Gopher/Bull Snake Care Sheet

There are around nine sub species of the snake species Pituophis catenifer. These go by the common names of Gopher Snake and Bull Snake, depending mainly on regional variation. Rather confusingly the common name Bull Snake is also used to describe certain sub species of the closely related Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus). Care for pine snakes is similar to gopher snakes so this care sheet will cover most aspects of both species, although as I own a Bull Snake (pituophis catenifer sayi) myself it is to this species I am refering when I use the term. Gopher snakes originate from the far western United States and the pine snakes across the south and east, up to New Jersey. Gopher snakes resemble rattle snakes in colour and pattern and will mimic them when threatened. The largest sub species the Bull Snake (Pituphis catenifer sayi) gets its name from the bull like snort it emits when angry. Mine used to do this when I first got it but it soon calmed down with handling and has become one of the most docile, predictable snakes I have ever owned.

Bull Snake Pituophis catenifer sayi
Adult Male Bull Snake (Pituophis catenifer sayi)

Housing

Gopher snakes, bull snakes and pine snakes are the largest snakes found in north america (not including the invasive pythons in Florida).The adult size varies from 1m up to 2.3m. You are going to need a large enclosure, I would suggest a minimum of 4′ x 2′. You will not know, until it grows just how big it is going to get so I wouldn’t bother getting a smaller viv. than this. They are also very active, inquiistive snakes, so they do need the space of a larger enclosure and regular changes of layout to keep them stimulated. They really appreciate a bit of excercise out in the house and on a warm day, as long as you keep a very close eye on them you can take them out into the garden for a little explore (depending on the layout, if there is a hole to hide in they will find it). There should always be a large water bowl in the enclosure with fresh water. From experience my bull snake will only drink the water when it is fresh and every time I replace the bowl he will spend a few minutes drinking. I never see him drink at any other time so keep it fresh. It is not necessary to dechlorinate the water in the UK. I often see it stated that the water should be dechlorinated first but this information comes originally from the USA where, historically the chlorine level at the tap is significantly higher (an order of magnitude higher) than the UK. Here it is usually lower than 0.5mg/l and often only a fraction above 0. Our water treatment processes make high levels unecessary. I used to manage a water treatment works and we would have enquiries from US servicemen on whether the water was safe to drink as they couldn’t smell the chlorine!

At least one hide is required, preferably two or more. These can be placed at opposite ends of the vivarium to allow the snake to rest in the correct temperature. Snakes can only thermo regulate by using the ambient temperature around them (unlike us – we can produce our own heat) so need to move around to control their temperature. Whilst shedding, which they will do from every few weeks when young and growing rapidly and every few months when adult, place some damp moss under the snakes preferred hide. This will create a microclimate with raised humidity, making shedding the skin easier. You do not want a raised humidty constantly in the vivarium. Gopher snakes come from arid environments, so dry air (not so for some pine snakes, Florida and Louisianna are pretty humid at times!).

Substrate

Suitable substrates would include, beech chip, aspen bedding and lignocel (e.g. PR snake life) for a utilitarian set up. I have used them all and they are all fine and have the advantage that the poop is easy to spot and to clean. The darker orchid bark or “bark chips” is fine too, although it is much harder to spot the poop. For the more humid subspecies of pine snake this may be a better choice as it can help maintain the humidity. More “natural” looking substrates are also fine. Gopher snakes live in arid areas with dry, often sandy soil. The gopher snake in the shop is on PR toroise life as a suitable approximation to the natural environment and it works well. Don’t be dictated to by the “keyboard warriors” who will try to tell you what you “must” use. This is at best just their opinion, although they will try to present it as fact and at worst just something they have heard somewhere without the slightest idea as to why it should be.

Heating

For smaller snakes a heat mat would be OK but especially if the mat is floor mounted, a larger snake may cause “thermal blocking” (completely covering the mat with its body) so I prefer a ceramic heat emitter with a suitable heater cage to prevent the snake burning itself. A suitably rated pulse proportional or dimming thermostat gives the best level of control over the output of the heater but a simple on/off stat (correct wattage rating) will do the job but with a few peaks and troughs in temperature. A temperature range of 30-32 celcius at the hot end to 24 celcius at the cold end gives a good target range. Allowing the temperature to drop lower overnight gives a more realistic representation of the natural environment and having a lower overall temprature duiring months with shorter days can stimulate them to come into breeding condition. However for basic care the normal temperature range will suffice. Having a thermostat is essential. Reptiles can tolerate lower temperatures for some time, simply becoming less active but over temperature can kill them very quickly. The thermostat prevents this happening. Have a seperate temperature guage as well. Thermostats have been known to fail so knowing what the temperature actually is can be vital.

Lighting

UVB lighting is not necessary to keep your gopher snake healthy and active. However a day night cycle does help this diurnal snake replicate normal behaviour patterns. Also, you want to be able to see your snake so some form of lighting is beneficial. I like to use LED lighting. This has two advantages, the LEDs produce hardly any extra heat so do not interfere with the control of your heating system or cause burns if touched by the snake and they last many tens of thousands of hours longer that an incadescent lamp or even an energy efficiant fluorescent tube/lamp. You can use the other types of lighting but if using incadescent or halogen, the lamp must be protected by a cage to prevent burning. Energy efficient lamps don’t genreally produce enough heat to burn, which is after all why they are energy efficient.

Feeding

As the name “gopher snake” suggests, these snakes eat mainly small rodents in the wild. In captivity you will have no trouble feeding defrosted mice and rats. Size the food items appropriately to the snake, generally not more thatn 1 1/2 times the snakes head diameter, although that is a guide and they will take slightly larger. It is illegal to feed live vertebrate animals to other animals in the UK, unless the animal in question is at risk if not fed live food. There is no way this could be claimed for any gopher snake. All the specimens I have ever come across are good feeders on defrosted mice/rats. Feeding live rodents is a bad idea in any case as they bite back and could well end up injuring your prized snake. There will always be someone who insists they have to use live. I have a few words to describe these people. Pop in and see me in the shop if you want to know what they are, I can’t publish them here. Defrost the food naturally, not in a microwave. This can heat up the inside of the food and activate necrotic bacteria and give your snake food poisoning. Once defrosted, pop the rat in a poly bag and stick it under your arm to raise to blood temperature and the snake will feed. In the 16 years (at time of writing) I have had my bull snake it has only had two bouts of not feeding, one lasting five months and one three months. Both times were as an adult and there was nothing wrong with the snake. If your snake misses a feed I would leave it for a couple of weeks before attempting again or you may just waste a few rats.

San Diego Gopher Snake
San Diego Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer annectens) Feeding On A Small Defrosted Mouse

Lifespan

In the wild, gopher snakes have a lifespan of around 15 years. Captive snakes suffer far less risk and stress throughout their lives (or should do if you are looking after them properly). No predation, environmental controls giving all year round good weather and food on a plate. This leads to much longer lifespans. The oldest I have heard of was reported to be 33 years old. 20-25 years is common. Mine is currently sixteen and is just as active as when he was two.

So gopher snakes (and bull snakes), make excellent first snakes as an alternative to the commoner corn snake or as a next snake for something a little larger and more active. They are much less commonly avaiable however so you may have to shop around to get one.

Iguana Care Sheet

Iguana. The very first thing to consider when buying an iguana is its adult size. The commonest species, Iguana iguana gets very large. Females around 5 feet, males 6 to 7. Even though a lot of this is tail they are still a large and bulky lizard. Eventually they are going to need a very large enclosure (small room size) so don’t get one if you can’t accommodate this amount of space. If you are sure you can then read on.

red iguana

The next thing is longevity. 12 to 15 years is the norm, 20 years is possible in captivity. So the room you have decided to set aside for the iguana when it reaches adult size needs to remain a “spare room” for that length of time. One of the commonest things we hear is “Do you want my” boa, python, monitor lizard, even bearded dragon. “We’ve a baby on the way and we need the room now”. Things change, who knows what they are going to be doing five years from now, let alone 20. You need to factor your responsibility to your animal into your plans. If you have the space and a contingency if things should change then read on.

An adult iguana is a large animal with powerful jaws, claws and a long tail, which it can use as a very effective whip in defence. Regular short periods of handling when young, so the iguana gains confidence in its owner, will stop it getting truly aggressive but you need to be confident in yourself in handling a large animal. If you have never owned a lizard before (they are very fast as well, especially as youngsters) then think about getting something a little easier first to gain experience. OK, you’re confident you have the space, can accommodate the iguana in any changes that may occur and are sure you can handle such a large beast, what do you have to do to look after it?

Firstly source your iguana. Get a captive bred one. They are generally more docile, do better in captivity, don’t come with a full load of parasites and you will not be contributing to environmental damage. If you buy one on line or on social media from someone who just needs to “get rid” then how confident are you going to be that such an unwanted iguana has been properly looked after. Of course this is true of any animal, not just an iguana. I have seen corn snakes that have been kept in shoe boxes under the bed and just chucked a mouse every few weeks when the “owner” has remembered, bearded dragons with MBD because the UVB lamp has never been changed since they got the lizard, so called breeders who don’t even have the necessary equipment for the babies so just try to sell them off as quickly as possible so they don’t have to get any and so on and so on. Make sure you are using a reliable source, that has a premises you can visit and see the iguana as they are being kept and have the knowledge and experience to give you the advice you need and importantly, with a written  iguana livestock policy. If the seller cannot give you the information you require, don’t buy from them as they cannot have been looking after the iguana properly themselves and you could be buying a problem. If there is a problem, how likely is it you can return the iguana? We want to see you too. We don’t sell our animals on line as we feel we have a responsibility to the iguana not to be selling it to someone who cannot look after it. Buy from someone who knows and who cares.

Housing

As already discussed your are going to need a very large enclosure (up to 12’x6’x6′ for a large adult male iguana) eventually. However a baby iguana is going to look lost in such an enclosure and there are other reasons for starting out in a somewhat smaller vivarium. Firstly it is supposed that a baby iguana can sometimes find it difficult to find the food and water in a large enclosure. Certainly not the ones we have had! Also you wonder how the wild ones get on outside. I think that is maybe truer for animals that have to hunt insects. That said, why take a risk when there are other reasons to start smaller. Catching a nervous baby iguana is not easy in a large space. I am getting on now and bending down is not as easy as it once was. I had to try to catch an iguana in the shop that escaped whilst a customer was viewing it the other day and could only do it once I had in cornered in a smaller space. Much easier to catch an iguana in a smaller vivarium. Also catching them will be quicker and therefore less stressful to the iguana. You are trying to get it used to being handled and not to see you as a threat. Much better they get used to you opening the viv’ and just quickly picking them up than chasing them round a room first.

Heating

The iguana comes from tropical and sub tropical America (mainly central and south). They like it warm and humid. A basking area hot spot of up to 48C dropping to 25 and the coldest end. Heating is best achieved with lamps although some background heating may be required in a larger enclosure. Importantly there must be a temperature gradient with areas for the iguana to sit in so it can move around the enclosure to regulate its body temperature. They do better with heat coming from above. A heat mat on the floor can result in thermal blocking with any larger animal so if using a mat for overnight temperature in a smaller vivarium, have it mounted on the end wall, off the floor so the iguana cannot lay on top of it and overheat. A UVA  basking light for daytime heat and an infra red lamp or ceramic heat emitter for night time heat is ideal, although you do need to ensure the iguana cannot touch the lamp and burn. In the adult enclosure more than one lamp or heat source will be necessary. Only one may heat the animals head but it is 6 feet long so the body would not get any benefit. In other words increase the size of the basking area as the iguana grows. Keeping any animal at such high temperatures is almost impossible without some way of controlling the temperature. Ambient temperature is going to change. A heat source that achieves 45C on a cold winters night is going to be considerably hotter on a hot summers day so a thermostat is essential. Overheating will kill an iguana much quicker than it being kept too cool.

Lighting

An iguana is a diurnal lizards. They are active during the day (they have an organ under the skin on the top of their heads often called a third or parietal eye that detects light and some movement). An iguana will also require UVB lighting. This is not the light provided by the basking spot lamp (unless you use a combined heat and UVB lamp). Normal basking lamps DO NOT provided UVB light although some do provide UVA. UVB is essential for allowing the iguana to manufacture vitamin D3 in its skin. Vitamin D3 is used in the metabolism of calcium from the diet. Without a good source of UVB the iguana cannot get calcium from their food and their bodies will then start to scavenge it from the only source left which is the bones. This leads to metabolic bone disease (MBD) and can be fatal. It is even more likely in a growing iguana as the calcium demand is higher. Of course in the wild they are in full sunlight and you cannot get a better UV source than that (so taking your iguana into the garden on a hot summers day is a good thing – do make sure you don’t have toxic ornamental plants though).

One thing often overlooked is that UVB bulbs and tubes, whilst they may carry on working as a light source, stop giving out UVB after a while (depending on which type). After 6 moths UVB tubes start to deteriorate and after a year are not producing any appreciable UVB light at all. You will need to change tubes at around 9 months usage, so make sure you record when you last changed the lamp. Also UV does not travel very far from the source. Having a lamp on the top of a 6 foot high enclosure and expecting the UVB to reach an iguana on the ground is beyond wishful thinking. You will need to provide a basking area close (around 12 inches) to the UVB lamp to ensure the iguana is getting enough to manufacture vitamin D3. This is OK as iguanas are mostly arboreal and so will spend most of their time on strategically placed branches and ledges.

 

Substrate and decor

Substrate choice is always a subject that creates debate (or in a lot of cases out and out slanging matches). I have my own personal preferences and my own reasons for that choice and you may have yours. As I don’t know your choices and reasons I will give mine instead. Certainly for a smaller enclosure I prefer bark chips (also known as orchid bark). I like it as it looks natural and also as it can help maintain the humidity of the vivarium by retaining some moisture. There is a perceived risk of an iguana accidentally ingesting it and subsequent impaction but I have never known this and by using a large food bowl and disposing of uneaten, spilt food this can be avoided. Sometime I have mixed it with coir (coco fibres) to make it go further and sometimes added a layer of dead leaves or moss for an even more natural look, particularly when going the whole hog and setting up a naturalistic environment complete with detrivores to clean up the poop and waste food. However that’s a subject on its own so I won’t cover it further here. In a large adult iguana enclosure this can get expensive and lots of people use just newspaper. Normally I am not a fan as I don’t like the look of it and the animals cannot get a grip on the surface. However with iguanas they are not going spend enough time out of the branches for that to be a problem. I still don’t like the look though. Some people use straw or alfalfa pellets. Again not my favourite. There is little risk if ingested as, after all, it is just food. However any water spilt on it turns it to mush and it can then smell. Of course you don’t have to use anything in a large enclosure, just have a surface that is easy to wipe clean but do keep it clean!

As already stated, an iguana needs branches and ledges to climb around on (hence the need for height in their enclosure). Artificial greenery (personally, I prefer silk plants to plastic) works well and looks good. If you are going to use real plants make sure they are not toxic as the iguana will at least try to eat them. Any thing purchased from a garden centre will have been sprayed with pesticide and may also have pesticide in the soil of the pot. Go organic. Whichever you choose, the more the merrier. A young iguana especially will appreciate the hiding spots.

Food

The iguana is a vegetarian, completely. Yes in the wild they are bound to eat the odd insect or slug that is on their food but only by accident. Feeding animal protein in any amount will lead to renal problems as the kidneys are overloaded.

90% of the diet needs to be green fibrous food such as rocket, lettuces, kale, dandelions etc. The other 10% can be made up of squashes, cucumber, grated carrot etc. and small amounts of fruit (ours love a bit of mango). Go easy on the fruit though, as too much can upset the stomach which is not good for the iguana and you are the one that has to clear up the resultant mess. There are also commercially prepared iguana packaged foods available. Whilst I would not advocate feeding these exclusively to an iguana, they make a good “cupboard staple” for those times when, for whatever reason, you just can’t get out to get some fresh food. Our iguana likes tortoise pellets now and then and since these contain calcium and vitamin supplements they make a good occasional treat.

Supplementation of the food with calcium powder and occasionally vitamin powder will ensure a healthy iguana throughout its life.

Whilst small, chop the food up quite finely. They don’t really chew as such and will swallow lumps whole, so keeping the pieces small will only help. Always feed good quality food fresh. Remove any uneaten food before it goes nasty and it is an artificially hot environment, it will go nasty quickly.

Always provide fresh water daily. A bowl large enough for a youngster to get into is good. Regular misting will also help maintain humidity (which helps when shedding skin) and ensure youngsters are getting water to drink. You can adjust humidity further by moving the water bowl. At the cool end there will be less evaporation than in the hot end.

red iguana

With proper care and handling IGUANAS do make good pets. They do seem to get to recognise and interact with their owners and each has its own unique character. Unless you are very experienced though (and if you are you probably wouldn’t be bothering to read this) avoid getting an adult. If it hasn’t been properly looked after it is likely to be aggressive and such a powerful animal is going to do some damage. Always see and handle any animal first, before committing to buy. Above all appreciate you are taking over responsibility for the animal when you buy it and all that entails. If you are not sure you have the space, time and finances don’t.

 

The Angell Pets Team

Ackie Monitors (Varanus acanthurus) Care Sheet

Ackie monitors (or spiny tailed monitors) make a good first monitor lizard or a step up from the more commonly kept agamid lizards such as bearded dragons.

Akie monitor (spiny tailed monitor) Varanus acanthurus

Like bearded dragons, Ackies are from the dryer regions of Australia and need similar (but not the same) conditions. They get a little larger (well longer at least) and so will need a large enclosure. They should also be quite active, making a larger enclosure essential.

Due to their relatively small size (for monitors) and generally good temperment, Ackies make a good starter monitor but are attractive enough to appeal to more experienced keepers too.

Enclosure

Akies get to around 2 feet in length (males slightly larger). They are a very active lizard and like to burrow in the substrate. This, coupled to the fact that they like it very hot in the basking area (50-60 degrees centigrade) means that they need a large vivarium. Large enough that a good temperature gradient can be maintained (50 degrees hot end 20-25 degrees “cold” end) and that the substrate can be deep enough to remain moist under the surface.

As large an enclosure as possible is desirable but a minimum of 4’x2’x2′. Some people recommend larger to ensure the correct depth of substrate but by using stones to form a retaining wall you can acheive the necessary depth in a vivarium of this size.

Make sure that when being assembled the edges of the vivarium are well sealed. The idea is to have moist soil in the viv and if care is not taken to seal all the edges and joins the vivarium will not last long. Better still use glass, although these are more expensive. Plastic will work well, I just don’t like them myself.

Ackies will make their own burrows but then they are not accessible. Providing a hide will encourage it to stay where you can find it. Providing plenty of hides throughout the enclosure will give the lizard a choice of where to hide when maintaing body temperature so the more the merrier.

A large water bowl is good idea.  Placed correctly, overfilling the bowl can help keep the lower levels of substrate moist and the Ackie will certainly relish going in the bowl. Ours burrow under the bowl, which is at the cooler end of the viv. I assume this creates a cooler hide and ours move between this and their “favourite” rock hide during the day

Heating

Ackies like it HOT. My preferred way to create a very hot basking area is with a combination of ceramic heat emmitter (on all the time) and basking lamp (on during the day). In very large vivs you can use a combined heat and UV lamp. These are not dimmable but if the viv is big enough and the lamp sized correctly, as they like it so hot, you can get away with it. You will still need another form of heat for overnight when the lamp is off. If in any doubt, go for a combinination of heat emmiter and basking lamp with a pulse proportional stat on the emmitter. This will give you control day and night.

Lighting

Ackies need high intensity UV. If you have a large viv. and have gone for a combined heat and UV basking lamp then job done. If not, you will need as large a wattage 10% or 12% UVB tube as you can fit in the viv. Fitting a reflector to the tube will greatly increase the amount of UV recieved by the lizard. UVB is essential for calcium metabolism (manufacture of vitamin D3 in the skin) so is not an “optional” requirement.

UVB tubes stop giving out noticeable levels of UV after around 9 months (the combined heat and UV lamps a little longer), so ensure you budget to replace these. Unless you have an expensive UV monitor you will not notice the difference but your lizard will and if the tube is not replaced will eventually get metabolic bone disease and probably die a painful death. If you cannot afford the replacement tubes, don’t get an Ackie.

Basking lamps and UVB lamps should be switched off overnight to give a good day/night cycle. Leaving lighting on all night can stress diurnal animals (and is a waste of electricity and will speed up the replacement of your UVB lamps!). Also, by having a dark rest period they tend to be more acitve during the limited (around 12 hours) daylight hours.

Substrate

Ackies like to dig. They will dig hunting for food, they will dig out burrows to rest in, they will dig to lay eggs, sometimes they will just dig! Therefor the substrate needs to be as deep as you can make it. As already alluded to, you can make a retaining wall with rocks to create an area with deeper substrate. In the wild they like to move around rocky outcrops and drop into gaps when threatened so putting in plenty of areas to climb and hide is a good idea. They will dig out a burrow to hide in and this needs to be at a higher humidity than the surrounding air. To maintain this, regular dampening or misting of the substrate is required to stop it drying out. If it is too shallow, not only will it not support a burrow, it will dry out too quickly. That said the word is damp, not wet!

A good soil, sand mix works well. I like to use desert bedding. It has a good structure that retains moisture at lower levels and can suport burrows without collapse. Other types of soil are also suitable. Mixing in some coir helps moisture retention but I don’t like Ackies on pure coir (has to be too wet to support a burrow)

Feeding

Like other monitors, Ackies are carnivores. The bulk of their diet should be insects but they will take pinkes and fuzzies etc. (although weaned rodents contain more calcium and less fat), as well as a little egg and turkey (I don’t bother with turkey myself) . Don’t use dog and cat food – some people do but it is never a good idea.  Ackies store fat in the base of their tails. Feeding to much meat (i.e. food they don’t have to actively hunt) can lead to obesity, although they are nowhere near as prone to this as say, a Bosc Monitor. Better to encourage them to run around hunting by feeding live insects. I use gut loaded cockroaches in the main but vary this as much as possible. We sell livefood so I always have a wide range avaiable so I am a bit spoilt for choice. Dust the food with calcium a few times a week(every day when young) and vitamin powder once a week. Gut loading the insects prior to feeding is the best way to ensure a balanced diet.

Breeding

I am not going to go into detail about breeding. Female Ackies are cyclical breeders. They build up fat stores in their tails and when a certain level is reached and conditions are right, they start to produce eggs. When ready they produce a pheramone that stimulates the male into mating behaviour. Fertilzed eggs are then laid in a burrow. As with most lizards, if the eggs are removed to an incubator for hatching they must not be turned and must be kept in their original orientation or the embryo will die.

Should I get one?

Ackies are great lizards to keep. Most will become quite tame (our male is very tame, the female less so, although she can be handled). They do need large enclosures and the right equipment, regularly maintained. They are probably not for someone who has never owned a reptile before but make a good step up from the usual beaded dragons and leopard geckos etc. Remember they are quite long lived, 15 – 20 years so if considering these fascinating little monitor lizards you need to understand the comittment you are undertaking before buying. They are quite hardy if kept under the right conditions but it is always wise to find out where your nearest specialist reptile vet is located before you need to use one. Normal vets will not have a clue with most reptiles.

The Angell Pets Team

Chile rose tarantula care sheet.

Chilean rose tarantula: (Grammostola rosea, Grammostola porterii)

Chilean rose taratulas are a medium sized tarantula (body 7.5cm, leg span 15cm) from southern Peru and northern Chile, on the edges of the Atacama dessert. This docile spider ranges in colour from grey, through pink to a vibrant copper red. Females are thought to live from about 20 to 40 years. As with most tarantulas, males live shorter lives, sometimes due to their expiring a few months after maturation, often through becoming a post coital snack for the female. Males have smaller bodies and longer legs. Females remain pretty much in or around their burrows throughout their lives, whereas males roam around when adult, looking for a female. Although a burrowing spider in the wild, captive Chilean rose tarantulas rarely construct viable burrows, although they do appreciate somewhere dark to hide. In captivity they feed almost entirely on crickets and other insects (from which they derive most of their water) although larger spiders will eat the occasional small mouse.

Chile rose tarantula

Adult Chilean roses require an arid environment. They appear to despise damp substrate and should never be misted. However very young spiderlings do require some humidity. Their substrate must be regularly dampened or they will quickly desiccate and die. This is thought to be due to the exoskeleton taking time to “toughen” and become waterproof. As they age the substrate can be allowed to become progressively dryer. As they grow a suitably sized water bowl can be introduced. Too big and the young spider will fall in and drown. Adults, whilst liking it dry, do require a water dish for occasional drinking.

Chilean rose tarantulas are probably one of the easiest tarantulas to handle because they are fairly slow moving and rarely bite, giving plenty of warning first. If they do bite it is usually a dry bite (no venom injected) and in the extremely rare cases where venom has been injected it has proved to be the equivalent of a bee sting.

HOWEVER people can be allergic to bee stings and you would not know if you were allergic to a spider bite until after you had been bitten. And who wants those big fangs stuck in them anyway? As with most new world tarantulas the biggest risk is from urticating setae (the hairs). These either brush off the spider when handled or are rubbed off on cage appointments or by the spider itself. They penetrate the skin causing irritation, which can be quite severe in rare cases. Getting these hairs in the eyes requires hospital treatment. So NEVER rub your eyes after handling a tarantula or anything it has been in contact with and as with all animals ALWAYS wash your hands after handling.

The biggest risk when handling any tarantula is to the spider itself. Any fall of more than a couple of inches is potentially fatal. They are delicate creatures and can rupture internally and externally. A lost limb may well heal and eventually regrow but a ruptured body, whilst sometimes treatable, is more often fatal. Even a regrown limb can cause the spider problems with later moults. All in all it is best NOT to handle tarantulas, you don’t get any irritation or bites and they stay alive.

The Chile rose is probably the hardiest species in the hobby as well. The environment they come from is dry, very hot during periods of the day and very cold during periods of the night. The can tolerate quite wide ranging temperatures in the short term. Generally the normal household temperatures in the UK are sufficient for a Chile rose and no additional heating is required. Obviously if you keep the spider in an unheated room throughout the winter a heat mat would be required.

For spiderlings we use coir as a substrate. It can retain some moisture for raised humidity and is light weight so will not bury delicate spiderlings. For larger individuals and adults I prefer to use a more natural looking substrate, something like Lucky Reptile red clay sand bedding or desert Bedding and construct a more natural looking terrarium. That is only my preference however, you may prefer something a bit more utilitarian and that’s fine. The only thing I would point out is that if the substrate is too damp the spider will spend all of its time on the side of the enclosure to keep of it.

For hides you can use whatever you like from broken plant pots to fancy resin hides, it’s up to you, the spider just wants a dark hole to hide in. I would avoid anything too heavy and unstable though, you don’t want it to crush the spider if the enclosure gets knocked.

Chile rose tarantulas are notorious for stopping feeding as adults. They are reputed to have not fed for up to two years, although the longest I have experienced is just over 6 months. This can worry less experienced owners a bit. If you have an adult female and she looks in good condition I wouldn’t worry if she stops feeding for a while. If you have a youngster and it stops feeding it is probably getting ready to moult.

We feed all our spiders weekly. If the following week there are stiil insects in the pot we remove them and stop feeding. Generally the spider will moult within two weeks. With larger spiders you can see the new skin growing through exposed areas of the old skin (it goes darker), however this is not obvious on smaller spiderlings and keeping track of the feeding habits is a must. Do not leave crickets in with the spider whilst it is moulting. Often the spider will delay the moult in the presence of crickets etc. and when it finally does begin the process the crickets have an easily accessible meal whilst it is incapacitated. Following a moult the spider will remain soft and vulnerable for quite a while, so don’t feed for at least a week.

As with all our animals our Chilean rose tarantulas are captive bred, normally in this country and are not taken from the wild population. There are lots of reasons for this but the two most important to us are wild animals are likely to have parasites and/or infections and we have no control over how they are harvested. It could have been done responsibly, a controlled amount of individuals taken from an area that is then left to recover before more are taken or as is often the case, a businessman could have paid locals peanuts to collect as many as possible in a short period of time leading to the critical reduction in numbers of a species in a locality that may never recover. Always buy captive bred animals, they are generally more expensive but worth it.

Angell Pet care sheets page

Angell Pet give advice on all aspects of the animals we sell and on others we don’t. In addidtion tyo the advice given to prospective pet owners we have a page devoted to care sheets on this site which is constantly being up dated and expanded.

angell pet care sheet page

Just click on the Angell Pet Caresheet tab for a page of sheets and articles on mammals, birds, reptiles, invertebrates, fish and additional sheets on hygiene, handling and treatments.

The care information for each animal will also be added to the description on our Angell Pet webstore over the next few months.

We also have additional advice on our Angell Pet You Tube channel.

The Angell Pet Team

Exo Terra waterfall? Want to improve it?

Exo Terra waterfall in small to large. They work with a small pump that sits in the base of the assembly and pumps water to the top through a small hose that then runs down the face of the waterfall into the reservoir at the bottom where the pump sits. The medium and large versions aslo have a small reservoir half way down to take an optional fogger.

A few problems we have found using these Exo Terra waterfalls in our display vivs. include the reservoir running low through evaporation and the pump being very intolerant of running dry (they burn out quite quickly if the go dry), blockage of the pump from substrate or dead crickets etc. and the just awkwardness of the assembly to clean out leading to the water being left a little too long and going off. It really is just too much work to do every couple of days, especially if you have the Exo Terra waterfall in amongst a complex display viv.

Exo Terra Waterfall

 

A cheap, easy to install improvement can be made that drastically reduces the amount of cleaning required, improves the amount of water flow (the Exo Terra waterfall pump itself generates quite a low flow) without causing splashing all over the viv. and improves the quality of the water.

We replace the Exo Terra waterfall pump with a Superfish Aqua 50 filter pump. It is larger overall but still fits neatly into the reservoir or the Exo Terra water fall. It has a higher flow rate than the Exo Terra waterfall pump and has an very efficient cartridge filter. This will clean out and solids from the water in the Exo Terra waterfall and will allow nitrosomonas and  nitrobacter bacteria to grow in the filter membrane which will remove ammonia and nitrate (products of biological breakdown of waste) and keep the water clean and fresh for much longer, reducing the frequency of cleaning and improving the quality of the water available to your reptile to drink (we typically use them with chameleons, tokays, etc.). The pump in the Superfish Aqua 50 also has a higher tolerance to running dry than the Exo Terra waterfall pump (although this still is not to be recommended) and has an easy to change and inexpensive cartridge filter.

exo terra waterfall replacement pump

 

If you have and Exo Terra waterfall it is well worth giving this small improvement a go. Save yourself some work and improve the environment of your animal for very little cost.

 

The Angell Pets Team

Livefood protein and fruit jelly pots

Livefood jellies to prolong the life of the insects. These convenient jelly pots can be fed to livefood or directly to reptiles. Either way your lizard is getting the full benefit of these nutritious feeding solutions.

Livefood at pet shop Gloucester

The pots can be used with the single or double holders to mount inside a glass vivarium to feed geckos or inside livefood keepers, Alternatively just invert the egg carton in a box of livefood and they fit snugly and provide an excellent food and water source greatly extending the life of the insects.

The pots sell for 99p each or 50p each when purchased with a box of livefood and come in five different flavours. The protein gel pot is best for keeping livefood alive over an extended period and will allow them to grow.

Just ask at the till when you next purchase your livefood.

The Angell Pets Team.

Natures Menu frozen food now in stock

Natures Menu raw foods are now in stock. Natures Menu ready made meals or raw meat packs are now avaiable at competetive prices. Here are a couple of excerpts from the Natures Menu preamble to what the product is and why feeding raw food is good for your animal.

“Natures Menu are proud to be the leading experts in natural and raw dog and cat food. Turning to mother nature for its unrivalled recipes, answers to common well-being issues and a happier, more content pet.
Our range of complete and balanced raw meals for dogs provide a convenient and simple way to feed your dog a healthy raw diet every day.
With over 30 years of knowledge and expertise making raw and natural pet foods Natures Menu can assure the highest level of safety, palatability and nutrition, creating foods that nourish your dog holistically on all levels; mind, body and soul.

Option 1: Feed your pet our complete and balanced raw meals range. We have currently 8 Natures Menu varieties, 4 of those are grain free.

Option 2: You make the raw meals up for yourself at home using a variety of ingredients of Meat, Meaty Bones, Ground Fruit and Vegetables and for some dogs(never cats), a non starchy grain.

Natures Menu

Dogs and cats are hunters and the basis of their teeth structure, jaws, stomach acid ph and whole digestive system is designed specifically to deal with lots of juicy meat and raw bones. Dogs and cats are carnivores who have evolved to eat a meat and bone based diet. Today there is an abundance of dry extruded and other industrially processed petfood on the market. This may be convenient, but is light years away from the food which nature intended dogs and cats to eat. Biology is a science itself and on a biological level your pet’s body is designed and has evolved to, digest raw foods quality proteins rather than processed cooked proteins and grains.
These are some basic natural rules to keeping your pet dog or cat happy and content:

  • A variety of diverse ingredients will supply your pet with an abundance of natural nutrients
  • Fresh meat protein will always be better than processed proteins and where possible, fresh protein should be the main protein source. Protein derived from meat meals or meat and bone meals is a food by product and we recommend where ever possible avoiding heavily processed proteins. Check the packaging on your pet food to see if it includes real fresh meat protein.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables provide an abundance of natural vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants which are essential to maintain your pet in the best health. Fresh peas, carrots, swede, sweet potato, apples, blue berries and lots more great ingredients are all used in Natures Menu foods and locally sourced wherever possible.
  • Low starch carbohydrates or single source carbohydrates are much better for your dog’s digestion than highly processed heat treated grains. All of the Natures Menu products are wheat free and wheat gluten free. Parboiled rice is the only grain used instead and many of the Natures Menu products are totally grain free. We believe a small amount of boiled rice with some chicken or other real meat protein, mixed with fresh vegetables and fruits creates a full balanced meal for many dogs with totally balanced nutrition.
  • Dogs and cats thrive on quality foods and deserve more than just a bowl of dry cereal and water each day

The Raw Feeding Way Raw Feeding is also often referred to as B.A.R.F feeding which stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods a way of feeding which is fully in tune with what nature intended for your pet. The ‘holistic’ or ‘natural’ pet food sold to us by todays marketing companies is a far cry from what you would expect your dog or cat to search for in the wild. When was the last time you saw a wolf taking a bag of dry pet food back to the lair? Biologically appropriate food has been developed for owners who appreciate that their dog or cat can’t hunt for themselves, as they would in the wild.
Fresh raw meals are the appropriate food for your dog and cat and by bringing them back to nature.  You are feeding a diet that they have naturally evolved to eat. Whilst this diet concept might seem worlds away from the television or media messages pumped out by the big advertising budgets of multi-national petfood companies, that you have come to understand and trust. Do some simple homework and take the time to search for Raw Feeding to learn what’s really best for your dog or cat.
Mother Nature Knows Best At Natures Menu we know what real food really is and a simple check you can do at home with your dog or cat is – take some fresh pieces of meat in one bowl and some processed food in another. Make both bowls available for your dog or cat at feeding time and see which bowl is chosen first. The natural instincts of your dog or cat should always win through. ”

Pop in and see us and give Natures Menu raw a try. Here are our prices.

Natures Menu Freeflow tripe mince 2kg – £4.45

Natures Menu Freeflow chicken mince 2kg – £4

Natures Menu Freeflow lamb mince 2kg – £4.25

Nature Menu tripe 300g – £9.48 pack of 12 or 88p each

Natures Menu tripe and chicken – £9.48 pack of 12 or 88p each

Natures Menu lamb dinner- £9.48 pack of 12 or 88p each

Natures Menu chicken and salmon –  £9.48 pack of 12 or 88p each

Natures Menu banquet nuggets 1kg – £2.95

Natures Menu chicken and trip nuggets 1kg – £2.80

Natures Menu chicken and tripe mince 400g – £10.08 pack of 12 or 90p each

This is our first order of Natures Menu. We will be increasing the Natures menu range with each order as we receive feedback from our customers so watch this space.

Pet shop Gloucester advice series – good hygiene

Pet shop Gloucester advice on avoiding infection from animals through good hygiene.

All animals have the potential to carry organisms (viruses, bacteria, protozoa, multicellular parasites) that can cause disease in humans. The most obvious and common is E.coli bacteria. We carry this ourselves, that’s why you should wash your hands after going to the toilet. Another common one is salmonella, potentially carried by a host of animals including reptiles and birds.

The commonest way of spreading these disease causing organisms is through faecal material (poop), urine, saliva and breath (in the water droplets). So on the face of it owning an animal seems to be a bad thing to do if you want to avoid being ill.

Well you actually stand more chance of being infected by disease from another human than you do from an animal, wild or a pet. How many people do you know who don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet or before preparing food, after blowing their nose, who sneeze, pick their nose, cough and splutter all over the place when they have a cold or worse and every one knows the story about the research into how many individual samples of human urine can be found on bar snacks! I even gave myself food poisoning recently, most likely from blue cheese, although I can’t be sure.

pet shop Gloucester

Humans eh! Dirty, horrible things.

With regard to animals, especially pet animals, the risk can be greatly reduced by ALWAYS following a basic set of rules. It is common sense really when you think about it but it does no harm to reiterate the rules here. You wouldn’t lick a rat’s bottom (I would hope not anyway!) but that is exactly what you are doing if, after handling your pet rat, you bite that little bit of hang nail off or wipe your mouth with the back of your hand.

  • Do not do anything that involves putting your hands near your face whilst handling any pet animal. This includes eating, drinking, smoking, sucking your thumb!
  • Keep your pet’s enclosure clean and dry generally. Remove soiled bedding and use a disinfectant appropriate to the species (household disinfectants can be toxic to animals).
  • Wash you hands IMMEDIATELY after handling you pet or cleaning its enclosure. Also after handling anything your pet touches such as toys, dog beds, scratch posts etc.
  • Do not kiss your pet or hold it close to your face, that’s what humans are for.
  • Cover any cuts, abrasions, sores or scratches with a water proof dressing before handling or cleaning. Also if you pick up any new ones in the process clean these and apply  a suitable dressing.
  • Don’t keep animals in rooms used to prepare food. Never let them walk on food surfaces and don’t wash animal items in sinks used for human food utensils. If you have no choice, always thoroughly disinfect the sink and surrounding work surfaces afterwards and don’t use the same cloths for both.
  • Don’t let animals onto your bed and especially not your pillow.

Follow these rules and you shouldn’t end up as one of the many people with an undiagnosed gastrointestinal infection (24 hour bout of diarrhoea) or one of the very rare cases of rat hantavirus (the only two cases of this flu like disease I know of in the UK were breeders who were in constant contact with rats but clearly didn’t have sufficient infection control).

If you are sensible pets have been shown to reduce disease in humans but if you lick a rat’s bum (figuritively speaking), expect the worst!

Keep visiting for more pet shop Gloucester advice.

The Angell Pets Team

Pet shop Gloucester offer

Pet shop Gloucester offer on Orijen and Acana 400g bags. We are selling 400g bags of Orijen and Acana dog and cat foods at 50% off marked price.

Champion Pet foods are stopping making 400g bags of Orijen. We still have some on the shelves in our pet shop Gloucester and would like to clear the space quickly for new stock of other products (we are always looking to increase our pet shop Gloucester range). So we are marking down the price by 50%.

pet shop gloucester

This gives you and excellent chance to try out this superb food at a bargain price. I use this food myself for my staffie lurcher cross, Venus and my Cretan hound, Raki. So I can vouch for its qualities personally (well almost, they eat, it not me!). They both have superb coat, are in prime condition physically and as an added bonus produce much less waste than they would if they were being fed a food with lots of grain filler (most foods on the market).

Click the link below for a fuller explanation of the qualities of good dog food on our pet shop Gloucester You Tube channel. The “good” example used in the video is Orijen. I won’t say what the “bad” example is. Anyone who has heard me talk about it will know which food I think is the worst rubbish on the market. We only stock it in our pet shop Gloucester so I can ask people why they want to buy it!

So take this opportunity to give it a try and see what you think. If you are an existing pet shop Gloucester customer buying 2.5kg or 7kg bags it is actually cheaper at this price to get the 400g bags!

 

The Angell Pets Team