Bioactive How-To

How to do the Bioactive goodness
Enclosure size/type and lighting based on 3 adult Thamnophis s. infernalis.

Enclosure dimensions for bioactive success: 4x2x2, have at least ½ the top ventilated screen if custom built or if pvc.
Dam/Substrate depth of 4” minimum.
Lighting Recommendation:
Sunblaster T5 + LED (T5 bulb replacement with Arcadia UVB)
Basic indoor/outdoor halogen flood on a dimmer for basking (optional, not required)

So let’s say you have your enclosure and fixtures set and ready to go!
Time for substrate. This can be a wide variety mixture. I aim for loamy soil.
I start a fresh batch with the following mix: 60:20:20/ soil:sand:etc
Etc is the following: peat/coco fibre, mosses, orchid bark, etc. it can be a mix of all or one

I personally add a little at a time. ¼ amount, mix, then repeat so mixing isn’t overly tedious and heavy. As you are doing this, add in mycorrhiza fungi spores and rhizobacterias if you can. This is very important for the nitrogen cycle. Without it, negative effects will not be noticed for a couple years, but it will ultimately have a bad impact on your environment, and crash it.

Just like a fish tank, our soil needs a nitrogen cycle. Ammonia from urine or missed foods needs to get broken down by bacteria, which then converts it to nitrite. Further into that, bacteria will then convert nitrite into nitrates(safe form) in which the plants will then feed off of and grow.

The mycorrhizal fungus will attach and grow into the roots of plants and expand into the soil. This type of fungus then absorbs water and nutrients from the soil and conducts them back to the root system of the plants. So with the bacteria and fungi symbiotic relationship, the cycle is complete.

Once it is thoroughly mixed together, time for decor! We won’t touch ground decor just yet, but instead the main structures. Garters do love to climb, so give them ample opportunities. Here is a sample of one of my garter enclosures:

In this case, I chose to use cork branches, cork rounds and cork flats for my main structure. However you can use branches or drift woods found outside. No need to “Sanitize” either, just give them a good hose down, check for ants or termites. If nothing, throw it in! Use your imagination.

Once you have the wood layout, plant time!
When it comes to snakes, you do not need to worry so much about “toxic” plants to herbivorous species as they simply won’t get eaten. Common outdoor flowers, or annuals often will not survive the “stale” air within a house, so tropical “indoor” plants are the best route to go.

As you plant, gently pound the soil down, and add more as needed, and pound down again to make the ground more firm. This will allow the moisture to stay within the soil longer, and also have a stronger base for the plants to root and grow.

Once this is done, now we focus on the ground. Leaf litter and bark! At this point, you are basically mimicking a forest floor. Whole leaves, crumples leaves, scattered everywhere in a thin layer. Throw some twigs down, tree bark, even rotting wood from outside (again, watch for ants!). Rotting wood offers excellent nutrients for the soil, and isopods love it too. After this, apply a little bit more leaf litter on top. Personally, I prefer oak as it is long lasting, and surprisingly, an odor reducer!’re done! Now we just have to apply maintenance. Good rule of thumb is sticking your finger 2” into the soil. Is it damp? Or is it dry? If it is dry, it means it is time to water! The top layer can look somewhat dry, but underneath should always have that rich, darker color while not being wet. This will take some trial and error to get used too. Honestly, probably the most “difficult” part of all of this, which really, isn’t all that difficult. If you are unsure, it is better to under-water instead of over-water as over watering will lead to bad bacteria build up and problems for both plants and animals involved.

From here, we can add isopods and springtails. Other great clean up crews that people forget about are also millipedes and mealworms! (NOT centipedes). These are also fantastic little cleaners for rotting materials. Isopods and springtails will work on both fecal matter, any hidden foods and rotting organics. I usually err away from mealworms just because I find them a little ugly, but they work within some degree. Just not as well as the others.

I would personally suggest not having any inhabitants (snakes or lizards) for a good 3 weeks or so, to allow the plants to root in place so they do not get dug up.

Hope you enjoy!

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Rhagerhis moilensis

Name(S) Rhagerhis moilensis, Malpolon moilensis/ Egyptian False Cobra, Moila Snake

Wide range. Basking of 115-135f, warm end 85f, cool end 75f, night drop can go down to 68f in winter. I encourage 115 only for smaller enclosures.

Halogen floods on a dimmer are best used to avoid burns, and achieve heat with using low wattage lights. 14% UVB is also encouraged (Arcadia Dragon Lamps) along with Arcadia or Sunblaster LED to mimic the harsh sun.

Humidity Summer: 30-40% Winter 50-60% average

Diet: Anything that moves. Small prey, mostly lizards and small LEAN rodents

Minimum size enclosure 3x2x2 MINIMUM. Ideally, 4x2x2+
Style of enclosure, hardened clay base with wind eroded (loose) sand.(I use Excavator clay and sand on top of that) They will climb at any given opportunity, so offer branches! They also dig often, so be cautious of the type of rocks being used and ensure they are safely secured to avoid toppling.

Special notes
Very bold, temperamental and FAST. They have extremely mobile and large rear fangs, along with immensely large glands.
**I have found making them more humid/dew in the morning during fall/winter promotes courting and breeding behaviour. Males will also combat during this time, even if no females are present.

Common Mistakes: Keeping to cool and/or humid along with lack of air flow often promotes problems like swollen duvernoy glands and eyes. Easily susceptible to respiratory infection as well in these conditions. Bins are highly advised to not be used. Habitat requirements are just not feasible. Often, a “calm” moilensis is a sick or cold moilensis. Sexing this species is proven difficult. DO NOT attempt to probe as males have immensely small hemipenes. Popping is possible only when you know exactly how to pop them. It is not possible to pop like the most common method on snakes, they will always look “female”.
Very prone to obesity, so be wise on how much they eat. They are extremely opportunistic and will easily over eat.

Handling: HIGHLY advised against it. Venom is not completely known on moilensis. With how mobile teeth are and how quickly live fuzzy mice die, it is best to not handle. These snakes are extremely quick when wanting to bite and you probably will not be able to pull away quickly enough.

Medicinal reactions? Or chemical? Not known. No negative reactions to date with oral Baytril and SI with Fortaz; as well as no reactions with Provent-A-Mite.

Arid regions of: Morocco, Western Sahara, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Sinai, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, SW Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen

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Acclimation and Success of Sensitive WC Reptiles

Acclimation and Success with Wild Caught animals.

When it comes to wild caught animals, there is much controversy in regards to how to acclimate individuals. Some swear by only one method, while some work for others. However, it ultimately boils down to the species involved and the state of its health, as well as how long it has been in captivity.

When it comes to a species not easily accessible in the hobby, there are steps to take for the best success for your new reptile/amphibian as well as yourself.

First thing, before receiving the said animal, research it. However, when it comes to researching, don’t just google something like “X Snake care”. You will not get very far in that, and a lot of uncertain information can, and will show up. While there is useful information to weed out, there are other steps I feel should be taken first.
Study the habitat. Look into the species range, and if you can get specific, the locality. A great website to use to find the distribution is, here you often can find locality pinpoints.
Once you have successfully found where the individual comes from, look into the habitat type, and how you can best recreate it. In this case, I actually use facebook often as many legitimate herps are on there. I’ll look up the species and find in-situ herping photos to study images of the habitat. I will go through at least 50 photos to get an idea.
Check out the weather patterns of the distribution range. Is it hot? Is it cold? Or does the temperature swing wildly during the day or throughout the seasons? If you cannot find weather patterns on a very specific spot, check out the closest national park or city for an idea throughout the year.

Now that you have a good grasp of how to keep the habitat steady and well, what does it eat? Are you able to provide the necessary food source? Some species are food specific. For example, Xenodermus javanicus – they eat frogs and sometimes fish. Will you be able to provide that or do you have a thought in the back of your head to try rodents? If you think rodents – erase that thought. More often than not, specialized eaters will only fare well long term on their specific diet. Ensure you can provide it long term if it turns out to be one of those species. If it is a species that can over time (and be certain!) do well on rodents, make sure you can still provide natural prey for converting over if they allow you.

Is the reptile or amphibian healthy? What would you do? I will do my own personal example for this one, as it partially involves newly acquired individuals. Some species, when unhealthy, people will QT on paper towel, or bare bones, which, I completely understand and is very functional for some species. However, when it comes to many lizards or uncommon/rare snakes, this is more often than not, detrimental and ultimately a reason why many will die. Sometimes, you just have to accept the risk of introducing something into a very elaborate enclosure. Optimally, do so away from your main established reptiles of course. When it comes to a species like Chironius scurrulus, I feel with these, they have a HUGE mortality rate due to QT process people put them through. *Knock on wood*, I have not had an issue yet. However, I approach my method very differently. They are an extremely shy and nervous species. Take this into account with the type of species you are looking to acclimate. My male arrived to me quite emaciated and dehydrated. However, instead of rushing to a sterile enclosure for him, I immediately put him into a large, heavily planted enclosure where he can hide but still “watch” me. He felt more at home per say, was able to settle quickly and eat within a week. Whereas, in a sterile tub prior (not with me) he absolutely would not eat. 6 months later, this snake looks like he would have been captive bred. It is definitely a risk doing so, but sometimes if you want to work with sensitive species, you just have to take it.

This topic also leans into another controversial one. Worming. I absolutely encourage de-worming some species if you absolutely are confident about the animal being able to handle it. However, I do not encourage worming immediately. This is another way to accidentally kill an acclimating animal. If you worm a snake, or lizard immediately upon arrival, you are introducing a toxin to an already stressed body. This more often than not, will lead to death. I have yet to worm any of my Chironius spp in my care, mostly being the prey items they eat. All animals in nature have a natural gut load, as do humans, birds, fish etc. Only when the immune system is under stress, do they pose a problem, and thus becomes a requirement to worm. However when you have species like Chironius, Xenodermus, or live-only eaters, deworming is senseless. You are forced to keep deworming every single meal if you want to keep up with keeping an animal clean. This, yet again, will ultimately lead to death due to the consistent toxins in a body. If the animal is very healthy and not having troubles, I personally do not deworm. However, I also do not share tools between other individuals either to not have any potential pathogen spread. Some people may not like this method, but when it comes to a species that is very sensitive, you just have to weigh your options for the best success. **Please note, external parasites do not fall under this. That is something where sterile situations are ideal, and cross your fingers.

Behaviour of individuals will often vary. More often than not, many wild caught species will be way too shy to even eat in front of you, let alone eat at all for some time. Observe the animal from a distance. Better yet, use a camera. Find out their habits without interfering and their preferred spots to hide. Offer food without them really knowing you are there and leave the room for the day/night so they are comfortable. Again, use a camera to learn how they go about their business when it comes to feeding. If it’s a potentially dangerous live meal, moreso reason to have a camera and not have to bother the snake. Another key in acclimating a species is quite simply – do not touch it. Even if you have the utmost urge…just don’t! With my Chironius and Boiga, even Ahaetulla, they absolutely do not get touched unless mandatory. I have maybe touched my male C.scurrulus 2x in the last 10 months. That was to unbag him, and to upgrade his enclosure.

I hope you learned some tips and tricks when it comes to acclimating wild caught animals, there will forever be new knowledge to learn and things to change when it comes to specific species.

Ashley Dezan

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