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 Post subject: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 1st, 2015, 3:22 am 
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Ive been thinking of this and wonder if others have too. I want to define what Naturalistic means in terms of the captive environment.

Its connotation seems to define itself as an environment aimed towards merit as Display, but aesthetics though pleasing are a limiting construct that may or May Not have any impact on quality of life or relevant value to the animal.

So Ive been trying to find a more apt term.

To me, what defines what I mean - one Basic, is for the environment to enable as many of an animals locomotive and positional patterns as possible, and the more they enable and the longer the duration of them made possible, the more Naturalistic it is.

There are other aspects in a closed system that would also provide criteria, like tactile representation of biome surfaces tied into the habitat per species, resources of lighting and water presentation that align with how those are realistically encountered in nature, cover and many other details but the ideal is to provide as close to a cultured equation of what is reality for the subject as possible.

That captives can/may become habituated to the absence of predation threat in utopic effect, doesn't necessarily mean all observation is moot, there may be things to learn from that as well, but I think regular handling of an animal; in vivarium-as-lens could have more marring effect on behavior patterns.

Those are some thoughts for now.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 2nd, 2015, 11:05 am 

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I think a lot of people, myself included, think of naturalistic vivaria to mean pleasing to the human eye, with natural substrates, live plants, etc. That does not mean they are best or "natural" for the animal in the enclosure, however they also can be. You can certainly provide proper environmental conditions and a variety of tactile, beneficial, and naturally similar cage furniture without looking or being "natural" at all. As an example, I doubt a rock dwelling lizard cares or notices if it has a native rock or a slab of concrete. I personally would prefer to use a rock for the look of the enclosure and consider it more naturalistic.

Not to derail this topic, but it reminded me of a question I have been wondering about. After cleaning enclosures, do you put all cage furniture back in the same places or change it up? I find myself putting everything back the way it was thinking the animal will appreciate the "known territory" better and feel more secure. But maybe they want stimulation?


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 2nd, 2015, 2:02 pm 
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I rarely change a den or primary hide location unless I have to. no gratuitous changes but I will add artifacts, without taking away their habituated stations.

I think that stimuli is enrichment in a closed system in having it be a volitionally explored area - rather then a sudden change in security factors.

Olfactory accent is rarely even thought of as an enrichment or a stressor but I think it is. Its true that cement can provide a similar toothy surface as a rock. Ive used cinder blocks a lot in my husbandry - but the animals don't flick at them or come out and forage as wholeheartedly with cement or faux materials after being misted , like they do with the timelessness of wet wood and stone.

I figure, there are some small courtesies available in tending a captive animal that are enriching to apply, if they are not yet scientifically measurable in merit, they still perhaps add a subtle grace of experiences to an otherwise uniform existence.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 2nd, 2015, 3:50 pm 
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The interdisciplinary field of Neuroethology. Add to Herpetoculture. Its a stimulating study component to what alot of us here have for years practiced by intuition and observation.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 2nd, 2015, 9:37 pm 

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My take on a "Naturalistic Vivarium" would mimic not only the generally associated habitat (weedy water's edge for Nerodia, sandy grassland for Heterodon) but also focus more on getting a correct micro-habitat as well as gearing the enclosure to benefit the animal in a way that makes it feel most-secure rather than necessarily pleasing to the human eye. That's what I think when I think naturalistic. Textbook and then some.

My goal is to mimic micro-habitat as much as I can, without adding too much possibility of bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infection. I try to get a proper soil hydration. For me and my snakes, this is done by taking dried sand and mixing it by hand while slowly, gradually adding water under the same rule used to determine vermiculite hydration. Squeeze it hard and hope it sticks (somewhat, it doesn't clump as well as verm. does). For me the first few times it usually dissipates like normal sand. I look for chunks when I let go approx 1 cubic inch (eye-balling with bad size judgement here).

If I could, I'd use live grasses that provide good ground cover. Yet, I lack the time to keep any plants alive, so I use plastic. I do occasionally get a trash-bag of Turkey Oak leaves to use though. I boil them before use - they hold up to boiling really well.

I also hunt wood whenever I go herping. Lighter wood is my favorite, pieces of dead longleaf pine. The best wood either comes from the side of a rural southeastern US road, or from a dead longleaf that has just been shattered by a lightning strike.

Then I also use the traditional man-made hides, but I'm super picky about the material and concavity of the hides, and only have 2 right now, unless you'd count purchased pre-cut cork.

As far as mental security over aesthetic pleasure, in my experience in the field herps are never, and I mean never, where the "perfect spot" is at. On the rare off-chance that they are, its usually because they are basking during cool weather or just passing through. This doesn't mean you can't have both, it just takes more thought than simple landscaping. Dead foliage covering well-placed PVC usually works to help combine "landscaping" and hiding into one.

Sadly due to current extreme time-constraints while at home (I probably shouldn't be on FHF haha) I can't maintain my ideal viv, so I just spray the sand for moisture (works well just not perfect), keep the water dishes clean, offer food, and spot-check for feces.

I may have overlooked stuff that I would have liked to include, but I'm about brain-dead as I type this up :sleep:. Heck, I may even have contradicted myself in some spots.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 9th, 2015, 8:41 am 
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simus343 wrote:
My take on a "Naturalistic Vivarium" would mimic not only the generally associated habitat (weedy water's edge for Nerodia, sandy grassland for Heterodon) but also focus more on getting a correct micro-habitat as well as gearing the enclosure to benefit the animal in a way that makes it feel most-secure rather than necessarily pleasing to the human eye. That's what I think when I think naturalistic. Textbook and then some.

My goal is to mimic micro-habitat as much as I can, without adding too much possibility of bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infection. I try to get a proper soil hydration. For me and my snakes, this is done by taking dried sand and mixing it by hand while slowly, gradually adding water under the same rule used to determine vermiculite hydration. Squeeze it hard and hope it sticks (somewhat, it doesn't clump as well as verm. does). For me the first few times it usually dissipates like normal sand. I look for chunks when I let go approx 1 cubic inch (eye-balling with bad size judgement here).

If I could, I'd use live grasses that provide good ground cover. Yet, I lack the time to keep any plants alive, so I use plastic. I do occasionally get a trash-bag of Turkey Oak leaves to use though. I boil them before use - they hold up to boiling really well.

I also hunt wood whenever I go herping. Lighter wood is my favorite, pieces of dead longleaf pine. The best wood either comes from the side of a rural southeastern US road, or from a dead longleaf that has just been shattered by a lightning strike.

Then I also use the traditional man-made hides, but I'm super picky about the material and concavity of the hides, and only have 2 right now, unless you'd count purchased pre-cut cork.

As far as mental security over aesthetic pleasure, in my experience in the field herps are never, and I mean never, where the "perfect spot" is at. On the rare off-chance that they are, its usually because they are basking during cool weather or just passing through. This doesn't mean you can't have both, it just takes more thought than simple landscaping. Dead foliage covering well-placed PVC usually works to help combine "landscaping" and hiding into one.

Sadly due to current extreme time-constraints while at home (I probably shouldn't be on FHF haha) I can't maintain my ideal viv, so I just spray the sand for moisture (works well just not perfect), keep the water dishes clean, offer food, and spot-check for feces.

I may have overlooked stuff that I would have liked to include, but I'm about brain-dead as I type this up :sleep:. Heck, I may even have contradicted myself in some spots.


Gorgeous post.. Even though thoughts on vivaria strategy are endless, I just can't bring myself to comment over its rich content.

I think I would spend all of my free time looking for environment media and artifact if I could, but the stuff here is suspicious, and sparse.
Thanks for the input, really added alot to the thread.

Kelly


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 9th, 2015, 8:42 am 
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Woops! Meant the above to be a PM! Oh well


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 14th, 2015, 5:32 pm 
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I've been thinking about this topic for a few days and wanted to jump into the party- sorry to be late!

My definition of naturalistic is making something (in this case, an enclosure) look aesthetically pleasing, or 'wild'. I think this term often gets confused among the masses with where fishkeepers and dart frog keepers have been shifting to in the last few years: biotopes. Biotopes are supposed to be a recreation of a particular environment (i.e. a sandy New Guinea river, a mossy Kentucky rock seep, a blackwater swamp, etc), using materials and plants that come from that specific region that is being put on display. So for a Borneo stream, using only ferns and mosses that would be found in that little splashzone, or for an Australian desert setup, using only spinifex grasses, red sand and weathered mulga wood.

Personally, I am smack dab in the middle of both of those ideas. I try to replicate the animal's natural environment as best I can, but sometimes (often?) the materials I would like to use to make it a true 'biotope' just aren't available. So instead of eucalyptus trunks in my diamond python enclosures, I use crape myrtle wood. Instead of field collected rock from Pakistan for the leopard geckos, I use some cool looking rocks I found on an exposed hillside when I lived in Delaware. I don't go out and scrape up charred duff and soil from a burned pine forest for the rattlesnakes, I buy a bag of the black mulch from Lowes. For me, the point is to make my exhibits look like the place where the animals are from in a way that is pleasing to me, not to make the actual place. I just want people that see my set ups to get an idea of the habitat that the animals are found in.

Kfen wrote:
After cleaning enclosures, do you put all cage furniture back in the same places or change it up? I find myself putting everything back the way it was thinking the animal will appreciate the "known territory" better and feel more secure. But maybe they want stimulation?


Kfen, I think it depends on what species it is. Some of my collection, sure, I change up their enclosure furniture periodically. Others, that are known for their spatial recognition (indigos, uromastyx, wood turtles, etc), no, I do not change up their furniture. My thoughts about it are that for the species that are in the first group (most colubrids, turtles, etc), everything still smells like home, even though it is in a different place and has fresh substrate. They don't seem to mind the change. Species in the second group have seemed distinctly uncomfortable when I have altered their enclosures in the past. Now, with those 'spatial' species, substrate is changed as needed, but everything else stays the same (branches/hides/plants/even waterbowls- all in the same location they have been), and they seem much less panicked when reintroduced into their environments.

My apologies for the long winded post. I had a few minutes of free time tonight!
--Berkeley


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 14th, 2015, 7:19 pm 
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The thing that you do for your Diamonds, I bet it provides the replicant surface. If a certain topography feature or surface is a dominant one in habitat, finding its tactile equivalent is well, rockin fun.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 14th, 2015, 7:54 pm 

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When I clean the cages of my Heterodons I move stuff around, as much as I can. Some stuff is too large to put any other way than how I set it, sometimes I can reverse the enclosure or change the angle 90 degrees by turning everything. If I can reposition everything I will.

My reason, the Hognoses seem to be much more active instead of just sitting sedentary, hiding until they move to the water dish or it is feeding time. They don't panic like a lustful Heterodon in spring, but they curiously inch and probe around the cage if I re-organize it after a cleaning. If left the same, they seem to know and go right to their favorite hiding spot. Whether this is them trying to find a new hiding spot and causing panic - "oh **** a hawk is going to eat me!" - or if they are genuinely intrigued by the new enclosure, I do not know - I don't speak snake, I can't ask them haha. I can just watch and interpret.

However, the sense of occasional threat could be healthy for their brain? Active and solve the problem at hand by finding a new place to hide, or sit there and just wander when food will fall from the sky next. I'm going to cut off here, I could go on and on about my observations and opinions on stimulus in captive animals.

However, in a naturalistic enclosure, in the wild wouldn't many herps would experience change over time, while others perhaps would stay to a more fixated system. Based off of the natural history of individual species, I would say that enclosures be adjusted accordingly.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 14th, 2015, 8:17 pm 
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All cool points. I'm still at work I had stuff to do afterhours so I don't have to stop go, find that thing I just used, etc

Any way I was looking at Kyle and I was reminded how often I hear how vivs are / must be hard to keep clean but, nope all the long terms I have defecate in one or two sites. Kyles little sand pit is as clean as the day I put it in, and so are the flat rocks. I see this tendency often in many species.

I think its a misunderstanding to see the kind of strategy we are describing as Complex. It isn't really its more a use of space and surface value. I can't think of another animal, that is more wholly dependent on surface value to move, than snakes.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 14th, 2015, 10:56 pm 
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Is it true that Heterodon cover alot of ground in their wild life?

That would seem to be a good reason for the shifting of topography features you describe doing Simus. Alot of other species are very tentative about change in surrounding details, hiding for a good while, while hogs may be more robust in this respect because of travel habits?


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 15th, 2015, 12:21 pm 

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According to a study by Michael V Plummer and Nathan E Mills on Eastern Hognose translocation, both resident and translocated Heterodon platirhinos move 120 meters per day, on average. While, the "residents" are confined to a home range. In a quick scan of the document, I didn't notice anything about typical "home range". Instead, I have my own observations to substitute in until I have time to dig deeper.

However, I have noted at work with several particularly large females (easy to ID from sheer size as well as a few injuries of age) that the range can be quite large, with the possibility to be close to or above 100 acres. Of our smaller tortoise enclosures (45-65 acres), I have seen some large females at different spots along all sides of the pens. So, I believe they do have a large range, at least large enough that it would be subject to change over time such as fallen branches, a new hole/burrow in the ground, seasonal growth, etc. Especially when compared to an animal such as a salamander or dart frog, that might have a more constricted range because of more sensitive microhabitat requirements.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 15th, 2015, 12:51 pm 
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John Vanek is defending (or recently did) his thesis on Eastern Hognose. He's captured and studying a truly incredible number of them. Chris Smith also has done years of field research on Western Hognose. I would direct questions to these two as they're an incredible resource for information on these species.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 15th, 2015, 1:26 pm 
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I agree Justin, Field work of biologists can sharpen the edge of herpetoculture as a viable study tool.

I think the gap that sometimes appears to exist between classical Herpetology and Herpetoculture As Lens is closing incrementally, exchange by exchange, with practitioners seeking wild data and being encouraged to do so, like whats happened here with you guys.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 15th, 2015, 1:55 pm 
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Kelly Mc wrote:
I agree Justin, Field work of biologists can sharpen the edge of herpetoculture as a viable study tool.

I think the gap that sometimes appears to exist between classical Herpetology and Herpetoculture As Lens is closing incrementally, exchange by exchange, with practitioners seeking wild data and being encouraged to do so, like whats happened here with you guys.


And vice versa, Kelly! A lot has been learned about animals from captive populations too.

--berkeley


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 15th, 2015, 2:15 pm 
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Yeah Berkeley..!
The big picture cant have too many lenses. I like to relate it to a lens, to that purpose. Thanks for being here with yours!


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 15th, 2015, 3:51 pm 
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Always glad to participate. I love coming to this forum to see what I will learn!
Thanks to you for being so insightful and willing to engage in great discussions!

--Berkeley


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 15th, 2015, 3:56 pm 
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Likewise, Berkeley Boone !


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 16th, 2015, 10:21 am 
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So many articles about species will state how more information is needed, but because of cryptic habits and inaccessible biome physics it is still wanting.

Activity time frames - discreet and tentative make field observation of behaviors a challenge to innovation. Because reptiles are so cue oriented I believe it is possible for these innovations to be created in a controlled setting.

Astute equations of habitat reality in a closed system could enlarge the body of knowledge.

I also think it could increase the quality of life for captives, who generally have a fairly long lifespan.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 16th, 2015, 1:27 pm 

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Something that good ol' controversial FR has said in the past, captivity allows us only to understand how species survive and cope under captive conditions, and the only real way to truly understand how they operate in the natural world, is to study the species in its own natural environment.

I sort of agree with this, because, except my bearded dragon, I keep wild caught only. I've had two captive corn snakes - that's it for CB. From my observations, over time, captive animals, or CBB animals, or much more bold than truly wild animals. Thus, they exhibit different basking periods, different amounts of "foraging" and may forage for longer periods, they may "perch" and survey longer or shorter than they naturally would based on the species, and so on.

There may be some stuff such as mating behavior and average egg count that can be studied in captivity though, so I won't disregard it entirely - it is truly a valuable source. Just as far as behavior of species, I believe observations in captivity can at most only serve to form hypothesis or questions for us to go out and confirm by making numerous wild observations.

As far as the rarer species (i.e. southern hognose with their "lack of studies") there are people now undertaking very long term studies of such species. I myself would help work with such projects or work on firing up a page to start my own if I had the time. Sadly, it takes endless hours of hunting to find and observe, and I'm a full time college student with 1 or 2 hours free a day at most :cry:. Such projects of the less studied species are full time jobs just about.

This leads me to a conclusion why there is such a lack of info on some species. Some species, southern hognose and short tail snakes as my examples, hold only aesthetic and natural history value to humans, there is no economic value outside the herpetoculture community at the most for these animals. They also pose no risk to humans, and are small inconspicuous snakes to the untrained eye. As a result, there is not many people wanting to fund research on snakes such as these until they are on the verge of being lost.

A little off topic - but just some thoughts on captivity based studies and "poorly understood" species.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 16th, 2015, 2:07 pm 
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I think the biggest mistake one can make at this point in time is to make Absolutist statements.

It can happen when practitioners marry their methods or belief systems and freeze there.

There is much more to learn and methodologies that haven't even been developed yet.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 16th, 2015, 2:26 pm 
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I say that without being a critic of FR. I have read some of his stuff and found it compelling, other material was steeped in a messianic tone that was obscuring. Still other things I read there was disparity in what I could research in biological tenet.

I'm just saying that there is much more to learn, and ways to go about it.

Sometimes one can witness something in captivity that has yet to be witnessed in nature simply because of a factor of proxy. An action or use of physical feature, that would be the same in nature, under the same dynamic.

Many physical laws can be re created in research settings.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 16th, 2015, 6:58 pm 

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I'd say the best way is put in some radio chips and tough the environments to track animals non-stop, but be careful to avoid tracking. Some research being done aat Auburn right now has found large bodied rattlesnakes to be climbing trees. They were not seen on the ground, but the radio chip had them right there! As the researchers were looking around, they found they were actually 4-8 feet off the ground (about), having climbed trees at a moderate angle. A behavior noted with western species in shrubs often, but never before to my knowledge in any scientific publication with large eastern rattlesnakes (C. horridus and C. adamanteus).

And to keep on topic with field research and defining naturalistic:

Which, as a result, lets assume that in several years I obtain my FL venomous permit and get a C. adamanteus or two. I would ideally provide a largish cage, Green Iguana height with coachwhip floor space; just from idle curiosity to see if they would utilize climbing opportunities in captivity, if provided.

At work we plan to cut some Vaccinium arboreum trunks to use with new custom snake cages. Perhaps cut a good piece as well in these hypothetical C. adamanteus setups and develop a platform in the branches off the ground.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 16th, 2015, 7:16 pm 
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That all sounds very nice. Man I would like to get into the Zone with you. Berkeley too. And Jimi.

What a cool club it would be to design, build, monitor and chronicle environments and our charges.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 16th, 2015, 7:33 pm 
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About the wild studies, I know very little about nano cameras, etc, and I'm deleting costs and grants and all of those red lines, but I bet the gear exists that could really be cool for that. It would be like time lapse photography though, recording snake behavior. Almost the same sometimes as a flower blooming.


subtle to human perception of time but not insignificant. Just as a bud unfurling or other actions of organisms are not insignificant.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 30th, 2015, 12:19 pm 
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"Naturalistic". to me is similar to "futuristic". Not saying it IS in fact natural, but the appearance of being natural. Fake plants, etc, can be "naturalistic", in my opinion.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 30th, 2015, 3:05 pm 
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There can be unnatural naturalness - like with jeet kune do!


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 30th, 2015, 4:29 pm 
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And I'm not kidding, Scott.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 30th, 2015, 5:12 pm 

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Yeah, un-naturalistic naturalistic is basically me. I use collected substrate, collected furnishing, store bought furnishings, and plastic plants.

Live would be nice, but Fla sandhill plants have taproots too deep for "captivity" and then just the time to keep up with plants along with the animals. In a small closed system, its just easier to manage for 1 type of organism rather than trying to get the "ideal perfect micro-ecosystem" that I dream of achieving one day. ...perhaps if I were to end up as a "cage-designer" or herp curator at a zoo one day... - not my cup of tea though, I prefer field work hands down.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: September 30th, 2015, 7:20 pm 
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You seem to integrate both together really well, into your own thing.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 1st, 2015, 6:36 am 

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Kelly Mc wrote:
You seem to integrate both together really well, into your own thing.


Thanks, I try but there always seems to be some element missing. I feel like I need a bigger cage, 55 gallon maybe. I've got some nice stuff, I just can't fit it in with the other furnishings I use that seem to work.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 1st, 2015, 12:32 pm 

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I think Scott got it right too - "don't forget the -istic". Not real, but realistic. Not natural, but naturalistic. I think it's meant to be an aesthetic facsimile, not a dogma. Although somebody will always try to go there...

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Live would be nice, but Fla sandhill plants have taproots too deep for "captivity" and then just the time to keep up with plants along with the animals. In a small closed system, its just easier to manage for 1 type of organism rather than trying to get the "ideal perfect micro-ecosystem" that I dream of achieving one day


For delicate neonates who get more-frequent feedings, require more cleaning & frequent observation, and much closer humidity monitoring & management, I go with plastic plants, hand-misting and a pretty sterile lab-type environment. But once they hit that ~ 1-yr mark and achieve "robustness" - they're solid no-fuss feeders, they're eating a little less often, they're up beyond tiny, etc I like to transition them to something bigger & naturalistic. With live plants, 3-D backgrounds, automated misting, and sometimes a water feature (which are a PITA, lemme tell ya! ha ha), sometimes a bioactive substrate (also not always great - sometimes just something scoopable is good enough).

Anyway, that's all kind of background and maybe a distraction to some readers. Mostly I wanted to offer this idea to simus: what about hydroponic-type plant culture? I'm working on a set of builds right now that - unlike my previous builds - have non-draining plant-substrate reservoirs (tall plastic jugs, basically) built into the foam, the latter being coated in epoxy (but the plastic jugs save me the expense & hassle of epoxying large voids in foam - I'll just "lip it over" to ensure no leaking between the foam and external side of the jugs). I plan to use fully-submerged LECA pellets as substrate in these countersunk jugs, to hold up Dracaena, Pothos, wandering jew, African evergreen etc - your standard bulletproof houseplants.

You could do something similar in your sand - say using a water-filled fishbowl also filled with LECA or gravel, and live plants growing in the water. (Hello thrift store, ha ha. They always have a few fishbowls selling for a buck or a quarter!) Have the sand - or some camouflaging rocks & sticks - come up almost to the rim of the bowl.

These little water babies wouldn't hold up to an EDB (maybe a mature potted lady palm or Dracaena would? EDBs are beasts) but they might survive life with rough greens, ribbons, small hoggies, scarlet kings etc. Not sure what all you keep for your educational use.

cheers,
Jimi


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 1st, 2015, 1:48 pm 
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Identifying project/subject goals, fluidity of methods, and exploring and using interdisciplinary tools and information is actually, the opposite of having a dogma. ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 1st, 2015, 2:03 pm 

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The critters used at the educational center (minus my Eastern Hogse) are pretty much going to be kept bare-minimal basic forever and always, and I don't get a say in it. Except one juvenile Eastern Hognose that is kept out there. It's kept similar to how I keep my few at home.

So basically what you're saying for me to try is an aquatic plant, in a water bowl deep enough to support said plant, that foliates out into the cage to provide real-plant cover? I might give it a shot. I'll likely see how this goes with a colony of southern toads I just put together for a feeder project (fingers crossed!!).

In my snake cages the sand is too shallow right now to bury a fish-bowl in it, far too shallow, only 3-5 inches deep, varying along the length of cages. I collect sand while at work, so I don't have the time to collect the amount I'd need (at least in one day) to submerge a fish-bowl most of the way. When I wash the fine dust and whatever else is in the sand out, I am left with 1/3-2/3 what I started with. Filling a 10 gallon tub with fine sand (PITA to move! :lol:) then washing it and cleaning it, will fill about 2-3inches in my 40 gallon tank.

What I meant by it being enough to just manage one organism per cage is I've got a black thumb haha. I can do plants just fine, if I'm managing them in their natural habitat. Once I get into horticulture though, good grief someone needs to take the toys (plants) away! :roll: :lol:
Also time. I've got a beardy, small southern toad colony, 2 eastern hognose (gave one to an acquaintance) that take my time away from my killing of flora haha.

Edit: +1 to what Kelly said while I was writing this post. When I try to recreate natural in naturalistic, it's not because I'm trying to recreate natural, it's just how I explain what I am trying to do because of where I have got to from testing more basic methods and seeing how small changes here and there collectively add up and result in noticeably improved behavior and vigor from my reptiles. By doing the same thing, I have found the thresholds at which I as a keeper risk going overboard, causing risky health problems for herps. Luckily/Sadly I have lost only 3 snakes from this (I'm grateful many more than this recovered when I went too far).

However, sometimes going for natural is a dogma. A local pet store with experienced keepers running it (not some chain BS) managed to hit a self-cleaning vivarium for their crested geckos by accident. The poop cleans itself. I guess there might have been a bloom in bacteria or protists within the cage that act as decomposers and break down the feces. That's my guess, nothing has actually ever been done to test what causes the feces to disappear.

This resulted in another question though that I'd be equally if not more curious to try than live plants. Propagation and use of captive dung beetles in terrariums with natural substrate. I know where I can get them, lots of them, I just need to know under what conditions they can/can't live and if they'd go for snake feces, or just the more "rounded" feces of tortoises and mammals.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 1st, 2015, 2:53 pm 
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Yeah that bioactive sub became kind of a catch word for a time,, and not yet a cononized method, probably because of the shall we say, unfavorable biological 'events' you described with the cresties. Fostering a nitrogen cycle in a closed system sometimes is wishful thinking, there are incompatible realities in animal type, container, moisture, and Air, which can Petri out undesirably.

I do like the power of being able to break an environment down and clean it or re build it. Some of my marginally aquatic env with plants have had healthy life of their own, and a few very large environments I've had but I still had to tend them and monitor them and remove stool.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 1st, 2015, 3:34 pm 
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An example of unnatural naturalness.. Which is sure to raise some eyebrows is having a substrateless biome for my White's Tree Frogs.

To the human minds eye, leaves and perches go "up here" and below it is The Ground. But what is up and below to the frogs evolved reality? To the tree frogs it is Leaf Surfaces. Large planed Leaf Surfaces. Soil is meaningless to them. The glass floor To The Frogs is surface area that is related to in their perching behavior the same way a leaf plane is. They perch on it, undistinguished from the other arboreal surface areas in their environment. As I have most artifact suspended, it is as easy to keep clean. A pluck up here, a damp general wipedown there. To the frogs, its natural, to our Eye, its not.

Of course I would love to give them a biome as large as a tool shed with big, sturdy broad leaved Australian flora. But I can't. So I scale it down experientially


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 5th, 2015, 8:41 am 

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In my snake cages the sand is too shallow right now to bury a fish-bowl in it, far too shallow, only 3-5 inches deep, varying along the length of cages


You could build up the floor with sheet or expanding foam, leaving a bowl-shaped void. Then you could get away with shallower (lighter!) sand over the foam, while still getting the bowl in there. Also, there are some pretty shallow fishbowls - there's no "rule" saying hydroponically-grown plants need vertically-oriented media. Imagine a broad shallow fish bowl with several pothos cuttings growing out of it.

Also remember you can keep the LECA or whatever dry on top - you can maintain the water level just out of sight. If you're worried about excessive moisture, skin blisters etc.

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So basically what you're saying for me to try is an aquatic plant, in a water bowl deep enough to support said plant, that foliates out into the cage to provide real-plant cover?


Exactly, but I would clarify that you don't need an obligate aquatic plant (and as as I mentioned above, "deep enough" doesn't have to be very deep at all).

Many terrestrial plants will grow (from cuttings or otherwise) in water. Sometimes they actually do better, with fewer ups and downs than if grown in soil media. Just Google a list of plants that will work, I think you'll be surprised and gratified at the length of the list.

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I've got a black thumb haha


That's all anyone is born with. Experience is the only way to green it up. Likewise, knowing your limitations, and also understanding your intention. This is why I don't (any more...) try to grow orchids and broms in snake cages - I'm not that good at it, and those plants require conditions that are somewhat at odds with the animals. I realized it was just a distraction, an undesirable distraction from my main purpose, my "why". Any more, I mostly just get the bulletproof supermarket types of houseplants, and also some more "exotic" things that actually do very well (e.g., Hoyas). I have some that must be pushing 20 years old.

I still kill a few new acquisitions, since I'm still constantly trying out new things. Like, I really want to find a fern that'll work for me. Some of the epiphytic ones are pretty sturdy and don't get too big.

I have found that plants requiring a little bit of a drier, cooler winter (e.g., Hoya, Zamioculcas, Sanseveria, the epiphytic cacti & ferns) are the best match for my interests. (Hoya will also grow in water, but that's not how I do them. All these taxa I grow in a fast-draining, lightweight orchid-like medium.)

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a substrateless biome for my White's Tree Frogs


Funny you should mention this Kelly. I've been musing over developing an arboreal cage with a pull-out tray, like a bird cage. No substrate but maybe paper, or maybe just an easily wiped, nonabsorbent surface. The plants would be growing from the back and side walls.

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Fostering a nitrogen cycle in a closed system sometimes is wishful thinking


Exactly. This is why - after a few with closed systems, with drainage into the cage substrate - virtually all my builds with live plants have featured drainage into a lower (external) chamber, accessed via a front-hinged door under the cage front (same plane, just lower down on the front face, below the enclosure front door). Each plant's media drains down via a tube that dumps into a vessel that I can easily pull out and dump outside or into the toilet or floor drain (depending on which house it's been in). This whole thing with hydroponic growing is a new experiment. The trick will be to keep most of the animal waste out of the plants; to remove it by hand. Hence the musings on a pull-out tray.

Fun stuff, eh? I like talking with you guys.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 5th, 2015, 9:14 am 
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Jimi your knowledge of plant species, materials, media, shoot - everything relevant to the topic is so important to it. Its not only academic but first hand, all the way through.

Hey what is it about you Spock Viper Guys? 8-)


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 5th, 2015, 5:00 pm 

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Well, my black thumb is also with training and trying. Mostly human-edibles though, I'm a big fan of hot peppers but am just as good as killing them as I am at eating them haha, yet I don't give up.

I actually just remembered I did have some transplant success with an open-system frog/tadpole tank. I took some plants and mud from my swamp and they spread the entire tank. However, I used that as more of a "magnet" for local wild anurans, and not for anything captive. I don't trust the microbes in my swamp with my snakes - instead I trust the microbes in sandhills :lol:.

I will admit, I have been looking as using deer moss. It is capable of asexual reproduction through fragmentation. The fungus provides habitat for photosynthetic bacteria/protists that provide food for the fungus. All I'll need to do is keep up with maintaining a fresh UVB every 6-8 months and keep it just a little damp which should be no problem. If anyone here has any experience with deer moss and knows of any backlash for using it (negative effects that must be mitigated for), please feel free to let me know.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 6th, 2015, 10:26 am 

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Pepper plants are actually short-lived perennials in nature; if you protect them from frost they can easily go 4-5 years in Florida. Once established they're pretty drought-tolerant too. And in the intense light of Florida they can do OK under trees (e.g., a live oak pruned so there's plenty of free space under it, and a bit of light coming through it). Growing under a tree like that can also help with frost-proofing. I've seen oranges done the same way; looks a bit like shade-grown coffee in practice.

Your mud smear brings to mind a propagation technique for mosses - taking a piece of moss and "blendering" it with buttermilk. Then painting the slurry onto whatever surface you want covered in moss. Gardeners in humid climates do this a lot - Japan and Korea, the eastern USA, western Europe. Some herp keepers also do it. The hard part is making sure you've got a moss species that suits your husbandry. Like, a wild New England or PacNW moss is going to crap out in a dartfrog tank. Temperate plants (incl mosses) need a winter rest - a cold dormancy - which would kill those frogs. It could be fine for a native treefrog tank though, if you hibernated the whole cage/occupant setup. Or you could just use the buttermilk technique outside, like the aforementioned gardeners, to accelerate natural moss colonization of e.g. the shady aspects of your frog or turtle pond's margins. Or just to cover up something rather ugly in your yard, that isn't too calcareous or dry/sunny.

Here's an offhand link (like with anything it seems, just look and you'll be blown away by how many people are "totally into this", ha ha):
http://littlegreendot.com/diy-moss-graf ... t-results/

I think you mean reindeer lichen when you say deer moss; a fungus/algae symbiont, not a true bryophyte, not even a plant, really.

Deer moss can tolerate significant dry periods; it might actually languish if kept moist and not allowed to dry out between soakings. Also, I don't think you need concern yourself with the UV end of the EM spectrum. UV is not photosynthetically active radiation (PAR). I can't get into much discussion of plant light needs as fulfilled in terraria, but there are many information resources printed and online, and also several good technical solutions to your need. One is PAR-oriented LED arrays, such as provided by Jungle Dawn. One key variable is distance between the plant and the emitter; too tall a cage is a bugger! You really need to crank up the light if you go tall - the distance-decay function is something like a cube root.

Remember too, not all the visible portion of the EM spectrum is PAR, so there are LED (and incandescent, fluorescent, etc) lighting sources that are fairly crap for plants. Purpose-made "grow lights" are the best lights for growing.

cheers


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 6th, 2015, 3:40 pm 
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Everything is going LED, and LED lights are virtually useless in aquaria and vivaria (ie Animal applications)

There are exceptions of better quality LEDS, but they are not used in the products commonly offered at pet stores in aquaria or reptile lighting products.

But because they are commonplace and LED recognizable to the consumer eye - they are more easily marketed than any other light, and reached for over viable lights for animal care.

I once had a sales representative try to tell me how the purple LED lights in a terrarium light kit, were superior to Night, in nature.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 7th, 2015, 9:26 am 

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LED lights are virtually useless in aquaria and vivaria (ie Animal applications)


Huh. That's a pretty sweeping statement, the truth content of which is fully dependent on how much emphasis you place on its modifier "virtually", and how you define that word in the first place. "Almost but not completely" is how I define it, so I'm going to have to disagree with the statement, on the basis of its low truth content. Examples of why:

1) There are plenty of aquarists - with a main interest in fish, but who desire "naturalistic" and thus maintain planted tanks - who have experienced excessive LED effectiveness relative to what they were operating before. Via for example algae blooms and subsequent need to either 1) dim the lights, or 2) utilize CO2 dosing and fertilizers to allow the desired plants to "balance out" the increased photosynthetic potential provided to the ecosystem by the additional PAR provided by the LEDs.

2) Nothing to do with animals here, but the indoor dope growers have been leaving the power-hungry, heat-dumping HID technologies in droves, in favor of cheaper to run, harder to remotely detect via IR, just as good at the main point - delivering PAR to plants - LED.

3) The vivarists keeping orchids and broms, as beautiful and fascinating in their own right "naturalistic" sidekicks to their frogs and lizards and turtles, have also gone over to LED whole-hog. Tons of PAR, very low heat output, cheap power bills, and way less bulb-replacement costs than with any other lighting technology other than "outdoors".

Just to be clear, the context of the recent posts to this thread has been growing live plants in herp vivaria, as an element of "being naturalistic". We have not discussed lighting for animals' UV needs - potentially another element of "being naturalistic". Nor have we really explored outdoor caging here, as an element of providing healthful EM spectra and "being naturalistic".

Quote:
products commonly offered at pet stores


The only thing I buy at pet stores is the occasional live food item. For sources of building materials and systems components for expressing my "naturalistic" urges, I utilize home improvement retailers, thrift stores (including Habitat for Humanity's ReStore), dumpsters (yes, really) and diverse vendors on "the innerwebs". I am a bit conflicted, frankly, on the herpetocultural-support (or -exploitation?) industry. Mostly I think they make entry-level gear, or when they can't manage that, just toys. Or pet-dangerous junk. Or they offer higher-priced replicas of stuff I can get elsewhere (e.g., dimmers and timers and thermostats and extension cords). But there I go with my own sweeping statement...walking that back a hair, when e.g., ZooMed et al came out with the fluorescent UV bulbs that was a significant advance over what we had before for delivering UV to e.g., captive lizards and turtles (e.g., mercury vapor bulbs, or fluorescent blacklights). But mainly, I don't personally go out for pet shops. No judgment on anyone who does - I just don't have good ones here, they're pretty awful.

Anyway, I realize here at FHF we're always at risk of veering into a pissing match. I don't want that. But I think it's a serious disservice to blanket-toss a viable solution to some real needs, in front of what might be an audience with diverse experience levels. So, let's keep focused on that - continuing to advance the practice of animal husbandry.

cheers


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 7th, 2015, 10:28 am 
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Jimi - oh I hope you see my post as an addendum to your comments about LED, and nothing more. !

This is a rich topic, and all you guys involved have contributed things here that I don't think anyone could find in one place, and its been fantastic.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 7th, 2015, 11:02 am 
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Wouldn't it be cool if there was an alternative Herpetoculture supply and materials entity that was signature, so that the stuff you mentioned could be sourced in one place too?

There is an incomplete space that could be filled some really useful stuff.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 7th, 2015, 1:00 pm 

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Wouldn't it be cool if there was an alternative Herpetoculture supply and materials entity that was signature, so that the stuff you mentioned could be sourced in one place too?


Yeah, it would. I spend a lot of time driving around town, and surfing the internet, and I pay a bit in shipping lots of little boxes to my house (I'm not a Prime guy yet). I suppose if you could get materials and supplies at wholesale rates, then do your own builds for retail sale (like Helix Controls and Spyder Robotics) you might be able to have a small, sustainable (read "adequately profitable") business.

It seems like most of the "diverse stuff" online herpetocultural retailers do have a much better "good gear to junk ratio" than what I see in most pet shops. But I think they must need to volume the hell of the diddly little crap (which is probably high-markup) in order to stay in business and sell a few of the high-dollar items.

I'd like to be (or, I think I'd like to be - maybe I really wouldn't enjoy being) fully self-employed. Right now I have a fulltime job plus a significant self-employment gig. One is a steady humdrum paycheck and great benefits, the other is a bigger paycheck and no bennies. They're fully complementary; I couldn't really make it on one or the other alone. Not yet...

Anyway, it seems like it would be a question of market share. Would you be trying to "steal" strictly-retail customers from LLLC, Bean Farm, Black Jungle etc, or would you be trying to "steal" DIY-oriented customers from Lowe's, Home Depot etc? I think you'd probably be trying to take market share from LLLC etc. I dunno, some of those guys have a pretty loyal clientele, due to great customer service, flawless shipping etc. Maybe you'd have to offer something nobody else is - the stuff we have to do for ourselves.

Some of the most gifted enclosure-background sculptors always have people asking them if they'd work for money. Seems like there's no way to make that (providing services, not goods) profitable, unless you're able to work for like a buck an hour. Who is?

Anyway (again), business interests me almost as much as herps. But I have never considered trying to monetize herps though - not the animals, not anything to do with it.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 7th, 2015, 1:07 pm 

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Kelly Mc wrote:
Wouldn't it be cool if there was an alternative Herpetoculture supply and materials entity that was signature, so that the stuff you mentioned could be sourced in one place too?

There is an incomplete space that could be filled some really useful stuff.


I think the problem with this, and the generalized stuff at pet stores Jimi was talking about, is mostly convenience and time. From a business an economical standpoint, minimizing effort while maximizing profit is the goal. Quality usually isn't high on the list here. It can be, but from what I've seen, not very often at all. I'd be curious how many board/CEO/decision makers in these herp companies keep herps personally, and if they do if they use their own products (i.e. substrate like CalciSand). The markup by these companies on lights, I recall being mentioned in another thread, maybe this one early-on, is the companies don't have their own manufacturing plant for lights, etc. Instead they buy, re-package, and re-sell. I don't know this for a fact, just repeating what I have been told and lack any evidence contrary to.

In my experience, once keepers are aware of cheaper alternatives (usually self-collecting and cleaning) that's what they do. The novice keepers, don't usually know any better.

As a result, I think providing a higher-quality marketing company would also result in higher prices because of more effort put into providing better quality, at least in the area of substrates. Then the re-market of lights, unless you want to break even and make no or little profit (not economically wise). With equal light pricing, and higher substrate/furnishing prices, this is likely to deter novices, and keepers in-the-know will do what they do now most likely.

However, I don't know what western-US substrates are like, with the ultra-sensitive biological crusts in the dirt, so there may be more market for high-quality cleaned substrates there for the advanced keeper group. Also, there may be a nation-wide or international market for high-quality subs because of the live-animal department of herpetoculture. Corn Snakes in Europe, Eastern Indigo Snakes in Arizona, etc. So, I guess there actually may be a large market for higher quality, further researched materials and equipment.

That's also the nice part of high-quality materials though, substrate and furnishings. The low quality stuff doesn't look very natural. I guess coco-fiber and cypress may to some degree, but that's really still like a garden and not what we see field herping.

For me, the biggest reason I go for higher-quality is its so much cheaper to collect it. Like I keep saying it takes time to clean it, but estimate that I've saved about $300-$500 on substrate over the last 4 years by collecting and cleaning. If I had a huge collection like some people, the number would be bigger, what I've saved is just for two cages.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 8th, 2015, 2:00 pm 
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I switched all my collection over to LED's. I can light 3 planted vivariums with less power than a single standard herp enclosure uses(2 15 watt LED's and one 12 watt LED flood).

For dart frogs-they are perfect as they don't heat up the tanks as much as other lights. The quality of light they produce is excellent.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 8th, 2015, 3:31 pm 
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Excellent to who, though? You or the frogs? My careful and gentle point being that what you perceive is just that, human.

I have an anuran collector friend who keeps darts and other taxa, is a physician and thus, a scientist. And he does use LED, for the reason you describe, but also uses uvb for its values


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Naturalistic
PostPosted: October 8th, 2015, 3:48 pm 
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I just think as humans we underestimate factors we cannot see, like uvb, and put much clout in care information that we have become trained to accept sweepingly, by virtue of Virtual.
Frogs, snakes, anything doing great is highly subjective and there can be different scales and goals of what would constitute that.


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