Vivarium Humidity – March 2014

By Curtis Pieramico

When setting up a certain cage for different species of animals you have to look at key points in that specific animal’s environment. One way to find these points is to look at the environment in which they come from. We can only try to mimic that environment to the best of our ability, and for a good portion of different species of frogs the best way to mimic this is by building a vivarium. A vivarium is simply described as a naturalistic, self-sustaining environment for your animals to live in. This would include proper lighting, substrate, foliage, moisture and climate. When dealing with the humidity aspect in particular, there are several different ways that will help you all having to do with the idea of a vivarium.

Tropical Vivarium setup for dart frogs

One of the very first steps you go through when building one of these style tanks is the substrate, and in humidity control your substrate will play a big role. A good way to start of is by using a bottom substrate such as Hydroballs or a crushed lava rock. After this layer you usually put a divider such as a mesh or polyfoam followed by the bedding that you are going to plant with. The reason you need these different layers is for drainage of the tank and moisture control with your environment. The simplest way of looking at it is when you plant something in a pot, the pot usually has a little hole on the bottom for the excess water to seep out of it.  This layer of rock or hydroballs is just acting as that drain hole, but without the need for drilling a hole in the bottom of your cage. Without this layer your tank would begin to fill up with water and start to smell very stagnant and gross. Another reason I like to use this layer is because it makes it much easier to regulate how much water you are adding to the environment. If the water hanging down in the Hydroballs is filling up quickly it is a good idea to mist a little less, and if the hydroballs remain dry you can probably mist a little heavier to help with plant growth and humidity. With these layers down you need to put down your substrate and there are a couple different ways of doing this when using live plants in your enclosure.  There are many different substrates from many different companies that you can use for the top layer of your vivarium and much of it just comes down to preference.

A Coco Soft or Eco Earth bedding usually suits the plants well and holds in moisture good but what you can always add on top of this as a little finishing touch is either a live pillow moss or a sphagnum moss. Both of these will help regulate the humidity in your enclosure and make the environment look very appealing as well.

Once you have your cage setup, the plants planted and watered, you have to start thinking of how you want to mist your cage to keep the humidity better regulated for both your plants and animals. This is one of the different aspects of a living vivarium, you are now taking care of both the animals inside the enclosure as well as the enclosure itself.

The two main misting systems are either automatic, or by hand. If you go with an automatic misting system most will have timers that either come with them or can be purchased separately.   This way, your cage is able to be misted at several different times of day instead of just when you are home. The advantage, in my opinion, of using a hand spray bottle or pressure sprayer is that you are watching the environment as you are misting so you are a little more hands-on with the vivarium. Lately, I have just been doing both so I can both watch the environment as well as keep the humidity up at multiple times throughout the day!

A majority of different species of frogs live in either damp environments or very humid environments, so the closer you can get to the climate that they live in, the better. A couple other ways to do this, besides misting the cage, would be to use different humidifiers and water sections in the vivarium. A humidifier in this type of setup is usually a fogger, and specialized versions for terrariums are made by a couple different companies. This you can also keep on a timer, which will pour a light fog into the cage, increasing the moisture and thus the humidity in the environment. The water section I am referring to is very interesting in a vivarium, this is like a built in water bowl for both your animals and to add additional water for your plants. You would incorporate this water section in the stages of putting your layers of bedding in and it can get as intricate as adding a man-made waterfall or feature to the water section.

One of the author’s dart frog tanks filling up with fog.

Everything I’ve said about different humidity techniques are all great ways to make sure you are getting the moisture and humidity that both your plants and animals will need to thrive. The key is to not just add all of the extras and make your cage as moist as it can be, but to find a good balance of both drier and more humid times of day that the plants and animals you have thrive in.

Although frogs and other species do not need to be kept in environments such as these vivariums it just seems to make it both a little more eye catching for everyone, and easier to maintain and keep your animals doing well. The biggest part of these vivariums that makes it a little easier to maintain is that you are not only looking after the animals but the environment as well. The cool part is these two bank off each other left and right making them perfect for each other. The more you water your plants to help them grow, the more humid the environment is for your frogs to help them thrive, and once you have the humidity down in the environment everything will just seem to come second nature.

Owning One of the World’s Deadliest – March 2014

By Noah Collins

Dart frogs have made their way into the herpetology field. Though some species are quite deadly in the wild, a simple change in diet stops the production of poison for captive specimens. In captivity, dart frogs are fed a diet that consists mainly of flightless fruit flies or crickets. Drosophila hydei and Drosphila melanogaster, the most common fruit fly species used used, as well as crickets are not rich in the alkaloids needed to produce the frog’s poison. In the wild, dart frogs feed on invertebrates from Central and South America where insects rich in theses alkaloids thrive. The frogs are able to synthesis these alkaloids from their prey in order to produce their toxins. As dart frogs secrete poison that predators must ingest, rather than actively injecting toxins into prey (the way venomous snakes do), they are considered poisonous rather than venomous. In fact, some dart frog species are considered the most poisonous animals on planet Earth. In order for a frog to harm another organism the toxin must enter the body through a cut or be ingested. Fortunately, captive dart frogs pose no risk of hurting humans.

Bumblebee Dart Frog – Dendrobates leucomelas

One of the most interesting species of poison dart frogs is the Golden dart frog (Phyllobates terribilis). This species of dart frog, when encountered in its natural habitat, is the most lethal. In the wild this species can create a poison called Batrachotoxin. Batrachotoxin is classified as a neurotoxin, and usually causes an organism to suffer from cardiac arrest. There is currently no cure for an individual who has had Batrachotoxin poisoning. This poison is so powerful that it is said to be much stronger than Morphine. The Phyllobates genus of poison dart frogs contain the only species of dart frogs that can create this poison. Due to the high toxicity, Amazonian natives use the frogs in the genus Phyllobates to hunt. The natives gently wipe their darts or arrows on the frogs back so that their prey will die when the darts or arrows stab into their bodies. This way the natives do not have to hit their targets with a lethal shot, but rather just pierce the skin so that the prey will succumb to the poison. The terms “Dart Frogs” and “Arrow Frogs” commonly referred to by hobbyists, derive from the way natives use them to hunt.  The term is generally applied to any of the small, brightly colored South American frogs, but only 3 of the most toxic species from the Phyllobates genus are actually used by Amazonians to poison the tips of their darts.

Some of the most common types of dart frogs in captivity are of the Dendrobates family. The Bumblebee dart frogs (Dendrobates Leucomelas) are one of the most abundant dart frog in captivity.  Bumblebee dart frogs produce a different kind of poison than the golden dart frogs do in the wild. Bumblebee dart frogs, as well as other Dendrobates species of dart frogs, produce Pumiliotoxin. Although this toxin is not as potent as Batrachotoxin, it still can be very dangerous. Even being hundreds of times less potent than Batrachotoxin, Pumiliotoxin causes paralysis, difficulty moving, and in severe cases death. This toxin causes irregular muscle contractions, putting the heart at risk.

Another species of dart frogs that is capable of producing Pumiliotoxin is the Dendrobates tinctorious, or the dyeing dart frog. One color variety is commonly mistaken for being a unique species – the blue azureus locale.  This frog is very unique in its display of vibrant blue colors. Each frog has a unique pattern of black spots on its back making it possible to identify between other frogs of the same type. This is similar the Bumblebee dart frogs because each Bumblebee dart frog has a unique banding that can be used to tell the frogs apart. These are frogs all have unique patters that distinguish them individually in a similar way that finger prints are used to distinguish human apart.  They also have different morphs of dart frogs in captivity. These morphs are caused through selective breeding. Breeders have created banded Bumblebee dart frogs where solid bands of black and yellow wrap the frog.

There are hundreds of types of poison dart frogs available to be kept as pets. Most species can live five to seven years in captivity. Because they have a decent life span in captivity, there is large number of offspring that can come from just a single pair. This is allowing them to become easily available and due to the sheer number available, new morphs are being created regularly in more species than just the Bumblebee dart frogs.

Since dart frogs cannot make poisons in captivity, they can make a great display pet for hobbyists because they are diurnal (awake during the day). Most dart frogs have vibrant colors used in the wild to show that they are dangerous and warn predators to stay away. Because of this, a dart frog’s security does not come from hiding like most animal species, but rather from being out in the open displaying warning colors. The dart frogs in captivity behave in the same ways they behave in the wild. Most dart frogs are not going to hide or sleep all day. This makes them a great “show” animal. Dendrobates auratus dart frogs are green and black, and their patterns often resemble a camo design. Again, each design is unique to each frog. They are one of the few dart frogs that are green in color. Although these frogs blend in to the green environment around them more so than species like the  Dendrobates tinctorious, they still stand out. Species like the Dendrobates auratus are a little shyer in captivity. Though they are out during the day, they are quicker to hide than other dart frogs if spooked. This type of shy behavior can be related to how potent the frog’s poison would be in the wild. Usually the most poisonous are brightly colored and the less poisonous are more likely to be subtly colored.  Although color can be used to describe how toxic the frogs can be, size does not relate to the toxicity of the animal.

There are species of dart frogs that stay very small like the blue jean (Dendrobates pumilio) dart frog. These frogs get no bigger than the average person’s thumbnail. This gives this group of frogs the widely used name of Thumbnail frogs. Most Thumbnail frogs are kept by experienced keepers because they can be less hardy than other species of dart frogs. Tinctorious species of dart frogs can get much bigger than thumbnail species. Some of these frogs get over two inches in length. Most Tinctorious species are territorial and will often bully other frogs of smaller size. Unlike the golden poison dart frogs who live in small groups, called an army, the Tinctorious species are more of loners in the wild. In captivity however, they can often be housed in pairs or trios. As long as the frogs are of similar size and have adequate room to roam around, they can do just fine together.  It is best to monitor your frogs closely when first introducing them, though, to ensure that there is no bullying between individuals.

Dart frogs are an animal that many scientists have taken an interest into studying. They are also making their way into the pet world and proving to be some of the most unique pets.  I highly suggest keeping one or more for yourself – there’s tons of species out there to try! 

Care and Reproduction of the Golfodulcean Arrow Frog – March 2014

By Anthony Neubauer

Introduction

The Golfodulcean Dart Frog is a classic to the dart frog hobby that comes from the dense rainforests of Costa Rica.  Adults grow to a decent size of 1”-1.5”, and are attractively colored. Their care is relatively easy provided a few essential steps are taken to ensure their survival. They tend to be more heard than seen, often fleeing when approached. However, their singing makes up for their lack of boldness. The call is a loud trill that can be heard from somewhat of a distance. It is by no means annoying, and adds to the “coolness” of this species. They also breed like rabbits, with my group producing clutches every 2 weeks. If you’re looking to getting into keeping and breeding dart frogs, you’ve found the ideal frog for you.

Poison

As the name suggests, wild Phyllobates are extremely toxic. Although vittatus are not as poisonous as their relatives such as P. terribilis, they still pack a deadly touch. Their toxin is a neurotoxic alkaloid that causes severe pain, mild to severe seizures, and sometimes even paralysis in extreme cases. In captivity, even wild caught specimens quickly lose their toxic nature. This is because their poisons are produced through their natural diet of poisonous ants, which is obviously not present in captive diets.

As with all dart frogs, poison is of no concern unless dealing with freshly wild caught specimens.

Choosing an enclosure

When it comes to choosing a tank for any dart frog, one must consider their need for a high humidity level. The terrariums manufactured by Exo Terra are a favorite among many dart frog enthusiasts, including myself. The front access doors making the daily spraying, checking for eggs or tadpoles, and other maintenance a breeze. I currently house my group of 5 in an Exo Terra that measures 36” x 18” x 24”. This is definitely larger than necessary, however they use every inch of floor space, and males can often be seen calling from the top of the cage. A good rule of thumb is to start with around 10 gallons or equivalent space for a pair, and add 5-10 gallons per additional frog. This species does fine in groups, although females will eat each others eggs if they cannot lay them apart from each other

The author’s vitattus enclosure.

Creating a “slice of rainforest”

I have been housing my group of 5, consisting of 3 males and 2 females, in a planted vivarium with great success.  The idea is to recreate a slice of the rainforest where these frogs come from. Bromeliads are a great way to brighten up the cage, as well as provide water and egg laying/ tadpole rearing sites. Ferns, philodendrons, and begonias are also great choices that will thrive in a dart frog tank. You want to provide a lot of places and vegetation for your frogs to hide in to feel secure. Oak and Magnolia tree leaf litter is also a good way to add attractive ground cover. Vittatus tend to live close to rivers and streams, so adding a water feature would not be a bad idea.  However, I have not found it necessary for my own tank, so it is up to you which route you’d like to take. You will want to spray the cage every day, or however often it takes to make the humidity level peak at 80%, and then dissipate to around 60% throughout the day. A fogger such as Zoo Med’s Reptifogger will also aid in upping humidity, especially during the winter when so many of us are drying the air with heaters.

Feeding

I feed my adult frogs small to medium crickets every other day to every three days when they are being put through a dry spell. When I start spraying more frequently again, they are fed every day, since they lay their eggs at this time and need the extra nutrients. Younger frogs are fed fruit flies daily until they can handle the small crickets. I supplement their diet by dusting insects twice a month with a Vitamin A supplement produced by Repashy. I have had highest fertility and healthy tadpoles with this schedule. One of my favorite attributes of these frogs is their ability to eat small to medium crickets with no problem.

Breeding

If you are caring for your frogs correctly and have males and females, you will get eggs without question. I have learned to control when my frogs lay eggs to an extent, by increasing feeding and spraying. I cycle my group with 1-2 weeks of heavy spraying, during which they are fed daily, followed by 2 weeks of light spraying and less frequent feeding. During the “wet spell”, males are heard calling all day, but more frequently when the lights go out around 9-10. They lay eggs at this time. Calling is at a minimal when going through a “drought”. Coconut hides on top of 4.5” deli cup lids are placed throughout the floor of the tank, and used as egg laying sites. I check these daily during the wet spell, and pull eggs a couple days after discovering them to allow time for males to fertilize them. This is where having a male heavy group comes into play, as the more males you have, the greater chance of one finding the eggs and fertilizing them.

Egg and Tadpole Care

After pulling the eggs, I clean any dirt and feces off the lid, and place it into a larger deli cup with moist paper towels.I store the eggs on a shelf in my open closet, with low ambient light. The temperature stays around 70-73 degrees Fahrenheit. I have noticed that at these lower temperatures, the eggs and tadpoles take longer to morph out, but result in larger and healthier babies. You can see the tadpoles develop through the clear eggs, and eventually break out of the egg. Once they emerge, I put them individually in a 32 ounce tall deli cup filled half way with half Reverse Osmosis water (which locals can purchase at any of our retail stores!), and half “tadpole tea” which I make by boiling magnolia leaves in water until the water turns brown from the tanins. I also add a magnolia leaf placed diagonally out of the water for a resting place, as well as extra food for the tadpoles. I feed my tadpoles every 3-4 days with HBH tadpole pellets. Once they have all of their legs and half adult colors, I move them into a 6.75” diameter delicupplaced at a 30 degree angle with moss at the top and a little of the tadpoles water and the leaf in the bottom. At this time, the tadpole looks like a baby frog with a tail. They stop eating, and begin gaining nutrients exclusively from absorbing their tail. Usually within a week, they fully absorb their tail, and will be hopping around the Sphagnum moss. I then remove them and place them into a 9.75” diameter deli cup with moss as a substrate, and a pothos plant clipping and leaf litter. They begin eating melanogaster fruit flies in 4-7 days, and then can be kept as an adult.

One of the author’s tadpoles growing!

In Conclusion

Phyllobates vittatus is a great introduction into dart frog keeping. Their impressive colors and calls makes them fun to keep. They are forgiving for a dart frog, so they’re perfect for someone who is wanting to dive into dart frogs, but is unsure where to start. They also produce clutches every few weeks, so if you fail at keeping the eggs or tadpoles alive, you will have many chances to learn and get it right.  Unfortunately these frogs are extremely underrated. Not a ton of people are breeding them because they are not as bold as other members in their genus. However, they can be found at affordable prices, especially when available on our website.  Pick up a group and give them a try! You won’t be disappointed.

Caring For The Vietnamese Centipede – January 2014

By Anthony Neubauer

The Vietnamese Centipede is a large invertebrate found throughout the jungles and tropics of Asia, especially southeast Asia where they are mostly imported from. There are also populations in Hawaii, and likely in other tropical climates throughout the world. Reaching lengths up to 12”,they are an active creature, scurrying through the jungle floor’s leaf litter as they search for their next meal. In captivity, they often burrow, but with a thought out setup,  they can be seen cruising around through vegetation and rearranging their enclosure. The Vietnamese Centipede is a great animal for the careful hobbyist.

Please Note: Centipedes in general are not for the inexperienced.  Not only do they possess powerful paralyzing venom, they are extremely prone to biting, and are one of the fastest, most unpredictable bugs you can deal with. I strongly recommend a long pair of hemostats, as they easily climb up tongs with astonishing speed. Although you can find pictures of it on the internet, handling should in no way be attempted. Centipedes tend to “test bite” everything they walk on, so an envenomation is almost inevitable. Please be responsible.

You don’t want to be on the receiving end of a bite from those chompers!

Selecting an Enclosure

Centipedes are escape artists, so if not housed in a 100% secure enclosure, they will get out at some point. I will only house them in glass tanks that have a sliding top lid with a pin to prevent it from opening. I prefer the sides to be taller than the centipede is long to create some space between my hand. It should also be tall enough to allow a few inches of substrate for burrowing, as well as a drainage layer if you plan to create a living vivarium, which is the best way to go. Anything from 5-10 gallons is enough space for even the largest specimen. I have heard of people keeping them in plastic enclosures such as those sold as “Kritter Keeper”, however, I would not trust all of the holes and gaps. The rule is: If the centipede can squeeze it’s head through, it can get it’s entire body through. Trust me from experience, you do not want one of these exploring the room you sleep in!

Water and Humidity

Perhaps the number one reason centipedes do not survive in captivity is hydration. Even so called “desert” centipedes do not live completely dry. In fact, when it is dry, they are no where to be found on the surface because they burrow down to the more humid layers of dirt. Vietnamese Centipedes come from dense, humid jungles, so they need to be kept as such. There are three steps to properly hydrating them. The first is always offering a water bowl full of water. Second, use a substrate that holds moisture well and will not mold. Third is regularly spraying down the enclosure. This is where a vivarium becomes most practical as you are watering the plants regularly anyway. Follow these three steps, and your centipede will thrive.

Temperature

Scolopendra subspinipes can be kept anywhere from room temp of 73*F, all the way up to 80*F. Keep in mind that at the higher end, they will act more natural, and be much quicker and aggressive. Many keepers will remove the heat source ahead of time if going into the enclosure is needed as this lets them cool down a bit and they tend to move a little slower. Still, do not let your guard down. Humidity is also harder to maintain at 80*F, so that should be accounted for.

Feeding

Feeding is an easy thing with these guys, as they are not picky. Any live vertebrate or invertebrate will be accepted. Crickets, Cockroaches, and mealworms and superworms are commonly available food items, and are the healthiest for the animal. Pinkies and feeder lizards can be offered occasionally, but they are not designed to digest vertebrates as much, so they tend to make them obese and have a  shorter life span. Large Cockroaches are what makes up a majority of their diet in the wild, so are probably the most beneficial and nutritious. Keep in mind that they are messy eaters, tearing their food up and often leaving a pile of bits and pieces of their meal. This should be removed as soon as possible due to the rapid growth of mold that is sure to happen due to the high humidity they are kept in.

Inside the Tank

When setting up a centipede enclosure, a few things should be taken into consideration. First, a thick layer of substrate should be provided to allow burrowing. Burrowing leads to a sense of security, which in turn leads to a comfortable centipede that will not be afraid to explore it’s enclosure. The enclosure should be made dense with either live or fake plants. Pothos plants make great live terrarium plants, as they have low light requirements, love a humid environment, and will vine out and climb all surfaces of the tank if allowed. They will also produce heavy ground cover if nothing is provided for them to climb up. This is perfect for your centipede. Live sheet moss is another great way to add humidity as well as a special aesthetic appeal to the tank. Stacks of broken cork bark also allows multiple hiding places, while looking good at the sametime. Cork bark will not mold, so is perfect for the centipede’s environment. For substrate, I recommend Cypress, Eco Earth, or my personal favorite, Tree Fern made by Exo Terra. The latter two will hold up better in a naturalistic vivarium a lot better, but if going for a simple and clean enclosure, Cypress will produced great results if changed once a month.

A Note on Venom:

Although there are no reliable reports of death by Scolopendra subspinipes, bite victims describe the experience as the most pain they have ever felt, with reactions ranging from severe pain with swelling, to slight necrosis of the tissue, accompanied with nausea, and unbearable pain. If bitten, a hospital trip should be arranged immediately to be on the safer side. Different subspecies have different levels of venom, but all should be treated with the same care and respect that a potentially dangerous animal demands. Think twice before purchasing a centipede if you share the house with children. Bottom line: Be responsible!

Differences among subspecies:

Scolopendra subspinipes subspinipes is the most commonly seen subspecies in the US. They are large, with 8-9” being average, and up to a foot not being unheard of. Colors range from the standard yellow leg, to cherry leg and tiger leg populations. Scolopendra subspinipes “de haani”is an extremely colorful subspecies, with varying degrees of deep red legs and body. S. subspinipes mutilans is a smaller subspecies,attaining sizes of around 5-6”. Their headplate, as well as their last body segment and terminal legs are a vivid red, with a black body and yellow legs. They are among the smallest of the species, and interestingly enough, are communal. I successfully kept 3 adults together for over a year. This is the only subspecies that is recommended to be housed together.

The Vietnamese centipede is a truly impressive invertebrate. When setup correctly, they can be a unique display animal that is sure to captivate its observers. As long as they are given their space, and measures are taken to prevent an escape, they make a very cool pet. Keep them hydrated and humid, and you’re sure to have your centipede for a very long time. The centipede is gaining popularity as more and more people realize the interesting behaviors and colors that come along with these prehistoric bugs.

The Incorrigible Snake Mite – January 2014

By Nicole Smith

What is a mite?

(Ophionyssus natricis) or “the snake mite” , are tiny arthropods that feed primarily  on the blood of living snakes but can also feed on certain lizard species as well. There are over 250 different species of mites that have been reported in reptiles, the most common being Ophionyssus natricis (karingavet.com.au).  The life cycle of the snake mite consists of five stages, egg, larva, protonymph, deutonymph, and adult. The complete lifecycle can be achieved in 13 to 19 days at temperatures between 77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. A female mite can lay a couple dozen eggs at a time and lay up to 60 to 80 eggs during their lifespan. Eggs can hatch in one day in ideal conditions, once reaching adulthood they can live up to 40 days regardless of if they feed or not!

Where do they come from?

A female mite will travel far to look for the perfect place to lay her eggs. At a temperature of around 86 degrees Fahrenheit, a female mite can travel at speeds of up to eight to eleven inches per minute or fifty five feet per hour! Mites can be transferred on cage equipment, furnishings, and clothes, so taking the right precautions, like using Provent a Mite on new cage furnishings, helps if you don’t want to deal with these pesky little parasites. The severity of an infestation is very dependent on the environment in which your animal lives in.

The small black specks are snake mites – they can be very small! 

Snake mites thrive in high temperatures and humidity, making them awfully hard to get rid of without harming your reptile, as high temperatures and humidity are often what our pets need to thrive as well. Snake mites can drown easily in water but they will still flourish in tropical environments over any other. Reptile species like Green Tree Pythons and other tropical species are perfect contenders for an infestation, although any species of snake is susceptible. Snake mites prefer dark areas over bright ones and over-lapping scales like most boas and pythons have so they can easily hold on between the pieces of skin. 

How can you tell when your reptile has mites and how do you get rid of them?

Signs that your reptile may have mites would include things such as refusing to eat, depression, excessive soaking in their water bowls, or dull looking, raised scales. Mites are also visible and will look like little black moving pieces of pepper or poppy seeds as adults. Depending on your pet, there are numerous methods to use to rid them of mites. The size and health of the animal are both important to take into consideration when deciding on which method is right for you.

You can see mites in the chin scales of this ball python.

The most effective treatment for animals of an appropriate size, is using Reptile Relief by Natural Chemistry (to treat the animal), in combination with Provent A Mite (to treat the enclosure).  Start by placing your animal in a secure plastic container (with airholes of course). Lightly spray the animal from head to tail, covering the entire body in a small amount of the mite treatment. Allow your reptile to sit for 15-20 minutes while the mites die off (for smaller animals, spraying a q-tip with Reptile Relief, wiping the animal down, then rinsing off with lukewarm water will help get rid of the mites).

After the allotted time, soak your animal in clean water (just enough to go halfway up your pets’ sides – you don’t want them to drown on accident!)  for another 15-20 minutes. The soaking process will help prevent any dehydrating since the Reptile Relief works by drying out the mites to kill them off. Next you will need to treat the enclosure by completely replacing all substrate and soaking all cage décor in a 10% bleach and water solution. Make sure all décor is completely submerged as the mites can climb out of the container to avoid drowning.

A few snake mites can be seen around the eyes of this ball python.

Next, move the enclosure into an open area (usually outside is best), and clean the enclosure with an animal safe cleanser such as Healthy Habitat by Natural Chemistry, covering every inch of the cage from top to bottom. Then, you can replace the substrate (or use newspaper or paper towels if the infestation is really bad) and all cage decor EXCEPT for the water dish. Spray the entire contents of the cage with Provent A Mite at a rate of about one second per square foot. Cover up the cage so that the fog sinks into the substrate for about 10 to 15 minutes, which will kill any live mites remaining in the enclosure, and allow the Provent A Mite to soak into the cage, killing any more mites that hatch out. Allow the enclosure to air out for about 20 minutes before adding the animal and water dish. Make sure to check that the cage is fully aired out and no longer smells of Provent A Mite before adding the water bowl and animal back to the cage – putting your snake in too soon can poison your snake! The entire process should take a little over an hour and can save your animal from health issues. Re-treating your animal should be done once a week for at least 2 to 3 weeks to ensure that any mites hatching from eggs are killed off, preventing re-infestation.  To prevent future outbreaks, treating the substrate every time you replace can help ensure you never have an infestation again!

References:

http://www.karingalvet.com.au/Pet-Care/Reptiles-and-Amphibians/Reptile-Mites.asp

http://vpi.com/publications/the_life_history_of_snake_mites

http://lllreptile.com/info/library/care-and-husbandry-articles/-/dealing-with-snake-mites/

Reptiles As Gifts – Do’s and Don’ts : December, 2013

By Jennifer Greene

The holidays are a fantastic, amazing time for families and friends to get together and exchange gifts.  Some people may be easy to buy gifts for, and others more difficult.  For manyreptile keepers, they have a wishlist of pets longer than they are tall!  While it may be tempting to buy a pet reptile for this person in your life, I have a word of advice for you.

Don’t.

It seems like it’d be a straightforward, easy gift – just wrap up the box the night before and give them the animal you know they’ve been wanting all year… It’s not at all that simple.  It’s a common piece of advice from animal shelters and rescues not to give puppies or kittens as presents during the holiday season, as it’s hard to be certain the recipient is really prepared for them.  That’s a mammal that can live in your home with you – imagine giving someone a pet that needs an entire habitat set up for them, that day, or else it runs the very great risk of getting sick and possibly even dying.

Resisting that smiling face can be hard when considering reptiles as pets for kids, but it’s incredibly important for the reptile‘s health that you are fully prepared for their arrival. 

So, DON’T give a reptile as a gift unexpectedly.  No matter how much you think a family or friend may love a new pet gecko, ball python, or bearded dragon, that’s an entire life you’re giving to them without any warning.  Reptiles can become quite expensive over time, and it’s unfair to your friends and family to expect them to suddenly embrace a new expense without preparing for it. 

That being said… That doesn’t mean you can’t help them prepare for possibly owning a new pet.  Books aren’t usually considered very exciting gifts, but they can be invaluable when it comes to learning about a new reptile pet.

So DO give books as gifts, especially to children.  Reading about reptiles not only helps them learn about caring for their new pet, but helps them practice their reading skills and learn how to find information on their own from valid sources. 

Does the family or friend already have books, and you know for a fact they’re going to want thisreptile?  Consider buying a gift certificate for the amount of the animal instead, rather than risk shipping it during the hectic holiday shipping season, and let them pick out the exact animal they want. 

If you know what species of reptile they’re getting, you can help by buying and wrapping needed supplies under the tree!  The most expensive part of any new reptile or amphibian is almost always setting them up, and this is where you can make the biggest impact on the gift recipient.  So DO remember to help out with needed supplies, which can be the most difficult part for a new reptile owner. 

However, if you’re a member of the family, you know the recipient will be happy with their pet, and you absolutely must give them a live animal under the tree, there are a few tips for ensuring the reptile does well. 

DO have the setup ready to go that day – if the animal arrived a few days or even weeks before Christmas, ensure that the correct setup is ready the day it arrives.  DO always order the setup before the animal. 

DO make sure the animal stays warm while the presents are being unwrapped.  Packing them in their shipping container, nestled inside a larger box with a heat pack inside is a great way to ensure that your new pet stays war and safe until it’s unwrapped. 

DO make sure no one shakes the box to see what’s inside! 

DON’T wait until the last minute to order – shipping gets increasingly more hectic closer to Christmas, and winter weather is always unpredictable.  To have a setup shipped to you an dready for a new inhabitant in time before Christmas, the time to start shopping for it is now.  Average shipping for supplies is 7 to 10 business days, meaning that the latest you can wait to get just supplies is Tuesday, December 17th…and even then, with so many packages being shipped, there is always the risk of a delay.  Plan ahead and order early to ensure your gift arrives on time!

And of course, always, always, always DO your research before getting a new pet!  If you’re local, visit our stores for hands on interaction with potential new pets, as well as personal help from our staff.  If you’re not local, you can always visit us on Facebook, ask us questions on Twitter , and view our HUNDREDS of videos on YouTube!

Please DON’T make an impulse buy of areptile pet this holiday season. 

Reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates are entirely dependent on you, the human caretaker, for all of their needs.  Please make sure that any reptile you give is not only wanted, but properly set up. 

Beautiful Bumblebees: Care and Maintenance of Bumblebee Arrow Frogs – November 2013

by Bruno Magana – all photos by author

 

Dendrobates Leucomelas, or commonly referred to as simply “Leucs” are one of the more robust species of arrow frogs. These frogs are one of the most prolific and brilliantly colored species, and make excellent occupants in tropical vivariums. Stout in appearance, bumble bee arrow frogs are also one of the larger species of the genus Dendrobates and are marked with brilliant yellow and orange bands on a shiny black body.  Although one of the most common species of arrow frogs kept in captivity, anyone who has had the opportunity to keep them knows without a doubt how this frog has kept and maintained its popularity in the hobby. It is an undeniably exciting arrow frog whether you’re new to the hobby or an experienced enthusiast. Like all poison arrow frogs, bumble bee arrow frogs live in the tropical rainforests of South America.

Different localities of this species range throughout Venezuela, southeastern Colombia, Northern Brazil, and Guyana. The common or ‘standard’ variety of the bumble bee arrow frog has a near equal balance of black and yellow coloration, with large blotches of black breaking the the lighter coloration. Through decades of selectively breeding bloodlines of the standard Leucomelas, there tends to be a peculiar (but non detrimental) color variation in which an orange color brings just a little more definition to the yellow, sometimes to the extremes of being almost orange and black in color. Unlike the standard variation of bumble bee, the ‘Fine spotted’ variety has bright yellow covering the majority of its black ground color. They are characterized by the many small black spots that are scattered across the frog’s back. Although this variety is not as commonly available in the pet trade when compared to the standard variety, they are certainly not impossible to find! There is also another very attractive ‘Banded” variety of bumble bee arrow frog. Thickness and color of the bands varies dramatically within the bloodline, but no black spots are present within the yellow bands going across the frogs torso.

A bumblebee with a very attractive pattern

These frogs inhabit lush tropical rainforests at high elevations in fallen logs, plants, leaf litter, and other debris. Bumble bee arrow frogs are known for being ground dwellers, but for their short and stout build they are surprisingly good climbers. They are active throughout the day during spikes of high humidity, at which time they engage in social behaviour and forage for food. In the wild bumble bee arrow frogs have a long wet season that lasts during the warmertimes of year, but is then followed by a very brief cool and dry season. The males of this species can be quite vocal, its soft spoken trill could easily be mistaken for an exotic bird. Because this behaviour is limited to what seems to be scheduled times of day, it is easy to enjoy the pleasant sound without being disturbed. In fact, to many enthusiasts the male’s singing is truly music to one’s ears. The frog’s main intention with his song is to attract females. This courting behaviour happens during the wet times of year, when food and water is plentiful. Water is key to the rudimentary stages of their life cycle. Eggs can only survive in moist conditions and larvae (or tadpoles) start life aquatically in small shallow pockets of water. For these reasons, it is easily understood why adult bumble bee arrow frogs time their courting behaviour with seasonal conditions. During the the dry season, bumble bee arrow frogs will reduce overall activity and will usually hide under debris to protect their permeable skin from the dry air. Following pockets of moisture, the frogs will continue to eat small prey items throughout the dry season. Luckily many small insects have to follow the same pockets of humidity in this season, so the occasional meal is never far.

Having a general idea of the seasonal habits and behaviour of these frogs is an important factor to keep this animal happy in captivity. Although the bumble bee arrow frog does thrive in social groups, one must not go overboard with housing this frog with too many tank mates.

They do best if kept in female heavy groups of five or less individuals depending on the size of the enclosure you provide for them. It is possible to keep a steady group of younger frogs in a heavily planted ten gallon tank, but it is recommended to go big if you intend to breed bumble bee arrow frogs as adults. Keeping in mind that although this frog spends lots of time on the ground, they will also climb so it is best to make a vertically oriented vivarium to allow these frogs to indulge in their natural activities.

A glass tank measuring 18 x 18 x 24” can provide a suitable habitat for a group of three adults. Make sure to add some foliage to the vivarium, live or plastic, as this will reduce stress and encourage natural behaviour.

Like all amphibians, water is a necessity that encourages regular activity so be sure to mist the cage with water two to three times a day and always provide a small and shallow water source for bathing (they will rehydrate by soaking their bodies). The goal is for the humidity to spike around 60% during the day, and somewhere around 90% at night.

It is important to remember that humidity is not supposed to stay consistent so go easy on yourself when misting your enclosure. This routine can be made simple by using an automatic misting system to help schedule humidity spikes. Using distilled water will keep hard water stains from distorting the visibility of the glass enclosure and is much safer than using dechlorinated tap.

Bumble bee arrow frogs usually feed after it rains, so it is best to mimic their natural routine and feed them a good meal once a day after a nice shower. Bumble bee arrow frogs will eat a variety of available foods like small or pinhead crickets, fruit flies, and springtails. It is also recommended to use a fine powdered multivitamin and calcium with D3 to sprinkle on feeder insects (best used on crickets), this supplementation should ensure the frog is getting the necessary  nutrients from its diet. Supplementing the diet can be done once a week, but only use one supplement at a time to ensure the frogs can metabolize the meal properly

Bumble Bee Arrow frogs will readily breed year round if the right conditions are provided, but it is recommended to have an off season to mimic the dry season the would experience in the wild. This dry season happens between the months of January and February, but remember, the word “dry” is only relative considering the tropical climate. You still want levels of humidity to spike at around 50 % during the day and 60% at night for at least three to 6 weeks. Maintain regular feeding routines, even though your frogs may be hiding, they will still need to eat duringtimes of slow activity. After this cycle or dry season, regular routines can start again. Bumping up humidity will increase the frogs behaviour, and your frogs should soon engage in courting rituals. Males will call after humidity spikes during the day. If more than one male is present, they will often call after the other to establish territory and compete for any nearby females. Calling sites are usually near suitable egg laying sites. Once a female decides to enter a male’s territory, he will take immediate interest in showing the female the chosen site, usually done by taking short jumps towards an interested female. Nesting sites are are usually smooth surfaces with heavy moisture present. In captivity, these frogs will nest in plants such as fallen leaf litter or bromeliads, black film containers, and in petri dishes under coconut hides. Once the frogs have entered a nest site, spawning will take place usually out of sight, and may stay in the nest for a few days after.

Many people have relative success in raising frogs by simply keeping up with regular routine for the vivarium. Letting the adults handle business, it’s possible to one day realize there are a couple of new additions to your arrow frog vivarium. Of course, letting this happen creates a big range of possibilities that you as a keeper have no control over. For example, two new froglets could have possibly have been six if the eggs were removed from the cage and incubated artificially in a moist petri dish. Having that control will increase the success rates of rearing arrow frog larvae. and raising young metamorphs.  Of course there is a lot of work involved in maintaining water quality, temperatures, and food for tadpoles on a daily basis – being involved with this amazing process is not only rewarding for the species, but also rewarding to you as the keeper. Whether your goal is to produce a number of frogs, or simply to have a little piece of paradise in your room, the bumble bee arrow frog is a wonderful species to work with for enthusiasts of all levels of experience.

Inside the Reptile Industry: Farming – April 2014

By Jennifer Greene and Loren Leigh

A controversial topic today in reptile keeping is the term “farmed”.  What does that really mean to the hobbyist today?  What does farmed even mean, and does farming really deserve the reputation it has garnered among reptile keepers?  Hopefully with some insight from Loren Leigh, the owner of LLLReptile and Supply Co, Inc, you can have a better understanding of what farming really means for reputable dealers.

A young Argus monitor

If you google “reptile farming”, or similar terms, you get many results for animal farms in the US that allow tours, or produce animals as pets, or for actual farms with cows, sheep, or similar livestock.  Getting someone to give you a straight answer on what exactly farming is in relation to reptiles is difficult as well; answers vary widely from person to person.  The reason for this is that there is no set definition for reptile farming.  Is it farming to have large numbers of ball pythons in enclosures, producing dozens or hundreds of babies a year?  Is it farming to have outdoor enclosures for a couple of sulcatas that produce dozens of babies each year?  Does your answer for the ball pythons change depending on the country they are being bred in?  What about the sulcatas?  Does it change based on numbers?  At what point are you no longer a hobbyist breeding an animal you love, and you are a farmer?  Does the country you’re in change your answer as to whether or not your animals are “truly” captive bred?

When I asked Loren to help me define Farming for this article, he explained the difficulty in defining a word so loosely used in our industry.  Generally speaking, though, it is considered farming when it is a particular species being produced in its country of origin in a controlled situation.  Furthermore, it is farming when the species is produced outdoors, relying on naturally occurring conditions to stimulate natural behaviors resulting in breeding.  Loren has had the fortune to actually visit reptile farms both in the US and outside of our borders, including a friend’s farm in Tanzania.  One of the biggest upsides to farming is that it allows for us here in the US to get species that are difficult to find in the wild, as well as difficult or not yet bred here in the states.

A baby Green Tree Python – a species commonly “farm bred”

 

Monitors, for example, are a group of animals not frequently bred here in the US.  For some species, we would not have any access to them whatsoever without the offspring produced at reptile farms in places like Indonesia.  One such farm is the one featured in this video (click link to view) that was visited by DM Exotics – you can see the large adult monitors being housed and cared for so that they can produce offspring each year.  Species such as melinus, doreanus, prasinus, dumerilii, and more are all farmed in Indonesia under conditions similar to their wild habitat.  Without reptile farms, US keepers would not have these species.  If you watch the video linked above, you can also see the conditions the animals are kept in.  Many reptiles cannot and will not breed if conditions are not exactly as they need; reptile farmers realize this and their breeding stock is housed spaciously, fed well, and clearly efforts are made to keep them healthy and happy.

Another example of farming would be red eared sliders here in the US, in particular, at farms located in the South in states like Louisiana.  The US is the biggest exporter of Red Eared Sliders in the world, along with map turtles, and soon box turtles as well.  However, none of the adult breeding stock being used to produce these numbers is wild caught – the red eared sliders, for example, that are used to produce these incredibly high numbers for export (both in the pet trade as well as food) come from established lines that have been in captivity for multiple generations.  There is no need for wild harvesting of red eared sliders or map turtles, thanks in large part to these reptile farms in the parts of the US they occur naturally.

A baby Mississippi Map Turtle 

The reality of farming is that an enterprising reptile keeper can set up outdoor enclosures for any species that occurs in a similar environment to where they live, add animals, feed them, and voila – you have a reptile farm.  One of the largest producers of sulcatas in the world, for example, lives in Honduras!   Florida also has an excellent environment for setting up many species outdoors, which is why it is such a mecca for reptile enthusiasts.  In the southern half of the state, you can set up an outdoor pen for nearly any tropical species and it will thrive.

While in the past, farming may not have been the most ideal situation for a reptile to originate from, a reputable, modern farming operation should be seen as the boon for the reptile industry that it is.  The emphasis for most farms has switched from simply holding animals to reproducing them, resulting in animals that are, essentially, captive bred in their country of origin.  Various locales of Green Tree Pythons are one example, as are blue tongue skinks, frilled dragons, Madagascar ground boas, emerald tree lizards, Colombian boas, and even many species of chameleons.  The majority of reptiles kept on farms such as these originate from adults in captivity that are kept with no intention of release, and instead are maintained until the next breeding season.

Baby Savannah Monitor

So before condemning all reptile farming as scummy and to be disdained, consider the species it has allowed us to keep.  Remember that by simply setting up an enclosure or a few outdoors, and letting the natural weather conditions handle the heating and lighting for your pets, you could be considered to be a reptile farmer.  Farming is not entirely cut and dry, and is not necessarily the worst way to produce pets for keepers here in the states or internationally.  Where do you draw the line between a large scale breeder and a farmer?  Can you?  Does it really matter? 

Food for thought.

Caring for Collared Lizards – October 2013

By Anthony Neubauer

Introduction

The Eastern Collared Lizard, Crotaphytus collaris, is a hardy, medium sized lizard native to the deserts of the Southern United States. They are common in Arizona and Texas, but also range into neighboring states. They are a very active species that spend much of their day running, jumping, and digging throughout the terrarium. Captive bred specimens can be very tame and relaxed, and make much better captives than wild caught specimens. If you’re looking for something different to put in a desert setup that will tolerate occasional handling and make for an entertaining captive, look no further. Collared lizards are for you.

Housing

Collared Lizards are extremely active. Keep this in mind when selecting an enclosure. A tank measuring 12″ long x 12″ deep x 30″ wide can house up to 3 babies for the first 6-8 months of life, and could house a single baby for up to a year.

Once they reach adulthood at around a year to a year and a half, it’s time to upgrade to a minimum of a 16″ x 16″ x 36″ sized enclosure.

This allows for adequate space to run around, as well as some height for offering a deep layer of substrate to burrow in and sticks and rocks to climb on.

Collared Lizards will readily use any space given, so if more space can be provided, your lizards will appreciate it. Glass tanks manufactured by Creative Habitat and Exo Terra are preferable, as they provide adequate light and ventilation for this desert reptile.

Environment

When setting up an enclosure, the first decision you must make is to go naturalistic or simplistic. You could very easily throw in a dry bedding such as Sani-Chips, a couple rocks and or sticks, and a water bowl and your Collareds would survive just fine. However, many hobbyists take it a step further in creating a much more aesthetically pleasing setup, complete with sand, gravel, live or fake plants, and rocks and wood setup as natural as possible.

I highly recommend using a sand-like substrate that allows burrowing. When given the opportunity, Collared Lizards will create burrows and retreat to them at night for sleeping.

This keeps them occupied all day, and in the end leads to happier lizards. I prefer to use Excavator Clay by Zoo Med, topped with a thin layer of sand for added texture and looks.

When wet, Excavator Clay can be shaped and molded into any shape you can imagine. When dry, it becomes hardened enough to hold burrows, but still able to be dug into.

Succulents and some cacti can be used to add some color, as well as a few flat basking rocks and a piece of Manzanita or Grape Wood.

Water

These lizards hail from the harsh deserts of the United States, and so are adapted to a water preserving life style. I like to provide a shallow water bowl with clean water at all times, even though they rarely drink. I also very lightly spray the tank down once a week, mostly for the plants, although the lizards drink the droplets as well. Other than their weekly spray, they don’t need any added humidity.

Water

These lizards hail from the harsh deserts of the United States, and so are adapted to a water preserving life style. I like to provide a shallow water bowl with clean water at all times, even though they rarely drink. I also very lightly spray the tank down once a week, mostly for the plants, although the lizards drink the droplets as well. Other than their weekly spray, they don’t need any added humidity.

 

Heating and lighting

These guys like it HOT. The basking area should be 110-120 Degrees Fahrenheit during the day, with the ambient temperature ranging from room temp to 85 Degrees. I use and recommend a Halogen basking bulb, as they make it easy to achieve these hot temperatures, but in a small, concentrated area so the entire tank isn’t cooking. I position this light over a large flat rock, so the rock heats up providing belly heat similar to using a heat pad. They will move closer and further away from the hot spot to achieve their preferred temperature. At night time, your temperatures can drop pretty significantly, as long as it heats up during the day. Anything above 60 degrees is fine, although 65-70 Degrees is optimal. This is a truly diurnal species, so high intensity UVB lighting is absolutely necessary for them to thrive. The Zoo Med T5 High Output bulbs rated 10.0 is the way to go. I provide 12-14 hours of daylight, and 10-12 hours of darkness without the lights.

 

Feeding

Collared Lizards eat A LOT. This is especially true when growing, as they are using all nutrients towards their rapid growth. They should be fed daily for their first year, and then every other day once they’re close to adult size. They eat a variety of insects, and the more variety the better. I feed mine mainly appropriately sized crickets, with either Dubia roaches, wax worms and moths, and mealworms being offered with every other cricket feeding. Flying insects are cherished, and they can easily jump up and chase them down to get them. Adults can eat the occasional pinky mouse, and will even eat feeder lizards! It is to be noted that Collared Lizards have extremely large heads and throats in comparison to their size, so taking larger food items is no problem. They have a ravenous appetite, and the more you feed youngsters the better they’ll do. I have also witnessed mine eating the leaves of certain succulents, so it may be worth offering yours leafy greens or even fruit from time to time.  While some will readily consume plant matter, not all do, so don’t worry if yours do not eat vegetation.

Vitamins

On top of a varied diet, I still use a few dietary supplements. Once a week I dust their crickets with RepCal Calcium with D3 mixed 50/50 with Repashy SuperPig pigment enhancer. I also use RepCal multivitamin once a month, also mixed with SuperPig. This is essential in making your Collared Lizards as bright and healthy as possible.

Adult Size and Sexing

Collared Lizards are sexually dimorphic, meaning you can tell them apart just by looking at them. Males will have more blue and green on their body, and females will have more tan and red. Males also get a little larger, have bulkier heads, and an overall heftier build. Adult size on these guys is around 12-14 inches, with males being toward the larger end, and females being on the smaller end.

They can reach adult size in a year to a year and a half with proper feeding, food, and nutrition as well as heat.

Conclusion

The Eastern Collared Lizard is a fun one to keep. They are always doing something, and are very inquisitive. They are quick, but can be tamed down with frequent calm, confident handling. Care for them is pretty straight forward, and they have few to no health issues as long as their heat and feeding requirements are provided. Overall a fascinating desert captive that is sure to become a favorite in any hobbyist’s collection.

Care for Mexican Fire Leg Tarantulas – September 2013

By Anthony Neubauer

Introduction

The group of tarantulas that make up the genus Brachypelma are ideal spiders for any hobbyist. Their generally calm demeanor, decent yet manageable size(5-6 inches), and stunning colors make them perfect for a display animal. Some tolerate handling more than others, but as with any spider, care should be taken when handling. My personal favorite, the Mexican Fire leg, is better kept for display. They are one of the most colorful members of the genus, and tend to stay out in the open for viewing.

When selecting a first tarantula, most people are instructed to start with “New World” species, that is, species that come from North or South America. New World species possess specialized hairs on the abdomen, called uriticating hairs, that are rubbed off as the first defense. These hairs, once airborne, cause itchiness and irritation. Some people are more sensitive to them than others, but they generally are of little worry. Because they possess these hairs, they are less inclined to bite, and possess less potent venom if they do. They also tend to be calmer and slower moving. This makes them more manageable for the beginner and intermediate hobbyist. The Brachypelma genus hails from Mexico and Central America, so fall into the New World category.

Selecting an Enclosure

When selecting an enclosure for a Fire Leg, one must keep in mind that they are a terrestrial species, so will spend their time on the ground. This is important, as housing them in too tall of cage can result in a fatal fall. Spiderlings are available as small as half an inch, and up until around two inches should be housed in a small, simple setup as locating their food and water will be tough in larger enclosures. I recommend an eight ounce deli cup up until two inches such asthis. Once they start gaining size, appropriately sized glass tanks or plastic enclosure can be used. For an adult Fire Leg, something with similar floor space to a 10 gallon tank is sufficient. Exo Terra Breeder Boxes and Flat Den Homes are an excellent way to save space, allowing for you to have more spiders!

Cage Décor and Substrate

For any tarantula to thrive, a hiding spot should be provided to allow the spider to feel secure and keep stress levels down. Hides can be anything from a coconut hide, to a piece of cork bark, to a stone cave or skull. Basically anything they can get under or in, and be mostly unseen. Commonly used substrates include Coconut Husk, Orchid Bark, and Cypress Mulch. A water bowl should also be offered for spiders around three inches and up. It should be shallow enough that there is no risk of drowning, and should be changed every couple of days to keep it clean. Spiderlings up until three inches should be sprayed once a week, and not given a water bowl, as this can cause drowning. They will drink the water droplets when they are sprayed. It is not recommended to use a sponge as a water source, as these quickly promote bacterial growth. Some keepers, particularly those interested in keeping Fire Legs for a display animal, choose to take the habitat to the next level and create a natural living vivarium, complete with live plants. This can be easily done with a little extra thought and consideration.  Keep in mind your tarantula’s needs when molting (higher humidity in particular), and you can recreate a desert- style vivarium with moist hiding areas.

Temperature and Humidity

Fire Legs come from the deserts and sub deserts of Mexico. However, no tarantula should be kept constantly dry or too hot. They can be kept at room temperature in most households, provided it stays around 70-73*. Ideally you’d be shooting for 78-80 Degrees, in which case they will metabolize and grow quicker. If you need to pump the temperatures up a little bit, you can use a Clamp Lamppointed at one side of the cage to raise the ambient temperature.

Heat pads can also be used, but should only be mounted to the side of a glass enclosure, as tarantulas burrow to escape heat, so an undertank heater would result in a cooked spider.

As adults, their substrate can be kept bone dry as long as a water bowl is provided. They should also be given higher humidity before they molt. This is achieved by lightly spraying the enclosure, and by adding wet Sphagnum Moss.

Feeding

Tarantulas in general have a low metabolism. They aren’t running around the cage all day, or doing much of anything, to be honest. As a result, they don’t eat a whole lot. Most spiders will eat one appropriately sized insect a week. Spiderlings can be offered Flightless fruit flies if they are too small to tackle live crickets. They can also be given a freshly killed small cricket, as they can be scavengers for their few months of life. It is not uncommon for your tarantula to skip a meal, or even go for a prolonged period of fasting. As long as they maintain a plump abdomen, they are perfectly fine. The most frequent reason that a spider refuses a meal is that is going through premolt, that is, it is preparing to shed its skin. Signs of premolt would be the tarantula kicking all of its uriticating hairs off, leaving a light colored bald spot that eventually turns black. After the process is complete, you will find a shed skin that looks just like your spider! They will also begin to regenerate legs during this time if any are lost.  Leg regeneration can take several molts and can be a complicated process for your tarantula, so while they can regrow their legs, it’s best that they not lose them in the first place.

Sexing

Sexing tarantulas is usually difficult until they mature. Once mature, males will possess “hooks” on their pedipalps, which are used for breeding. Once males “hook out”, they will only live for another year or two. Females will not get these hooks, and will instead live for around 20 years after maturing. This obviously makes females more desirable to acquire, however it is near impossible to tell until they are mature.  You can also sex tarantulas by examining their molts closely, but as this can be difficult without the right tools to see the right parts in a tiny spiderling molt, to be truly accurate it is best left to the dedicated tarantula enthusiast.

Conclusion

Overall, the Mexican Fire Leg Tarantula makes a perfect pet for beginning and advanced hobbyists alike. They are very hardy and easy to care for, but attain decent size and amazing color. They are not very quick, nor are they very bitey, but they do kick hairs and become nervous when disturbed, so they are better left as a “look-but-don’t-touch” pet. They can be kept in a simplistic setup, or in an elaborate vivarium. Either way, they will thrive as long as a  few basic needs are met. If you are looking for a colorful tarantula that is easy to deal with and maintain, stop looking and purchase a Mexican Fire Leg Tarantula!