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Keeping Exotic Pets

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  • Richard Adams
  • October 29, 2016 08:48:27 PM
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The UK reptile and amphibian blog, teaching you how to care for exotic pets.

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    Freshwater Central

    Freshwater Central 3.00 Keeping Exotic Pets

    2019-04-29 07:59:37

    This is a pretty good blog, I feel like the current average rating is unfairly low, and that it should be much higher. I'd say the biggest issue is content hasn't been uploaded in a while.

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    Grammostola pulchripes / Chaco Golden Knee Tarantula Care Sheet

    I’m embarrassed to admit it, but when I first stumbled across Grammostola pulchripes at bug shows I was far from wowed. My key concern when choosing tarantulas for my collection is “color” – and at first glance Grammostola pulchripes is just a typical boring, brown spider like so many others.  In the last few years, ... Read moreGrammostola pulchripes / Chaco Golden Knee Tarantula Care Sheet The post Grammostola pulchripes / Chaco Golden Knee Tarantula Care Sheet appeared first on...

    I’m embarrassed to admit it, but when I first stumbled across Grammostola pulchripes at bug shows I was far from wowed. My key concern when choosing tarantulas for my collection is “color” – and at first glance Grammostola pulchripes is just a typical boring, brown spider like so many others. 

    In the last few years, however, my opinions towards this tarantula have changed quite significantly. Now, with quite a few specimens of Grammostola pulchripes in my collection, I want to tell you why the Chaco Golden Knee has established a special place in my heart. 

    Not only is this an amazingly docile tarantula, perfect for the less-experienced or more cautious tarantula keeper, but it also has a subtle beauty all of its own. 

    If you’re considering investing in a Grammostola pulchripes then read on for my own experiences of keeping this species for some years. Let’s get started on our Grammostola pulchripes tarantula care sheet! 

    Appearance

    At first glance Grammostola pulchripes can seem a little less exciting than more colorful species like the Greenbottle Blue or the Colombian Lesserblack. However look a little closer and you’ll find a surprisingly attractive tarantula.

    The first hint as to their appearance comes from their common name – the Chaco Golden Knee tarantula. The “knees” do indeed possess a rich yellow/orange coloration; almost like honey in many specimens. 

    This is also quite a “fluffy” tarantula in the right light, possessing all manner of different browns and golds when you look closely. 

    Lastly, and unlike many other Grammostola tarantulas, this is actually quite a large specimen at adulthood, with some specimens reputedly reaching 7-8” in overall legspan.

    As a result, while you may have a look a little deeper than some of the more “showy” tarantulas this is certainly a beautiful tarantula that is sure to impress your family and friends.  

    Wild Habitat

    Grammostola pulchripes is known to inhabit the grasslands of Argentina and Paraguay. This is a reasonably dry environment, which means that Grammostola pulchripes can be quite a sturdy species that thrives in a range of different conditions. 

    They are considered an “opportunistic burrower” which means they will burrow if the opportunity presents itself, but are often just as happy to hide under a log or rock. 

    In captivity they’re often perfectly contented with a piece of cork bark to hide under, and are recognised for being one of the most “visible” tarantulas commonly kept. This makes them great display animals, as your Grammostola pulchripes will often be seen sat out in plain view in their cage; quite the opposite to many of the “pet holes” like the King Baboon (Pelinobius muticus) that are kept by pet owners. 

    Cages & Housing

    One of the most impressive things about Grammostola pulchripes is their ultimate adult size; females may reach 7-8” in overall legspan, rivalling many of the “bigger” species on the market. This is an important consideration when it comes to selecting a cage; ultimately it’ll need to accommodate quite a sizeable tarantula, though of course smaller specimens will thrive in more modest enclosures. 

    As a terrestrial tarantula, cage height is less of a concern, unless your specimen opts to dig a burrow. My specimens are roughly 50/50 in terms of whether they bother to dig a burrow; I therefore believe it’s a good idea to not only provide a suitable hide but also enough substrate depth to facilitate such activities.  

    At the bare minimum I would suggest a tank of around 30cm x 30cm (floor area) for an adult specimen, though of course a larger cage not only gives more space to roam, but can also make for a more attractive display. 

    Any of the usual suspects are potentially suitable; special spider tanks or modified containers made from glass or perspex, assuming they offer suitable ventilation. Exo Terra terrariums can work well if your specimen is loathe to burrow.

    For my spiderlings I start off with clear plastic deli cups of around 3” in diameter and height, moving them up into square plastic cages measuring around 9” in all directions. Enough substrate is provided for burrowing, should the spider opt to do so, while numerous ventilation holes are added to facilitate proper air movement. Whatever option you choose, be mindful that a stale, stagnant, overly wet tank can be fatal to tarantulas.  

    Heating & Temperature

    My Grammostola pulchripes are currently thriving at temperatures of 20 – 25 degrees Celsius / 68 – 77 degrees Fahrenheit. I have turned a spare room into my own private “spider room” and the ambient temperature is maintained using an oil-filled radiator.

    Of course, I know how lucky I am to have such a facility available to me. 

    For most keepers you’ll need to consider ambient temperatures within your home. If they match my spider room then you won’t go far wrong. If, however, your home does on occasion get too cold (anything much below 20 degrees Celsius / 68 degrees Fahrenheit in my book) then it might be wise to consider some artificial heating for your Grammostola pulchripes cage.

    The easiest solution is to fit a low-wattage undertank heater or heat pad. These should be fitted outside the cage (not inside) to prevent the risk of burns. They should also be placed on the back or side of the cage, rather than underneath, and a suitable thermostat should carefully control the temperature within. If using an artificial tank heater then it is a good idea to create a “thermal gradient” where one section of the tank is warmer than the other; the tarantula can then move around to the area that suits it best at the time.    

    Water & Humidity

    I keep my Grammostola pulchripes in relatively dry conditions and they seem to thrive. Once every few weeks I trickle a little tepid water down the side of the cage to moisten just one corner of their substrate. 

    Other than this, an open water dish is provided at all times to my larger specimens. Due to the number of spiders now in my collection I tend to use tiny deli cups as they’re so cheap to buy. Bottle lids or small rodent bowls may also be used. The water should be replenished regularly to keep it fresh.

    It is not always practical to provide a water dish for truly tiny specimens like spiderlings, in which case I gently mist one wall of the cage once a week. In these circumstances the spiderling can drink water droplets before they evaporate away. As with larger specimens, ensure suitable ventilation is present, and allow the cage to dry out between mistings. 

    Tank Decor

    Grammostola pulchripes is a reasonably undemanding tarantula in captivity. As it’s most basic they should be provided with some substrate to line the base of the cage and somewhere to hide away. 

    Substrate-wise coconut fibre, potting compost or topsoil are all possible options, while a curved piece of cork bark or plant pot laid on its side should provide somewhere to hide away.

    That said, as Grammostola pulchripes is often seen sitting out in plain sight in their cage you may want to consider putting extra focus on creating a visually-appealing cage design. Consider live moss, plants and other decor items to create a cage that really draws the eye.

    Food & Feeding

    If there is one downside to Grammostola pulchripes it is that, like many of their cousins, they grow quite slowly. This species may go off its food for periods of time; so long as your tarantula appears plump and healthy this shouldn’t be of concern. 

    Grammostola pulchripes will generally take any feeder insect small enough to be caught. This normally means anything up to roughly the same body length as your spider. A once-a-week feeding is perfectly acceptable for this species. 

    For tiny spiderlings my food of choice is hatchling black crickets (not brown). Black crickets are more easily handled, slower moving and don’t make as much noise as brown crickets. 

    As spiderlings grow into juveniles I then progress to small locusts and, more recently, roaches. Any of the commonly-kept cockroach species will be suitable; I currently culture both Dubia roaches and Madagascan Giant Hissing cockroaches as food sources for my tarantulas which gives me a huge range of different sized prey items at any one time.  

    Super worms and large crickets can also be suitable for larger specimens. 

    Be sure that any live insects are removed if they are not eaten by your spider; there have been cases of tarantulas getting attacked, particularly by crickets, when attempting to moult. 

    Handling & Temperament

    While I personally advise against the handling of any tarantula, Grammostola pulchripes is surely one of the most docile and slow-moving of all commonly-available species. This makes it ideal for beginners or more cautious tarantula keepers who aren’t quite ready to level up to one of the more “challenging” species like the appropriately-named Orange Bitey Thing

    In reality, it’s very unlikely that your Grammostola pulchripes is going to bolt out of their cage when you open it, and they will plod slowly and calmly over your hand should you allow them. 

    If you’re a reasonably new tarantula keeper be aware that smaller/younger specimens of Grammostola pulchripes can be a little more flighty than older specimens. They tend to slow down with age. Therefore if you’re looking specifically for a slow and docile tarantula then paying a little more for a bigger specimen might be a worthy investment. 

    The post Grammostola pulchripes / Chaco Golden Knee Tarantula Care Sheet appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.


    What Does a Tarantula Eat?

    Tarantulas are carnivorous arachnids that catch and eat any animal they are able to subdue. They are “generalist” predators and do not focus on one single source of food. In the wild, tarantulas will most commonly feed on other invertebrates that they encounter, but they may also eat smaller vertebrates such as lizards or rodents ... Read moreWhat Does a Tarantula Eat? The post What Does a Tarantula Eat? appeared first on Keeping Exotic...

    Tarantulas are carnivorous arachnids that catch and eat any animal they are able to subdue. They are “generalist” predators and do not focus on one single source of food. In the wild, tarantulas will most commonly feed on other invertebrates that they encounter, but they may also eat smaller vertebrates such as lizards or rodents when the opportunity presents itself.

    How Do Tarantulas Hunt?

    Life can be dangerous for a tarantula. They’re a big, juicy meal for many larger animals. As a result they tend to try and keep themselves safe, hiding away in burrows, under logs or in silken retreats in trees. Very rarely will tarantulas in the wild go out and seek out prey to consume; they tend instead to lie in wait for suitable food to come within easy striking distance.  

    Many tarantulas build extensive carpets, matts or strings of webbing, stretching out from their hide for some distance. When a suitably-sized animal wanders across this web it acts like a messaging signal, indicating that there is prey nearby. 

    If hungry, the tarantula will then dart out rapidly, surprising the prey item. The tarantula impales the unfortunate creature with it’s pair of sharp fangs, and drags it back down into the spider’s retreat where it is eaten at leisure.

    Depending on the size of the prey item, it may take a tarantula anywhere from a few hours to an entire night to fully consume the prey item.

    Tarantulas don’t eat the entire body of their prey; instead they inject digestive juices into the body of the captured animal, then suck out the rich nutritious liquid. This typically leaves the dry, sunken, dehydrated outer shell of the animal, which is rolled up and disposed of. In the pet hobby this is often known as a “food bolus” and should be removed to prevent the build-up of fungus or bacteria in the cage. 

    What Do Pet Tarantulas Eat?

    Pet tarantulas will eat almost any animal they are capable of catching and subduing. That said, there are some important considerations to take into account. A few of the most crucial elements when choosing food for a pet tarantula are:

    Danger to your pet – Despite their fearsome reputation, tarantulas can still be injured by some prey items. Some potential food items can fight back, while others can harbour harmful chemicals or parasites. You don’t want to feed prey that could cause harm to your pet.

    Ease of sourcing – Some food sources are much easier to obtain than others, and different options may vary significantly in price. Increasingly, tarantula food can be ordered online and delivered to your door in a matter of days. 

    Tarantula lifestyle – Some prey types may be more suitable for tarantulas than others due to their lifestyle. For example, prey items that burrow into the substrate of the cage may quickly disappear from view before your spider finds them.

    Cleaning requirements – Your tarantula cage should be kept clean and hygienic at all times. This is easier to accomplish with some food types than others, as we will discuss below.

    Let’s now take a look at some of the more common foods that pet tarantulas will eat…

    Cockroaches

    Cockroaches have developed quite a bad reputation over the years. They’re seen by many people as dirty and unhygienic, and are capable of infesting houses. The idea of buying some cockroaches – often known as “roaches” – and willingly bringing them into your home therefore seems like insanity. 

    Fortunately there are a range of roaches available to exotic pet keepers, many of which won’t lead to infestations if they get out. Two of the most popular options are Dubia roaches and Giant Hissing Cockroaches. 

    There are numerous benefits to roaches as tarantula food. The adults get nice and chunky – suitable for even the largest of tarantulas. The youngsters are much smaller, making them perfect for younger tarantulas. They’re easy to care for in the home, and can be bred for an almost endless supply of free food. 

    Crickets

    Crickets are the “classic” live feeder insect, having been fed to tarantulas and other exotics for decades. They come in a range of different types; here in the UK the two most common are brown house crickets and black field crickets. 

    Crickets may be popular, but they also have a range of weaknesses when it comes to tarantula food. Firstly, a tub of crickets can smell pretty bad. Secondly, adult male crickets “chirp”, which can become quite annoying. Even large adult crickets tend to be less of a meal than a decent-sized roach. Worst, though, is that crickets are omnivorous and will eat almost anything they come into contact with. This includes moulting tarantulas. 

    A cricket accidentally left in your tarantula is therefore a risky proposition, and one that I prefer to avoid unless absolutely necessary. 

    Personally I use tiny crickets (pinheads up to instar 2) as the main source of food for spiderlings, but quickly move them onto less risky prey as soon as they’re large enough to take it. 

    My larger tarantulas aren’t given crickets, and it seems to cause them no issues at all. 

    Fruit Flies

    Fruit flies are tiny, and really only suitable for hatchling tarantula spiderlings. They can be bought as “cultures” from some exotic pet stores and breeding facilities, and can be easily bred at home if you so desire.

    Flightless varieties are available from some suppliers, and these can be a lot easier to deal with than their flying counterparts. All the same, I personally find fruit flies a real pain to deal with. For me, maintaining several hundred tiny spiderlings at any one time, hatchling crickets are a far simpler feeding solution. 

    Locusts

    Locusts are less popular than roaches or crickets as tarantula food, but are a mainstay of my feeding regime. They’re available in a huge range of different sizes, from tiny hatchlings just a few millimetres long through to large winged adults. 

    Locusts climb, which can make them more easily-accessible to arboreal tarantulas than other invertebrates that may stay down low. They’re easily handled at all sizes. They won’t infest your home if they get out. The only real weakness is that they’re very difficult to breed at home, so you’ll need to continually buy new supplies from a breeding farm. 

    Mealworms

    Mealworms are the larvae of the flour beetle. Many tarantulas will readily take down a wriggling mealworm with ease. Mealworms are super-easy to care for. They can be kept in the fridge, where they will go into “suspended animation” for a period of time. This means that a single tub can last for weeks or even months, perfect for keepers with just a handful of tarantulas. 

    Mealworms are also probably the easiest feeder insects of all to breed yourself at home. They require only the most basic of care to produce a never-ending supply of free tarantula food.

    That said, mealworms do have a number of potential weaknesses as tarantula food. Firstly, they like to try and burrow down into the substrate, so can quickly disappear from view. Secondly, they’re not always the most active of prey items, so some tarantulas will pay them little attention.

    While mealworms are a decent prey item, you’d be well advised to either put them in a bowl (to prevent burrowing) or to feed them directly to your spider to ensure they get munched quickly. 

    Super Worms / Morio Worms

    Super worms look like mealworms on steroids. They’re another (unrelated) beetle grub, and have largely the same pros and cons of mealworms, apart from the fact that they can be harder to culture at home. 

    Other Tarantulas

    Here’s an uncomfortable truth; many tarantulas won’t think twice about cannibalism. A tarantula will happily chow down on smaller specimens. This is most commonly observed when trying to breed tarantulas, where the female often takes down the male during courtship.

    There are a limited number of cases where some species may live together in a colony. Monocentropus balfouri is probably the best-known example, though even here there is a risk of cannibalism, no matter how small. 

    Generally speaking, therefore, keep your tarantula away from one another if you want to avoid accidents. 

    Sweepings

    As tarantulas will eat almost any living thing of a suitable size, some keepers in the past have offered wild insects to their spiders. Probably the easiest option is to use a “sweep net” through long grass or bushes, which will gather up dozens of insects in one go.

    There is, however, an important consideration: pesticides. Wild invertebrates may well have come into contact with unpleasant chemicals, thanks to gardeners or farmers. These chemicals can pose a significant risk to your spider.

    As there is no way to test wild invertebrates for the existence of chemicals it is safest to avoid them altogether. Focus instead on what can be bought from specialist suppliers and/or bred at home. 

    Pinkies & Fuzzies

    Some tarantulas will accept small defrosted rodents. Some years ago I offered a (dead) fuzzy to a Poecilotheria regalis and it was readily accepted. Some keepers claim that vertebrate prey like this contains a range of other nutrients and can lead to faster growth rates. 

    My own experience of feeding pinkies and fuzzies, however, is that the mess and smell is simply not worth it! I essentially had to clean the entire tank out after my Indian Ornamental and dropped fluids all over the cage. 

    So it is possible, but isn’t really recommended.

    Adult Mice

    Look on YouTube and you’ll find a few videos of goliath birdeaters readily catching and eating live adult mice. It’s not nice to watch. And I can guarantee you the cage will smell terrible afterwards.

    However there’s an even more important point here: mice have sharp claws and teeth. They may try to fight back, which could pose a risk to your tarantula. The feeding of live rodents to tarantulas therefore cannot be recommended under any circumstances. 

    Do Tarantulas Only Eat Live Prey?

    Pet tarantulas are most commonly fed on live prey, as this helps to elicit a hunting response in the spider. That said, there is evidence that some tarantulas will scavenge when they find suitable recently-killed prey. 

    One example where this is used is when feeding tiny baby tarantulas – typically known as spiderlings or slings. Depending on the species of tarantula in question the spiderlings can be absolutely tiny. This, in turn, can make it quite difficult to find prey items small enough. Furthermore, smaller invertebrate prey items are more challenging to keep alive than their larger cousins. These problems can be solved using “dead” prey items.

    Typically tarantula keepers will purchase a tub of tiny insect prey, then freeze the critters. At each feeding, a few of the preserved insects will be thawed out and fed to the spiderlings.

    Alternatively some keepers cut up larger prey items, such as mealworms, and feed just one small segment to their baby tarantula.  

    How Often Do Tarantulas Eat?

    Tarantulas can vary significantly in how much and how often they eat. Some factors that can affect how often tarantulas eat can include:

    Species of Tarantula

    Some tarantulas grow much faster than others. For example, many arboreal tarantulas can reach maturity in just a couple of years, while slower-growing burrowing species may take four or more years to reach maturity. The faster-growing a tarantula is, the more often it will eat in order to fuel that growth. 

    Size of Last Meal

    Tarantulas will eat a surprising range of different live animals. A large adult tarantula, for example, might be just as happy accepting a mid-sized cricket versus a large roach or locust. Obviously, the larger the last meal, the longer it’s likely to be till your spider is thinking about food again. 

    Proximity to a Moult

    Tarantulas will typically stop feeding for some weeks before or after a moult. For adult tarantulas this can mean a month or more of fasting, during which they will eat nothing at all. Understandably once your tarantula moults successfully and it’s new exoskeleton hardens it’s likely your tarantula will be ravenous for the first few feeds. 

    Cage Temperature

    Broadly speaking tarantulas kept in warmer conditions will grow faster and eat more than the same spider kept at a lower temperature. Some keepers use this to their advantage, keeping female tarantulas that bit warmer, so they mature sooner, and are ready for breeding when males they’ve been keeping cooler are ready for business.

    Age/Size of the Tarantula

    I have found in my collection that tarantulas tend to eat less as adults. It seems that the same tarantula, that powered through one insect after another when rapidly growing from spiderling to adult, suddenly slows down at maturity. This makes perfect sense, as the spider has now obtained its adult size, so now just needs to maintain itself long enough to breed.

    Broadly speaking most baby tarantulas will eat once or twice a week, while adults will happily take prey once every week or two. That said, each spider is unique and so are the conditions they are kept in, so be willing to modify this rough plan as necessary.

    How Do I Know If a Tarantula is Hungry?

    You won’t hear your tarantula’s tummy rumbling so how do you know that your spider is hungry?

    The honest answer is that you generally won’t know until you offer them food. In some cases, however, there will be behavioral changes. 

    To give you an example, I have a number of King Baboons (Pelinobius muticus) in my collection. I consider them a “pet hole” as I never see them. They spend 99% of their lives below ground, hidden in their deep burrows. Food is introduced in the evening, and disappears by the following morning.

    A handful of times, however, I’ve stopped feeding them due to an impending moult. It can be difficult to tell when a burrowing tarantula has completed their moult, as the old skin is often left down the burrow out of view. I have found after a few weeks like this, however, the spiders will eventually come to the surface in their shiny new skin looking for prey. This is so uncharacteristic that it is a very clear sign of hunger.  

    If you find your spider roaming unnaturally around their cage then this may therefore be an indication of hunger. 

    Other than this, the only thing you can do is to offer your spider a prey item and watch how they react. If they grab the insect then great. If they ignore it – or even run away from it – then take out the insect and try again at a later date. I have found it helpful to keep feeding records for my spiders, so I can adjust my feeding regime as necessary. Such a record can also be useful for predicting forthcoming moults, where your spider will go off food for a while. 

    Can You Overfeed a Tarantula?

    Opinions are gravely divided on whether you can overfeed a tarantula. While some people claim that feeding a tarantula too much can shorten its lifespan, most keepers agree that the spider probably knows best. If the tarantula wants food then why not provide it?

    Tarantulas generally don’t get “overweight”, though you will see the abdomen changing size over time. A recently-moulted tarantula may have a particularly small abdomen. Some adult male tarantulas also maintain a much smaller abdomen than their sisters. Of course, abdomen size can also vary between tarantula species too. 

    The abdomen may expand over time, in response to regular feeding (and drinking). A gravid tarantula will also develop a fat abdomen as the eggs inside her develop. Indeed, if you notice that your previously-fat tarantula suddenly seems to have lost a lot of weight in a short space of time then it may be that they’ve laid eggs somewhere in the cage. 

    Generally speaking get into a feeding routine with your spiders and just pay attention to any obvious changes that may indicate your feeding regime should change.

    The post What Does a Tarantula Eat? appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.


    Ball Python Humidity: Increasing & Maintaining the Right Humidity for Your Python

    I’ve been keeping ball pythons for over 20 years. Throughout that time, one of the most popular questions has related to humidity levels. What is the perfect ball python humidity? There is a lot of disagree and bad advice out there, so in this article I want to discuss what has worked well for me, ... Read moreBall Python Humidity: Increasing & Maintaining the Right Humidity for Your Python The post Ball Python Humidity: Increasing & Maintaining the Right Humidity for Your Python...

    I’ve been keeping ball pythons for over 20 years. Throughout that time, one of the most popular questions has related to humidity levels. What is the perfect ball python humidity? There is a lot of disagree and bad advice out there, so in this article I want to discuss what has worked well for me, as well as countless other ball python keepers.

    What Humidity Should My Ball Python Cage Be?

    Ball pythons are naturally found in Africa, where the climate is best-described as “arid” or “semi-arid”. Ball pythons aren’t a tropical species found in high-humidity environments. That said, ball pythons will spend much of their lives hiding in subterranean burrows where moisture levels may be slightly higher than at ground level.

    Ball pythons thrive at a humidity level of 50-60%, though a little higher or lower is unlikely to cause too many issues. 

    This is a standard humidity level in many people’s homes. Having just taken humidity reading in my animal room as I began writing this article, I find the level sitting at a comfortable 52% here in the UK. My ball pythons seem to do perfectly fine under such conditions.

    Indeed, some ball python keepers seem to get overly worried about humidity levels. They treat the suggested figures as “gospel” and spend half their lives fiddling with moisture levels in the cage. Don’t fret. So long as your ball python is moulting successfully then you should have little to worry about. 

    Indeed, it could be argued that an overly-damp cage is potentially of greater risk to your snake..

    Dangers of Moist Conditions

    Ball pythons, like many other snake species, can struggle from a range of health problems if they are consistently exposed to excessively-high moisture levels. This is especially so when ventilation is kept to a minimum, and stale air is allowed to sit in the vivarium for extended periods of time. 

    A few potential risks include respiratory problems, mould and scale rot.

    Instead of fretting so much about trying to constantly increase the humidity level in your ball python cage, it would instead be better to focus on ensuring suitable ventilation and a substrate that remains dry and hygienic at all times.  

    Maintaining Proper Hydration Levels

    Most ball pythons will be perfectly comfortable when kept at the ambient humidity in your home. 

    All the same, we need to ensure proper hydration levels for your pet snake. Fortunately this is simple enough to do with the following tips…

    Add a Heavy Water Bowl

    Ball pythons should have access to fresh water at all times. 

    They can be strong snakes, so a heavy bowl reduces the chances of the bowl getting knocked over as your snake moves around. 

    I suggest avoiding lightweight plastic bowls, and instead opting for a ceramic bowl as sold for rabbits, cats or dogs. 

    The water should be changed daily to keep it fresh, and the bowl regularly sterilized. While there are reptile-safe detergents currently on the market, I personally like to avoid chemicals in water bowls. Instead, I soak my bowls in boiling water before allowing them to dry out thoroughly.

    It is wise to have a “spare” water bowl so this cleaning regime doesn’t mean that your snake is without water for a period of time.  

    Mop Up Any Spilled Water

    Some ball pythons develop a habit of spilling their water. When adult females ovulate they sometimes wrap themselves around their waterbowl, for example. As damp substrate should be avoided, be sure to clean up any spilled water as soon as you notice it. 

    Remove Soiled Substrate

    Whether it’s faeces, spilled water or the leftovers of a rodent, all soiled substrate should be removed on a regular basis and replaced with fresh, dry bedding. 

    Ensure Suitable Ventilation

    Lastly, proper ventilation is essential to avoid a build-up of stale stagnant air. Any ball python containers, from plastic storage bins to wooden vivariums, should have ventilation holes or mesh to permit this exchange of air. 

    Should You Mist Your Ball Python Cage? 

    Many articles focusing on ball python humidity recommend that you mist your ball python cage. 

    I don’t believe this is really necessary, and indeed could lead to excessively-high moisture levels in the cage. This is especially so if you’re using a highly-absorbent bedding or substrate that may soak up the water, then slowly rot or go mouldy. 

    A dry substrate with a suitable water bowl and ambient humidity levels should be perfectly satisfactory while avoiding the potential health risks of a wet cage.  

    How Does Humidity Affect Sloughing?

    Humidity levels can affect how easily some snakes moult. While most ball pythons will slough their skins perfectly at ambient humidities, there are a minority of cases where additional moisture may be advisable.

    If, and only if, your ball python has struggled to moult, you may want to consider adding a “moss box” to the cage. As the name suggests, this is a supply of moist sphagnum moss, which is carefully kept separate from the rest of the cage substrate. 

    Some keepers will place damp moss under a suitably-sized snake hide. Others place the moss into a plastic container, carefully cutting a hole large enough for their snake to slither in and out. 

    The benefit of this arrangement is that your ball python can choose the area of humidity that suits them best, without affecting conditions in the main cage itself. 

    Once the moult is successfully completed the moss box can be removed to free up space in the cage. 

    How to Raise Humidity in Your Ball Python Cage

    If you live in a very dry area, such as some of the southern States, then it may be necessary to gently increase the humidity within your ball python cage. Fortunately raising the humidity should be reasonably simple…

    Use a Wider Water Bowl

    A larger water bowl means that there is more surface area for water to evaporate from. This, in turn, can increase humidity levels within the cage.

    Relocate the Water Bowl

    The warmer you keep your ball python’s water bowl, the more moisture will evaporate from it. Consider where the warmest part of the cage is (such as near a basking site) and consider relocating the bowl to this area to boost humidity.

    Reduce Ventilation Levels

    Ventilation is important for ball pythons, so we don’t want to block up all the air holes by any means. Depending on the ball python cage you’re using, however, it may be possible to reduce (not eliminate) air exchange to retain more humid air in the vivarium.

    Add a Moss Box

    Damp sphagnum moss, placed under a hide or in a plastic box, can create a “pocket” of moist air into which your python can retreat. 

    How to Lower Humidity In Your Ball Python Cage

    Ball pythons that are kept too moist are at risk of a range of health conditions. This is especially so if the substrate remains wet for any period of time. Under these circumstances you should aim to bring the humidity levels back down to “normal”. The following tips can help you do just that…

    Move the Water Bowl

    Move the water bowl to the coolest area of the cage in order to minimize evaporation.

    Increase Ventilation

    The more ventilation your ball python has, the more quickly moist air can escape from the cage. Consider whether this is possible with your existing setup, or consider investing in a new cage with better air exchange. 

    Change the Substrate

    Damp substrate can be a breeding ground for pathogens. Some substrates will also absorb any moisture, holding it in the cage, and potentially rotting in the process. Completely changing your substrate may sound like an extreme measure, but it can be an effective way to quickly reduce moisture levels in the cage. 

    Add a Fan to the Room

    Assuming your ball python cage has decent ventilation, placing a fan in the same room as your python can help to circulate the air.

    Add a Dehumidifier

    As a final ditch attempt, a household dehumidifier can help to absorb and trap moisture from the air, where it can be tipped down a drain. 

    The post Ball Python Humidity: Increasing & Maintaining the Right Humidity for Your Python appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.


    Corn Snake Temperature: How Warm Should My Corn Snake Cage Be?

    Providing the right temperature for your pet corn snake is of vital importance. Fortunately, this is easy to achieve thanks to the range of equipment now available. In this article we’ll discuss the perfect temperature for your corn snake, and how to achieve this easily and cheaply.   Does a Corn Snake Need Heating? Corn snakes ... Read moreCorn Snake Temperature: How Warm Should My Corn Snake Cage Be? The post Corn Snake Temperature: How Warm Should My Corn Snake Cage Be? appeared first...

    Providing the right temperature for your pet corn snake is of vital importance. Fortunately, this is easy to achieve thanks to the range of equipment now available. In this article we’ll discuss the perfect temperature for your corn snake, and how to achieve this easily and cheaply.  

    Does a Corn Snake Need Heating?

    Corn snakes are cold-blooded reptiles. Unlike many other animals, therefore, they need to absorb warmth from their environment. A corn snake that is kept too cold may refuse their food, stop moving around or be more likely to suffer from illnesses. Kept cold enough for long enough a corn snake could even die. 

    In almost all cases corn snakes a corn snake will require artificial heating when kept as a pet. 

    There are many different types of heating that can be used successfully, depending on your personal circumstances. For example, keepers with warmer homes may get away with a low-powered heater. In contrast, keepers in colder areas may require a slightly more elaborate heating system to keep their corn snake healthy.  

    How Warm Should My Corn Snake Cage Be?

    In the wild, corn snakes would spend part of the day basking in the sunshine to warm up. Once they reach a comfortable body temperature they then go off to hunt and explore. It is important to mimic this temperature gradient in captivity to permit natural behavior. 

    There are two elements to consider when heating your corn snake vivarium: 

    • First is the “basking area” which should mimic the sun’s rays. This is the hottest part of the cage. Most people will use one end of the cage as a basking area.
    • Second is the “ambient” temperature experienced when your corn snake is away from their basking site. 

    The tank should therefore provide a hot end for basking, with the other end being noticeably cooler. In this way your snake can thermoregulate as they would in nature, moving between warmer and cooler areas as they see fit. 

    The ideal temperature for a corn snake cage is 25-30 degree Celcius (77-86 degrees Fahrenheit) at the basking spot. The cooler end of the cage should sit at 20-25 degrees Celsius (68-77 degrees Fahrenheit).

    Do Corn Snakes Need Heat at Night?

    When the sun sets the temperature naturally drops. It is therefore perfectly acceptable for the temperature in your corn snake terrarium to also fall at night. That said, there are limits on how cold you should let the cage get. 

    Many keepers opt to turn off the powerful heater over the basking site, while leaving some gentle background warmth on to prevent their snake getting too chilly at night. 

    A drop to 20-25 degree Celsius (77-86 degrees Fahrenheit) is perfectly acceptable during the hours of darkness.

    Types of Heating for Corn Snakes

    Heating your corn snake cage to the right temperature needn’t be difficult. A range of different heaters are available for reptiles, so let’s take a closer look at some of the more popular options available…

    Heat Lamps

    As the name suggests, a heat lamp is essentially a bulb that has been designed to produce warmth. Not all of them actually produce light. Ceramic bulbs, for example, give out little or no light, but can still get incredibly warm. 

    Heat lamps can be an ideal solution for creating a toasty-warm basking spot for your pet corn snake. They can get very hot indeed, and will produce “directional” heat, gently warming one part of the cage. 

    That said, great care should be taken when using a heat lamp. Heat lamps can get very hot, which can have repercussions. Firstly, it’s important to prevent your snake from coming into direct contact with the bulb itself. Corn snakes can climb well, so you’ll need to use a bulb guard to prevent the risk of burning your snake. 

    A second consideration is that heat lamps can lead to overheating if you’re not careful. A temperature that is too high is just as dangerous as one that is too low to your snake. It is crucial, therefore, to use a suitable thermostat to control the temperature.

    Pros:

    • Can get very warm, creating a suitable basking spot even in cold homes
    • Cheap to buy and freely available
    • Directional heat is perfect for creating a basking spot

    Cons:

    • You will need a specialist bulb holder capable of withstanding very high temperatures
    • A reflector can be handy for directing the heat to one spot in the cage
    • You will need to install a bulb guard to prevent contact burns
    • You will require a thermostat to control the temperature
    • All this additional kit can add to the cost of setup
    • Be careful not to burn yourself during tank maintenance
    • Ceramic bulbs can melt plastic, so additional care is required in their use

    Additional equipment required: ceramic bulb holder, bulb guard, thermostat.

    Under Tank Heaters (UTH)

    Heat mats are another popular way to warm a corn snake cage. As the name suggests, these heaters are often placed below the corn snake cage itself. 

    Heat mats don’t produce as much warmth as heat lamps. As a result they can struggle if they’re placed under a cage made of wood, or one with a thick layer of substrate. In these cases some keepers opt to place the heater into the cage itself. 

    If you live in a warm area then a heat mat may be enough to create the basking spot that your corn snake needs. In many cases, however, a heat mat won’t get quite as warm as your snake needs. As a result, heat mats are most commonly used to produce gentle background warmth for corn snakes, with a heat lamp being used alongside for the basking spot.  

    Pros

    • Generally speaking heat mats are cheaper to install
    • They don’t get as hot so are easy to work with
    • No complicated setup procedures
    • Cheaper to run than a heat lamp

    Cons

    • Only produce a gentle heat so may not be suitable on their own
    • Still require the use of a thermostat to prevent overheating
    • May not be as effective for wooden vivariums

    Additional equipment required: thermostat.

    Hot Rocks

    As the name suggests, a “hot rock” is a reptile heater that resembles a rock. They can get very hot indeed. Most hobbyists and breeders recommend against their use, as they can cause burns and other injuries to corn snakes. I have included them here, therefore, just to highlight something you should avoid. 

    What is the Best Heater for Corn Snakes?

    Choosing the best heater for your corn snake can depend on a range of factors. Some important considerations include:

    • How cold does your house get during winter?
    • What is the ambient temperature in your home?
    • What is your corn snake cage made from?

    Generally speaking the best corn snake heating is likely to consist of two parts: a heat lamp to create a suitable basking spot and a heat mat to produce a gentle background temperature. At night the heat lamp can be turned off, while the heat mat remains on to prevent the cage getting too cold. 

    How Do I Know If My Corn Snake Cage is Warm Enough?

    There are two ways to check whether your corn snake cage is warm enough. The first is to purchase a digital thermometer and take regular readings of the cage. The second method is to pay close attention to the behavior of your snake. 

    A snake that is warm enough will be active and alert, willingly accepting their food. A snake that is too cold may be more likely to refuse food (though this is far from the only reason). They may stay hidden away more. Their digestion may move more slowly, so you’ll notice fewer faeces being produced. 

    Furthermore, all snakes are individuals, and corn snakes are no different. This means that any article discussing corn snake temperatures can only give you a good “starting point”. The wise reptile owner will pay attention to how their pet behaves, and make adjustments to the tank conditions in response. 

    For example…

    My Snake Never Comes Away From the Basking Area

    If your snake never seems to move from their basking spot then it may be that they’re unable to warm up sufficiently. Perhaps it’s colder in the cage than you realised, or your snake appreciates it a little warmer than other corn snakes. It can be handy to use a handheld digital thermometer to take temperature readings. Compare these against the recommended temperatures to ensure everything is working properly. You may need to consider upping the temperature in your corn snake cage.

    My Snake Cowers At the Opposite End to their Basking spot

    A snake that cowers at the opposite end to their basking spot may be having trouble getting cool. The basking spot may be too hot, or you may not have enough of a temperature gradient. In these cases consider turning down the temperature on the basking spot and/or heat mat to see how your snake’s behavior changes. 

    What If My Corn Snake Tank is Too Cold?

    If you set up your corn snake cage in the summer then you can often be taken by surprise as the seasons change. That formerly warm and cosy cage can quickly get a lot colder than you expected. So what can be done to quickly warm up a cold corn snake vivarium?

    Increase Ambient Temperature

    An easy start is to simply increase the ambient temperature of the room in which your corn snake is housed. Either turn up your household heating or add a heat mat to your corn snake cage. 

    Turn Up the Thermostat

    All reptile heaters should be controlled by a suitable thermostat. If your corn snake cage is too cold then consider gently turning up the thermostat to see how it affects your snake. 

    Upgrade Your Heat Bulb

    Heat bulbs vary in their power output. While high-power bulbs in small cages can lead to overheating, lower-power bulbs in large cages can prevent the basking spot getting warm. Take a temperature reading at the basking spot, and if necessary consider upgrading to a higher wattage bulb. Be aware that thermostats are designed to control specific bulbs, so check that your thermostat is compatible with the new bulb before installation. 

    Add More Insulation

    One final trick is to add more insulation to your corn snake cage to prevent warmth from escaping. You could add cork tiles to the outside, for example, or reduce the ventilation a little during the coldest months. 

    The post Corn Snake Temperature: How Warm Should My Corn Snake Cage Be? appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.


    Harpactira pulchripes (Golden Blue Leg Baboon) Care Sheet

    The 19th of May 2019 was a very special day for me. It was the day I collected not just one – but four different specimens – of Harpactira pulchripes. Also known by the common name of the Golden Blue Legged Baboon, this is a tarantula that I’ve had my eye on for years. Finally, ... Read moreHarpactira pulchripes (Golden Blue Leg Baboon) Care Sheet The post Harpactira pulchripes (Golden Blue Leg Baboon) Care Sheet appeared first on Keeping Exotic...

    The 19th of May 2019 was a very special day for me.

    It was the day I collected not just one – but four different specimens – of Harpactira pulchripes.

    Also known by the common name of the Golden Blue Legged Baboon, this is a tarantula that I’ve had my eye on for years.

    Finally, thanks to some successful breedings of other tarantulas recently, I had the cash to invest.

    Harpactira pulchripes is one of the most expensive – and desirable – tarantulas currently available in the hobby.

    Even now, some years after they were established in the hobby, specimens can sell for eye-watering prices. As an example, it is not unusual for spiderlings to cost more than adults of some more commonly-available species.

    Harpactira pulchripes - the golden blue leg baboon.

    In other words, Harpactira pulchripes really isn’t a beginner’s spider.

    Not only are you going to have to stump up a fair amount of cash to get started, but as baboon spiders their venom is considered rather “spicier” than, for example, a Mexican Red Knee or Greenbottle Blue.

    Despite these difficulties it’s easy to see why Harpactira pulchripes maintains such a mythical reputation among hobbyists. The color combination is unlike anything else available, with those bright metallic blue legs contrasted against the orange body.

    A freshly-molted specimen is, quite simply, one of the one attractive tarantulas known to science.

    If you really want something very special in your collection then read on for my detailed Harpactira pulchripes care sheet. After all, when you’ve shelled out that amount of money you’ll want to make sure that you’re doing everything right to keep them in the very best of health.

    Wild Habitat

    Harpactira pulchripes has been known to science for a surprisingly long period of time. It was originally described by Pocock in 1901, but has only recently started to enter the hobby in any kind of numbers.

    The Golden Blue Legged Baboon is found naturally in South Africa. Here, like many other baboon spiders of the region, they dig burrows to avoid predators and the worst of the scorching sun.

    While they’re not considered to be quite as aggressive as many other baboon spiders (I’m looking at you OBT!) thought should be put into how best to maintain a potentially highly venomous spider in your home.

    Cages & Housing

    Harpactira pulchripes isn’t a particularly large tarantula as an adult. Unlike giants such as the Salmon Pink or Goliath Birdeater adults tend to reach a more manageable 5” legspan.

    This means that an overly large cage isn’t strictly necessary,

    That said, scientists describe Harpactira pulchripes as “fossorial” meaning that it is a burrow-dweller. It is a smart idea to incorporate this knowledge into whatever cage you choose, so that your Harpactira pulchripes can hide away from view during the daylight hours.

    This means that a decent depth of substrate is advisable for larger specimens.

    While I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a fan of Exo Terra glass vivariums for many of my tarantulas, these cages often don’t allow for a suitable depth of substrate. One option is to gently slope the substrate up towards the back of the cage to permit at least a degree of burrowing.

    Arguably a better option is to make use of a plastic tub designed for home storage. Here in the UK an assortment of clear plastic containers are available, and they’re both a cheap and practical source of housing for Harpactira pulchripes. That said, I will admit that they’re hardly the most attractive of solution.

    Right now I’m using faurariums with good results.

    A small number of suppliers are also now offering custom-built glass tanks suitable for the Golden Blue Leg Baboon – offering the ideal combination of visibility and depth of substrate.

    Whatever you choose there are some broad guidelines that you should bear in mind:

    Close-fitting Lid 

    Firstly you’ll want to make sure that your Harpactira pulchripes can’t go walkabout. Losing such an expensive and fast-moving species is unlikely to end well.

    If you’re using a plastic storage box for your spider then be sure the lid fits onto the top securely – some leave annoying gaps that aren’t noticed until it is too late.

    Ventilation 

    Hobbyists currently disagree about the humidity requirements of Harpactira pulchripes.

    One thing we can all agree on, however, is that stale, stagnant air is a bad thing. It can lead to the growth of mold, bacteria or mites, so ensure there is sufficient ventilation in your tarantula tank at all times.

    If you opt for an Exo Terra then this will hardly be an issue.

    If, on the other hand, you choose to repurpose a storage box then consider using an electric drill or soldering iron to add some air holes around the top of the container.  

    Substrate Depth 

    Your Harpactira pulchripes should be able to easily and fully conceal itself below ground level.

    A good minimum substrate depth is therefore at least the legspan of your tarantula. Of course, if you can provide more then all the better.

    What I have found is that some specimens seem less tempted to burrow. My largest female is often out and about in her cage and only retreats away if startled.  

    Dimensions 

    For an adult specimen I would suggest a tank of at least 10” (25cm) square, with enough height to provide suitable substrate.

    Smaller specimens can of course be kept in comparatively smaller tubs, tanks and cages.

    Heating & Temperature

    Coming from South Africa it should be no surprise that Harpactira pulchripes seems to do best in a warm environment. That said, with the protection of their burrow, they aren’t typically exposed to the most extreme temperatures.

    My own spider room is maintained at around 22-24’C all year round, and this seems to be working well for my Harpactira pulchripes specimens.

    For species that appreciate higher temperatures some supplementary heating is provided, but this seems unnecessary for this species.

    Other hobbyists have successfully kept their specimens at up to 26’C.

    As with other tarantulas, it’s likely that the warmer you keep them and the more they are fed, the faster they will grow.

    If you’re looking to keep Harpactira pulchripes then you’re almost certainly a seasoned tarantula keeper who will know about the various heating options. If not, however, here’s a quick rundown…

    If your home (or at least your critter room) stays nice and toasty year round then additional heating probably won’t be necessary for your Harpactira pulchripes – or any other tarantula species.

    If the temperature drops, however, some additional heating is likely to be beneficial.

    Popular options can include a heat mat attached to the side of your tarantula cage, or a heating cable capable of warming a number of vivariums together.

    Lastly, if you’re rearing a number of smaller specimens these can be placed into a reptile vivarium, with a single heater providing warmth for all your specimens.

    Note that as Harpactira pulchripes is a burrowing species, you should try to avoid providing heat from beneath the cage. It is natural for a tarantula to burrow deeper to avoid excessive heat, so providing warmth from below can create issues for thermoregulation.

    Better is to attach the heater to the side or back walls of the tank.

    Whatever the case, try to keep temperatures for your Harpactira pulchripes between 22’C and 26’C at all times, and be sure to use a reliable thermostat if you’re using a heater to achieve that.

    As a nerdy sidenote, I strongly suggest that all exotic pet keepers should have a separate digital thermometer to monitor temperatures on a regular basis.

    Water & Humidity

    All tarantulas should have access to fresh water, even if you never see them drink. A shallow water bowl is ideal, and it should be regularly cleaned and topped up to prevent the build-up of bacteria.

    Generally speaking Harpactira pulchripes seems to do quite well on a reasonably dry substrate, but I choose to gently spray their tanks once every week or two.

    Tarantulas hate to be sprayed directly, so be sure to direct the spray away from any spider you might be able to see.

    Tank Decor

    Once you’ve chosen a suitable cage for your Harpactira pulchripes the next step is to furnish it correctly. Here are the basics I suggest…

    Substrate

    There are a range of different substrates suitable for tarantulas including the Golden Blue Leg Baboon.

    Popular options include coir fibre, topsoil or multipurpose compost.

    Personally I tend to rely on substrates sold in the reptile trade, as I can feel confident that they are chemical free.

    As stated earlier, it is a good idea to provide a generous depth of substrate if you can for your Harpactira pulchripes. Pack the substrate down firmly so that it holds it’s shape if and when your tarantula tries to build a burrow.

    Some keepers also like to create a “start burrow” as a hint to the spider, typically in one corner of the cage.

    Many burrowing tarantulas will use this as a head-start and expand this burrow to suit their needs over time.

    Hide

    While your Harpactira pulchripes is likely to spend much of it’s time out of sight in it’s burrow, not all specimens actually bother to build a burrow. I believe it is a good idea to provide all tarantulas with one or more hides, where they can feel safe during daylight hours.

    There are a range of suitable options available, with the primary concern being that your tarantula can entirely conceal itself within.

    Popular options include plastic plant pots laid on their side or, my preference, a curved piece of cork bark.

    This is available from most good exotic pet stores very cheaply indeed.

    Water Bowl

    As mentioned earlier, all tarantulas of juvenile size or larger should have regular access to fresh water so they can drink when it suits them.

    Thermometer

    I use a handheld infrared thermometer to take regular temperature readings in all my invertebrate cages, ensuring that they are all suitable.

    As temperature can have such a significant effect on the life of your tarantula I advise everyone to do the same.

    The last thing you want is your spider overheating, or getting so cold that they stop eating.

    Food & Feeding

    Like many other baboon spiders, Harpactira pulchripes has a healthy appetite and will take down almost any prey item they can subdue.

    Roaches and crickets are probably two of the most popular prey items among tarantula keepers. That said, I personally avoid these as any escapees can be very annoying indeed. Crickets can also damage your tarantula if they’re left in the tank during a moult.

    My go-to food source is locusts which I buy online. They’re shipped to my door each week in a range of different sizes.

    Of course, other live invertebrates can also be considered, including mealworms, morio worms and waxworms.

    My specimens are fed twice a week at present (none are quite adult size) and very rarely refuse, unless they’re coming up to moult. Check your spider shortly after feeding and remove any uneaten insects, lest they cause stress or damage to your spider.

    Handling & Temperament

    Handling any tarantula poses risks both to you and to your spider. For this reason I advise against any unnecessary handling. This is particularly applicable for Harpactira pulchripes, which is expensive and potentially has quite strong venom.

    That said, I have found that Harpactira pulchripes is generally much less defensive or aggressive than many other African tarantulas.

    While I do get the odd threat posture, my specimens are more likely to run away and hide than to try and attack.

    They can therefore be reasonably easy to maintain in captivity.

    The post Harpactira pulchripes (Golden Blue Leg Baboon) Care Sheet appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.


    Why Does My Tarantula Have a Bald Abdomen – Is It Coming Up to Moult?

    One of the most commonly asked questions about pet tarantulas relates to a bald patch on their bum, where the hair seems to have come off the abdomen. You can often see paler skin beneath, which worries many new tarantula keepers.   What does it mean? Is it a bad thing? How does it happen? And ... Read moreWhy Does My Tarantula Have a Bald Abdomen – Is It Coming Up to Moult? The post Why Does My Tarantula Have a Bald Abdomen – Is It Coming Up to Moult? appeared first on Keeping...

    One of the most commonly asked questions about pet tarantulas relates to a bald patch on their bum, where the hair seems to have come off the abdomen. You can often see paler skin beneath, which worries many new tarantula keepers.  

    What does it mean?

    Is it a bad thing?

    How does it happen?

    And most commonly of all – does this mean that a tarantula is in “pre-moult” – i.e. it is nearing the time when it will change it’s skin? 

    Let’s look at each of these topics in turn to answer any questions you may have…

    Why Do Tarantulas Lose Hairs on Their Abdomen?

    Many tarantulas have special hairs on their abdomen called “urticating hairs”. They’re commonly found on New World tarantulas – those from the Americas. Examples of tarantulas that have these special hairs include:

    All of the above tarantula species are popular with beginners, which helps to explain why so many first time tarantula keepers are faced with this question. 

    Urticating hairs are a defensive feature of tarantulas. As you might have guessed from their name, these hairs are irritating when they make contact with the skin, eyes or nose of a potential predator. 

    If a tarantula with urticating hairs feels threatened then they may “kick” these hairs off by rapidly rubbing the sides of their abdomen with their rear legs. This creates a “cloud” of irritating hairs in the air, helping to scare off the potential threat.  

    In small doses the loss of these hairs is barely noticeable. If it occurs more frequently then bald patches may start to become apparent. 

    In other words, a bald patch on a tarantula’s abdomen generally is perfectly natural and shouldn’t be a concern. Even wild tarantulas are often found with these patches. 

    What Makes Tarantulas Kick Off Their Hairs?

    Tarantulas may choose to kick off urticating hairs whenever they feel threatened. The most obvious situation is when a larger animal starts to pay too much attention to them, and the tarantula worries that it may become dinner. 

    As pets there are still things that might lead to a bald patch.

    Firstly, some tarantulas will kick off hairs when you open their cage. They likely sense the sudden air movement, assume a large animal is nearby and respond in the only way they know how. 

    Secondly, some tarantulas will kick off hairs if physical contact is made with them. Sometimes even a docile tarantula will kick off some hairs if you’re trying to pick it up or move it to another container. 

    Lastly, tarantulas can kick off hairs if they get frustrated with feeder insects that have been left in the cage too long. If your tarantula isn’t hungry then a cockroach or locust might continually bumble into them, leading them to display their dissatisfaction. 

    Note that tarantulas are individuals, so may respond differently. One Curly Hair might be perfectly fine while another repeatedly kicks off hairs at the slightest stimulus. 

    How Do I Avoid a Bald Abdomen in My Tarantula?

    If you want to avoid your tarantula getting a bald patch then the following tips can help:

    • Open the cage gently – To avoid a sudden rush of air that might set off your spider, try to gently open the lid for feeding and routine maintenance. In my experience front-opening cages like Exo Terras seem to yield less of a response than top-opening containers. 
    • Only handle when necessary – The less you try to hold your tarantula, the less likely they’ll be to kick hairs off their abdomen. 
    • Remove uneaten food rapidly – If your spider isn’t hungry then remove their prey rather than leaving it in the cage for days or weeks on end. Some keepers like to “hand feed” their tarantulas, offering a feeder insect with long tongs to see if it is accepted. Personally I don’t go this far but all uneaten food is removed promptly if not captured. 
    • Give your tarantula a suitable hide – Lastly, ensure your tarantula has one or more suitable hides where they can feel safe and avoid anything they see as a threat. 

    Of course, another option is to choose a tarantula that either doesn’t have these urticating hairs in the first place (like many African or Asian species) or one that is less likely to kick off hairs. 

    Should I Worry About a Bald Tarantula?

    Tarantulas with a bald patch on their abdomen are perfectly normal. It does not necessarily mean that they’re either old or sick. As a result, a bald patch shouldn’t case you a great deal of worry.

    At the same time, however, it could be argued that this is an indicator that their captive conditions aren’t quite right. You may want to consider ways in which your tarantula has been getting stressed recently, so you can reduce or eliminate these, leading to a happier tarantula. 

    Will My Tarantula Regrow Missing Hairs?

    Bald tarantulas regrow missing hairs when they moult. 

    Tarantulas can change their skins at different times, though roughly once a year is normal for adult specimens. Adult males may not moult again before passing away due to old age. Younger tarantulas can moult every few months if well fed. 

    The period of time you’ll have to wait until your tarantula regrows these hairs can then vary by the size, sex and species of tarantula you own.  

    Does a Bald Abdomen Mean My Tarantula Will Moult Soon?

    A tarantula with a bald abdomen is not necessarily coming up to moult. Indeed there really is no correlation between the two. A bald patch on the abdomen is more a sign that your tarantula has been kicking the hairs off to protect itself from a perceived threat.

    Interestingly, the bald patch will typically change color when a moult is imminent. A week or two before changing their skin, you may notice that your tarantula not only stops eating but also that the bald patch turns a dark, shiny black color. This is a sign that the new hairs are forming underneath the existing skin.

    In time your tarantula should change their skin, revealing a fully-furred rear end!

    The post Why Does My Tarantula Have a Bald Abdomen – Is It Coming Up to Moult? appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.


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