Which substrate is the best for my BTS?

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Merauke Mama
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Which substrate is the best for my BTS?

Postby Susann » Tue Jun 02, 2015 10:43 pm

The answer can depend on which species skink you have, and what the conditions are like where you live.
So I've broken down some of the more common ones used with reptiles.

Note that when you put your skink on a new substrate, even if it’s a perfectly safe one, you have to watch both your skink and your skink’s poop for any signs that he may be eating it!

Substrates that are fine to use:

Avoid pine or cedar as they have scented oils in them that can cause irritation.
Can be purchased as reptile specific or in garden supply stores. Either one can at times contain small bugs (usually harmless), and if you are uneasy about adding bugs to your tank you can either bake it in the oven (at 250 F for a minimum of 10 minutes but up to an hour) or freeze it for one month prior to use.

• Aspen is good, but use the shaved rather than the shredded as the shreds have been known to get under eyelids and cause harm when skinks are burrowing. Can also be found in the form of small chips.

• Cypress is good, comes in mulch and bark form, is carried under various names –-Forest Floor among them.

• Fir is good, most often you’ll find this under the brand name ReptiBark or with the more generic name of either orchid bark or orchid mulch.

The different wood substrates are probably the most popular because it’s lightweight, fairly inexpensive, good humidity retention, and skinks’ ability to burrow in most of them.

• Comes in the form of bark, husk, or soil, carried under many brand names, Eco Earth and Tropical Soil among them.

Coconut products retain moisture very well.

• Comes in many forms such as: shavings, pieces, shreds, crinkles, pellets, and cotton-like fluff. Carefresh is one common brand.

Paper is generally not among the more popular substrates due to it’s tendency to get soggy or fall apart when wet, and it is one of the worst (if not THE worst) for humidity retention.

• Use playground sand as the grains tend to be rounder and not as scratchy.

Sand is one of the substrates plagued with controversy due to claims that it can cause impaction. I don’t necessarily want to take sides on this, however, my opinion is that the individual grains of sand are much smaller than any of the particles in the popular wood substrates, and therefore, in small amounts, would pass through your skink with ease.
Grains of sand, if ingested in small amounts, also do not adhere to each other or clump together making a solid obstruction that is impassable by your skink.
If you are using sand, we would advise you to either feed outside of the tank, or put down something under the dish so food does not fall onto the sand causing your skink to ingest a lot of it sticking to the food.

Sand retains heat very well and moisture moderately well, but it is extremely heavy and very labor intensive.
If you are uneasy about the impaction risk then avoid it.

• You need to be very careful getting dirt from outdoors as it can contain pests, fertilizers, debris, waste, toxins (like pesticides or weed killers), or parasites and microorganisms.

• If you buy peat moss or potting soil from a store you need to read the packaging to avoid soil already mixed with fertilizers, Perlite or vermiculite, and toxins like pesticides or herbicides.

Soil retains heat and moisture very well but is heavy.

• Can be purchased as reptile specific or in garden supply stores. Either one can at times contain small bugs (usually harmless), and if you are uneasy about adding bugs to your tank you can either bake it in the oven (at 250 F for 1 hour) or freeze it for one month prior to use.

• Sphagnum moss should periodically be dried out by baking it at 250 F for 1 hour.

Moss retains moisture very well.

Any of the above substrates (except for paper) can be mixed together to achieve the look and results you desire.

The species that come from either Indonesia or Papua New Guinea (Indonesian –-T. gigas gigas, Merauke –-T. gigas evanescens, Kei Island –-T. gigas keyensis, and Irian Jaya –-T. sp) generally require higher humidity than the species from Australia, so if you own an IJ or one of the gigas species it is safest to avoid aspen and any of the paper substrates, and stick with one, or a mix, of the ones that retain moisture well.

• Reptile carpet, comes in various colors and sizes, tends to prohibit bacterial and mold growth –-this protectiveness wears off the more you wash it.

• Astroturf, inexpensive, watch out for unraveling edges, can be hard to clean.

• Outdoor carpet, rigid, can be hard to clean.

Skinks obviously cannot burrow in carpet, and may instead crawl underneath it.

Substrates to AVOID

Alfalfa pellets
• Should be used with care. They are often too dense and heavy for skinks to burrow in, and they break down when wet, crumbling to the bottom creating a layer that can encourage bacterial growth.

Corn cob and walnut litter
• Both are indigestible and therefore a risk for impaction. Nonabsorbent.

Indoor/House carpet
• Skinks’ claws can stick to the pile causing damage, rigid, extremely hard to clean.

Pine, cedar, and any other highly fragrant woods or barks.

Calcium sand
• The package may state that calcium carbonate is perfectly safe for your reptile to consume, but continually licking the digestible sand can lead to hypercalcemia and, among other things, inability to digest food, extreme pain, muscle weakness, lethargy, kidney and renal failure, and death.

Cat litter
• Tends to be extremely dehydrating. Can be toxic. Can also cause impaction due to the clumping factor when wet. It can be dusty, causing eye and respiratory infections.

Clay litter
• Impaction risk due to clumping factor.

• Rocks small enough for skinks to swallow pose a great impaction risk due to their weight. Nonabsorbent.

If I have forgotten to mention something, please PM me.
4.3.3 Merauke
My name is pronounced "Suzanne" :)
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