Housing For Gerbil Communities
Maximum sizes for gerbil communities
Now that we have covered minimum housing sizes for gerbils, you maybe wondering what would be a good size for a clan of gerbils. Well as I mentioned earlier it is the opinion of Eva Waiblinger PhD that a good size for 2-3 gerbils would be 100x50x50cm (approx. 39x20x20 inches, or 56 imp.Gallons) , and 150x60x60 cm (approx. 59x24x24, or 123 imp. gallons) for 4-6 animals, with at least 30cm (approx. 12 inch) deep bedding. Although I don't recommend three gerbils to be housed permanently for the reason that quite often with a trio of gerbils, the lowest on the pecking order of this gerbil hierarchy can often get bullied, and as a rule gerbil clans tend to work much better with even numbers, and with males rather than females. Females tend to do best in pairs. Large clans (males) can work well if closely supervised, and managed well, often though they are thinned out after a year, as part of the ongoing management, or if fights break out.
However I do agree with these size recommendations for larger gerbil clans that are to be permanently housed and countries like Austria and Germany have tank sizes that fall roughly into these recommended guidelines. I also feel that the successful maintenance and management of larger clans fall into the realms of reasonably experienced breeders and keepers. Another point to bear in mind is that in larger tanks, if not designed correctly, large gerbil clans can split up into territories.
There exists a general agreement when managing rodents and animals that any change to housing should "increase the frequency and diversity of positive natural behaviors, decrease the occurrence of abnormal behaviour, maximize the utilization of the environment and increase the animal's ability to cope with the challenges of captivity" (Olsson and Dahlborn 2002), It's also agreed that an increase in area should also have an equal increase in complexity. For many rodents a change to their environment or "environmental enrichment" can be as complex as various tubes, shelters, wheels and chew toys or as simple as the provision of tissues for nesting materials, there is no consensus on how to truly define environmental enrichment , Nevertheless, "it is important that the change results both in enhanced animal welfare and improved biological functioning of the animals, and it is in principle not correct to use the term 'enrichment' before such results have been shown" (Olsson and Dahlborn 2002.)
With gerbils this is done simply with increased substrate, deep enough to make tunnels, extra bedding, and access to chewing materials such as branches or chew toys and maybe toys such as tunnels or wheels, etc. These can be added safely without the worry that gerbils will use them as territory markers, but will increase the complexity in a larger area of tank.
Article by Eddie Cope