I’m always looking to update or improve on the tarantula housing situation, and I’ve found a really inexpensive way to build out arboreal enclosures using 2.5 gallon Aqueon aquariums. This size is sometimes referred to as a ‘Betta House’, referencing the beautiful Siamese fighting fish.
While I am fond of customizing Zoomed bugariums for fast moving T’s like the beautiful Poecilotheria genus, the front door vertical set up works really well for slower moving tree spiders such as large juvenile or adult Avicularia.
One of my problems with hobbies, whether fish,herps/tarantulas is the expense of the commercially available enclosures. While awesome for a few specimens, when a Keeper starts getting involved with larger numbers, this expense can become staggering.
I am of course referring to the “display cases”. Raising a large number of slings (spiderlings) is merely a matter of using a deli cup, or a plastic AMAC box for the most part.
I’ve blogged about building out enclosures before, so let’s get into the newest setup.
What you will need and general pricing:
A. 2.5 gallon Aqueon aquarium (or comparable size with other brands. I prefer Aqueon.) — 10-12$
B. One piece of Lexan cut to fit the opening (leaving 1.5″ or so for a piece of scrap acrylic/plastic for the water catch.) This price will fluctuate, but local home improvement centers such as Lowes will sell this for 5$. (Scrap will generally be free.)
[I HIGHLY recommend having the store cut the pieces for you. Cutting acrylic with a scoring tool is a royal pita. ]
[CAUTION!!!] When building out doors that are “hinged”, do NOT use duraplex or optic acrylic. They are porous and WILL warp. Lexan, though a bit pricier, is non-porous and will stay in shape.
C. Three one inch vents. This can vary as well, but online the 1″ vents sell for about 90cents per. (This can be varied up. The 2″ vents will work as well. I prefer the symmetry of three vertically placed vents.)
D. Two acrylic hinges and one hasp. These can be found on Ebay for around 50cents for the hinges and 1.50-2$ for the hasp. (Mileage will vary on the prices.)
E. Tools. My choices are a drill with one inch spade bit, dremel with sanding bit (for fine tuning/trimming the doors and the scrap water piece. Acrylic glue. I use ‘Weld On SCIGrip #3″. It is like water and you HAVE to be careful in application, but the capillary action is outstanding when cementing the hinges/hasp. Bond time as well as cure time is also quick.
- Cut the vent holes into the lexan piece. A nice trick to avoid potential cracking is to leave the plastic cover on the acrylic. Using the drill with the 1″ spade bit, drill out the holes. The result will be a little tight, so once this is done, sand out the holes with the dremel tool, checking frequently to see if the vents will drop in easily.
- Cut out the aquarium trim plastic and sand down to the glass where the hinges are going to be placed. (See the pic for detail.) I use the dremel and sanding bit to do this work. Do NOT get rid of the plastic trim on the outside. That is where the acrylic glue will bond, and trying to get acrylic to stick to glass is more trouble than it is worth. This isn’t completely necessary, but it makes it much easier to get the hinges in the proper place.
This step is ONLY for the hinges. You do not need to cut or trim for the hasp, as it sits just fine with the plastic bracing in place.
- Take the lexan door, peel the backing off both sides and set it in position. Measure out the location of the hasp and apply just a couple drops of the acrylic cement where the lock piece is going to sit.—–CAUTION!!!!—- Acrylic cement works by melting the plastic. If you dribble or get too much on the lexan, this melting will discolor and mess up the piece. Be VERY CAREFUL applying this stuff. A tiny amount goes a long way.
- Once the lock piece is situated and glued, turn the aquarium on its side and using just a few drops of cement, attach the hasp itself.The acrylic cement bonds really really fast, so do all of the positioning work before using it. You will have less than 30 seconds to correct things before it sets. More than a minute, and you’ll need a chisel to reposition stuff.
- Okay, now it is time for the hinges. Cementing these is the same procedure as the hasp. I normally do the plastic trim side first. This enables me to more easily apply a few drops to the lexan side with less worry about dribbling on the plastic if something were to slip around. (Remember the melty bit I mentioned earlier? heh.)
- Let things bond/cure for about thirty minutes before moving on.
- At this point open your door and let it hang away. (This is to prevent you from accidentally gluing the door shut. That’d be bad, mmmkay?)
Get the small scrap piece and apply several drops of cement around the aquarium trim where the piece is to go. Put the trim piece into place and applying firm even pressure, you will see the cement darken all the way around the area. This is called capillary action, and is why you need very little of this stuff to do its work. Hold the pressure on for about 30 seconds and let up. The plastic should now be permanently situated, and if the area around the trim is uniformly dark, it will be water tight. (If there are open spots, use the applicator bottle to direct a drop or so in the open areas against the aquarium plastic. Again, be careful here not to splatter.)
- Let this bond/cure for 30 minutes.
- Now put in the vents and bend down the tabs to ensure everything stays in place.
- All that is left is to do the normal decorating with cork bark, substrate, water dish and such, examples of which are in the picture that leads off this post.
Total ballpark price for this setup: 20$ + time and effort. A comparably sized commercial enclosure is going to cost roughly 20$ higher.