Mata mata turtle substrate

blooms

Arachnoknight
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Feb 20, 2009
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Thinking of setting up a tank for a mata mata turtle. I know that the way that mata matas eat makes substrate really important. I'm wondering if ada aqua soil would be a good substrate or an impaction risk. In the alternative I have considered using submerged eco-earth, organic peat, organic soil, spagnum moss, dry dead leaves or some combination of the above.

I plan putting my tank in front of a south facing window for heat and light. I probably will plant some simple plants along (something reed like to grow out of the tank) the two sides and the back of the tank to give the turtle some sense of security and to limit the direct effect of the sun on most of the tank. (In other words, the idea is to use the sun to help grow a reed border and heat the water, but limit algae growth, because sunlight will not hit most of the tank.

I realize that any of the substrates that I'm considering will stain the water. I don't mind yellow or slightly brown water as long as it doesn't hurt the plants or the turtle and I can still see the turtle from time to time.

Anyone have any thoughts?
 

blooms

Arachnoknight
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Do you means silica sand? Like blasting sand? Or is it the sand that is white and looks almost like sugar?
 

blooms

Arachnoknight
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But will plants grow in sand? I'm thinking of maybe having some grass on the bottom or some reeds.
 

myrmecophile

Arachnolord
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20-30 grit silica sand can be had cheaply at any home improvement type store, far cheaper than any LFS if they even carry it. Plants will do fine in the sand but may have trouble with the turtles activities in the tank.
 

dtknow

Arachnoking
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The best plants for the purposes here would be those that can grow on rockwork/driftwood and can be thus anchored in place.(Anubias, Java fern) Plants in the sand will likely be continually uprooted by the turtle(an Amazon swordplant planted in the center of several large rocks should keep its position and would provide lots of shade as well).
 

jere000

Arachnosquire
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Aug 22, 2010
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I aqlways thought that dried leaves submerged into the water mixed with some sort of sand would be a good substrate for a mata mata.I've seen them appear on a few animal shows out in the wild they seem to hide in leafs under the water.I could be totally wrong though what do you guys think?
 

blooms

Arachnoknight
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I thought about the plants being uprooted, but then i thought if i get the plants first and wait for them to set up a root system, maybe they would last. Also, I plan on starting with a smaller mata mata to give the plants even more grow time.
 

blooms

Arachnoknight
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Also I'm thinking about mixing sand with organic top soil (ala walstad natural tank). I figure that wouldn't lead to impaction, would look natural and would be good for the plants to grow. Of course I still would have powerful filtration and clamp lamps (one with a 100 w moonlight bulb set on a timer, one with a 100 w daylight bulb and possible a uv bulb set on a timer for the daytime). Thought about an ordinary fishtank heater, but I hear the electrocution could be a problem.
 

dtknow

Arachnoking
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I think as the Matamata grows all but the toughest plants would sooner or later be uprooted by any burrowing activity. Again-best to stick with tough plants or otherwise plants that are ok growing floating(Najas grass would be a good one) Someone who's actually kept a matamata should comment but if they enjoy messing around with the substrate a Walstad tank is not going to work very well...I'm assuming you want to be able to see your pet! Stick with pure sand(which most plants-btw, should be able to grow well enough in and which would probably accumulate detritus over time to some amount anyway).

An ordinary fishtank heater would need to be surrounded by a heater-guard to prevent the turtle from damaging it or perhaps getting burned by sitting on it.

I would reccomend posing this question on a turtle specific forum. I have had experience with keeping turtles and at the moment and assuming matamatas would be just as destructive to tank decor.

Are you dead set on keeping a matamata? Sounds like you want to keep a neat turtle in a semi naturalistic aquarium. The best candidates for that would be the musk turtles(genus Sternotherus). They stay relatively small and don't eat much plant matter so are not as hard on plants as most species-so you could keep different kinds of plants(not to mention they don't need it tropical like the matamata). Seems like they will fit your desired setup style better. Also-they can be kept with fish. Of course-their are larger musk turtles(giant Mexican musks, for example) but again you will run into the same problem of having a bull in a China shop. Matamatas get huge eventually and especially if you haven't kept anything like them before its not something to be taken lightly.
 
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blooms

Arachnoknight
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Well after much searching I decided to go with ada aqua soil, because it's not easy to get 100% organic soil here in China and because aqua soil granules break apart with pressure, so impaction probably wouldn't be an issue. In addition, I decided to cover the substrate with a layer of java moss to help retain the soil and give the turtle a cool place to hide. I'm waiting for it to grow in before adding the turtle. I'm told that it grows like a weed.
 
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