Invert rack build thread

ArachnidSentinl

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I've been in the hobby for a little over a decade -- on and off at times due to grad school, life, etc. I spent a lot of those years working evenings, nights, and holidays, lurking AB/Reddit/whatever, telling myself that I'll finally get around to some of the exotics projects I've been wanting to do once I graduate, buy a house, and have the time/space. Long story short, it's time to cash in on that delayed gratification!

I recently renovated a space in my basement for a hobby room, and now that it's mostly completed (just need to add some trim and baseboard), I moved my inverts in and have started construction on my first rack of enclosures. The rack itself is a ULINE H-1750-86 48 x 24 x 86" black wire shelving unit, with usable shelf dimensions of approx. 44" x 23.5". I have it extending perpendicular to the wall, the idea being that I can run a row of enclosures on each side (gives me about 12" of depth). My goal is to fill the two tops shelves with planted/bioactive, glass arboreal enclosures, maximizing the shelf space and achieving some semblance of seamlessness and symmetry (terrestrial enclosures to follow and fit below, but I'm not 100% sure what I want to do with that yet). I've decided on 8x vertically-oriented 10 gallon aquariums on the top shelf, and 10 vertically-oriented 5.5 gallon aquariums beneath.

I've done plenty of sculpted backgrounds in my day through all conceivable means. My impatience has made speed a priority (I want to get these up and planted asap), thus I've settled on the good ol' fashioned spray foam technique. I headed out to several nearby Petcos, cleared the shelves of 5's and 10's (dollar per gallon ftw!), and got to work. I've never done a mass batch of these before; it's murder on the back! At any rate, some shots of the initial silicone applied, then after spray foam, silicone, and coco fibre:

IMG_20200212_172156.jpg IMG_20200215_155512.jpg

Since speed is the name of the game, here, I got lazy with carving away the hard shell of the Great Stuff. It turned out it wasn't much of an issue, though I did go through and add some Zoo Med Terrarium Moss with some bronze-colored (brown) DAP silicone. It covered some of the patchy spots and added a nice bit of dimension:

IMG_20200217_170934.jpg

Note that 4 of the 10 gal tanks are on the opposite side of the rack. You'll also notice that there are acrylic fronts on the 10's. Originally I had planned to construct fronts myself using pieces sourced from TAP plastics. I've built 1/8" acrylic fronts before and had trouble with warping in higher humidity enclosures. I looked into using polycarbonate, but by the time I sourced all the necessary hinges and clasps, it was beyond budget. I decided just to purchase some 1/8" 10 gallon vertical conversion kits from I Heart Geckos. They look slick, seem to have sufficient ventilation, and they're well constructed, so fingers crossed! I've never used them before, but keeping exotics is all about trying new things.

That smaller rack on the side is a ULINE H-2420-72 24 x 12 x 72" black wire shelf unit on which I house my current and regrettably meager collection (I blame grad school!) in a distastefully motley assortment of tubs and kritter keepers. That just won't do, and as this project develops, all will be rehoused in more display-oriented enclosures. Also, that larger enclosure in the back is a custom PVC snake enclosure I purchased from D.W. Geckos that currently houses my juvenile Drymarchon melanurus; he's moving to an 8ft Animal Plastics enclosure soon, which will be another big build project (stay tuned).

So at this stage of the game, I need to wait for the silicone to fully cure on everything, then I can start the hardscape on the 10's. I went to our local expo here in Chicagoland, the All Animal Expo in Wheaton, and picked up some giant cork tubes that I'll be sawing down into 14-16" pieces for hides. I also picked up some pothos, philodendron, and ivy from a local greenhouse today; I'd like to get my hands on some Ficus pumilia if I can, though. Oh! And each row will be lit with a Finnex Planted+ 24/7 HLC LED light bar, which arrive in a few days. I'm a big time fan of the 24/7 light cycle feature, but the old models never had a sufficient period of darkness. I'm told this new model is more customizable, so I expect this to look amazing when it's all lit up.

Stay tuned for more developments! As always, I'm open to comments and feedback. Any ideas what I should do with the hardscape for the 10's aside from cork rounds? Those tanks are for pokies and violaceopes, btw.
 

jrh3

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Nice, write up. Im always looking at efficient ways to fit more tanks in a room. Can’t wait to see it once you get the whole thing done.
 

Rhino1

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Keep this thread going. This is awesome, I really appreciate seeing this.
 

ArachnidSentinl

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Today I received two 36in Finnex Planted+ 24/7 HLC aquarium LED lights. I plan to use a couple more, but I wanted to see how they perform before committing to the full investment.The Planted+ 24/7 has a 24 hour varying light cycle which I love. I've used several Planted+ 24/7 models in the past for various projects -- aquariums, mostly, but also for herps and such. A buddy of mine used them for frog vivs with great success, and I've found them to be my ideal LED fixture, despite a few problems with older models. My chief complaint has always been that the period of total darkness was never long enough (two hours in past models) and could not be adjusted. When I discovered that the new HLC model allows for that, I was all in on using them for the inverts. Note that there are other LED fixtures with similar 24 hour light cycles, including the Current USA Satellite Plus PRO (never tried it; too expensive for the scope of this project but looks nice) and the Jungle Hobbies Advanced LED (I have one on another viv; very nice customization, but I've found that it overheats for like, no reason, and it's both ridiculously expensive and too powerful for this application); I'm sure there are more that I'm not aware of.

IMG_20200219_130515.jpg

At any rate, let's unbox this thing!

IMG_20200219_130935.jpg

Included in the box is, of course, the main LED bar, plus two clear plastic mounting rails, a detachable power brick, and a remote with two AAA batteries. I have to say, coming from the past models, the upgrades are immediately noticeable. The bar is extremely thin and light, the power brick is much smaller, and the remote seems more robust (it later proved to be far more responsive than past models).

Here are some general pics:

IMG_20200219_131025.jpg IMG_20200219_131020.jpg IMG_20200219_131034.jpg IMG_20200219_131743.jpg IMG_20200219_131800.jpg

I decided to forego the mounting rails and zip tie it directly to the shelving. This let me angle it backward somewhat, which is helpful in not obliterating my eyeballs when I walk by and look up (intensity will be decreased, but still).

IMG_20200219_134017.jpg

In the end, this was the result on the top shelf:

IMG_20200219_134006.jpg

The following is the demo mode of the 24 hour light cycle (from 24 hours to 24 seconds). Keep in mind this is the default intensity/color, and it'll be adjusted before I have inhabitants in the vivs. This thing is sweet!!

View attachment VID_20200219_134206.mp4


















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Nice, write up. Im always looking at efficient ways to fit more tanks in a room. Can’t wait to see it once you get the whole thing done.
Appreciate that! I often find myself frustrated with how things fail to fit together and waste space. My ideal setup would be a bunch of deep, tall, and thin front-opening glass vivs, which one cannot find outside of constructing them themselves. I don't currently have the time or patience for that, lol. Maybe someday in the future.

Keep this thread going. This is awesome, I really appreciate seeing this.
For sure! Build threads are my favorite to both lurk and contribute. Definitely planning on seeing this one through.
 

Arthroverts

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Very, very impressive. Delayed gratification has made you powerful in the vivarium world...

@woodie, do you see this?

Thanks for sharing,

Arthroverts
 

ArachnidSentinl

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The cork for the first eight enclosures is in hand, if you'll pardon the pun:

IMG_20200220_073414.jpg

Three of these cork tubes are approx 30-36in and will for sure be cut down to 14-16in segments. It occurred to me the other day that I have to be mindful of what will fit through the plexiglass doors...

At this point I'm thinking of a top soil/coco fiber/peat mix for the substrate, with no drainage layer. I want something "diggable," and getting a bazillion gallons of ABG exceeds my budget. I'm planning on using various Epipremnum and Philodendron for the big tanks. Probably will get some wandering jew, as well. I'm looking for hardier stuff that won't require swamp conditions to thrive, though I may try some Ficus pumilia in the violaceopes enclosure. Thoughts on the hardscape and plants?

---

Very, very impressive. Delayed gratification has made you powerful in the vivarium world...Thanks for sharing,

Arthroverts
Much appreciated! Looking at the progress so far, I think it'll be pretty sweet when I'm finished!
 
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viper69

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Excellent-- Curious on the front acrylic lids.... Did you have to supply I Heart Gecko w/the inner frame dimensions for the lid?

I ask because not all tanks are the same, there's always differences across brands etc. Jamie's Tarantulas - many, many years ago - used to make excellent acrylic lids for Ts. She stopped because every person's tank is different sized, and most people can't measure properly. A real same because the lids were really nice!
 

ArachnidSentinl

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Excellent-- Curious on the front acrylic lids.... Did you have to supply I Heart Gecko w/the inner frame dimensions for the lid?
Their listing noted dimensions and that the fronts are designed to fit Aqueon brand tanks. Fortunately, Aqueon is the brand Petco stocks for their dollar-per-gallon sale (they are also far superior to Tetra brand tanks, which have thin glass and flimsy rims).

I have to say, so far I've been very pleased with the I Heart Geckos fronts. They fit flush, seem robust, and installed quite easily with a little silicone. I Heart Geckos have some other offerings on their site, including a horizontal model which I am tempted to try (my only concern there is a lack of substrate dam). I'll add that it seems like they're the only ones selling conversions these days.
 

viper69

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Their listing noted dimensions and that the fronts are designed to fit Aqueon brand tanks. Fortunately, Aqueon is the brand Petco stocks for their dollar-per-gallon sale (they are also far superior to Tetra brand tanks, which have thin glass and flimsy rims).

I have to say, so far I've been very pleased with the I Heart Geckos fronts. They fit flush, seem robust, and installed quite easily with a little silicone. I Heart Geckos have some other offerings on their site, including a horizontal model which I am tempted to try (my only concern there is a lack of substrate dam). I'll add that it seems like they're the only ones selling conversions these days.
Yep I know the Aqueon deal. If only it applied to 5 gal tanks!!

There is a guy that makes a conversion kit for froggers. It's pretty cool. Turns your tank into a "ExoTerra".
 

ArachnidSentinl

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I spent some time yesterday setting up the top shelf/10 gals. Some of the cork I purchased was a little large, so I did a lot of sawing and breaking to both fit the pieces in the door and manipulate them into place. I wish I had been able to find some more interesting shapes rather than the more-or-less straight tubes. I found myself having to lean the cork so as to avoid flooding the hides with light (although again, the intensity will be dimmed). I'm trying to be mindful of the positioning of all these enclosure elements, too (e.g. those facing the side of the rack/door, the room's LED can lights, etc.). I suspect I may have to revisit placement as things evolve.

I also planted some clippings of Epipremnum, Philodendron, and Tradescantia. The goal here is to allow for six or more months of growth before introducing inhabitants. Until that time, I can go a bit harder on the light and water to get everything up to speed.

IMG_20200220_191457.jpg

IMG_20200220_191414.jpg

In case you're curious, here's a shot in the light's evening/sunset period:

IMG_20200220_194327.jpg

Next week I'll be digging into the next shelf, which will consist of 10x 5.5 gallon vertical tanks. I have obtained five so far (cleaned 'em out, lol), and four of the five have completed backgrounds. So stay tuned!

---

Yep I know the Aqueon deal. If only it applied to 5 gal tanks!!

There is a guy that makes a conversion kit for froggers. It's pretty cool. Turns your tank into a "ExoTerra".
Dollar-per-gallon on 5 gallon tanks is like my deepest, most perverse fantasy, lol. I'm biting the bullet and paying $15 a pop at the moment. Adds up, though!

You have a name or link for that frog conversion?
 

viper69

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I spent some time yesterday setting up the top shelf/10 gals. Some of the cork I purchased was a little large, so I did a lot of sawing and breaking to both fit the pieces in the door and manipulate them into place. I wish I had been able to find some more interesting shapes rather than the more-or-less straight tubes. I found myself having to lean the cork so as to avoid flooding the hides with light (although again, the intensity will be dimmed). I'm trying to be mindful of the positioning of all these enclosure elements, too (e.g. those facing the side of the rack/door, the room's LED can lights, etc.). I suspect I may have to revisit placement as things evolve.

I also planted some clippings of Epipremnum, Philodendron, and Tradescantia. The goal here is to allow for six or more months of growth before introducing inhabitants. Until that time, I can go a bit harder on the light and water to get everything up to speed.

View attachment 334683

View attachment 334682

In case you're curious, here's a shot in the light's evening/sunset period:

View attachment 334684

Next week I'll be digging into the next shelf, which will consist of 10x 5.5 gallon vertical tanks. I have obtained five so far (cleaned 'em out, lol), and four of the five have completed backgrounds. So stay tuned!

---



Dollar-per-gallon on 5 gallon tanks is like my deepest, most perverse fantasy, lol. I'm biting the bullet and paying $15 a pop at the moment. Adds up, though!

You have a name or link for that frog conversion?
I have the link, and I cannot find it. If you head over to Dendroboard and ask there, you'll find it. He even has a YouTube video. I can "see" it, but cannot remember what the logo etc he has.
 

ArachnidSentinl

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Busy week, but I'm back at it! I constructed (most of, aside from the moss) the fifth viv on the second shelf, so for now it's nice and symmetrical. With all that's been going on, the silicone has had some time to fully cure and everything is nice and dry and ready to roll. I snagged two more 36in Finnex Planted+ 24/7 HLC lights and mounted them with zip ties as before, and the end result is another shelf starting to take shape!

IMG_20200304_160411.jpg

I have more vertical conversion kits, this time for the 5.5 gals, coming from I Heart Geckos. As a side note, Jeremy from I Heart Geckos has been a real pleasure to work with. He ships very quickly and communication has been great. I'm looking forward to getting the next batch of fronts so I can hardscape and plant this shelf.

You'll notice that below the fives is a row of bins, which are serving as more-or-less temp enclosures for my terrestrials. Right now I'm using 11qt IKEA 365+ bins. They're a little on the pricer side, but the dimensions (which measure 12.5in long, 8.25in wide, and 8.75in tall) are excellent, the plastic is robust, and there's a gasket around the lid. I was previously using Container Store bins (e.g. their hobby-classic, Tall Shoebox), but I found them to be a tad flimsy, especially the lids. The loose lids allowed some of my pokies to crap through the seam and onto the walls/floor, so I made the switch (plus gaskets are more centipede-friendly). Ignore the relative disorganization of this shelf, btw. I usually alphabetize my collection, but right not my focus is elsewhere.

Anyway, here's how things are taking shape on the left side of the rack:

IMG_20200304_160358.jpg

As a side note, many of the clippings I planted in the tens have begun to take off. This Tradescantia zebrina has nearly doubled in size in a little over a week:

IMG_20200304_160443.jpg

It's all coming together! Stay tuned for adding fronts to the first five, five gallons, along with hardscape and plants. After that, I'll be obtaining five more five gallons for the other side of the rack. I'm thinking about changing the theme of the backgrounds for those to something more arid, possibly for some of my semi-arboreal baboons. As always, I welcome any ideas.

One last thing to note: I'll also be doing some horizontal enclosures for some of my terrestrials when I'm done with these top two shelves.
 

ArachnidSentinl

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Doors (and background moss) installed on the second row!

IMG_20200308_200249.jpg

My silicone job was a little sloppy this time, which one cannot see from this photo. Due to an availability issue, I went with GE instead of DAP and it seems to have a slightly different viscosity. I'll do another cleanup pass prior to the hardscape. Speaking of which, it's off to the LPS for cork and the nursery for plants!

I picked up some more fives for the backside, but I'm still mulling over how I want to do the backgrounds. For a more arid feel, my first impulse would be for XPS foam covered in grout. I'm not sure I want to commit to that lengthy (and annoying) process, so I'm considering experimenting with adhering topsoil, clay, or sand to either EPS foam (which I have on hand) or Great Stuff with silicone. Experimentation to follow!
 

ArachnidSentinl

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Well, COVID-19 has thrown a nice wrench in the works. Both NARBC and the All Animal Expo were (rightly) cancelled this past weekend, which prevented me from getting some decent cork and botanicals. I know there was still an unofficial NARBC gathering at the hotel last weekend, but I'm doing my best to be responsible and "socially distance" myself. Thus, I'm working with what I have on hand. That's partially what's led me to forego the arid 'scapes and continue with the classic Great Stuff/coco fiber backgrounds, but also it just turns out I have lots of arboreals that will need rehousing later this year.

So: five more to construct! Fortunately I had some silicone, Great Stuff, and cork on hand.

IMG_20200314_122246.jpg

Later today I'll trim the GS and adhere the coco fiber. Hoping this panic blows over soon so I can grab some nice plants.

As for the arid enclosures that I'm going to build for my baboons, I'm still pondering the details for those setups. What I do know is that I did some research into using sand adhered with silicone to foam, but that now sounds like a no-go, aesthetically speaking. Using drylok to make nice-looking rocks seems very promising however, and much less labor intensive that grout. Has anyone here used drylok for a tarantula enclosure background?

Also considering some fossorial enclosures one the bottom shelf, potentially -- if I choose not to use it for storage. Oh, and I just received another 42x24x86 rack to position next to this one. I may be using that for my terrestrials in the future. Right now it's holding my snake until my Animal Plastics T70 comes in mid May.
 

ArachnidSentinl

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COVID-19 continues to slow down this project, but I certainly won't let a global, society-threatening pandemic get in the way (well, maybe...)! I'm trying to be socially responsible and not run around in-person to find necessary components and plants. Fortunately Glassbox Tropicals sent out an email announcing a quarantine sale and was more than happy to indulge. I received 5lbs. of virgin cork bark tubes and about nine plants (it was shipped same-day and arrived the next, I might add! Very pleased.).

Prior to the delivery, I finished up what I could of the backgrounds:

IMG_20200316_134126.jpg

Cork selection was pretty much the perfect size! I later did a small amount of sawing, but otherwise it worked out well.

OI000061.jpg

My favorite of the new plants are the several Pellionia pulchra ("watermelon vine") I purchased. I've never grown this plant before; it's beautiful and so far seems far more hardy than some of the other plants I purchased. I bet this plant is going to look amazing clinging to the hardscape!

OI000057.jpg

Another of the acquisitions is Begonia thelmae, which looked promising but unfortunately all four plants immediately melted overnight. I'm not sure if they'll come back or not. I'm bummed, because it seemed to have a similar, eye-catching leaf pattern to the Pellionia, only with small flowers.

OI000058.jpg

I also purchased some Epipremnum pinnatum "Cebu Blue" (blue philodendron), which already look super cool in the right light. One is already taking off, the other is melting. Epis seem pretty resilient, so I'm hoping that bounces back, too.

OI000060.jpg

Finally, I also received two Philodendron "Wend-imbe," which is a cross between P. wendlandii and P. imbe. It's my understanding that it won't grow larger than 6in, so it should be a good fit for these vivariums. I don't have much to say on these plants yet. I'm thinking they'll fill the space nicely, however!

OI000059.jpg

Given the accumulated supplies, I had enough cork on hand to complete seven of the ten 5 gal enclosures, including sub, hardscape, and plants. Given the few melted plants aforementioned, I suspect I'll have to revisit several of the enclosures with more robust selections should the initial plants not rebound. Here's a few angles of the first five completed, which completes the top two shelves of the right side of the rack (not that I have yet to add leaves and other botanicals, or water dish)

IMG_20200317_173409.jpg

IMG_20200317_173345.jpg

I just realized I don't have a picture of the other (left) side yet, but there's not much change to see on account of only have two of the five, five gals done. I'll be completing that as soon as I have the cork in hand.

I should note that the plant growth so far in the 10 gal setups has been fantastic! I get the sense that now everything is rooted and ready to blow up. I think these will really begin to pop in a few months when the vines climb and fill out. Stay tuned for more!
 
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Rhino1

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I've really enjoyed seeing this all come together, you've done a fantastic job with everything, it looks very professional. Last year I built a dedicated invert room but at the moment I have too many inverts of all different sizes and species to be able to have all matching enclosures of the same size although after seeing how neatly you have done this, my brain is ticking away in overdrive, it has definitely given me something to work towards.
Thanks for sharing your build here, I originally joined Arachnoboards for inspiration and this thread hasn't dissapointed.
When will you be looking at adding tarantulas and what species are you intending on keeping, how many vivariums are in this build?
I'm using plantglo (made by reptiglo) led light Bars where it's needed with great results, what lighting have you decided on
Regards Rhino
 
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Rhino1

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Disregard the light question, just seen the post for that
 

ArachnidSentinl

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I've really enjoyed seeing this all come together, you've done a fantastic job with everything, it looks very professional. Last year I built a dedicated invert room but at the moment I have too many inverts of all different sizes and species to be able to have all matching enclosures of the same size although after seeing how neatly you have done this, my brain is ticking away in overdrive, it has definitely given me something to work towards.
Thanks for sharing your build here, I originally joined Arachnoboards for inspiration and this thread hasn't dissapointed.
When will you be looking at adding tarantulas and what species are you intending on keeping, how many vivariums are in this build?
I'm using plantglo (made by reptiglo) led light Bars where it's needed with great results, what lighting have you decided on
Regards Rhino
Thank you! I appreciate that! I figured there would be a few people on AB who appreciate some obsessive organization and over-the-top projects. I'm just taking what I enjoy most about the hobby and running with it.

As for species I'm housing, the eight, ten gallon enclosures will house various pokies and a couple O. violaceopes for now. The ten, fives will house various psalmos and tapis. I'd also like to get a nice Cyriopagopus sp. Hati Hati for one of them. I'll have a few enclosures left over, so I may get a hold of some avics. In truth, some of these are being built for spiders I don't have yet (although I have plenty of slings up and coming); I want to allow the plants to grow in, and I'm trying to shift my hobby focus to enclosure first, spider later. I'm hoping to restrain myself from rehousing anything into these enclosures for six months or so.

I should note that most of my spiders are actually baboons, and that's actually where my primary arachnocultural interest lies. I started with the top levels of the rack merely from a working-top-down plan of attack. I want to do terrestrial/semi-terrestrial setups on the lower levels, but I haven't figured out how to make that a reality quite yet. I want front-opening enclosures that fit the rack space nicely and avoid wasting space. I've yet to find anything outside of custom-commissioning glass euro vivs, but that's a pricey proposition. I might experiment with constructing my own. We'll see.

In total, I'm guessing I can fit at least 28, likely 38 glass arboreal enclosures on this rack, if I choose to run with the same form factor all the way down to the floor. I have another rack positioned parallel to this one that I intend on filling, as well, though one shelf of that will be for a 40 gal bioactive enclosure for a forest scorp. Between the two racks, I'm sure I can get 50 total enclosures going, not counting delis and whatnot for the slings (which will have their own, smaller rack).

Anyway, again: I appreciate the feedback! I'm glad I could inspire you and I hope you get back into your own invert room soon to pursue your own projects!
 

Rhino1

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It's definitely appreciated and I can't help but be even more inspired when you use kick-ass words like "arachnocultural".
For me it's always been a two way street and I like to have naturalistic vivarium style enclosures to complement the beauty of the inhabitants, simulate the environment they come from and the big plus in having enclosures that require a little more maintenance gives me more quality time to spend with my inverts
 

ArachnidSentinl

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...For me it's always been a two way street and I like to have naturalistic vivarium style enclosures to complement the beauty of the inhabitants, simulate the environment they come from and the big plus in having enclosures that require a little more maintenance gives me more quality time to spend with my inverts
This is an admirable attitude, and one that I think is unfortunately in the minority in this hobby. I know there have been many ongoing arguments about the necessity and ethics of such enrichment in arachnoculture - many see simplicity and sterility as avoiding unnecessary complication and as therefore more beneficial to the inhabitants. I think there is something of value lost when this occurs however. I feel a much stronger connection with my animals when I invest in them as individuals.

That, and complicating hobby stuff for it's own sake is just plain fun.
 
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