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The UK reptile and amphibian blog, teaching you how to care for exotic pets.
Blog Added: October 29, 2016 06:48:27 PM
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Giant Prickly Stick Insect / Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) Care Sheet

The Giant Prickly Stick Insect is one of the most impressive stick insects of all. The females, in particular, have huge curled abdomens that make them look unlike any other species commonly kept. Growing up to 15cm (6”) or so in length they’re therefore not only long, but also bulky and heavy insects to boot. […] The post Giant Prickly Stick Insect / Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) Care Sheet appeared first on Keeping Exotic...

The Giant Prickly Stick Insect is one of the most impressive stick insects of all. The females, in particular, have huge curled abdomens that make them look unlike any other species commonly kept.

Growing up to 15cm (6”) or so in length they’re therefore not only long, but also bulky and heavy insects to boot. The adult males typically reach a similar overall length, but are much slimmer and more fragile-looking. All told, this is truly one of the most exciting types of stick insect available to hobbyists right now.

Extatosoma tiaratum photo

As long as you’ve got suitable space then these really aren’t your “normal” stick insects that you may have seen for sale in traditional pet stores. Instead the Giant Prickly Stick Insect is something really rather special, and something that any serious exotic pet fanatic should consider keeping at one time or another.

It is worth mentioning here that the variety of common names used in the exotic pet community can be complex and muddling when it comes to this stick insect. For example, some people muddle up this species with the similarly named (but very different) Giant Spiny stick insect.

Things aren’t helped by the fact that this species – with the Latin name Extatosoma tiaratum – is also known as the Macleays Spectre. While that might sound like an odd name, it’s not so weird when you consider that the species was first described by a scientist called Macleay.

In this care sheet I’ll be using both “Giant Prickly Stick Insect” and “Macleays Spectre” interchangeably, but when it comes to buying stock you may want to learn the Latin name to be absolutely certain that you know what you’re buying. You have been warned!

Wild Habitat of Extatosoma tiaratum

The Giant Prickly Stick Insect comes from the tropical regions of Australia and New Guinea. It is particularly common, according to the IUCN, in New South Wales and Queensland. Here they are most commonly found in eucalyptus forests; a plant they feed on in the wild.

While the camouflage of the Macleays Spectre is surprisingly effective for such a large insect, it should come as no surprise that they can still be a very welcome meal for all sorts of predators.

In cases where Extatosoma tiaratum feels threatened, it has a curious and quite unique response: it curves its abdomen over it’s back to take on the appearance of a huge scorpion. It is likely that this sudden change of appearance is enough to scare off a lot of animals who might otherwise devour it. The same routine may be seen in captivity too if your pets are disturbed.

Macleays Spectre Caging

As with most exotic pets, selecting and setting up your Giant Prickly stick insect cage correctly is one of the most crucial steps of all.

Get it wrong, and your stick insect may struggle to moult properly, or may not receive the warmth and humidity that they need to thrive. Get the caging requirements right, however, and this can be a very sturdy species indeed that requires minimal ongoing maintenance.

That’s all well and good, but what sort of cage should you choose for your stick insects?

A number of different options are popular with hobbyists, so let’s talk about some of the best options now…

Specialist Glass Cages

When I first started to keep stick insects and other invertebrates back in the 1990’s there was very little available in the form of specialist equipment. Instead, we had to try and make do with whatever could be found. These days, however, things are very different and you’re in a wonderful position.

One of the most exciting developments in recent years has been the appearance of practical, good-looking and reasonably-priced glass cages specially for the exotic pet fanatic. While there are a number of brands on the market, I have personally focused my attentions on so-called “Exo Terra” cages.

These are in essence constructed from strengthened glass, and have doors that open on hinges at the front. The metal grill in the lid helps to support suitable ventilation and they look fantastic. I now have a whole shelving unit setup with multiple Exo Terras containing stick insects and other arthropods.

Exo Terras come in a huge range of different sizes. Fortunately, there is a model that is 45cm tall, and 30cm in depth and width that is ideal for the Giant Prickly stick insect.

If you’re hoping to keep a decent-sized colony then you might even want to consider upgrading to the next size up – which can be 60cm tall.

While I will admit that these aren’t the cheapest cages available, I really feel that nothing else on the market rivals them.

Modified Aquariums

An alternative option when it comes to housing Extatosoma tiaratum is to modify and existing aquarium, as are sold for fish. These can be bought new, or may be sourced quite cheaply second hand.

Once thoroughly cleaned, they can be tipped on their end to create a “tall” cage. The open side can then be enclosed by adding another piece of glass or perspex, or using mesh. Whatever the case, you’ll probably want to be reasonably good at DIY if you’re to create a finished cage that looks good yet reliably prevents your stick insects from escaping.

Mesh Cages

Mesh cages can be handy for the Macleays Spectre because they are easy for your insects to climb up.

At the same time, however, there are a few downsides that you should consider. Firstly, netting cages like this can be quite difficult to heat in the winter months; after all, the warm air simply rises up out of the cage. Additionally, the mesh isn’t as easy to see through as glass or plastic, so may not make quite such an attractive display.

While some breeders are huge fans of these mesh cages, I admit that I tend to only use them in the warmer months of the year, when heating is not really a concern.

Self-Built Housing

Lastly an increasing number of hobbyists are starting to build their own cages. If you have a little creativity and some DIY skills then this can be a good option.

I have personally built a number of cages from perspex over the years, and while I lack the time at present to build any more, I do think they offer some benefits. For example, you can construct a cage that perfectly fits the space available in your home, and you can add a range of handy features.

If you ask the right supplier, many will even cut your plastic to the dimensions that you specify, meaning that you just have to glue everything together with aquarium-grade silicone sealant.

Heating & Temperatures

Despite coming from the warmer parts of the world, it seems that Extatosoma tiaratum seems to prefer a slightly cooler temperature than similar stick insects. All the same, we’re talking ideal temperatures of around 22-24’C, which means that most of us will have to provide some form of artificial heating.

Assuming you opt for a glass tank or plastic tank – which are easier to heat than mesh cages – then a heat mat as designed for pet reptiles tends to be the best option. These can be attached to one wall of your stick insect cage, providing a gradient of temperatures within the cage.

Water & Humidity

The Giant Prickly stick insect hails from some of the warmer and more humid parts of the world. As a result, offering suitable moisture is important if you are to succeed with this species. This is particularly important for hatchlings, which can be prone to dehydration.

A good plan is to regularly spray the cage with a houseplant spray gun, at which point the humidity level in the cage will begin to rise. While Extatosoma tiaratum is unlikely to drink from a water bowl, you may well see your stick insects gently drinking from water droplets on their food plants or on the walls of their cage.

While this humidity is important, one shouldn’t go too far and create a constantly wet, stagnant environment. Under such conditions mould and mildew can grow, causing problems for your pets. Instead, firstly ensure that suitable ventilation is offered, and secondly allow the cage to dry out somewhat between sprayings.

Feeding Extatosoma tiaratum

Extatosoma tiaratum photo

The Giant Prickly stick insect tends to be found in eucalyptus trees in the wild; it’s natural food source. That said, very few of us have eucalyptus trees growing in our backyard. Fortunately, hobbyists have tried all manner of different food plants over the years, and have successfully fed their Extatosoma tiaratum on a wide range of alternatives.

Just a few of the acceptable options include bramble (blackberry), oak, rose and guava. For a long list of food plants suitable for stick insects please click here.

Note that it generally isn’t possible to place live plants in your stick insect vivarium, and even if it was they probably wouldn’t survive long. Unsurprisingly, big stick insects tend to have quite large appetites, and it can be astonishing just how much plant material your Macleays Spectre stick insects will plow through. This is doubly worrying if you opt to keep quite a few specimens.

The only real option is to take cuttings from garden plants or from nature, and to regularly replenish them. When choosing food plants, be sure to only choose those that haven’t come into contact with potentially harmful chemicals. This means no car fumes, no pesticides and no herbicides.

Generally this means you’ll either want to take plants directly from your own (organic) garden or delve deep into the countryside. Parks and other municipal areas are likely to be using chemicals to keep pests at bay.

The stems of your live plants can be carefully placed into a jar of water, which in my experience will keep the leaves fresh for around a week.

Breeding Macleays Spectre Stick Insects

In contrast to some exotic pets, the Giant Prickly stick insect is actually surprisingly easy to breed. No specialist equipment or care are required; you might not even need a male!

Studies have shown that while both males and females of this species exist, in the wild it is quite unusual to find the adult males. So does this mean that there are hundreds of Macleays Spectre stick insects failing to have their reproductive needs met?

At one time, perhaps so, but these days the females have developed the ability to produce fertile eggs without the presence of males. This process is known as “parthenogenesis” and may be found in a number of other stick insects – such as the ever-popular Indian stick insect.

Truth be told, while female Giant Prickly stick insects can lay fertile eggs without needing a male, hobbyists have found that the outcome of such breedings can differ significantly from those in which a male fertilised eggs. It seems that eggs laid as a result of parthenogenesis take much longer to develop, and therefore hatch much later than others.

Bearing in mind that eggs can take 4-9 months or even longer to hatch, unless you have the patience of a saint you’d be well advised to consider keeping your stick insects in mixed-sex cages if you’re serious about breeding.

It is fascinating to note that Extatosoma tiaratum don’t just drop their eggs to the floor like many other stick insect species. Instead, the females fling them away. The eggs have been recorded as travelling at 2.7 metres per second, and experts have found that they are often catapulted between 80cm and 2 metres away from where the female is resting. What an insect!

The eggs, once laid, can be left in the cage if you choose. I personally like to remove the eggs so that they can be cared for by me over the long term. I have found that following a similar system to leaf insect eggs tends to work well.

I gather a clear plastic container and line the bottom with kitchen towel. This is then gently soaked in water till it will hold no more. Small holes are cut or melted into the sides to allow moisture to escape. On top of the kitchen paper I place a second, smaller tub, this time with no lid. Into this the eggs are gently laid.

This container then goes into my “incubator” – a snake vivarium that is heated to some 20-24’C. A couple of times a week I simply remove each tub, check that the eggs have not been attacked by mould or fungus, and re-moisten the kitchen towel.

In this way, the water gently evaporates in the warm environment, helping to keep the eggs humid. At the same time, the eggs themselves rest on a dry surface, so tend not to go mouldy. Keeping up with this system, eventually you’ll find baby stick insects start to hatch and the circle of life can start once again.


While the giant prickly stick insect might look quite intimidating, it is generally found to be quite docile. With patience the Macleays Spectre can normally be coaxed gently onto the hand. Move slowly and deliberately and you should be fine.

Note, however, that while females are unable to fly, the adult males have fully-developed wings and are quite strong fliers. You therefore might not want to handle this species outside for fear of them taking off, never to return.

Photos c/o Sam Fraser-Smith & ComputerHotline

The post Giant Prickly Stick Insect / Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) Care Sheet appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.

Jungle Nymph Stick Insect (Heteropteryx dilatata) Care Sheet

The Jungle Nymph stick insect is arguably the most impressive and visually-appealing stick insect of all. Growing to 15cm (6”) or sometimes even a little longer, the adult females are particularly impressive. Unlike the thin, brown males, the females are huge, stocky and bright green in color, being covered in numerous sharp spines. These impressive […] The post Jungle Nymph Stick Insect (Heteropteryx dilatata) Care Sheet appeared first on Keeping Exotic...

The Jungle Nymph stick insect is arguably the most impressive and visually-appealing stick insect of all. Growing to 15cm (6”) or sometimes even a little longer, the adult females are particularly impressive.

Unlike the thin, brown males, the females are huge, stocky and bright green in color, being covered in numerous sharp spines. These impressive dimensions have led the Jungle Nymph stick insect to being named the second heaviest insect in the world!

jungle nymph photo

There’s more. These are also some of the longest lived of the different phasmids (stick insects) kept in captivity, with some specimens reaching the ripe old age of 2 years old.

In short, if you’re considering keeping any kind of stick insect then this is one species that I would strongly recommend that you consider.

The only minor drawback is that the Jungle Nymph isn’t quite as easily handled as some of the other large stick insect species like the Macleays Spectre, so really isn’t suitable for children.

The reason is that the Jungle Nymphs have a row of sharp spines along their rear legs. If they feel threatened, they wave these back legs around, in the hope that they will attract your attention. If you’re unlucky enough to have your fingers in the wrong place these spiky legs can give you quite a prick – you have been warned!

So long as you’re OK with that, and you’re keen to keep what is one of the most beautiful and exciting stick insects of all then read on for our detailed care sheet…

Wild Habitat of Heteropteryx dilatata

First described in 1835, not a huge amount is known about the Jungle Nymph stick insect in the wild. What we do know is that they come from the exceptionally hot and humid jungles of Malaysia.

This probably explains why in the past so many keepers have struggled to rear the youngsters, as they simply haven’t been provided with enough humidity to keep their needs.

Jungle Nymph Stick Insect Cages

Jungle Nymphs need a cage that is comparable with their size. As stick insects moult by hanging from their back legs, splitting their old skin down the back and then “dropping” out of it, height is a crucial consideration.

Many exotic pet owners who try to keep stick insects in lower cages find that they have significant problems moulting. As this is the most sensitive point in a stick insects life, it is hardly surprising that a bad moult can result in serious issues or even death. As these are expensive insects to buy you’d be well advised to do everything possible to keep them fit and healthy.

For Heteropteryx dilatata, the Latin name by which this species is often known, you’ll be wanting a cage at least twice as tall as your insects are long. Three times the length is even better, and as stick insects grow so quickly it is often cheaper to start off with a generously sized cage than it is to continuously rehome your pets, buying ever larger cages as you go.

For the Jungle Nymph stick insect, which can reach lengths of around 15cm, this means you’ll ideally be looking at a cage of some 45cm or so in height.

Luckily, floor space tends to be less of an issue with this species, which only very rarely comes down to ground level. Here minimum dimensions of 30cm x 30xm tend to work well, allowing suitable space for your insects to move around and feed.

A second consideration after finding a cage of suitable dimensions is how you’ll ensure a humid environment, while still maintaining suitable ventilation. As with all pet invertebrates, air movement is important to prevent the build-up of pathogens and fungi.

The best way to do this is to invest in a stick insect cage that has some mesh as part of its construction. In this way the cage can be sprayed down with a houseplant spray gun once or twice a day, and between these times the moist air can slowly evaporate away.

Over the years I’ve tried an assortment of different cages and my preference these days is for the Exo Terra glass cages. They’re available in the ideal dimensions, and with their front opening doors they make routine handling and maintenance a breeze. The mesh lid allows for suitable ventilation, while the glass walls and floor make it easy to keep heat in, and also makes for an easy cleaning routine.

Of course, a range of other cages may be used if you prefer them, including the mesh cages popular with chameleon owners (though they can be troubling to heat in winter) or some keepers even opt to build their own stick insect cage from glass or perspex.

Temperature & Heating

Coming from the tropical jungles of Southeast Asia these stick insects relish a warm environment. Jungle Nymphs that are kept too cold may struggle with their metabolism, and can quickly pass away. In all but the hottest months of the year, therefore, you’ll be needing to provide some artificial heating. An ideal temperature for the cage is around 24-28’C.

There are a number of different heating options on the market, the vast majority of which are designed for reptile keepers. However, they can just as effectively be used by stick insect keepers and breeders.

The best heater in most cases is a heat mat. These are wafer-thin pieces of plastic, which can easily be slipped underneath an Exo Terra or other glass/plastic tank.

In truth, heat mats don’t produce a huge amount of warmth; even when they’re on it can feel only moderately warm. This works well for glass cages, gently raising the ambient temperature while keeping your electricity bill down.

If your home is particularly cold, or you opt to use a mesh cage during the winter months, then you’ll need a more powerful reptile heater such as a heat lamp. Bear in mind, under these circumstances, that such heaters cost far more to run. Additionally, you should be sure to position the heat lamp outside the cage, so that your stick insects cannot climb onto the bulb and burn themselves.

Water & Humidity

jungle nymph photo

As stated earlier, Jungle Nymph stick insects like a very moist environment. While they are unlikely to drink from a water bowl, the cage should be thoroughly sprayed with lukewarm water. Under such circumstances you will often see your Heteropteryx dilatata drinking gently from the small water droplets of “rain” that condense on their food plant and the walls of the cage.

This is one more reason why cages like the Exo Terra can be so much more practical than all-mesh cages; the open construction of mesh cages means that water you spray in will just spray straight out of the other side, limiting the volume available to your pets.

Feeding Jungle Nymph Stick Insects

It should be no surprise that the tropical plants normally eaten by Jungle Nymph stick insects in the wild are difficult to source for pet keepers. Fortunately there are a range of other food plants that stick insects will eat, with the most popular of these being bramble (blackberry) leaves.

There is no need to grow your own blackberries, as in many parts of the world these plants can be found rambling across the countryside. Indeed, we stick insect keepers may be the only people who are pleased to find this “weed” growing in our gardens!

Blackberry isn’t the only option, however. Other popular food plants include oak and rose. Furthermore, over the years I have tried feeding a range of other food plants to my various pet stick insects. I have found that stick insects don’t “die” from eating poisonous plant material – they just don’t touch them. As a result, my own experience suggests that you can feel free to experiment with different food plants to see which your pets will accept.

It is important to mention that invertebrates can be very sensitive to chemical pollutants. If you’re gathering food from the countryside, therefore, do your best to avoid areas where car pollution or agrochemicals have been used. If you are in any doubt then you’re best to avoid such plants, no matter how lush and delicious they may look.

Note that food plants can dry out quickly. The best option when feeding your Jungle Nymphs is therefore to place the stems of your food plants into a container of water within the cage.

Be sure to pack them densely enough that your Jungle Nymphs can’t fall into the water, as they don’t swim well and more likely drown in open water. In this way, I find that most cut food plants will survive for 5-9 days, meaning that feeding only needs to happen once every week or so.

Tank Decor

So you’ve bought your cage, selected a heater, invested in a houseplant spray gun and figured out where you’re going to get food for your pets. What else do you need to consider?

Luckily, this is a “how long is a piece of string” sort of question. For one thing, bear in mind that these are large and heavy insects. Some keepers therefore like to include some stout twigs or branches on which their stick insects can rest. Besides this, however, the decor you include in their cage is entirely up to you.

At its most basic, their cage could consist simply of a jar of water containing their food plant, and a few layers of kitchen towel laid on the floor. This makes for easy cleaning each week; simply dispose of the kitchen towel and old food plant, wipe the cage round then refill everything.

At the other end of the scale, however, some people like to really landscape their Jungle Nymph cage to try and make it look as authentic as possible. For example, some keepers will add a nice deep substrate of coconut fibre to give a “rainforest” look.

They may also add a range of plants – either real or false – to further expand on the jungle theme. Custom backgrounds can be bought, lights can be added and more. Feel free to take the issue as far as you want – from clean and clinical to a stunning centrepiece for your room. Your creativity (and budget!) are the only real limits here!

Handling Heteropteryx dilatata

Jungle Nymphs can be handled, but great care must be taken. As described earlier the legs of Jungle Nymphs are covered in razor-sharp spines, and a startled Jungle Nymph will attempt to snap their legs closed around your digits; not a comfortable experience.

If you opt to handle your stick insects, therefore, the key is to be slow, gentle and patient. Don’t attempt to “grab” your Jungle Nymphs which may surprise them, but instead gently coax them onto a flat hand using a paint brush or pencil to avoid the risk of getting “snapped” yourself.

Once on your hand most Jungle Nymphs will remain quite calm and will gently walk from one hand to the other. With the sharp spines, however, this may not be a suitable species for children looking to handle a stick insect.

Photos c/o mliu92 & berniedup

The post Jungle Nymph Stick Insect (Heteropteryx dilatata) Care Sheet appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.

King Baboon (Pelinobius muticus) Tarantula Care Sheet

The King Baboon is arguably one of the most impressive of all the tarantulas. It is considered to be the largest tarantula found in Africa, with big adult females attaining legspans of up to 8” across. Alongside the overall dimensions of this spider, however, it is also very bulky – the tarantula equivalent of a […] The post King Baboon (Pelinobius muticus) Tarantula Care Sheet appeared first on Keeping Exotic...

The King Baboon is arguably one of the most impressive of all the tarantulas. It is considered to be the largest tarantula found in Africa, with big adult females attaining legspans of up to 8” across.

Alongside the overall dimensions of this spider, however, it is also very bulky – the tarantula equivalent of a bull terrier. Pelinobius muticus as it is known to scientists has thick, impressive back legs, where the final segment of the leg is turned in giving it a slightly “pigeon-toed” appearance. It is also clothed all over in velvety orange hair that gives it a quite unique appearance.

king baboon photo

King Baboons are not common in the hobby, and as a result can be reasonably expensive spiders to purchase. That said, there is no denying their impressive appearance.

Coupled with their ability to stridulate (“hiss”) when disturbed and their reasonably aggressive attitudes they are perhaps therefore better suited to more experienced tarantula keepers than beginners.

But, for keepers with a little knowledge under their belt with some of the more docile and modestly-sized tarantulas, there really is nothing quite like keeping this amazing species. I don’t feel I’m exaggerating when I say that this is a tarantula that every serious enthusiast should have in their collection.

If you’re considering adding this species to your collection then read on for my detailed King Baboon care sheet…

King Baboon Wild Habitat

The King Baboon was originally described in 1900 by Pocock. Over the years the Latin name used has changed. When I first started out keeping tarantulas this amazing species was known as Citharischius crawshayi.

Since then, however, its name has changed to Pelinobius muticus, thanks to British arachnologist Richard Gallon, who officially changed the name of this species in 2010. It is interesting to note that at the time of writing, the King Baboon is the only spider found in this genus as it is considered so different to other baboon spiders.

The original specimen came from Kenya but it also also known that this species can be found across other countries in eastern Africa, including Tanzania and Uganda.

This is an interesting consideration as many other moderately common tarantulas such as the “orange bitey thing” also hail from Tanzania and surrounding regions. In this way, both species have adapted to quite a similar habitat.

In the wild, Pelinobius muticus is most commonly found in dry acacia scrubland areas, where it digs extensive burrows. Even in captivity, given suitable space, King Baboons may dig incredibly deep burrows. Whilst this behaviour is fascinating, and helps your spider to feel comfortable in captivity, this does mean that the King Baboon can be one of the species known as a “pet hole”.

The reason is simple; once ensconced in their burrow you may go weeks or even months between sightings; make sure you’re happy with this arrangement before you consider investing the not inconsiderable sum into bringing one of these incredible tarantulas home.

Housing King Baboons

King Baboon tarantulas are one of the larger species available in the hobby, and require a suitably-sized cage. I keep my big adult female in a cage measuring some 30cm x 30cm to allow her space to move around and behave naturally. King Baboons are also quite active burrowers so the tank should be tall enough to allow a decent depth of substrate to be added.

Coming from Africa these tarantulas prefer a drier habitat than many other species, so suitable ventilation is crucial. This should be in the form of mesh somewhere towards the top of the cage so that excess moisture can easily evaporate out.

As these are such large and impressive tarantulas you’ll also want to make sure that the cage is very secure indeed. Their strength means that they can push off lids that might keep smaller tarantulas safely contained.

These days there are more tarantula cages available than ever before. Some keepers opt to build their own using glass or perspex, or to repurpose household objects like tupperware boxes sold for storing cakes etc. Personally I have done well keeping this species in Really Useful Boxes with ventilation holes drilled in the sides.

These days, however, my personal preference is for Exo Terras. While these are not the cheapest type of caging possible they offer the perfect combination of appearance and practicality.

In terms of appearance the glass construction looks fantastic and facilitates a great view of captive tarantulas. It is also possible to purchase a special hood if you so desire, which can help you to gently light the cage for better visibility still.

In terms of practicality Exo Terras come with a metal mesh lid for ventilation. They have a deep glass “lip” at the front which allows you to add a reasonable volume of substrate. Exo Terras also feature front-opening doors, so I can quickly and easily feed my spiders and top up their water without having to remove every cage from my racking system, and these doors also lock shut when not in use for superior security. In all, they’re great cages.

Heating & Temperature

King Baboons require artificial heating in all but the warmest months of the year. If this is your only tarantula then the best option here is a low-power reptile heat mat. These cost just pennies per day to run but provide a comfortable hotspot for your spider.

If you’re slowly building up a collection of tarantulas then an alternative option is to make use of a heating cable. These were originally designed for gardeners, so they could warm up the soil in their greenhouses and plant seeds earlier in the year. More recently, however, a number of exotic pet owners have started to use them to heat a large number of cages with a single heater.

Whichever option you opt for there are a few golden rules you should aim to follow:

It is considered good practice to heat one area of the cage, while leaving the other cooler. In this way your spider can rest in the area that suits them best at the time. This means that your heater should cover only ⅓ of the cage area allowing your tarantula to escape to the cooler end if desirable.

If you are adding plenty of substrate to your tarantula cage then be aware that placing your tarantula heater underneath the cage can lead to overheating. In such instances the glass can fracture as heat cannot travel effectively through the substrate. Attaching the heater to the side of the cage can therefore work well in these instances.

Aim for a temperature of around 24-27’C in the hotter area of the cage, with the cooler end being a few degrees cooler. It can be handy to use a digital thermostat, at least in the early days of setting up your Pelinobius muticus cage, so that you can monitor temperatures.

The best of these have a stand-alone digital read-out, attached to one or more temperature sensors on wires. Another benefit of Exo Terras is that they have sealable holes through which the wires of your thermometer can pass, allowing you to monitor the internal temperature of the cage without causing any disturbance.

Some experts recommend the use of a suitable reptile thermostat to ensure the temperature in your King Baboon cage does not rise too much in the warmer months. In such conditions, when the air temperature increases during the summer, your thermostat will gently power down the heat mat, ensuring a comfortable temperature is maintained within the cage.

king baboon photo

Water & Humidity

Coming from dry areas of Africa the King Baboon does not seem to appreciate an overly moist environment. Instead I like to keep my specimens moderately dry. The cages receive a gentle spray with a houseplay spray gun once or twice a week, and are then allowed to dry out in between. Such a system also prevents the growth of any mould or fungus within the cage substrate which could otherwise cause problems.

At the same time, fresh water should always be available to your spider. For mid-sized specimens an upended bottle lid can work well, while for adults I use water bowls designed for small rodents like hamsters.

These are regularly cleaned and refilled, though appreciate that as a strong burrower there is a chance that your Pelinobius muticus may regularly bury their water bowl – a rather frustrating experience!

Cage Furnishings for Pelinobius muticus

Once you’ve obtained a suitable tank for your King Baboon there are a few pieces of equipment that you’ll want to add to their cage.

Firstly, you’ll need a suitable substrate for them to burrow into. There are a whole range of different substrates suitable for tarantulas but I tend to almost exclusively now use coconut (coir) fibre.

This is reasonably priced, is easy to for your tarantula to burrow into and comes in handy compressed “bricks”. Simply soak the brick in water for 30 minutes so that it expands, tip out any excess water and let the remaining substrate dry out gently. As most of the moisture is eliminated it should now be ready for use.

Quite how much depth of substrate you add depends on the cage you’ve chosen. As discussed, King Baboons are strong burrowers, so the more substrate you can give them the better. I would consider a 6” depth to be the minimum for an adult specimen, but if you’re able to give them more then all the better.

King Baboons can be quite fast moving and aggressive, so another useful piece of equipment can be a long pair of forceps. I actually have two different pairs in my “animal room” – a straight pair and one pair with curved ends. Both are around 30cm long, and allow me to remove uneaten food or sloughed skins without sticking my hands into harm’s way. They can also be handy for digging around looking for the water bowl!

As mentioned, you’ll also be needing a suitable water bowl, thermometer and potentially a thermostat. However one final point worth mentioning here is that you should provide your King Baboon with at least one place to hide away out of sight.

As King Baboons like to burrow they may dislodge anything you place into their cage, so it is important to ensure that their hide is lightweight and won’t crush them if they burrow beneath. Possibly the best option is a suitably-sized curved piece of cork bark.

Feeding King Baboon Tarantulas

I have found that my King Baboons have a healthy appetite and will eat almost anything that they can subdue. Unlike some other species my Pelinobius muticus never seem to go off their food – apart from just before a moult.

My go-to food for adult tarantulas like King Baboons is fully grown locusts. Other big feeder insects will work just as well, however, including larger roaches or field crickets. I have even tried giving my King Baboons gently warmed rodent carcasses (fluffs and hopper mice) just as I do to my pet snakes and have found they will often accept such a foodstuff as a treat.

Aim to feed younger King Baboons once or twice a week, while adults will remain healthy on a once-a-week feeding regime.

Try to keep records of when your tarantula feeds. Any uneaten food should be removed as it may indicate that your tarantula is coming up to moult. Here they may stop eating for some weeks – perhaps even a month or longer in really big females. Under such circumstances withhold all food for a few weeks after the successful moulting, at which point your tarantula should begin feeding ravenously once again.

Handling Pelinobius muticus

King Baboons are large tarantulas. They’re also reasonably fast-moving and aggressive. As a result they’re unsuitable for handling without risking damage to either yourself or the spider.

Instead, if you need to move your tarantula (such as for cleaning) you are better to either place a plastic pot over them or to gently coax them into moving with your forceps. For safety, consider doing this in your bathtub so that if things go wrong and your tarantula makes a dash for freedom you won’t spend the next week moving pieces of furniture in a futile hunt for a large and angry spider.

Photo c/o snakecollector

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Togo Starburst Baboon (Heteroscodra maculata) Care Sheet

The Togo Starburst Baboon tarantula is quite different to many of the more popular pet tarantulas. Whilst species like the Blue Baboon and King Baboon have gained in popularity at least thanks to their coloration, the Starburst Baboon is rather more muted. Look a little more closely, however, and this subtle appearance is actually very […] The post Togo Starburst Baboon (Heteroscodra maculata) Care Sheet appeared first on Keeping Exotic...

The Togo Starburst Baboon tarantula is quite different to many of the more popular pet tarantulas. Whilst species like the Blue Baboon and King Baboon have gained in popularity at least thanks to their coloration, the Starburst Baboon is rather more muted.

Look a little more closely, however, and this subtle appearance is actually very appealing indeed. Dark markings on a very light background give it an almost “ghostly” appearance – quite different to more gaudy spiders available in the pet trade.

What has really helped to cement the popularity of Heteroscodra maculata, however, is just what a hardy tarantula this is. They have an enormous range across much of Africa, and have therefore evolved to thrive in a huge range of different environments. This makes them very easy to keep as pets.

That said, there are downsides. The Starburst Baboon is considered to be fast moving and aggressive. What is more, rumours abound in exotic pet circles that their venom is particularly potent when compared to other popularly-kept tarantulas.

It’s fair to say, therefore, that this is a more “advanced” tarantula, really better suited to more experienced keepers. If that describes you, however, read to for my detailed Togo Starburst Baboon care sheet 🙂

Wild Habitat of Heteroscodra maculata

Despite the common name of this tarantula, it isn’t restricted just to Togo. It is also reportedly found in Benin, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. This is one widespread spider to be sure!

Growing to around 5” or so in legspan, it is a mid-sized species of tarantula. It is also primarily arboreal – meaning that it tends to rest off the ground. In captivity this means that you’ll need to provide a cage with some height, together with vertical surfaces which it can explore.

Climate wise, while this tarantula exists across a huge range, generally Western Africa tends to be more humid than other parts of the continent. You will not only therefore want to provide suitable heating if your Heteroscodra maculata is to thrive, but also a regular spraying to increase the moisture level within their cage.

Togo Starburst Baboon Housing

Like their cousin the Featherleg Baboon, these tarantulas tend to be quite shy. Given the opportunity they will spend the majority of their time hidden out of sight, within the darkness of a cork bark hide. A suitable cage should therefore afford them this luxury, providing not just space but also suitable hiding places.

As an arboreal species, adults will to well in cages measuring some 30cm-45cm tall. Some reptile stores sell specialist cages for tree-dwelling species, and one of my favorites is the Exo Terra. The model measuring 30cm x 30cm x 45cm tall is ideal for an adult Togo Starburst baboon. Of course, smaller models are suitable for juveniles.

Alternatively, whilst not quite as attractive as an Exo Terra, a range of different containers may be “repurposed” for keeping Starburst Baboon tarantulas.

For example, I have bought packs of sweet jars off Amazon before, drilled some holes in the lid for ventilation and they have made ideal cages. The downside, of course, is that accessing your tarantula is rather more difficult.

Whatever option you choose it is important to remember that these tarantulas move quickly and can climb well. Suitable vertical height, together with an escape-proof environment, are therefore crucial elements.

Heating & Temperature

As Heteroscodra maculata tends to rest up in the air, rather than on the ground, some additional thought should be put into how you’re going to heat their cage. Ideally, the hotspot will reach some 25’C, though a few degrees either side won’t cause any issues.

Traditionally, tarantula keepers have used reptile-safe heat mats to heat their cages, by placing them under the cage bottom. For an arboreal species, however, this isn’t always the most successful route; after all, your spider won’t be venturing down to the warm substrate on a regular basis.

Instead of this, consider placing the heat mat on the side or back of the cage, then leaning suitable hides up against the heated area. In this way the air within the hide can warm up comfortably, allowing your tarantula to rest in comfort.

Some keepers recommend the use of a thermostat in order to help control the temperature of your tarantula cage. While there is some logic to this, especially in the summer months as ambient temperatures start to rise, this does of course add to the cost of setting up your Heteroscodra maculata cage. Only you can decide if you have the budget available for this added piece of kit.

Water & Humidity

I like to provide an open water dish for my larger tarantulas, in order to prevent dehydration and allow for efficient moulting. Besides this, like many tarantula keepers, I like to occasionally spray my Togo Starburst Baboon cages to temporarily raise the humidity.

Between sprayings, the cages are allowed to dry out, which prevents any build-up of moult or fungus. When doing this, it is recommended to buy a house plant spray gun specially for this purpose.

In this way you can be certain that it hasn’t been used for any kind of chemicals. At the same time, if at all possible try not to spray your tarantula – which may try to run away in order to escape the drenching – and instead just try to moisten the cage itself.

Cage Furnishings

There are two key elements that you’ll want to consider for your Heteroscodra maculata cage. Firstly, as primarily arboreal tarantulas you’ll want to provide one or more vertical hides in which they can spend the daylight hours.

Possibly the most practical and cost effective solution is to purchase a roll of cork bark. These hollow branches look fantastic and, if you choose a suitable piece, will allow your spider to hide behind them or within.

My preference is for a whole tube, large enough that my Starburst Baboons can hide inside. If using a tube of cork bark, try to use a piece that is slightly shorter than your cage is high, so that your spider can easily climb into the center from above. An alternative is to simply purchase a curved piece and then rest this up against the side of the cage.

Whilst cork bark is very light, you don’t want it falling around and damaging your spider so it’s worth considering how you will accomplish this. Some people like to use aquarium-safe silicone sealant to literally glue the bark into place. Other people opt to use a deep substrate, and then build this up around the bark to support it.

Speaking of substrates, this is the second element you’ll want to consider. Most reptile stores sell a range of different substrates for tarantulas, and I’ve written about some of the more popular options here. If you’re in a hurry, however, I would recommend that you consider coconut fibre, which seems like the most popular option among modern tarantula keepers.

While it is entirely up to you, some people keeping arboreal tarantulas like the Togo Starburst Baboon also offer a measure of landscaping. Silk plants can be bought that look very realistic, and really help to give your tarantula tank an attractive and polished appearance.

Feeding Heteroscodra maculata

Like many baboon spiders, Heteroscodra maculata tends to have a healthy appetite. This is also reflected in its growth rate, which is considered quite rapid. Most specimens will eat once or twice a week; remember that the more you feed your tarantula the faster it will grow.

This can be handy to remember if you hope to breed tarantulas in the future; you can speed up the growth rates of females by feeding them more, while slowing down the maturation of males by keeping them on a stricter diet.

That said, as these spiders tend to be quite fast moving, and bearing in mind that uneaten food should be removed, I wouldn’t suggest over-feeding your specimen. Opening up the cage, and fishing around with your forceps trying to catch an uneaten cricket poses the risk that your tarantula may make a break for freedom.

Live insects are generally the order of the day, and can be purchased either in pet stores or, even better in my experience, ordered direct from the breeder. Crickets, locusts and roaches can all be good staples, though some specimens may also be tempted by less regular fare on occasion. Morio worms, waxworms and even the odd pickie mouse may be accepted as a treat.

Togo Starburst Baboon Handling

The Togo Starburst Baboon tarantula is not a spider to hold. They are fast, aggressive and are considered to have particularly potent venom.

I would therefore strongly advise you not to test your mettle by trying to hold such a spider.

Indeed, the difficulties with moving this species means that it is really only suitable for the more experienced keeper.

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Best Crested Gecko Vivariums & Cages

Choosing the right crested gecko vivarium is crucial to the health of your pet. Over the years crested geckos have grown massively in popularity, and there are thousands of specimens being kept all around the world. Thanks to the work of dedicated gecko keepers and breeders dozens of different housing options have been trialled. In […] The post Best Crested Gecko Vivariums & Cages appeared first on Keeping Exotic...

Choosing the right crested gecko vivarium is crucial to the health of your pet.

Over the years crested geckos have grown massively in popularity, and there are thousands of specimens being kept all around the world. Thanks to the work of dedicated gecko keepers and breeders dozens of different housing options have been trialled.

In this guide you’ll learn everything you need to know in order to choose the best crested gecko vivarium for your needs.

Understanding the Wild Habitat of Crested Geckos

Understanding the wild habitat of any reptile or amphibian is the first step in choosing the best possible cage for them. When you develop a good understanding of your lizards natural history you’ll be far better placed to replicate this as closely as possible in captivity.

Crested Geckos are nocturnal, arboreal lizards. Their sticky toe pads allow them to easily shin up trees, where they are less likely to fall prey to ground-based predators. They hail originally from the island of New Caledonia off the coast of Australia, where they are found in wooded areas. Arboreal lizards, by their very nature, appreciate room in which to climb, which means that vertical height is more important than floor space for this gecko species.

At the same time it should come as no surprise that lizards from this part of the world tend to appreciate a moderately warm temperature and high levels of humidity. This means that the best crested gecko vivarium is easy to heat, will stand to regular spraying, and has suitable ventilation to prevent stale, stagnant air building up.

While, sadly, this typically rules out wooden cages, which tend to have poor ventilation and will quickly buckle, swell and rot in overly moist conditions, there are still plenty of suitable building materials; most likely glass or plastic though a limited number of crested gecko keepers also use mesh cages successfully.

Crested Gecko Vivarium Size Recommendations

Due to their active lifestyle, crested geckos generally welcome a generously-proportioned cage. As crested geckos themselves may reach some 5-8” and are often out exploring and hunting during the night, an adult gecko requires a cage measuring at least 30cm long, 30cm deep and 45cm tall.

In truth, this really should be considered the absolute minimum, and a more realistic cage dimension would be 45cm x 45cm x 60cm tall.

Under these circumstances your pet will have plenty of space to move around, and you will have lots of opportunities to landscape the cage, creating a miniature jungle in your living room.

This is all good so far – but let’s look more specifically at some of the best crested gecko vivarium options currently on the market….

Types of Crested Gecko Vivariums

Over the years a huge number of different cages, vivariums and tubs have been used to house crested geckos, and each keeper has their opinions about the most suitable options. Having kept crested geckos myself for the last few years, testing out a number of different cage types, I’d like to talk about my own personal experiences and share my opinions on what I think are the best cages for crested geckos…

Exo Terra Glass Arboreal Vivariums

In my opinion tall glass vivariums should be considered the “gold standard” when it comes to housing crested geckos. I have dozens of these cages on racking systems in my “animal room” and use them for dozens of my exotic pets – including crested geckos. So what makes them the best cages for crested geckos?

The most popular brand of such glass vivariums is Exo Terra, the exact cages I use myself, so let’s talk specifically about these cages. Firstly, there is the look of the Exo Terra cage – not only does it look absolutely gorgeous, setting off your crested gecko display a treat – but it also makes building a beautiful display in the first place a simple process.

The lid unclips, allowing you complete access to the cage, while the large glass doors also open at the front. This gives unrivalled access to create a microhabitat for your gecko. The all-glass construction makes for perfect visibility of your pet too.

But besides the looks of these vivariums, they also offer a huge number of practical benefits:

  • The glass floor means it is easy to fit an under tank heating (UHT) system.
  • The large glass “lip” below the doors allows for deep levels of substrate – ideal if you want to include live plants.
  • The mesh lid allows excess moisture to escape, preventing a stale environment for your pet.
  • This same mesh lid means that it is easy (and safe) to heat your crested gecko vivarium with a ceramic heater (if you prefer this option).
  • A specially-designed hood is available for the top, allowing you to light your lizard cage. This can make it look more attractive, can help to encourage live plants to grow, or can provide UV light to your pet.
  • The Exo Terra cages come with an attractive backing panel that is lightweight and easy to clean.
  • Closeable inlets allow you to easily add any cabling necessary for your pet – such as thermostats, thermometers and hygrometers.

In short, the Exo Terra glass tanks have it all – and in my opinion are therefore the perfect cage for your little crestie. Lastly, they are reasonably priced, easily cleaned and come in the ideal dimensions. I recommend the “small tall” model, which is the ideal 18” x 18” x 24”, suitable even for adult crested geckos.

Zoo Med ReptiBreeze Deluxe Mesh Cages

The ReptiBreeze range of cages are so-called because the main walls of the cage are made of fine mesh. Such mesh cages can be very handy – or a complete nightmare – depending on your situation.

On the upside, mesh cages offer excellent levels of ventilation. This is positive because stale air can be very bad for crested geckos, and may shorten the life of your pet. The downside of such cages is that heat can escape very easily, which can make them challenging to keep warm in cooler weather.

The choice as to whether a mesh vivarium is suitable for your crested gecko will therefore depend on your circumstances. If you live somewhere where winter temperatures drop considerably then you may struggle to keep this cage at a suitable temperature. If, however, you live somewhere with a much warmer climate, than such mesh cages can make an ideal solution.

The ReptiBreeze range of cages has a number of benefits that have made them popular among keepers of chameleons and increasingly crested geckos too:

  • Mesh walls allow excellent ventilation.
  • Sturdy mesh roof allows for UV lights and/or ceramic heaters to be fitted reasonably easily.
  • Large front door makes access simple.
  • Base is lined with a sturdy plastic tray which can be removed to easy cleaning.
  • Bottom of the cage opens, allow bottom tray to be removed without fuss.
  • LED hood fits to top, illuminating your cage for an attractive display.

That said, despite all the above benefits, it is worth mentioning that creating a “mini rainforest” – if that is your goal – tends not to work quite as well in such cages. The mesh that these cages is made from can be reasonably fragile, and the all-mesh design means that it is isn’t possible to add a thick layer of substrate and to grow live plants in these.

Instead, mesh cages tend to encourage a reasonably “sterile” cage setup. For some keepers this is fine – and a crested gecko can certainly live a long and healthy life within such a cage. For me, however, landscaping the cage is all part of the fun. Not only does it make my cages look beautiful, but in my opinion it also encourages far more natural behaviour that can be fascinating to watch at home.

Zoo Med ReptiBreeze Basic Model

The basic Zoo Med ReptiBreeze is very similar to the deluxe version, but being slightly cheaper it does miss out on a few of the nicer features that the premium model offers. While the key benefits are largely the same, this model doesn’t include the lighting setup that the previous model does, and also has a mesh door rather than one made of perspex.

While this isn’t necessarily the end of the world, it does mean that visibility in such cages tends to be worse than when watching your gecko through a glass or plastic front. If you really want your crested gecko vivarium to form a focal point in your room then one of the two previous models is therefore likely to be superior.

Home-Made Perspex Vivariums

A small number of skilled and passionate reptile keepers build their own tanks from glass or – more often – clear plastic. It is difficult to discuss the pros and cons of such cages as each cage is different.

So long as such cages are built to suitable dimensions and allow the correct ventilation then they can be an excellent option. Indeed, I sometimes find people selling custom-built vivariums at reptile shows which could make an ideal habitat for your gecko.

If you fancy trying to build something yourself then you’ll find loads of excellent videos on YouTube detailing what other keepers have done.

Really Useful Boxes

Really Useful Boxes are sturdy plastic boxes, sold to people looking to organize their belongings. At the same time, the company in question might be surprised to learn how many exotic pet keepers use their Really Useful Boxes (RUBs) for keeping snakes, lizards and other exotics.

Opinions are divided on the use of RUBs for crested geckos. In reality RUBs never really look great, as the plastic is never perfectly clear. As you have probably noticed from the image, they’re also wider than they are tall, which isn’t ideal for an arboreal lizard species.

They have no ventilation, so you’ll need to use an electric drill to add some holes. Of course, it’s also not really possible to use a ceramic heater or to fit a UV light (if you opt to use one) so you will have to rely on a heat mat to keep your pet warm.

In truth is, while some breeders use RUBs thanks to how easy they are to stack on top of one another and to clean, in most cases I would suggest that there are better vivariums for the hobbyist reptile keeper with just one or two cresties in their collection.


Faunariums are clear plastic cages with a sturdy mesh lid. In many ways they can be thought of as a RUB with built-in ventilation.

They are another option sometimes suggested to crested gecko keepers, but I hope the picture alone helps to demonstrate why they’re not the ideal option. They’re not tall, they’re not easy to heat, they don’t look great and they’re relatively small in comparison to the better options we’ve already examined.

Again, a few breeders use these for youngsters until they go into a “proper” cage or get sold to a reptile store/keeper, but on the whole I think there are much better options out there.

Wooden Vivariums

Wooden vivariums – either bought from specialist reptile supplier or custom-built at home – have long been popular among reptile keepers. For example, I use such cages for many of my ball pythons. However, I don’t believe that such cages are really suitable for crested geckos, because they don’t tend to survive very well when regularly sprayed with water.

While most wooden reptile cages are waterproofed to a degree, there always seems to be a weakness in the treatment, and water gets into the grain sooner or later, at which point problems can occur.

No, while wooden vivariums certainly have their place in the hobby, I don’t think they’re the best option for crested geckos thanks to their requirement for high levels of humidity.

So What is the Best Crested Gecko Cage?

By now I think my own opinions are pretty clear. While the odd person may have the time (and skills) necessary to build their own custom crested gecko vivarium from scratch, most of us will have to rely on store-bought cages.

Under these circumstances I believe that the taller Exo Terra glass vivariums really are the best possible cages for your pet, offering the perfect combination of looks and practicality. While there may be slightly cheaper options on the market I don’t think any are quite as suitable for your crested gecko.

Photo by Florence Ivy

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Best Crested Gecko UV Lights

One of the most controversial topics when it comes to keeping crested geckos is that of UV lighting. In this guide we’ll try to tease apart fact from fiction, discussing the pros and cons of ultraviolet lighting for cresties, and look at some of the best bulbs on the market to help you select the […] The post Best Crested Gecko UV Lights appeared first on Keeping Exotic...

One of the most controversial topics when it comes to keeping crested geckos is that of UV lighting.

In this guide we’ll try to tease apart fact from fiction, discussing the pros and cons of ultraviolet lighting for cresties, and look at some of the best bulbs on the market to help you select the most appropriate product in what can a complicated and muddling area of reptile care.

Why Do Reptile Keepers Use UV Lights?

Bones are made from a number of different nutrients, but possibly the most important of these is calcium. Sadly it isn’t enough to just provide calcium in the diet – vitamin D is also required for your body to be able to use calcium to create a strong skeleton. Think of them as mutually crucial – you’ll need both elements for strong, healthy bones.

Vitamin D is created in the skin through a complex process that is triggered by ultraviolet light. Put simply, therefore, UV light helps the body to create vitamin D which, in turn, helps to body to absorb calcium and so create strong bones.

Historically, early reptile keepers were plagued by problems caused by a lack of vitamin D. Back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s numerous green iguanas and other popular lizards started to suffer from Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD).

Their skeletons weakened, and fractures became more common. Eventually some pet lizards became paralyzed, both through their weakened skeleton and because calcium also plays a crucial role in the process of muscle contraction.

With suitable calcium supplementation and the introduction of modern UV lights these problems went away, but it does go to demonstrate the importance of these minerals to many species of captive reptile.

UV Lights Vs. Dietary Vitamin D Supplementation

UV lights aren’t the only option for pet reptiles. Another possible solution is to provide vitamin D in supplement form. Indeed, here in the UK where I live the government recommends that all Brits take a vitamin D supplement during the winter months because the sun isn’t strong enough for our skin to generate sufficient vitamin D.

The same routine of vitamin D supplementation can be applied to reptiles, and a range of high quality vitamin D supplements are available for feeding to livefood, or dusting them with, or adding to water.

So why not just do away with the expense and hassle of UV lights altogether, and instead just focus on supplementation? Well here there are potential risks too. For one, we’re still not totally sure how much vitamin D many lizards – including crested geckos – actually need. Secondly, even if you dust your feeder insects you can’t be certain how much of the mineral dust your lizard is actually eating.

Vitamins can be divided into two categories – water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins. Water soluble vitamins pass through your body and any excess is rapidly excreted. These vitamins need to be consumed regularly if you are to avoid a deficiency. On the other hand, it is difficult to take too much because they just flush through your body so quickly.

Vitamin D is the other type – it is fat soluble. This means that your crested gecko can store it in their body. Give them too much and there is a risk that toxicity can appear. This, in turn, can have all manner of side effects including odd skeleton growth, weakness and kidney problems.

In other words, giving too much vitamin D can be just as bad as too little. All that while we don’t really know how much vitamin D a crested gecko really needs. Sounds risky? It can be.

This is one of the arguments raised by crested gecko keepers who believe that ultraviolet light is a good thing for their pets. A great thing about providing UV light is that your gecko can opt to expose themselves or not. They can therefore regulate their absorption of vitamin D rather than having vitamin D forced on them in supplement form.

Do Crested Geckos Need UV Lights?

As mentioned earlier on this article many crested geckos keepers disagree wildly about whether cresties need UV light.

On the plus side, reptile experts point out that providing UV light gives their cresties control over how much they are exposed to, and therefore to the level of vitamin D in their bodies. Look around at some forum threads on the topic and you’ll also find that many keepers have claimed that the provision of UV light has made their crested gecko more active and generally healthier-looking.

The cynics, on the other hand, point out that crested geckos are nocturnal, so likely wouldn’t be exposed to much natural sunlight in the wild. Therefore, they argue, UV light is unnecessary and dietary supplement with vitamin D is perfectly acceptable.

It is worth pointing out that crested geckos kept without artificial UV light seem to live just as long, and don’t seem to suffer any unpleasant health condition when supplemented correctly.

At present, therefore, there really is no “right” or “wrong” answer. Everyone has their own opinion, and yours may be swayed by friends, or by the breeder or the pet store you bought your crested gecko from.

My own opinion – and it is just an opinion – is that the provision of UV light doesn’t seem to do any harm, and may actually offer some benefits. Therefore, due to the low cost of good quality UV lights these days I opt to provide some UV lighting to my crested geckos each day, but my bulbs are turned off at night to reflect a natural day/night photo-cycle.

Hopefully in this manner I have the best of both worlds; I see UV as an “insurance policy” on the health of my cresties – and a cheap one at that.

So, assuming you too have decided that you want to provide UV lighting to your crested gecko the obvious next question is what UV bulb is best…

Best UV Lights for Crested Geckos

Historically there have been two different styles of UV lights for reptile keepers. The first of these is the long strip light, as used in many larger reptile cages. For crested geckos, however, these aren’t the most suitable lights simply because they are so much larger than the average crestie cage.

A better alternative are the new breed of compact fluorescent UV lights. These look rather like a long light tube all coiled up into something roughly bulb shaped. These compact UV bulbs offer a lot of benefits to the crested gecko keeper. They’re cheap to buy, they’re small in size, they offer a high ultraviolet light output and they are easy to fit in most commonly-used crested gecko cages – such as the ever-popular Exo Terra glass vivariums.

The level of UV light experienced in different habitats varies. Consider, for example, the difference in the intensity of sunlight experienced in dry, desert areas versus the filtered light hitting the jungle floor. For this reason you will find a whole range of different UB bulbs for sale marketed as having a specific percentage of UVB light.

Generally for forest-dwelling and/or nocturnal species like the crested gecko you’ll want to focus your attention at the lower end of the scale. For cresties the 2% and 5% bulbs are generally recommended, with more powerful bulbs like the 10% UVB models generally best reserved for species like bearded dragons who come from much sunnier areas.

With these two decisions made let’s now look a little more closely at a few of the best UV lights for crested geckos that meet these specifications – a “compact” design ideal for a crestie cage offering between 2% and 5% UV light…

Zoo Med ReptiSun 5.0 UVB Mini Compact Fluorescent

This 13 watt bulb is more that suitable for most crested gecko vivariums, and as the name suggests it provides a 5% output of UVB – at the top end of the recommended guidelines. The level of UVB light produced by the ReptiSun 5.0 helps your crested gecko to synthesize vitamin D, which in turn will help to avoid skeletal problems and Metabolic Bone Disease.

At the same time, however, the ReptiSun also offers a reasonably high level of UVA. UVA is considered “visible” by reptiles, and there is some evidence that a bulb like this will encourage more natural behavior in captive reptiles. Some keepers claim that bulbs like the ReptiSun can encourage stronger feeding responses and may also be helpful if you try to breed your crested gecko in the future.

Lastly the Zoo Med ReptiSun 5.0 seem to have quite a long life, which isn’t always the case with other UV lights for reptiles, many of which die after a matter of weeks. All in all, therefore, the ReptiSun 5.0 is a good option for most crested gecko cages.

Exo Terra Repti-Glo 2.0 Compact Fluorescent Full Spectrum Terrarium Lamp

Exo Terra is a brand I know and love. I’m a huge fan of their glass vivariums and use them for many of my exotic pets – including my crested geckos.

As the name suggests, the Repti-Glo 2.0 has a slightly lower UVB output than the Zoo Med ReptiSun discussed above. Indeed, Exo Terra market this particular bulb as ideal for nocturnal lizards like crested geckos.

This bulb has also been designed to offer suitable light to encourage plant growth. As a result, this can be a good bulb to use if you’re planning to plant up your crested gecko cage to resemble a jungle.

That said, a couple of concerns have been raised by users of this bulb. For one thing, the light that it produces is ridiculously bright – ideal for plant growth but maybe less so for a nocturnal reptile. As a result, I would suggest that you consider opting for the 13 watt version, rather than the more powerful 26 watt alternative.

The other concern – which is much greater – is that Exo Terra seems to be changing the light produced by these bulbs but without updating their sales page. Some reptile keepers have bought the Repti-Glo 2.0 only to find that the packaging states it doesn’t produce any UVB at all.

This would seem to a contradiction in terms – a UV lamp that offers no UBV. That said, to be fair, it does produce UVA light, which I guess is better than nothing.

All the same, with these concerns having been raised it may be better to consider an alternative UV light that does offer at least a measure of UVB light.

Exo Terra Repti-Glo 5.0 Compact Fluorescent Tropical Terrarium Lamp

The Repti-Glo 5.0 can be thought of as the previous bulb’s big brother, and consequently offers higher levels of UVB light. I would therefore suggest that the Repti-Glo 5.0 would make a far more effective source of ultraviolet light for your crested gecko.

In most cases the Repti-Glo 5.0 will provide useful UV light for a distance of around 12” / 30cm. While this might not sound like much – especially if your cage is some 18-24” (45-60cm) in height – with their stick toe pads crested geckos are able to scale the walls of their cage to bask directly under the bulb. By placing a piece of cork bark closeby you will make this process all the easier for your pet.

All in all this is a good little bulb for the caring crestie keeper looking to supplement the ultraviolet light that their pet is receiving.

What Is the Best Crested Gecko UV Light?

The market for reptile UV lights is quite competitive, which has been effective at keeping costs to a minimum. As a result, all three of the UV bulbs discussed are quite competitively priced. Cost therefore shouldn’t be a factor when deciding on which bulb to use.

Personally I have been using the Exo Terra Repti-Glo 5.0 for some months with great results, but I am also keen to experiment with the Zoo Med ReptiSun 5.0 to see if there is any noticable difference in behavior.

I personally feel that either of these two represent the best crested gecko UV lights currently on the market.

Setting Up Your Crested Gecko UV Bulb

Before we finish off this guide there is one more question that you’ll need to ask yourself – how will you actually for your UV light to your crested gecko vivarium?

Remember that UVB light doesn’t pass through glass or perspex, so you’ll either need to place the bulb inside your crested gecko’s tank, or use a tank with a mesh lid through which you can shine the light.

These days the most popular cages for cresties are probably the glass Exo Terra vivariums. Fortunately Exo Terra make specific hoods designed to fit over their Exo Terra glass vivarium range, complete with a bulb holder and on/off switch.

If, like me, you’re using an Exo Terra cage for your crestie things therefore couldn’t be simpler – just buy a hood of a suitable size and screw in your UV bulb. Personally I’m using this hood with a Repti-Glo 5.0 bulb right now with good results.

Lastly, please be aware that the UV output of any reptile lighting setup falls over time. At present it is recommended that your bulb is changed every six months, even if it still seems to be producing visible light. Doing so will ensure that your crestie benefits from the maximum amount of UV light at all times.

If you have any further questions about crested gecko UV lights, or you have any experiences you’d like to share then please leave your thoughts in the comments section below…

Photo by Chris Parker2012

The post Best Crested Gecko UV Lights appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.

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