Eucratoscelus pachypus – The Stout Leg Baboon.

My female E. pachypus

One of my E. pachypus young adults

 An adorable and beautiful baboon tarantula.

About a year ago, I stumbled onto an article about good “beginner baboon” species for hobbyists not currently keeping Old Worlds. One of the species mentioned was the Eucratoscelus Pachypus or “Stout Leg Baboon” tarantula. I immediately Googled some pics and was floored by the unique look of this species. With a sleek and golden overall body and overly-large, thick brown back legs, I was favorably reminded of the satyr from Greek Mythology. When I saw that Ken the Bug Guy had some of these Tanzanian beauties in stock, I had to have a couple.

A good “starter” Old World with simple husbandry.

The E. pachypus is an obligate burrower, meaning that any enclosure setup should provide deep substrate to allow for it to construct a burrow. My 2.5″ young adults are in enclosures that offer about 4-5″ of depth in which to dig. As this species comes from arid climates, I use a combination of dry coco fiber and peat for the substrate. A water dish is also provided at all times. I initially supplied each with a piece of cork bark over a small “starter burrow” (a hole made with my finger), and both of my specimens quickly utilized these starter dens to construct their own homes.

The custom enclosure for my juvenile E. pachypus.

The custom enclosure for my juvenile E. pachypus.

Unlike some of my other burrowers that angle their entrances , this species digs a deep vertical tunnel that leads to a large burrow at the bottom. When a prey item wanders nearby, they use those large back legs to explode out of the hole with amazing quickness. It really is fascinating to watch. And, because the entrance is vertical, you are afforded many more glimpses of this species than you’d normally get from a “pet hole.” So far, mine have proven to be excellent eaters. I feed them two adult crickets a week, and so far neither has refused a meal.

When it comes time to rehouse my two, I will likely look to create an enclosure that offers even more depth than I usually allow for my burrowers. I’ve been impressed by how they construct their homes, and I’m eager to see what they will do when given even more room to dig.

A look down my E. pachypus' vertical den. You can see my specimen sitting at the bottom.

A look down my E. pachypus’ vertical den. You can see my specimen sitting at the bottom.

E. pachypus hails from arid regions, so there are no strict humidity requirements. A water dish will supply all of the moisture it will need. As for temperatures, I keep my specimens in a the warmer corner of my tarantula room, which ranges from 72-77º in the winter, and 76-84º in the warm summer months. Although these are the temps I keep mine at, the species would also do well at temps in the high 70s to low 80s.

A small, relatively calm baboon.

This is a smaller species, with full-grown specimens obtaining a max size of about 4-4.5″ DSL. They are also reportedly a slow-growing tarantula, with some folks comparing their growth rates to the glacial pace of the P. muticus. I will be looking forward to the first molts from mine, and I will be sure to document the amount of time that passes in between each molt and the size gained.

Although a baboon tarantula, the E. pachypus is generally recognized for having a less-aggressive temperament than some of the other African spiders. My two specimens seem very content to flee into their burrows if I disturb them, and I’ve yet to see a threat pose. That said, they can show a bit of spunk, and some report specimens that have quite a feisty attitude. They are also very fast and, being an Old World species, can pack a heck of a bite. Despite their reputation for being more calm, it’s important to remember that this is not a T to handle, and respect should always be shown when interacting with it.

Where are the boys at?

This is a sexually dimorphic species, with only the females getting the large dark fluffy back legs. Unfortunately, this is a notoriously difficult species to breed, and a strong captive bred population has yet to be established in the States. Further complicating things is that most of the specimens available in the states are wild caught females. Males are rare and very difficult to come by. Some believe that those capturing the sub adults for the pet trade don’t recognize the males as being the same species, and therefore don’t collect them. Whatever the reason, keepers trying to breed this species have a heck of a time finding mature males. Hopefully, someone in the US has luck with breeding this species soon so we can start seeing some captive bred stock.

My young adult female E. pachypus.

My young adult female E. pachypus.

A unique, beautiful, and easy to care for tarantula.

For those interested in acquiring their first Old World species, or for established keepers looking for an interesting tarantula, the E. pachypus deserves your attention. With simple husbandry, a manageable attitude, and truly unique look, it’s an excellent addition to any collection.

 

Tarantula Sling Enclosures

Now that I’ve got my new sling, what do I house it in?

When I made the decision to purchase my first tarantula slings, I next needed to choose which enclosures I would use to house my new acquisitions. I had researched many alternatives, from deli cups to dram bottles, and I wanted to be sure to choose something that would allow me to maintain the appropriate environments my spider’s would need. Too much ventilation and I would risk the enclosure, and my T, drying out. Not enough ventilation, and the stuffy, overly-moist conditions could prove a death trap. I also had concerns about security; namely, would my T be able to escape from ventilation holes (or would the design of the home make it easy fro the spider to scoot out when it was opened for feeding or cleaning?).

As luck would have it, my first sling purchase was made at Jamie’s Tarantulas, and I took advantage of a couple deals she was running that included both a sling and one of her wonderful sling enclosures. I still use these enclosures, as they offer many perks that I will get to later. However, since then, I’ve done a lot of experimenting with other types of homes for my slings, and I’ve discovered some “found enclosures” that are also quite useful and versatile. So, if you’re on the lookout for a good sling enclosure, you may consider the following.

Deli Cups

A couple simple deli cups. Note: if using these to house a sling, I would not use the screened top as it would allow for too much airflow.

A couple simple deli cups. Note: if using these to house a sling, I would not use the screened top as it would allow for too much airflow.

Deli cups are an enclosure staple in the hobby, and for good reason. They are inexpensive, versatile, come in many sizes, and are easily-acquired. They are also stack-able, which can allow those with large collections to easily conserve space. Full disclosure: I personally don’t use deli cups to house my Ts; I have always used other alternatives. But to ignore deli cups on a list of suitable alternatives would be ridiculous.

PROS:

  • Inexpensive
  • Come in many sizes
  • Readily available
  • Versatile
  • Easily adapted
  • Stack-able

CONS

  • Not the most attractive (for those looking to display)

Jamie’s Tarantulas Spiderling Enclosures

Three sling enclosures from Jamies tarantulas. I have a dozen of these, and I love them.

Three sling enclosures from Jamies tarantulas. I have a dozen of these, and I love them.

To date, I’ve purchased about a dozen of these, and I still love and use them. For those buying slings from Jamie’s site, picking up one of these little beauties is almost an academic decision. Not only do they look great, but for a very reasonable $7.95, you get all the fixings, too (cork bark, silk plant, coco substrate, and moss), which is SO convenient. They look great on a shelf, and I’ve safely housed over 20 slings in them without incident.

Before using one of these enclosures for the first time, you will want to open and close it several times, as the cover fit can be quite stiff initially. Personally, I like how you can basically “hinge” the top on the bottom when feeding Ts, which keeps the opening small and prevents escapes. She sells these enclosures in both terrestrial and arboreal versions.

PROS:

  • Very convenient when purchasing slings from Jamie’s site
  • Good value with all of the fixings
  • Gorgeous display enclosure
  • Very secure
  • Good visibility
  • No modifications needed
  • Rectangular shape and top vents means you can fit many on a small shelf

CONS:

  • Can be pricey when compared to “found enclosure” alternatives
  • Can’t be stacked on each other.

Plastic Dram Vials

Plastic vials used to house small slings.

Plastic vials used to house small slings.

Like the deli cups, plastic dram vials are used by many keepers to house their slings. They are inexpensive, easily adapted, and fantastic for keeping in precious humidity. Plastic dram vials come in many sizes, including very small sizes perfect for tiny slings. Pictured above are two that are currently housing 1/2″ Hapalopus sp. Columbia slings, and a smaller dram which is home to a 2/5″ B. albopilosum sling. All of these slings started off much too small for my other enclosures, and the smaller sizes of the plastic drams proved the perfect alternative.

PROS:

  • Inexpensive
  • Readily available
  • Come in many sizes (Great for tiny slings)
  • Secure
  • Easily adapted
  • Wonderful for holding in moisture
  • Great visibility

CONS:

  • Not safely stack-able

Ziploc Twist n Lock Storage Containers

Modified Ziploc storage containers. These are very versatile and can be used to house burrowing, terrestrial, and arboreal Ts.

Modified Ziploc storage containers. These are very versatile and can be used to house burrowing, terrestrial, and arboreal Ts.

I started using these several months ago after buying a boatload of plastic containers at Walmart to experiment with as enclosures. Since then, they have quickly become my go to enclosure for slings 1″ or larger. Although they come in two sizes, I have switched almost exclusively to the taller size shown above. As you can see, you can fill it with more substrate, meaning burrowing species can dig elaborate burrows (H. gigas), or use less substrate and a piece of cork bark for arboreal species (the P. metallica on the right).

These enclosures are easily modified with a hot nail or soldering iron, and they are wonderful at holding in moisture. They feature secure, twisting lids that offer wonderful security, and they are stack-able, which is great for space-saving. At about $2.50 for two, they are also very inexpensive. I love using these for faster-growing species, like my Phomictopus, as they are roomier than other enclosures and allow more room for growth.

PROS:

  • Inexpensive
  • Very versatile (can work for burrowing or arboreal)
  • Secure
  • Easily adapted
  • Stack-able
  • Attractive

CONS

  • Blue lid makes it tough to see in from the top

Just the tip of the iceberg…

These are, by no means, all of the possiblities out there. Tarantula message boards are rife with other examples of “found enclosures” that keepers have used. It’s fun to experiment with different types of cages, so creativity should definitely be explored. Just keep in mind that a good cage should:

  • Be secure
  • Be appropriately sized
  • Able to maintain the optimal environment inside
  • Appropriately ventilated

I will continue to try to find new and interesting enclosures, and if anything should prove particularly effective, I will definitely add it to this list.

Phlogius crassipes (Australian Barking Spider)

 A tarantula from down under!

My 2.5" P. crassipes sling.

My 2.5″ P. crassipes sling.

Anyone who grew up watching Steve Irwin, AKA ‘The Crocodile Hunter”, knows that Australia is home to some of the most stunning and awe-inspiring wildlife on the planet. Heck, I still own the carpet python I bought after seeing him handle (and get bit!) by one. When I stumbled across my first photo of a species of tarantula from Phlogius genus, and discovered that it was from Australia, I knew that I would eventually keep one.

With a common name of “Eastern Tarantula”  or the more colorful variations of “Queensland Whistling Spider” or “Australian Barking Spider”, this thick-legged Old World species can reach lengths of 8 inches. It earned the name “whistling” or “barking” spider because this species stridulates, or uses hairs on its body to produce a loud “hissing” sound when it’s agitated. And for those who don’t heed this warning, its large fangs can deliver a potent bite.

Deep, moist substrate = happy spider!

I purchased a 1.5″ sling from Anastasia at Net-Bug back in April of this year, and it has quickly become one of my favorite species. So far, my P. crassipes has been a fast-growing species, molting twice in my care and putting on about an inch in size. As a sling, it started off as a chocolate brown color, although as an adult it will be mature into a smoky dark brown/black coloration.

In Australia, this species lives in deep, moist burrows and enjoys a higher-humidity environment. Keeping that in mind, I gave my sling an enclosure with four inches of moist substrate so that it could create its own burrow. I set the enclosure up in much the same way I do with all of my moisture-dependent species. After laying a half inch of wet vermiculite on the bottom, I then packed down a mixture of peat moss and coco fiber with some vermiculite added for water retention and percolation. I don’t add too much vermiculite as it can make the soil difficult to pack for the burrowing species.

The soil should be moist, but not wet. A good test is to squeeze your mixture in your hand. If you can squeeze water out of it, it’s too moist. However, if it sticks together and holds its shape without water dripping from it, it’s just right.

The enclosure itself is a modified plastic Sterilite storage container. I keep a water bowl in the enclosure at all times, and I will re-moisten the substrate once a week. I do not spray, but rather use a clean water bottle with holes melted in the top to “make it rain”, so to speak. I also allow water to dribble down into the burrow. This keeps the lower levels of his den moist, and keeps the humidity in the enclosure up as it slowly evaporates.

The custom enclosure for my P. crassipes sling.

The custom enclosure for my P. crassipes sling.

For temperatures, my P. crassipes is kept between 72 and 78º. Although I’ve read reports of people keeping them at higher temperatures (mid-80s is mentioned quite a bit), I’ve found that mine has been thriving with more moderate highs and lows.

A lightning-fast eating machine!

Within a day, my P. crassipes had dug a burrow all the way down to the bottom of the enclosure with two different entrances. It then created a “volcano” shaped structure over the top of the substrate and webbed around this. He likes to sit at the top of this construct with his legs just poking out as he waits for prey. As soon as a prey item hits the substrate, he tenses up and prepares to hunt.

This species has proven to be a fantastic eater. It receives 2-3 medium crickets a week, and so far it has yet to refuse a meal.  When I once dropped in a large cricket, this amazing little predator had no problem snatching it up. Speaking of snatching up prey…

These guys are FAST.

Besides more specific moisture requirements and an Old World bite potency, keepers need to be aware of this species’ speed. I’ve been dazzled on a couple occasions by just how fast my little guy can move. I once watched him bolt out of his “volcano”, snatch up a cricket, and retreat back into his den in a blink of an eye.

The footage below was meant to be a feeding video, but he unfortunately didn’t snag the cricket here. Still, it serves as a wonderful example of just how quickly they can move. So far, my sling is more skittish than defensive, although this could change at any time. With his speed, this T could easily bolt out of his enclosure if I’m not careful.

A fantastic tarantula for those who like thick, sleek, fast species.

The P. crassipes’ potent bite, skittish and sometimes defensive nature, and tremendous speed mean that this guy probably isn’t for the novice keeper. Those use to keeping slower, more docile species might find the crassipes a bit overwhelming. However, any keeper experienced with faster Old World Ts would likely find the P. crassipes to be an amazing and rewarding animal to keep.

It came! My Therophosa stirmi (Burgundy Goliath Birdeater)

Just one word…WOW.

After years of admiring this amazing species, and months experimenting and building up to the care requirements that would be necessary to keep this beast, my latest acquisition arrived. The Therophosa strimi I ordered from Stamps Tarantulas (sparkling review coming tomorrow!) arrived today, and I’m floored.

I was just telling my wife that since I got really into the hobby, I’ve lost some of that “awe factor” that I used to have when seeing a tarantula. Well, upon rehousing this amazing specimen, I definitely felt that sense of amazement again. Although I expected a 4-5″ T, this guy is definitely pushing 7″ and he is very stocky and heavy.

My new T. stirmi still in its shipping container. He was a bit reluctant to leave.

My new T. stirmi still in its shipping container. He was a bit reluctant to leave.

Getting him out of his shipping container was an adventure. This is one big T capable of a nasty bite or a very painful hairing. As I pulled out the layers of moist, rolled paper towel used to keep him hydrated and safe during shipping, I had to be careful that he didn’t kick any hairs or burst from the container. When he suddenly turned and exploded from the opening, I made sure my hands were out of the way. The force of his “kicks” as he scrambled out was amazing, and I was immediately impressed by his power.

My T. stirmi in the shipping cup after I removed much of the moist paper towel. Shortly after this photo was taken, he burst out.

My T. stirmi in the shipping cup after I removed much of the moist paper towel. Shortly after this photo was taken, he burst out.

He is now safely rehoused and exploring his new surroundings (for those interested in the story behind the enclosure, click here). Once he settles in, it will be time for his first feeding. I will post more in-depth about his care and husbandry soon.

My T. stirmi exploring its new enclosure. He's about 7".

My T. stirmi exploring its new enclosure. He’s about 7″.

 

 

T. Stirmi Custom Enclosure (In Progress)

The magic of trial an error.

With a 4-5″ Theraposa strimi (Burgundy Bird Eater) on the way, I needed to create a custom cage that would allow me to maintain proper conditions for this animal, namely the higher humidity requirements. I’ve experimented with many smaller setups, and have had good luck maintaining the right balance of airflow circulation and humidity for my moisture-loving species.

However, this enclosure would need to be a much larger. Plus, as Theraphosa require moist soil and consistently higher humidity levels, I needed to make sure that whatever I came up with was working out before my new T arrived.

It’s been about a week since I put it together and, with some experimentation and “revisions”, it is now working great. Waiting to have the T ship until I finished proved to be an incredibly prudent move, as this cage soon became a work in progress. For those interested, here is what I did:

The Materials

I started with a Ziploc 60-Quart Large Watertight Storage Box, which I purchased at Walmart for about $17. This container is quite spacious (23″L x 17″ W x 11″ T) and has six locking clasps around the edges. Nothing will be able to squeeze under the lid of this one. The lid also has a foam gasket in it to prevent precious moisture from escaping. This will make an excellent home until my T gains some more size.

Ziploc 60-qt Storage Bin Modified.

Ziploc 60-qt Storage Bin Modified.

For the initial venting, I used four 3″ white circular plastic vents that I had purchased from roundvents.com for $1.32 each. Using a 3″ hole saw and my power drill, I cut two holes on each of the long sides of the container  (Note: if you don’t have a hole saw, you can trace the vents, then use a regular bit to drill a series of holes all round the edge. Then, using a sharp utility knife, just make cuts and connect the holes).  I then glued the vents in place using Aquarium Silicone. To promote cross-ventilation, I positioned the vents on opposite sides of the enclosure.

Ziploc 60-Quart plastic storage bin with two 3" plastic vents installed on each side.

Ziploc 60-Quart plastic storage bin with two 3″ plastic vents installed on each side.

As the T. blondi will need to kept in moist soil, and I will have to add water from time to time to keep the humidity up, I experimented with soils a bit before coming up with the formula I used. I combined Scotts organic topsoil ($2.10) with organic peat moss ($9.99) mixed at about a 60/40 ratio. To this mixture, I then added several cups of vermiculite ($3.99) to help with water retention and percolation. (Note: As the topsoil comes in .75 cubic feet bags, and the peat moss comes in a huge 3 cubic foot bag, there is plenty of substrate left over for other enclosures).

I added water to this mixture until it was damp enough that it would hold its shape when squeezed, but not so wet that water would run out of it. After adding about 1/2″ of moist vermiculite on the bottom of the enclosure to hold moisture, I packed down about 5-6″ of my substrate mixture on top of it.

For a hide, I purchased a 3″ PVC elbow from Lowes for about $2.76. I wanted something that wouldn’t decompose or mold in the moist soil, hence why I didn’t use cork bark. I turned the elbow on its side, angling one end up for the entrance and pointing the other end toward the substrate. I then buried this, making sure that there was a bit of a hide, but leaving some dirt in it for the T to clear. The T. stirmi can now continue to enlarge his burrow by digging through the submerged end.

3" diameter white PVC elbow hide.

3″ diameter white PVC elbow hide.

Finally, I added a large plastic water dish which I had  on hand, as well as some long-fiber organic sphagnum moss to help with moisture retention. I also mounted a humidity gauge on the side of the enclosure to give me a rough estimate of what the humidity was inside.

With all of this done, I closed up the new enclosure and set it on the shelf for two days to see if it would maintain the correct level of humidity without spawning mold. I was looking to maintain a humidty level between 70 and 80% at about a 75º temperature.

Back to the drawing board.

During this trial run, the humidity in my home was around 75%, and the humidity inside the enclosure was steady at about 88%. When I opened it up after about two days, I immediately detected the slightest smell of mold or mildew. A closer inspection revealed that there was some light molding around the long-grain sphagnum moss. I removed the moss and left the cover off of the enclosure for a day to let some excess moisture evaporate. I later added a much thinner coat of moistened moss.

Obviously, the four vents I had installed wouldn’t be enough to allow for proper ventilation. Time for adjustments…

Using a 5/16″ drill bit, I drilled about 10 holes in the ends opposite where I installed the vents. I was hoping these would supply much needed cross-ventilation and prevent the humidity from remaining so high that mold and mildew occurred.

With these changes made, I closed up the enclosure and left it to sit another day.

Revision three

After about 24 hours, I took the cage out again. During this period, the humidity inside the cage was lower but still in the mid 80s. This wasn’t bad, but if the humidity in my home went up, so would the humidity in the enclosure, leading to levels that would promote mold growth.

This time I added about 15 more holes on each side and sealed it up again to see if this would lower the humidity even further. So far, so good! The humidity is holding right around 78% (the humidity in my home is around 64%)

Holes drilled for extra ventilation during the humid summer months.

Holes drilled for extra ventilation during the humid summer months.

As the humidity levels here can hit 80%, I may drill a few more holes in preparation for those really humid days. In the winter, our furnace dries out the air causing the humidity to plummet to the high teens. When this happens, I will use plastic and tape to cover up some of the holes to restrict some of the airflow and to prevent the cage from drying out.

Preparation and planning was key.

Had I tried to put this cage together without allowing myself time to experiment, this could have been a nightmare. I can’t even imagine trying to clean out the cage and make alterations while a 5″ T. stirmi was lurking inside. As humidity levels can vary depending on time of year and location, I would advise anyone setting up an enclosure for one of the moisture-dependent species to allow themselves some time to monitor levels and to make adjustments as needed. I have two more days before this beauty arrives, so I will continue to keep an eye on the humidity and make more changes as needed.

To be continued…

 

 

C. cyaneopubescens (or the GBB)

This can’t be a real tarantula…

When I first began researching what type of tarantulas I might get to start my collection, I encountered a photo of a spider so colorful and beautiful, that I was at first convinced that it was a clever Photoshop creation. With its shimmering blue legs, metallic aqua carapace, and stunningly vibrant orange abdomen, this animal looked too striking to be real. A quick search revealed this amazing specimen to be the Chromatopelma cyaneopubscens, common name Greenbottle Blue or GBB for short.

C. cyaneopubscens

Immediately interested, I began researching the GBB to learn care requirements, temperament, and cost. Surely this unique tarantula commanded high prices like the equally beautiful P. metallica? Or, being new to the hobby, would I be overwhelmed by this spider’s temperament or husbandry requirements? I was delighted to learn that, despite being a bit skittish and faster than many recommended “beginner species”, the GBB’s heartiness and ease of care made it approachable for someone relatively new to the hobby. And with .75″ slings costing around $35-$40, they were definitely affordable.

Home Sweet Home

GBBs originate from an arid, tropical desert region in Venezuela, where they live in heavily-webbed burrows under local foliage. When researching, I discovered many older accounts by keepers who said that GBBs were a fragile species that was difficult to keep alive in captivity. For years, many kept this spider in moist enclosures with damp substrate and constant misting. As GBBs hail from an arid region, these wet, stuffy enclosures often proved fatal. GBBs should be kept on dry substrate in well-ventilated enclosures. As slings are more vulnerable to dehydration, you can moisten the edge of the enclosure and a corner of the substrate once a week (Do not spray; several drops from an eyedropper will suffice). For juveniles an adults, a water dish will provide any water they may need.

Although slings may dig a bit, most GBBs will construct elaborately-webbed dens using any supplied cork bark hides or furnishings for anchors. Although this species has been referred to as a semi-arboreal, this not true— this is a terrestrial species. However, if provided with an enclosure with some height and taller furnishings (cork bark, vines, plants, etc), many GBBs will web up these and choose to perch themselves above the ground. The two juveniles I keep are often in their webs just an inch or two above the substrate.

My young adult female's enclosure. Notice the copious amounts of webbing.

My young adult female’s enclosure. Notice the copious amounts of webbing.

Some keepers see this behavior as a sign that this is an arboreal species, when instead it’s likely an animal making the best of the surroundings it has been provided.  As a terrestrial species, a fall from too high up could injure this T, and care has to be taken to insure that distance between the substrate and the top of the enclosure is not too high. This species should not be set up as an arboreal due to their skittishness and increased chance of injury from a fall.

My two juvenile GBBs are kept on dry coco fiber substrate with cork bark slabs and water dishes provided. They do not use the cork bark as hides, but instead as anchors for their copious webbing. Even as slings, these two liked to fill their enclosures with thick layers of web. Despite the webbing, both usually sit right out in the open, remaining highly visible and making for fantastic display animals.

Like most of my Ts, my GBB is kept at normal room temperatures. During the summer months, temps range from the low 70s at night to low 80s during the day. In winter, it’s low 70s at night, mid 70s during the day. They seem to eat well all year round, unlike other species I keep that slow down during the winter.

My 2.75

My 2.75″ GBB

Beautiful and deadly…to crickets.

Part of a GBB’s hardiness comes from its excellent prey response and appetite. My two GBBs are, by far, two of my most vicious hunters. Because of the extensive webbing, they generally feel the vibration of the cricket or roach the moment it is dropped into the enclosure. I’ve had several instances when a cricket was snatched up the second it hit the substrate. They are fast and deadly, tackling and subduing prey items ferociously and efficiently. Out of all the species I keep, the GBB is in my top three of Ts I most enjoy watching hunt.

When slings, I would feed my specimens one small cricket every three or four days. As juveniles, I offered one medium/large cricket twice a week. The only time either has ever refused a meal is when in pre-molt. Their growth rate was medium to fast, with frequent molts bringing moderate changes in size. During its first year with me, my oldest GBB molted six times and in that time it went from .75″ to 2.75″. Molts usually came about every two months during this period.

As young adults, their molt schedules slowed down to about once every four months or so. Behaviorally, the young adults are a bit more skittish and prone to kicking hair at the slightest disturbance. Now that they are both around 4″, I feed them two large crickets once a week.

GBB-full-new

Young adult female C. cyaneopubscens (GBB)

A good “beginner species”?

The GBB’s hardiness, ease of care, and affordability might make one think that it’s a great starter species, and in some respect that is true.  However, this is a tarantula with some speed that also has a reputation for being skittish. I have never seen a threat posture or any type of defensive display from my specimens, and they have never been aggressive. As adults, however, they do like to kick hairs and will eventually bolt if disturbed. A keeper used to slower, calmer species may not be ready for a spider that may be out of its cage in the time it takes them to blink. Rehousings can be particularly fun, as the GBB is prone to bolting unpredictably in any direction BUT the one you want it to go in. That being said, a keeper new to the hobby who practices caution and care should have little problem with this beautiful species.

Choosing the Right Substrate for Your Tarantula

Pick your poison…

Since getting into the hobby, I’ve spent a lot of time (more than I’d like to admit) experimenting with various substrates. When I bought my first T about 18 years ago, the popular choice for spider bedding was dry vermiculite. A lot has changed since then, however, and better (and more appropriate) options are now recommended.

Ask any group of tarantula keepers what material they choose to keep their prized pets on, and you are likely to get a variety of responses. A recent poll on the Arachnoboards forum did reveal that there are a handful of popular choices that tarantula keepers mix and match to get the properties they desire. Much is up to personal choice, and I actually find it quite fun to experiment with different combinations.  What follows is a list of some of the more popular choices as well as some pros and cons of each.

COCO FIBER (Eco Earth)

Coco fiber

Made from ground up coconut husks, and sold loose in bags or in compressed bricks, coco fiber substrate has become one of the most popular substrate choices for those who keep tarantulas. Although the bags save you the effort of having to re-hydrate the compressed bricks, they are much more pricey. Zoo Med’s Eco Earth is probably the most popular brand, but other companies also produce the bricks (and some are less expensive).

PROS:

  • Fairly inexpensive if you purchase it in bricks. Buying bricks in three packs makes it even more affordable. ($7.99-$9.99 for about 21 liters)
  • Absorbs water well for species that need some moisture.
  • Great when used dry for arid enclosures.
  • Seems to resist mold.

CONS:

  • Can become expensive when filling larger enclosures.
  • Re-hydrating the bricks can be a bit time consuming and messy.
  • Re-hydrated coco fiber has to be dried out before being used in an arid enclosure (I put mine in a large foil turkey pan, then slowly bake in in an oven at about 250°, watching it at all times)
  • When dry, it can be “fluffy” and more difficult for burrowing species to create homes.
  • Dries out quickly (could be a positive with arid species)

TOPSOIL

Topsoil

Regular old run-of-the-mill topsoil can be a great and inexpensive substrate choice. It can be purchased at any Walmart, Home Depot, or Lowe’s in large bags for only a couple dollars. If using topsoil, it’s important to make sure that it’s organic with no fertilizers added (this includes animal waste). I have found myself using top soil mixes more and more due to the cost-effectiveness, availability, and water retaining qualities. It should also be noted that many European hobbyist have been using regular topsoil from their yards for years with no ill effects.

PROS:

  • Very inexpensive (a .75 cubic foot bag runs about $2.25).
  • Easily procured.
  • Mixes well with other substrates to get desired properties.
  • Packs down well; good for burrowing species.

CONS:

  • Inconsistent quality. Often comes with jagged chunks of branches and wood chips that must be filtered out
  • Very heavy when used to fill larger enclosures.
  • If used straight up, spraying/moistening of the substrate can create puddles or mud. It does not absorb water as well as other substrates.

PEAT MOSS

Peat

Peat moss is another readily available and inexpensive substrate alternative. Again, it can be purchased in a variety of places, and the large bags are very convenient for filling up large enclosures. As with the top soil, you want to go with a product that is organic and contains no fertilizers.

PROS:

  • Very inexpensive and comes in large quantities (a 3 cubic foot bag is only $9.99)
  • Packs and forms very well for burrowing species
  • Absorbent when wet down for species requiring moisture.
  • Mixes well with other substrates.

CONS:

  • Can be a bit dusty if used dry
  • Like top soil, the quality from bag to bag can vary. Large chunks or sticks must be filtered out.
  • Can be prone to growing mold or fungus.

As stated earlier, these three are the top choices among enthusiasts, and each can be used alone, or they can be mixed and matched to create a substrate to fit any need. For the majority of my enclosures, I’ve been using a 50/50 mix of coco fiber and peat moss. This has become my “all-purpose” substrate for many of my specimens.

VERMICULITE (As an additive)

vermiculite

Although the days of using vermiculite as a substrate for my Ts are long over, that is not to say that it can’t be very useful. For species requiring more moisture, I put a 1/2″ thick layer of vermiculite on the very bottom of the enclosure, then mix some in with the 50/50 coco/peat combination and use that to fill the rest of it. I find that the vermiculite retains water better than coco or peat alone, and allows for better water percolation. This enables any water I pour in to filter down to the bottom, keeping the lower levels humid and moist like the tarantula’s burrow in the wild. For Ts requiring more humidity, this also allows the water to evaporate more slowly, elevating the humidity inside the enclosure as it does.

The trick is to not add too much, as overdoing it keeps the soil “fluffy” and prevents it from being packed down well. Vermiculite is relatively inexpensive (an 8 quart bag costs about $3.99), and I always keep some on hand.

SPHAGNUM MOSS

Moss

Sphagnum moss is another useful additive when you are trying to maintain humidity in an enclosure. Moss absorbs water like a sponge and holds onto it quite well. When used inside an enclosure, it can be wet down to provide a source of humidity. I like to place some around water bowls to soak up the overflow. Although various mosses are produced by reptile supply companies, clean organic horticultural moss can also be purchased at Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and gardening supply stores.

Some things to avoid when experimenting with substrates:

Anything with jagged sticks or pieces. These could be harmful to the tarantula, as a falling T could rupture its abdomen on something sharp. If you buy substrate with jagged pieces, they must be removed before use.

Substrates with with fertilizers or additives. Make sure to check the labels before you buy. Even some “organic” soils have natural fertilizers added, including animal waste.

Pine chips or products made from cedar. Compounds in conifers and cedar are suspected to be harmful to Ts (Note: it is widely believed that mulches or peat mixes containing pine or cedar products are safe)

Aquarium Gravel. Although used for years, its use as a substrate is now generally frowned upon. Besides holding water too well (it tends to puddle and stagnate beneath the surface), it can trap a tarantulas leg or prove hazardous in a fall.

Poecilotheria Regalis (Indian Ornamental)

The Poecilotheria regalis originates from India, hence its common name of “Indian Ornamental”, and it is probably the most commonly kept of the Poecilotheria genus of tarantulas. This is an arboreal species that, in its natural habitat, lives in tall trees where it catches flying insects as its prey. In captivity, they are a hearty and gorgeous display tarantula for any keeper experienced with fast arboreal species.

My 3" juvenile P. regalis male.

My 3″ juvenile P. regalis male.

A word of caution…

Although the regalis is recognized as being one of the “calmer” members of this genus, it is still blindingly fast and possesses “medically significant” venom. This is not an animal to be trifled with or underestimated. I have seen my juveniles run several laps around their enclosures in blink of an eye. This is definitely an animal that can move faster than human reflexes can react.

In the case of  the P. regalis, when disturbed it would much rather hide  or escape than attack. Their fractile-like patterns serve as amazingly-effective camouflage, so standing still can likely help them to avoid detection in the wild. When approaching any of my Poecilotheria for feeding or maintenance , I tap the enclosures a couple times until I see them either hunker down or scramble to a hiding spot. This hopefully prevents me from spooking or surprising the Ts, which could cause them to bolt frantically around the cage (or, even worse, onto me).

Keeping my guy comfy (while keeping my fingers safe).

To reduce the risk of bite, I keep my P. regalis juvenile in a Sterilite Large Nesting Showoff plastic storage bin modified with cross-ventilation holes for airflow. The container is a bit larger than what I would normally use for a specimen this size, but I like to give myself plenty of room to work when feeding or performing maintenance on my large, fast arboreals.

The enclosure is deep as well as long, as this species requires more height than floor space. I provide it with a cork bark slab, which is put at about a 45 degree angle, as well as some plastic plants and rocks for hiding places. A water bowl is also supplied.

With a max diagonal leg span of 7″, the P. regalis is a good-sized T. This guy will likely end up in a 5-10 gallon-sized enclosure as an adult. Again, I will use something that gives me plenty of room to work for when it comes time for cleaning or maintenance.

Custom enclosure set up for my 3" P. regalis juvenile male.

Custom enclosure set up for my 3″ P. regalis juvenile male.

For substrate, my P. regalis is kept on a coco fiber/peat moss combination with moist sphagnum moss placed around the base of the cork bark to provide extra moisture.  I also moisten the substrate a couple times a week; this coupled with the water dish keeps the humidity inside the enclosure at an sufficient level. I do not obsess over exact humidity levels, and so far my Ts have been doing just fine. This species does, however, benefit from higher humidity. For temperatures, my P. regalis is kept at low 70s to mid 80s.

A fast-growing arboreal with a great feeding response.

My P. regalis has demonstrated a fast growth rate. They are good eaters, and it’s quite amazing to watch them hunt a prey item. I give my 3″ juvenile two medium/large crickets a week. This species seems to have little trouble taking down larger prey items. I procured this particular tarantula in February, and at that time it was about 2″ long. It has molted twice since then, and it’s now 3.25″ long.  I also have smaller P. regalis that I purchased as a 1.25″ sling in January. After three molts, it is now 2.5″.

This is the modified Ziploc plastic container I use to house my 2.5" P. regalis juvenile. He will likely get rehoused after his next molt.

This is the modified Ziploc plastic container I use to house my 2.5″ P. regalis juvenile. He will likely get rehoused after his next molt.

With its beautiful coloration and patterns, impressive size, and slender and athletic build, the P. regalis makes a stunning addition to any tarantula collection. As they are very prevalent in the hobby, the slings are quite inexpensive, running anywhere from $20 to $30, and a juvenile female can usually be purchased for under $100. That being said, this is a large, fast tarantula with very potent venom and not generally a species recommended for inexperienced keepers.

For more information on this wonderful species, visit arachnoboards and search key words P. regalis!

Monocentropus balfouri Husbandry

A cream and blue beauty!

When folks try to tell me that there there is no such thing as a “beautiful tarantula”, I have a few go-to species that I will immediately Google. Besides the P. metallica and C. cyaneopubescens, I also pull up photos of the tarantula featured in this blog, the M. balfouri. These gorgeous spiders sport creamy tan bodies, metallic blue/silver carapaces, and blue legs, and are a stunning representation of just how striking blue coloration on a T can be.

My female M. balfouri, now a young adult.

My female M. balfouri, now a young adult.

This gorgeous spider comes from a group of islands off the coast of Africa of which Socotra is the largest, hence its common name of Socotra Island Blue Baboon. Although they’ve become much more established in the hobby, they are still in demand, commanding premium prices. I got my juveniles for $60 each as part of a newsletter promotion. Expect to pay up to $100 for the same size elsewhere. I’ve seen females of this species selling for $300, so this can be a pricey pet.

This 2" juvenile is starting to show some of its blue coloration. I'm hoping to see more blue on the legs after its next molt.

This 2″ juvenile is starting to show some of its blue coloration. I’m hoping to see more blue on the legs after its next molt.

M. balfouri care

I housed my three 1,75″ juveniles in medium (5″ x 6″h x 8″l) critter keepers with about four inches of bone dry cocofiber substrate. I provided all three with small water bowls, which they usually fill up with dirt or web over. This species will burrow, creating a maze of underground tunnels with several entrances. They are also prolific webbers, and all three of mine have laid down a thick, silky carpet over much the substrate. As  this species comes from a semi-desert environment, I do not mist the enclosure or moisten the substrate; the water bowl is sufficient.

Now that my female is about 3.75″ DLS, she will be getting a rehousing very soon. The next transfer will likely be the final one, and she will be getting a 3-4 gallon Sterilite enclosure with about 6″ of substrate (60/40 mix of dry top soil and peat).

A top down view of an M. balfouri's enclosure. Notice the thick webbing.

A top down view of an M. balfouri’s enclosure. Notice the thick webbing.

The growth rate for my M. balfouris has been medium, with all three molting five times in my care over a 19-month period. Between molts, they picked up around .25 – .5″ of size or so. During their first two winters, when temps in my tarantula room were mid 70s during the day and dropped to low 70s at night, they mostly stayed in their tunnels as they fasted for a few months. During these periods, I rarely saw any of them, and I would drop a small cricket in once every two weeks and remove it if it wasn’t eaten by the next morning.

When the temps warm up (low 80s during the day, high 70s at night), and their metabolisms are more active and they eat great. I have noticed that they seem to prefer smaller prey, and I was feeding two small crickets or meal worms twice a week when they were juveniles. Now that they are sub-adults, they get two medium crickets a week. They refuse food when they are in premolt or during the slightly colder and drier winter months. During this time, they retreat to their tunnels and surface when the molt process has been completed or when the weather has warmed up.

Too much reading? Check out my husbandry video below!

This species is generally recognized for having a calmer, less defensive temperament, which could make it a good starter Old World species. Although they are more shy and reclusive than many their baboon cousins, they can still, in theory, deliver quite a bite.  Mine generally bolt into one of their many tunnel entrances at the slightest disturbance, and not one has shown any defensiveness. However, that can always change with age, and temperament differs from specimen to specimen. Always use care when working with old world species.

Although I’ve read of instances where this species can become a “pet hole”, spending the majority of its time in its den, mine are are actually visible quite often. Usually late afternoon, I can look forward to my three juveniles creeping out of their dens to sit on the surface for a while. They only seem to stay submerged when in promolt or during the colder winter months.

This juvenile is showing some of the gorgeous blue on its legs after a recent molt.

This juvenile is showing some of the gorgeous blue on its legs after a recent molt.

Although I’ve yet to try to breed any of my tarantulas, the M. balfouri is high on my list when I do. Unlike most other Ts, M. balfouri mothers will actually nurture their spiderlings, killing prey and dragging it into the den to feed them. A search of balfouri breeding and parenting will bring up some fascinating stories about M. balfouri mothering, and most breeders have more success when they leave the sacs in with the mother. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Those looking for a gorgeous old world tarantula with beautiful coloration and relatively simple husbandry requirements should look no further than the M. balfouri. Their calmer temperaments also make them a good, if pricey, introduction species for those new to old worlds.

 

 

Tarantula Enclosures from Lorex Plastics … A Review

Gorgeous enclosures that wont break the bank

With several of my tarantulas reaching adult sizes, I found it was time to do some enclosure shopping. As I stated in an earlier blog, I use a variety of enclosures, including DIY and premium, professionally-made varieties. Premium enclosures can be costly, and when you have 50 or so Ts, you could end up spending more on the homes than you do on the animals. That said, I do have tarantulas that I consider worthy “showcase animals” that I like to show off to visitors. For these specimens, I don’t mind splurging for classier enclosures.

I had discovered Reptile-Enclosure.com last year while looking for large acrylic enclosures for my Ts. When I was first pricing cages on the site, I discovered the majority of the sizes were no longer in stock, and I wrongly assumed the company was no longer in business. In actuality, Reptile Enclosure.com is owned and run by Lorex Plastics Co, a plastics company that makes reptile and tarantula cages during the slow seasons. For those interested in these enclosures, this is something to keep in mind.

As luck would have it, I stumbled on Lorex’s eBay listing for two of their enclosures, and decided to check out the site again. I was ecstatic to discover that almost all of the sizes and types were in stock, and they were definitely still in business.

Lorex offers several types of enclosures, including arboreal and terrestrial varieties, as well as front-loading and hinged topped designs. For tarantulas, I specifically looked at the 3 mm Series, which includes convenient 2 gallon, 5 gallon, 7 gallon, and 12 gallon sizes.

I ordered three of the 5 gallon enclosures, which measure 17″ x 9″ h x 8″w and retail for $47.50 before shipping. Also, Lorex offers a 15% discount if you buy three or more cages of the same size, so I was afforded those savings as well. I phoned to ask a couple questions about my order, and spoke to Ed. Communication was excellent, and Ed was very friendly and helpful via phone and email.

My order was shipped promptly, and as Lorex is located just on the other side of my state, they arrived via UPS in a day. I always worry when I order acrylic cages, as I know how unforgiving the shipping process can be. However, my new enclosures were packed so well, nothing was going to harm them in transit. Each of the three cages was wrapped in five or six layers of bubble wrap, then individually boxed. These three boxes were then packed into another larger box for added protection. Wow.

One BIG box filled with three of Lorex's 5 gallon enclosures

One BIG box filled with three of Lorex’s 5 gallon enclosures

Each enclosure came wrapped in bubble wrap and in its own box.

Each enclosure came wrapped in bubble wrap and in its own box.

I was very pleased to discover that each enclosure was wrapped in 5-6 layers of bubble wrap.

I was very pleased to discover that each enclosure was wrapped in 5-6 layers of bubble wrap.

The cages themselves are well-constructed and just gorgeous. Each top-hinged door has a lip that overhangs the front and locks with a hasp. As these can be used for reptiles as well, they’ve been designed to have a 1/2″ of clearance beneath the bottom to allow for an under the tank heat mat (note: do not use heat mats for Ts). I love the look of the aluminum vents, although I’ll have to keep an eye on them as some terrestrial Ts have been known to chew through wire.

My only nit-picky issue is that the vents are not glued or otherwise permanently affixed to the cage, but this is a very small issue. I do love the position of the vents, as they allow for a deeper level of substrate than some of my other cages afford. The enclosures also feel very solid and sturdy, which is great.

5 gallon Lorex Acrylic Enclosure. Notice the lip and locking hasp.

5 gallon Lorex Acrylic Enclosure. Notice the lip and locking hasp.

I definitely recommend Lorex acrylic enclosures for anyone looking for a premium cage to display one or more of their prized tarantulas. They come in a number of convenient sizes, they are wonderfully constructed, and even with shipping, the prices are lower than other comparable acrylic enclosures sold elsewhere. Customer service was top notch, and Ed at Lorex was a pleasure to deal with. I’m already eyeing a couple of the 12-gallon versions for when my L. parahybana and P. antinous get a bit larger.

To check out these wonderful enclosures, click here!

My enclosure decorated and now the new home of my L. itabunae.

My enclosure decorated and now the new home of my L. itabunae.