I’ve been asked a few times to write up how I build my smaller enclosures. I figured sure, why not?
To start with, the tools and materials needed:
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!
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.
I always keep spares of various sizes for those spur o’ the moment purchases. 🙂
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.
C. Round vents. (Many online vendors, I get mine from roundvents.com
.) You can also check plumbing and electrical supply houses.
Shown: 2″ diameter and 1″ diameter. There are many different sizes available. This is what I prefer.
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.)
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.
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. 😀
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.
2. Once sanded, put the vent in, bend over the tabs to hold it in place and you are finished with that piece.
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.)
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.)
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. 😀
An example of a loose vent “weighted” here for my OBT enclosure:
The process is the same for creating a side vent in a larger container. The finished result should look like this:
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.
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.
[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. 🙂
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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.