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Baking Substrate

Discussion in 'Tarantula Questions & Discussions' started by warhorse333, Feb 12, 2018.

  1. warhorse333

    warhorse333 Arachnopeon

    I'm preparing a new vivarium for my avic avic and in doing so prepared about a quarter of a brick of Eco Earth substrate. Me being new to the hobby, I overestimated the expanding power of the substrate and it was nearly mud. I balanced it out by adding more and more of the brick until it was more like soggy earth than mud. Anyone know how long I should bake it in the oven and at what temperature? There's about 1 gallon of it and I have cookie sheets at my disposal.
  2. Venom1080

    Venom1080 Arachnoemperor Active Member

    • Agree Agree x 5
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Tim Benzedrine

    Tim Benzedrine Prankster Possum Old Timer

    To speed up the process a little, you could try placing the sodden eco-earth onto a large piece of fabric (maybe an old section of a sheet, fold the sides up around it to make a sort of ":bag" and twist the daylights out of it squeezing out the excess water as much as possible. I did this once when I over-saturated a bit and it worked moderately well. You lose a bit that sticks to the sheet, but you can scrape some of it off if you wish and the loss should be negligible. Then do what was suggested above or you could bake it at low temperature for awhile as planned.

    Another time, during the heat of the summer, I put it on cookie sheets and set it on the roof of my porch. Between the airflow and the rather high temperatures generated on a roof under intense sun, it dried satisfactorily.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. EulersK

    EulersK Arachnoworm Staff Member

    Jesus, so much work o_O Just squeeze it out with your hands, man. Let the rest dry out naturally like @Venom1080 suggested.
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  5. Tim Benzedrine

    Tim Benzedrine Prankster Possum Old Timer

    Hey, some of us like to keep our hands, clean, youthful, and soft, thank-you very much. Plus, the times I used the methods I described was when I wanted bone-dry substrate and I wanted it NOW! or at least as close to NOW as feasible. ANNNND, how much more natural can drying in the heat of the sun can you ask for?

    <Grumble>Stoopid Substrate Nazis<Grumble> :D ;)

    And so much work? That's what's wrong with young people today, no work ethic! When I was your age, I'd carry fifty pound bricks of Eco-Earth uphill to find an optimal spot in the sun. When I was lucky enough to be able to afford those bricks and didn't have to pulverize my own coconut husks that I scavenged from the dumpster it the local Tiki bar!
    <Grumble> Stoopid Millenials. You try to tell them how easy they have it, but do they listen? Noooo! <grumble>
    • Funny Funny x 9
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  6. When I was growing up, we had this old screen door (new screening in it) that Dad would lay over saw horses outside for Mom to dry stuff quickly on (garden stuff/vegetation). No idea now what Mom was actually sun drying (but I'm very sure it was legal!). lol

    Wouldn't be a bad idea for substrate drying -- more surface space and less work. Just thinking out loud... sorry.
    • Funny Funny x 1
  7. Spiderguy47

    Spiderguy47 Arachnoknight

    I usually bake mine when I need it bone dry. I do it at 250F°. Unless you can get a completely paper thin layer on a cookie sheet your going to have to mix it up every 15-30 minutes to speed up the process. This usually takes a while. I've spent the majority of a Sunday hydrating and drying 1 brick. Also go ahead and prepare a bunch at once and store it in a bin. It makes life so much easier. When storing it it make sure to press it so that there is less surface to support mold.
    P.S. If you dont want it completely dry just monitor it take it out when it looks right, or just dry out half and mix it with the wet stuff.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
  8. Spiderguy47

    Spiderguy47 Arachnoknight

    Any one else here use 50/50 potting soil and coco fiber. I prefer the look and it doesn't support mold as well as pure coco.
  9. D Sherlod

    D Sherlod Arachnoknight

    Spread it out in large Rubbermaid container or 2 ... leave lid off ,,,, dry in day or 2
  10. Gossamer

    Gossamer Arachnopeon

    I've overestimated the brick too, my first time soaking it. So when I needed it dry ASAP, I've baked mine at 300F, although it was an older oven. You may want to turn it down depending on what you have. I check up on it every 15 mins or so, shift the cocofiber around - nothing too crazy.
  11. EulersK

    EulersK Arachnoworm Staff Member

    Potting soil, or top soil? Huge difference. I use about a 50/50 topsoil and peat moss mix for most of my inverts.
  12. Spiderguy47

    Spiderguy47 Arachnoknight

    All natural potting soil. I did try topsoil before but I don't like the fact that is full of sticks and rocks.
  13. EulersK

    EulersK Arachnoworm Staff Member

    Just be careful with that stuff. By design it's loaded with fertilizers, and a lot of those used aren't natural. Can be very bad for inverts.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  14. Spiderguy47

    Spiderguy47 Arachnoknight

    I found a good brand at my local hardware store a while back. No added fertilizers or plant food.
    • Like Like x 1
  15. Dave Jay

    Dave Jay Arachnoknight Active Member

    This thread's a bit old, but I was searching 'substrate' and it came up. I'm not sure if @EulersK works as a tag using the phone , on pc I would be holding the @ while typing the name of the person I want to tag. Replying to a post will get a notification anyway I thought .
    Anyway , I'm confused about the topsoil mentioned. Is it in a bag like potting mix or is it something generally bought by the ton at a landscape supply yard? I was thinking it was what we would call loam, but the comment about sticks in it has me confused now. I'm sure it's a case of different countries knowing a product by different names
  16. cold blood

    cold blood Moderator Staff Member

    Its not the stuff sold for growing plants, but rather filling holes and leveling ground. Its the super cheap stuff. Here a 40lb bag runs about $1.37
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  17. Dave Jay

    Dave Jay Arachnoknight Active Member

    Got it , I think it would be loam here, but I can't say that I've looked at the bags of stuff that closely, Im usually just after potting mix so I skip to that part of the isle. I get most of my critter supplies at the landscape yard where they sell by the tonne, apart from coir peat that I buy at the hardware store or the supermarket. Next time I'm out and about I'll check out the bags of 'dirt'.
    Thanks :)

    Edit - I checked around online, in Australia there is no bagged product named 'topsoil' in any brand that I can find. There are soil improvers or topdressing mixes, but not just topsoil. There are sandy loams and loams, and I found that one some of the international advertising for 'topsoil' bags the word 'loam' is in brackets next to topsoil. As do some of the landscape supply adverts. So I'm pretty sure loam and topsoil are the same thing. Although it could be that loam is topsoil , but not all topsoil is loam .
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018
  18. EulersK

    EulersK Arachnoworm Staff Member

    Topsoil is usually used as a filler - to add to a concentrate, or to fill holes in the yard. No added fertilizer and no idea of growth in mind when packaging. Just. Plain. Dirt.

    Brands will vary wildly when searching for this. As @Poec54 once said, "They'll only ship dirt so far"... (paraphrasing). You simply need to look at listed ingredients, and run the cricket test on every new batch. The latter step may be excessive, but better safe than sorry.

    This thread has a lot more info from @Trenor, someone versed in agriculture.

    Speaking of, did you leave us Trenor?

    I'd guess it's topdressing that you're looking for. Here in the States, "loam" means this. Basically, sandy moist soil. That actually sounds ideal to a tarantula keeper. Not too common out here, or at the very least I haven't seen it prominently for sale. I usually collect that substrate out in the wild, not in stores.
  19. Dave Jay

    Dave Jay Arachnoknight Active Member

    Yes, you're right about the definition of loam, and the most accepted definition of topsoil is the layers of soil above the layer of parent soil, or some would define it as only the very top layer of soil incorporating composted plant material. I'm actually qualified in horticulture myself, I just don't know quite what's in the bags! :) What I would buy by the trailer load when making a garden bed or laying grass would be loam, not always sandy loam, some loam has a high amount of organic matter, but the same stuff could be labelled loam or topsoil, or both. What I would pick up for free from building sites would be the top layer of soil removed during excavation. The next layer would just be called 'fill'.
    It's all a matter of names really. I'm going to poke around at the hardware and garden stores , maybe slit holes in a few bags lol :)
    • Like Like x 1
  20. EulersK

    EulersK Arachnoworm Staff Member

    Absolutely! I've seen a few bad bags, even from trusted brands. Always pop open a bag to check out the batch. Good to see someone versed in soil around here. I'll need to pick your brain later concerning some iron-rich sand :)
    • Like Like x 1