Flake Soil: What is the Japanese miracle substrate capable of?

White rotten wood, Flake Soil

Flake Soil as a substrate is currently the subject of controversy. Many are unsure whether the japanese miracle substrate has more advantages or disadvantages for their pets. In this article we take a look at the japanese miracle substrate and uncover the light and dark sides.

Flake Soil in your terrarium – It all started with forest humus and white rotten wood

The forest soil consists of different surface layers with different degrees of decomposition. Bacteria, nematodes, horn mites, white worms, earthworms, millipedes, pseudoscorpions, insect larvae, isopods and centipedes are not only at home here, but have also adapted perfectly to the conditions. The ground of the forest is a complex habitat and far more than just soil. Countless different species live in it, so it is not possible to describe them all. There are more living creatures in a handful of soil than there are people on the entire earth. Moreover, by no means all of them have been explored. They have no names, they are white spots on the map of biodiversity.
Microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and algae also live in these forest layers. They all contribute to the fact that there are no unusable products in the forest ecosystem. Anyone who deals with, keeps, cares for or breeds first decomposers simulates these conditions to provide a natural environment for the animals. The main ingredients of this replica consist of: Forest humus, white rotten wood and foliage.

The beginning of Flake Soil

This was the standard until it was discovered that certain substances such as lignin are degraded far better by bacteria than by white rot moulds. In contrast to the white rot fungus, the bacteria spare the cellulose, which is an important energy supplier for the first decomposers. This accelerates the growth of the first decomposers.

In Japan, breeding beetles is a widespread hobby. Beetles are regarded there as optimal pets. They need little space, little attention and impress with their unusual colours and impressive shapes. Since keeping beetles also has a long tradition in Japan, real competitions have developed there. In these competitions, winners are determined who weigh the heaviest beetle larvae. In this way, not only are the husbandry parameters constantly optimised, but above all the quality of the food.

White rotten wood is time consuming

For a long time, white rotten wood was the main and standard food for all beetle breeders. White rot is the process of lignin degradation in wood by fungi. Lignin is a natural polymer and ensures lignification in plant cells, giving them stability and at the same time protecting the plant from microorganisms. To produce white-rotten wood, you need freshly cut hardwood and white-rot fungi to inoculate. Decomposition can take up to three years. If the hardwood is shredded beforehand, the process can be accelerated somewhat, but it remains time-consuming and space-intensive. By the way, collecting white rotten wood in the forest is not an option! For one thing, it is forbidden and there are heavy fines, and for another, the forest needs the deadwood. Through the newly created humus, the white rotten wood protects the forest from drying out. Last but not least, it also provides a natural habitat for many species.

Flake Soil is much more sustainable and cheaper

To produce Flake Soil, hardwood chips, wheat bran, bacteria for inoculation and water are needed. The maturing process takes four months and is therefore many times faster than the production of white rotten wood. This also makes Flake Soil cheaper than white rotten wood. The hardwood chips are a waste product of many sawmills, thus sustainable and gentle to our forests. We only use beech wood shavings that are marked with an FSC seal. Greenpeace recommends the purchase of FSC-certified wood products, which they, as an active FSC member, permanently try to improve.

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2,50 12,00  inkl. MwSt. zzgl. Versand
2,00 8,75  inkl. MwSt. zzgl. Versand

Our experiences with Flake Soil

During our first test runs with Flake Soil in the terrarium, we limited ourselves to one species each. We chose Porcellio silvestri for the isopods, Centrobolus spec. “Mozambique” for the millipedes and Therea regularis for our cockroaches. We constantly compared two breeding boxes per species with the same number of animals. In one breeding box, forest leaf humus, white rotten wood and foliage were selected as breeding substrate, in the other, flake soil and foliage. The comparison time of the boxes was one year and the differences were clearly visible!
The reproduction rate of Porcellio silvestri was significantly higher with flake soil and foliage than on the conventional breeding substrate with white rotten wood. Without counting the animals individually, about 50% more animals could be found in the box with the Flake Soil substrate.
Our Centrobolus spec. “Mozambique” grew faster and stronger with Flake Soil and foliage than with forest leaf humus, white rotten wood and foliage. We have not yet been able to draw any conclusions about propagation, as the duration of the test was too short for the propagation process.
With Therea regularis we could observe an enormous increase in the reproduction rate and a shortening of the development time. We got significantly larger adults with Flake Soil and foliage. The behaviour of the animals also changed as a result. The Therea regularis nymphs practically lie in the Flake Soil and hardly move. This is a sign that they can find enough food in their immediate environment.
Therea regularis Flake Soil

After our test, we switched all the breeding boxes where we require a higher offspring rate to the substrate with Flake Soil and foliage. It is worth mentioning that our foliage was also pre-fermented before feeding.

Downsides and side effects of Flake Soil

Because Flake Soil is a very loose substrate, it also dries out more quickly. Therefore, you should make sure that it does not dry out, especially in the beginning. With time, however, you will find the right rhythm and the perfect amount of water.
Flake Soil works wonders for animal breeding, but it also has the disadvantage that intruders such as mites or weeping flies thrive in the substrate. For this reason in particular, you should take care not to use any untreated material from nature in your terrariums or breeding boxes. Otherwise your animals will soon no longer be alone.
Sometimes the Flake Soil reacts with the foliage and a mycelium develops on the substrate. This is not mould, but thread-like cells of a fungus. You should not panic about this, but rather rejoice. The animals eat the mycelium and thrive splendidly. There is also no heat build-up in the substrate.
Assel Flake Soil

Even though Flake Soil is a rather unconventional alternative to our natural, white rotten wood, we have been able to breed healthy and stronger animals with great pleasure. Therefore, we will continue to use Flake Soil for our breeding. It should be said, however, that heat can develop in self-mixed Flake Soil if it has not been properly deposited and the fermentation process is not yet completely finished. In general, we have never noticed any heat development in the substrate, as we always use well-seasoned Flake Soil. However, if the Flake Soil is not fully fermented, there is a risk that it will continue to ferment in the terrarium and heat up to 60 °C can develop. For this reason, please pay attention to the colour of the Flake Soil. As long as it looks dark and earthy, you can assume that you have nothing to fear!

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