The Communal Project series will document my setup of a Moncentropus balfouri communal, starting with the planning and acquisition of both the enclosure and tarantulas and continuing through as they mature.
After years of considering starting a communal, it was finally going to happen courtesy of Tanya and Fear Not Tarantulas . Tanya from FNT was graciously hooking me up with nine M. balfouri slings (much more on that in my next post!), so I was actually going to witness some of this species’ communal tendencies firsthand. Out of all of the species I had read up on that could supposedly be kept communally, this was the one I had always thought demonstrated the most legitimate communistic tendencies. The fact that they are also one of my favorite species didn’t hurt either.
So, now that I would actually have the spiders I would need to get this project going, another question arose…what would I keep them in?
Although most of my enclosures are quite utilitarian (Sterilite containers, deli cups, and Mainstay canisters make up the majority of my cages) I really wanted to use something a bit more extravagant for this set up. After all, this tank could very well become the centerpiece of my collection, so it made sense to spend a bit for something nice.
As I originally planned to receive 6 to 7 slings, size was an important consideration. I didn’t want it so large that the slings would be encouraged to become territorial and not interact much, yet I wanted to make sure that it was large enough to allow for some growth. After much reading and deliberation, I decided that it would make more sense to give them a much larger enclosure than I normally would for slings that size, thereby giving them more room to grow. This would allow them to spend more time in this enclosure before the inevitable rehousing was required, which would obviously disrupt them. At first, I was looking for something about 7″ x 7″ x 10″ or so to house the slings, although these dimensions were just a starting point.
Also, due to the fact that I would be closely observing the specimens as they settled in and grew, I really needed an enclosure that was as transparent as possible. My acrylic enclosures are all very clear, so I decided to go this route. I checked out several pre-made acrylic enclosures from a few different dealers and couldn’t find the size or design I thought I would need for this unique project. I also wanted to make sure that the vents were as close to the top as possible so that I could pack it full of substrate. M. balfouris are fossorial, so they need some depth. Plus, I wanted to make sure that if the slings climbed, a fall wouldn’t harm them. Finally, I wanted the enclosure to open from the top and not the front.
While doing a search for acrylic enclosures on the Tarantula Forum, I stumbled upon a post for standard and custom acrylic enclosures in the classifieds section. The sample photos posted were quite amazing and included cylindrical enclosures and even a lunchbox cage. The prices on the standard sized models were quite reasonable, and the fabricator was obviously very skilled, so I shot off an email to Jonathan and Bela of Brooklyn Bugs asking a question about one of their designs.
Communication was superb.
Jonathan, the craftsman, responded quickly via email then text, and was incredibly helpful in working out the details of my new enclosure with me. I explained what I would be housing and indicated the model I was eyeing. After a quick conversation, Jonathan suggested that he could easily fabricate a custom cage for me that would better fit my purposes than the one I was looking at. So, instead of using one of his pre-existing designs, I instead sketched out a plan for the cage I would like to see. A short phone call later, the details were hammered out and Jonathan set to work building my cage. After much deliberation, we decided on 8″ x 8″ x 12″ with a hinged top and two vents on each side. Jonathan also suggested putting a lip around the top edge to eliminate any gap and to keep the small slings from escaping..
I initially worried that a custom cage would prove much pricier than comparably-sized standard designs; after all, Jonathan would have to build this cage from scratch. Instead, it was quite comparable to and, in some cases, less expensive than similar ones I had priced out on other sites. The cage itself, even with it being a custom design, was only $80. Considering I know that he had to do a lot of extra work to make my vision come to life, I think that was incredibly reasonable. I also assumed that I would have to show some patience as I waited for my enclosure to be fabricated. The last vendor I spoke to about creating a custom enclosure told me that the wait would be about two weeks
Nope. Amazingly, Brooklyn Bugs had it done in less than 24 hours.
Even better, he sent some work in progress photos as he worked so I could see my enclosure take shape. It was hard not to get excited after getting to watch it all come together.
Photos © Brooklyn Bugs
We nailed down the final design of the new habitat on Friday afternoon, and the enclosure was completed and ready to ship on Saturday. Jonathan shipped it promptly on Monday afternoon via FedEx, and the box showed up on my doorstep Tuesday afternoon. It took only about four days from when we started discussing the enclosure for him to build and ship it. The turnaround from start to finish was amazing.
For a video review and my reaction when opening the package, click below:
Needless to say, I was floored when I opened the package and got to examine the cage in person. Jonathan really did a gorgeous job on it; not only does it look beautiful, but it is probably the sturdiest acrylic enclosure I own. Even after being filled with soil, it doesn’t wiggle or flex at all. When discussing the design, he asked if I would like it with black tape on the edges, as he likes to add it for a stylistic touch. I’m glad I went with this option, as I adore the aesthetic of it. As a super cool bonus, the enclosure also came with a container of 100+ white dwarf isopods. I actually keep many moisture-dependent species and had been planning to pick some up for a quite a while.
I’m absolutely elated with the end results. Amazingly, it actually came out better than I had expected (and I went in with high expectations!). My new enclosure will definitely become the centerpiece of my collection. In fact, I’m so impressed that I’ve already sent Jonathan and Bela the plans for an arboreal enclosure I would like them to build.
For folks looking for quality acrylic enclosures, especially if you want to get creative and build something that suits your needs and tastes, you should definitely talk to the guys at Brooklyn Bugs. You can check out some of their designs by clicking the link, or send them an email at email@example.com.