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Do You Need to Water the Plants in Your Vivarium, or Is Misting Enough?

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Do You Need to Water the Plants in Your Vivarium, or Is Misting Enough?

The short answer? While misting is great for maintaining desired humidity levels, usually it’s not enough to keep the plants in a bioactive setup happy.

For the long answer, read the rest of this article.

Even if you consider yourself a fairly experienced and knowledgeable reptile keeper, plant care can still elude the best of us. Plants have a whole set of needs of their own, and a common mistake that we reptile people make is assuming that if the enclosure is well set up for a reptile, then the plants should thrive by default. If only it were that easy!

One tricky thing about keeping live plants in vivariums is watering. Following the usual houseplant care recommendations usually doesn’t work, since they’re not in a pot and they’re often exposed to higher temperatures. If you’re using an automatic misting system, this can also affect soil moisture and therefore how often the plants need to be watered.

Desert Vivariums

The most common misconception about drought-tolerant plants is that they don’t need water at all. Remember: the only plants that don’t need water are the plastic ones!

Most drought-tolerant plants are highly susceptible to root rot, so they do best on a regular watering schedule where the soil is allowed to partially or even completely dry out between waterings. Then, when it is time for water, completely soak the soil around the base of the plant so it can get a nice deep drink. To reduce the risk of leaf rot, make sure to water the soil, not the leaves.

Once a week is a good baseline schedule for watering the plants in a desert vivarium, but the best practice is to let the soil and plants themselves be your guide. Every other day, stick your finger into the soil 2-3” deep. If it feels moist, it’s not time to water yet. If it feels dry, then it’s time to add more water. The hotter the temperatures in your vivarium, the faster your plants will dry out. And don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and water after touching the soil.

  • Signs of underwatering succulents:
    • Brown, dry leaves near the top or middle of the plants
    • Leaves have a deflated appearance
    • Leaf loss
  • Signs of overwatering succulents:
    • Yellowed/discolored leaves
    • Mushy leaf texture

Larger, well-established, more mature plants are better able to cope with drought than young and/or small ones. If you have recently set up a desert vivarium, make sure to be extra diligent about checking your plant’s appearance and soil moisture levels.

Tropical Vivariums

The most common misconception about tropical vivariums is that the soil needs to be wet at all times or else the plants will dry out and die. This is actually a very effective way to kill the plants in a tropical vivarium — even moisture-loving plants still need opportunities to dry out!

Realistically speaking, tropical-type plants usually prefer either uniformly moist soil or soil that dries partially before needing to be rewetted. Note, however, that uniformly moist does not mean soggy.

As with maintaining a desert vivarium, the best practice is to let the soil and plants themselves be your guide. Every other day, stick your finger into the soil about 1” deep. If it feels moist, it’s not time to water yet. If it feels dry, then it’s time to add more water. The hotter the temperatures in your vivarium, the faster your plants will dry out. For example, a blue tongue skink viv is likely to need more watering than a crested gecko viv. However, it’s also important to consider that the more plants you have, the faster they will drain the soil.

  • Signs of underwatering tropical plants:
    • Discolored leaves
    • Wrinkled/curling leaves
    • Wilting
    • Dry leaf edges
    • Stunted growth
  • Signs of overwatering tropical plants:
    • Yellowing and/or browning leaves
    • Wilting foliage
    • Soft stems
    • Dark brown spotting

Because the signs of underwatering and overwatering can be similar, getting hands-on with testing soil moisture is critical. Of course, don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and water after touching the soil.

Larger, well-established, more mature plants are better able to cope with drought than young and/or small ones. If you have recently set up a desert vivarium, make sure to be extra diligent about checking your plant’s appearance and soil moisture levels.

Conclusion

Misting is great for humidity maintenance, but it shouldn’t be relied upon to keep your plants hydrated, so keep your misting sessions short and frequent enough to keep humidity where you want it without soaking the substrate. This will enable you to tend to your plants more personally and increase your likelihood of having a vivarium full of lush, thriving flora. Over time, you will develop a sense of when your plants need water or when you need to scale back.

In addition to an appropriate watering schedule, good soil drainage is essential to the health of both desert and tropical plants. While the Bio Dude’s Terra Sahara and Terra Firma mixes drain well enough that they don’t need a drainage layer, Terra Fauna and Terra Flora are designed to hold on to water, so a drainage layer is required to keep root rot and stagnation at bay.

Worried that your ‘black thumb’ will sabotage your efforts to create the bioactive vivarium of your dreams? When you buy plants from The Bio Dude, they come with some care instructions (including watering tips) to help you get them well-established! For extra help on the topic of watering, read this article from The Dude’s Blog: All Water Is Not Equal — The Art of Watering Your Pet Reptile and Water Features

 

Image by Anna from Pixabay

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  • Rebekah Walenta

403

Access Denied

What a shame ----  you do not have permission to view this page : D  

 

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