Tarantula Controversies – Should You Give Tarantulas Water Dishes?

The pros and cons of water dishes. Great article breaking down both sides of the argument in this hobby.

Tom's Big Spiders

Tarantula-controvesies-3Recently, I sat down to write an article about some of the divisive, hot-button topics that dog the tarantula hobby and often ensnare uninitiated keepers in heated debates. These are subjects that new hobbyists are often interested in learning about, but an internet search or an innocent forum query produces two equally heated and opposing answers. My hope with this feature is to present both sides of these gray-area arguments so that keepers can develop their own informed opinions and make equally informed decisions. For the third installment, I’ve decided to take on the topic of using water dishes with tarantulas.


Background

Just recently, a popular YouTube enthusiast posted a video about a “sick” Poecilotheria that he had found in a semi-death curl. After plucking the poor creature out and putting it into a tarantula ICU with plenty of water, the animal quickly perked up. Whew…his quick thinking saved the day and miraculously cured…

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Observing a tiny little mind do big things

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Observations. Obvious: Tarantulas sit still a lot between motion.

Not as obvious:

Watching them build things, I’m of the opinion that they are working around the small limitations of their brains. As a former IT guy, I understand what caching of data and swapping is, and when a cpu is memory constrained, pauses will occur to swap stuff from active to storage memory and back again depending on the data needing to be operated on.

As I watch my T’s, I cannot shake the idea that this is what is occurring with them.

My arboreals will slowly move through a new enclosure, pausing for minutes, even hours at a time, and then continue the pattern until it appears they have mapped out the living quarters. Then the building of things begins. I’m using an arboreal as an example, but terrestrial and fossorial species exhibit the same pause/work/pause/change up things patterns.

In this case, my P. cambridgei spent the entire evening waltzing about, pausing and moving to the limits of the enclosure.

Then it sat in the den for a bit.

When it came out, it began building a roof, tearing open the den, and moving substrate all over the place, radically changing the layout. Between each section of creation, it will just stop for a period of time before continuing on with the next steps.

Any time someone says “automaton” when speaking about whether or not a tarantula has any intelligence, I just laugh.

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P. cambridgei building a roof for the newly widened jungle room

 

Enclosures part deux! How to build a house for a spider.

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I’ve been asked a few times to write up how I build my smaller enclosures. I figured sure, why not?

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To start with, the tools and materials needed:
 

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Pre-step A!!!!
SAFETY FIRST.  Any time you are working with plastic/glass/acrylic and cutting, shaving or using high speed rotary tools, ALWAY ALWAYS ALWAYS use safety goggles. Your eyes are more important than a little plastic box!
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A. AMAC plastic boxes. These are available directly from the manufacturer, or several vendors. I get mine from “The Container Store“. I know that in some places these are hard to find overseas, but there are (should be) equivalents locally. They are cheap, easy to futz with and modify, sturdy and best of all, reusable.
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I always keep spares of various sizes for those spur o’ the moment purchases.:-)

 

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B. Dremel tool and attachments.  I use a hole cutting attachment, a coarse grit sand bit (to widen the resulting cut hole) and a soft polish bit to smooth things out and “deburr” the edges.
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C. Round vents. (Many online vendors, I get mine from roundvents.com.) You can also check plumbing and electrical supply houses.
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Shown:    2″ diameter and 1″ diameter. There are many different sizes available. This is what I prefer.

D. Substrate.
I normally use just coco-coir, but have been expanding into more moisture holding mixes with topsoil, vermiculite, peat moss and coco coir for some species that need/want a wetter environment.  (This saves me the hassle of having to wet things down too often for those species.)
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E. Environmental additions.
This includes cork bark for hides (terrestrial and fossorial species), moss and plastic plants for decoration, additional hiding areas, and not to be forgotten, building materials that some T’s will use to spruce up the place in ways that you never imagined.
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Also water dishes. I usually get these little containers from the Container Store as well. The lid works well for smaller Tarantulas, and the deeper cup portion works for juveniles specimens through the adults that don’t care about water dishes.  :-D
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Process:

1. Using the dremel tool with hole cutting attachment, cut the top hole. You can also do this to the sides of taller enclosures for cross-ventilation. I always cut the hole slightly smaller than it should be and use dremel sanding tools to slowly enlarge the opening. The reason for this is that if you cut too large, you’ve just wasted the lid, and will have to start over with another box, or get another lid. Better to go smaller and sand out to the proper diameter for the vent.
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2. Once sanded, put the vent in, bend over the tabs to hold it in place and you are finished with that piece.
 

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OR, you can flatten the tabs and use a weight to hold the vent in place. I do this when I wish to use the vent as a feeding/cleaning access point from the top and don’t wish to disturb the occupant when opening things up. (Popping the whole lid every time can be a pain as they are a close fit, and shaking an already skittish arboreal is just askin’ for trouble.)
 

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The reason for this method is that almost all arboreal species will panic “circularly” rather than up and down at first and you can do maintenance and food drops from above fairly safely for both you and your tarantula. It gives a little extra time to close things back up if the T decides to vacate the premises. (Not always…there are always exceptions, which is why you need to learn your tarantula’s habits and proclivities.)
 
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[WARNING!!!]
When “loose venting” make SURE that the item holding down the vent is HEAVY. The reason is that tarantulas are notorious escape artists, and can lift a lot more than you realize. In the following picture, I’ve used a smaller rock for illustration purposes. A larger heavier weight is necessary if the Tarantula is determined. My OBT, unlike most, is pretty kick-back, preferring netflix to great escapes, but better safe than sorry.  :-D
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 An example of a loose vent “weighted” here for my OBT enclosure:
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The process is the same for creating a side vent in a larger container. The finished result should look like this:
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3. Vent the sides AND the top. If a round vent isn’t needed, air holes in the top and cross ventilation are easily done with these containers using a simple soldering iron. Make SURE that you use as fine a tipped attachment as possible, keeping the holes small enough to prevent escapes (from either the sling or the tiny prey). I find that in the smallest enclosures, pin holing the top lid is more than adequate.
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[TIP!]
It takes a little trial and error and practice to get the hole size right, so practicing on an old plastic cd case is an excellent way to steady the hands and figure out how far to push the iron in to achieve the proper hole size.
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[TIP # 2]

When using a soldering iron and plastic, make SURE to have the area well ventilated as the fumes are potentially hazardous.

ALSO, NEVER DRILL HOLES IN A BOX THAT HAS A SPECIMEN ALREADY ABOARD. Tarantula book lungs are far more primitive, but they absorb the air, and this could potentially kill them. Making any adjustments to an enclosure should be done with your pet somewhere else.  :-)

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Once you’ve drilled and chopped and sanded and futzed about, filling the container and setting up the bark, hides and such is pretty much up to you.

 

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Always remember that terrestrials shouldn’t have more than 1.5 body lengths from dirt to lid to prevent falling catastrophes. (They can burst their abdomens if falling too far.)

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[ASIDE]
The lid to substrate rule isn’t as necessary for small slings. When they are less than 3/4″ in size, air resistance means they aren’t going to hurt themselves in a fall. While it is a good practice to get into overall, a little more height for a sling enclosure gives the keeper some wiggle room as these little buggers can be like greased lightning, and having a bit of “error room” can keep a comedy central episode from happening. (The Keeper running around the room trying to corral a spider the size of an ant is always humorous…later.)
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Arboreals need more vertical room than horizontal, but make sure you give a little space from the top of the lid, as many of these will climb around on top of the bark.
 

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This is very dependent on the type of tarantula you keep, so research your species for housing information. (Care sheets are NOT good research. Check blogs such as Tom’s Big Spiders, Arachnoboards and Mike’s basic tarantula guides, as well as the T-Keeper’s Guide for basics.)
[ASIDE]
While Mike’s is basically a “care sheet” site, the guy’s stuff is pretty much on the money, and he only puts up guides for specimens he actually owns and cares for. They are a good starting reference, in my opinion.
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Happy Keeping!
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Tarantula Controversies #2 – Handling Tarantulas

Excellent breakdown of the arguments both pro and con regarding one of the big controversies in the tarantula keeping hobby. Also some of the pics are mine. 😀

Tom's Big Spiders

hand

Recently, I sat down to write an article about some of the divisive, hot-button topics that dog the tarantula hobby and often ensnare uninitiated keepers in heated debates. These are subjects that new hobbyists are often interested in learning about, but an internet search or an innocent forum query produces two equally heated and opposing answers. My hope with this feature is to present both sides of these gray-area arguments so that keepers can develop their own informed opinions and make equally informed decisions. For the second installment, I’ve decided to tackle the “explosive” topic of tarantula handling. 

Background

I’ve mentioned many times in various posts and videos that when I bought my first tarantula 20 years ago, it was partially to get over my fear of spiders. I had arachnophobia since I could remember, and I was hoping that by keeping, observing, and eventually handling my new G. porteri, I could overcome…

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A little reef life

 

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Aquarium update!

The 20 long tank is maturing and becoming much easier to maintenance. (Meaning other than weekly water changes and checking water parameters once a month, the tank has fully stabilized and can accommodate more demanding species .)

The biggest change to the tank has been the upgrade to a COB led lighting system. COB= Chip on Board. This is a newer technology combining a lot of small LEDs onto a single plate with reflectors and lenses to increase the light’s efficiency and spread.  I’m really REALLY happy with this, as it allows me to control the light via wifi, and set up a “ramping” schedule which mimics morning-day-evening-night unattended.

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The 10 gallon pico is also maturing. I’m dealing with a couple spots of cyanobacteria (red slime) due to a flow issue (meaning that the water flow is missing a couple of areas which then become stagnant, allowing organic material to let the bacteria colonize.) Easily managed, and all part of the hobby at one point or other.

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In the gallery, other than one photo-bomb, this is specifically a coral update. Fish and such will get their own post shortly.:-)

This gallery updates and gives a glimpse into the aquatic world that sits on the other side of my arachnid world.

To view, just click the first picture in the gallery and…

Enjoy!

 

Enclosures are for keeping things inside.

A.seemanni colors

Aponophelma seemanni (Costa Rican Zebra)

Just a quick update on the Tarantula side of the zoo, as well as a walk through of the types of enclosures that I use.

I’m going to be building a custom arboreal (tree spider) enclosure based on the first attempt that I built for my Avicularia avicularia (no I did not stutter…that is the name for the Guyana pinktoe.  :-)  )

For now another gallery post with several of the species as well as the enclosure types that I prefer.

Just click on the first picture to enter the gallery and see the captioned information on each set up. Enjoy!

A roach in a coach is still…food

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Roach coaches. Dubia to the right, lateralis on the left. Top coach is a “nymph house” for smaller lats. Bottom left is the main house where the bigger meals go.

Recent discussions I’ve had over what to feed exotics (specifically in my case, tarantulas) led to this post.

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Typical feeder crickets

At first, almost every exotic pet animal owner (keeper) starts out with crickets. They are the ubiquitous “feeder” insect for everything from lizards to some snakes, tarantulas, scorpions and on and on.

[They ARE ubiquitous at this point because vendors were selling and raising them first. Go to any full service pet store/supplier, and you will see boxes of crickets for sale. Many species of exotics will only take crickets for the most part. We won’t even get started on worms/superworms/etc. heh.]

Almost every keeper comes to loathe the little evil bastards at least a little. Many of us more than a little. Crickets are smelly, noisy, short-lived, hoppy, annoying creatures. To top all of that off, they aren’t even the best food for animals that need insects for food.

Why? Because of this term: “Gut loading”. Sounds like a bad Monty Python sketch, but it is a very necessary process whereby the feeder insects are fed the “good stuff” that the animal being cared for needs nutritionally. You load the insect’s gut with high protein, enriched stuff, and that gets passed on to the animal eating the insect.

Turns out that crickets don’t hold on to the “load” nearly as long. Now this doesn’t matter much for animals that feed frequently, but as this is a “tarantula” post, it does matter more as our pets don’t feed nearly as often.

Crickets typically hold onto their food for about 24-48 hours (tops) as they have a very short digestive tract. Roaches (dubias and lateralis specifically) have much longer digestive systems and can hold onto the nutrients for 3-4 days. And as tarantulas will sometimes initially ignore food until they are hungry, that is a difference to consider.

[I will note as an aside that a lot of keepers won’t keep a cricket in with the tarantula for more than 24 hours, and I applaud them, but I hate freakin’ crickets, and once in, unless a molting situation is happening, El-Senior hoppy-dude gets to stay where he is until the prima-donna tarantula is ready to feed. ]

The cricket is also a known carnivore. If a tarantula begins its molting process, the keeper had BETTER pull the cricket(s) OUT of the enclosure, as they will try to eat the tarantula, and during a molt, the tarantula is very vulnerable until its exoskeleton hardens. One bite by a cricket can literally cause a T to bleed out.

This becomes a REAL problem if the species of tarantula is a burrower, or is of a species that is unhandleable. Fishing out crickets with a pissed off tarantula within reach is a pain in the rear end. (Been there/done that as well.)

So after a period of time, quite a few keepers get real tired of horrid smelling cricket enclosures (they die quickly, make a rancid mess of things, eat each other, and other assorted nonsense) and begin looking for food alternatives.

Enter the much longer lived roach. Again the initial information almost always begins with the Blaptica dubia, commonly known as the “Orange Spotted Roach” or just plain ol’ “dubia”.

Dubia Roaches

Blaptica dubia “the Orange Spotted roach”

These are outstanding feeders, requiring very little care, gut load supremely well and can get really big, meaning they are a steak dinner to a lot of animals. (Dubia can live for several years, meaning a colony can be very easily built/sustained with just a few adults and the right temp/food conditions.)

They are also a NON-invasive species as they require tropical conditions to thrive. (This does mean that southern latitudes in the US and other places could mean “invasive”.)

For tarantulas though, they are (as they say in the military) SUBOPTIMAL.😀

The dubia roach is a slow mover, and has a really well developed instinct for self preservation.  It will tend to freeze up (for days, I’ve seen it!) and then when the coast is clear, it will attempt to burrow, never to be seen again, or at the very least, seen months later. The dubia, if it has its head crushed, will wander about aimlessly until caught, but I don’t know anyone who thinks this is awesome. I have tried it, and find it less than an enjoyable task.

The tarantula, being a sense hunter with poor eyesight, depends on motion to track, locate and eat. No motion…no eat.

And that is where we get to the focus of this post:

Blaptica lateralis, the rusty red, red runner, or the “Turkistan roach”.

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Blaptica lateralis “Turkestan Roach”

These act like crickets in their wanderings but they don’t fly, (males can “glide”, but in general don’t/can’t lift off or do anything major like zip out of an enclosure), they can’t climb smooth surfaces, don’t kill each other, and don’t smell like the bottom of an ice hockey bag after a season of play. The roaches don’t live as long as the dubia species, but in general have 6-12 month lifespans which means this species will be sustainable quite easily.)

They DO feed the same way as the dubia, and keeping them is an identical process.

Their drawbacks are few but VERY important to keep in mind:

They ARE an invasive species. This means if they escape, they can and will propagate just like the normal American cockroach.

Their biggest plus, that they act like crickets, can also be a bad thing. These bugs are fast as hell. This means the keeper needs to develop methods for catching them in order to feed the target animals.

By now, I’m betting you realize that I have developed a method for this, and you’d be right. Following the article here is a gallery that I’ve set up showing how I take care of these critters and the process I use to feed my tarantulas.

I’m a huge fan of this roach as it has made things so much simpler on the feeding side. There is no concern that it will burrow (they don’t) or that they will freeze up for days on end (they won’t). When dropped into an enclosure they WILL GET EATEN. (Which is kinda’ the whole point of feeding, eh?😀 )

The last upside is that they won’t bother a tarantula in molt. The only time I’ve observed them going after “real prey” is to munch on dead prey. In this regard they are scavengers. I’ve also talked with a friend (pet store owner) who has observed them hunting other insects, but this was only after a LONG period of deprivation where there was absolutely no other food to be had.

So overall this means no need to go on a “fishing expedition” during a molting situation for the pet.

I will caveat at this point: I have read anecdotal evidence that a few species of tarantula will not go for these or dubia. At that point the keeper might be stuck with crickets. Personally I have over twenty species and not one refusal from sling to adults.

With all of the basics in the can, time for the slideshow. I’ve captioned each piece with the pertinent information as to my method for dealing with these little speed demons.

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Feedin’ like a sir.

 

Just click on the first picture to the left, and scroll through. After the slideshow come on back for some good links on where to buy and comparisons between feeders.

 

Comparison information between feeders:

Dubia vs. feeder insects

Where I buy my feeders and supplies:

Dubiaroaches – Roaches (multiple species) and supplies to care for them

Another good roach supplier:

Aaronpauling – Roaches and supplies

I have used both of these vendors and appreciated their quick shipping and reasonable prices.

Outstanding faq on dubia roaches:

Care of the Blaptica dubia – this in general applies to the lateralis as well.

For a general overview on more of this stuff, including worms and such, Tom’s Big Spider Blog has an excellent article on feeding:

Tom’s Big Spiders -care and feeding of Tarantulas

New Year, new posts

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I’ve been away a bit. Doing stuff, and work has taken a turn for the busier. As this is what I consider my “journal”, I’m not going to spend a bunch of time on the missed items, as most of it is boring day-to-day stuff. Instead, here are few shots of the zoo, which I DO find interesting, and I hope you all do as well!

Aquatics is progressing nicely. I have branched into freshwater planted stuff just to see if I can do it. (So far so good!)
The reef stuff is going along smoothly, and the Fish only tank is populated and happy.

 

The Tarantula gang lost a member, and gained two new denizens, so I’m up to twenty at this point. Other than the late lamented P. ornata, everybody else is doing nicely, building tunnels, molting, and generally just doing their spiderly bits.  My OBT (Pterinochilus murinus) has decided to become an avid fan of all things computer screen-ey, and as such, even during meals has created a silk TV chair to watch the screen. This is one of the T’s that is supposed to be a terror and purveyor of the “Major Threat Display!(tm)”. So far, this kid has been calm, figured out the noise at the top of the enclosure is “feeding time”, and is a fan of “The Expanse’.  Go figure.  :-D

The Pterinochilus murinus in a comfy chair, eating and watching scifi.  :-D

The P. murinus in a comfy chair, eating and watching scifi.  :-D

 

 

Writing is picking back up for those who are waiting with baited breath. I’m not pushing it. There has been a minor pause for a rework on the outline and a critical look at the manuscript as it progresses. I’m having fun. If you can’t wait for book #2, I suggest getting into tarantula keeping or fish. heh heh.

 

Anyway, here are some shots of my passions…er hobbies.

 

I hope the new year is treating all of you well, and if not, you should grab the new year by the ears and smack it with a trout.  ;-)

Tarantula Controversies #1: The OBT as a Beginner T

Excellent article (series) on the controversies in the Tarantula hobby.

Tom's Big Spiders

Recently, I sat down to write an article about some of the divisive, hot-button topics that dog the tarantula hobby and often ensnare uninitiated keepers in heated debates. These are subjects that new hobbyists are often interested in learning about, but an internet search or an innocent forum query produces two equally heated and opposing answers. My hope was to present both sides of these gray-area arguments so that keepers could develop their own informed opinions.

Please take a moment to participate in the poll above. Thanks!

As this feature took shape, it was apparent that there were enough of these topics that to try to cover them in one blog post would prove daunting (not to mention provide for a particularly long-winded blog post). The logical decision was to instead cover these topics as a series, focusing on one issue at a time. And, I could think of no better way to…

View original post 2,991 more words