A simple, attractive, and stackable arboreal enclosure.
Having spent the last year burying and repurposing just about every conceivable container for use as tarantula cages, I’ve finally settled on a few sizes and styles that I plan to use from this point on.
I’ve found the large Sterilite Show Off containers, which are designed to hold hanging files, are very versatile and perfect for both fossorial (burrowing) and arboreal enclosures. Measuring 15.25″L x 9.75″ W x 11.5H, they leave plenty of depth for deep substrate or height needed when housing an arboreal.
If I’d planned ahead, I might have ordered some 3″ plastic vents from roundvents.com, However, this would have been a more aesthetic choice; holes work just as well.
To put together one of these enclosures, all you’ll need is:
- Sterilite container
- Soldering iron (for burning holes)
- Glue gun
- Substrate (I’m using a mixture of top soil, coco fiber, peat, and a bit of vermiculite).
- Sphagnum moss
- Cork bark flat
- Water dish
- Fake plants (optional)
1. Ventilating the enclosure
First off, if you find yourself making a lot of DIY tarantula cages, then immediately head over to Amazon and invest in a soldering iron. The one I use is manufactured by J&L, and it costs just over $10 (money VERY well spent).
Using the soldering iron, I make a series of holes horizontally starting about an inch below the lip of the container. As you’ll be housing large juveniles to adults in this setup, you can use a bit more pressure on the iron to make larger holes. I will do about five to six rows of these on each side, spacing the holes about 1/4″ apart or so. For the arboreal enclosure, you are going to have more vertical space, so it’s okay to put holes lower on the side of the enclosure. However, for a fossorial species, you’ll want to keep the holes toward the top to allow for adequate substrate depth.
You can add holes to the other sides as well if you prefer, but keep in mind that if you’re trying to create a micro-climate, too much ventilation will make it very difficult for you to maintain optimum conditions. I do not add holes on the lid, as this just allows moisture to evaporate faster.
2. Add the substrate.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. For an arboreal enclosure, you want to add 2-3″ of packed-down substrate. Appropriate substrate can be coco fiber (Eco-earth), peat, organic (no animal products added) top soil, or any mixture of the those. For more on substrates, feel free to check out this link.
3. Arrange the water bowl and cork bark
Because we’re setting up an arboreal enclosure, we’re going to be using a cork bark flat set at an angle. Now, cork bark can be quite pricey when purchased at a pet store, so I’ve been buying mine from New England Herpetoculture (NE Herp). Not only do they carry an amazing supply of everything you would need to decorate an enclosure (fake plants, bamboo, cork bark, etc.), but their prices are fantastic. A 13-16″ long slab costs about $10 and yields you enough bark for about three enclosures if you section it.
You want to lay your piece of cork bark at an angle, wedging the bottom of it into the substrate so that it doesn’t slip down. When positioning it, try to ensure that it doesn’t cover up your air holes as well.
I will usually put the water dish at the base of the cork bark, just off to the side. You don’t have to get fancy with what you use for your dish, either. Some folks use souffle cups or other “found” items. I like to use these small, white ceramic water dishes that I found at Petco. I know Petco has a rep for being over-priced, and the items sold in their brick and mortar stores usually are. However, if you sign up for their online newsletter, you’ll discover that they are constantly having 25-40% sales, often with free shipping after a certain amount. I usually end up paying only about $1 per water bowl, which I think is pretty darned good. I’ve also managed to score some gorgeous fake plants there for 50% off.
4. Add some sphagnum moss.
I generally buy long fiber sphagnum moss from my local Home Depot. It’s about $5 a bag, and it is enough to set up several enclosures. I add the moss behind the cork bark (my poecilotheria species like to use it to build “curtains”) and around the water bowl. For species that require a little more humidity, you can moisten down the moss to help keep the moisture levels up.
Now, if I’m being honest, the majority of my enclosure setups are rather spartan. However, for some of my big arboreals, I like to go the extra mile. Not only does it make for a beautiful display enclosure, but by adding some faux foliage, I give my spider more places to hide.
For this enclosure, I used my glue gun to glue some plastic leaves to my piece of cork bark. I also added an artificial plant next to the cork bark to give the animal more security (and, it looks darn pretty). I purchased both of these on sale at Petco during a 40% off sale. For the leaves, I buy the plastic vines then just pop the leaves off to use as needed.
6. Finally … add your spider!
It takes me about an hour to set up three or four of these enclosures, and most of that time is spent melting the ventilation holes in the plastic. As for cost, the Sterilite container retails for $5.99, the water dish was $0.99, the cork bark was about $3, and the plant (which is optional) was $5.99. So, this enclosure cost me about $16. Considering that it will housing my gorgeous, and pricey, female P. metallica, I think it’s well worth it.