Bioactive newb/ Russian Rat

Hello all,

I am getting ready to set up my first bioactive enclosure. It will be in a 36x18x36 (grow-out) for my yearling elaphe shrenkii.
I have a general idea of what I’ll be doing, but any tips or tweaks would be appreciated.

I was thinking of doing a substrate of 70/30 Sphagnum peat moss and play sand. But I also saw a video with Clint on YouTube using EcoEarth, Forest moss and sand. I do already have a couple cubes of EcoEarth I have not used yet, which would save me buying a huge bag of sphagnum. Any preferences?

I have leaf litter, snake safe plants ready to go in my shopping cart. But I don’t know how much leaf litter I’ll need for that size or how many CuC to put in. I have also heard activated horticultural charcoal is a good addition?
I’m making a custom background with gorilla glue and substrate, branches, cork etc. I have LED ready to go for the plants. And of course, I already had UV for my snake and a very small localized basking spot.

I have depression and anxiety, so I’m trying to keep it from being too overwhelming for me, while still being an effective bioactive setup. Anything I’m missing or that may be important, please let me know! Thanks :blush:


Hello @slither_metimbers! Welcome to the forum. We are so glad to have you! I’m sorry to hear about your depression and anxiety. I have suffered from depression for years and now I have anxiety on top of it, Fortunately I am on the right medication combination to help. So I know some of what you might be feeling.

It sounds like you have taken on quite a project!
I’m not a bio expert but there are plenty of people here who can advise you! Tbh it seems that you have all the “parts” to put everything together with just a few minor details to iron out before you do it. I like the idea that you have for the background too! I am going to summon someone here who knows bio very well but also do you have the isopods and springtails to add to the substrate? I’m pretty sure these little creatures are necessary for bio active environments.

Just don’t get too bogged down over little details that might stress you out unnecessarily! This should be a fun project with a great payoff because your Russian Rat will love it no matter what! :heart::pray:


Edit to add: By the way we LOVE pictures!!! :blush:

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Russian rat snakes are my favorite old world rat snake. They are just so… Perfect. Definitely a bucket list species for me.

As for Bio, what plants are you thinking? If you want the least stressful and shortest grow in time, nothing can beat a pothos. For the substrate, I really wouldn’t use peat as it isn’t sustainable for the ecosystems it is found in. I would use a 60% topsoil, 20% sand, 15% spagnum moss and 5% charcoal (aka carbon). I personally wouldn’t use the coco unless you are using exclusively pothos as it doesn’t have any nutrients. I can go more in depth if you want. Just tag me with any questions and I will be happy to help!


Thank you so much for the warm welcome! Been around MM for a while, but never tried the community side. Glad I have now! ^-^
I am so sorry to hear you suffer from depression/anxiety as well, but very glad you have found meds that help you! That can make such a difference. :blush:
I appreciate you tagging someone knowledgeable with bioactive! I wanted to add a picture but was as work when I posted and didn’t have to time to figure out how to do so :smile:
I have added a couple pictures of my girl Kona to the post. :smiling_face:

Edit to add: I do have a local shop with isopods and springtails! They’re just last on my list so I don’t have to house them before the tank is ready lol

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Thank you so much!

Russians are definitely wonderful! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:
A dream snake for me too and so excited to have one still. She’s my favorite (don’t tell the others :joy:)
I am a bit confused on the moss because just about all the sphagnum I see says “sphagnum peat” specifically.
It was my intention to buy sphagnum but that part got confusing lol. :sweat_smile:

Thank you so much for the specific ratios too! Very helpful.
I added a horticulture activated charcoal to my list.
Is there a particular safe, organic brand of topsoil you recommend? I know it’s good to make sure it’s pure and doesn’t have other ingredients.
I’m also a bit lost trying to figure out what size bags I need for the size of enclosure, and how many isopods and springtails I’ll need as well.

I have a pretty steep list of plants I’m narrowing down, pothos is at the top.
Here’s some others, the beginning of the list are all beginner friendly and then some at the end I added because they have some nice, thick trunks. My Kona girl is very, very active so I think she may destroy some :face_with_hand_over_mouth:

Creeping fig
Heart leaf philodendron
Pepperomia Rosa
Bolbitis or other fern
Fabian aralia
Money tree
Snake plant

Thank you again so much for the help! I appreciate it greatly

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Something like this is what I mean by spagnum moss. I don’t have any recommendations for topsoil as I usually will just look at the ingredients to make sure it is safe. The plant list looks good! Do you plan to use a drainage layer?


I will be no help on the bioactive. I just wanted to say nice Russain Rat! Enjoy the little one. I have had my big girl for about 4-5 years now. They are such a fun snake species. I am not sure why more people do not have them. Besides maybe the size. My girl is pushing close to 7ft.


Very nice noodle @slither_metimbers! I can’t wait to see her in her new digs! :heart::pray::clap::sunglasses:

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Perfect! Thanks again! :smiling_face:
I do not plan on using a drainage layer. But lots of extra biodegradables in the mix and a good depth to it.


Thank you! My dream species, and she is an absolute doll and delight. I think everyone should have one lol.
I hope my girl gets as big as yours when she is older, I think that’s an awesome size. :snake::heart: