont go into detail unless asked, but I have looked at and poked at and teased apart coco fiber very closely, under magnification. Rugged, it is, and varietal in construct. Hard, inert little logs and chunks, fibers like tough twine. This stuff does not go gentle, and I found it to be true, and found it to be incompatible with the diameters of the gut tracts of small taxa.

The smell of a hydrated crumbly moist brick, well, call it bushman science and scoff, but it resembles nothing I have smelled in the natural world. Its a permeated solvent smell, I think of machinery when I smell it. Im only a keeper, but in a lifetime of providing care for animals as well as working, living and smelling things, the smell does make my ears buck a little.

So I wonder about its process of manufacture, extraction and compression and will research it. Along with what I can find about the actual maintenance of the machines themselves. It will be on a back burner, but Im curious.

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chris_mcmartin
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Re: Subs

Post by chris_mcmartin » April 7th, 2014, 2:06 pm

Kelly Mc wrote:I think about subs alot.
You could easily write an article about what you find re: coconut fiber, hint-hint... 8-)

I've had almost the opposite experience. The coconut fiber I've used is finely ground and has an appealing earthy smell to it. My animals haven't had a problem with it (I use it in hides to retain moisture). On the other hand, I tried moss (sphagnum) last spring and a couple of lizards died from ingestion/impaction of that material. In fact, one swallowed a piece nearly equal in size to its snout-vent length.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 7th, 2014, 4:55 pm

Hold on Chris - I thought only the second gecko went for necropsy - where obstruction of a large piece of sphagnum was found.

The first guy who died was on coco fiber in his hide, and though we got a look at him opened up, no interior examination of the gut tract was made before you had to discard the body - you really need more than a window at surface of exposed viscera to find an obstruction, they are not always as extreme as the second guy who ingested the stick.

Its all about the unpredictable ballet and geometry of peristalsis, morphology and matter.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 7th, 2014, 5:24 pm

Im not hating on coco, i just think the more novel the matter, the more unpredictable its successful passage is. Particles of soil and plant fibers are ingested inadvertently in nature, and i think evolved gut motility manages this event with these normally encountered materials - to a certain degree, but even these have an extremis point, and obstructions can be as much of a natural accident as any other that occurs, like getting caught under an object, or having an acorn stuck on your head.

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Re: Subs

Post by simus343 » April 7th, 2014, 6:07 pm

Recently while talking with a field herper that does a lot of field research on Heterodon nascius sp. and keeps a lot as well, I have also begun to spend sometimes a few hours, just thinking about substrates and how to improve the uses of different types in captivity. I have found this especially useful because I was informed, tested, and confirmed for my individual Heterodon nascius nascius that sand in which the snake can burrow, instead of aspen, improves feeding behavior and seems to reduce stress (does not hiss every time I walk by) in at the very least my individual specimen.

I use a wide variety of substrates from naturally collected (I have access to clean, unpolluted areas) to crushed then packaged. I use to use Aspen as a staple but now focus more towards naturally collected inland dune sand from where I work, and eco-earth coco-fiber shavings.

I set my substrates to a similar "size" and mixture that I see in the animal's native habitat.

I use sand for my 3 Heterodons, and though not smooth, it is not too rough for their skin and also passes through digestions without incident when accidentally ingested along with a moist toad or bleeding mouse (F/T ones still seem to bleed, when being eaten by Heterodon nascius nascius). I use a mixture of eco-earth coco-fiber shavings and naturally collected sand for my corn snake to make a soil similar to areas that I have been told have corn snakes, I usually only ever see grey rat snakes though in these areas. For a Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides that I am currently rehabbing I use pure eco-earth coco-fiber shavings, dampen them a little, and that works great, similar to the decaying wood beneath bark and under rotting logs that I find locally. I will admit though that I do tong feed the scarlet king, but that is not because I am worried about substrate; it is for other medical reasons and cage size/snake size/food size ratios.

As far as the Sphagnum I have only ever used it with Ranas, Hylas, and Anaxyrus terrestris. All of these frogs/toads I do watch eat, and when they get a piece of moss with their food, every time they spit the moss back out and have never become impacted.

But the way I see substrate is if a species has evolved to live in a habitat / micro-habitat that has a certain substrate composition / size, the animal is usually able to deal with such substrates when feeding and so I try to mimic such conditions in captivity as best I can. Also another method for precautionary keepers that I sometimes employ is feeding in a separate cage or placing the food on a dish/paper-towel within the cage.

This is my take on substrates, please feel free to point out details that I may over-look, after all I am only human :shock:.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 7th, 2014, 6:41 pm

Great post Simus - it illustrates a case by case intimacy with the animals you are keeping, the culture part of Herpetoculture, which goes deeper i think in scope than propagation.

What you say about being Only Human is interesting too, what we find in ease and uniformity may not include consideration of sensate acuities of animals that are experiencing surfaces, scents, dimension, textures, humidities and ergonomic strata on a level we are not aware but i speculate is keen.

I have traveled today a long while visiting my family and I dont have the energy this topic deserves but i would like to re visit it, and explore tactics of feeding and risk reduction strategies. The feeding event seems to be the key factor - when using enrichment materials or substrates, in a closed system there is an imposed exposure to these but in finding their value too important to sacrifice - there is the wonderful challenge of Herpetoculture!!

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chris_mcmartin
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Re: Subs

Post by chris_mcmartin » April 7th, 2014, 6:59 pm

Kelly Mc wrote:Hold on Chris - I thought only the second gecko went for necropsy - where obstruction of a large piece of sphagnum was found.
You're right...my memory was the second thing to go. Can't remember what the first thing to go was. :lol:

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Re: Subs

Post by simus343 » April 7th, 2014, 7:12 pm

Indeed. I won't say it is impossible because then someone will go and prove me wrong (and still might haha) but to get a terrarium/aquarium to have the same substrate composition and humidity would require, in effect, an entire ecosystem up to the point of what ever is using the substrate base from the smallest to highest levels. Protists, Bacteria, Fungi, various plants, insects, arachnids, arthropods such as various worms, prey, and predators, all moving through, breaking down and churning the substrate are taken into account when dealing with real substrates. Some of these organisms if not many are only available in the natural world, and so to use such organisms and continue to do so to keep up with substrate quality, would require access to sometimes large plots of land, an acre or so if not more depending on what is used to get the substrate "just right" for the optimal preference of the animal being kept.

This is one good reason for why I add cover boards and decaying log piles to my yard to increase the chance of "optimal" micro-habitat selection for local herpetofauna in a safe-haven where the animals may be free from "uneducated prosecution."

Again in captivity I merely try to mimic such conditions because I do not wish to expose my "indoor pets" to contagions that local animals may have co-evolved alongside of.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 7th, 2014, 7:20 pm

Simus its great to have you here! This is so cool. Before I hit the netflix and earl grey Chris I want to tell you naw man I know how it is, and I was feeling weird about the way that note would come off but if we can be as accurate as we can we will have more clues and more potential for discovery, and perhaps inspire some hard data investigation out there. :beer:

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Re: Subs

Post by Kfen » April 8th, 2014, 8:51 am

Substrates can be just as important as any other aspect of a captive herps environment, so this is a great topic. I'll just share some of my experiences.

Hemlock mulch: I have used hemlock mulch a lot; for lizards and tortoises without problems. The lizards (lacertas and adult giant day geckos) seem to be able to spit out any mulch that gets in their mouth when eating. The tortoises also didn't seem to ingest much, but they were probably able to pass it without problem. I like it because it is natural looking, cheap, and can hold humidity if I want it to.

Rabbit pellets: Someone a long time ago recommended it to me for tortoises. I tried it and hated it. It was very dusty and terrible when it got wet.

Ground coconut (the kind that comes in a brick). I like it for its humidity retaining abilities. I used it for treefrogs, and believe I was successful only because there was LOTS of plants that they crawled on. The frogs didn't really like when they got it on them. I have also used it for some snakes, small lizards, and small tortoises without incident.

Peat moss: Just started trying it out in place of the ground coconut.

Paper towels: I liked it a lot for treefrogs. With enough layers, it could hold some moisture, no risk of ingestion, frogs could find prey easily, and I changed it more often because it was easy to tell when soiled. It obviously does nothing for looks though.

A friend uses the duff layer he collects from the woods. He uses it for a lot of things and loves it. He makes a nice thick layer in the tanks and rarely changes it. There is enough microbial life to do a lot of the breaking down of waste.

One very interesting sub I have seen used a long time ago by a dart frog keeper was sponges. He had large size sponges that he cut to the size of the tank. To this day I have not been able to find such large sheets of sponge. He would then cut out circular holes to place small potted plants. The sponges could be easily switched out, cleaned, and reused.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 8th, 2014, 10:31 am

Hi Kfen - hey we have a lot in common in our experiences - substrateless for tree frogs I like too - and recently for my whites I just have some smooth stone and ceramic "patios" and cork slabs on the floor, in accompany to the leafy branches they have, and the rest bare glass. They have their water pool, oblong pyrex, and a hollow cork round with moist moss inside. (I switched to just bare glass a few months ago, before I used an exo terra background piece for the floor with cut out for the water dish) They seem to like the smooth glass better and I find it easy to locate stool and clean. For groups of baby whites and red eyes I have often used pads of paper towel, too.

The alfalfa pellet thing, wow not just the dust but such a sharp and acrid odor for a tortoises face to be forced to breathe in 24 hours a day all day every day for years and years if a keeper happens to like the idea.

Once I got all these promo products I didn't really care for, they were sponge biome floor habitat pieces, sized to fit standard tanks. I set them aside. An edulis I had injured his eye, and he was nocturnally hyperbolic I didn't want the eye to get dirty or for him to self injure further, but he needed security so I grabbed one of the sponge habitat things and tore out a hollow in it, which was perfect for the purpose, especially since he only defecated in the water feature.

There are a couple of incidents I have had concerning coco and some small taxa, constipation and malaise that could have ended badly without measures taken that I was fortunate to have work out. I know it was the coco because I dissected the large fecal boluses that ended the problem. These were diminutive animals, and I think I posted about them already somewhere here in more detail.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 8th, 2014, 11:34 am

I cant find the posts about the curly tail girlies and my green crested lizard so since its on topic I am going to share that I don't think the problem they had was a simple lower bowel fecal block.

In each of the situations I had to carefully administer extra hydration and heat, and it was lucky that there wernt more particles than what I found, which moved through their gastric tract and was defecated out, its the small intestine that can be blocked most readily and morbidly. I was lucky in both circumstances that it didn't complex but was marginal imo, but would have lead to a spiraling of condition and death.

Both of these had been changed to coco subs because I had a large broken open bag. The green crested usually feeds in her upper portion but I see her sometimes scoping towards the ground for wayward crickets. After this I started dissecting stool and often among the bits of insect chitin would occasionally find peat fibers passed along regularly in normal healthy stools, as she presented in pink of condition. I still don't like her down there though and encourage feeding behavior up in her trees with food for the crix up there.

I switched the curly tails back to peat too, and added sand when they became teenagers and packed it with other surface values of rock and wood. They also learned to eat thawed dubia and crix from a dish on sight, starting mixed with 2 or 3 smallish mealworms to cue attention.

The feeding station adds control in some situations enabling use of more stuff.

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Re: Subs

Post by simus343 » April 8th, 2014, 12:06 pm

Something just now occurred to me that I remember reading somewhere about impactions. This is the just of what I got:

Small particle ingestion along with food shouldn't be an issue without pre-existing problems that cause this to become an issue. Such particles that the passage was referring to were things such as sand grains and small pieces of dirt, not pebble size objects. Pure impactions, according to the source I read (and again this was several years ago) are the result of swallowing a non-intended food item such as gravel or a large chunk of substrate such as if an adult corn snake were to swallow a piece of ZooMed's Repti-Bark. BTW that isn't a bash on product, I use Repti-Bark frequently in mixes, it is just an example of particle size.

Another product I remember that I had some issues with was a peat moss product that was almost certainly ether dyed or synthetic. It was a deed green color like the font color used for "green" here. I used it when I first moved back to the United States and accidentally acquired 11 more Thamnophis sauritus than I had intended when I un-knowingly captured a gravid female in my yard. I never had issues with impaction but the dang color dye made my snakes have a green stain on their normally white-cream colored ventral scales, similar to how calcium sand stains the ventral sides of animals such as bearded dragons.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 8th, 2014, 12:28 pm

There is a contant influx of consumer oriented herp products that have nothing to to do with herps, and I see it as problematic.

I think the difference between normally encountered particulates and milled coco is significant.

The animals I referenced had no pre existing condition, they were vibrant with activity and carriage, and many people would have easily overlooked the subtle changes I saw in their behavior.

Loose coco in an enclosed space may look like dirt, but look at it closer, 20X, look at it dry, soaked, try to damage its long fibers and forms with tweezers or sharp probe.

It resembles dirt only from afar


I do not think normal sands and mineral bits pose hazards to a healthy, well metabolizing herp, nor dried plant fibers.

I do not think coco fiber is similar to these materials.

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Re: Subs

Post by gbin » April 8th, 2014, 12:45 pm

Fascinating subject! :thumb:

I'm sorry I haven't much to contribute in thanks for all y'all are teaching me, but maybe this tidbit will be of use to someone:

I understand some folks' preference for natural materials, but there's a manufactured product, 3M Colorquartz, that might interest some who want a sandy substrate. This specific product is no longer being made but can still be found in various places (e.g. ebay), and probably there are close mimics around that are still being made, too. It's quartz crystals to which have been bonded a pigmented ceramic coating, and it was designed as a swimming pool construction material. (There were originally two different sizes and a wide variety of colors available, and very artsy or very natural sand-looking combinations of the colors could be custom-created by a person, just as s/he pleased.) Besides the fact that it's inert and non-toxic, the stuff gained avid fans among aquarists because of its greater density and smoother, more rounded surface than natural sand. Both of these features enable it to settle very quickly after being disturbed (more a concern in an aquatic setting, but the fact that it's not at all dusty after being thoroughly rinsed could help in a terrestrial setting, too), and the latter feature also makes it much less abrasive = much kinder to animals and filter pump impellers that come into contact with it. I got into it because I like to keep fish with sand-sifting or digging habits. I still have somewhere around 50 gallons of the stuff (in a moderately light, natural sand-looking blend that I came up with) even though I haven't kept any fish for quite a while and don't know how soon I will again; I consider it such a valuable substrate that I have no qualms about moving and storing it despite its considerable volume and weight! My wife, however, feels quite differently about it on those accounts. ;)

I understood your rhapsodizing about the look and feel of high-quality sphagnum/peat moss in your first post, Kelly. I thought it was phenomenally great stuff, too, back when I used to keep scarlet kingsnakes. Long before I quit keeping snakes it was already becoming both expensive and difficult to find at any price, though, with much less absorbent and much scratchier, more brittle and downright trashier stuff pushing it off of suppliers' shelves. I never really understood that, either. Shouldn't it be a renewable resource? Is it just that demand all too easily outstrips supply?

Gerry

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 8th, 2014, 1:02 pm

Yes - The moss now is no longer good - but full of sticks and dry fall apart crumble .

I think the indestructible fibers of coco can cause Linear Obstructions, especially in small taxa. And that the smaller fly wieght planks and chunks, have their own novel dynamic in the gut, and are not the same to the gut action of an organism as normally encountered ground materials.

Its mostly used as a loose bed of particulate fluff, when most biome floors are packed tight by wind, moisture and many seasons.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 8th, 2014, 1:31 pm

Again Im not trying to demonize coco, or say there is some "epidemic" of obstructed herps because of coco.

I am supposed to Sell Coco. Its also very attractive and marketed strongly.

In am just saying that just because we like something doesn't mean its perfect.

Obstructions can be caused by anything that obstructs the bowel.

* linear obstruction - obstruction caused by thread like or string like object. I know of a sav treated at davis who was euthanized and necropsied and found to have a linear obstruction of long human hair. This type of obstruction in animals can take many forms, obstructions of all types in herps are not well examined, as they are probably assumed to be a pathogenic illness and death in many cases, especially in smaller animals.

If zophobus are kept in peat they live for many weeks. In coco, they die in a short time. Without food, and stored as food, they eat the media they are in, whether its peat, newspaper, coco, as nutrient seeking behavior. I think it may clog their primitive digestive tracts, while the peat is easily processed through.

I could look into this further in a more systematic fashion, and report in more detail.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 8th, 2014, 1:58 pm

Coco coir originally was a gardening product, appropriated by the pet industry because of its attractive "natural soil like appearance"

The pet industry historically goes for consumer appeal before zoologically founded husbandry.

I do not use it, the smell of the bricks alone is enough to motivate me to other choices. I don't argue with others wanting to use it, unless they are using it for small taxa.

As for the mealworms, if it isn't some clogging factor, perhaps some agent in its processing and compression that they are sensitive to as insect larvae is the reason why they wont keep in it. I don't know. I just don't use it.

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Re: Subs

Post by simus343 » April 8th, 2014, 3:14 pm

Yeah by no means am I trying to convince its use, that is for advertising agencies and the packaging companies haha. Something that occurred to me is that it may be composition, not necessarily shape, which would explain why meal worms don't do so well on it. I have observed wild snakes eating lizards and rodents while ingesting small twigs and branches which by the size/shape/texture argument would give reason to believe that the animal would become impacted. The first time I observed it I captured the snake with the intent to take it to a vet to save it from the impaction. A few days later at 87 degrees Fahrenheit the snake passed the feces, no sign of a twig, and so I took it to the vet to see if the twig was stopped up anywhere and no twig. The snake completely digested it. I have seen the same thing happen once since this, and I kept the snake several weeks and fed it, kept it in the upper 90s (Coluber constrictor), and no impaction signs had developed. Of the few dozen wild snakes I have ever kept for any amount of time, none have ever been impacted, which leads me to believe that something must be occurring that allows snakes to break down small segments of stem material from plants native to the environment. That, or the branches of these plants being rather spongy when made moist, it could have made the break-down of the material into a finer composition easier.

Now the application here to Eco-Earth is that the fibers may not be able to be broken down by herps and insects, likely because the given animals don't live in the same habitat that the coco fiber normally accumulates on the ground in. We as keepers tend to keep hard-wood specie, jungle species, wet land species, and such on eco-earth when eco-earth is the substrate of choice. Every time I have seen coconut trees and trees with similar bark, they were far spaces, and all of the fibers were always for the most part, still on the tree. In the wild birds, I am assuming here, would strip fibers that are falling from trees and accumulating on the ground for their nests, and as a result keep a majority of the fibers from developing into being part of the substrate. Also, in the event that the fibers become substrate, there would be native decomposer taxon that would break it down into a finer substance. As a result, herpetofauna and other wildlife in the area with trees with fibrous bark such as coco trees and palm trees, would rarely ever come into contact with the fibers, at least in a form that would cause impaction, during ingestion of food. I just realized that this isn't along the lines of composition not shape, but it does point out, at least to me, that many animals would not be accidentally ingesting coco fibers or the likes in the wild, even where there are such trees.

Lots of words, I hope I expressed my ideas in a clear enough manner haha.

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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 8th, 2014, 4:05 pm

Yes.

I think it is a 'novel' substance and that its varietal fibers and chunks are made even more complex by its indestructible nature.

Although a true digestion may not be taking place with other botanical objects, they are definitely altered by gastric acids and some of these even changed pliable by merely being fully wet.

I have found aspen marbled in snake stool, just like Ive found rodent hair. Its altered but recognizable.

For a while I was putting plain sand in triangular faux stone dishes, usually used as a water bowl. These were for some leos, I put it were they site defecated and I noticed the females were licking at it as they got eggy, mineral seeking and I could feel the sand when crushing or smearing the stool between my fingertips. I changed that situation but honestly it looked like it was passing with normal defecations at same rate, but to be prudent changed to little papers in the corner things.

Just as you said you were not actively advocating, I am on same page, but seem so adamant sharing what observations I have, for I know sometimes even if there are others who have same or similar input, they will refrain from posting it, for whatever personal reason.

This discussion we are having probes deeper than when discussions default to a debate style format, as not enough data is available to have a "debate"

Building a non biased reef of comparison and looking at what we see is a better way to collect input.

Simus I value what you have experienced as a keeper, and appreciate the non emotional, seeking spirit of clarity that you share it with.

I look forward to more

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 8th, 2014, 4:58 pm

Tree types / ecological factors here got me thinking even more


simus343 wrote:Yeah by no means am I trying to convince its use, that is for advertising agencies and the packaging companies haha. Something that occurred to me is that it may be composition, not necessarily shape, which would explain why meal worms don't do so well on it. I have observed wild snakes eating lizards and rodents while ingesting small twigs and branches which by the size/shape/texture argument would give reason to believe that the animal would become impacted. The first time I observed it I captured the snake with the intent to take it to a vet to save it from the impaction. A few days later at 87 degrees Fahrenheit the snake passed the feces, no sign of a twig, and so I took it to the vet to see if the twig was stopped up anywhere and no twig. The snake completely digested it. I have seen the same thing happen once since this, and I kept the snake several weeks and fed it, kept it in the upper 90s (Coluber constrictor), and no impaction signs had developed. Of the few dozen wild snakes I have ever kept for any amount of time, none have ever been impacted, which leads me to believe that something must be occurring that allows snakes to break down small segments of stem material from plants native to the environment. That, or the branches of these plants being rather spongy when made moist, it could have made the break-down of the material into a finer composition easier.

Now the application here to Eco-Earth is that the fibers may not be able to be broken down by herps and insects, likely because the given animals don't live in the same habitat that the coco fiber normally accumulates on the ground in. We as keepers tend to keep hard-wood specie, jungle species, wet land species, and such on eco-earth when eco-earth is the substrate of choice. Every time I have seen coconut trees and trees with similar bark, they were far spaces, and all of the fibers were always for the most part, still on the tree. In the wild birds, I am assuming here, would strip fibers that are falling from trees and accumulating on the ground for their nests, and as a result keep a majority of the fibers from developing into being part of the substrate. Also, in the event that the fibers become substrate, there would be native decomposer taxon that would break it down into a finer substance. As a result, herpetofauna and other wildlife in the area with trees with fibrous bark such as coco trees and palm trees, would rarely ever come into contact with the fibers, at least in a form that would cause impaction, during ingestion of food. I just realized that this isn't along the lines of composition not shape, but it does point out, at least to me, that many animals would not be accidentally ingesting coco fibers or the likes in the wild, even where there are such trees.

Lots of words, I hope I expressed my ideas in a clear enough manner haha.

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Re: Subs

Post by Kfen » April 8th, 2014, 11:41 pm

Kelly- I'm not sure what the sponges were like that you used. There was a product out there that was more foam like that I remember. The sponges that my friend had used were very much like soft kitchen sponges, just large thick sheets of them.

This discussion made me go look more closely at the ground coconut I still have. Wow, I did not realize how stringy it was! I used to use it for my smaller herps instead of mulch because I thought it would be easier to pass through the gut!

Has anyone used potting soil, or topsoil? Maybe potting soil mixed with some fine grain sand would work well.

One thing to do that helps no matter what the substrate is, is to use lots of cage "furniture". This has sort of been touched on in this thread but hasn't been said outright. The more hard objects you have in the enclosure, i.e. rocks, plants, sticks, etc. the less time your animal will spend eating directly off the substrate.

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Re: Subs

Post by simus343 » April 9th, 2014, 5:28 am

Something someone might be interested in is finding local mulch (from a clean area) that is fine and boil it. I did this on a small scale last night because it was too cold to go toading and I was interested haha. Another option if you don't have immediate hardwood compost on hand is a lot of hardwood plants break down to be very smooth, not fibrous, so you could take some rotted hardwood, make a compost bin and add lots of decomposer insects to help break it down quicker in a controlled manner. Then, you could boil the resulting dirt to eliminate bacteria, protists, fungi, and insects. The soil its self could only get broken down further into a fine mix.

Also, Kfen, I have used naturally collected topsoil before. In a majority of my collection areas I do not even worry about sterilizing them, I just wash them with hose water until the water in the bucket no longer becomes a milky color in order to eliminate "dust" particles that may cause a respiratory issue with my ground dwelling herpetofauna. In other areas I boil the substrates to rid them of microorganisms and fungi mycelia that I do not want in the cage. I would always avoid collecting from areas that make common use of pesticides or herbicides though as these cannot be cleaned out except by years of rain with no re-applications of the poisons.

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Re: Subs

Post by jayder85 » April 9th, 2014, 6:28 am

Excellent topic! I find myself wanting to explore substrate often, but it normally doesn't go past the computer screen (free time hasn't allowed it). I am really enjoying taking all this in. Currently, all of my collection resides on aspen in tubs. I have recently acquired some nice aquariums with sliding screen tops and have wanted to incorporate them into the decorating of my den with native species to go with my "outdoorsy" hunting and fishing theme. I keep picturing the largest aquarium with sandy substrate full of pine needles, cones, acorns and oak leaves for my Northern Pine. I also have dreams of an upland forest look full of leaves from hardwood species and Rhododendron for my Black Rat Snake. Fear of using sands and the fact that I only have only have access to store bought substrate makes me hesitant. I have tried cypress and various other mulches over the years in naturalistic enclosures and they just don't seem to have the "look" that I would like. I have also thought about coco fiber. The trick is with the sandy look. Sand has an appearance that cannot be mimicked. I am extremely protective of my animals and won't even consider a substrate or anything else for that matter that will put them in jeopardy.

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Re: Subs

Post by simus343 » April 9th, 2014, 9:14 am

I use sand with my 3 Heterodons (2 Heterodon platirhinos and 1 Heterodon nascius nascius) and CURRENTLY (swapping to a mix in a few months) my Pantherophis guttatus. I may change a Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides (young one) to a coco fiber/sand mix soon to mimic steephead-sandhill eco-tomes where I acquired it at work. The main issue with collected sand is larger pieces that are easy to isolate and feel-out while cleaning the sand, and then the "dust" that is eliminated while cleaning the sand. Store bought sands I would avoid as reptile brands are mostly dust because they are ground to be too fine. Home Depot and Lowe's sell play sand which has particles that would easily cause impaction in my opinion if swallowed. The best idea is to take a 10 gallon container and fill it with sand next time you are in an unpolluted un-chemical laden area with nice dry topsoil that is easy to collect. The sand I use is collected from bald areas, that just won't grow plants for some odd reason, where I work. My 3 Heterodons and 1 Pantherophis accidentally ingest pieces of this substrate all the time, even more so with my two Heterodon platirhinos.

And again you could feed them in separate cages as well. Plastic tubs with secure lids work real well for this. Take note, I recently learned this the hard way, the large Pantherophis (was a grey rat snake) can push open the lids of critter-keeper containers.

Hope this helps ;). After several years of using these types of set-ups, though, a well decorated aspen set-up looks just as great (my take on it).

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Re: Subs

Post by gbin » April 10th, 2014, 7:50 am

simus343 wrote:... I may change a Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides (young one) to a coco fiber/sand mix soon to mimic steephead-sandhill eco-tomes where I acquired it at work...
FYI: The scarlet kingsnake is now its own species, Lampropeltis elapsoides - a long overdue and very welcome revision, in my opinion. ;)

Gerry

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Re: Subs

Post by simus343 » April 11th, 2014, 6:08 am

Thanks :) , I was wandering about that. I had asked on a different thread in which I referred to it but got no answer about it.

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Re: Subs

Post by chris_mcmartin » April 13th, 2014, 4:06 pm

Since my last reply, I experienced another loss...male Coleonyx variegatus this time, on the 8th. I just did a quick opening of the body cavity (he'd been in my fridge since death) and this time I didn't see any obvious signs of impaction. Further adding to the mystery, I noted he weighed 3.30 grams at death, yet was 5.65 grams just one week prior...

I'm posting this because I had queried the Coleonyx Keepers group on Facebook about their experiences with coconut fiber. One person said they have noticed a correlation between hydration state of the lizard and impaction: coconut fiber seems to pass through the gut with relative ease if the animal is fully hydrated; dehydrated animals seem to experience problems. I can't speak as to my lizards' hydration state; they have a clean dish of water available at all times (more than they'd get in the wild, that's for sure) and though I have witnessed most of the individuals lapping water from their dishes, I don't know that they all have done it.

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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 13th, 2014, 5:08 pm

How was that determined?

When examining undigestible fibers of varietal sizes, and the diameters of the bowel, as well as the juncture where the stomach opens into the small intestine, I do not think that could be more than positive thinking.

In looking at the pic in your necropsy thread - your animal was clearly not dehydrated.

The bloated bowel is strictured - balloon like, in better resolution there is a coco fiber embedded against the thin membrane, unless it is some other type of object that looks like a coco fiber.

I think the fiber visual indicates many more collected in the tract.

You should open up the recent guy, along with the bowel, some magnification would be of great help with such a diminutive animal.

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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 13th, 2014, 5:29 pm

The correlation is that a dehydrated animal is more easily compromised by any health risk or duress, not that a well hydrated animal is immune to an obstruction.

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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 13th, 2014, 5:37 pm

Were they dehydrated because they had no water?

I think water was available, but they stopped drinking it.

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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 13th, 2014, 5:50 pm

I am being adamant because anthropocentric crushes on products and methods, and feeling around for excuses to continue to use them and hold on to belief, without actually looking at the product and the physiology and behaviors of an animal creates large blank spots.

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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 13th, 2014, 6:25 pm

When I switched my stelzneri to coco during the open bag of coco era, they were restless and would not settle into their cork hides. They spent an inordinate amount of time On the cork, which takes up substantial space value. These are long term captives and when I change them out I keep the same strategy. Prior changes of fresh peat, did not incite this - they tip toed at once into their familiar caverns after being placed back inside. The peat is spotted with shards of thin slate here and there. Everything same except for the sub.

As for hydration galvanizing the system against bowel obstructions, my baby curly tails were being raised exactly like the others, in same cage I used for purpose of raising the progeny of a pair I kept who produced regularly. Their water feature was substantial and wide with rocky segway around its edge as well as rocks breaking the surface - this creates a very accessable dynamic for small terrestrial taxa. The fauna and walls misted per morning and evening protocol also, as usual. The Green Crested Lizard has 2 Gallons of water flowing through her rain feature daily, often even more, as I have a bucket and pitcher upstairs to keep my arboreal drips. I knew something was different from subdued behaviors. If I had not addressed it assertively and immediately they would have continued to defer from their usual resources and the coco that they ingested would have probably not passed. But they would have depleted in fluids because of the coco ingestion event and consequent malaise, not the other way around.

I tubed them fluids as I knew they would not hydrate themselves to a therapeutic level. I was also quite lucky, as it could have easily been a more complex issue, depending on the amount and actual Structure of the coco ingested.

The coco found in the stool were crumble chunks. No fiber strands were found.

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Re: Subs

Post by chris_mcmartin » April 13th, 2014, 6:40 pm

Kelly Mc wrote:The correlation is that a dehydrated animal is more easily compromised by any health risk or duress, not that a well hydrated animal is immune to an obstruction.
Yes, that's probably more like it; which is why I was sure to include "seems" to be this-and-that. 8-)

Unfortunately I think any true testing of such a hypothesis would necessarily result in death of the experimental group (and probably some in the control). Call me selfish, but I don't want to sacrifice any of my captives--I'm taking a lot of non-destructive measurements and making general observations, and that's about it. :D

I might get around to uploading the latest guy's postmortem pics this week (most of my free time is being spent data-crunching on that 2013 Herpers Survey I ran which closed out 6 weeks ago). No distended intestine like in the brevis and no other obvious indicators of impaction. The extremely rapid weight loss (nearly 50% in one week!) is very puzzling.

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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 13th, 2014, 8:46 pm

If actual testing were done for predicting of potential harm, I do not think a husbandry format could be applicable. It would be impossible to eliminate the variables.

It would more likely involve other methods of determination.

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Re: Subs

Post by simus343 » April 14th, 2014, 5:58 am

One thing that comes to mind with the weight loss that happens in just about any living animal is the immune system. All animals have various fungi, bacteria, and protists in their intestines. If the immune system drops for long enough, and it doesn't have to be very long depending on the species of micro-organism in the animal's intestine, a bloom of that organism may occur because the immune system isn't suppressing it. While the chances of this are highly unlikely, it would explain the rapid weight loss. Sometimes stress can cause this temporary drop and a bloom will occur, is there any chance that the specific animal was stressed whether it had reason or not?

Again I stress that this is VERY unlikely but could explain the weight loss. Many of the organisms that bloom in at least snakes (my focus and experience) cause the animal to stop eating and have an accelerated metabolism at moderate temperatures, resulting in rapid weight loss until eventually death.

Just recently I had a similar event to what you described though with a Anaxyrus terrestris kept on coco-fiber. Luckily it was doomed any how to be Heterodon food but the coco-fibers did not become ingested, they simply absorbed moisture too rapidly. The toad was of course a lighter weight, compared to other cage mates that were on the "mud" end of the cage. It was larger than they were but was dried up as well. Coco fiber can hold moisture well bu if dry can absorb it quickly just as well. This makes sense for amphibians but not for lizards which have thicker skin. Again though, a possibility.

Shame for your loss :(. Hopefully you can figure out what caused the issue to prevent it from happening again.

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Re: Subs

Post by Kelly Mc » April 18th, 2014, 12:55 am

Obstructions of the gastrointestinal tract are quite spectral and often much more complex than what we think of as a clog, or gross impaction. They can be accumulative and delayed. They can cause swift crashes.

The effects seem to be as variable as the characteristics of the foreign body itself. An anomalous, uncooperative bad physics of matter and peristalsis creates inversion dynamics that contort tissues and disrupt mucous linings and gut flora morbidly, breaching normal functions and trapping fluids and gases. Adjacent sections of the tract are cut off from blood nourishment, atrophy and necrose.

I suspect a significant percentage of herps that mysteriously lose flourish, and die are assumed to have perished because of disease, have had the factor of possible foreign matter ingestion overlooked entirely, because of unexamined characteristics of popular, well marketed products.

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