Thinking of buying a pet tarantula? Congratulations, you’ve made a good choice, especially if you’re looking for a pet that is easy to care for and doesn’t take up a lot of space. These pets don’t require weekly water changes like most aquariums, or vaccinations like a dog. You don’t need to walk them either.
Compared to most other pets, a pet tarantula is inexpensive to purchase, and its enclosure is available at a reasonable price that fits most budgets. Oh! and creeping out your friends is an added bonus!
As with any pet, if you are new to tarantulas, you’ll need to know just a few basic care instructions to keep your multi-legged pet happy and healthy.
If this is your first time caring for a pet tarantula, you need to consider a few options. Your first decision is selecting the species of your tarantula. This is the hardest part of the entire process because there are nearly a whopping thousand species of tarantulas and it’s important to select the right one, especially for beginners.
Now you don’t have to consider all one thousand species since for beginners, there are considerably fewer than a thousand to choose from.
To get you started, here are the top seven species that are often recommended for novice caretakers such as yourself. If you limit yourself to one of these top choices, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a new hobby.
- Red-Knee (ground-dwelling)
- Chilean Rose (ground-dwelling)
- Costa Rican Zebra (ground-dwelling)
- Mexican Redleg (ground-dwelling)
- Honduran Curly Hair (ground-dwelling)
- Pink Zebra Beauty (ground-dwelling)
- Pink Toe (tree-dwelling)
Sure, you could go for some other species, given the large varieties that are available. But you’ll have to study their unique care instructions, so consider your options carefully. Why not start with one of the easier species and then later, if you decide you want to expand your knowledge, you can open up your selection options.
By that time, you’ll have learned a lot about keeping your tarantula healthy and you may be ready to move to a more challenging species.
Why not start your education right now by searching the internet for specific information on one of the species listed above? You’ll learn fascinating facts about tarantula in general, and each species specifically.
There are two broad categories of tarantulas; those that like to live in trees (arboreal) and those that prefer to live on the ground. For beginners, go with the ground-dwelling variety. Their habitat is easier to set up and they’re generally a bit slower, which makes them easier to handle, especially if this is your first time owning these fascinating creatures.
Tarantula can live a long time as a pet, but generally, the female outlasts the male by two or three times. In many species, the male lives for five to seven years, while the female may live for fifteen, twenty, or even thirty years! Of course, this varies by species and living conditions, but if you decide on a female, it will mean a long-term commitment.
A word of caution, however, is if you are not purchasing from a reputable dealer. You may not know the age of the arachnid when you bring it home, so it may not live as long as you thought it might.
Since male and female life spans differ so dramatically, this begs the question: how can you tell if a tarantula is male or female? A good breeder will be able to tell, but if it’s up to you, it’s easiest to sex a tarantula if it’s mature. Most species of male tarantulas have a hook on the underside of their front leg.
The hook has a purpose, to keep the female’s fangs away from the male during mating. You can also see bulbs on their pedipalp the two shorter feelers that look like legs near their fangs. Two points if you figured out that the bulbs are the male’s sex organs. However, these are present only in a fully-matured male.
Once you’ve decided your species and if possible the sex, it’s time to consider an enclosure. Remember that Tarantulas don’t need a lot of room, which is a definite benefit. And tarantulas should be kept separate since they are not social creatures, they’re cannibals. Put two tarantulas in the same tank, and soon one will eat the other.
Only experienced breeders know best how to put two tarantulas into the same habitat, and then they keep a strict eye on the mating process to ensure that one of them doesn’t become lunch.
For most tarantula habitats, a five-gallon aquarium makes an excellent home. These tanks don’t take up a lot of space so they can easily fit on your desk or on a convenient shelf.
You can also buy them in any brick and mortar pet shop or through one of many online options. The aquarium should have a lid to keep the tarantula from escaping since they can be crafty escape artists. A secure screened lid or some other type of lid that provides for adequate ventilation is best.
Most tanks designed for reptiles will offer a suitable top. Habitats for tarantulas don’t usually require heat lamps or other environmental equipment provided that they’re kept in your home where the temperature is controlled. Most tarantula prefers a temperature of between sixty and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
To get the habitat ready, you’ll need to line the bottom of the tank with a substrate that suits tarantulas. There’s a lot of different material to choose from, such as cocoa fiber, topsoil (provided it is free of debris), peat moss, sphagnum moss, and a few other materials. Make sure that whatever you select is free of additives (often, topsoil may have added chemicals).
More than likely, you’ll select whichever is most convenient and most available wherever you intend to shop. The substrate should be between two and four inches deep to keep your pet happy.
It’s a good idea to give your Tarantula a place to hide. Sometimes, it may simply want privacy, or it may seek out shelter when it molts (sheds its outer body to grow larger). There are several structures you can place in the tank to provide a safe place for your pet, such as a commercially purchased moss cave, or one of several half-log enclosures that line the reptile aisle in most pet stores.
Some people use a halved clay pot, but that may not be your best choice since these often may have sharp edges that would injure your arachnid. Again, a well-supplied pet store will have several choices for you and the internet will give you a dozen additional options.
You’ll also need to provide water for your new pet. A small dish is fine as long as it’s not too deep and you may want to drop in a few small stones to allow the tarantula to reach the water easily and give it some support. The tarantula may lower its “chest” directly into the water and stay there for several minutes to drink.
Replace the water daily to keep it fresh. In nature, tarantulas don’t have water dishes, of course, and they get their water from their surroundings, but in a closed environment. It’s best to have a dish to keep your pet properly hydrated.
Tarantulas eat live crickets and other insects including mealworms, super worms, and many other bugs. But how often do you feed them? That depends on their age and size. Younger tarantulas, which are growing, feeding them every two to three days works well. For older or mature tarantulas, the frequency varies wildly depending on the species.
Some need only four crickets a month, while others will eat five crickets a week. You must consult the reference on your particular species to make sure your pet is getting what it needs. Crickets are easy to obtain from pet stores and online, but while you can buy in bulk, say a thousand crickets at a time.
That’s not recommended as your pet may only need a few each week, if you buy too many at a time, quite a few will die before you’ve had a chance to feed all of them to your pet. Remember to remove and dead insects from the enclosure daily to keep the habitat clean.
Your tarantula has specific humidity requirements, based on its original environment. Most thrive, with a humidity of around 40-50%.
However, it differs by species, so look up the care of your specific tarantula to be sure you’ve created the best environment. In the end, don’t stress out about humidity levels, as you’ll soon get the hang of keeping the environment at the proper levels. Often, you simply need to hydrate one corner of the tank to keep the substrate moist and the environment humid.
A syringe makes applying water to a specific area easier and gives you greater control over how much you add. Many experts recommend that you use dechlorinated water. There are several ways to obtain dechlorinated water. Those familiar with keeping fish know about dechlorination drops.
Add two drops to a gallon of water and the chlorine vanishes instantly. There’s a wide selection of available brands, and they’re not expensive. But there are other ways to get dechlorinated water. You can purchase various brands of bottled water, but make sure the one you buy is chlorine-free (most are).
You can also fill a container up with tap water and let it sit, open to the air for some time, usually 24 hours. If you have a water purifier, you’ll have to take a closer look to see if it will remove chlorine. Also, in some municipalities, they add chloramine (chlorine and ammonia chemically bonded) which may be difficult for most home tap filters to remove.
Behavior & Temperament
While tarantulas can be interesting to watch inside their habitat, some people want to handle their pets. Most of the species on the list will accept some human handling, such as allowing your pet to crawl on your hand (and who hasn’t seen pictures of tarantulas walking across a hand?). However, you should avoid excessive handling.
While tarantula temperaments vary on an individual basis, most tolerate daily handling if done gently. For instance, you can allow your pet to crawl into your hand and then place your other hand in front of the first, repeating as the tarantula crawls forward. Also, keep in mind that tarantulas aren’t built for falls from a height more than twelve inches.
So never lift your pet higher than that; a fall from a greater height may kill your pet. While most tarantulas are docile, they can bite. The bite can startle you. and hurt as well, but it’s generally no worse than a bee sting. Allergic reactions are uncommon, but if you believe you’re having a reaction, you’ll need to seek medical assistance immediately.
The good news is that your tarantula will most likely give you a warning if it’s about to bite by lifting up its front end and revealing its fangs. It’s a threatening posture that’s easy to spot so watch for it and stay away!
Tarantula Molting Time
There’s another fascinating aspect of keeping a tarantula: as it grows, it needs to molt, much like a snake. The tarantula will shed off its old skin, its exoskeleton, and during that time, and for days afterward, it is very vulnerable. Around two weeks before it molts, the tarantula will probably refuse to eat.
When it’s ready to molt, it will lie on its back and look dead, and there may be webbing around the body. Don’t disturb your tarantula during the molting process, which may take from fifteen minutes to several hours. After molting, you mustn’t feed your pet for about ten days, because its skin may not have hardened and cricket may actually harm it intentionally attacking the vulnerable spider and killing it.
You should avoid handling your pet after a molt since the new skin is still soft and can easily be injured. And keep in mind that young spiders may molt as often as once a month, but that mature spiders that have reached their adult size may molt only once a year. Once you’ve had your pet for a while, it’s time to clean the enclosure.
You’ll need to give your tarantula’s habitat a thorough cleaning at least every four to six months. That’s in addition to removing dead crickets daily as you notice them.
- First things first, remove your pet from the environment and keep it in a safe, secure container while you do your work, like the small, plastic critter container that lines the shelves of many pet stores.
- Wash the inside and outside of the tank with soap and water and be sure to rinse very well. Then spray the enclosure with a 10% bleach solution to help kill off any germs or mold that may have accumulated. Spray the enclosure again with distilled water and allow it to dry for three hours.
- Put in the new substrate material (again two to four inches). Be sure to sterilize the water dish and refill it with filtered, dechlorinated water. If you use pebbles or stones in the water dish, clean those as well.
Now the tank is once again ready for your pet and it’s time to return your arachnid to its home.
As you enjoy your pet, some common problems may come up with your tarantula.
Dehydration is a serious condition, which is why you have to keep a close eye on the water dish. A tarantula can go a long time without food, but your pet always needs a reliable supply of clean water to stay healthy.
Sometimes during the molting process, your pet may have trouble getting out of the old skin. If you think your tarantula is having trouble molting, it may be that it needs more moisture. Adding moisture may help your spider ease out of the old skin. Use a wet paintbrush to lubricate its body, which may help it slip out of its old skin.
Mold and fungus may also become a problem. It may start if you overdo the humidity and moisture of the habitat. Any wet environment may grow mold, which is a threat to your arachnid. You might spy a cream-colored spot on the spider’s carapace (the hard upper shell), abdomen, or tips of the legs. That’s bad news and usually means that your pet is in the last stages of death.
Physical injuries, usually from a fall, are always serious and will probably kill the spider eventually. That’s why prevention is so important. Be especially alert if your tarantula likes to climb and cling to the screen at top of the enclosure. While the fall is not from an exceptional height, injuries can and do occur.
If you’re new to tarantulas as pets, you may find the information overwhelming at first, but you’ll quickly become an old hand at their care and feeding. The internet overflows with reliable information, so there’s no reason to think that you need to know everything right away. Review the basics and get started.
Although they’re not common pets, many people own a pet tarantula. Part of the reason why tarantulas haven’t gained a popular status as pets is that many people are afraid of them. After all, they’re arachnids just like spiders which is a common fear that many people have. Despite this, tarantulas continue to be a beloved pet for the brave and select few.
Loving Your Tarantula
Like any pet, your tarantula needs affection. If this was any other pet, you could easily show your love for them by holding them. However, tarantulas aren’t like other pets. So, can pet tarantulas be held? In short, yes, like any other pet, a tarantula can be held. They’re a fair size and are generally light.
Should A Pet Tarantula Be Held?
However, even though you can hold a tarantula, you shouldn’t. First off, tarantulas can have a strong bite which they could inflict on you if you agitate them. As well, tarantulas can easily be dropped if you’re not careful and this could kill them. So, even though you can hold a pet tarantula, you shouldn’t.
Ensure Good Grooming
Having pets do not limit to only having the most usual pets people have, an individual can groom the most exotic and unusual animal so long as he is capable of meeting the needs and taking good care of the pet.
A tarantula is considered a group of large and hairy spiders. Although their appearance is unusual to be considered a pet, some make them pets. Tarantula tends to be docile and behave well when taken to school or any demonstration. These can live up to 25 years.
Will a pet tarantula bite you? As an owner, one must know the nature of the pet. Tarantulas do bite, especially when feeling threatened, just like any other pet. Tarantulas feel fine if people stroke their body, it will not grow aggressive so long as you stroke them slowly. Stress can be a factor as well for tarantulas to bite humans.