Terraria

Brachypelma auratum terrarium

However you love your bird spider, I firmly believe the last thing you want to happen is to suddenly feel her crawling next to your feet. Therefore terraria don’t only need to serve as hotel for your beloved ones, but it has to keep them under lock and key as well. The exception proves the rule, we know that, but I’ve heard plenty of people complaining their bird spider escaped pushing a window aside. Locks are being made to prevent these things to happen, but keeping in mind we’re all humans I prefer terraria with a top-opening or vertical sliding window, depending the spider. Arboreal bird spiders will probably settle high in their terrarium, attaching their web to the roof, while true (and opportunistic) burrowing spiders most likely reorganize your beautiful terrarium setup. The substrate you laid neatly in the back is not uncommonly removed by the bird spider to the other side of the terrarium. Opening the cage with a vertical sliding window will make substrate fall out and ruin the spider’s enclosure. In general it is recommended to simulate a habitat as close to its natural habitat as possible, as temperature and humidity are very important to the bird spider’s way of life and survival. Investigate and study the species before you buy one and make sure the terrarium is all setup before the spider’s arrival. It is known Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens lives in dry area, while spiders of the Theraphosa-genus need access to constantly moistened substrate. Burrowing species, such as Cyriopagopus lividus, I’ve seen housed plenty of times with way too little substrate. The recurring argument is that the spider is more visible and that it will create a web to hide itself. Compare it with the poor man who’s living under the bridge, not owning a penny to arrange shelter. No animal deserves torture for the pleasure of the keeper. As a hobbyist it’s your responsibility to create the best conditions for your animals. Buy the right species, informing yourself before the buy, if you don’t like a pet hole (lots of burrowing bird spiders are called “pet holes”, because they’re rarely visible by night).

Summary

Terrestrial bird spider

• Surface is more important than height.

• Minimal dimensions for adult terrestrial bird spiders: 35x30x20 (lxwxh). Aim for a surface 3-5x full span width. Terraria which are too big are pointless.

• Top-opening.

• Minimal 1-1,5x body length substrate.

• Do not place anything sharp in the terrarium. Not even underground.

• Foresee a hiding place (cork, flowerpot, decoration material, …).

• Humidity and temperatures are individually different. Investigate and inform yourself.

• Video tutorial dry enclosure: Click here.

Arboreal bird spider

• Height is more important than surface.

• Minimal dimensions for adult arboreal bird spiders: 20x20x40 (lxbxh). Aim for a height 3-5x full span width. Terraria which are too big are pointless.

• Vertical opening.

• Minimal 1x body length substrate.

• Do not place anything sharp in the terrarium. Not even underground.

• Foresee a hiding place with height (hollow cork bark, cork against the rear, plants, …).

• In general arboreal bird spiders live more humid, above 70%. However humidity and temperatures may differ individually. Investigate and inform yourself.

Burrowing bird spider

• Height is more important than surface.

• Dimensions of the terraria are similar to arboreal bird spiders.

• Top-opening.

• Foresee lots of substrate. Fill the terrarium until 7-10cm from the top.

• Do not place anything sharp in the terrarium. Not even underground.

• Create a starting hole for the bird spider. It will burrow its way to the bottom.

• Decoration at will, but not excessive.

Plants and flowers

There are plenty of fake plants on the market. They’re stunning, but… They’re fake. However both fake and real plants will provide shelter to your pets, it’s only the real plant actively helping to control environmental factors such as humidity. Therefore it’s not uncommon people decide to add real plants in their cages. Not every plant is the best choise. Make sure they are able to tolerate low and indirect light, they don’t grow too fast, they’re not poisonous and they won’t harm your bird spider (such as some cactuses). Especially in dry terraria it’s difficult to keep real plants, as the moistened potting soil is often a hotbed for infections. You might however like to add safe cactuses, succulents, sanseveria- and/or agaveplants inside dry terraria. Lots of bromeliads fit perfect in (semi-)humid terraria. In order to remove them easily you can leave the plants in the pot, if you’d like. Moss, tropical ferns, baby’s tears, African violet, creeping fig… fit in your humid cages. Some of them grow rather fast, so be advized you might have to prune them back once in a while. Obviously it’s not recommended to add carnivorous plants inside the cages, but they’ll do a wonderful job nearby the terraria.

What is not being mentioned?

Water bowl: Spiders absorb fluids sucking their victims dry, using their book lungs and drinking from a direct water source. However water bowls are used plenty of times in terraria, which is recommended, underneath perfect conditions for bacteria and parasites are being created. Wash your water bowls weekly, refresh substrate underneath and don’t make it overflow while refilling.

Heat mats: In their natural habitat spiders burrow themselves trying to escape the heat outside. Therefore heat mats underneath terraria are completely illogical. Do you, however, wish to make use of it, place them against the side wall in between 2 terraria.

Heat lamps or other heat sources in the terrarium: By creating perfect conditions, you won’t need this. Enlighten your terraria once in a while maximal for 2 hours with led lamps. Bird spiders are active at night. Give them the night.

Glass or plastics: Glass is way more durable and preferred. However, it is much more expensive than plastic containers. Smaller bird spiders are being held a lot in soup pots. The bigger ones, burrowers included, are often housed in containers of 5,8l of BRAplast. Pierce the container in the cover and tops of the side wall to add fresh air and create ventilation.

COPYRIGHT

• Text: Dennis Van Vlierberghe (facebookgroup and –page)

• Photography: Julian Kamzol (website, flickr, facebookpage)