My Very Fussy MILLIPEDE Substrate

mickiem

Arachnoprince
Joined
Jul 23, 2016
Messages
1,542
I have been mixing my own substrate and changing it a little each batch to improve it. This is the mix I have been happy with for a year or so. It seems fussy with all the rinsing, baking etc., but my losses are almost 0 and all but 1 mature species have produced pedelings (I most likely had pedelings there but also isopods and I never saw pedelings - you do the math :anxious:). This isn't the only substrate recipe that works, but this is the one that works for me. I mix it 30 gallons at a time, so 10+ gallons of each portion and then about 1/3 gallon of calcium. I know that isn't mathematically accurate, but I'm an artist not an engineer. I keep it moist to the point you can almost squeeze a drop of water out of it, but you can't. If you put a handful in a paper towel, the paper towel shouldn't have an obvious wet spot. I stir through it when it is not being used to prevent anaerobic bacteria and I add springtails to each new set up.

MILLIPEDE SUBSTRATE MIX

33%
COIR: It holds moisture and texture better than anything else I have found. Great for tunneling and making molting and birthing chambers. Color lightens as it dries making it a good indicator of substrate moisture content.

33%
LEAF PORTION:
Green Envy Leaf™ compost: (Or any other ORGANIC leaf compost). I bake it at 250° for two hours. Any bagged product may have plastic and metal pieces in it, so I go through it thoroughly. This compost makes up about 2/3 of the leaf portion.
Leaf Litter: I rinse in water; then I let the leaves air dry. After they dry, I bake them for two hours at 250°. I cover the pans (to prevent flyaway leaves, for safety sake) with foil (shiny side out to reflect more heat). Then I crumble them into the mix. (I also add leaves on the top.) I use all or mostly oak, but also small quantities of apple, beech, birch, hickory, maple, rose, viburnum, walnut and other hardwoods. This is the other 1/3 portion of the leaf portion.

33%
WOOD PORTION:
Traeger Oak Pellets: Since these are very small chips, they decay more quickly than other wood sources. I soak them first. They increase 3 X their volume when soaked. Anything to add variety can’t be a bad thing; possibly adding trace nutrients.
Aspen Shreds: I think this adds a good texture to the overall mix. It also decays quickly. (If my enclosures become too wet, I add aspen to help dry them out.)
Hardwood: If close to decaying, I put apple, cherry, hickory, maple and oak in my pressure cooker at 15 pounds pressure for 45 minutes. It should crumble nicely. I use both light and dark rotting wood, but I choose only wood that had isopods and others living within it. If not close to decay, I run the wood through a small chipper reserved for “millipede safe” woods only. I treat it the same as I treat my leaves: rinse and bake at 250° for two hours.
*Each of the wood components are of different sized particles and so all break down at different time intervals; adding a “time release” characteristic. By that I mean each source will become available for food at different periods.

1%
CALCIUM ADDITIVES:
I mix: Ground Cuttlefish Bone, Bird Grit, Oyster Shell Flour, caliche, egg shells (crushed and baked at 200˚ for 20 minutes). I also crumble shed skins from healthy reptiles into the mix. I add this to the mix and I also sprinkle it on the substrate about 2X a month.
 
Last edited:

LawnShrimp

Arachnoangel
Joined
Dec 9, 2016
Messages
907
This is a great recipe for substrate! I use basically the same thing and it works very well.
 

Annamarie

Arachnopeon
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
11
@Annamarie here is my 'recipe'.
Hey thank you for the tag! I have a few questions: 1. Do you need to use all three types of woods you mentioned in the wood section? 2. How often do you change the substrate in the enclosure? 3. Do you layer the different portions of the mixture or do you combine all of them?
 

mickiem

Arachnoprince
Joined
Jul 23, 2016
Messages
1,542
Hey thank you for the tag! I have a few questions: 1. Do you need to use all three types of woods you mentioned in the wood section? 2. How often do you change the substrate in the enclosure? 3. Do you layer the different portions of the mixture or do you combine all of them?
1. You wouldn't have to do so. I like those types because they break down at different intervals so there is always something "rotting". But that would happen eventually anyway. The only thing I would worry about is using only aspen shreds. It probably wouldn't be edible for a few months. But if you could find some rotting wood in a chemical free area, you could just add that. Make sure there are isopods or some kind of life in it to show you it is edible and then try to remove all the living creatures and bake it to make sure nothing hitchhikes that could be harmful to your AGBs.
2. I add a handful of substrate to the top about every 3 months, but I don't change it but once or twice a year depending on how many millipedes are inside.
3. I mix mine thoroughly and completely. The added coco fiber gives it a good texture for tunnels and molting and breeding cells. I know not every one mixes there and they also have good results. The mixing just makes more sense to me.

Feel free to ask anything, anytime!
 

Annamarie

Arachnopeon
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
11
Thank you so much that makes so much sense! If I have any further questions, I will let you know.
 

Joxer

Arachnopeon
Joined
Jul 18, 2018
Messages
11
This sounds like a good mix for Isopods also. Question. On the pellets is it just oak or can you use others. (Apple, Mesquite, maple, cherry, or Hickory)

Thx.
 

mickiem

Arachnoprince
Joined
Jul 23, 2016
Messages
1,542
This sounds like a good mix for Isopods also. Question. On the pellets is it just oak or can you use others. (Apple, Mesquite, maple, cherry, or Hickory)
Thx.
because I think variety is the spice of life, I use many. I use mostly oak but I throw in a few pounds of 2-3 different kinds each time. Of all you mentioned, I would stay away from mesquite but I have used the rest. I use mesquite for the desert mix but I think it’s too resinous for the others.

I use this mix for my isopods but I add organic orchid mix (no fertilizer). I also use more coconut fiber.
 

Joxer

Arachnopeon
Joined
Jul 18, 2018
Messages
11
because I think variety is the spice of life, I use many. I use mostly oak but I throw in a few pounds of 2-3 different kinds each time. Of all you mentioned, I would stay away from mesquite but I have used the rest. I use mesquite for the desert mix but I think it’s too resinous for the others.

I use this mix for my isopods but I add organic orchid mix (no fertilizer). I also use more coconut fiber.
Orchid mix. Didn't think of that. Whats your opinion on wood chunks that you can get for say smokers. I smoke meat so hard wood chips and chunks I usually have on hand.
 

mickiem

Arachnoprince
Joined
Jul 23, 2016
Messages
1,542
I have used those but they are pretty large which means they don’t break down as fast so don’t become available as food too quickly. Traeger pellets start breaking down immediately. I found an off brand and it soured after I soaked it. I baked it and used it anyway, but will switch back to Traeger. The off brand was at Rural King and was 1/4 the price. It lists the ingredients the same as traeger, but something is very different.
 

Exoskelos

Arachnosquire
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
137
@mickiem Did that mixed wood substrate work well? PM me please. Also this thread should probably be stickied, I've had to hunt for it too many times, it's a good mix.
 

mickiem

Arachnoprince
Joined
Jul 23, 2016
Messages
1,542
@mickiem Did that mixed wood substrate work well? PM me please. Also this thread should probably be stickied, I've had to hunt for it too many times, it's a good mix.
Thanks, Exo! That wood is AWESOME! I’m out of town until Monday but I definitely will pm you when I get back. I actually didn’t use it until a week ago. I spent 3 days making 40 gallons of substrate. That should last a few months....
 

MontePython

Arachnosquire
Joined
Feb 13, 2020
Messages
96
@mickiem This may be a dumb question, but after you've baked everything, how do you get it damp again? Just add water until it's damp enough?

Also should I bake my coir as well?
 

MillipedeTrain

Arachnosquire
Joined
Oct 19, 2019
Messages
72
I have been mixing my own substrate and changing it a little each batch to improve it. This is the mix I have been happy with for a year or so. It seems fussy with all the rinsing, baking etc., but my losses are almost 0 and all but 1 mature species have produced pedelings (I most likely had pedelings there but also isopods and I never saw pedelings - you do the math :anxious:). This isn't the only substrate recipe that works, but this is the one that works for me. I mix it 30 gallons at a time, so 10+ gallons of each portion and then about 1/3 gallon of calcium. I know that isn't mathematically accurate, but I'm an artist not an engineer. I keep it moist to the point you can almost squeeze a drop of water out of it, but you can't. If you put a handful in a paper towel, the paper towel shouldn't have an obvious wet spot. I stir through it when it is not being used to prevent anaerobic bacteria and I add springtails to each new set up.

MILLIPEDE SUBSTRATE MIX

33%

COIR: It holds moisture and texture better than anything else I have found. Great for tunneling and making molting and birthing chambers. Color lightens as it dries making it a good indicator of substrate moisture content.

33%
LEAF PORTION:
Green Envy Leaf™ compost: (Or any other ORGANIC leaf compost). I bake it at 250° for two hours. Any bagged product may have plastic and metal pieces in it, so I go through it thoroughly. This compost makes up about 2/3 of the leaf portion.
Leaf Litter: I rinse in water; then I let the leaves air dry. After they dry, I bake them for two hours at 250°. I cover the pans (to prevent flyaway leaves, for safety sake) with foil (shiny side out to reflect more heat). Then I crumble them into the mix. (I also add leaves on the top.) I use all or mostly oak, but also small quantities of apple, beech, birch, hickory, maple, rose, viburnum, walnut and other hardwoods. This is the other 1/3 portion of the leaf portion.

33%
WOOD PORTION:
Traeger Oak Pellets: Since these are very small chips, they decay more quickly than other wood sources. I soak them first. They increase 3 X their volume when soaked. Anything to add variety can’t be a bad thing; possibly adding trace nutrients.
Aspen Shreds: I think this adds a good texture to the overall mix. It also decays quickly. (If my enclosures become too wet, I add aspen to help dry them out.)
Hardwood: If close to decaying, I put apple, cherry, hickory, maple and oak in my pressure cooker at 15 pounds pressure for 45 minutes. It should crumble nicely. I use both light and dark rotting wood, but I choose only wood that had isopods and others living within it. If not close to decay, I run the wood through a small chipper reserved for “millipede safe” woods only. I treat it the same as I treat my leaves: rinse and bake at 250° for two hours.
*Each of the wood components are of different sized particles and so all break down at different time intervals; adding a “time release” characteristic. By that I mean each source will become available for food at different periods.

1%
CALCIUM ADDITIVES:
I mix: Ground Cuttlefish Bone, Bird Grit, Oyster Shell Flour, caliche, egg shells (crushed and baked at 200˚ for 20 minutes). I also crumble shed skins from healthy reptiles into the mix. I add this to the mix and I also sprinkle it on the substrate about 2X a month.
I agree with everything except the cocofibre/coir (and bird grit) In my experience, that stuff is the devil. It kills millipedes and impacts them, particularly baby millipedes and it also pulls moisture out of adults. I will never use the stuff again. I also find they don’t like breeding/laying in it as much as they do black earth mix. Ever since I switched to Organic black earth as the main substrate, all my species are breeding successfully. I will never use cocofibre again.
 

mickiem

Arachnoprince
Joined
Jul 23, 2016
Messages
1,542
@mickiem This may be a dumb question, but after you've baked everything, how do you get it damp again? Just add water until it's damp enough?

Also should I bake my coir as well?
Hi there, MontePython. I don't bake the coir at all. After I mix substrate I store it dry but I always add enough water to get it pretty damp before I add it to any enclosures. Good luck with your Millies; it sure is an addictive hobby!
 

mickiem

Arachnoprince
Joined
Jul 23, 2016
Messages
1,542
I agree with everything except the cocofibre/coir (and bird grit) In my experience, that stuff is the devil. It kills millipedes and impacts them, particularly baby millipedes and it also pulls moisture out of adults. I will never use the stuff again. I also find they don’t like breeding/laying in it as much as they do black earth mix. Ever since I switched to Organic black earth as the main substrate, all my species are breeding successfully. I will never use cocofibre again.
Hi MillipedeTrain. I have heard a lot of people remark they don't feel coir is safe to use. I'm an overly cautious person, but I feel coir is a good addition. It creates a wonderful texture that helps build awesome tunnels and cells. I feed supplemental foods about 2X a week and I never let the sub dry out. Maybe those things prevent the coir from causing a problem. I rarely lose a millipede, but when I do I don't check their intestines, so maybe its a problem of which I am unaware. As far as the bird grit, I still have a lot of ingredients on the calcium portion but I don't use bird grit any more. I use oyster shell flour. Its very fine.
 

Arthroverts

Arachnoking
Active Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2016
Messages
2,103
@mickiem, I tried to PM you in regards to a millipede group I am trying to get together but it seems your inbox is full. Should I contact you some other way or...?

Thanks,

Arthroverts
 

BugLord

Arthropod Rancher
Arachnosupporter
Joined
May 2, 2020
Messages
178
These are the substrates I used for my juvenile giant african millipede. It hasn't arrived yet but I wanted to see if this was okay. I have mostly the coconut stuff on the bottom but then the blacker stuff on top. Any thoughts?
That's a good start; but I would recommend adding organic compost (no ferts) as well as decaying leaves and decaying wood (white wood that you can crumble with your hand). Coconut fibre and jungle mix contains little nutrients, so adding a lot of decaying organic matter (in the form of wood and leaves from hardwood trees as well as organic compost) will be exponential for your millipedes health!

Dagan H.
 
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