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Old 02-03-2021, 10:38 AM   #1
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Default Bioactive hamster cage?

So in the future, I have a lot of plans to really step up my hamster care and try to mimic their natural habitat as much as possible. One concept which I thought of was making the enclosure bioactive.

If you don't know what this means, it's essentially adding invertebrates to the substrate such as springtails and isopods/woodlice, which then consume decaying matter such as mould and faeces. I've seen this done with both rats and hedgehogs, but I've only heard a couple people discussing it online for hamsters. I really feel like this could be very beneficial as it would mean I would never have to clean the enclosure, apart from areas such as the sand bath. This could definitely make a hamster a lot less stressed.

To do this, I would use a soil substrate mixed with aspen for odour control, as well as maybe hay, sphagnum moss, etc. to make it easier for burrowing. I do not intend on planting any plants directly into the substrate as this would cause moisture problems, though I might add some safe potted ones depending on how the hamster reacts.

I was curious to see if anyone could find any problems with this as I might not have considered certain things. I couldn't really think of any apart from the fact I might need to create small humid spots in parts of the enclosure for the inverts to thrive.
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Old 02-03-2021, 01:20 PM   #2
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Default Re: Bioactive hamster cage?

For the short answer: No, just no.

Humid environments are very dangerous for hamsters. Their environment, if too humid, can lead to things like mold & general fungal growth along with respiratory health issues.

Soil isn't safe for hamsters. The most similar thing you'll find is pure coconut fiber and even that needs to be used very carefully to not be too dry or too moist(again, respiratory issues etc). Moss is something I would strongly discourage the use of - it inevitably traps humidity which you absolutely do not want in a hamster enclosure.

Live plants should not be used in the cage and potted ones outside the cage can be unsafe due to the soil. Hay can be very sharp and cause eye injuries and such, as well as being potentially dusty and a good way to introduce unwanted pests into your enclosure so it does require strict precautions like freezing at least 2 days before using it along with going through every piece to make sure nothing is too sharp etc.

Very deep substrate honestly does the job good enough in a very large enclosure and if you're using a safe substrate that is appropriate for burrowing it'll be much safer and still allow hamsters to exhibit natural behaviors.
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Old 02-03-2021, 02:12 PM   #3
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Default Re: Bioactive hamster cage?

No, that's a bad idea and would create an unhealthy environment for a hamster.

Think about it. A hamster does not come from the jungle or a humid environment like a reptile for example so why would you want to expose him to one? It's unnatural and not species inappropriate.

With a large habitat and deep substrate you hardly ever need to do a cage clean anyway and spot cleaning is usually enough. You can still create a wonderful and natural setup but be careful with plants because hamsters are likely to eat them.

I know what a bioactive tank is but i find it ironic because everyone who keeps hamsters tries their hardest to keep bugs OUT of their habitats, lol.
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Old 02-03-2021, 05:57 PM   #4
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Default Re: Bioactive hamster cage?

Sorry but agree- very bad idea for a hamster! Humidity and mould could result and hamsters have extremely sensitive respiratory tracts and could get fungal lung infections. It’s a lovely idea for the right species. It could actually be a welfare issue.

The other thing is - it isn’t necessary because hamsters are very clean little things and will use a litter tray (pee). Their pee is the only unhygienic bit. You just empty the litter tray once or twice a week and the rest of the cage stays clean and dry. I go four months without doing a substrate change doing this - apart from occasional spot cleaning if necessary or just adding a bit of substrate because it’s flattened down.

Also they eat their own poops sometimes! This is normal behaviour as they have two stomachs and can redigest nutrients from their poops. So the hamsters themselves are bioactive!

They don’t eat all of them though but can have little hoards or poops too (emergency food supplies to help them feel secure).

Their poops are not dirty or smelly but more like seeds and dry so they aren’t an issue unless they start taking over the cage and then you can just spot clean them.
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Old 12-08-2021, 09:02 AM   #5
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Default Re: Bioactive hamster cage?

Would it really be that bad for a Hamster though if it closely emulated their natural drier environment? There are plenty of grasses and other plants that can be introduced into the environment to mimic that of what the hamster would live in. Obviously, creating something that is designed for reptiles is bad. If anything, I'd say it'd be worth it to find some documentation online that documents what type of creatures populate the microbiology of the steppes that wild hamsters can still be found in today.

Lots of effort is put forth in replicating natural environments for reptiles and amphibians; I don't see why the same can't be done for hamsters.
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Old 12-08-2021, 07:08 PM   #6
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Default Re: Bioactive hamster cage?

This is actually an interesting topic Iíve thought about myself (not doing Iím wayyyyy to squeamish of bugs!) but I might have an idea where youíre idea came from:

ep.0) True Naturalistic Hamster Cage (no wood bedding) - YouTube

I watched this a while back as it stumped me even then because as has been said I was confused how soil is a safe substrate in such a large amount, also how humidity was controlled. But thereís positive comments and I tend to find people who watch hamster videos genuinely have a care for hamster welfare.

Is this what you were thinking of BooTheFearless, and if so is it acceptable? I just thought the video if it is what you were thinking might help cover all basis of what would be included.

Also I love you want to expand your hamster care and Iím not experienced like other people commenting but I really think you can give your hamster a fantastic eco home using well known safe substrate without the worry of other things being okay. Iíve seen so many fantastic homes on one thread on here called ďletís see your cages!Ē especially on later pages are incredible.

I just do sort of agree that the nature they were originally in will be very different to what your trying to produce and given that hamsters have a very long background of being bred for captivity, theyíre used to a very different environment now. Like at hibernation (tapor? I think itís called) they donít always successfully come out of it whereas the first ancestors wouldíve repeatedly successfully done and I think itís one example of how breeding for captivity has altered the way theyíd cope in a natural environment. A well prepared enclosure is probably safer than a natural one given the fact theyíre no longer genetically engineered to cope in a natural environment.
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Old 12-08-2021, 07:21 PM   #7
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Default Re: Bioactive hamster cage?

I just saw on another thread you actually posted the same YouTube link! I understand what youíre trying to do, and with reptiles the aim of their enclosure is to emulate a natural environment. With our hamsters, theyíre normally nothing like a natural environment, thereís never a Forrest with paper bedding floors!

I just think in what you want, it will be really hard to monitor things like hygiene and mould, if weeds come up some contain chemicals that destroy neighbouring plants and youíll have to stop the hamster from eating them. Also if itís deep substrate I think youíll find theyíll tunnel a lot and you wonít really see your hamster much for handling and health checks. Itís one of the reasons hamsters were so hard to find in the first place.

What theyíve done I hope they donít do forever because eventually a clean would have to take place to reduce humidity and control bug and plant concentrations, and it would be so traumatic for the hamster to have itís actual tunnel destroyed, also expensive for you. I just donít understand if thereís doubt why take the risk?
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Old 12-11-2021, 02:05 AM   #8
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Default Re: Bioactive hamster cage?

Thanks for the input Lilafernim! Looking back on my idea I think you're quite right Wife raised that as a good point that all the hamsters available now have been bred for long enough that some of their natural instincts have diminished. Though, as mentioned in the thread that I started, I would still like to have him a "ranch" of sorts that he could still visit to play around and explore in I think that'd be safer than having him live there permanently. Plus, cleaning (which will at some point need to be done) would be traumatic. So, at the least, hopefully he won't be too peeved about getting his stomping grounds rearranged!

If you go to the thread I posted, I linked a study I found during my research that goes in detail about the kind of environment that wild Syrians live in. Specifically, the soil types. At least with this information in hand I can further replicate to some extent what he's evolved and adapted his lil paws to over the years.

Thank you for your kind input, I really appreciate it
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