What substrate should you be using for your primitives?

RezonantVoid

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For the last 3 and a bit years, I have the had the fortunate privilege of keeping over 200 various Mygalomorph species from around 25 different genus. With the enclosure supplies necessary for this many species, it can be very easy to fall back to basics and generalise the husbandry for the whole lot. I mean, cocofibre works for T's right? Why should traps and funnels need anything different?

For about my first 2 years, I did just this and housed basically every type of primitive spider I kept on damp cocopeat and sand and didn't think anything of it. But after a while, something about it really started bothering me. When you live in a country with many hundreds of Mygalomorph species, you inevitably see at least some in the wild sooner or later. The trend i started to notice no matter where I found them as that nearly every genus naturally lives nothing like how most of us keep them. Take note of the type of environment each of the following burrows are constructed in.
IMG_20210223_160950.jpg
IMG_20210123_160132.jpg
IMG_20210123_112525.jpg
20200616_125907.jpg

These are 4 different genus from 3 different families, found hundreds of kilometres apart, yet all of them go for a similar environment: clay slopes. Admittedly the first one is a sandy slope, but the typical habitat for that genus (Cataxia) is the same as the rest. With this overwhelming preference for pretty much the definitive opposite of the average fossorial cocopeat setup, I'm left dumbfounded at the amount of keepers that still house them like this. Here's some more arguments I have against pure cocofibre/peat moss:
-loses water quickly in most setups.
-terrible water absorption once dry.
-most species don't like the feeling of it.
-minimal structural integrity, making for terrible lid and burrow building material.
-in some cases, it entirely prevents species building their signature entrances. A good example is the group of palisade trapdoors in the genus Euoplos that build elaborate structures like this.
IMG_20210227_223939.jpg


Don't just take it from me though. I did some research about the wild habitat of some of the most popular exotic trapdoors, such as the genus Liphistius, and most have the exact same habitat preferences as you'd expect. I invite anyone who may be interested in improving their husbandry to do the same thing for all species they keep.

So, what merit is there in searching for and digging up clay for hours, and then mixing it with peat moss and sand for more hours and getting it to the perfect consistency? Is it really that important? Regarding aesthetics alone, you will see way better, natural looking lids. Forget the days of likening trapdoor setups to a boring box of dirt, now you can actually see the lids and the differences between each species. Enclosure still looking too bland for you? Good news, now you can grow moss and most small ground cover plants on the clay, one of the most ideal moss growing substrates. Did you know that many trapdoors and Mygalomorphs actually incorporate moss onto their lids in the wild? Good for you, you now have an opportunity to witness this fascinating and rarely seen behaviour!

As for actual benefits to the spiders, I've observed amazing differences in how quickly spiders settle into a setup, no more frequent surface exploring, no more spiders constructing new burrows every 3 months, better feeding responses and far more visible specimens at their entrances each night. Below is what a whopping 4" Euoplos sp. burrow looks like on a sloped peat moss setup. Biggest trapdoor I've ever seen and you can't even see it's lid because of how horrible loose sub mixes are.
IMG_20210303_135905.jpg

Now here's what you can with clay.
IMG_20210222_221749.jpg
IMG_20210215_174256.jpg
IMG_20210303_135707.jpg
20201023_112309.jpg

I see alot of people question the use of wild substrates, but honestly I have never had any mold or parasite issues using wild clay. As long as the area you get it from is free of chemical pollutants, it should work fine. If you live somewhere that clay is basically impossible to access in the wild, you can use clay clumping kitty litter and do the same thing (soak it with filtered water to soften it, and slowly add dry peat moss and sand to it to add volume and dry it out to the right consistency).

I hope this thread may help some people out. To the best of my ability, I feel I've tried to advertise this not as just my biased personal opinion, but as a logical, beneficial method of housing that could drastically enrich both mygalomorphs and their keepers. Thank you for reading
 
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AphonopelmaTX

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Thi
For the last 3 and a bit years, I have the had the fortunate privilege of keeping over 200 various Mygalomorph species from around 25 different genus. With the enclosure supplies necessary for this many species, it can be very easy to fall back to basics and generalise the husbandry for the whole lot. I mean, cocofibre works for T's right? Why should traps and funnels need anything different?

For about my first 2 years, I did just this and housed basically every type of primitive spider I kept on damp cocopeat and sand and didn't think anything of it. But after a while, something about it really started bothering me. When you live in a country with many hundreds of Mygalomorph species, you inevitably see at least some in the wild sooner or later. The trend i started to notice no matter where I found them as that nearly every genus naturally lives nothing like how most of us keep them. Take note of the type of environment each of the following burrows are constructed in.

These are 4 different genus from 3 different families, found hundreds of kilometres apart, yet all of them go for a similar environment: clay slopes. Admittedly the first one is a sandy slope, but the typical habitat that genus (Cataxia) is the same as the rest. With this overwhelming preference for pretty much the definitive opposite of the average fossorial cocopeat setup, I'm left dumbfounded at the amount of keepers that still house them like this. Here's some more arguments I have against pure cocofibre/peat moss:
-loses water quickly in most setups.
-terrible water absorption once dry.
-most species don't like the feeling of it.
-minimal structural integrity, making for terrible lid and burrow building material.
-in some cases, it entirely prevents species building their signature entrances. A good example is the group of palisade trapdoors in the genus Euoplos that build elaborate structures like this.


Don't just take it from me though. I did some research about the wild habitat of some of the most popular exotic trapdoors, such as the genus Liphistius, and most have the exact same habitat preferences as you'd expect. I invite anyone who may be interested in improving their husbandry to do the same thing for all species they keep.

So, what merit is there in searching for and digging up clay for hours, and then mixing it with peat moss and sand for more hours and getting it to the perfect consistency? Is it really that important? Regarding aesthetics alone, you will see way better, natural looking lids. Forget the days of likening trapdoor setups to a boring box of dirt, now you can actually see the lids and the differences between each species. Enclosure still looking too bland for you? Good news, now you can grow moss and most small ground cover plants on the clay, one of the most ideal moss growing substrates. Did you know that many trapdoors and Mygalomorphs actually incorporate moss onto their lids in the wild? Good for you, you now have an opportunity to witness this fascinating and rarely seen behaviour!

As for actual benefits to the spiders, I've observed amazing differences in how quickly spiders settle into a setup, no more frequent surface exploring, no more spiders constructing new burrows every 3 months, better feeding responses and far more visible specimens at their entrances each night. Below is what a whopping 4" Euoplos sp. burrow looks like on a sloped peat moss setup. Biggest trapdoor I've ever seen and you can't even see it's lid because of how horrible loose sub mixes are.


Now here's what you can with clay.


I see alot of people question the use of wild substrates, but honestly I have never had any mold or parasite issues using wild clay. As long as the area you get it from is free of chemical pollutants, it should work fine. If you live somewhere that clay is basically impossible to access in the wild, you can use clay clumping kitty litter and do the same thing (soak it with filtered water to soften it, and slowly add dry peat moss and sand to it to add volume and dry it out to the right consistency).

I hope this thread may help some people out. To the best of my ability, I feel I've tried to advertise this not as just my biased personal opinion, but as a logical, beneficial method of housing that could drastically enrich both mygalomorphs and their keepers. Thank you for reading
This is a great post! Thanks for taking the time to write it out. Seeing how these non-tarantula mygales live in nature and how you keep them is a great reference.

The influence of changing your mygale housing based on observations from the wild is the same process I took to change how I house American tarantulas and tarantulas with similar habits. Does coco fiber and peat moss work for tarantulas and their relatives? Sure, but it isn't ideal. I ditched pure coco fiber and peat moss for housing years ago for the exact reasons you outlined and started using a sandy clay loam topsoil mixed with coco fiber and almost instantly observed a better reception with my tarantulas. Also, like your research with the mygales you couldn't see for yourself, I too noticed many other tarantulas have similar habitat preferences to the ones I can see.

The statement made reading "the trend i started to notice no matter where I found them as that nearly every genus naturally lives nothing like how most of us keep them" is very true regarding tarantulas as well. I won't go into specifics in this thread, but the way people keep tarantulas is weird. :)

Now a question for you. How much do your mygale setups weigh when using a clay based soil? I have to mix coco fiber in with my soil for the purpose of making it less dense so I can move the containers safely. Without the coco fiber they are too heavy to move. Is that your experience as well?
 

RezonantVoid

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Now a question for you. How much do your mygale setups weigh when using a clay based soil? I have to mix coco fiber in with my soil for the purpose of making it less dense so I can move the containers safely. Without the coco fiber they are too heavy to move. Is that your experience as well?
Dang right it is! If I'm using dense wetland clay for heavily built rainforest dwellers, even a small 2.35L setup ends up weighing a couple of kilos, even with peat moss and sand as volume filler. Fortunately some of mine prefer a different kind of clay, a browner crumbly type, and setups with that are way lighter. Both types of clay setup can still be picked up in one hand if you have a very strong grip, but it's not easy lol.


Definitely a similar story with tarantula care, I'm beginning to think my big Phlogius setups are starting to look reeeeally nasty compared to my smaller trapdoor ones lol. Alot of ours live in dry compacted loam in the wild, nothing like loose peat moss. Actually in the process of working out where I can get my hands on some of this type of soil so I can rehouse my T's into their permanent homes.

I now tend to view peat moss/cocofibre as the bare minimum so to speak, it's more of a temporary substrate I house things in short term while I design and build the layout for their proper setups. There's only 4 genus out of those 27 I'd actually say are good to permanently keep in a peat based mixture, and even with those each one has a few species that don't like it. Always looking for ways to improve my captive environments, and I hope my experiments may help others do the same
 
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basin79

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Personally I use straight moss peat. Holds moisture well, hold burrows well and being very slightly acidic doesn't tend to let any mold grow.
 

AphonopelmaTX

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Dang right it is! If I'm using dense wetland clay for heavily built rainforest dwellers, even a small 2.35L setup ends up weighing a couple of kilos, even with peat moss and sand as volume filler. Fortunately some of mine prefer a different kind of clay, a browner crumbly type, and setups with that are way lighter. Both types of clay setup can still be picked up in one hand if you have a very strong grip, but it's not easy lol.


Definitely a similar story with tarantula care, I'm beginning to think my big Phlogius setups are starting to look reeeeally nasty compared to ny smaller trapdoor ones lol. Alot of ours live in dry compacted loam in the wild, nothing like loose peat moss. Actually in the process of working out where I can get my hands on some of this type of soil so I can rehouse my T's into their permanent homes.

I now tend to view peat moss/cocofibre as the bare minimum so to speak, it's more of a temporary substrate I house things in short term while I design and build the layout for their proper setups. There's only 4 genus out of those 27 I'd actually say are good to permanently keep in a peat based mixture, and even with those each one has a few species that don't like it. Always looking for ways to improve my captive environments, and I hope my experiments may help others do the same
Another question for you. When you find trapdoors in banks, or slopes, in the wild or when you build them in captivity, are the burrows built by the spiders completely horizontal tubes that go into the slope? Judging by the pictures, it appears they are horizontal, but I can't tell if the tubular burrows end up vertical at some point. The only diagrams of trapdoor burrows I can find show them on flat ground in a completely vertical tubular burrow, so I am curious to know if they are horizontal when built on a slope.
 

RezonantVoid

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Another question for you. When you find trapdoors in banks, or slopes, in the wild or when you build them in captivity, are the burrows built by the spiders completely horizontal tubes that go into the slope? Judging by the pictures, it appears they are horizontal, but I can't tell if the tubular burrows end up vertical at some point. The only diagrams of trapdoor burrows I can find show them on flat ground in a completely vertical tubular burrow, so I am curious to know if they are horizontal when built on a slope.
With horizontal burrowers (which most of them are), they will usually go horizontally for about 20cm and then downwards about 15cm, sometimes twisting in a random direction along the way. I think doing it this way helps with burrow drainage in the event a massive downpour manages to flood the burrow. In captivity, even if you try housing horizontal burrowers on a flat surface, they still try and dig sideways still
 

Matts inverts

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The top one looks like fern moss. That’s all I know about moss. Cool tank. It makes it look like a bog or a rainforest.
 

RezonantVoid

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Personally I use straight moss peat. Holds moisture well, hold burrows well and being very slightly acidic doesn't tend to let any mold grow.
Surprisingly, the only mold issues I ever had come from peat setups. It's definitely not common though, but still can occur. I also find the acidity doesnt lens itself to springtails well, even the dampest peat enclosures I make can never support springs for longer than a few weeks, or grow plants properly.

I'd seriously recommend giving a vertical clay wall setup a shot for your Liphistius even just once. It's amazing when you can clearly see the lid outline, and the spiders definitely seem to appreciate it more.
 

Matts inverts

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You can’t grow plants in peat moss because peat is just an additive. It dries out because it isn’t in its bog and then gets dried. It doesn’t collect water after it’s dried.
 

basin79

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Surprisingly, the only mold issues I ever had come from peat setups. It's definitely not common though, but still can occur. I also find the acidity doesnt lens itself to springtails well, even the dampest peat enclosures I make can never support springs for longer than a few weeks, or grow plants properly.

I'd seriously recommend giving a vertical clay wall setup a shot for your Liphistius even just once. It's amazing when you can clearly see the lid outline, and the spiders definitely seem to appreciate it more.
It's easy to see their trapdoor anyway due to the trip lines. I understand they build their burrows and trapdoors like they do is so water passes them on the way down a slope but it also limits to how they can grab prey.
 

Smotzer

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For the last 3 and a bit years, I have the had the fortunate privilege of keeping over 200 various Mygalomorph species from around 25 different genus. With the enclosure supplies necessary for this many species, it can be very easy to fall back to basics and generalise the husbandry for the whole lot. I mean, cocofibre works for T's right? Why should traps and funnels need anything different?

For about my first 2 years, I did just this and housed basically every type of primitive spider I kept on damp cocopeat and sand and didn't think anything of it. But after a while, something about it really started bothering me. When you live in a country with many hundreds of Mygalomorph species, you inevitably see at least some in the wild sooner or later. The trend i started to notice no matter where I found them as that nearly every genus naturally lives nothing like how most of us keep them. Take note of the type of environment each of the following burrows are constructed in.
View attachment 377736
View attachment 377739
View attachment 377740
View attachment 377742

These are 4 different genus from 3 different families, found hundreds of kilometres apart, yet all of them go for a similar environment: clay slopes. Admittedly the first one is a sandy slope, but the typical habitat for that genus (Cataxia) is the same as the rest. With this overwhelming preference for pretty much the definitive opposite of the average fossorial cocopeat setup, I'm left dumbfounded at the amount of keepers that still house them like this. Here's some more arguments I have against pure cocofibre/peat moss:
-loses water quickly in most setups.
-terrible water absorption once dry.
-most species don't like the feeling of it.
-minimal structural integrity, making for terrible lid and burrow building material.
-in some cases, it entirely prevents species building their signature entrances. A good example is the group of palisade trapdoors in the genus Euoplos that build elaborate structures like this.
View attachment 377744


Don't just take it from me though. I did some research about the wild habitat of some of the most popular exotic trapdoors, such as the genus Liphistius, and most have the exact same habitat preferences as you'd expect. I invite anyone who may be interested in improving their husbandry to do the same thing for all species they keep.

So, what merit is there in searching for and digging up clay for hours, and then mixing it with peat moss and sand for more hours and getting it to the perfect consistency? Is it really that important? Regarding aesthetics alone, you will see way better, natural looking lids. Forget the days of likening trapdoor setups to a boring box of dirt, now you can actually see the lids and the differences between each species. Enclosure still looking too bland for you? Good news, now you can grow moss and most small ground cover plants on the clay, one of the most ideal moss growing substrates. Did you know that many trapdoors and Mygalomorphs actually incorporate moss onto their lids in the wild? Good for you, you now have an opportunity to witness this fascinating and rarely seen behaviour!

As for actual benefits to the spiders, I've observed amazing differences in how quickly spiders settle into a setup, no more frequent surface exploring, no more spiders constructing new burrows every 3 months, better feeding responses and far more visible specimens at their entrances each night. Below is what a whopping 4" Euoplos sp. burrow looks like on a sloped peat moss setup. Biggest trapdoor I've ever seen and you can't even see it's lid because of how horrible loose sub mixes are.
View attachment 377743

Now here's what you can with clay.
View attachment 377737
View attachment 377738
View attachment 377745
View attachment 377741

I see alot of people question the use of wild substrates, but honestly I have never had any mold or parasite issues using wild clay. As long as the area you get it from is free of chemical pollutants, it should work fine. If you live somewhere that clay is basically impossible to access in the wild, you can use clay clumping kitty litter and do the same thing (soak it with filtered water to soften it, and slowly add dry peat moss and sand to it to add volume and dry it out to the right consistency).

I hope this thread may help some people out. To the best of my ability, I feel I've tried to advertise this not as just my biased personal opinion, but as a logical, beneficial method of housing that could drastically enrich both mygalomorphs and their keepers. Thank you for reading
Thhis should be pinned!! Thank you for your contributions!!
 

RezonantVoid

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Here's a few more wild burrows with some actual lid builders, even better examples than open hole dwellers.

Arbanitis sp. Wooli habitat, vertical mossy cliff where they tunnel horizontally into sandstone
20200503_135830.jpg

Euoplos cf. thynnearum, Mt. Tamborine on a steep clay-loam slope along side a rainforest walk.
20190824_114925.jpg

20190824_114858.jpg

20190824_102546.jpg

Arbanitis sp. Tamborine 3 (drawbridge type) and 3, on the same clay-loam slope.
20190824_103348.jpg
20190824_103341.jpg
 

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RezonantVoid

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It's easy to see their trapdoor anyway due to the trip lines. I understand they build their burrows and trapdoors like they do is so water passes them on the way down a slope but it also limits to how they can grab prey.
A wall isn't truly necessary, but clay is definitely the best sub option for them in terms of personal preference, water retention and structural integrity. Alot of us down under are starting the shift and recording the exact same observations I have, so I'm keen to see what overseas keepers experiences would be like
 

Scp682

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I've often though about this issue. I use a various plant material and sand mixture, and biodude sub (i have to say i like it but it's a bit pricey but not too bad) but I don't like using peat because of the sustainability issue.

Anyway I think this works for you because you can only work with native species but i wonder how it would work for exotic species. Me, for example, i don't live anywhere near real clay (just sand and mud) and there aren't really any native mygs to keep to make it standard practice where i live so there's not really any native species to work with. How much do you think this applies to other species more common in the hobby outside australia (meaning the preference of clay)? Also do you use just straight clay or mix it? Also what's the next best thing that works more universally if you don't have clay? Sorry if this doesn't make sense im tired.
 

RezonantVoid

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I've often though about this issue. I use a various plant material and sand mixture, and biodude sub (i have to say i like it but it's a bit pricey but not too bad) but I don't like using peat because of the sustainability issue.

Anyway I think this works for you because you can only work with native species but i wonder how it would work for exotic species. Me, for example, i don't live anywhere near real clay (just sand and mud) and there aren't really any native mygs to keep to make it standard practice where i live so there's not really any native species to work with. How much do you think this applies to other species more common in the hobby outside australia (meaning the preference of clay)? Also do you use just straight clay or mix it? Also what's the next best thing that works more universally if you don't have clay? Sorry if this doesn't make sense im tired.
I did mention it briefly in my first post, but after researching some of the most popular exotic species in the hobby such as Liphistius and Cyclocosmia, they too also go for clay slopes by choice in nature.

Straight clay works, but I like to mix sand and peat moss in as volume filler and to slightly dry it out so it isn't as sticky. This way I get more clay mix out of whatever I manage to collect and I don't end up with filthy spiders (also good to note if your clay is sticky, they will refuse to dig it as it gets stuck all over their fangs). Universally, this is the best method for the majority of trapdoors, but there's always a couple that are different. The genus Apostichus for instance lives in complete defiance to to this clay preference, living in nearly pure sand on riverbeds or coastal areas. And just like I'd encourage Liphistius owners to try out clay, I'd also recommend Apostichus owners to try out beach or river sand.
 

Arthroverts

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I did mention it briefly in my first post, but after researching some of the most popular exotic species in the hobby such as Liphistius and Cyclocosmia, they too also go for clay slopes by choice in nature.

Straight clay works, but I like to mix sand and peat moss in as volume filler and to slightly dry it out so it isn't as sticky. This way I get more clay mix out of whatever I manage to collect and I don't end up with filthy spiders (also good to note if your clay is sticky, they will refuse to dig it as it gets stuck all over their fangs). Universally, this is the best method for the majority of trapdoors, but there's always a couple that are different. The genus Apostichus for instance lives in complete defiance to to this clay preference, living in nearly pure sand on riverbeds or coastal areas. And just like I'd encourage Liphistius owners to try out clay, I'd also recommend Apostichus owners to try out beach or river sand.
I can attest that Bothriocyrtum, Hebestatis, Aliatypus, and Apomastus appreciate clayish substrates (usually on slopes to boot), and there are only a few species of Aptostichus (such as simus) that utilize sand instead of clay. Aphonopelma steindachneri, eutylenum, and iodius all prefer a mix of clay/sand from my experience as well. I think Calisoga might like clayish substrate too but I'm not sure.

Thanks,

Arthroverts
 
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