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Lose the worms, keep the terrarium; How?

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Posted by: JackAsp at Tue Mar 29 22:25:02 2011  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by JackAsp ]  

After almost four years, my cane toad has nematodes again. I don't know if there was a trace left over last time that eventually multiplied, or if they're from a bad bug or a potted plant root-ball or what.

Her weight's okay, but her appetite's dropped. Used to be, if I had roaches she'd eat about 5 days a week except before a shed and if I had hornworms she'd eat every single day no matter what, even if she was ready to shed AND had seconds the night before. Now, it takes hornworms just to get her to eat two meals a week. With roaches, she'll eat maybe once a week.

So, by dumb luck she ate a hornworm last night and then plopped out a big fat dump today, which I noticed just as my western hognose was also dropping out an incredibly foul abomination that I figured MUST be parasitic in nature. So I bagged up both samples and hit the vet.

The snake was clean, but the toad wasn't. First time in history a hognose snake may have saved a toad.

It's a simple Panacur treatment for the toad. But she's in a large naturalistic terrarium with live plants established in it, and if there's a toad-safe way to kill any parasites that are in the substrate without having to rip out all the plants and start over, I'd like to go that option. I set it up for a minimalist cleaning technique because she does not do well with being handled. Sphagnum substrate for bacterial retardant, food dish to avoid sphagnum ingestion, water dish that she graciously poops in to make cleanup easy, and lots of plants to suck up any ammonmia that sneaks under my radar. What this setup does not have, unfortunately, is worm control.

Can anybody think of a fish medication, for example, that I could pour in that would be a safe method of substrate fumigation? How about even just something that I could treat the plant's roots with in while I cooked and cooled the sphagnum? I don't even care really if it kills their aerobic soil bacteria as a side effect, there are easy ways to re-seed that.

Or... I've heard of a trick that involves removing the animal, sealing the cage up, and using dry ice to fill the cage with carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide, being a heavy gas as well as a cold one, mostly sinks into the ground, suffocating the worms, but the plants are unharmed by it, then after a couple days you crack a window, open the cage up, and re-seed the root-bacteria. The complete dork in me kind of really wants to use THIS method, just because it sounds so cool. Does anybody have any idea what amount of dry ice would be appropriate for a 48X24X24 terrarium? I don't want underkill, obviously, but I also don't want to trigger off an "Ice-Nine" effect and freeze all the plants solid.

Right now Hengo's still in her normal cage setup. I have one hornworm left, and it's so huge I can't believe it hasn't pupated days ago. When I got home (again) tonight I plopped it into her dish and I'm going to wait a day or three to get this one more good solid meal into her before I start stressing her out with meds and habitat changes. At that point, how much I end up stripping and scrubbing the cage will depend on whether or not I have a viable alternative. I can do it the old-fashioned way if I have to, but since I'm not going to do it right this second anyway I lose nothing by exploring other options.
0.1 2006 Western Hognose (Bebe)
0.1 age unknown Cane Toad (Hengo)
1.0 2006 Northern Diamondback Terrapin (Queequeg)
1.0 2006 Madagascan Speckled "Hognose" (Sigmund)
1.0 2008 Bullsnake (Winkle)
1.2 2008 Eastern Collared Lizards (Pancho, Lupe, and Chica)
2.0 2009 Eastern Collared Lizards (Cesar and Nino)


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