The ecosystem of the upcoming project "The Woods"
In this update I'll talk about plant life, soil, feeders and the climate.
First up the plant life...
This is going to be very interesting. I have my go to plants back, some risky attempts, and some hopefuls as well. The main plants are the Autumn Brilliance Fern and Pachysandra. Pachysandra is a ground cover like an ivy. It gets tall and spreads with runners. Both work very well in vivariums. Those are my favorite go to plants. As for the hopeful plants it's I believe an Asparagus Fern more like ivy and Black Eye Susan. I'm hoping both will work out and will add more variety to the enclosure. One risky plant are actually scallions. They aren't toxic if feeders eat the scallions and the toads eat the feeders. I am not overwhelming the tank with them because it could cause a very strong smell. The smell right now is not very strong it's very manageable but if there are any problems I will definitely remove the scallions. There is one more plant that I am taking a risk on but I will not reveal that at this time you will have to wait for this spoiler to be revealed unless it dies beforehand.
The soil and important parts...
I am using ABG mix and Zoo med repti soil for my base and primary soils. They contain things like sand, sphagnum peat moss and coco husk as well as charcoal. I have heard wonderful things about ABG mix and I have been very successful raising perennials in the Zoo med repti soil. In this year's update I am going to add a layer of moss to cover the majority of the enclosure and then add leaf litter over top of sections of the enclosure. The moss can create humidity and the leaf litter will break down and feed my clean up crew and make the soil more bioactive. I have sand and Exo Terra bio drain before my soil I'm hoping to create a barrier to keep my soil dry. The moss will help to hydrate the animals and plants. It will create a very interesting look for the enclosure.
This is one of the most interesting parts of this enclosure. I want to make sure that I create an artificial seasonal changing feeder menu for my toads. Accomplishing this can be difficult but I have around 12 feeders that I'm hoping to incorporate during different seasons that I will be creating. I will include all of the feeders whenever the enclosure is finished and I can create the actual thread for it. I will explain one of the most ambitious ideas that I am going to try.
I am going to attempt to capture wild crickets and grasshoppers and potentially a species of wild isopod, and then culture them and hopefully breed generations to remove any parasites or problems the original insects had. While there can be serious issues collecting wild insects with parasites and pesticides and other things the wild feeder program for my animals will not be included for a very long time many generations after the wild caught insects pass.
I would really like to incorporate different insects to use and not only would this put my project over the edge but it would also give me a chance to show the importance of native insects and their rule in the wild. As I said this is a very ambitious idea and I could do the same thing with different captive crickets but I am hoping to accomplish something very unique. Nobody has grasshoppers and nobody can sell grasshoppers so the only way to use them is to catch them yourself in the states.
I think that the addition of grasshoppers and hopefully some wild insects will increase the diet of my animals. I have many other reasons for what I want to attempt reading these three specific insects.
the climate is something I'm very very excited about and I have high hopes to accomplish something that may not have ever been done publicly. My goal is to in the winter have hibernation and then after the hibernation process I want to attempt to recreate the nearly exact environment of the area in Pennsylvania these animals were found in. I want to have as close to the proper temperature, humidity, dew point and possibly the UVB exposure for these animals. I want to have highs and lows just like a regular day and night cycle would.
That means having shorter days to longer days back to shorter days right before hibernation. I will be trying to recreate rain storms (especially in the spring) to hopefully induce breeding from inside the 125 gallon. I also want to have foggy days, thunderstorms and even droughts! All of these things happen in the wild and I don't want to cause any harm to the animals I just want to give a safe artificial representation of the most that I can to help my animals understand what time of the year it is.
With rotating feeder insects and having changing seasons with more or less lighting and having weather conditions I'm really hoping for a breakthrough keeping my animals this way. Whenever the enclosure is done I will have even more specifics on the climate the feeders and much more. This is just to get you excited about this project. Hopefully it will have real life ecological success as well as captive care and education hopefully raising the bar for keeping these native animals in a newer and innovative way.
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