Substrate plays an important role. It helps create a habitat for the Tarantula to mimic its natural life style and assists in maintaining humidity levels. The substrate should be at least 3 to 4 inches deep for most species. Special considerations should thought of when selecting proper substrate for different species of Tarantulas. A daily misting with water will help elevate humidity but never spray the Tarantula.

In the Tarantula / Arachnid Community there is debate regarding suitable substrate. All options have positive and negative aspects. For the most part Tarantulas can survive with use of any substrate if it is clean and pesticide free. A state of meager existence shouldn’t be acceptable for any animal. As caretaker you have the responsibility to provide needs for a quality life.

Warning: Avoid using anything containing pesticides, chemical additives, asbestos, added fertilizers, pine, cedar and other aromatic woods.

Substrate Options

You can Buy movies online from Aquarium Sand / Gravel: I discourage use of Aquarium Sand / Gravel. It is expensive, heavy, doesn’t retain water for humidity well and won’t allow Tarantulas to mimic natural behaviors. I believe many publications use images of Tarantulas on Aquarium Sand / Gravel for aesthetic purposes due to the wide verity of colors. Selecting contrasting color Aquarium Sand / Gravel to the Tarantula creates a more vivid appearance for the modeling subject.

Vermiculite: Vermiculite is aluminum-iron magnesium that is heated and puffed up to form lightweight, sponge-like granules capable of retaining water and air. It is chemically inert, fire resistant, non-toxic, and sterile and does not deteriorate. Vermiculite can be found in various brands of potting soil, lightweight plaster, concrete and insulation.

As for vermiculite as a standalone substrate, doesn't encourage fungus or mites and when damp can hold the form of tarantula burrows. The white/yellow metallic sheen it produces adds a very unique look to an enclosure. When wet it tends to clump and stick to everything including tarantulas. Possibility that this impedes upon some natural behaviors associated with burrowing and climbing.

Orchid Bark / Fur Bark / Forest Bedding / Tropical Terrarium Substrate: Dependent upon what brand you buy the appearances vary greatly from small chips of bark to large shredded shards of wood. Often fibrous wood if left damp for long can produce fungus.

In chip form it cannot maintain much burrowing and can produce an unattractive dust. Shredded form supports deeper digging but more caution must be taken to ensure jagged pieces are removed or the tarantula could be fatally injured.

Coconut Husk / Fiber (Bed-A-Beast / Eco Earth): This substrate is compressed coconut fiber. It is purchased in compressed block form and is cheap. When mixed with water the substrate hydrates and returns to soil form. It keeps humidity very well and works wonderfully for burrowing species. Sometimes it retains moisture to well if overly damped and takes a very long time to dry.

Peat (without added fertilizers): This fine organic substrate is great for species that burrow. It maintains humidify well but is difficult to re-wet and tends to clump when it begins to dry. Fungus readily grows in Peat and mites thrive in this substrate. Much caution is needed to prevent over wetting the soil and most be cleaned often.

Potting Soil: Similar to peat potting soil is a fine organic substrate is great for species that burrow. It maintains humidify well and re-wets a little easier then Peat. Mold and fungus readily grows in Potting Soil and mites thrive in this substrate. Much caution is needed to prevent over wetting the soil and most be cleaned often.

100% Natural Earth: Obvious dependent where and what you collect appearance and water retention varies. The greatest advantage is you can selectively collect to your liking. You have to ensure the area is pesticide free. Once you gathered your materials you should clean them to ensure they will be fungus and mite free. This can be time consuming and hazardous.

What do I use?

I start with 5% vermiculite, 80% coconut fiber, 15% forest bedding mix. For tarantulas with humid native climates I add more vermiculite. Once my mix is complete I usually sprinkle a handful of aquarium pebbles on top for aesthetics.

Substrate/Caging Material Sterilizing

Sterilization can usually be achieved from pressurized steam at 121-132°C (250-270°F) for 30 minutes or dry heat 160-170°C (320-338°F) for 2 hours. Usually due to the lack of equipment hobbyist make use of an oven and/or a microwave. This can be very dangerous. Due to the fact microwave sterilization is under investigation in the medical community I am unable provide accurate instruction on use.

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