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  1. #1
    Registered User plateOfFlan's Avatar
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    One square foot of Peruvian Amazonia - tarantula build

    I meant to make some posts on this terrarium as I was doing it but I'm a good chunk of the way through already with no posts, so I'll catch everyone up I guess.

    My very favorite tarantula in my collection is a Thrixopelma ockerti (Peruvian Flame Rump) named Typhon. She's a confirmed female and I've had her for about a year now. (no pics of her until the end, in case you're arachnophobic!) I originally saw "Peru" and assumed she was from an arid area, but have since learned she (well, her species, she's captive bred from the US) hails from a temperate montane rainforest on the inland side of the Andes. This area is extremely wet and experiences periodic flooding. Since she's expected to live around 15 years I figured I would start building her a nice bioactive terrarium that resembles her homeland and will be a permanent adult enclosure for her.
    Bioactive isn't a great choice for most tarantula species but I had 2 main motivators:
    1) as mentioned she's from a wet area. Tarantulas can get by with a lot of water sealed in their exoskeleton, so the humidity requirements can be skirted for awhile by offering them plenty of drinking water. Typhon drinks a lot of water and it makes me feel a little guilty that she's not an ideal environment. To crank her humidity would cause a lot of mold issues though, so she needs that cleanup crew and all to prevent mold buildup.
    2) Typhon is an absolute pig. I don't know if this is a species thing or just an individual one but I've never seen a tarantula that was so gross and messy. All my other spiders tidy up their lairs regularly, wrap any debris in webs and carry it out for me to easily remove. Typhon will eat half a roach, toss the other half under a cork bark where I can't get to it, and she's very territorial so any attempt to reach after it with tongs is met with fierce resistance. I finally managed to clear her lair out and found 3 molts and several headless feeders, everything stuck together with webbing and tarantula poop. I'm hoping having detritovores to clean up after her will help her be less disgusting!

    I ordered a 12 x 12 x 18 exo terra, added 8 quarts of bioactive substrate, sheet moss, and some club moss (off theme since it's from Africa but .. come on look how cute it is!), seeded springtails and dwarf white isopods, and left everything to cycle for a month. I sprayed the moss several times a day to sustain it until it could grow new roots and get settled. On youtube people will dump everything into the tank all at once and then introduce the primary inhabitant right there, but my understanding, going off guides from here *, is that the tank needs to cycle much like an aquarium. The little lady is just going to need to wait a few months for it to be ready. It'll also be much easier to change things around or remove and replace dead plants without a venomous and territorial tenant around!
    Lighting is provided by a plant-growing LED with visible-spectrum light only, since UV isn't needed by arachnids and may actually be harmful to them. No extra heating is needed since my room is always around 70F.

    Chihuahua for scale:


    Adding bugs:


    Moss and leaves on top:


    The lady herself (after being particularly rude to me and attempting an escape):


    I think she's excited about what's going on next door.



    * https://www.neherpetoculture.com/viv...onstruction101
    * https://www.neherpetoculture.com/viv...onstruction102

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  3. #2
    Registered User plateOfFlan's Avatar
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    Re: One square foot of Peruvian Amazonia - tarantula build

    Oh, I should mention that I'm using a guide intended for dart frogs, but I'm diverging from bioactive dogma in two major ways:

    1) no drainage layer. This terrarium isn't going to be nearly as wet as one holding amphibians and I want to actively avoid having any standing water around. Additionally all my plants are either mosses or epiphytes, so none of them will be sending roots down to drain any such layer. This just seemed like a lot of extra work for no benefit and possibly a vector for pests.

    2) no disinfectants. Amphibians seem very delicate so everything going into a frog tank must be fully cleaned and disinfected, sometimes with dilute bleach or similar. Tarantulas are actually really resistant to any kind of germ or bacteria, etc, so this isn't as much of a concern. Most tarantula furnishings are rinsed off in clean water and maybe some Dawn dish soap. Much more dangerous to them would be even a tiny trace of cleaning solution or chemicals, which can permanently damage their very sensitive nervous systems. Even something like simple Green I consider too dangerous to have around them. There are rumors that just spraying too much febreze in the room where your tarantulas are can severely impact them. So I washed the terrarium itself in warm water and dish soap, and furnishings have been at least rinsed with clean rainwater but that's about it.

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  5. #3
    Registered User Malum Argenteum's Avatar
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    Re: One square foot of Peruvian Amazonia - tarantula build

    Quote Originally Posted by plateOfFlan View Post
    2) no disinfectants. Amphibians seem very delicate so everything going into a frog tank must be fully cleaned and disinfected, sometimes with dilute bleach or similar.
    It isn't exactly that they're delicate. The reason everything is bleach-dipped/baked/boiled/fully dried before use in a dart viv is (a) most plant cuttings from other hobbyists were grown in a dart viv, so disinfection against environmentally persistent pathogens is simply a standard bit of biosecurity, not unlike QT and testing of animals and (b) plant pests (scale, snails, slugs) can wreak havoc in a dart viv, and bleach dipping is moderately effective at killing those pests, and (c) there are predators on microfauna (some dart species are dependent on a stable population of microfauna for at least some of their life cycle) the introduction of which can be prevented by disinfection of all materials.

    That's a nice viv for what sounds like fun T. How does the species compare to more familiar but possibly similar ones like avics and GBBs?

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  7. #4
    Registered User plateOfFlan's Avatar
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    Re: One square foot of Peruvian Amazonia - tarantula build

    Quote Originally Posted by Malum Argenteum View Post
    It isn't exactly that they're delicate. The reason everything is bleach-dipped/baked/boiled/fully dried before use in a dart viv is (a) most plant cuttings from other hobbyists were grown in a dart viv, so disinfection against environmentally persistent pathogens is simply a standard bit of biosecurity, not unlike QT and testing of animals and (b) plant pests (scale, snails, slugs) can wreak havoc in a dart viv, and bleach dipping is moderately effective at killing those pests, and (c) there are predators on microfauna (some dart species are dependent on a stable population of microfauna for at least some of their life cycle) the introduction of which can be prevented by disinfection of all materials.
    Thanks for the clarification! I don't know much about frogs but they sound really interesting from everything I'm seeing in passing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Malum Argenteum View Post
    That's a nice viv for what sounds like fun T. How does the species compare to more familiar but possibly similar ones like avics and GBBs?
    The biggest difference I'd say is some keepers have success with gently handling both Avics and GBBs, while this species absolutely can't be handled, mostly because of the urticating hairs and their notorious eagerness to kick them everywhere. The other day I had my head at the level of her tank, doing something on a shelf and must have exhaled in a way that hit the ventilation because she rushed over and attacked the wall by my head and kicked hair everywhere. This means I need to wear gloves whenever I do anything in there and only touch things in her tank with tongs - those hairs will cause severe itching and even blisters if they get on your skin, and if they get in your mouth or eyes can cause serious reactions. On the other hand their bold personality can be endearing - my other spiders run if I touch their tank to open it but she has no fear of me and will come over to see what the disturbance is, even touching me with her paws to try to figure out what's going on (and decide if it's worth throwing a fit over). If I were to actually try to corral her and pick her up with my hands I'd be doused in hairs for sure and wouldn't be surprised if she actually went ahead and bit me - she is a look but don't touch pet.
    Some of her better qualities are being out and about all the time, most active during the morning and evening when I'm home to view her, and she almost never webs so she's always easy to see. They're also descended from terrestrial tarantulas that adapted to climbing trees a bit, so they have the nice big chunky build of the larger cousins but the bright colors of an arboreal (personally I prefer their coloring to the GBB). The hair-kicking reputation is I think the big thing preventing them from being more common in the hobby sadly.

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  9. #5
    Bogertophis's Avatar
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    Well she's a pretty little thing, even if she IS grumpy! And she ought to be more appreciative of your efforts- her home looks pretty inviting.
    I've only ever kept a (U.S.) native desert tarantula.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

  10. #6
    Registered User plateOfFlan's Avatar
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    Re: One square foot of Peruvian Amazonia - tarantula build

    I feel a little silly because just earlier I was wondering why anyone would want a challenging snake when they could have a docile one, and here I am enthusiastically talking about my challenging tarantula ...

    Anyway the moss and all was step one. I left the terrarium to stew for a month like I said, and it started growing a worrying amount of mold. And mushrooms:


    The guides said this is a normal step and just to let it be, so I added hardscape and the first round of plants. The springtails wound up eating all the mushrooms and mold later, so everything's nice and clean now:


    The species are:



    Neoregalia "Chiquita Linda" - dwarf bromeliad - (the varietal pictured is not this one, they sent the wrong one I guess). These are offered by frog stores because I guess very small dart frogs lay their eggs in the center cup, which holds water, and the tadpoles are raised in the tiny pond formed inside.

    Marcgravia sp 'Peru' - a climbing shingle plant. These ended up not doing well (I think I mounted them wrong) and they dried up

    Masdevallia nidifica - an epiphytic orchid. This was supposed to be the hardest plant to raise but it's doing great and is growing new leaves

    I tried to find species native to the mountain forests in South America; they all want temperate, humid, and bright conditions.

    Mounted orchid:


    I left these plants for another few weeks to acclimate (and see which ones would survive). In the meantime, Typhon lost her damn mind and has started trying to tear her current enclosure to pieces. I guess the wait for her new home is getting to her. Just today I swapped the shingles for some snake ferns and added 2 more bromeliads so it'll be yet another few weeks while those acclimate. She can barely stand it:

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  12. #7
    Bogertophis's Avatar
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    Re: One square foot of Peruvian Amazonia - tarantula build

    Quote Originally Posted by plateOfFlan View Post
    I feel a little silly because just earlier I was wondering why anyone would want a challenging snake when they could have a docile one, and here I am enthusiastically talking about my challenging tarantula ...
    No problem, I totally get it- the greater the effort, the more satisfying the success.

    My youngest rat snakes (3 siblings from 2019) are different as night & day- 1 is abnormally passive, another is fairly mellow, & the third has been a terror from the start- rolling & thrashing wildly when I dared try to hold her. Oh, & when she's fed an already-dead rodent, she thrashes wildly around her tank also, rolling & reeling for several minutes before she can eat it. That behavior continued for well over a year, but guess which is my favorite? Yup, the loony-tune- except that she's finally decided she likes handling- she shows the most intelligence too, the way she watches me. She's still not a "beginner snake" when first picked up- but I know how to completely calm her down. Yup, I "get it". There was a time I thought she'd never be like this, but our pets wouldn't be nearly so interesting if they were all so docile.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

  13. #8
    Registered User Malum Argenteum's Avatar
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    Marcgravias don't agree with all keepers, but 'sp. Peru' is not one of the more durable ones IME.

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  15. #9
    Registered User plateOfFlan's Avatar
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    Re: One square foot of Peruvian Amazonia - tarantula build

    Quote Originally Posted by Malum Argenteum View Post
    Marcgravias don't agree with all keepers, but 'sp. Peru' is not one of the more durable ones IME.
    Makes me feel a little better - their requirement of damp surface, but no water on the leaves was tricky. I replaced them with a Microgramma vaccinifolia which seems much happier and is growing a new leaf bud already. Once I swap the mesh lid for a plexiglass one (trying to diy this) she'll be ready to move in, though she's currently deep in premolt and slowly staggering around. It might be easier to catch and move her in this state but I feel bad putting her in a new, unfamiliar place when she's feeling so vulnerable so I might wait.

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  17. #10
    Registered User plateOfFlan's Avatar
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    Re: One square foot of Peruvian Amazonia - tarantula build

    Typhon's done molting and looking beautiful - you can see the pink on her toes and her little claws very clearly now:


    I swapped the screen lid for a thin sheet of acrylic - no holes because I tested another piece and confirmed that drilling it will just snap it in half. There's a gap around the lid and the doors seem to have decent air transfer so I figure it'll be fine. She doesn't have the fresh air requirements of an Avic Avic, they're from the forest canopy and known to drop dead if not given a nice cross breeze.

    She's definitely outgrown this current enclosure. Pushing 4" in diagonal legspan, she'll have much more room to spread out in her new home, shooting for this weekend to move her over.

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