Life-span: 3-3.5 years
Adult size: 4.5 inches long
Adult weight: 2-4 ounces
A glass aquarium provides spacious, inexpensive, easy-to-clean housing. A 10 gallon tank should be used to house 1-2 gerbils, 15 gallons for 3, 20 gallons for 4 and 30 gallons for 6. Suitable lids are fine wire lids or lids provided at pet stores with fittings to allow ‘habitat’ tubes. Ensure the lid is secured. Wire mesh or plastic cages may also be used, but gnawing on wires may prove harmful, and plastic can easily be gnawed to ruins.
Tunnels and tubes can be provided for playing and exploration, along with play areas with sloping ramps and a climbing branch. Cardboard tubes can be provided both for exploring and chewing. A variety of toys can be purchased for further enrichment. An exercise wheel may also be provided, but ensure there are no gaps where the gerbil will run. If there are, masking tape can be placed round the circumference, and then lightly coat the inside with bedding. A nesting box should be provided for privacy. Wooden ones are best.
Aspen, Carefresh and corncob bedding is best. The average 10 gallon tank with 2 gerbils will only need the bedding changed every 2-3 weeks. A regularly cleaned tank should never smell. Fill the tank 1/3 full with bedding. Plain, shredded paper may also be used.
Gerbils should be housed at normal room temperature.
Gerbils have no special lighting requirements.
A good, pre-mixed gerbil food is recommended. Sunflower seeds tend to be high in fat, and are therefore very fattening. It is best to pick these out beforehand and hand feed them to the gerbils during the day. Food should be provided in a heavy ceramic bowl, or placed on the bedding in the centre of the tank to allow for foraging.
Each tank will require its own water bottle. If you are using a glass tank, a special bottle holder/shield will need to be purchased. Ensure that the tip of the bottle is kept well above the bedding, or it will drain in a matter of hours. Ensure the water is kept clean and fresh at all times.
For the best results, the gerbils should be three months old before mating. Females can produce offspring until about 2 years of age. Gestation is about 24 days, with a typical litter containing 6 pups. The mother should be left alone whilst giving birth, and will usually stay alone in the nest with them for up to 48 hours. Ensure all hands are washed before handling the pups to prevent rejection by the mother.
Most gerbils are easily tamed in a short space of time with frequent, gently handling. They should first be allowed to become accustomed to your hand inside the tank, before letting them step onto your hand. After this, they may gently be scooped out of the tank. Do not lift your gerbil too high unless it jumps out of your hand. Allow your gerbil to sit on your lap and investigate you.
For further information, visit http://agsgerbils.org
If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk