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Sand in substrate?

Discussion in 'Tarantula Questions & Discussions' started by Phaedrus, Feb 9, 2016.

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    Imagine my confusion, I mix Eco Earth and sand for my hermit crabs and find it retains moisture quite well, but when it comes to desert Tarantulas I am in a quandary.

    “For desert spiders use peat or fine bark chips mixed 50/50 with clean sand,” pg. 24 Tarantulas and other Arachnids by Samuel D Marshall

    “Fine sand is not recommended,” pg. 141 The Tarantula Keeper's Guide by Stanley and Marguerite Schultz

    Being unsure of the proper rout to take for housing desert Tarantulas like an A. chalcodes I am seeking a consensus of the learned AB contributors as to the best substrate to mix for these little guys.
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  2. TownesVanZandt

    TownesVanZandt Arachnodemon Active Member

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    I use coco soil bricks for all my T´s, both arid species and tropical ones. When it comes to the desert species I just plan the rehousing well ahead and let it dry out for a few weeks before I put the spider in. Never had any issues with that.
     
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  3. Poec54

    Poec54 Arachnoemperor Active Member

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    I use bagged top soil for all my tarantulas (arboreal, terrestrial, tropical, temperate, rainforest, desert). Great stuff, they can dig and tunnel in it. I adjust the moisture content to fit the species.

    On the other hand, I can't stand cocofiber. Tarantulas don't live in the stuff in the wild (too hazardous to live under cannon balls falling down at random), and there are no coconuts in Arizona or deserts.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2016
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  4. Chris11

    Chris11 ArachnoBat Arachnosupporter

    "Tarantulas and Other Arachnids" is a severely outdated source... i picked a copy up this summer without reading any of it and regret it... but it was only $4....
    A little sand mixed in will do no harm, imo. I would not do 50/50 though, more like 10/90 or less.
    I use top soil and peat for my enclosures, adding vermiculite for more moisture dependant species.
     
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  5. scott99

    scott99 Arachnoknight

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    you can use coconut fiber as substrate for both topical and desert species. Although I have read, that unfertilized potting soil works the best.
     
  6. Well so far we have 2 who use Coco soil, 2 who use Top soil with one recommendation for a 10% sand mixture, I am still confused!
     
  7. Chris11

    Chris11 ArachnoBat Arachnosupporter

    There are a variety of options that work. Some use top soil exclusively, other use peat moss, coco fiber, or unfertalized potting soil. Some mix them all together. Top soil (cheapest kind you can find at home depot/lowes, the brand i get is Timberline) is IMO the absolute best. Some will agree and some will not, its really what you prefer working with. I was just saying a 10% or so mix with sand wouldnt hurt a spider at all.
     
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  8. Sam_Peanuts

    Sam_Peanuts Arachnobaron

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    What substrate is best for a tarantula is an age long debate that is still going on to this day. Many have their own preferences and there's a lot of options so you have plenty of choice, but there's a few things you want to avoid.

    -They need substrate that holds together so they can build a burrow so you want to avoid anything that can't hold a shape, like having only fine sand. If it's mixed in with something else and the result won't create a cave-in when a tarantula makes a burrow, then it's fine.

    -You want to avoid fertilizer as much as possible whether it's organic(poop will attract unwanted tiny critters and/or mold and stuff) or chemical.

    -You want to avoid sharp substrate like tiny rocks so that they don't hurt themselves on it if they fall from the side/top of their cage when they climb.

    -You want to avoid having bark as substrate because many contain stuff that's bad for insects and for those that don't, they're not very comfortable on it in my experience and they'll try to cover it with webbing to fix that.

    That should cover most cases you want to avoid so you can experiment trying to find what works best for you.


    In my opinion, coco-fiber is fine even though it's a bit too light for my taste, but it's fairly pricy compared to other options.

    Top soil is really cheap and pretty good if the clay content isn't too high in the stuff near you since it's a bit too hard for them and it's terrible at absorbing moisture. If it is(the one I use is), I like to cut it with peat moss(which is still very cheap) to make it lighter and a bit better at absorbing moisture. The % will vary depending on your soil. Personally, I touch it to see if it seems fine instead of calculating a specific quantity for each.

    Peat moss is also fine by itself, but I prefer to mix it with top soil since I find a mix of the two works best for me.

    You can also mix in a small quantity of stuff like sphagnum moss, vermiculite(I personally dislike it since the only time I used it it kept sticking to my tarantulas feet until she webbed over it), sand, or whatever to aid with keeping more moisture in the soil if the tarantula requires more of it and/or creating more drainage, but for desert species, it's completely unnecessary.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2016
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  9. Poec54

    Poec54 Arachnoemperor Active Member

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    Sand is discouraged because it doesn't hold it's shape for digging, is hard for a falling spider to land on, doesn't hold moisture well (not organic, can't absorb water), and dry dusty sand may be able to enter a tarantula's lungs (as the slits are next to the ground). It's not a good medium for captivity. You can add a small amount to a substrate, but what for reason? Sand is pulverized rock, where's the benefit? There is no downside to completely omitting sand.

    I keep my chalcodes on dry, bagged top soil. There's no reason you can't do the same.
     
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  10. Venom1080

    Venom1080 Arachnoemperor Active Member

    personal preference is coco fiber and peat moss mixed.
     
  11. Sam_Peanuts

    Sam_Peanuts Arachnobaron

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    Unless his top soil is completely different than yours, it's not like top soil is a specific recipe that's equal all around the globe.

    If I use only top soil in an enclosure, it's imperative that it be completely dry before I put it in or it will shrink which is incredibly annoying since the crickets can hide on the side of the enclosure where the tarantula will have trouble catching it since the cricket can go all the way to the bottom and once dry, a lot of it becomes rock hard so it's not great.
     
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  12. cold blood

    cold blood Moderator Staff Member

    Yeah, while there is indeed a lot of really good info in that book, other things, like this, are severely outdated.

    I occasionally mix sand in with my soil to keep it from clumping or hardening, but I doubt its even 10%, really just a handful mixed in.

    I am also one that really prefers just plain old soil
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2016
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  13. EulersK

    EulersK Arachnoworm Staff Member

    I agree with Poec54 100%. I buy plain topsoil at Walmart for $1.50 per 20lb bag. Far, far, far cheaper than anything else. Just always ensure that there is no cedar mixed in (ingredients are always listed on the bag). As an added precaution, I always throw in a few crickets on the dirt for a few days before using it to ensure no toxicity.
     
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  14. Chris LXXIX

    Chris LXXIX Arachnoemperor Active Member

    Substrate is a never-ending debate, just like the handling one. Everyone here has its own preference: top soil, coco fiber, peat moss, a mix of those... but definitely a sand alone substrate, or too much sand, not (except for Sicarius hahni).

    I always used coco fiber in 25 years, never had a problem, especially with obligate burrowers. For tropicals i mix coco fiber with vermiculite (fine grain) for mantain humidity.

    I don't trust the top soil available here in Italy, nor i want to get mad too much checking about what's inside... with that said, the 'right' (no toxic stuff inside i mean) top soil is perfect.
     
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  15. TownesVanZandt

    TownesVanZandt Arachnodemon Active Member

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    This is an important point of view! The main reason for me using coco bricks is due to a lack of storage space, but I have been using our local top soil as well and it only provided me with problems. For tropical species I got the problem of the soil not being able to absorb the water. The water floated on top of the substrate rather than soaking into it. For arid species the substrate seemed more than dry enough, but after putting it into the enclosures it did "crystalise" and shrink in the same manner that Sam explains. Coco soil is so much more predictable and "stable". We probably do have bad earth for tarantulas here in the north. A large part of our national territory actually belongs to the Arctic parts of the world and we cannot grow a whole range of vegetables either.

    That being said, our Viking blood is still boiling inside us and we do make burrows in the snow that makes any baboon spider jealous. From there we jump out to catch Polar bears with our bare hands :kiss:!
     
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  16. cold blood

    cold blood Moderator Staff Member

    I'll call you on that. :bored:

    Do you have any pics of these dead polar bear?:pics::snaphappy:

    Video would be even better.:eek:
     
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  17. TownesVanZandt

    TownesVanZandt Arachnodemon Active Member

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    You know, actually it is a bit of a tragic story. Polar bears do go into human settlements in that area of my country where they exist and they do attack people. Even though we have among the strictest rules for owning weapons in the world, you are obliged to wear a heavy calibered rifle if you leave the city of Longyearbyen. You will find this signs there:

    Isbjørn-skilt.jpg

    The reason is this:

    isbjørn i by.jpg

    And this:

    isbjørn jager menneske.jpg

    I am sorry to say so, but this is the result most of the time:

    død isbjørn.jpg
     
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  18. cold blood

    cold blood Moderator Staff Member

    Ah hem, you appear to have exaggerated the truth.:bored: The pic of the guy around the truck with the PB, why was he not pouncing?:yawn: He was going in the wrong direction, in fact. :banghead: Perfect opportunity wasted.:banghead:
     
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  19. JohnDapiaoen

    JohnDapiaoen Arachnobro Arachnosupporter

    Many species live on different types of substrate; and for some, includes sandy loam. It's gonna be hard to go wrong as T's aren't too picky when it comes to dirt. Like someone else pointed out there are things to be avoided but after that just do whatever. For me, I like to research the species of T's habitat as best I can and construct ideas according to what I've gathered.

    Here's a shot of one of my baboon enclosures. A little piece of Africa for me to enjoy ;) 20160209_165118.jpg

    -JohnD.
     
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  20. matypants

    matypants Arachnopeon

    Let's take the G. rosea / G. porteri for example. It's thought to live at the edge of the Atacama desert. In the sticky on them it is stated-

    "They've been reported from semi-desert to scrub forest areas. At the top of this page is a photo of an RCF male taken very near Algarrobo, Chile, near the coast at about the longitude of Santiago."

    From these sources we learn that the area where the photograph was taken is part of the Chiliean marine depositional plains. A coastal prairie.
    http://esdac.jrc.ec.europa.eu/images/Eudasm/latinamerica/images/maps/download/cl11001_so.jpg

    http://esdac.jrc.ec.europa.eu/images/Eudasm/latinamerica/images/maps/download/cl11000_to.jpg

    http://esdac.jrc.ec.europa.eu/images/Eudasm/latinamerica/images/maps/download/cl13000_so.jpg

    (Starting points to learn about the scientific makeup of the soil where your favorite species lives: http://esdac.jrc.ec.europa.eu/resource-type/national-soil-maps-eudasm http://www.fao.org/soils-portal/soi...databases/faounesco-soil-map-of-the-world/en/ )

    The taxonomic groups of soil located there is the Ustochrept group. From Wikipedia: "Ustochrepts are characterized by an ochric epipedon, a warm soil temperature regime and an ustic soil moisture regime. Ochric epipedon refers to surface characteristics of the soils. It is characterized as an upper surface with too little organic matter and light color."

    The phrase "ustic soil regime" is an area in between arid, and udic. Arid regions are typically desert, while udic zones are of humid climate which have well-distributed rainfall.

    All of this is to say that every available source I could find, many of which I did not list due to consideration because it is very "dry" material (pun intended), points to the fact that even a stereotypical desert species may not live in what we perceive from Hollywood to be desert. As JohnDapiaoen pointed out, a loam with a smidgen of sandy grit may be closer to the norm.

    I feel better having nerded that out for myself and thought I would share. Lol

    (I use coco fiber myself, but not with any prejudices)
     
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