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So you’re planning to buy your very first tarantula? If so, welcome to the hobby! However, before you take that giant step to tarantula ownership there are a number of things you should carefully consider… Based on my experiences of chatting to new tarantula keepers over the years I thought it would be useful to […] The post Things to Consider Before Buying a Tarantula appeared first on Keeping Exotic...
So you’re planning to buy your very first tarantula? If so, welcome to the hobby! However, before you take that giant step to tarantula ownership there are a number of things you should carefully consider…
Based on my experiences of chatting to new tarantula keepers over the years I thought it would be useful to make a list of these. So before you bring home your Rose Haired tarantula or your Brazilian Black ensure you have suitable answers to the following questions….
Have You Fully Researched Their Care Requirements?
These days it is easier than ever before to find tarantula care information – whether that is through blogs like this one or on YouTube.
That means there’s really no excuse not to do your research, ensuring that you have a full understanding of how to keep the species you have set your heart on.
Is Your Cage Positioned Appropriately?
Tarantulas can be sensitive animals, and correctly positioning their cage can help to ensure your success. For example, you’ll want to make sure that your tarantula’s cage doesn’t receive direct sunlight (where a glass tank can overheat like a greenhouse in the summer).
I have a detailed article considering these elements here.
Is Your Heater Working Properly?
Unless you’re lucky enough to live somewhere really hot then you’re going to need to artificially heat your tarantula cage. This is especially important in the winter months, where there can be a huge difference between the tropical 25’C temperature that your spider will enjoy and your cold, unheated house while you’re out at work.
So don’t just buy a heater and assume all will be well; instead invest the time to set up the cage and heater, then monitor it for a few days to ensure all is well. A thermometer is recommended to help you track temperatures over this period, easily allowing you to confirm all is well.
Do You Have the Necessary Time & Passion?
Tarantulas are awesome pets, but they’re generally not the kind of animal that we build a “bond” with. As a result, there is a temptation to see tarantulas as easily “disposable” pets – something to enjoy for a short period of time and then to get rid of in the future when the passion dries up.
Before taking on the care of any live animal it is therefore crucial to be honest with yourself. Is your desire for a pet tarantula really just a passing fad, or are you certain you’ll maintain your interest for years to come?
Additionally, while the weekly time commitment of keeping tarantulas is much less than for other pets like fish or dogs, there is still some commitment. Therefore it is wise to make certain you will have a little time each week for feeding, cleaning and any other routine maintenance required.
There is little more frustrating than seeing people giving up their pets because they just don’t have the time.
Have You Selected the Correct Substrate?
Over the years opinions have changed considerably when it comes to the “best” tarantula substrate. Once upon a time it was normal to use substrates like gravel, sand or even Astroturf, but things have moved on.
Not only do the substrates we use today differ quite significantly to the early days of the tarantula hobby, but furthermore you may want to add a decent depth of substrate in which they can burrow. You’ll find detailed information on tarantula substrates here.
Does Your Tarantula Have Somewhere to Hide Away?
Very few tarantulas will willingly sit out in the open during the daylight hours. Instead, they’ll hide away, out of view, to ensure they don’t become dinner for something larger. In captivity, providing your tarantula with a hide of some kind will help to ensure that they feel safe and behave normally.
Additionally, the more skittish tarantula species seem far more likely to bolt for freedom when you open the cage if they don’t have a hide. There are plenty of options available, though arguably a suitably-sized piece of cork bark is the most effective (and attractive) option.
Does Their Cage Allow Suitable Ventilation?
There is little more guaranteed to result in a sick – or even dead – tarantula than a cage that is dripping wet. Such an environment allows fungi, bacteria and other pathogens to gain hold which can quickly lead to demise of your tarantula.
Therefore when selecting a suitable tarantula cage you’ll want to ensure that it has suitable ventilation in the form of air holes or a section of mesh, allowing the air to circulate properly.
Where Will You Get the Food?
Tarantulas will, on the whole, eat live insects. Typical food items include roaches, locusts and crickets. A question to ask yourself, therefore, is where you’ll get these insects regularly. You’ll also want to ensure that you have the budget to regularly buy new feeder insects.
If you live in a very rural area, like the wilds of Canada, it may not be easy to source suitable insects, even via mail order. As a result, you may end up having to breed your own insects; another “hurdle” to consider before investing in your first pet tarantula.
What Will You Do At Vacation Time?
One final consideration is what you’ll do at vacation time. After all, very few pet boarding services will accept your eight-legged friend. Fortunately, there are a number of potential alternatives which I’ve written about here.
There are many amazing things about keeping and breeding reptiles – but vacation time isn’t one of them. After all, most traditional pet boarding facilities would have a heart attack if you rang them up to ask about boarding fees for your python or bearded dragon. What is a reptile keeper to do? In this […] The post How to Look After Reptiles While You’re on Vacation appeared first on Keeping Exotic...
There are many amazing things about keeping and breeding reptiles – but vacation time isn’t one of them.
After all, most traditional pet boarding facilities would have a heart attack if you rang them up to ask about boarding fees for your python or bearded dragon.
What is a reptile keeper to do?
In this article we’re going to look at some of the potential options available to you, so that you can enjoy your time away without constantly worrying about how your pets are getting on…
Ask Your Local Reptile Store
Opening a reptile shop is very rarely a route to instant riches. The costs associated with properly caring for reptiles and amphibians means that very few reptile store owners are driving around in a Rolls Royce. Little wonder, then, that an increasing number of reptile stores now offer boarding for your pets.
If you have a local reptile store then it is well worth asking if they offer reptile boarding. Even if they don’t then they may know someone locally who offers such a service.
Of course, just because your local reptile store offers pet boarding doesn’t necessarily mean you should take them up on it. Spend some time investigating their standards of care, the costs involved and find out where your exotics will be housed.
Many reptile stores, for example, simply keep your exotics in any spare display tanks they may have with a note on them that your animals aren’t for sale. The risk, here, is that your pets may become unnecessarily stressed with so many people walking past and tapping on the glass.
Take your time to carefully consider all the options available to you before deciding on who you will entrust your exotics to while you’re on vacation.
Seek Out Specialist Reptile Boarding Facilities
Alongside traditional reptile stores there are a limited number of specialist pet boarding facilities. There are also a small number of “at home” pet boarding services, where you can leave your pets where they are, and a dedicated expert will come to feed them and check on them regularly.
Again, try to seek advice in your local area and look for reviews or recommendations from other reptile keepers. Joining your local reptile society (if one exists) can be a good way to meet fellow exotic pet keepers.
Alternatively, Facebook is alive with groups focusing on specific locations. Spend some time discovering your local reptile-keeping community who may then be able to direct you to their preferred pet boarding service.
Use a Fellow Reptile Keeper
Reptile keepers tend to be a friendly, passionate and knowledgeable bunch. While we’re still reasonably thin on the ground when compared to other hobbies, there’s still a good chance that there are other keepers living nearby.
These same local reptile associations and location-based discussion boards can be a great way to meet local keepers. Over time, true friendships can blossom; and these are arguably the best solution of all when going on vacation.
There are numerous reasons why sharing vacation care with a friend works well. Firstly, the costs are minimal because you can simply offer to pet sit for your friend in exchange when they go on vacation themselves. Secondly you can feel reasonably confident that your reptile-keeping friends know what they’re doing when it comes to looking after exotics.
Lastly, rather than just hiring someone you don’t know, using the services of a friend means there is a bond of trust. You’ll know what herptiles they keep, how they look after them and their knowledge base.
So get out there and start making friends with other exotic pet keepers; you’ll be surprised how handy they can be when it comes to vacation time!
Ask a Friend
I live deep in the countryside, where knowledgeable exotic pet keepers and reptile stores are very thin on the ground. In these cases it might be necessary to try to enlist the help of a non-reptile keeper.
In truth, it is unlikely that many non-exotic pet keepers will be willing to defrost snake food, handle locusts or get your python out for a health check. As a result, minimal care is likely. However if you’re only heading away for a short period of time and just want someone to top up waters and keep an eye on things then it can work.
Under these circumstances, however, try to spend some time before going away on “training”. Get your friend used to your exotic pets, help them understand the key ingredients of care (such as checking the thermometer for a suitable temperature) and make them comfortable around them. With a little luck your neighbour might just be willing to carry out some basic checks and let you know if they have any concerns at all.
Take a Chance
Depending on what you keep, and how long you’re going on vacation for, it may be possible to simply leave your pets to their own devices. My collection includes a wide variety of invertebrates such as tarantulas, mantis and stick insects. With suitable feeding and watering before I go away I don’t worry too much about taking a long weekend away.
Of course, things can be rather different for more “demanding” species of exotic pets like poison dart frogs, so only you can decide whether this is a risk worth taking. This should only be an option if you’re fully confident that your pets will remain in the best of health in your absence.
Take Your Pets With You
Possibly the most random idea of all is to take your pets on vacation with you. Now, of course, things aren’t going to be easy if you’re going abroad but if you’re travelling in your home country then it may be easier to take your corn snake with you.
Indeed, I recently packed up my exotic pet collection and transported them to France for a vacation. In this way I could keep an eye on them the whole time and knew they’d get the best possible care – but without excessive fees.
Exotic pet keepers deserve vacations just like anyone else. While at first glance it may seem like a mammoth problem there are a variety of ways to keep your captives happy and healthy during this time. Before long you’ll be home again, relaxed and tanned, and with your reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates in the best of health.
What do you do when going on vacation? Please leave your experiences in the comments section below…
The post How to Look After Reptiles While You’re on Vacation appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.
If we’re brutally honest about it, exotic pet keepers have developed something of a poor reputation over the years. Not only are many people scared of the animals that we keep (especially snakes and tarantulas) but animal rights campaigners point to poor captive husbandry standards. This is hardly helped by all the many different exotic […] The post Common Mistakes People Make When Choosing an Exotic Pet appeared first on Keeping Exotic...
If we’re brutally honest about it, exotic pet keepers have developed something of a poor reputation over the years.
Not only are many people scared of the animals that we keep (especially snakes and tarantulas) but animal rights campaigners point to poor captive husbandry standards.
This is hardly helped by all the many different exotic pets that are put up for adoption each year, or simply deserted without a thought as to their welfare. For example, just last year I found a corn snake that had been placed into a plastic water drum and then thrown into a hedge. Bearing in mind I live in the UK, this is not a native species, and it was found in near-freezing temperatures.
Many of these cases of “unwanted” exotic pets are down to the same old mistakes being made time and again. While I doubt this article will have much of an impact on exotic pet husbandry, even if it prevents just one unnecessary rehoming then I feel I will have done some good.
Please feel free to share it with others if you find the article useful, and leave me your own thoughts and opinions on the topic in the comments section below…
Possibly the biggest mistake people make when choosing an exotic pet is to make an impulse buy. I am forever seeing corn snakes and bearded dragons that nobody wants anymore, often because someone bought it without enough thought, and soon got bored of the novelty.
This seems particularly prevalent among people who buy exotic pets for their children, many of whom promptly lose interest and move on to the next fad. Mum and Dad don’t want to do all the work themselves so instead they try to convince someone else to take it off their hands.
Firstly, therefore, don’t buy any pet on impulse and certainly not an exotic. Take the time to do your research, set up the cage properly and to be sure that this is a commitment you’re willing to see through for the long term.
Additionally, if you’re buying an exotic pet for your children then only do so if you’re confident that even if/when your child gets bored you’ll be more than happy to look after it for the long term.
A Lack of Knowledge About Lifespans
Many exotic pets live a surprisingly long time. While a stick insect or praying mantis may be lucky to reach their first birthday many reptiles and amphibians live much longer. For example, I have a ball python that is now 13 years old and that I expect to have for several more decades to come. Tortoises, of course, can live even longer.
Therefore before you invest in a corn snake or a bearded dragon be certain you understand just how long they’ll live for. Furthermore, only make that buying decision once you can honestly say that you’re willing to look after them all that time. If you’re not, then perhaps you should start off with some stick insects instead and see where things go from there.
A Lack of Research About Maximum Sizes
When viewed in a pet store there is very little difference between a ball python and a Burmese python. Surely the only difference is which color you prefer? Of course, knowledgeable readers will be aware that within a few short years the Burmese python will be several times the length of the ball python.
These days my heart sinks when I find a reptile store selling larger pythons, green iguanas and the likes. While a tiny fraction of owners may genuinely have the space and time for such a pet these individuals are likely to be few and far between. Indeed, it’s much more likely that within a few years that giant reticulated python will be yet another rehoming statistic.
Before you purchase any exotic pet, therefore, take the time to understand just how big it can get. Don’t let “I no longer have the space for him” be an excuse. Oddly, there are a host of reptiles, amphibians and exotic pets that reach only modest sizes even as adults, so why not start with one of those instead?
If you need somewhere to start then here’s my list of small pet snakes ideal for beginners.
Ignorance About Future Caging Requirements
With their specialist requirements for heating, humidity and (often) ultraviolet light your pets cage is crucial to a long and healthy life. Get the caging right and you’ll be 90% of the way to success.
All too often, however, people fall in love with a certain species without considering what sort of caging they’ll need in the future. That baby ball python might look cute in their tiny plastic box, but even he will need a decent-sized new cage within a matter of months.
Before buying any exotic pet therefore be sure to do your research so you understand what sort of caging you’re going to need. This relates not just to the eventual size of the cage but also the features required.
Lastly, don’t forget to work out how much all this will cost you. If you can’t afford the best caging possible for the pet you’re considering then it may be best to choose something less demanding.
Not Considering How an Exotic Pet Will Be Fed
Many exotic pets have feeding habits that could be considered “distasteful” by many. Snakes eat dead mice and rats. Tarantulas, lizards and praying mantis will catch live insects – often nibbling away at them while they’re still wriggling. It might not be pleasant but it is a crucial part of owning an exotic pet.
Some years I sold a praying mantis to someone, and provided them with a full care sheet. I also provided my details so they could ask me any questions they might have in the future.
After that I heard nothing at all, till I bumped into them out of the blue some months later. It turns out that their mantis had died. The reason? They decided they didn’t like feeding it on insects, so had instead given it nothing but banana to eat. Stupid, no?
In other words, don’t buy a snake if you’re unhappy about handling dead rodents or watching it eat one. Don’t buy a tarantula if you’re unhappy about handling live crickets or locusts, or feel bad about seeing them getting eaten. Things won’t change.
While there are a few vegetarian reptiles, generally speaking you’re going to have to feed most exotic pets on foods that make many people squirm. If you can’t handle that then perhaps look for another type of pet.
Not Appreciating the Costs of Properly Caring for an Exotic Pet
Buying an exotic pet is a “front loaded” investment. The vast majority of the cost involved with buying an exotic pet is getting their cage all set up properly to begin with. But don’t think that once you’ve bought your ball python cage with all the trimmings that you’re done.
Buying exotic pet food isn’t cheap. Vets bills can be high. Many exotics also grow rapidly and so may need to be rehoused several times in the coming years. It is therefore a mistake to assume that exotic pets are “cheap”. Oh sure, a little tub of stick insects is unlikely to break the bank, but reptiles and amphibians require funds to care for properly.
As a result it makes sense to consider your financial situation. Only invest in an exotic pet if you’re confident that you’ve got the disposable income necessary to look after them for the long term, no matter what their requirements may be.
Not Understanding the Time Commitment of Exotic Pets
In comparison to more traditional pets like dogs, horses or tropical fish one benefit of exotic pets is the minimum time commitment they require. They don’t need to be walked daily and many can be cleaned far less regularly than your rabbit in its hutch. That said, there are still some commitments.
For example you’ll need to find the time to buy food for your pet. If that involves an hours round trip to the exotic pet store then so be it. Larger reptiles will also need to be handled regularly to keep them docile. Cleaning and feeding obviously takes time.
Just as importantly, however, you’re going to want the time just to enjoy them at your leisure. Peering into a vivarium and watching your crested gecko or bearded dragon going about their day is one of the true pleasures of exotic pet keeping.
Possibly one of the most common reasons of all that I see given for rehomings is that “I simply don’t have the time anymore”. Now, whether this is genuine or just the excuse of someone who got bored but won’t face the truth is another matter. But think about the future and be honest with yourself.
Are you planning to have children in the near future? Is your career likely to involve crazy long hours from time to time (such as those working in accounting near tax return time)? If so, an exotic pet may not be for you. Their needs may be quite modest but if you’re going to buy an exotic then you must be committed to giving them exactly what they need – no matter what.
This is a call to action. There are too many exotic pets being put up for adoption, and at least here in the UK animal shelters are being overrun with corn snakes and bearded dragons.
So as passionate exotic pet owners lets really put some effort into helping new keepers understand the realities of the hobby.
Hopefully, if we work together, we can help to ward off people who don’t have the time, money, space or commitment to look after their pets for the long term.
In doing so, we’ll improve the situation for many reptiles and amphibians, as well as helping the public perception of exotic pet keepers in general. And let’s be honest; we can do with all the help we can get.
The post Common Mistakes People Make When Choosing an Exotic Pet appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.
There are over 800 different recognised species of tarantula, so you might think that choosing the best tarantula pet would be a challenging exercise. Fortunately, despite so many different types of tarantula being available to pet owners, only a fraction of these are readily available from reptile shops. Further species may be sourced from hobbyist […] The post Best Tarantula Pet appeared first on Keeping Exotic...
There are over 800 different recognised species of tarantula, so you might think that choosing the best tarantula pet would be a challenging exercise.
Fortunately, despite so many different types of tarantula being available to pet owners, only a fraction of these are readily available from reptile shops. Further species may be sourced from hobbyist breeders, which are often the best source of tarantulas, due to their wider range and more reasonable prices.
How to Choose the Best Pet Tarantula
In order to choose the best pet tarantula there are a number of factors that you should consider:
Your Level of Experience
Possibly the most important factor when selecting a species of tarantula as a pet is how much experience you have. Is this your first tarantula, or do you have experience of caring for more common species – and are now looking to upgrade to something a little more “exciting”?
Due to the diversity of tarantulas on the market, there are species for all experience levels. The best pet tarantulas for beginners will normally be quite docile in nature, therefore minimizing the chances of you getting bitten. Such spiders can often be held safely, or at the very least will make routine maintenance far safer for you.
The best tarantula pets for beginners also tend to be slow moving, for similar reasons of practicality. Fast-moving tarantulas can be far more difficult (and stressful!) to look after, so a gentle “plodder” is unlikely to present any nasty surprises when their cage is opened.
They also tend to be quite forgiving of a wide range of captive habitats, in contrast to some more advanced species that are rather more fussy. They typically obtain a modest size of some 5-6” across the legs, making them an impressive specimen without needing a overly large cage.
For more experienced keepers, however, who may have gained a reasonable amount of experience with “beginner” tarantulas, you may be looking to move onto something a little more challenging; something larger, or faster moving, or more aggressive for example.
Be honest with yourself, and carefully consider what your experience level. A beginner tarantula keeper purchasing a more “advanced” species of tarantula such as an Usambara Orange Baboon or a Goliath Birdeating spider may find they have bitten off more than they can chew.
These same species, however, can make fantastic pet tarantulas for those with more experience.
The Reason for Buying a Pet Tarantula
Why are you looking to buy a pet tarantula in the first place? Many first-time tarantula keepers are looking for a species that is impressive in appearance but can be easily and safely handled.
For enthusiasts who are looking to create an incredible “zoo exhibit” cage, where they can observe their specimens going about their daily lives in naturalistic conditions, many of the more common tarantulas (such as the Chilean Rose Hair) may be quite a dull option. Far better to opt for something more active and colorful such as an Indian Ornamental.
Alternatively there are those species that will barely be seen, but have become popular as more experienced keepers enjoy the challenge of keeping a new (and potentially fiesty) species, and learning more about their habits.
So consider why you’re looking to buy a tarantula in the first place to help you select the best tarantula pet for your needs.
The Budget That You Have Available
Tarantulas can vary widely in price, with some baby tarantulas of more common species costing less than a cup of coffee. At the other end of the scale, larger, rarer or more colorful species can cost $100 or more.
It is therefore a good idea to consider how much you’re willing to pay for your tarantula. Consulting price-lists, or forums with a “for sale” section can be a good idea of getting your eye in, and deciding just how much each species is likely to cost you.
The last thing you want to do is to make your mind up on a particular type of tarantula, only to find that such a specimen will cost you several times you original budget.
In general, tarantulas suitable for beginners tend to be much cheaper to buy than more “advanced” species.
How Much Patience You Have in Sourcing a Tarantula
Some tarantulas are much easier to find than others in the pet trade. For example, you’re unlikely to have too many problems when looking for a Honduran Curly Hair or even a Mexican Red Knee, while others may require patience until a suitably sized specimen becomes available.
As an alternative, adult specimens of the stunningly-colored Greenbottle Blue tarantula are only rarely made available, and can be expensive when they do reach the market.
What is the Best Tarantula Pet?
Now that we’ve discussed how to select a suitable tarantula for your own personal situation it makes sense to look at some of the best species for you to consider.
The following species generally meet all the requirements for a “first time” tarantula; they tend to be easy to care for, mid-sized, docile and easy to care for. Most (but not all) are reasonably simple to source from most reptile shops, so you’re unlikely to have to do too much shopping around to find a specimen.
Rose Haired Tarantula
Arguably the most common species of tarantula kept today, the Chilean Rose Haired tarantula is deserving of it’s popularity. Growing to around 5” in legspan, this ground-dwelling spider is one of the most docile species available and can be safely held by keepers of all experience levels.
Typically brown in color, some specimens have a beautiful pink or purple sheen to the carapace, while the less-common “Red Color Form” – often shortened to RCF – is a beautiful bright reddish/ginger.
The rose hair is easily kept by even beginners, requiring only the most basic level of care and feeding. In many ways, the Rose Hair is the best tarantula pet on the market, ideal for even the least experienced tarantula keeper.
Honduran Curly Haired Tarantula
Almost tying with the Rose Hair in terms of being the best tarantula pet, the Honduran Curly Hair is superficially very similar in appearance.
It attains a similar size to the Rose Hair and is typically clothed in dark brown hairs. On closer inspection, however, you will realize why is so-called. The body is covered in paler hairs that have a distinctly “curly” appearance. They look almost like they’ve just been to the salon.
The Curly Haired tarantula is similarly easy to keep, can be safely handled and is generally almost as easy to find as the Chilean Rose spider. For a new tarantula keeper looking for the best species to start with, either of these two would make the ideal starter tarantula.
What’s more, they’re both frequently available as adults for very reasonable prices, which means you won’t have to save up for too long before bringing home your very first pet tarantula.
Mexican Red Knee Tarantula
The Mexican Red Knee is possibly the “best known” tarantula available in the hobby. It is the species that many people think of when you mention tarantulas – being primarily black in color but with those bright yellowy/orange patches on it’s legs.
Part of the reason why this species is so well-known is that it was one of the original species of tarantula kept, and is known for being very docile indeed, making it ideal for handling. Like the previous tarantulas mentioned, it also tends to be quite forgiving in terms of captive conditions.
If there is a weak point to the Mexican Red Knee then it is the fact that this species is now considered an endangered species. So popular was it as a pet that thousands of this slow-growing tarantula were caught in the wild, leading to perilous numbers remaining.
It is now listed in CITES, meaning that wild-caught specimens can no longer be imported. All the Mexican Red Knees that you’re likely to come across in the hobby are consequently captive bred. When you realize that this species is quite slow growing – females may take five years to reach maturity – then it is little surprise that this species can be expensive.
If you’ve got the budget available, the Mexican Red Knee can make a great pet tarantula, having all the benefits of the two aforementioned species, just be aware that you’ll need to spend more on buying your tarantula.
Other Grammostola Species
The Chilean Rose Haired tarantula mentioned above is a member of the Grammostola genus. As it turns out, this genus contains a number of other species, many of which are similarly-sized and equally docile. One such example is the Brazilian Black, though of course there are other species.
While other Grammostola species are less-frequently encountered they can still make excellent pets. When visiting exotic pet stores in your region, therefore, keep an eye out for any species with a Latin name that begins with “Grammostola”. Do you due diligence before bringing any species home as a pet, but you’re likely to find that they make ideal pet tarantulas.
Pink Toed Tarantulas
Lastly, the New World Pink Toes tarantulas can make excellent pet tarantulas for anyone looking for something a little “different”.
Unlike any of the other species highlighted above, Pink Toes are arboreal (tree-dwelling) tarantulas which therefore require slightly different care. Their cage needs to provide vertical surfaces such as cork bark which they can climb on, for example.
The Avicularia genus is huge, with a wide range of different species within it. Possibly the best-known and most popular of these is Avicularia avicularia.
These tarantulas can be a little more “flighty” that the “plodders” already discussed, which means that more care must be taken when handling them. On the other hand, the more commonly-available species tend to be very unlikely to bite, and can offer something a little bit “different” for the beginner.
For those people trying to convince their family to let them have their first tarantula, there is also something to be said for how “cute” Pink Toes look. Clothed in long black hairs, but with pink hairs towards the end of each leg, many people find these tarantulas quite visually appealing.
If the idea of a big brown tarantula has failed to win your argument, you may find that suggesting one of these fluffy little fellows helps to swing the argument in your favour!
The Giant Spiny Stick Insect is a thoroughly impressive species of stick insect. Growing to some 15cm or so in length these are big, bulky creatures. Covered in sharp spines they are sometimes also known as the “Thorny Devil Stick Insect”. These spines are particularly noticeable in the males, which possess a particularly large spine […] The post Giant Spiny Stick Insect (Eurycantha calcarata) Care Sheet appeared first on Keeping Exotic...
The Giant Spiny Stick Insect is a thoroughly impressive species of stick insect. Growing to some 15cm or so in length these are big, bulky creatures.
Covered in sharp spines they are sometimes also known as the “Thorny Devil Stick Insect”. These spines are particularly noticeable in the males, which possess a particularly large spine on the femur of their rear legs. It has been reported that this spine is so sizeable than in their country of origin it is used as a fishing hook.
Interestingly, if you’ve kept other species of stick insect over the years, then you’ll know that they normally rest off the ground in the twigs and branches you provide.
While young nymphs of the Giant Spiny stick insect may also do this, soon enough the more mature nymphs and adults make their way down to the ground where they spend the vast majority of their time. Indeed, in the wild this species is most commonly encountered on the forest floor amongst leaf litter.
If you’re keen to keep the Giant Spiny Stick Insect then read on for our detailed care sheet…
Wild Habitat of Eurycantha calcarata
Eurycantha calcarata was described by Lucas in 1869. They are most commonly found in New Guinea, which is why they are sometimes known in the hobby as the “New Guinea Spiny Stick Insect”.
Alongside New Guinea, however, they are also found in New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands. Here they typically inhabit moist, humid tropical rainforest areas meaning that both moisture and warmth are crucial for their care.
Giant Spiny Stick Insect Cages
While older juveniles and adults will spend much of their time on the floor of the cage they still moult just like any other stick insect: by attaching their back legs to a twig and then sliding out of the old skin. This means that selecting a cage of a suitable height is important if the the Giant Spiny stick insect is to be happy.
Generally speaking a good rule of thumb here is that the cage should be at least three times as tall as your insects are long.
At the same time, it is crucial to appreciate the amount of time your Giant Spiny stick insects will spend on the ground. As a result, you’ll also want to ensure they have suitable space to move around and feel comfortable. Experts recommend that the cage should be at least twice as deep and wide as your stick insects are long.
For larger specimens of Eurycantha calcarata this means you’ll ideally be looking for a stick insect cage measuring some 45cm tall, 30cm deep and 30cm long. Of course, these are the minimum recommended dimensions, and larger cages will be just as welcome.
When it comes to selecting cages for this species there are three suitable types depending on your circumstances:
Exo Terra cages are the “ultimate” cages for stick insects. They’re made from glass, with two neat doors that open at the front. This makes it easy to access your insects for handling, feeding and cleaning.
It is also possible to purchase a specially-built hood for Exo Terras, allowing you to add lighting to your cage. The end result is that these cages look fantastic, while also being very practical for keepers. They get my highest recommendation; and Exo Terra even make a model of the perfect dimensions; 45cm x 30cm x 30cm.
Mesh / Netting Cages
A second option when it comes to housing for the Giant Spiny stick insects are specially-made mesh cages. The benefit of such cages is that your stick insects will easily be able climb up the walls, rather than having to rely on climbing up the twigs and branches you insert.
Mesh cages are also typically quite reasonably priced, and as you imagine they offer excellent ventilation. While this ventilation prevents the build-up of mould, it can make these cages difficult to heat in winter. After all, the heat escapes continually.
As a result, while I quite like netting cages I tend to only use them in the summer months when the ambient air temperature is suitable for my insects. For all but the warmest few months of the year I prefer the Exo Terras which still have some beneficial ventilation but their glass walls make them much easier to keep warm.
For small Giant Spiny stick insects, I sometimes use plastic containers as sold in hardware and home decor stores. A few holes can be drilled in the lid for ventilation and these are typically very easy to heat.
These can be ideal for young nymphs, which can otherwise suffer from dehydration, however they don’t look great. After a few initial moults ,therefore, I tend to move my stick insects into an Exo Terra to create a fantastic display. After all, there doesn’t seem much point in keeping exotic pets if you can’t enjoy looking at them, right?
Heating & Temperatures
While the Giant Spiny stick insect might be OK at room temperature during the summer months, for the vast majority of the year they’ll require some kind of supplemental heating. A temperature of around 25’C, plus or minus a couple of degrees, tends to work well for this species and keeps the nymphs growing at a healthy rate.
In most cases the easiest heating option is to use a reptile heat mat. These cost a matter of pennies per day to run, and can simply be slid under the cage you have chosen. Generally these heaters require no thermostat because they don’t get too hot, though some keepers like to use a matstat to be certain their pets can’t overheat on warm days.
If your house is particularly cold and you’re using an Exo Terra you can top up the heat provided by your heat mat by installing a heat lamp in the hood.
In my experience you won’t need a very powerful bulb to keep such a small cage warm; a 25 watt bulb is probably more than enough. If you’re opting to use a heat lamp like this, however, you will need to use a thermostat to prevent overheating.
Finally, if you opt for a mesh cage outside the summer months then you’ll need to heat the cage using a stand-alone heating lamp and thermostat.
If can be a good idea to keep a digital thermometer in your stick insect cage to ensure that the temperature remains within acceptable bounds, allowing you to make modifications to your thermostat settings if required.
Water & Humidity
The Giant Spiny stick insect likes a humid environment, and without it your pets may struggle to moult. The easiest way to do this is to spray their cage liberally every few days with a houseplant spray gun.
Between sprayings allow the cage to dry out slightly, which helps to prevent mould or fungus from getting established. Note that a higher humidity is easier to achieve in an Exo Terra than it is in a mesh cage, where the moisture may evaporate away too quickly.
Larger Giant Spiny stick insects may also benefit from having a water bowl, which they may drink from while they are on the floor of the cage. At the same time, it is best to avoid putting a water bowl into the cage with smaller nymphs who might otherwise drown in even a small volume of open water.
Traditionally many stick insect keepers include little in the way of tank decor. After all, why bother when the insects spend all their time up in the canopy? For Eurycantha calcarata, however, tank decor can make rather more sense thanks to all the time that larger specimens will spend on the floor of their cage.
Arguably the most important element here is a suitable substrate. This will help your insects to feel comfortable as it will mimic the forest floor in New Guinea.
A whole host of options are suitable. For example, potting compost can work well – if you can be sure that it has no chemicals or pesticides in it (not always easy). Generally it is safer to use a substrate sold specially for reptiles and other exotic pets where you can be sure of its purity.
Over the years I’ve tested a range of different substrates with my phasmids, and my preference these days is for coconut fibre. Don’t worry – it looks nothing like coconut. It’s just an absorbent, soft and pliable compost-looking substrate.
This coconut fibre is also known as “coir” and is available from reptile stores or from ecommerce sites like Amazon. What makes it so great is that it not only looks fantastic but it’s also highly absorbent, which can be useful for keeping the humidity of your Giant Spiny insect cage up.
The second element to consider is providing some suitable places for your stick insects to hide. In the wild the Giant Spiny stick insect doesn’t just sit around in the open; if they did they’d soon be picked off by a long list of potential predators. Instead, they like to conceal themselves in leaf litter and beneath pieces of loose bark.
The first step in terms of a hide is therefore to either invest in some pieces of cork bark or lay some flower pots on their side in the cage. Alongside this, however, you may also want to consider scattering some leaf litter across the otherwise virgin substrate, which not only looks great but allows your Giant Spiny stick insects to behave more naturally.
Feeding Giant Spiny Stick Insects
Giant Spiny stick insects are herbivorous and will eat a wide range of different plant material. Most breeders use bramble or oak as their standard fare, though they will also eat hawthorn, apple, pear, cherry and beech.
Personally, I focus on bramble, because even in the depths of winter these leaves can be found when most of the other food plants have dropped their leaves.
Like all stick insects, Eurycantha calcarata appreciate fresh, soft, green leaves. Once they have been cut and placed into a heated cage they can quickly wither and dry up, making them far less appealing.
The solution is to place the stems of the food plant into a jar of water, rather like one might place a bouquet of flowers into a vase. In this way, the food plant will probably stay healthy for around a week, after which point you’ll need to change it.
Be aware, therefore, that you may need to take a walk into the countryside each weekend irrespective of the weather if your insects are feed. Lastly, when placing the stems into water be sure that your Giant Spiny stick insects cannot fall into the water and drown themselves.
Breeding Eurycantha calcarata
Giant Spiny stick insects are very easy to breed, and no special conditions are required. Producing eggs is as simple as keeping both sexes together in the same cage; as a reminder they are easy to sex by looking out for the giant spine on the rear legs of the males.
The eggs will fall to the bottom of the cage where they will incubate. They can be left in situ, however generally it is safer and easier to remove them to incubate separately. In this manner you can avoid the risk of throwing eggs away when cleaning your stick insect cage, and you can also keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t become rotten.
Please note that Giant Spiny stick insect eggs can take a long time to hatch. One scientific study found that when incubated at temperatures in the mid twenties the eggs take an average of 101 days to hatch.
All the same, this incubation period is highly variable, with some youngsters hatching sooner, and others not making an appearance for some additional months. In other words, so long as the eggs look healthy (they are not being attacked by mould etc.) don’t get too impatient; one day you’ll arrive home to find all manner of tiny babies crawling around the cage.
The post Giant Spiny Stick Insect (Eurycantha calcarata) Care Sheet appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.
I’m embarrassed to admit that when the Brazilian White Knee tarantula started to enter the hobby I was far from impressed. At the time I was focusing my attention on the more colourful species of tarantula such as the Greenbottle Blue, the Cobalt Blue and the Indian Ornamental. Then along comes a tarantula that is […] The post Brazilian White Knee Tarantula (Acanthoscurria geniculata) Care Sheet appeared first on Keeping Exotic...
I’m embarrassed to admit that when the Brazilian White Knee tarantula started to enter the hobby I was far from impressed. At the time I was focusing my attention on the more colourful species of tarantula such as the Greenbottle Blue, the Cobalt Blue and the Indian Ornamental.
Then along comes a tarantula that is just boring brown with white stripes on its legs – hardly what you’d call exciting when compared to brilliant blue and yellow specimens. But in retrospect I realized what a big mistake I made. Fortunately, this all became clear in the last few years when I finally picked up a few juveniles at a knock-down price.
Now, the Brazilian White Knee tarantula (Acanthoscurria geniculata) has become one of my favorite species of tarantula for a whole load of reasons. Where shall we start? Firstly, I have found that the Brazilian White Knee has one of the healthiest appetites of any tarantula I’ve kept.
Mine eat pretty much every single day unless they’re coming up to moult! What’s more they don’t mess around – the locust has barely touched the substrate before they pounce on it like a starved tiger. It really is something to see – and that makes feeding this species brilliant fun!
There’s more. This rate of feeding also makes them very fast growing tarantulas indeed, rather like Salmon Pinks, and even a small specimen will grow so fast you’ll be shocked. This means that they’re a great tarantula choice if you want a big, chunky specimen but are on a small budget. Just buy a tiddler and feed them liberally; in months they’ll grow bigger than you could imagine.
But what about those “boring” colors? Well, get up close to a Brazilian White Knee tarantula and you’ll find that they actually have quite a subtle beauty. This is also helped by how big they get – and how quickly.
If you’re looking for a big, impressive tarantula that grows rapidly and eats like its never seen food before then this is the tarantula for you! Let’s discuss exactly how to keep this species now in our detailed Brazilian White Knee tarantula care sheet…
Wild Habitat of the Brazilian White Knee
As the name suggests, Acanthoscurria geniculata is South American tarantula species. Originally described in 1841 by Koch, they are typically found in the Amazon rainforest areas of Brazil. Published field studies have noted specimens in Roraima, in the Carajás region and in Floresta Nacional de Caxiuanã.
This location data highlights that the Brazilian White Knee tarantula is most encountered in the north of Brazil, which is coincidentally also the least-populated area of the country. Sadly, this area is also rich in mineral deposits, and houses some of the largest iron ore mines in South America. Limited conservation studies have yet to reveal whether these activities are impacting numbers of this species.
This equatorial part of the world maintains a comfortable year-round temperature of around 26’C, with heavy rainfall during part of the year and generally quite high humidities. This habitat data suggests that both in size and lifestyle it may be wise to see the care of Acanthoscurria geniculata is being similar to spiders like the Salmon Pink Birdeater.
One interesting point worth making before we move on is that this is considered to be the first species of tarantula to have it’s DNA sampled. Scientists in Denmark announced in a paper published in Nature that they had completed a “draft assembly of the mygalomorph Brazilian white-knee tarantula, Acanthoscurria geniculata” in 2014.
Brazilian White Knee Housing
I rarely see Brazilian White Knee tarantulas for sale as adults – though it does happen. More likely you’re going to end up purchasing a juvenile and rearing it up to maturity. So while that baby Acanthoscurria geniculata might be fine in a small plastic tub for a few months it will likely soon outgrow this home. Soon enough they’ll be needing a “proper” tarantula tank that gives them suitable space to move around and live a natural lifestyle.
For mid-size Acanthoscurria geniculata I use a variety of plastic tubs. The best ones have a hinged lid so that I can peel open one end of the cage and throw in their food without having to take the whole lid off. They also have ventilation holes to allow air to circulate freely.
For larger specimens, however, a good-size glass or plastic cage will be required. Due to their impressive adult size (this species may reach a legspan of 8”) I would suggest a floor area of some 8” x 10” at the minimum, though I like to house mine in larger cages where I can add some more natural features to really set them off a treat.
In a cage of around 30cm in each direction you’ll be able to landscape the cage, including logs, artificial plants and more to really create an amazing display.
You may find that your local reptile store stocks specialist tarantula tanks made from glass or plastic with suitable ventilation. Alternatively my preferred choice for tarantulas are Exo Terra cages, which look great and offer a long list of practical benefits. They have a grill lid to allow for suitable ventilation, they’re easy to heat and the lockable front-opening doors make feeding and routine tank maintenance a breeze.
You can even buy a lighting hood to place over your cage if you desire, helping your tarantula tank to stand out even more.
It is worth investing a decent sum of money into your Acanthoscurria geniculata cage because these are big, hairy and impressive tarantulas which often sit out in the open. As a result, they can be a great species for keepers on the lookout for a good “show” tarantula.
Heating & Temperature
Over the last few years of keeping Brazilian White Knees I have found that they seem to prefer cooler temperatures than many other tarantulas I keep. I have youngsters in plastic tubs that are housed in an “incubator” – essentially a wooden snake vivarium that has a heater placed at the back.
This provides roughly 27’C, but my Acanthoscurria geniculata always seem to be pressed up against the cooler end of their cage where the temperature is closed to 23’C. I have since therefore moved them into a different vivarium where the temperature is lower (thanks to a smaller heater) and they seem much happier.
Therefore I would recommend a temperature of around 22-24’C at the hot end of your Brazilian White Knee cage. As I have found, however, only one end should be heated, while the other remains unheated. This subsequently allows your tarantula to migrate to a cooler area if they so desire.
The easiest way to provide this heating is with a heat mat. These are available in a range of different sizes for a very modest cost, and represent a cheap and practical way of providing artificial heat for your tarantula.
It is also advisable to invest in a thermometer so you can monitor the temperature within your Acanthoscurria cage. My personal preference here is for a digital thermometer designed specifically for exotic pet keepers.
They have one or more temperature sensors attached to wires, which can be fed into the cage. The best ones that I have found have two probes, allowing me to monitor both the hot and the cool end of the cage without disturbing my spiders.
Water & Humidity
While Brazilian White Knees come from tropical Brazil, and therefore appreciate a reasonably high humidity, they don’t seem to do very well on damp substrate.
My choice is therefore to spray their cage once or twice a week, allowing it to dry out between sprayings. For this I either use a simple houseplant spray gun, or simply dribble a little water onto the substrate in the warmest part of their cage.
More importantly, larger tarantulas should be provided with a full, clean water dish so that they can drink whenever they so desire. For this I use small water bowls intended for reptile keepers or small mammals, though some people simply use an upturned bottle lid. This should be regularly cleaned and replenished to keep the water fresh.
There seems to be some disagreement in the hobby about whether or not this species of tarantula likes to burrow. Some keepers find that their specimen readily tries to construct a burrow in which to hide, while others find that their spider barely breaks the surface.
Whatever the case, the first port of call when decking out your tarantula cage will of course be some suitable substrate. Options can include “rainforest substrate” as sold in some reptile stores, or my preferred choice of coconut fibre.
This substrate looks good, permits burrowing and is quite reasonably priced. Simply purchase a compacted “block”, soak it is water so that it expands, then deck out your cage.
You may want to try providing a decent depth of substrate initially – perhaps some 6-12 inches for adults – to see whether they try to construct a burrow. Alternatively, a thinner depth can be provided if you’re confident that your Brazilian White Knee doesn’t burrow.
In either case, a suitable hide should be provided, under which your spider can conceal themselves. As these spiders may burrow, it is crucial that any hide you use is very lightweight; you don’t want your pet getting crushed if it burrows beneath. Decent-sized pieces of cork bark are ideal for this purpose.
Depending on the size of the cage you selected earlier, you may also want to consider landscaping the cage with artificial plants to really make the cage an attractive feature.
Feeding Acanthoscurria geniculata
If I had to point out my favorite thing about Acanthoscurria geniculata it would be their feeding response. Seriously; these guys are monsters when it comes to eating. Unless they’re coming up to moult these fast-growing spiders never seem to turn down a meal. Indeed, I have specimens that will eat every single day between moults!
As this is a large spider you’ll want to feed good-sized prey items – big roaches and locusts are ideal. Some may even take the odd dead mouse if you also keep snakes.
Just be sure to keep your fingers well clear when feeding your Brazilian White Knee as they react so swiftly you don’t want to accidentally get nipped in the carnage!
Feeding this species can be such fun, especially if you have guests round. Try opening up the cage and dropping a feeder insect in for instant entertainment!
Handling the Brazilian White Knee
Hobbyists are divided when it comes to handling Acanthoscurria geniculata. Some people point out that these are reasonably docile spiders, and very rarely try to bite. On the other hand, the Brazilian White Knee has potent urticating hairs, which is readily kicks off.
Many people find these hairs cause irritation and therefore makes handling this species less tempting. Additionally, while bites are rare, this can be quite a large and skittish species. This means there is a risk of them getting dropped or making a run for freedom.
All in all, I think it is fair to say that if you’re looking for a tarantula to hold then this probably isn’t the species for you. Instead you might want to consider slower moving and more docile options such as the Brazilian Black, Rose Hair or Mexican Red Knee.
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