Do Tarantulas Make Good Pets?
Tarantulas are great for anyone who wants a large, exotic, impressive, and unique pet. ‘T’s are not conventional pets and as such they have specific care requirements. They are generally low-maintenance critters, but they may not be suitable for everyone, especially those who are squeamish about feeding live prey or have arachnophobia.
Are Tarantulas Easy To Care For?
Tarantulas are very easy to care for compared to many other pets. Once you have set up their enclosure properly and understand their basic needs, they require minimal attention. However, it’s crucial to provide them with the appropriate environment, food, and humidity levels to ensure their well-being.
Recommended Tarantula Species For Beginners
There are lots of beautiful and hardy tarantula species available in the hobby. Many are straightforward to keep, requiring very little attention. Others may be considered more difficult either because they are very defensive or aggressive – or because they have very specific habitat requirements that might be difficult to replicate. Researching and understanding the specific needs of the species you are interested is essential before committing to one of these fascinating arachnids.
For those new to tarantula keeping, certain species are often recommended for their docile nature and relatively straightforward care. Some popular beginner tarantula species include:
- Chilean Rose Hair, Grammostola rosea
- Curly Hair, Tlitocatl albopilosus
- Brazilian Black, Grammostola pulchra
- Mexican Red Knee, Brachypelma hamorii
- Green Bottle Blue, Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens
- Pink Toe. Avicularia Avicularia
These species are great for beginners as they are generally hardy, tolerate a range of conditions, and most have a calm temperament.
Housing Your Tarantula
Selecting the right enclosure is essential for the well-being of your pet tarantula. We recommend glass terrariums from leading exotic pet brands such as Exo Terra and Giganterra, which provide a range of spacious enclosures suitable for arboreal, fossorial, and terrestrial tarantulas.
Alternatively, plastic faunariums are an affordable, secure option for juveniles to adults, perfect for collectors who own many species. Enclosures should be well-ventilated to protect against mold growth and bacterial growth. Mesh lids are brilliant at promoting airflow to keep your pet healthy. Species that need higher humidity can be housed in enclosures with less ventilation, which will also stop the substrate from drying out as quickly. Always be mindful that mold will grow in damp conditions and some molds can be bad for your tarantula. Monitor high humidity low ventilation environments very thoroughly.
Depending on if you own a terrestrial, fossorial, or arboreal tarantula (more on this later), you’ll want to purchase an enclosure with dimensions that prioritize either depth and width or for arboreal species, height.
Your tarantula will thrive in a spacious enclosure with plenty of room to wander and burrow. The recommended dimensions for a tarantula’s enclosure are around 2.5 x the leg span of the tarantula. So, a 10cm spider will need a 25cm wide enclosure. Most tarantulas will construct a burrow or hide and will rarely stray very far from it.
Arboreal, Fossorial, And Terrestrial Tarantula Housing
The height of the enclosure should be tailored to the type of spider you’re caring for. Arboreal or tree-dwelling tarantulas require an enclosure that prioritizes height. Terrestrial spiders need more floor space but less height, as these are ground-dwelling arachnids that may want to wander. In fact, for very heavy-bodied terrestrial spiders it’s recommended to restrict height so that they can’t climb to a high point and then fall and injure themselves.
Ideally, an arboreal set-up will be taller than it is wide and a terrestrial set-up will be wider than it is tall. Fossorial or burrowing spiders can also be housed in a tall terrarium that has been filled 2/3rds to 3/4 with a substrate for them to burrow in.
Decorating Your Habitat
Suitable substrates maintain moisture levels and give your tarantulas a stable bedding to burrow within. Popular substrate choices are coco fibre, peat moss, vermiculite, sand, or custom-designed tarantula substrates. It’s important to provide some depth of substrate for burrowing species.
Older juveniles, sub-adults, and adults benefit from a water dish. Sometimes you will see your spider drinking, other times they will enjoy uprooting the dish and filling it with dirt. It’s a tarantula thing and no, we don’t understand it either. Tiny spiderlings usually get enough moisture from their food. You can mist the sides of their enclosure and they will drink from the droplets. A water dish at this stage could be a drowning hazard.
For most species and all of the beginner species, a normal room temperature of around 24+ degrees is perfect. The general rule is that if you are comfortable, then your tarantula is comfortable. If you do need supplemental heating, heat mats work well and should be placed on only one side of the enclosure. Do not place heat mats underneath an enclosure. Tarantulas and many other invertebrates instinctively burrow to escape heat and will not understand a heat source below them nor will they know how to get away from it.
Add appropriate hiding spots, such as half logs and rocks for your tarantula to retreat to when they feel stressed or threatened. Some tarantulas spend much time hiding away in a burrow while others prefer to be out and about.
Temperature, Heating, & Humidity
Most tarantula species thrive at a temperature range of 75°F to 85°F (24°C to 29°C). Heating is essential to the healthy development and metabolism of pet invertebrates, and to their overall happiness.
Humidity levels, referred to as ‘relative humidity’ or ‘RH’, should be maintained at around 60% to 80%, depending on the species. The higher the humidity levels, the more likely you’ll deal with mold and fungus growth, so ventilation is key when caring for species with high humidity requirements.
Humidity and temperature can be controlled and monitored using thermostats, heat-mats, hygrometers, thermometers, and combined hygrometer-thermometers. Use a hygrometer and a thermometer to monitor these conditions accurately.
Tarantulas are nocturnal creatures and do not require specific lighting, and heat-lamps are not recommended. Instead, opt for a heat-mat. Ambient room lighting is usually sufficient.
Food & Water For Your Tarantula
Tarantulas are carnivorous and feed primarily on live prey. The size and frequency of feedings depend on the tarantula’s age and species. Common prey items include crickets, mealworms and roaches for larger species, including giant hissing cockroaches for the very largest tarantulas such as the Goliath Bird Eater (Theraphosa blondi).
It’s essential to provide prey that is appropriately sized, as tarantulas may refuse food that is too large or ignore prey that is too small. Place the food item as close as possible to the tarantula using tongs and, if your tarantula is hungry, it should grab it right away.
Juvenile to adult tarantulas require a water dish in order to remain well-hydrated. Spiderlings, on the other hand, must have their enclosure walls regularly misted as water dishes can result in your spiderlings drowning to death due to water tension. They will consume the droplets from their enclosure.
How Often Should I Feed My Tarantula?
Tarantulas do not need feeding every day. Spiderlings and juveniles can be fed once or twice a week, adults might only need food every two to four weeks. some spiders go on hunger strikes for weeks on end. It’s important not to overfeed. Be guided by the size of your spider’s abdomen. A very large abdomen means the spider won’t need food for a while.
Molting In Tarantulas
Like all invertebrates, tarantulas molt periodically to shed their exoskeleton and grow. It’s important for us to understand what molting is and why arthropods including arachnids do it.
Molting is a vital process in the lifecycle of all arthropods that allows them to grow. Arthropods, including insects and arachnids, have a protective and rigid exoskeleton, which is essentially a skeleton on the outside of the body rather than on the inside like ours, but because it’d so rigid, arthropods can’t grow inside it. So, in order to grow and mature, it must break out of its old exoskeleton. This process of removing & creating a new exoskeleton is called molting.
Before molting, your tarantula may show signs of entering premolt, for example, they may have a reduced appetite, wen the enclosure excessively, or darken / dull in appearance. During the molting process, it’s crucial to provide a quiet and undisturbed environment, as it is a vulnerable time for the tarantula. Ensure they have enough moisture/humidity and do not interfere with them during this delicate time. Don’t be alarmed if you see the tarantula on its back, this is how many of them molt.
Removing the exoskeleton is a taxing process that relies on internal secretions and humidity levels to soften the external skin. For this reason, your tarantula will be soft and vulnerable during and for a while after a moult. The new, fresh exoskeleton will harden over the coming days and return to its strong rugged state. This process is called hardening.
You should never handle your spider during this process – wait until they have fully hardened.
Your tarantula is fully hardened when the fangs have turned from white back to black. On spiderlings, this may take up to a week, for older individuals this process can take up to three weeks.
Sadly, sometimes complications happen during moults that result in deformities. Mismolts can occasionally be fatal, but mild deformities and missing limbs can be regenerated in subsequent moults. Even missing or deformed fangs can be regenerated at the next moult though you may have to feed your tarantula pre-killed prey until it molts if its fangs are damaged. Molting problems are relatively rare given your spider has adequate room to molt, that you’ve provided the correct relative humidity, and you’ve left no aggressive prey items in the enclosure that could injure it.
Tarantula Development From Spiderling To Adult
Tarantulas go through several stages of development as they mature. They begin as small eggs laid and enveloped in a silk egg sack for protection. The first molt sees the tiny babies slough off the egg case. They are still fairly immobile, legs tightly wrapped around their abdomen and they are hairless. At this stage, they are sometimes referred to as ‘eggs with legs’ or nymphs. This is the stage when they will start to emerge from the egg sack. Shortly after which they will moult into fluffy little spiderlings (also known as slings).
Spiderlings will typically moult around 5 or 6 times in their first year of life. Molting (or ecdysis) is the process by which the tarantula sheds its old exoskeleton (skin) and emerges in a new, larger one, gradually growing larger until they reach maturity. At various stages in a spiders development it must, in order to grow, go through several moults in its lifetime.
Generally speaking, arboreal species moult more frequently than terrestrial and have a shorter life span. The time it takes to reach adulthood varies depending on the species and environmental factors. It can take anywhere from a few months to several years for tarantulas to mature. The number of molts varies too but is typically around 10. Males of the infamous Pterinochilus murinus OBT (Orange Bitey Thing/Orange Baboon Tarantula) species can go from spiderling to mature in under a year. Brazillian black tarantulas, (Grammastola Pulchripies) on the other hand is a slow-growing species and can take 8 years to reach maturity.
How Long Do Tarantulas Live For?
The lifespan of tarantulas can vary depending on the species and sex. On average, female tarantulas tend to live longer than males. Females can live anywhere from 10 to 30 years, while males typically have a shorter lifespan of around 3 to 6 years. It’s important to consider this longevity when committing to caring for a tarantula as a pet.
How Do I Sex My Pet Tarantula?
Determining the sex of a tarantula can be challenging, especially when they are young. Once mature, there are specific characteristics that can quite easily differentiate males from females. These include the presence of hooks on the front legs of mature males, bulbous pedipalps in males, differences in body shape, colour, and size (males are typically smaller and more leggy than females), and the presence of an ‘epigastric furrow’ in females.
When attempting to sex immature animals, this can be most reliably done from the leftover exoskeleton from their last molt. Retrieve the exoskeleton as soon as you can after it has been shed (without disturbing the newly molted tarantula). Moisten the molt by spraying if necessary so that you can flatten out the abdominal section. If your tarantula is female, you should be able to see the epigastric furrow and spermatheca (a little pocket where the female stores the male’s sperm till she is ready to produce an egg sack). The epigastric furrow and spermatheca are located between the anterior book lung openings.
If unsure, consulting an experienced tarantula keeper or professional breeder can provide more accurate sexing information.,