How to Care for a Tarantula

Tarantulas are hairy spiders that live for the night. With more than 800 species, you’ll have a wide range of options when choosing a pet tarantula, from burrowing to tree-dwelling tarantulas! Once you get your tarantula home, you’ll want to create a comfortable habitat with a stable temperature, high humidity and nice hiding places. You’ll need to follow a feeding schedule, but tarantulas don’t need the daily feeding that more conventional pets require.

EditSteps

EditCreating a Habitat

  1. Get a 10-gallon (37 litres) locking terrarium. Tarantulas are escape artists, so make sure the top of the terrarium locks tight! Although 10 gallons (37 liters) is the ideal size for keeping a single tarantula, you can get away with a 5-gallon (18 liter) tank.[1]
    Care for a Tarantula Step 1 Version 3.jpg
    • Never keep two tarantulas in the same cage, because they are territorial cannibals. One of them will eat the other.[2]
  2. Adapt a small fish tank. Since fish tanks have feeding holes, you’ll have to seal the holes in the top to prevent the tarantula from escaping. You can use aquarium silicon sealer to seal the feeding holes. Make sure you leave two small holes in the top for ventilation, which should be a maximum of 5/32’’ (4 millimeters).[3]
    Care for a Tarantula Step 2 Version 3.jpg
    • If you are worried about the tarantula escaping through the top of the tank, you can place a rock on the lid.
    • If you are housing tree-dwelling tarantulas, you’ll want to place the tank vertically.
    • Any extra vertical room poses a threat to burrowing species because they are more susceptible to injuries from falling, unlike arboreal species.
  3. Spread a thin layer of substrate on the bottom of your tank. You’ll need between 1 and 3 inches (2.54 and 7.62 centimeters) of sterilized bedding on the bottom of the terrarium. Although there are many suitable substrates, you could put down a 2 centimeter layer of vermiculite, and then add a thin layer of cocoa fiber.[4]
    Care for a Tarantula Step 3 Version 4.jpg
    • There are many substrates to choose from, such as coconut fiber, reptile bark, sphagnum moss, peat moss, sterilized potting soil, and vermiculite.
    • If you choose peat moss, you need to sterilize it. Put it in the microwave for ten minutes in order to kill parasitic mites.[5]
    • Since some species will dig into the substrate, you might need up to 5″ (12.7 centimeters) of substrate.
  4. Make a broken pot shelter for a daytime hiding spot. Since tarantulas are nocturnal, you’ll need to make a shelter for them to hide from the daylight and get some sleep! You can make a shelter by cutting a ceramic or plastic pot in half. Bury the broken pot in the sand to create a little hiding place. The entranceway should be just large enough for your tarantula to get inside and the interior should be nice and dark.[6]
    Care for a Tarantula Step 4 Version 3.jpg
    • A great hiding place is a hollowed log. Pick a hollowed log that is already dried out, since a wet log could lead to mold issues in the terrarium.[7]
    • You should avoid inserting any sharp objects into the terrarium, since your tarantula could injure itself.
  5. Add bamboo and silk plants for tree-dwelling tarantulas. In contrast to burrowing tarantulas, which like to hide out in the substrate, tree-dwelling tarantulas live in grasses and trees. You can recreate this habitat by adding bamboo, branches, and silk plants to the tank.[8] The tarantulas will make their webs in the branches.[9]
    Care for a Tarantula Step 5 Version 3.jpg
    • Tree-dwelling tarantulas have slightly longer legs, which include more surface area for climbing.
    • Ground dwelling species should be discouraged from climbing, since they could easily fall and injure themselves.
    • Remember, the more you put in, the more you will have to clean.
    • A piece of store bought driftwood might be appreciated.
  6. Place a water dish in the tank. You can use a recycled plastic container, a plastic plant container or a water dish from a pet store. Put the container on the bottom of the terrarium, and add a rock so that live prey can escape. Otherwise, the crickets you feed your tarantula could drown and foul the water.[10]
    Care for a Tarantula Step 6 Version 3.jpg
    • If you are adding a water dish for a tree-dwelling tarantula, you should place it about two thirds of the way up the side of the tank so that it is convenient for your tarantula. Put it close to the door of the terrarium, so you can fill it up. You can glue it to the side of the tank with an aquarium silicone sealant.[11]
  7. Monitor the temperature range. You can put a thermostat on the side of the tank to check the temperature. Since tarantulas normally live in a tropical or subtropical environment, you’ll need to maintain a tank temperature of between 22 and 30 Celsius (71 and 86 Fahrenheit).[12]
    Care for a Tarantula Step 7 Version 3.jpg
    • Avoid placing your tank near a sunny window, since the tank could easily overheat.
    • If the tank is located in a centrally heated room that is within the ideal temperature range, you won’t need to heat it.[13]
  8. Heat one half of the tank. If the tank falls below the ideal temperature range, you can use a hot rock or an electric heat-mat to heat it. In either case, you should only heat one half of the tank, so that your spider can self regulate its temperature by moving to the warm or cool side of the tank.
    Care for a Tarantula Step 8.jpg
    • You should avoid letting the tank temperature exceed 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit).
    • If you turn the heat off in the spring or autumn, you will need to use the heat mat during those months.
    • If you maintain a cooler temperature during the winter months, you should use a heat-mat.
  9. Use a plant mister to maintain a 50% humidity level in the tank. Use a plant mister to spray the tank and keep the humidity levels up. You can put a humidity gauge on the side of the tank. Check it regularly to make sure the humidity doesn’t drop too far, which can be dangerous for tarantulas when they moult.[14]
    Care for a Tarantula Step 9.jpg
    • Check the contents of the tank to make sure there is no mold.

EditFeeding a Tarantula

  1. Serve live prey less than half the size of the tarantula. The mainstay of the tarantula diet is crickets, which you can purchase from a good pet store or online. You can also feed them mealworms, beetles, locusts, cockroaches, and earthworms. Whatever live prey you choose, it should be less than half the size of the tarantula you are feeding. Although live food is preferable, you can also serve dead food such as thawed baby mice or 1 centimeter (1/2’’) pieces of raw beef.[15]
    Care for a Tarantula Step 10.jpg
    • Don’t serve them prey items that are larger than the size of their abdomens.[16]
    • Tarantulas are opportunists, so they may be able to subdue small lizards, snakes, and mice.
    • Roaches have to be ordered online and a colony started to ensure a constant supply.
  2. Serve an appropriate number of prey per meal. The number of live prey you serve your tarantula will depend on the size of the prey. For instance, you could offer your tarantula a meal of two small insects or one larger insect, depending on your preference and the availability of feed. For younger tarantulas, you should just give them one prey at a time.[17] However, adult tarantulas can handle multiple prey at once, which they will attack one at a time and then ball up into a meal of food and silk called a bolus.[18]
    Care for a Tarantula Step 11.jpg
    • Since they are nocturnal animals, you’ll want to feed them at night.[19]
  3. Feed young tarantulas more frequently. You should feed your tarantula a diet that is suited to their age. Very young tarantulas or “slings” require food every two or three days. Once the tarantula becomes a juvenile or reaches between 1.5 and 2 inches (25.4 and 76.2 millimeters), you can feed them one live insect, once or twice per week.
    Care for a Tarantula Step 12.jpg
  4. Feed adult tarantulas a diet that is suited to their species. Once they reach adulthood, tarantulas don’t need the same number of meals as juveniles. However, since the size and number of meals varies a lot depending on the species, you should ask the pet store for species-specific feeding information.[20]
    Care for a Tarantula Step 13.jpg
    • Feed an adult Grammostola porterie or rosea tarantula four to five crickets per month.
    • Feed an adult Therophosa or Pamphobeteus tarantula four or five crickets twice per week.
    • Feed tropical tarantulas larger and more frequent meals, including Therophosa, Phormictopus, Pamphobeteus, Acanthoscurria, and Nhandu tarantulas.
    • Feed an adult Phamphobeteus five crickets and one cockroach per week.
  5. Don’t feed a tarantula when it is molting. If your tarantula is lying on its back and looks comatose, it is probably molting. During the molting process, your tarantula regenerates internal organs and sheds its skin. At this time, you shouldn’t give it any live prey, which could easily injure your tarantula.[21] Five days after molting, it is safe to feed them again.[22]
    Care for a Tarantula Step 14.jpg
    • Don’t confuse molting with death. A dead tarantula will not lie on its back.
    • If your tarantula is very sick or dying, it will do a death curl. It will curl its legs underneath itself in an awkward position.[23]
  6. Remove food waste after your tarantula has eaten. Take out any remaining live prey after your tarantula has finished eating, since these prey could bother your tarantula when it is resting. You’ll also want to remove any food waste, such as discarded bits of crickets in their water bowl.[24]
    Care for a Tarantula Step 15.jpg
  7. Offer fresh, chlorine-free water. Keep fresh water in the water bowl, which should be dechlorinated. You can give them bottled water or water that has been filtered to remove chlorine.[25]
    Care for a Tarantula Step 16.jpg

EditPlaying with Your Tarantula

  1. Watch your tarantula. Since you aren’t advised to touch your tarantula, the best way to play with it is to watch it hang out in the terrarium. You’ll get to see it dig into the substrate and, if it is a tree-dwelling species, climb up into the folliage. In addition, it is a lot of fun to see it kill and eat live prey![26]
    Care for a Tarantula Step 17.jpg
  2. Avoid handling your tarantula. Since a short fall can easily burst the tarantula’s abdomen and lead to death, you should avoid taking them out of their terrariums. In addition, a tarantula bite can cause swelling and allergic reactions, which should be additional incentive not to handle them.[27]
    Care for a Tarantula Step 18.jpg
    • If you decide to handle your tarantula, you need to exercise extreme caution. Hold it on the palm of your hand and keep your hand at a very low height.[28]
  3. Recognize raised front legs and fangs as signs of aggression. Since a tarantula bite can cause swelling and allergic reactions, you should learn to recognize when they are about to bite. If you see them raise their front legs and show their fangs, you know they are getting ready to bite!
    Care for a Tarantula Step 19.jpg
    • A tarantula bite will cause swelling, redness, and mild pain.
    • If bitten by a tarantula, you may experience nausea and fever.
    • If you are bitten by your tarantula, you may want to seek medical attention.
  4. Don’t disturb your tarantula during the molting period. In order to grow, tarantulas shed their exoskeleton in a process called molting. Younger tarantulas will molt about once per month, whereas adult tarantulas will molt every year or two. During this time, your tarantula is very vulnerable and should not be disturbed in any way.[29]
    Care for a Tarantula Step 20.jpg
    • For instance, don’t alter the tank or feed it any live prey.
    • During molting, you will see your tarantula lying on its back.

EditTips

  • Tarantulas live up to twenty years, so you should only get a tarantula if you are ready for a long term commitment!
  • Clean the tank every four to six months.
  • Observe your tarantulas to see whether they prefer to eat one or multiple insects at once. If your tarantula looks overwhelmed by multiple insects, just give it one at a time.
  • If you prefer a more natural look, put lots of silk plants and bamboo in the tank.
  • You don’t need auxiliary lighting. All arachnids shy away from light. They are nocturnal hunters and prefer to hunt after dark. Lights only produce stress for your pet and can make them skittish. A happy spider is an unseen spider.
  • Remember that common sense is all that is needed to provide a safe, interesting, and educational experience with tarantulas.
  • Start with one of the generally accepted starter species:
    • Grammostola rosea
    • Grammostola aureostriata
    • Eupalaestrus campestratus
    • Brachypelma smithi
    • Brachypelma emilia
    • Aphonopelma chalcodes
    • Avicularia avicularia
    • Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens
    • Brachypelma albopilosum
    • Grammostola pulchra
  • Try to find a dealer that is familiar with tarantulas or, better still, a specialist reptile and arachnid store. They can give you a lot of information about care and what to expect with your new pet.
  • Make sure you know the scientific name for the species of tarantula you buy. It’s much easier to find information by the scientific name than it is by the common name.
  • It is not necessary to purchase a large quantity of crickets from your favorite pet store.
  • Six crickets a month is generally fine for an average size tarantula.
  • Overfeeding can lead to problems and is not necessary for a healthy pet.
  • Gain basic husbandry experience before moving up to more demanding species, including those that are fast or more defensive.
  • This article should only be used provide direction and give understanding about the needs of a Tarantula. Every species has its own needs and will require additional research. Use the internet, local library, or a reputable pet shop that sells tarantulas to find out what is best for your particular species.
  • Some tarantula species are known for their aggression.
  • Join a tarantula forum. There are many family friendly arachnid forums which you can join.

EditWarnings

  • Most people have an instinctive fear of tarantulas and you should never use a tarantula to intimidate or scare anyone. This can be extremely stressful to a person and could result in the tarantula being injured.
  • Tarantulas will bite if provoked. They are wild animals that need special care and attention. They’re not recommended for children under 16.
  • All spiders and tarantulas are venomous and all will bite if provoked. Remember, a tarantula is a wild creature and relies on millions of years of evolutionary instinct. They cannot be ‘tamed’ like a dog or cat.
  • No species of tarantulas can be handled 100% safely and holding a tarantula is certainly not recommended by any expert. Tarantulas are extremely delicate and can be very unpredictable, as they rely on a base instinct developed over millions of years. A drop can rupture the abdomen and your tarantula will suffer a slow, painful death.
  • Don’t overfeed your tarantula. Most tarantulas can live on 5-6 crickets a month. Some tarantulas can go a few months without feeding. If you are concerned, a good dealer or knowledgeable keeper will advise you but remember, they will always need water. Overfeeding will cause the tarantula’s abdomen to blow up like a balloon, and this could cause it to rupture.
  • Most tarantulas’ venom is comparable to the sting of a common honey bee. Some tarantulas venom could cause a very, very severe reaction. You should research your individual species and avoid contact with your tarantula accordingly. The safest thing is to never handle your tarantula.
  • Never touch your eyes after interacting or feeding a tarantula. There is a possibility you will get urticating hairs in your eyes. If this happens, you should go to the hospital right away.
  • Some tarantulas flick their hairs (they are called “urticating” hairs), which are extremely painful and dangerous if they get into your eyes or nasal passage and could require hospital treatment. These hairs will also cause irritation to the skin. Not all species have these hairs. Make sure you research your tarantula and know if this should be a concern. After putting your hands inside the tank, for any reason, you should immediately wash your hands before doing anything else.

EditThings You’ll Need

  • Terrarium
  • Ceramic or plastic plant pot
  • Water bowl
  • Crickets
  • Live feed
  • Vermiculite
  • Coconut fibre
  • Bamboo
  • Silk plants
  • Branches
  • Thawed dead mice
  • Tarantula or Spiderling (Baby Tarantula)
  • Critter keeper or aquarium that has a tight fitting lid. (the lid should be sufficiently heavy enough to stop a tarantula lifting it, as they are stronger than they look)
  • Substrate (dirt) that is pesticide and fertilizer free (ground coconut fiber works well)
  • Heat Source (i.e., reptile heat pad), Heat lights are NOT recommended as these do not provide the correct “type” of heat and can cause dangerous burning for the tarantula)
  • Temperature and humidity gauge
  • Small water dish about 2″ works well filled with gravel or a couple of small, cleaned stones to prevent crickets from drowning.

EditRelated wikiHows

EditSources and Citations

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