Updated: Nov 20, 2021
The Bio Buds Blog,
Written by Mariah Healey, ReptiFIles
Bioactive enclosures are great. Really great, actually. They create a more naturalistic environment for your pet reptile while reducing some of the maintenance and expense for you long-term. But let’s be honest — bioactive is complicated, and comes with its own set of challenges that many people neglect to consider in light of the benefits.
For example, if you don’t install your drainage properly and you have a tropical setup, your substrate will flood, turn septic, and develop an unpleasant odor.
Or, if you don’t routinely add bioactive-friendly fertilizers into your substrate, the soil will lose its nutritive value and the plants’ health will decline, decreasing the attractiveness and functionality of your setup.
Or, if you don’t remove feces regularly, you risk creating a booming population of parasites and germs in your setup, potentially decreasing your pet’s health rather than encouraging it.
Biosecurity is one of those challenges. If you neglect biosecurity, you can introduce harmful bugs and germs into your pet’s environment that can hurt it or make it seriously ill. Here’s what you need to know as a bioactive keeper.
What is biosecurity?
The Oxford definition is biosecurity is “procedures intended to protect humans or animals against disease or harmful biological agents”. Biosecurity protocols are used in agriculture to protect farms from disastrous disease outbreaks that can wipe out millions of livestock or endanger human health. Biosecurity protocols are also used to prevent foreign plants and wildlife from taking root in and disrupting local ecosystems.
They can also be used to keep your pet healthy and prolong the longevity of your bioactive vivarium.
Why is biosecurity important to bioactive setups?
Let’s take a step back and ask ourselves what makes a bioactive vivarium work. Simply speaking, in order to create a functional mini-ecosystem, you need the right balance of beneficial bacteria, fungi, invertebrates, and other microfauna, as well as plants. When you intentionally add all of these factors to a closed environment, you control the balance of the ecosystem.
But when you add the wrong factors — especially if it’s by accident — the balance of the ecosystem gets thrown off, introducing disease and potentially completely crashing the setup.
Harmful microfauna usually get introduced to a setup when the keeper unwittingly adds something that is carrying them. This usually happens when the keeper picks something up from outdoors and adds it to their bioactive setup — this can be clean up crew critters, soil, wood, rocks, plants, etc. Of course, these things probably carry good microfauna, too (which is why you hear some people telling you not to treat things that have been collected outdoors) but that doesn’t cancel out the bad stuff.
Practicing good biosecurity is especially important for protecting your pet from deadly diseases present in the wild, such as chytrid (amphibian fungal disease) and Snake Fungal Disease.