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Vermiculite recommendation

Discussion in 'Tarantula Chat' started by Sharno, Jan 6, 2015.

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    Perhaps you might be interested in reading Substrate. In fact, if you haven't already done so, you might profit by reading the entire Spiders, Calgary website.
  2. Sharno

    Sharno Arachnosquire Arachnosupporter

    Hi Stan,
    Thanks for your input, I do have your book. It seems though this section is for juvies and adults (I might be wrong). I am talking mostly about the slings in small deli cup. When I have used coco fibre or substrate like that described in your section, after a few weeks it can get lumpy. I am happy changing out the substrate but I always hate disturbing young tarantulas in case they are near a molt, or just don't want to disrupt them in general.

    The co co fiber is so fluffy and perfect at the onset. I love it. But in time it just gets unruly. If it is my husbandry, I want to fix that. Otherwise, it just seems the vermiculite has been maintaining a little moisture without the lumpiness and the slings don't seem to mind it, and also can burrow.

    Thanks all!
  3. cold blood

    cold blood Moderator Staff Member

    Its getting "lumpy" because the t is webbing little areas. This is a good thing, makes the sling feel at home and is no reason to change the substrate....its just part of the sling making it its home. Vermiculite doesn't do this because its more difficult for the little t to manipulate and build with. Your "problem", is actually not a problem, but rather a good thing.

    I only change sub for slings when its time to re-house...let them do what they want with the substrate, it isn't an issue, just normal operating procedure for a sling.;)
  4. And thank you for the good words.

    Before we go any further, I need to direct your attention to Growing Your Own for rather more precise definitions of the various growth stages of tarantulas. I do this because each stage is cared for differently than its predecessor and it's successor. (Note, that there is very little unique or original about the content of that page. It's merely a formalized description of how we've been taking care of our tarantulas for decades, just organized so we can understand the process more easily. The only thing really new there is the formalization and standardization of the definitions.)

    I am currently working on the next edition of the book and will rewrite it to clarify that point. Thanks for the heads up.

    By this I am assuming you're referring to what I might define as a baby... less than 1.5" or about 38 to 40 mm DLS.

    Lumpy is okay unless the lumps are so big and heavy that they pose a serious injury threat to the tarantulas.

    Fair enough.

    I just hate it when shredded coconut husk gets unruly! :biggrin: (Sorry. I just couldn't help myself. :8o Now that I have that out of my system, I'll behave better. Promise.].

    It is not necessary for the substrate to be soft and fluffy for babies. They are quite capable of burrowing in well packed peat, for instance. For decades Marguerite and I used common, horticultural peat as substrate with remarkable success. We'd pack it firmly into the bottom of old fashioned, glass, baby food jars and turn a baby tarantula loose on it. Within a day or two they might be busily at work digging little burrows. It didn't get lumpy. And, the borrows seldom if ever collapsed. If you decide to change substrates, give peat a try.

    Vermiculite was the substrate of choice before the 1990s because it was clean and retained moisture well. But, it never really packed into a solid surface, it collapsed readily when the container/cage was disturbed. And, almost all of us old dogs in the hobby got the impression that tarantulas from the spiderling stage and upward detested the soft, fluffy stuff under their "feet." They seemed to vastly prefer a good, solid floor to walk on.

    And, both baby tarantulas and infesting motes pretty much disappeared in it.

    The coup de grâce was the discovery that much commercial vermiculite was laced with asbestos. After that, no one wanted to have anything to do with the stuff. The asbestos industry has now more or less solved that problem, but in the interim other products were discovered or developed and the industry has never recovered. (See the Wikipedia article on vermiculite for more information.)

    Why does everybody look down their noses at vermiculite now? For one thing, it's old fashioned. Passé. "Primitive." For another, we've found alternatives that are at least as good, if not better.

    Hope this helps.


    "Primitive" doesn't necessarily connote extinction, oldness, less evolved, unimproved, stale, outmoded, or obsolete.

    Many times it connotes perfection, an ultimate model, a gold medalist, a laureate, a winner in the game of life, THE ULTIMATE SURVIVOR!

    I really wish we had a way of distinguishing "primitive and extinct" from "primitive and still going strong after all the trials and tribulations of the ages." "Primitive" is unfairly used for both circumstances. But, the first is a loser; the second is clearly a winner! Whether or not an organism is "evolved," "unevolved," "less evolved," "still evolving," or "more evolved" (i.e., a Darwinian perspective on the various stages of "primitive" through "advanced") is a value judgement that's irrelevant in most cases. The important consideration is, "Is it surviving?"
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2015
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  5. -=}GA']['OR{=-

    -=}GA']['OR{=- Arachnoknight Old Timer

    Actually vermiculite does have some merits when mixed 50/50 with peat or coir. The only grades that are worthwhile are grade 3 and 4, course and extra course.

    The vermiculite breaks up the peat/coir and creates air pockets in the substrate. This alleviates soggy corners in the enclosure. The area near the water dish is one notorious spot for this and over time pest mites will congregate here. It also absorbs water and releases it into the peat when the peat dries creating a nice ambient humidity in the enclosure.

    It adds structure to the peat {especially grade 4} for burrowing species and helps retain the integrity of the burrow.

    The problem with it is the asbestos issue. The producers frequently test the stock for asbestos and asbestos form fibers, and they are certified to contain less than government standards. That does not mean that there are not trace amounts of asbestos in the vermiculite. It is a natural product and there can be contamination depending on what other geologic deposits are near the vermiculite ore.

    The now infamous Libby Montana vermiculite mine is an example of this. The vermiculite ore was in close proximity to a diopside deposit. The diopside weathered over millennia into tremolite asbestos { a very dangerous strain} and contaminated the vermiculite. This is the vermiculite that started the paranoia over vermiculite. The mine is now closed and is an epa superfund cleanup area.

    With all of that said the producers of vermiculite are really vigilant in having their product tested and certified to contain less that the mandated levels of asbestos and asbestos form fibers.

    I'm not sure if "trace" amounts would be dangerous, even though it is thought that asbestos has a cummulative effect inside the lungs.

    I personally use straight peat that comes in the 2.2 and 3.8 cu feet bales. One of my friends swears by the 50/50 mix of peat/grade 4 extra course vermiculite. To each his own.
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