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Enclosure Set up Help, Preventing Mold for newbie

Discussion in 'Tarantula Questions & Discussions' started by Spyders, Jun 18, 2017.

  1. Spyders

    Spyders Arachnopeon

    Hi all,
    I am new to tarantula care and am hoping you might help me redesign my spider's enclosure. I set it up two weeks ago when I bought her from an exotic pet store, using the kit that came in the enclosure, but have since realized that this did not make for a proper tarantula enclosure, so I'm redoing it today.

    My Tarantula: female Mexican Red Knee. They said she is about 3 years old. Her body is about 2.25 inches long (I'm confused about how to measure leg span...) Shes super sweet and good natured <3

    Previous Set up:
    20170614_222805.jpg 20170618_172412.jpg

    (As you can see, she began climbing, which I now know is very dangerous, so that's why I'm hurrying to rework her enclosure today.)

    Previous Contents:
    Screen top (8inch x 8 inch top), glass walls (maybe 12 inches?)
    Substrate (moist cypress chips - not so good, right?)
    plastic plant (unnecessary but okay for design, right?)
    small water dish
    wood hide cover

    This is what I want to do... tell me if I should change anything:

    Problem: Height and shallow substrate
    Solution: Set enclosure on its side and cover the bottom half of the opening with plexiglas so the substrate will stay in when I open the screen. This solves the height problem, gives her some more space, and makes getting her in and out less scary because I can get her to crawl out horizontally rather than trying to carry her out by bringing her high up into the air. This will also give her about 4 inches of substrate depth to borrow into.

    Problem: Bad substrate type
    Solution: I'm switching out the cypress mulch for Eco Earth loose coconut fiber. It's the dry kind. I live in Florida so its super humid here, and our A/C doesn't get it all out of the air, so I think dry is better (yeah?).

    Problem: Found couple inches of MOLD on underside of hide cover. Grey/blue mold and yellow mold. Maybe because the cypress chips were moist and that side of the hide cover was up against the wall, so not much ventilation or light (and she put her spitballs there). She stopped using it about 4 days ago, so I guess thats why.
    Solution: ?? Panicked a little on this one. It was only in there for 2 weeks and already got that moldy? What do I do? Does mold hurt their lungs or skin? Can I clean it, or do I have to get a new one?

    I dont want mold to be an ongoing problem because she seemed pretty stressed from leaving her home at the store and moving into the new one. I can't keep changing her environment.

    I'm like the idea of the enclosure being on its side, but I'm concerned that covering up half of the screen will reduce ventilation too much for her, or make it more habitable for mold. Do you think the 4inch x 8inch screen area that will be left will allow enough airflow?

    Also I read that Mexican Red Knees are burrowers. I read that coconut fiber is a great substrate, so I bought a bag of it. But now someone on another thread said that it could collapse on her inside her burrow. Now I'm scared to use it. She tried to burrow in the previous enclosure but there wasn't enough for her to get down far, so I know she'll want to burrow once she can. I don't have an exotic pet store near me, so is there anything I can get at a Pet Supermarket to mix it with? The staff there don't know anything about Tarantulas so they're no help.

    Thank you very much for any assistance!!

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
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  2. user 666

    user 666 Arachnobaron

    Oh, wow, you really have mold. That's unusual.

    Here's what you should do.

    Scrub the hide in the sink to remove the mold, and then bake it at 300 degrees for several hours to kill the mold dead.

    While it is baking, dump everything out of the enclosure. Toss the wood chips outside (they'll eventually compost on your lawn).

    Before adding new substrate, wipe down the inside of the enclosure with vinegar. This will kill the mold.

    Then wipe it down a second time with water. This will cut the vinegar smell.

    Yes, the B smithi is a burrowing species, so deep substrate is a good thing.

    I don't know that you should put this enclosure on its side, though.
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  3. The Grym Reaper

    The Grym Reaper Arachnoreaper Arachnosupporter

    Measure from the tip of the front leg on one side to the tip of the back leg on the opposite side, this will give you the diagonal leg span (DLS) which is the preferred way to measure them, I'm assuming that she's around the 4 inch mark as mine has a 2 inch body and isn't far off that.

    I'd just get a medium Kritter Keeper or a medium flat faunarium/breeder box, they'd be much more suitable than your current enclosure (that enclosure would be great for an obligate burrowing species that requires 7-8 inches of substrate but, to be honest, it kinda sucks for anything else).

    Eco earth is fine, leave it dry, this species requires dry substrate (they tend to climb if the substrate is too wet).

    Scrub off any visible mould and then bake it in the oven at 250-300°F for half an hour or until completely dry (check it regularly so you don't burn it).

    If you do buy another hide then get cork bark, it's more mould resistant than those pine habba huts (I used one in my A. geniculata enclosure and it ended up caked in blue/green mould, they're only OK to use in dry enclosures).

    I'd be worried about the lack of ventilation too. This was another reason for me suggesting alternative enclosures earlier.

    At that size it probably won't burrow much (if at all), my girl doesn't burrow or use her hide, she's happy to sit out in the open.

    If you pack the substrate down then it'll hold better for burrows, Tarantulas reinforce their burrows with silk and they're excellent diggers so even if a burrow collapses they'll just dig themselves out, it's no biggie.
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  4. viper69

    viper69 ArachnoGod Old Timer

    You could keep her in ExoTerra Breeder Box for 25$, or sterilite for less, and all your issues would be solved. In the Breeder Box she wouldn't be able to burrow, but they learn to adapt.
  5. sasker

    sasker Arachnobaron Active Member

    That's about the worst 'starters kit' they could have sold you. Not your fault, though. It just shows that local pet shops don't know what they are doing or simply don't care (which is even worse:mad:).

    Not much to add to the info the other members provided. I agree that a completely new enclosure (like the relatively cheap Kritter Keepers) would be better. You can keep the glass terrarium that you bought for future projects. If you like your Brachypelma hamorii (which is the scientific name of your spider, by the way), you will end up with more spiders in the future :)

    About the glass enclosure: as it only opens from the top, your options are limited and fossorial (digging) species would be the most obvious choice. You could use it for tree spiders, but you will have to drill some holes in the sides (like 2" wide with ventilation covers) for some ventilation. You could do this yourself if you are not afraid of some DIY, or your could give the tank to a glass man to drill some holes. Still, the enclosure would not be ideal for aboreals because you can only enter the terrarium from the top.

    I must commend you for doing some research before posting your questions. Not everyone does that, but it makes it a lot easier to help you.

    Success with your spider and welcome to arachnoboards!
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  6. Spyders

    Spyders Arachnopeon

    Wowza, you guys are quick!! Thank you all so much for all of the help. Let me show you what I have done today. I didn't get to see your replies before I started working so I put in a temporary hide cover (plastic cup with the bottom cut out lol) so I could have time to clean the wood one. I've set up the sideways enclosure with the plexiglas:

    20170618_232649.jpg 20170618_232709.jpg 20170618_232618.jpg
    What do you think? After seeing it, do you still think it may not be enough ventilation? Its now about 4 inch x 8 inch screen opening.

    Thanks again for all the advice, I really appreciate it
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  7. Andrea82

    Andrea82 Arachnoking Active Member

    Awesome job in asking the right questions and fast adaptation! It looks so much better now!

    I can't believe pet shops still sell that crap as substrate. Cypress is about as worse as it gets, not even mentioning the puncture risk by those sharp edges.

    Luckily you are in the categorie 'think for yourself' instead of just following their advice :D
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  8. mconnachan

    mconnachan Arachnoprince Active Member

    Great job in reconstructing the enclosure, 100 times better, plenty ventilation, the sub is perfect, well done pal, if only all new keepers took the advice given and act on it immediately as you have 10/10 for effort and the lovey enclosure.....enjoy your lovely B. hamorii (smithi) re-classified from smithi to hamorii.
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  9. cold blood

    cold blood Moderator Staff Member

    For future reference, mold is an eyesore, but not a threat to your t.....just pick out mold.

    Mold is an indicator of either too much moisture or not enough ventilation...usually a combo of the two. A dirty enclosure can also be a contributor....always pick out the bolus and and dead or uneaten prey.

    This t should be kept predominantly dry with a dish...mold should never ever be an issue in an enclosure kept dry.

    Sterilizing sub will also promote mold growth, as now the first things to colonize the sub will have it all to themselves.

    Nice revision of the enclosure OP.
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  10. Spyders

    Spyders Arachnopeon

    Wow guys, thanks so much!! You're making me blush with all these kind compliments! :shame:

    I'm really happy with the set up, although I just hope she gets situated and likes it. So far she hasn't seemed to like the start of the burrow and has been trying to get between the plexiglas and the screen - I left a 3/4 inch space there in an attempt to allow more airflow, which I'm now wondering if it was a mistake. I can redo it if need be though - I just attached the Plexiglas with packing tape (which was surprisingly sturdy). We shall see! Thanks for all the support!!!