The UK reptile and amphibian blog, teaching you how to care for exotic pets.
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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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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…
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.
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.
If you want to avoid your tarantula getting a bald patch then the following tips can help:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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I’ve kept pet tarantulas for over 20 years. In that time I’ve had hundreds of specimens and bred dozens of different species in my home. Until people find out I seem just like any other normal person. However as soon as friends and colleagues discover I have tarantulas – not just one but a whole ... Read moreAnswers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions Asked About Tarantulas The post Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions Asked About Tarantulas appeared first on Keeping...
I’ve kept pet tarantulas for over 20 years. In that time I’ve had hundreds of specimens and bred dozens of different species in my home.
Until people find out I seem just like any other normal person. However as soon as friends and colleagues discover I have tarantulas – not just one but a whole collection – they become fascinated.
The questions flow.
Interestingly I have found over the years that the same questions keep cropping up time and again. For anyone interested I therefore thought I’d pull together a list of frequently asked questions about tarantulas.
For many, many years I kept my tarantula collection in my bedroom. The thing about tarantulas is that people very rarely stop at one.
Soon enough you’re adding ever more specimens to your menagerie. As collections grow, so too can where they’re kept.
These days I keep all my spiders in my home office, simply because the collections has grown too big for the bedroom. And incase you’re wondering, yes I slept absolutely fine with a few dozen tarantulas at the end of my bed!
The next question I seem to get asked is whether they ever escape?
After two decades of keeping tarantulas I’ve had three escape.
After that many years that’s pretty good odds.
Each time the tarantula was quickly found and returned safely to it’s cage. Each time it was my fault for not closing the lid properly. And no I never got bitten by any of the escapees.
Non-tarantula keepers seem to be obsessed with the idea of holding tarantulas in your hands. The reality is that there are very few tarantulas that can be safely held, without either risking danger to the spider or yourself.
For example, some tarantulas – like those from Southeast Asia – are known for have quite potent venom. Some stories suggest they can lead to a swollen, stiff arm and considerable joint pain for several days after a bite. You don’t want to get “tagged” by one of these.
Other tarantulas are very fast-moving and would be difficult to manage outside of their cage.
Just as importantly, if a tarantula gets dropped their soft, squishy abdomens can rupture, leading to death.
As a result, while it’s probably not the exciting answer that you were hoping for; no I don’t deliberately handle my tarantulas at all. It’s safest for all parties. Things are typically the same for most experienced keepers.
Tarantulas can bite, of course.
There are over 500 different species of tarantula known to science, and probably 100+ of these are available in the pet trade if you have the budget and you’re willing to put the time into finding them. Each one differs in how likely they are to bite.
Some, like the Curly Hair and the Greenbottle Blue are quite docile, and the chances of a bite are quite slim. Others like the so-called “Orange Bitey Thing” got their name for a reason and are far more likely to try and strike.
If you want to buy a “docile” tarantula then it’s entirely possible to do so. Once you tire of handling tarantulas, however, it is normal to move up to some of the more “bitey” species as they’re often beautifully colored.
Many people look on dumbfounded when they hear I have a room full of tarantulas. Why would anyone do such a thing? Couldn’t I just get a dog, or watch football on the TV?
The reason to keep tarantulas is possibly the toughest question of all to answer, and it’s one that I’ve wrestled with over the years. Eventually I decided that liking tarantulas is something subconscious, just like why you prefer some foods to others, or some music but not other.
A desire to keep tarantulas isn’t really a logical decision – it’s just a deep-seated interest in your psyche.
By this point people have found out I don’t hold my tarantulas.
Anyone who has seen tarantulas in a zoo or a pet store knows that they don’t really do much.
They don’t offer you affection.
They don’t move around much.
They might only eat once every week or two.
So what do they actually do that makes them such fascinating pets?
The answer here is to think of keeping tarantulas as more like gardening than looking after other more traditional pets. Plants don’t really “do” anything, but millions of people round the world invest time and money into their gardens.
To the tarantula keeper, there is pleasure to be had in admiring a beautiful tarantula.
They’re not all boring hairy brown things like you might expect. There are blue tarantulas, purple tarantulas, orange tarantulas and more. They vary in size from a few inches across the legs to 12” or more.
What’s more, like the gardener, there is pleasure to be had in learning about your specimens and providing them with the very best conditions to flourish.
Done right they grow and prosper and all the while you’re expanding your knowledge.
That tiny baby tarantula (typically known as a “spiderling” or “sling”) eventually turns into a majestic adult after years of effort. Maybe they themselves will breed for you producing the next generation.
Yes, as a tarantula keeper – like a gardener – you must be patient. But stick with it long enough and that patience is rewarded.
Tarantulas can vary massively in how long they live.
There are two considerations really. The first is how long they take to reach adulthood. North American tarantulas tend to grow quite slowly and can take 3-4 years to reach adulthood. In contrast some Asian and South American species grow much faster and can mature in 18 months to two years.
Once tarantulas reach adulthood things get even more interesting.
The adult males typically won’t get to see their first birthday. They don’t eat very much after they become adults, as they’re so focused on reproduction. They often get eaten during one of these encounters, but even if they don’t it is quite unusual for an adult male to live much past a year.
Females, on the other hand, can live for years afterwards.
The slower growing species we mentioned from North America are particularly long-lived and may survive for 20 years or more as adults. Lifespans tend to be a bit shorter for fast-growing species.
So, adding all this together, tarantulas can live for anything from 2 or 3 years right up to 20+ depending on factors such as what species they are, how much they’re fed, and their luck in the mating game.
Most tarantulas come from the warmer parts of the world. If your home remains at 20’C+ all year round then they may well be fine at room temperature.
For most of us in temperate climates, however, some supplementary heating can be beneficial.
Luckily heating a tarantula cage needn’t be difficult. Reptile stores sell a range of modestly-priced heaters such as heat mats and heating cables. These can heat your tarantula for just a few pence per day.
Experts recommend that you always use a reptile thermostat to control the heat inside your tarantula cage. Generally speaking you’ll want to heat just one side of the cage to a comfortable 24-26’C.
The other side is left unheated, so that it stays a few degrees cooler. In this way your tarantula can move about and select the area that suits them best, moving from warmer to colder parts just like a lizard basking in the sun.
With so many different species available to hobbyists there are a huge range of adult sizes. The biggest tarantulas in the world – the Goliath Birdeaters – can reach up to 30cm when measured diagonally across the legs (known in the hobby as “legspan”).
In truth, however, very few spiders get so big.
The more popular hobby species such as the Mexican Red Knee and Chilean Rose Hair attain far more modest proportions of some 5-6” across the legs.
While I know this still sounds very large indeed, such a spider is very easily housed and kept at home in an average-sized vivarium.
Tarantulas are carnivores, and will eat any prey items small enough to be caught. In captivity tarantulas are typically fed on live insects – things like cockroaches, crickets and locusts.
While some people breed their own at home, it is more normal to purchase these insects in tubs from specialist “feeder farms”.
Got any other questions about keeping tarantulas? If so, why not leave a comment below and I’ll try to answer them!
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Pixie frogs are huge, impressive amphibians that can make fascinating pets if you have suitable space in your home. Larger males can grow to an astonishing 9 inches (23 cm) in length, while females are rather more petite, reaching just 5 ½ inches (14 cm) at a maximum. Due to their large size, and long ... Read morePixie Frog Care Sheet The post Pixie Frog Care Sheet appeared first on Keeping Exotic...
Pixie frogs are huge, impressive amphibians that can make fascinating pets if you have suitable space in your home.
Larger males can grow to an astonishing 9 inches (23 cm) in length, while females are rather more petite, reaching just 5 ½ inches (14 cm) at a maximum.
Due to their large size, and long lifespan of between 12 and 20 years, pixie frogs should be considered a rather more “advanced” pet than many other amphibians.
They require large cages and are a long term commitment. If you’re a beginner exotic pet keeper then you may be better to start off with a far smaller and more easily-accommodated species like fire bellied toads.
If, on the other hand, you have some experience under your belt and understand what you’re signing up for then pixie frogs can make fascinating pets.
Read on for my detailed pixie frog care sheet and learn everything you need to know…
As with all exotic pets, one of the most important decisions is selecting and setting up the right cage. This will allow you to create the perfect environmental conditions for your pixie frog to thrive.
The size of the cage will depend on the size of your frog (always singular – pixie frogs may fight if kept together and can be cannibalistic). A big adult frog will require a cage of 15-20 gallons. Of course, youngsters can be started in appropriately smaller cages.
All the same, if you opt to purchase a baby frog and place it into a smaller cage, appreciate that soon enough you’ll need the space and money to upgrade to a larger home. For this reason, it can be a smart idea to simply start with a large cage suitable for adults.
But what type of cage works best for pixie frogs?
Glass fish tanks are a great option for housing your pixie frog.
They’re widely available, reasonably priced and come in a range of different sizes. You may even manage to pick up a second-hand model cheaply saving you even more money.
Importantly – for me at least – they look great and allow you to create an attractive “mini habitat” in your home.
Of course, no solution is perfect. Glass aquariums can be heavy so watch your back. They can also be fragile if dropped.
Most importantly, however, if that you’ll need to ensure your tank is escape proof. If you know what you’re doing in the workshop then you may opt to build your own tank topper. For the rest of us, it is possible to buy specialist mesh covers from bigger reptile stores or online.
I probably use more Exo Terra tanks than anything else in my exotic pet collection. I use them for my day geckos, many of my spiders and even for some amphibians. While I’ll admit that they’re not the cheapest option available they look amazing and have a lot of practical features.
I’ve always liked the front-opening doors, for example. With quite a big exotic pet collection these days many of my specimens are housed on shelving racks. Tanks that only open at the top – like fish tanks – and therefore rather impractical. Exo Terras, in contrast, can be opened from the front making my routine maintenance quick and painless.
Exo Terras benefit from a built-in mesh lid for ventilation, the base is raised slightly in case you want to put a heater beneath the cage, and you can even buy a standalone lighting unit to go above for the ultimate display.
If you want to create the best-looking pixie frog display possible, and you’ve got the budget, an appropriately-sized Exo Terra should definitely be considered.
I started out keeping various reptiles and amphibians in plastic cages with vented lids. Over the years I slowly moved away to other forms of housing, but in recent years I’ve found myself using them more and more.
Plastic tanks are just so practical! They’re lightweight, cheap to buy and are so easy to clean. They come with the ventilated lid to ensure appropriate air flow, and most models even have a little “window” in the lid to allow for feeding without taking the whole top off.
On the downside there are only a limited range of sizes, and in fairness they don’t look great in comparison to other options.
All the same, if can find one large enough for your pixie frog (or you want a cheap initial cage for a baby pixie frog) then these can be a suitable option.
When many hear the word “frog” they immediately think of ponds. So, pixie frogs should essentially be set up like you would for guppies or goldfish, right? Well, not so fast. You see, pixie frogs are primarily terrestrial in nature. They spend much of their lives on land, burrowing into the earth to avoid predators.
Choosing the right substrate to go on the floor of the cage is therefore of crucial importance. So what’s best?
As with many other exotic pets, there are keepers who use paper towels or newspaper. If you’ve read any other care sheets on this site you’ll also know that I’m firmly against the use of these substrates. They look terrible. They’re not very absorbent. And most important of all, they don’t permit natural behaviour in captivity. No, I want to try and mimic the wild habitat of my pets as far as possible.
Some better options can include topsoil, coconut fibre (coir) or peat-free compost. All these options look great and permit proper digging.
Like other amphibians, pixie frogs have sensitive skins so be sure you only select a substrate that is chemical-free. For example, if opting for compost then ensure no feed granules have been added.
As pixie frogs grow pretty big and like to burrow it makes sense to include a good depth of substrate. In a perfect world your frog should be able to entirely conceal itself below the surface so be generous with the depth you provide.
Pixie frogs don’t just grow large; they’re also strong burrowers. This can make designing an attractive cage for them rather more challenging than for other species.
If you’re unlucky you’ll wake up one morning to find that your carefully-landscaped set-up now looks like a tornado has ripped through it. Therefore, don’t get too precious about the overall design, and accept it will likely change over time.
That said, there are a few tank decor objects that you should consider for your pixie frog.
Despite their size pixie frogs can be surprisingly shy and retiring in captivity. If your pet is remain happy and healthy your frog should therefore have places to hide away from view. Even better, consider adding two or more hides to your pixie frog cage so your pet can choose the option it prefers.
There are many different hides available (I wrote a full guide here) but in brief curved pieces of cork bark or resin “caves” are both good options. The benefit of cork bark is that it comes in a huge range of different sizes and shapes. Visit your local pet store and invest time in finding the “perfect” pieces for your frog.
Cork bark might serve as a practical hide for your pet, but wood can also supplement the aesthetics of your pixie frog cage. Smaller pieces of wood, logs and so on can all make your tank look more attractive while providing further hiding places.
Dead leaves, pieces of moss and so on can all make your pixie frog habitat feel more “natural” as well as adding interest when you’re looking at your frog.
A water bowl is essential for your pixie frog. They may spend most of their time on land, but they’ll still need to regularly drink. Furthermore your pixie frog may even choose to sit in their water bowl, moistening their skin.
As a result, a large water bowl makes sense. Ensure you choose one that is large enough for your frog to get into comfortably. Also, don’t fill the bowl to the top, or the water could go everywhere when your frog gets in.
Be sure to replace the water regularly to keep it fresh and sterile the bowl with boiling water or reptile-safe detergent on a weekly basis.
While some keepers use tap water for their amphibians, there are concerns that tap water can contain irritants like chlorine or heavy metals in many areas. A safer option is to use water from a purer source. I suggest investing in shop-bought bottled spring water.
As we’ll cover shortly, pixie frogs generally appreciate a warm environment. However even they have their limits. Overheating can kill, so it makes sense to include at least one thermometer in your pixie frog cage.
In a perfect world install two thermometers – one at either end of the tank. Try to get into the habit of checking the temperature regularly.
While pixie frogs spend most of their lives on dry land, they still appreciate a humid environment to keep their skin in top condition. Regular spraying with a mister is therefore important to keep your pet happy.
Again, be careful using tap water, as you don’t want to irritate your pixie frog’s skin.
Aim to keep the humidity north of 60%, while still ensuring plenty of ventilation to prevent the growth of fungi or bacteria.
Alternatively, if you want to make your life easier (and you’ve got the budget to spare) you could consider investing in a proper misting system.
Not only do these provide fine clouds of water vapour on a schedule that you set, but they can also create a really cool effect as the “mist” rolls in.
One of the latest trends in exotic pet care is “bio-active” terrariums. For the uninitiated these typically include live plants and a colony of tiny invertebrates. The invertebrates – often referred to as a “clean-up crew” – are there to remove uneaten food and other debris, helping to keep the cage clean and hygienic.
Whether pixie frogs are suitable for a bioactive setup is a point of contention. On the one hand, their large size and enjoyment of burrowing means that plants are unlikely to live for very long. Installing a moisture drainage layer also poses potential problems, where your pet may disturb the liner.
On the other hand, adding a clean-up crew can make a lot of sense. They can add extra interest to the tank, can act as a supplementary source of food and also improve cleanliness.
I’ve been experimenting with various tropical woodlice myself (the orange ones are cool!) and these could make a good addition to your pixie frog tank if you can source some locally.
Pixie frogs come from Africa so it should be little surprise that they appreciate a warm environment. You should aim to keep your pixie frog’s cage above 20’C at all times, with many keeping suggesting a temperature of 72 – 82F (22 – 27C) is ideal.
For most of us that means that some kind of artificial heating will be required. Fortunately there are a host of reasonably-priced options available. Two of the best options are…
These flat heaters produce a gentle background warmth so are suitable if your home is typically quite warm. It just gives a little “boost” to your pixie frog cage. They’re cheap to buy and to run.
While they’re often placed under the tank (hence why some people refer to them as UTH or Under Tank Heaters) this doesn’t work well with pixie frogs. The reason is that heat pads produce only very gentle heat which cannot permeate through thick substrate. Indeed, a heat pad could even overheat under such conditions, catching fire or cracking the glass tank.
If you opt to use a heat pad with your pixie frog it is generally a better idea to attach it to the side of the cage. An easy option is taping it to the outside of one end of the tank. Consider adding a piece of polystyrene or cork against it to reflect the warmth into your pixie frog cage.
Note that you shouldn’t heat the entire cage with a heat pad. Just warm ⅓ to ½ of the cage, leaving the remainder cooler. In this way your frog can move around and choose the area that suits them best.
Ceramic heaters get a lot hotter than heat mats. If you’ve tried a heat pad and found it doesn’t raise the temperature of your pixie frog terrarium enough then a ceramic heater may be the answer. Ceramics can also be handy if your home is particularly cold.
That said, choosing and installing a ceramic heater is rather more involved than a heat pad. You’ll need a special ceramic bulb holder (standard plastic holders will melt) and a heat reflector. You’ll also need to be sure that your frog can’t come into direct contact with the heater, so a bulb guard may be needed. Find out more about choosing and using ceramic heaters in my guide here.
Ceramic heaters can only be used in glass/metal cages and are not suitable for plastic enclosures, as they may melt under the heat.
Whichever option you go for, your pixie frog vivarium should be carefully maintained in the narrow margin discussed earlier. Overheating can be a killer for any exotic pet, but especially for amphibians. As a result, a thermostat should be considered essential when using any form of artificial heating.
Choosing a thermostat isn’t easy; there are so many options so I strongly suggest you read my thermostat buyer’s guide here.
Pixie frogs are greedy animals and aren’t fussy about what’s on the menu. They are carnivores and will eat almost anything they can fit into their mouths – including your fingers if you’re not careful – you have been warned! Here are some of the better foods for pixie frogs…
Crickets are a traditional feeder insect that can be bought from most decent pet stores these days. They come in a wide range of sizes, with some species like the black field cricket being reasonably chunky. Be aware that crickets can give your pixie frog a bit of a nip if left uneaten so be sure to remove any that your frog hasn’t picked off after a while.
Roaches have grown in popularity in recent years as they don’t chirp like crickets, they’re easier to keep alive and they’re also available in a wider range of sizes.
Locusts may seem like an unlikely option but the fact that they grow so large can make them appropriate for larger specimens. Be aware that locusts have sharp spines on their back legs. You don’t want your pixie frog getting harmed by them, so you may want to consider removing the locust’s back legs before placing it into the tank.
These moth caterpillars are juicy and popular. Be sure to place them into a bowl before feeding or they’ll quickly burrow down into the substrate never to be seen again.
Always popular, mealworms can be kept in your fridge, which keeps them in a dormant state. This keeps them alive for longer. Be aware that mealworms tend not to offer as many nutrients as some other feeder insects so only feed in moderation.
Larger pixie frogs will happily take appropriately-sized mice. Buy them frozen, defrost them and offer them to your pixie frog using long tongs or forceps. Don’t feed live rodents as they could attack your frog.
Of course there are other options too, so let your mind run wild. The only caveat is not to feed your pixie frog anything you’ve caught in the wild, which may risk introducing parasites to your pet.
Feeding any pet on one single food source risks nutrient deficiencies. Variety is important. I suggest buying a range of foods and swapping from one to another regularly. Additionally, however, supplementation can play an important role in the health of your pixie frog.
Calcium & vitamin D powders are recommended for pixie frogs. Their large size means that their skeleton needs to grow fast and has to support a fair amount of weight.
I like to dust my livefood on occasion. Simply place the insects into a plastic bag, add a little supplement powder and shake to coat the insects. Then offer them to your pixie frog immediately.
Pixie frogs may have impressive appetites but they’re also pretty lazy, sitting motionless for hours on end. This means that they can be prone to putting on weight in captivity, which can shorten their lifespan. Keep an eye on your frog and modify their diet in response.
Generally speaking youngsters should be fed daily, while adults can eat every 2 or 3 days. The odd longer period when you forget to buy roaches shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Food volume will depend on your frog. Only provide what they realistically eat in 15-30 minutes. Over time you’ll get familiar what this volume looks like for your frog.
Pixie frogs really aren’t a pet for handling for a whole host of reasons. Firstly their feeding response can lead to you getting bitten. Secondly they’re big and strong, so restraining them can be difficult. Chemicals on your hands risk causing damage to the sensitive skin of your frog. Generally speaking, therefore, you should consider your pixie frog as a pet to enjoy from the other side of glass.
That said, the odd frog will accept handling. Whether you want to risk seeing if yours is that frog is a decision only you can make.
Generally speaking the easiest option when transporting your pixie frog (such as for cleaning) is to coax it into another container using long forceps or tongs, then place a tight-fitting lid on, before removing the whole container from the terrarium. You can then go about your work without the worry of being bitten or having your frog escape.
Lastly, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after holding your frog or placing your hands into their cage.
While there are many different snakes that you can keep as a pet, one of the most popular options is the ball python. Of course, one of the most common questions relates to their temperament – specifically how friendly they are. There’s good news – ball pythons haven’t just become popular pets because they look ... Read moreBall Python Temperament: How Friendly are Ball Pythons? The post Ball Python Temperament: How Friendly are Ball Pythons? appeared first on Keeping Exotic...
While there are many different snakes that you can keep as a pet, one of the most popular options is the ball python. Of course, one of the most common questions relates to their temperament – specifically how friendly they are.
There’s good news – ball pythons haven’t just become popular pets because they look fantastic and grow to a manageable size. They also have the personality to match.
Ball pythons are generally some of the calmest and most docile snakes in the hobby.
While every snake is an individual, most specimens calm down nicely and can be held without risk even by beginners.
They will either sit motionless in your hands or will gently explore their surroundings.
This is in contrast to some other pet snakes that may struggle hard, trying to escape, releasing unpleasant smells or attempting to bite.
Of course, there are two important caveats here.
Firstly, you’ll need to get your ball python used to being around people. This can require a little patience if your snake is fearful.
Fortunately many breeders handle their snakes from a young age, so there’s a good chance that you can buy a ball python that is already used to people.
Secondly, of course, these are wild animals. So, while ball pythons have a great temperament there is always a chance they may try to bite. In almost every circumstance, however, there is a good reason for this.
In this article we’ll look at how to choose a docile ball python, how to go about taming a ball python that isn’t used to people, and some situations in which even a tame ball python may try to bite.
If you’re concerned about your ball python’s temperament then it’s a good idea to start with a specimen that is used to human contact. This means not just buying a snake online and having it couriered to your door, but actually getting “hands-on” before making a purchase.
Many reptile stores stock ball pythons and they can be a great place to find your first pet.
Be sure to take your time in the store, asking plenty of questions.
Also, ask to get the specimen out that you’re considering. Watch how the snake responds to having their cage opened and being lifted out.
Ideally there’ll be no signs of aggression at all. Only once you’ve held it confidently should you consider making a purchase.
The downside to buying your ball python from a pet store, no matter how friendly it may be, is that the prices can be quite high. Additionally, while there are some great reptile stores out there, there are also those that lack knowledge and may give you inaccurate advice.
There are a number of reptile shows each year. There are quite a few in the US, though the UK where I am is quite limited.
All the same, they can be a great way to see lots of different ball pythons at the same time.
This not only allows you to compare their appearance and price, but also gives you the opportunity to handle a range of specimens.
Prices tend to be lower than in pet stores, and the stall holders will normally be experts.
In fairness, most of the stall holders at reptile shows are breeders. But if you’re not located anywhere near to a reptile expo, or you’re impatient to get your first python, then you may want to consider looking for breeder that is local to you.
In an ideal world you’ll want to visit their home, once again only choosing your ball python once you’ve established how friendly they are (the snake that is, not the breeder!).
Let’s consider the opposite scenario.
Instead of starting out with a friendly ball python, you’ve instead somehow found yourself the owner of a defensive specimen that doesn’t seem to accept being held.
What should you do?
Here are some tips I’ve used myself in these situations…
Some ball pythons have a very strong feeding response.
Every time their cage is opened they assume they’re getting fed.
Ball pythons don’t have great eyesight, so these animals may lunge at anything you put in their cage, assuming they can eat it.
You don’t want that to be your hand.
If you ball python appears aggressive or tries to bite you then start off with a good feed. Let them fill their belly, then give them a day or two to digest the meal before you progress any further.
I’ve only been bitten a few times by ball pythons (after over a decade of keeping them).
While a ball python bite won’t kill you, it’s not a nice experience.
If your snake seems aggressive then I believe that covering up makes sense – at least initially.
I suggest long sleeves.
Also consider wearing gloves for the first few weeks.
Thick gardening gloves can offer some decent protection.
Once you’re all ready, it’s time to open the cage.
Many keepers of more aggressive snake species like to “announce” their arrival to prevent their snake thinking they’re food. This is typically done by gently stroking the snake with a long object – a snake hook or suchlike.
The key here is to watch for the response. Does your ball python lash out and try to bite it? If not, it should be time to move onto the next step.
Oddly, snakes can behave very differently inside their cage versus outside. Some snakes can be quite nasty while in their vivarium, yet as soon as you take them out they’re absolutely fine.
Removing your ball python from their cage is therefore a useful step. You may choose to do this manually (i.e. with your hands) or you may want to use a snake hook to gently remove them.
Now your snake is out of the cage, it’s time for the actual handling.
Take things nice and slow.
Talk quietly or not at all.
The last thing you want to do is to scare your snake with sudden movements or noises.
Let them realize that there really isn’t anything to fear.
Over time, they’ll learn.
Don’t go overboard, no matter how much fun you’re having. Aim to end on a high note.
Start with just a minute or two of handling.
Over time, slowly build up to longer and longer periods.
Lastly, stick with it. You can’t tame an anxious or aggressive snake in a single handling session. It may take weeks or even months to finally break through that wall. So stick with it. And trust me – it’ll all be worth it in the end.
I have already said that ball pythons have docile temperaments. However, there may come a time when your ball python does strike out and bite you.
If you have a snake which is usually docile and it suddenly bites you, there is usually a good reason for it. Here are some of the most common things to consider:
Biting can occur at feeding time. Even if your snake has eaten, it still has a strong feeding instinct right after the meal. If it sees your hand it might think that it’s another meal coming in and go for it.
It’s also not a good idea to handle your snake after you’ve been preparing meat products for yourself or have been handling other pets such as guinea pigs or hamsters. Your snake has a strong sense of smell and might think your hand is the next meal.
In my experience, even some of my more docile ball pythons can get a bit grumpy when they’re coming up the shed their skin.
While a ball python that is just a few days ago from a moult will turn a milky color, making the slough obvious, personalities can change before there are any visual signs.
If a previously docile pet snake suddenly starts hissing or trying to nip at you then you may just need to be patient. It’s likely that within a week or two they’ll slough and then be right back to their old self.
This is why touching your ball python before getting your hands into the cage can be beneficial. It allows you to “sense” whether there is an issue and back off when necessary.
Ball pythons may try to bite if they feel threatened. For example I had one strike (but not make contact) when I stood infront trying to take a photo. I obviously invaded his personal space and he took exception to it.
Keeping everything calm and controlled during handling is the right solution. Only allow children to handle your snake if they are quiet – a child screaming or getting over-excited could scare your snake and encourage a defensive bite.
Generally speaking ball pythons don’t like their heads being touched, so only stroke them further down their body.
This may all sound as if your ball python can bite at any time, but this isn’t the case at all. You just need to learn what your snake likes and doesn’t like and then you will have a friendly and docile pet.
The post Ball Python Temperament: How Friendly are Ball Pythons? appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.
Male and female tarantulas live very different lives after maturity. Depending on the species, female tarantulas can live for decades, hidden away in burrows or tree crevices. For male tarantulas, however, the clock starts ticking as soon as they reach maturity. Male tarantulas roam far and wide in search of receptive females. But what happens ... Read moreDo Male Tarantulas Die After Mating? The post Do Male Tarantulas Die After Mating? appeared first on Keeping Exotic...
Male and female tarantulas live very different lives after maturity. Depending on the species, female tarantulas can live for decades, hidden away in burrows or tree crevices.
For male tarantulas, however, the clock starts ticking as soon as they reach maturity.
Male tarantulas roam far and wide in search of receptive females. But what happens after breeding?
Do male tarantulas die after mating?
This is actually a more complex question than you might have realized. Sadly, most adult male tarantulas won’t see their next birthday, having been struck down for one reason or another.
We’ll look at these reasons in just a minute or two, but for now let’s clarify that “no” the act of mating doesn’t lead to the death of male tarantulas.
A male may survive for months on end, mating with numerous females in that time.
In captivity some adult male tarantulas may survive for a year or more after maturity.
In the wild, however, things can be rather different.
So if we’ve confirmed that adult male tarantulas typically don’t live anywhere near as long as females, but the act of mating doesn’t necessarily result in death, the next obvious question is what does lead to death so soon after maturity?
While the act of mating itself doesn’t cause adult male tarantulas to die, becoming dinner for a hungry female tarantula is a depressingly common experience.
In many species, the female tarantula is much larger than the male. After copulation it is not unusual for the female to grab the male and slowly devour him over the coming hours and days.
This also occurs in pet tarantulas. Anyone attempting to breed tarantulas will need to be on red alert as the pair are introduced.
I often spend hours sat by the cage, long forceps and plastic catch cups in hand, ready to separate the pair if anything untoward occurs.
Even then I’m not always quick enough. Just a few weeks ago I left a pair together for a matter of moments while I nipped to the toilet, only to come back and find the female was eating the male.
Some keepers claim this is actually a positive sign and consider it a surprise if the male survives his encounter. I guess I’ll just have to wait some months to see if my Poecilotheria ornata drops an eggsac.
Tarantulas are big and juicy – a perfect meal for many mammals and birds. Perhaps that’s why they’ve evolved to spend most of their lives hiding away from view in burrows.
This lifestyle, however, all changes as a male matures and goes on the hunt for females. Suddenly he’s far more visible to predators, which can significantly increase the chances of being eaten.
In parts of the USA where tarantulas are native, these wandering males are also at risk of death from human actions. In the right season they’re often observed travelling on mass in desert regions, crossing roads late at night. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that some of these males end up getting run over by passing motorists.
Adult male tarantulas are often so focused on finding a suitable mate that their appetite seems to decline. While I still offer food to my adult male tarantulas, I have observed that they eat far less than my females or even the juveniles.
Perhaps this lack of nutrition slowly affects them, weakening them as time goes on and so shortening their lifespan.
Most adult male tarantulas are incredibly lucky if they survive for as long as a year after maturity. In captivity, however, this is far more likely than in the wild. This is down to the lack of predators, and the ability to carefully control mating attempts in the hope of saving the male.
As a result, some adult male tarantulas do survive for a year or more – at which point they may try to go through the typical annual process of moulting.
Sadly, this often doesn’t end well. Moulting is possibly the riskiest time for a tarantula, when there are many things that can go wrong. For an old male that hasn’t eaten very much for months on end the results can be disastrous.
While there are threads of forums where adult males have survived this process, more often than not the simple act of changing their skin is the final nail in the coffin.
The act of mating itself doesn’t lead to death in male tarantulas, though getting grabbed and eaten straight afterwards is a far more likely end. Besides this, the lifestyle of male tarantulas also opens them up to all sorts of extra risks that can shorten their lifespan.
So spare a thought for the plucky male tarantula and admire his focus on his one true purpose in life – starting the next generation of baby tarantulas.
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