Hydroballs for Drainage

Terrarium Mesh

Bioactive Soil Blend

Leaf Litter

Clean Up Crew

Water Dish
Drinking H2O Source

Live Plants

Natural Decoŕ

Basking Site


Basking Spot Lamp

Linear Fluorescent & LED
For UVB & Bright Light to Support Plant Growth

What is “Bioactive”

The term “bioactive” is used to describe a miniature ecosystem created in a terrarium or vivarium. In a functional bioactive habitat, small invertebrates (aka: Clean-up Crew) break down waste from your pet to make nutrients available for live plants to consume. This incredible living network forms a balance that can reduce the maintenance of your habitat while enhancing its look.


Sometimes abbreviated as CUC, a clean-up-crew consists of any invertebrates and microorganisms that work together to convert waste from your pet into usable nutrients for vivarium plants. Some of the most common members of a Clean-Up-Crew include

Isopods, springtails, redworms, beetles, and mealworms. Other microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi are important, but (nearly) invisible members of this crew.


The right substrate mix is critical to a successful bioactive habitat as it will be where your “clean-Up-Crew” will do their part to convert waste.

Qualities of good Bioactive Substrate:
Moisture retention: Moisture plays a critical role in a Bioactive terrarium for a number of different reasons. Clean up crew members rely on moisture to live. Isopods are crustaceans and must have moisture in order to breathe, worms and springtails may desiccate and abandon substrate that is too dry. Beneficial bacteria and other microbes need a moist environment to break down waste. Plants are also an important component of a Bioactive terrarium and will require some amount of water in order to live.

Resisting compaction: In a substrate that has become tightly packed, plant roots may not be able to develop, and detritivores may not with to burrow. Utilizing components such as New Zealand Sphagnum moss and ReptiBark can help the substrate layer resist compaction and aid in the development of these other critical components.

Substrate Products

Drainage Layer:

Since water may frequently be added to the substrate, in order to prevent soggy conditions, a drainage layer may be beneficial. Making a drainage layer is easy! Just add a layer of Hydroballs to the bottom of the vivarium, then cover with Terrarium Mesh. Next, your substrate layer can be added and topped off with mosses and leaf litter. When watering plants or misting, any excess water will drain into the bottom layer of Hydroballs, preventing a swampy forest floor.

Drainage Products

Substrate Toppers:

While some of your clean up crew will live deep within your substrate layer, some will prefer to remain near the surface but will need shelter in order to go about their cleaning duties. Leaf Litter, Terrarium Moss, Frog Moss, and cork Pieces are excellent choices for providing this natural cover, helping to slow evaporation, and may provide some nutrition for the crew as Isopods enjoy feasting on any decaying matter.

Substrate Topper Products

More on Moisture and Humidity:

Maintaining proper moisture and humidity levels in a Bioactive Terrarium is essential for the health of all of the organisms involved. Plants should be watered, and substrate should be regularly misted at a minimum. In a tropical Bioactive terrarium, a fogger may be used to maintain high humidity levels as well. Since maintaining beneficial bacterial and microbial health is one goal of a bioactive terrarium, any and all water used should be treated to remove chlorine and chloramines before adding it to the terrarium. Reptisafe can be used to safely remove these as well as add in important electrolytes for all habitat inhabitants.

Water and Humidity products


As in any enclosure, Décor plays an important role in making your pet feel at home. BE sure to provide adequate shelter, climbing, perching, and basking opportunities be including a variety of different décor items in your habitat.

Décor Products

Notes on Lighting:

The Lighting needs of different animals will vary greatly. You can choose an appropriate UVB lamp by following THIS GUIDE (UVB LAMP CHART). In addition to UVB lighting, a Bioactive terrarium may benefit greatly from increased visible light. The reason for this is that light in the visible spectrum is used by plants for photosynthesis. Several different lights are available that can efficiently provide visible light to support the growth of terrarium plants.

Lighting Products

Appropriate Species:

There are a number of different species that may be appropriate to house in a Bioactive vivarium. Some things to consider:

  • Herbivores (and omnivores) aren’t always suited for Bioactive vivariums as they may eat your vivarium plants. Special care must be taken to ensure that any plants provided are not toxic – and be prepared to replace them if they are consumed!
  • Very large bodied animals may crush or uproot live plants. This doesn’t mean they won’t have fun doing it – but be prepared!
  • It is important to establish your clean-up crew well before adding insectivores to your habitat as they may really enjoy eating your isopods or other invertebrates. Once established, this shouldn’t be a problem, but at the beginning – watch out!

Popular Species for Bioactive Habitats (Tropical):

Desert Species: