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Cycling your Bioactive Vivarium

cycling a bioactive vivarium

In the wonderful world of dart frogs, one of the key ingredients to a successful and long-lived dart frog vivarium is a well constructed Bioactive Cycle. This blog will focus on why we wait a month before introducing frogs into the vivarium, and what's going on during that timespan. The lifespan of a well implemented Josh’s Frogs bioactive dart frog layering system is about 2 to 5 years. While it may seem difficult and intimidating to go bioactive, it is incredibly easy as long as you follow all of the steps.  

Bioactive substrates are actually living and breathing mini ecosystems. For this reason, it's important to set them up properly and know the different parts of the system so you can make informed decisions to ensure the health of your vivarium.  An improperly cared for bioactive vivarium will cause its lifespan to diminish quickly. By providing the system with time to establish before introducing dart frogs, you're setting yourself up for success. 

Why Cycle?

I typically suggest allowing your vivarium to “cycle” for at least 1 month. But what do I mean by cycle? Well “Cycling” or “The Cycle” is a reference to the Nitrogen Cycle. When you look at a Nitrogen Cycle, it shows the movement of organic matter… in other words Nitrogen. The fish trade uses this term all the time!

For example: The Nitrogen Cycle of a fish tank (The Basics)

  1. Fish eats food
  2. Food is broken down by the fish
  3. Their secretions release ammonia into the tank
  4. The ammonia is then broken down by bacteria that secrete Nitrite into the water
  5. The Nitrite is broken down by other bacteria into Nitrates.
  6. Plants break Nitrates down into oxygen and Nitrogen.
  7. Fish takes in oxygen through its gills, while Nitrogen is removed via water changes or live plants.

The concept is the same in the vivarium.  Food and waste enter the tank. It is broken down with the frogs and/or springtails, and then the bacteria and the plants. If you start your fish tank too fast, you lose fish. They can die if the ammonia builds up and is toxic to them. Well, luckily enough, frogs are much different and do not typically have that happen… but still, if you start too fast, you can topple the delicate system that you have built.  So taking it slow and giving it time ensures your tank is well established before you add your frogs in and gives you a strong start to creating a healthy environment for them.  


Time is a very important ingredient to a well-planted ecosystem. Not only will time bring a larger springtail population, it will allow the plants to root in and become strong before they have frogs hopping all over them. Beneficial bacteria will develop over time and help to ensure that waste and other organic matter are broken down. The key to helping time to succeed is to keep the humidity at or above 80% and the temperature where you will want it with the frogs (72-78 for Dart Frogs).  

Start Off Right

Josh's Frogs Bioactive Booster is a safe, effective way to give your bioactive setup a boost! It contains beneficial fungi and trace elements that will help plants establish and grow faster. Additionally, Bioactive booster will help microfauna populations accelerate the cycling process in your bioactive environment.  It’s easy to use! Simply sprinkle Josh's Frogs Bioactive Booster on the surface of your substrate, then turn the substrate to mix Bioactive Booster throughout. In existing setups, bioactive booster can be lightly sprinkled on the surface of the substrate, then sprayed with water until it is no longer visible. Apply one shake per square foot of substrate.

By allowing your bioactive vivarium to cycle and establish before introducing dart frogs, you're allowing microfauna populations to grow, fungi to flourish, and plants to root, thus providing a more stable environment for your froggy friends. We recommend to wait at least a month after the vivarium is set up before introducing frogs, but this is not a definitive rule.

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