View Full Version : Hey ABR! What Do You Think Of These Terrarium Ideas?

2010-Mar-09, 05:20 AM
Hey ABe, I was thinking of a multi level terrarium consisting of a ten gallon tank half filled with a planting mix made with shredded fir, mushroom compost and straw compost.

While gardening in the area of some removed junipers I discovered the local species of subterrainian (sorry, I'm drinking ale ATM) termites had colonized the dead roots. So I reburied the termites and marked the spot with a rock.

I'm going to put the colonized wood against the front glass and place a lot of the uncolonized wood against the glass around the tank. Then I'm going to use black construction paper to line the tank from soil level down. This will keep the photophobic termites near the glass for red light observation.

That's level one.

Level two is after I found out what california slender salamanders:


consider ideal biotope I encorporated it into my gardening scheme and now have a nice quantity of them when and where I want them.

The ones in my yard have nice vibrant markings. After I see that the termites have successfully taken, I'll introduce the salamanders to the tank..

I had to wait for available wall outlets and a responsible way to contain any alates. Both criteria are now met.

The other terrarium change is now that I re-did Frogzilla's tank so as to evict the spider* factory I had going, I'm going to remove the existing styrofoam faux granite backing that is really showing its age and replace it with untreated fir boards cut to size. I know where there is some barrel staves that a interesting shelf fungus is growing out of and I hope to encoporate some to the tank.

I also found a shade plant mix of seeds and have plants growing in Frogzilla's tank for the first time. As I stopped feeding him crickets this has become possible. Thanks to that link you sent me I have a new pair of giant 12 inch blunt tweezers and I can hand feed Frozilla again.

I'm going to introduce pill bugs and earwigs and see how their sociaties work first hand and see if it matchs written discriptions. I plan on encorporating whole family groups of each simply by leaving rolled up newspapers in damp locations and then lightly burying a well colonized one in the tank. I already have a good group of composting worms in there to keep Frogzilla's tank sweeter than without. They find post digested frog chow just yummy.

I can't pretend to be a real amature astronomer well enough to fool anyone here so I'll stick to stuff I already know how to do, just haven't done yet. My version of a mid-life crisis. :)

The termites I plan on watering with de-ionized water so I can stretch out the amount of time it will tank for the tank to salt up.

I'm open to any improvements you can suggest.

* Among other things I learned was how quickly spiders starve to death.

2010-Mar-09, 06:27 AM
Hey BigDon! Wow, that sounds ambitious.

California slenders -- I think they'd make a great terrarium salamander. I should have them in the yard, but I haven't seen any yet. Based on some experience I have with Ozark zigzags and other similar salamanders, be prepared for some Great Escapes, no matter how tight the terrarium lid may be. I was always impressed and sad to find the zigzags trapped by the ferocious dust bunnies behind the couch.

A couple of questions. Will the termites be able to survive in a terrarium? I have a large colony in the front yard behind a wooden retaining wall that I'll likely have to replace at some point because of that fact. I've also had a colony tunnel up through a foundation and fill my kid's room with alates one summer. I took pictures, made a video and made a collection of the castes, my wife and landlord were simply appalled. It was fun interviewing the local exterminators, especially after they realized what I do for a living. I made sure to hire the one that caught me in an entomological error.

When you say that you have devised a way to contain the alates, do you mean they won't be able to escape or do you have a predator in mind? I imagine a small tube leading into another terrarium with some Pacific Coast chorus frogs....

So removing crickets from Frogzilla's habitat will save the plants? Won't he uproot them anyway?

In any case, color me envious.

2010-Mar-09, 11:54 PM
They should, and if I'm wrong, well, they're termites. Even PETA doesn't give a hoot about termites as long as I'm not torturing them with sunlight and a magnifying glass.

And I'm going to try to keep them alive as best I'm able. Right up until I introduce the salamanders. Termites being their favorite food. I've only seen them using their tongues (like frogs do) to capture prey once, on film. I'd like to see that in person. And not too many either. A single male and maybe three females. The males being territorial and the females not.

I have some terrariums that have extra fine screening and well made tops. If you are serious about keeping very small creatures confined you can't half *step* it. You'll end up with odd things in bed with you.

When a cricket runs across your bare legs in the middle of the night your brain does NOT go, "Hmmm, must of been a cricket, guess it's okay to go back to sleep."

Ever do a back flip, while prone, in your sleep? You wouldn't think a man my age could do that...much less twice. Were you to photogragh that scene it would look like something out of a Charlie Brown comic strip. Blankets and pillows exploding every which way, me four feet off the bed with a horrified look on my face. It really motivates you into investing in secure terraria.

With Frogzilla I have the soil deep enough he can tunnel backwards to his heart's content and he won't destroy the root system too much. For the last month or two he's been content to sit in the bottom of a pit like an antlion. He watched all the plants plants sprout and grow and seems to not mind them a bit. I think he actually like them.

2010-Mar-10, 12:13 AM
I had a tiger salamander once (okay, it was a metamophosed axolotl I'd rescued) that would attack his reflection in the terrarium glass so I've even seen a salamander get his tongue stuck to something! I watched him shed a couple of times and eat the shed skin. If I got careless, this tiger would eat enough worms fast enough that live ones would exit the other end. {pause for some ewwwws}. One summer while I was in Michigan, there was a tremendous Hexagenia hatch (large mayflies). I put the tiger on the ground amidst about 100 or so mayfly subimagos and I swear he trembled and salivated in anticipation before dining.

Yep. Salamanders are cool.

I had a treefrog land on my face once in the middle of the night on a camping trip. I know what you mean about the cognitive part of the brain not kicking in during such times. Wet, slimy thing on face in the dark and let the shrieking commence. Once I saw what it was, I laughed. I lived in a house once with a brown recluse problem -- things walking on you during the night can get your attention real fast.

Donnie B.
2010-Mar-10, 09:56 PM
You can salamander, but you can't sal a... no, wait, that's not quite right...

2010-Mar-10, 10:06 PM
I saw a show about these HUGE ant farms that people have made. These things were literally 5-6 feet tall with pre-made channels made into them.

Here is something similar to what I'm talking about: http://www.instructables.com/id/3_Foot_Tall_Ant_Nest_and_Foraging_Area_Authentic_/

2010-Mar-10, 10:25 PM
I also know that shudder/brain freak out mode too, escaping brown and black crickets escaping from my lizards terranium, the critters get everywhere and I mean everywhere I opened a wardrobe and there by the door was a monster cricket waiting for its chance to escape.....one does a yuuuuuuk dance on tip toes and those shudders down the spine mode, I have meal worms trying to escape to victory by eating their way out of the air holes in the plastic tub they are in, the kitteh watches them with interest when they get behind the couch, what I hate about the meal worms is when they morph into the beetles. :( They climb everywhere.

Zac when he was a lot smaller:

2010-Mar-12, 11:32 PM
Chrissy, Zac has nice markings around his eye and face. :)

Now I've never tried raising eusocial insects before. Does anybody foresee troubles I might not be aware of?

2010-Mar-13, 12:31 AM
Thanks BD, he has beautiful golden eyes too and at the moment he is shedding his skin and it looks like he has wings..:D more growing. He loves to run around my living and dining rooms.

I haven't tried raising eusocial insects BD, so I can't really comment except you will have escapees.

2010-Mar-13, 01:03 AM
I know there will be troubles.

And the knowledge gained keeping one type of critter it captivity isn't always applicable to others creatures, at least when you start jumping whole orders.

I thought keeping really predatory fish, then extending it to terrestrial creatures you wouldn't put your hand in with, prepared me for keeping monitors prior to actually keeping lizards of any sort. A Nile Monitor no less.

(Can I get a collective "D'oh!)

Trust me, one of Jurrasic Park's velociraptors would make a better household pet.

I think I actually counted as a significant portion of his diet while in my care. I realized the first time he bit my hand while ignoring the 2.5 foot stick I was trying to distract him with, he might have been out of my league. I think he bit me all the harder because I insulted his intelligence trying to use that trick.

2010-Mar-13, 06:28 PM
Now I've never tried raising eusocial insects before. Does anybody foresee troubles I might not be aware of?

Hey BigDon,

So I've been doing some research on your termite questions. Seems like there is much more literature on killing/controlling termites than there is on rearing/cultivating them. Go figure. The one or two papers I did find for rearing suggests a varied diet, i.e., not just pure cellulose. I think you'll achieve that if you simply bring in wood or roots from the outdoors instead of using lumber (which may be pretreated with chemicals to repel termites), or newspapers, etc. I suspect that your layer of black construction paper may become dinner at some point. The paper that yielded the most information said they maintained their colonies for up to a year or so, so that's good news for your salamanders.

I did have one idea for you. Go ahead and set up your terrarium as you outlined. In addition to bringing in infected wood, when the colony sends out its swarmers, catch some and throw them into the terrarium as well. If your termites from the infected wood don't make it, maybe the swarmers can start a fresh colony. Just a thought.

The reason why I suggest this is that I'm not sure the infected wood alone will do the trick. As the name suggests, these termites are underground. Although you've found some termites in your yard, the actual colony may be quite some distance from that site, maybe even hundreds of yards away. The infected wood most likely won't have all the castes and I'm not sure how that will affect keeping a live population for extended periods of time. This is all guesswork on my part -- I simply haven't dealt much with termites.

By the way, for those of you reading this thread who are horrified at the thought of bringing live termites into the house, don't worry. BigDon is dealing with subterranean termites. They need moist soil for colonization. Even if he has some swarmers get loose, they won't be able to colonize the house itself. I have the same subterranean termites around my house, as well as the big Pacific dampwood termites in the woods behind the house. When I had the infestation subterraneans in my previous house, the termites had burrowed under the house and found a crack in the foundation. When it comes time to release the swarmers (reproductive winged forms), the colony builds mud swarming tubes. For most, these tubes reach the surface and you have lots of little mud tubes from which the swarmers fly away. However, if there is a house in the way, when the workers build the swarming tubes, they will infect the house as well. In my case, there was a hole in the drywall. There was a box of books next to the wall and they did some damage to a book or two, but mainly they were busy with the corrugated cardboard box so I got lucky.

The good news is that when you see the swarmers (could be several thousand so they'll be hard to miss if they come out in your kid's bedroom!) the colony has likely just found your house so maybe there won't be much damage. And yes, ever since that happened to me, I check the outer and inner foundation of the house every year for swarming tubes. In fact, it's about time to do that this year.

2010-Mar-13, 06:50 PM
Thanks for the reply ABe! I'd post more but I'm being treated to lunch and have to split soonest.

Be back later and thanks for the info!