Tunnel rats and the art of patience

Grammostola pulchripes 10-20-15

Grammostola pulchripes 10-20-15

Further proof that the art of T-Keeping is patience. Behold the Grammostola pulchripes (Chaco Golden Knee). Since July, I have seen this git a grand total of three times. 1. Unpacking. 2. Came up…actually just opened the den hole…for food. 3. Now. This is the first time OUT in the open. Growth is excellent, as this was less than a 1/4″ when it arrived.
100_2912Shown here munching…no hesitation. Of course if I’d spent the last three months (for the most part) buried with no food…I’d be scarfing like a madman as well. heh.

Once done with said food, I’m rehousing it to a deeper enclosure with better “diggability” as this species is a tunnel rat until a bit larger.

So a few more T-pics from casa du casey:

Exotic Pet Updates

The Evolution of a reef tank

The Evolution of a reef tank

Tiphane - G. porteri. Mature female. Six inches. "Havin' a snack".

Tiphane – G. porteri. Mature female. Six inches.
“Havin’ a snack”.

There is nothing like a day where the two applications I have for managing my reef tank and my tarantula feeding schedule sync up. That was almost work. :-D

Lack of blogging…lack of writing…well, just chalk that up to “I’m DOING” instead of talking about it. Things are finally settling down though. The nano-reef has settled in, and all the chemical tests have been optimal for weeks now even after adding various corals and cleaner crew members. Sub 40 gallon tanks are called “nano” when a reef tank is involved. (Fish setups as well, but more it is used more in the ‘reef’ side of things.)

Cleaner crews = hermit crabs, snails and cleaning shrimp. They are a necessary part of the reef tank’s life support. They scavenge junk/detritus/dead stuff, and scarf up algae and such. Some of the snails act like the sandworms of Dune and surf around UNDER the sand, eating stuff and with this motion giving vital oxygen to the bacteria that lives  there.

15 tarantulas. There are times I wonder how folks do it with 3-4 times as many, but usually I only wonder this when the feeding schedule coincides for almost all of em’ on the same day. heh. I’m getting very good at wrangling prey, so it is getting a lot easier, and I have also discovered that I was tensing up every single time I opened an enclosure. Not from fear of the tarantulas, but rather a fear I’d have a runaway. This is part of the ‘noob’ process to veteran tarantula keeper. The T’s LIKE where they are. They would bolt out of fear, but they actually have set their homes up to their liking, and if the Keeper (that’d be moi) gets the environment right, then the whole ESCAPE!!! thing isn’t really an issue.

I’ve got some pictures of the latest goings on in the hobby side of things, and rather than blather on, I’ll post em in a gallery, and stick relevant comments in there.

Work is going well, writing…slow…but that is changing now that I’ve finally gotten all of this zoology stuff in place and running smoothly.

I’ve been asked a few times if that bothers me that I’m not pounding the keyboard every single day lately, and I thought about it…and no, I’m not sussed about it all. I am living my life and doing things that appeal to me. Writing is ONE of those things…not the ONLY thing. (I have never been one of those writers who loses the “mojo” of a story by going away from it for a bit. I always come back refreshed, mental batteries charged, and tend to go like blazes following a break.)

The last couple months have been “setup” for some things I’ve long desired to get involved in or get BACK involved in (aquaria), and now that I have these things in place, I can get back to ‘primary’ which is the writing.

I’m having a blast. :-)

And with that, here comes ze gallery!

Tarantulas – The Application

C.J. Peter:

The application that I use and has saved me multiple “oh-crap-did-I do-XYZ?” scratching o’ the head moments. Worth the download if you keep 1 or 100 tarantulas!

Originally posted on Tom's Big Spiders:


Simply the BEST application for tarantula record keeping!

For those of us who get seriously bit by the hobby and find ourselves keeping dozens of these fuzzy little arachnids, a conundrum soon presents itself.

How do we keep track of data?

Many hobbyists find it necessary to track feedings, molts, enclosure cleanings, temperatures and other observations about their pets. This information can prove very useful in recognizing patterns and behaviors and for noticing when something might be amiss. What is the average time between molts for a certain specimen? What was the feeding schedule during that period? Was there any difference in growth rate when the temps dropped for the winter? These are all some questions I’ve actually posed and answered using data.

When my collection first grew from one specimen to 10, I found it easy to record feeding and molts on the family calendar. However, my Norman Rockwell wall calendar was…

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Tarantula roundup 9-9-2015

“This is my water dish. There are many like it…but this one is mine.” -Victory Jr.

So this post will show all of my kids at this particular time. I’m also using this to test the gallery feature of wordpress, and what better way than to show off the menagerie?

At this point we have fifteen in the gang. I am most definitely going to add a few more to the zoo, but unlike the bigger collectors in the hobby, I’m very satisfied with the species variation I have here. There are a couple more arboreals I am interested in for color as well as behavior, and 2-3 more terrestrials for similar reasons. I will most likely top this out at 20 in the collection for awhile. One of the nice features about keeping these animals as pets is that space issues are truly not that big a deal, and as most tarantulas take quite awhile (relatively) to get to full size/mature, there is some nice “lag” between rehousing situations.

Clicking on any picture will bring up the gallery feature:

Last Bits 25

The lair at night.

The lair at night.

1. So it has been awhile since I posted up a “last bits”. I’ve been busy. So nyah! Anyway, let’s get to the points.

2. Writing has slacked off.

There is something that I’ve noticed about myself over the last several years. Sometime between late June and mid July until early to mid September…every single year…I slack off pounding the keys, and delve into other things that interest me. The stories are still there, the passion is still there…BUT…other things also interest me. As I write for ME, scratching an itch as it were, and not a deadline or for others, I have come to terms with this. At first, every time this happened I would feel guilty and TRY to continue the pattern that is my norm, and this irritated me every time. This year, when the waning of the key pounding started again, I consciously decided to just give into it and go with the flow…after all it is MY LIFE, and the things I want to do also interest me.

This year, those things have been hobbies. One of them a life long passion since childhood…and the other…hmmm…also a lifelong passion since childhood.

A reef under construction

A reef under construction

A. Salt water aquariums

(Some of you thought I’d say tarantulas first, huh? -heh.)

The actual reasoning behind the tank you see in the picture above actually DID have a lot to with tarantulas (which are a passion that is a subset of arachnids in general). Originally the thought was to have just a basic tank with some scaly dudes in it to increase the humidity in the bedroom-office FOR the tarantulas. (As well as me as I’ve been dealing with a dry skin condition for some time now that humidity seems to knock back down quite well).

The more I thought about it and researched, however, I discovered that the advances in the technology, lighting and things associated with salt water and reef keeping have advanced to a point where maintenance is nearly as easy as that of my 8-legged furry friends. So with that in mind, I started putting together a basic system to build a “nano-reef”, which is mostly live corals and a few fish/shrimp to keep things in balance.

Without going into a lot of detail, the end result is that I have had a lot of fun, not just in the building of the system, but in the research and learning involved. :-)

The picture NASA doesn't want you to know about...the spiders of Mars! :-)

The picture NASA doesn’t want you to know about…the spiders of Mars! :-)  This is my pride and joy. Tiphane, posing in red light. Beautiful G. porteri.

B. Tarantulas. Yep. As some of you have seen, I have been heavily involved in this hobby as well. The reason I took so long to get into this? First, I thought that they were truly “exotic” and just assumed would be a royal pain in the ass expense wise and care wise. Turns out once I started to actually do the research, neither are true. Second, I have shied away from “hobbies” for years due to life long patterns brought about by travel and strange houred jobs.

Set up is more time consuming, but if done properly this is mostly mechanical, and in this hobby, a LOT of the enjoyment is actually designing and building the enclosures for my 8-legged friends, as a tarantula (most of em, anyway) are NOT crazy-time-party-animals. They are slow in their day to day lives and other than insane bursts of speed come feeding time, ‘EXCITEMENT’ isn’t on the menu. –and that is okay by me.

3. So back we go to the writing situation. I’m not concerned about it. I have over 80,000 words in the current project down, and already feeling the urge to ramp back up and “get er’ done”. I love the world I’ve created, and the story intrigues me just as much as it always did, so back to the writing chair I go.

4. Driving has been going very well. Crazy busy the last four days with the labor day weekend. Happy that it is over, but also very pleased that I was able to take care of my customers.

5. So that about wraps it up for this last bits post. I hope all of you out there in reader-land have had a great weekend and that life is treating you all well!

Power Feeding Tarantulas

C.J. Peter:

An excellent treatise on the pros and cons as well as the “whys” and “why-nots” of power feeding captive tarantulas.

Originally posted on Tom's Big Spiders:


Power feeding: The act of accelerating a tarantula’s growth by increasing temperatures and the amount and/or frequency it is fed.

If you’ve been in the hobby for any amount of time, you’ve likely been privy to a debate between hobbyists about the virtues or dangers of power feeding tarantulas. Although a less incendiary topic than handling, this subject still manages to elicit some strong views as folks are fairly split over whether this is a harmless practice or a detriment to tarantulas’ health and longevity.

However, like other contentious topics in the hobby, the answer might not be so black and white. While snake breeders have used power feeding for decades in order to quickly get their specimens to breedable size, the practice has been recognized for having adverse effects on the animals’ health. Therefore, the assumption is that the same practice would also be harmful for arachnids.

Unfortunately, comparing snakes to tarantulas, two…

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Tarantula Keeper’s Journal Entry 6 – Construction foul up!

I shouldn’t laugh, as I’ve buggered things up this badly as well, but I did.

Short little video of one of my slings impersonating a government contractor. :-D

Realizing too late she was facing the glass with a load of dirt…let the juggling commence. -heh.

The Best (and Most Ridiculous!) Tarantula Myths

C.J. Peter:

Excellent post dispelling a bunch of hooey. Fun read. :-)

Originally posted on Tom's Big Spiders:


There is something just so fascinating about a giant, hairy spider.

Whether you love them or hate them, tarantulas have the uncanny ability to capture our imaginations, pique our curiosity, and illicit powerful emotions. For those who love and keep them, these furry bugs conjure feelings of wonderment and awe. Unfortunately, to those who suffer from arachnophobia, they can be the stuff of nightmares, creatures seemingly too frightening to exist. One way or another, these animals get a reaction.

Of course, it doesn’t help that these animals have traditionally been utilized in horror movies and television as cheap scares. In the 50s alone, the advent of the drive-in theater ushered in several tarantula and spider-centric horror flicks like Tarantula (1954), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), and Earth vs. the Spider (1958). Over the years, they have been featured in dozens of other movies and TV shows, including a memorable turn by an A. seemani in Home Alone (1990).  Media…

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Tarantula Keeper’s Journal Entry 5 – Unboxing day!

Unboxing Day!

So this is the ‘unboxing’ post…or how to get the lil’ dudettes from this:

shipping containers

To this:

Iskierka -G. rosea

Iskierka -G. rosea

After learning the hard way about how NOT to unbox shipped tarantulas, having had to chase a tiny little Nhandu chromatus all over my bedroom office, I decided to document each step of the process on how to do it safely and easily without excess drama and cursing. (I knew how before, but it seems we 2-legged types never learn until we burn our fingers on the stove.)

The gallery after my blabbing here is a step by step method for transferring slings from vials to new homes.

It is also a view into how a vendor SHOULD ship. There are tales on the Internet aplenty from people who have received their new pets in bad shape or dead because of bad packaging by breeders who ‘on-the-cheap’ shipped.

A shout-out to Kelly Swift of Swift’s Invertebrates for being an awesome dealer.

Another shout-out as well to Jaime of Jaime’s Tarantulas, another vendor I have purchased from that has excellent packing techniques and fast service.

Also, for those who think my cages are too big, I am of the opinion that the slings need a more natural environment. A 2″ deli or compote cup ain’t it. I’m not “oversizing” such as putting a sling in a 5 gallon tank, but a 4x4x4″ cage gives me a deep substrate for them, and even at a 1/2″ sling size, there isn’t all that much room to roam. So far, every single sling I’ve housed has made the transition within a couple days. There are a couple slings that are in 2x2x4″ cages, but these are REALLY tiny (1/4 inch), and they have an environment that is similar to the ones shown here.

If I were a ‘breeder’, dealing with boatloads of slings, with heavy feeding and maintenance requirements, then yes, the small deli-cups and small plastic containers are a necessity. A good breeder can be dealing with literally thousands of small spiders, and keeping things ‘pretty’ really isn’t an option.

BUT… I’m not. I’m a ‘Keeper’, and part of the attraction for me is viewing these awesome animals in an environment that is easy on the eyes, and as natural as possible from the T’s perspective.

I am not deluded that this is fully possible, as one cannot keep a desert in a box, or a swamp, or a jungle…but replicating the look/n/feel even a tiny bit is part of the fun.

Tarantulas are one of the most resilient, hardy species of animal on the planet, existing in a myriad of conditions and thriving in most of them. Worrying about a couple more inches of space isn’t something I’m thinking will be a problem. :-)

[Aside: “Sling” = “Spiderling” = 1/4″ to about 1.5″ in size. Bigger than that they start to hit the “juvenile” stage. Shipping and packing are fairly similar, just a bit bigger in scale.]

[2nd Aside: There are a few species of tarantula that are considered “teleporters” because they are THAT fast. If you know you are going to be dealing with one of these speed demons, then the following gallery should be relocated into the bathroom in a corked bathtub…with the bottom of the door blocked with a towel. In this case, although I did have one road-racer in the shipment, the pictures show the slower, more docile Eupalaestrus campestratus (Pink Zebra Beauty) being housed.

On to the gallery! (Clicking on any picture will bring up the slideshow in a larger format.)

Tarantula Keeper’s Journal Entry 4 – News and updates

Family growth, another petco rescue, and happenings!

So I’ve been “doing” and not “writing” lately.

I’ve added several additional members to the T-family. Here’s the whole gang:

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Ahh, Petco. I will be avoiding this store, as everytime I go in, I end up rescuing yet another T.
Their corporate policy is to wet the substrate daily and throw in a bunch of crickets. This is like coming into your home, spraying the apartment with a firehose and then setting loose ten to twenty cats and a bunch of rats. The spiders tend to freak out, quit feeding, and end up on tip-toes because the ground is a mess.

My kids are in the lap of luxury. :-)


Speed needs to be respected.
Had my first chase recently. The chromatus housing went south when the little bugger decided to teleport away.
(They’re that fast at times.)
Spent half an hour trying to cup-capture and prod her out of tight corners to accomplish this.
Finally got that situation settled. No more “free-standing” chores with these dudes. A ten gallon empty tank will minimize the chances of this happening again. :-)


Food decisions, or why I hate freakin’ crickets.

After dealing with the hoppy little monsters (feeder crickets) I did some research and discovered that roaches are an excellent alternative. They don’t hop…they don’t smell like rotten food, and they are easy to “keep/raise”.

Some tarantulas are reported to not like em’, but ALL of mine have chowed down heartily. (Good, because I hate freakin’ crickets. :-D )


Siesta Senior?

The way is shut.

The way is shut.

As of this entry, I have three T’s that have burrowed and shut their doors. They do this when small so that they can molt. They are extremely vulnerable during this process, and so many of them do the deed in private. Sometimes taking months away from the surface world, many new “keepers” freak out and dig em’ up. This is not a good thing. Patience wins out here. (My Chaco has been “afk” for over two weeks, and I don’t expect to see her for some time. I just mist once in a bit to keep the humidity levels okay, and once a day take a peek.

The Ornata has molted. She’s gorgeous. She’s fast…at everything. She shed the old clothes within hours.
Unlike some T’s that take a loooong time to grow up, the P. ornata grows quickly. After seeing this, I’m going to have to agree with that.

There are two additional T’s that I’m going to be getting soon. The nice thing about this hobby is that purchasing them young, the costs are minimal, housing is cheap and easy to setup, and the food…well, I grow that myself. The regimen settles down quickly and like fish, these dudes are fun to watch.

The Psalmopoeus cambridgei – Trinidad Chevron
is an arboreal (tree climber). I want a good mix, and with several terrestrial species, this is a nice “change”.


Trinidad chevron

Psalmopoeus irminia -Venezuelan Suntiger
Another arboreal, this one is a bit more dangerous (bite and venom are medically significant), but are stunning to look at.


Venezuelan Suntiger

As for the whole “bite” thing. Some do and some don’t. I have the petco rescues and the Chaco and Brazillian pink hair for handling urges. The more dangerous species are exquisite to view, and that is where I’ll leave them.
Just like any other exotic pet, you have to learn about them, their habits, and their potential danger, to themselves and to you.

I’m really enjoying this. :-)

Next post will be the unboxing of a couple tarantulas, showing how things should be done. I’ve learned a bit since the chromatus chase. :-)