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  • Richard Adams
  • October 29, 2016 08:48:27 PM

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The UK reptile and amphibian blog, teaching you how to care for exotic pets.

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    What Do Hissing Cockroaches Eat?

    Hissing cockroaches are capable of thriving on a wide variety of different foods. What you choose to feed your Madagascan giant hissing cockroaches will depend on your personal tastes and what you happen to have freely available at home.  In this guide we’ll look at what hissing cockroaches eat so you can make some informed ... Read moreWhat Do Hissing Cockroaches Eat? The post What Do Hissing Cockroaches Eat? appeared first on Keeping Exotic...

    Hissing cockroaches are capable of thriving on a wide variety of different foods. What you choose to feed your Madagascan giant hissing cockroaches will depend on your personal tastes and what you happen to have freely available at home. 

    In this guide we’ll look at what hissing cockroaches eat so you can make some informed decisions. As with other animals, a broad range of foods tends to work well, ensuring that your insects don’t suffer from any nutrient deficiencies as they grow.  

    Hissing cockroach food

    Fruit

    Hissing cockroaches love fruit. Popular options include banana, apple and citrus fruits. They will also hoover up any unwanted kitchen offcuts, such as happily removing the lasting bits of melon from discarded melon skin. 

    Be aware that many fruits are very high in water content, and so can quickly go off and start to rot in the warm environment of a hissing cockroach cage. You’ll therefore want to pay particular attention to cleanliness if you choose to feed fruit.

    Place it in a bowl, rather than on the floor of the cage, and remove it before it starts to go off. 

    Vegetables

    Vegetables can be a far more effective alternative to fruit. Slightly lower in moisture content, many vegetables will simply dry up to a crisp rather than going mouldy if left in the cage for a period of time. 

    Good examples of vegetables accepted by hissing cockroaches include slices of potato, butternut squash, carrot, and kale. Indeed, kale is one of my personal favourite foods for hissing cockroaches as it tends to remain pretty fresh for a long period of time. 

    Broadly speaking any vegetables you buy for your family can be fed to hissing cockroaches. Feel free to try your roaches with anything that is on the turn in your kitchen. This helps you turn food waste into giant cockroaches!

    As with fruits, be sure to regularly replace any fresh food given.

    Grains

    Some people choose to provide some form of “grain” to their cockroaches to eat. Two popular examples are bran – which can be purchased very cheaply – or unwanted breakfast cereals. 

    A benefit of grains like this is they are far less likely to go mouldy or rotten than fruits or vegetables. That said, grains shouldn’t make up the sole ingredient in your cockroach diet due to the low moisture level and nutrient content it can offer.

    Bug Paste

    A small number of specialist foods are made for invertebrate pets. These normally come in the form of a powder which is mixed with water to create a thick, tasty paste.

    Some giant cockroach owners, for example, feed their pets on small amounts of Repashy, which is typically sold for crested and day geckos. 

    These pastes can quickly dry out, turning rock solid. They may also attract mould. As with fruit, therefore, be sure to keep a close eye on your colony and replace the bug gel as necessary. 

    Jelly Pots

    Fruit-flavoured jelly pots are sold by some specialist retailers as food for beetle keepers. They also serve as an excellent source of sugar and moisture for hissing cockroaches. Indeed, I aim to always keep at least one jelly pot in cockroach cages. 

    Jelly pots tend to have a decent shelf life once opened, and rarely go mouldy. In truth, hissing cockroaches seem to relish these pots so much that it’s more likely your captives will have finished off the pot before it has a chance to go off. 

    Fresh Water

    While this article does focus primarily on what to feed hissing cockroaches, it should also be mentioned the need for moisture. If you’re feeding lots of water-rich foods like Repashy, fruits and vegetables then it may not be necessary to provide drinking water. 

    For cockroaches fed a drier diet you should consider whether a water bowl would make a welcome addition. 

    To prevent your cockroaches drowning in open water, it is common to use moisture-retaining granules. These soak up water and turn into a gel over which your cockroaches can walk without drowning. While they are available from reptile stores, it can be more cost-effective to buy the horticultural equivalent in bulk from gardening stores.

    Should Hatchlings and Adults Be Fed Differently?

    One of the benefits of keeping hissing cockroaches is how readily they breed.

    If you’re keeping hissing roaches as a source of food for other pets then it’s likely you’ll be keeping and rearing cockroaches of many different sizes. The obvious question is therefore whether the diet should vary between youngsters and adults?

    In my experience, hissing cockroaches of all sizes are happy to eat a similar diet. The one consideration I would suggest is the provision of more moisture to younger cockroaches, as they are more likely to become dehydrated. 

    The post What Do Hissing Cockroaches Eat? appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.


    Do All Tarantulas Have Urticating Hairs?

    Urticating hairs are a defense mechanism used by tarantulas. Urticating hairs are finely barbed and cause irritation when they come into contact with the skin, eyes or nose of potential predators. Tarantulas can kick these hairs off, creating a cloud of irritants if they feel threatened.  Not all tarantulas have urticating hairs. Urticating hairs are ... Read moreDo All Tarantulas Have Urticating Hairs? The post Do All Tarantulas Have Urticating Hairs? appeared first on Keeping Exotic...

    Urticating hairs are a defense mechanism used by tarantulas. Urticating hairs are finely barbed and cause irritation when they come into contact with the skin, eyes or nose of potential predators. Tarantulas can kick these hairs off, creating a cloud of irritants if they feel threatened. 

    Not all tarantulas have urticating hairs. Urticating hairs are most commonly found on New World tarantulas – those from the Americas. However they are not found among Old World tarantulas such as those from Africa and Asia. 

    Where Are the Urticating Hairs Located?

    Urticating hairs are most commonly seen on the abdomens of tarantulas. Many species of tarantula can scratch these off their abdomen using their rear legs. This is why some tarantulas develop a bald spot on their abdomen.

    Whilst urticating hairs are most common on the abdomen, they may be found elsewhere on the body. In one species, for example, they are found around the front legs.

    Why Do Only Some Tarantulas Have Urticating Hairs?

    Tarantulas utilise a variety of survival techniques to avoid getting eaten or attacked in the wild. The production of urticating hairs is just one such method. Other examples can include being very fast moving, or being more willing to throw up a threat posture or to bite. 

    While urticating hairs have been demonised in the mainstream press as something tremendously bad, the reality is that many more docile tarantulas use this defence strategy.

    Many common pet tarantulas such as Curly Haired tarantulas and Mexican Red Knees possess them. Fortunately, these species tend to be reasonably docile and slow-moving, making them ideal pets if you avoid the urticating hairs.  

    How Are Urticating Hairs Used?

    Urticating hairs may be used in a variety of ways. Possibly the best-known is kicking or combing them off the abdomen with the rear legs. Here they produce an irritating cloud that can scare off potential predators. 

    However this is only one way in which urticating hairs may be used by tarantulas. If captured, some tarantulas may press their abdomen against the skin of the predator, pushing their urticating hairs deep into the epidermis. 

    Urticating hairs may also be used to provide protection when moulting. Tarantulas often spin a neat mat of web on which they moult. There is evidence that some species may add urticating hairs to this webbing to dissuade predators from interfering. 

    This same method can be used when laying eggs, and the inclusion of urticating hairs in the silken eggsac may also offer some additional protection for the baby spiders growing within. 

    Do Urticating Hairs Grow Back?

    Urticating hairs can grow back. However urticating hairs do not grow like human hairs.

    It is not like plucking your eyebrows, only for the hairs to start growing back again soon afterwards.

    Instead, urticating hairs are replaced when the tarantula moults. After a successful moult all the lost hairs will be replaced and the spider will look as good as new.

    What Do Urticating Hairs Feel Like?

    Urticating hairs are part and parcel of life for many tarantula owners. If they get onto the skin they can cause irritation. This often feels like an unpleasant itch, and the skin may become red and blotchy for a few days after tank maintenance. 

    The results can be more extreme if hairs are allowed to enter the eyes, nose or mouth. For this reason it is wise to keep your face well clear of your pet tarantula. 

    Some people also choose to wear protective gloves and long sleeves when carrying out tank maintenance to prevent getting urticating hairs on their skin. 

    Are All Urticating Hairs the Same?

    There is surprising variety in urticating hairs. Not only are some tarantulas far more likely than others to kick off hairs, but the effect of these hairs can vary from species to species. For example, goliath birdeaters (Theraphosa spp.) are considered to have particularly unpleasant hairs. 

    Are Urticating Hairs Dangerous?

    With some basic precautions urticating hairs should represent no serious risk to tarantula keepers.

    Keep your face away from the spider itself and from the cage at all times. Avoid touching your face when maintaining your spider. Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands before and after carrying out any maintenance or any handling session.

    If in doubt consider wearing protective gloves and long sleeves to reduce the chances of coming into contact with hairs. 

    In extreme cases you may want to consider wearing goggles and a mask though this is rarely necessary. 

    The post Do All Tarantulas Have Urticating Hairs? appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.


    Do Tarantulas Eat Vegetables?

    Tarantulas are carnivorous and feed on other live animals. They do not eat vegetables in nature or as pets. They are probably therefore not the best pet for vegans and vegetarians, or those who are overly squeamish about feeding live prey to a tarantula.  What Do Tarantulas Eat? In the wild, tarantulas will eat almost ... Read moreDo Tarantulas Eat Vegetables? The post Do Tarantulas Eat Vegetables? appeared first on Keeping Exotic...

    Tarantulas are carnivorous and feed on other live animals. They do not eat vegetables in nature or as pets.

    They are probably therefore not the best pet for vegans and vegetarians, or those who are overly squeamish about feeding live prey to a tarantula. 

    What Do Tarantulas Eat?

    In the wild, tarantulas will eat almost any animal they can subdue. While this most commonly means invertebrate prey there are limited reports of tarantulas eating vertebrates such as rodents, lizards and baby birds. 

    As pets, tarantulas are most commonly fed on a variety of live insects typically referred to as “feeder insects” or “feeders”. 

    Some of the most popular feeder insects include:

    Roaches – Cockroaches like dubia roaches are popular among tarantula keepers. They can be easily bred in captivity to provide a never-ending supply of feeder insects. 

    Crickets – A range of different types of cricket can be bought. They are easy to care for, but can pose a health risk if left in the cage when your tarantula is due to moult. 

    Locusts – A fantastic source of nutrition for tarantulas, but more difficult to breed or even keep alive for long periods of time. 

    Superworms & Mealworms – Cheap, easily handled with forceps and readily accepted by most tarantulas. Avoid them digging into the substrate and disappearing from view. 

    Do Tarantulas Eat Mice?

    Some of the bigger species of tarantula are able to eat suitably-sized rodents. This is generally best avoided, however. There are several reasons for this.

    Firstly, live rodents can represent a serious risk to your tarantula. To avoid this risk some people have found their tarantula will eat dead rodents. 

    Even with a dead rodent there are problems however. Unlike snakes, which swallow rodents whole, tarantulas instead inject their prey with digestive enzymes. They then drink these juices. This can create a real mess within your tarantula cage, resulting in far more cleaning than normal. 

    As a result, while some tarantulas can and will eat rodents, it is generally best to avoid the situation if at all possible.

    What If I Don’t Want to Feed Live Feeder Insects?

    Some tarantulas will forage for dead animals and happily consume them. For keepers who don’t want to feed live insects, your spider may be encouraged to take dead feeder insects.

    However not all tarantulas will accept such prey, and it may take considerable effort to encourage your pet to eat them.

    Whenever possible live insects are likely to be the best option. If you don’t like the idea of feeding live insects to a tarantula then it might be easier to consider a pet that will eat vegetables – such as many pet lizards. 

    The post Do Tarantulas Eat Vegetables? appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.


    Do Tarantulas Need Light?

    Tarantulas are primarily nocturnal, meaning that they are most active after dark. As a result, light is not considered to be a necessity for their successful care. That said, there are some reasons why you might want to consider providing some form of light to your tarantula.  Why Give Tarantulas Light? If tarantulas don’t need ... Read moreDo Tarantulas Need Light? The post Do Tarantulas Need Light? appeared first on Keeping Exotic...

    Tarantulas are primarily nocturnal, meaning that they are most active after dark. As a result, light is not considered to be a necessity for their successful care. That said, there are some reasons why you might want to consider providing some form of light to your tarantula. 

    Why Give Tarantulas Light?

    If tarantulas don’t need light then the obvious question is why you might consider providing any form of light at all? Here there are a few options to consider:

    Aesthetic Tank Appeal

    Many of us invest considerable time and money into creating visually appealing tarantula habitats.

    We add rocks, bark, moss and more to simulate the wild environment.

    Under these circumstances there is no denying that adding an artificial light makes the whole tank look better.

    Sometimes the right light can be the only difference between an “ok” tarantula cage and one that looks incredible. 

    Plant Growth

    If you have opted for a naturalistic or bio-active tarantula tank then you’ll need to consider any live plants in the tank. These will need the right wavelengths of light if they are to thrive.

    If you go down the bio-active route you’ll therefore want to consider adding a proper light that encourages plant growth. 

    Better View of Your Pet

    As tarantulas are nocturnal they often go unseen by their owners. Some keepers therefore opt to add lighting so they can better see their pets at night.

    It is generally accepted that tarantulas cannot see red light. Adding some red LEDs to the cage can therefore be a great way to enjoy watching your pet, without disturbing it in any way. 

    Simulating Seasonal Cycles 

    In the wild tarantulas go through very obvious seasonal cycles. They moult at similar times each year, they lay eggs at similar times and so on. Some keepers believe that day length may form part of the environmental cues that help to determine these seasonal cycles. The science on this one is, however, in its infancy. 

    Do Tarantulas Need UV Lights?

    Tarantulas do not need UV light.

    Unlike many pet lizards, there is no evidence that UV light is needed to absorb calcium from the diet or build a strong skeleton.

    Indeed, the fact that tarantulas are nocturnal and spend most of the daylight hours hidden away from view underlines the lack of importance of UV light.

    Any light you provide can simply be for aesthetic purposes. 

    What Lights are Good for Tarantulas?

    There is currently no evidence that tarantulas benefit from any sunlight. Therefore there is no need to provide expensive UV lights and suchlike. Simple low-wattage bulbs can work well for tarantulas. 

    For those of us with larger collections LED lights are particularly popular. They allow you to add lighting to a range of tarantula cages at the same time.

    Many LED lights will change colour on command. In this way you can use white light during the day to make your tanks look great. Then in the evening you can switch to red light, so as to not disturb your tarantula when it is most active. 

    Should My Tarantula Get Natural Sunlight?

    There is nothing wrong with exposing your tarantula to natural sunlight. However consideration should be given to preventing overheating. The last thing you want is to position your tarantula tank in direct sunlight. Under these conditions a tarantula tank can quickly heat up, slowly cooking the spider inside.

    However there is nothing wrong with indirect sunlight.

    All the same, if your tarantula tank naturally receives some daylight it is advisable to ensure a suitable hide is present. In this way your tarantula can hide away somewhere dark where it feels safe during daylight hours. 

    The post Do Tarantulas Need Light? appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.


    Do Tarantulas Need a Water Dish?

    While a tarantulas’ exoskeleton helps to reduce moisture loss, they still require some form of moisture to survive. There are a number of ways that this requirement can be accomplished in captivity. Adult tarantulas should have access to a water dish. The best water dishes for tarantulas are shallow bowls. The water should be replaced ... Read moreDo Tarantulas Need a Water Dish? The post Do Tarantulas Need a Water Dish? appeared first on Keeping Exotic...

    While a tarantulas’ exoskeleton helps to reduce moisture loss, they still require some form of moisture to survive. There are a number of ways that this requirement can be accomplished in captivity.

    Adult tarantulas should have access to a water dish. The best water dishes for tarantulas are shallow bowls. The water should be replaced regularly, and the bowl should be thoroughly cleaned at least once a week. 

    The situation is slightly more challenging when it comes to smaller tarantulas, such as spiderlings and juveniles.

    Do Tarantula Spiderlings Need a Water Dish?

    Hatchling tarantulas are too small to utilize even the tiniest of water dishes. Instead, a different solution is required. There are two common and effective solutions that may be employed.

    Firstly, a houseplant mister can be used occasionally to gently mist the inside of the spiderling container. Care should be taken to avoid spraying the tarantula spiderling itself.

    The goal should be to leave fine droplets on the side of the container, so the spiderling can drink from these. As a result, it is a good idea to mist in the evening, so the droplets do not have a chance to evaporate before your spider comes out of its lair at night. 

    Note that damp, stagnant conditions should be avoided for all tarantulas. Not only should your spiderling pot have suitable ventilation holes added, but the pot should be allowed to try out completely between mistings. 

    In most cases this will therefore mean misting your spiderlings once every one to two weeks depending on the temperature of the cage and the amount of ventilation present. 

    A second option is to provide a piece of cork bark. Water can then gently be added to the various holes of the bark using a water dropper. The bark itself can then act like a mini water dish.

    Do Juvenile Tarantulas Need a Water Dish?

    Juvenile tarantulas can be given a water dish once they are large enough not to drown in it. Once tarantulas reach a legspan of around 1-2 inches it should be safe to give them a shallow water dish. 

    Until this point, one can continue the process of occasional misting. If the spider is a heavy webber or an arboreal species it can be handy to spray on the webbing too. This makes it easy for your spider to notice the water droplets and to drink from them. 

    What is a Suitable Water Dish for Adult Tarantulas?

    A range of different pieces of equipment can be employed as water dishes for tarantulas. Larger adults may make use of shallow plastic or ceramic bowls sold for small reptiles or rodents. Jam jar lids and other shallow objects may also be used.

    For smaller tarantulas I make use of plastic bottle lids of varying sizes. An old cola lid can be ideal for tiny juveniles, while the wider lids off milk bottles can be ideal for slightly larger specimens. 

    Alternatives to Water Dishes for Tarantulas

    While it is generally considered best practice to offer water dishes to tarantulas, there are a minority of keepers who prefer alternative solutions. Some, for example, will routinely mist their tarantula enclosures, never providing an open water dish.

    Others like to gut load their feeder insects to ensure they contain as much moisture as possible. Roaches, crickets and the like can be fed on juicy fruit for 24 hours before feeding. When eaten, your tarantula will also be able to consume the fruit juices within the gut of the feeder insects.

    Generally, however, it is advisable to offer a water dish wherever possible. While you may not see your tarantula drinking from it very often, it is certainly not unusual to find a spider head-first in their water dish having a good drink. 

    Water Dishes for Burrowing Tarantulas

    Burrowing tarantulas can create problems for the provision of water dishes. This is because they can dig down, tipping over their water dish, or even submerging it completely beneath the surface of the substrate. 

    While it is frustrating to find a water dish disappear from view one night this doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t provide a water dish to burrowing tarantulas.

    Where possible, try to rescue any partly-hidden water dish, clean it and return it to normal use. Alternatively, be willing to add extra water bowls over time as others disappear beneath the surface. 

    Water Dishes for Heavy Webbing Tarantulas

    Tarantulas that produce lots of web – such as Orange Baboons or Greenbottle Blues – can also be frustrating with their water dishes. Dishes can quickly disappear from view beneath copious amounts of silk. 

    Just as with burrowing tarantulas there are a number of solutions here.

    Ideally, try to retrieve the hidden bowl using long forceps, wash it and set it up again properly.

    Alternative options can include adding a second water bowl, or simply misting the webbing on a regular occurrence. If you opt to mist the cage rather than providing a water dish then be sure to let the cage dry out thoroughly between applications. 

    The post Do Tarantulas Need a Water Dish? appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.


    Do Tarantulas Legs Grow Back?

    Tarantulas are able to grow back legs. This means that a tarantula that has lost a leg due to a difficult moult or having been attacked by a predator are able to make themselves whole once again in the future.  Tarantulas are also capable of regrowing their pedipalps, fangs and chelicerae if they can manage ... Read moreDo Tarantulas Legs Grow Back? The post Do Tarantulas Legs Grow Back? appeared first on Keeping Exotic...

    Tarantulas are able to grow back legs. This means that a tarantula that has lost a leg due to a difficult moult or having been attacked by a predator are able to make themselves whole once again in the future. 

    Tarantulas are also capable of regrowing their pedipalps, fangs and chelicerae if they can manage to eat enough to complete the process.

    How Do Tarantulas Grow Back Legs?

    If a tarantula loses one or more legs, these do not immediately start to grow back. Instead the regrowth happens next time they moult.

    As the tarantula splits open their old skin, and gently slides out with their shiny new skin, it will be noticed that the missing leg(s) have regrown. 

    When Do Tarantulas Grow Back Legs?

    Tarantulas legs only regrow when they moult, so the period of time taken to regrow legs will depend on how often tarantulas moult. This period can depend on a range of factors such as the size/age of the tarantula in question, together with the species in question.

    It is perfectly normal for younger tarantulas in the rapid growth phase of life to moult every few months, at which point missing legs should be regenerated.

    For adult specimens, of course, it is more typical to moult once every year or so. As a result it can take far longer for adult tarantulas to grow back any missing legs. 

    Note that adult male tarantulas rarely survive for more than a year, and even if they do then moulting can be complicated. As a result, any adult male tarantula that loses a leg is unlikely to grow them before nature takes its course. 

    What Do Regrown Legs Look Like?

    Regrown tarantulas legs look just like the lost appendage. Given enough time it will be impossible to tell visibly which leg was lost and then grown back. However there is an important proviso here – how long this process takes can depend on the size of the tarantula.

    Spiderlings and juvenile tarantulas will often manage to regrow a leg entirely during a single moult. The day after the moult the tarantula will look as good as new.

    For larger tarantulas, however, the full process can take a few moults to complete. Initially the regrown leg may appear shorter, spindlier, and may not fully match the original colour. Sometimes you’ll see a tarantula for sale in a pet store that seems to have one leg much smaller than the rest – this is exactly what has happened in these cases.

    Over subsequent moults, however, the leg will regrow each time, getting bigger and stronger until it finally matches the original legs. This process typically only takes 2-3 moults even in large tarantulas. 

    Do Regrown Legs Work Properly?

    Regrown legs in tarantulas are typically fully-functional. Your tarantula will be able to do everything it could before with it’s regrown leg. 

    Can a Tarantula Survive With Missing Legs?

    Tarantulas can cope surprisingly well with one or more missing legs. Of course, the more legs that are missing, the more the difficulty it is likely to cause your tarantula. 

    It is not unheard of for tarantulas to lose two or more legs during a difficult moult. However if the tarantula recovers successfully from the moult then there is no reason it shouldn’t go on to a long and healthy life. 

    If your tarantula has lost one or more legs then it may be worth paying them extra attention, to ensure they’re able to thrive until they have the opportunity to regrow the missing legs. For example you may want to offer slower moving prey items to them, as they may not be as quick on their feet.

    Tarantulas may moult sooner than they normally do in order to regrow their lost legs, so don’t be surprised if the period between moulting is far shorter next time around.

    The post Do Tarantulas Legs Grow Back? appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.


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