Tarantulas have a reputation for being creepy and crawly. But they also happen to make excellent pets. These exciting arachnids are becoming so popular for a reason. They're fascinating to watch, and their care requirements aren't too difficult. Before finding your perfect pet tarantula, get their enclosure set up and learn more about them.
Before Considering Tarantulas as a Pet
Tarantulas can be neat pets, but it's important to remember they aren't the cuddly kind. They aren't like the talking spider from Charlotte's Web. And they aren't domesticated. They're kind of like having a wild animal that's low-maintenance and fun to see when they feel like being active. As long as you're OK with that, move on with the process of learning about keeping them as pets.
It's tempting to hold your pet tarantula, but they're actually pretty delicate, and yes, they can bite, so it's best to let them be and observe them in their enclosure. Occasional handling is OK for experienced owners.
Tarantula Types, Appearance, and Size
There are more than 1,000 species of tarantula. The most common species kept as pets include:
The Chilean Rose Tarantula (Grammostola rosea) is a visually pleasing species known for their beautiful appearance. They are known for:
- Leg span of 4 to 5 inches
- Stocky build
- Rose-hued carapace
- Dark, velvet-like body
- Fine hairs that make them appear fluffy
The Pink Toe Tarantula (Avicularia avicularia) is one of the most popular species to kept as pets. They stand out for their unique coloration:
- Leg span of 4 to 5 inches
- Vibrant pink toe pads
- Black or dark blue body
- Fine layer of velvet hairs
The Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula (Brachypelma hamorii) is one of the larger species of pet tarantulas with bright leg coloration:
- Leg span of up to 6 inches
- Robust build
- Vibrant red-orange bands on the legs
- Predominantly black or dark-brown body
- Furry appearance
Tarantulas are known for their impressive lifespans compared to many other invertebrate pets, often living for several years or even decades, depending on the species and gender. Female tarantulas have a significantly longer lifespan than males, often reaching between 15 and 30 years in some species. Males typically live for 3 to 10 years.
Temperament and Behavior
Tarantula temperament and behavior varies greatly depending on the species, their individual personality, and environmental factors. Some tarantulas are known for their docile nature and relative tolerance for human interaction, making them ideal for beginner hobbyists. These species, such as the Chilean Rose Hair or the Mexican Red-Knee, are less likely to exhibit aggressive behaviors and are more forgiving when it comes to handling.
Other tarantulas, however, can be more skittish, defensive, or even aggressive. They might display behaviors such as biting, kicking urticating hairs, or adopting a threatening posture when disturbed. It is important to remember that tarantulas are primarily solitary creatures and should be respected as such.
Even the most docile species should only be handled when necessary and with extreme care to minimize stress for both the spider and the handler. Understanding and respecting a tarantula's temperament and natural behaviors is crucial for ensuring a positive experience for both the owner and the arachnid.
Many tarantula species have urticating hairs - sharp, barbed hairs tarantulas can shoot like darts - for self-defense, so be aware they can sting you with these stinging bristles.
Handling Your Tarantula
Tarantulas are generally friendly and pet owners often allow them to walk along their bodies or nearby responsibly. However, although they're mostly docile, they will bite if they get frightened. The barbed hairs on their abdomen can also make your skin irritated. Experienced owners can handle them safely, but if this is your first tarantula, it's better to gently coax them into a carrier to safely move them around.
Tarantulas don't require too much upkeep, but it's important to have their terrarium set up before you bring them home. The big benefit is, you don't have to give them much enrichment, and they can be fascinating to watch. As long as you meet their environmental requirements, your new pet will thrive.
Enclosure Size and Setup
Spiders aren't social and should be kept in their own habitat by themselves. Their enclosure's length should be three times the spider's leg span, with the width of the enclosure being double. Take note of the following:
- Secure lid: Tarantulas need a secure lid on their enclosure to prevent escape. The lid must have ventilation.
- Enclosure size: A 5-gallon aquarium often works well for tarantulas.
- Branches: Tree-dwelling species need branches for the tarantula to climb and create their web.
Temperature and Humidity
Generally, the ideal temperature range for tropical tarantulas is 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, while the humidity should be maintained between 50 to 80 percent dependent upon species. Under-tank heating pads work well to main temperature, and daily misting provides for most of your tarantula's humidity needs. Just make sure you monitor temperature with an in-tank thermometer setup, and use a hygrometer to keep tabs on the humidity levels.
Hides for Tarantulas
Tarantulas need a place to hide to destress and feel secure. A hollow log is one of the preferred options. But you can also use a flowerpot or a piece of wood as a place to hide. Space at least two hides around their enclosure, so they can move around if they feel like getting out of sight.
Common substrate options include coconut coir, peat moss, or a blend of both, as these materials are excellent at retaining moisture and allowing for burrowing behavior. The depth of the substrate varies depending on the species, with terrestrial tarantulas needing around 2 to 4 inches of substrate, while arboreal species typically require 1 to 2 inches.
To prevent a tarantula from escaping, it is essential to create a secure and comfortable environment. Properly setting up and maintaining your tarantula's enclosure can reduce the risk of escape. Follow these tips to ensure your tarantula stays safe and contained:
Choose an appropriate enclosure: Select a secure, well-ventilated enclosure with a tight-fitting lid. Terrestrial tarantulas need more floor space, while arboreal tarantulas require a taller enclosure with climbing opportunities. Make sure there are no gaps or openings that the tarantula can squeeze through.
Secure the lid: The enclosure's lid should fit tightly and securely to prevent the tarantula from pushing it open. You may consider using cage clips or latches to keep the lid in place.
Offer hiding spots: Tarantulas need hiding spots to feel secure. Provide cork bark, half-logs, or other appropriate hideaways for your tarantula to retreat to when it feels threatened or stressed.
Limit handling: Handling your tarantula can cause stress and may provoke escape attempts.
Regularly inspect the enclosure: Periodically check for any signs of damage or potential escape routes.
Diet and Feeding
Tarantulas typically eat live insects, such as crickets, mealworms, or roaches. Feed your tarantula once or twice a week, offering prey items that are no larger than its abdomen. Remove any uneaten prey after 24 hours to avoid stressing your tarantula.
Never feed your tarantula an insect you caught in the wild, as they could carry bacteria that would make your tarantula sick.
Tarantulas are known for being healthy animals, but they can still develop some health conditions, including:
Dehydration: Tarantulas need a consistent source of water to stay hydrated. Dehydration can lead to lethargy, sluggishness, and even death. Ensure your tarantula has access to fresh water at all times.
Molting issues: Molting is a natural process that tarantulas undergo as they grow. However, complications can arise, such as incomplete molts or stuck exoskeletons.
Parasites: Tarantulas can be infested with parasites like mites or nematodes, which can cause various health problems.
Obesity: Overfeeding can lead to obesity, which can cause health issues and shorten a tarantula's lifespan.
Impaction: This occurs when a tarantula's digestive system becomes blocked, often due to ingesting substrate or other indigestible materials.
If you notice any signs of illness or unusual behavior in your tarantula, it is essential to consult an experienced exotic animal veterinarian. Early intervention can help prevent the progression of health issues and improve your tarantula's chances of recovery.
High humidity levels and proper nutrition can help prevent molting issues.
Finding a Tarantula
You can often find tarantulas at your local pet store, especially if they specialize in reptiles and amphibians. But you can also find a healthy, well-cared for tarantula from a breeder. The breeder will also be equipped to answer any questions you have and let you know of any health concerns their tarantulas have had.
Most tarantulas are easy to find, unless you're searching for a particular species. If you're looking for a certain species, the best place to go is reptile expos and shows. They often have a variety of tarantulas on top of some other neat critters.
You should expect to pay between $25 to $75 for your tarantula, but certain species may cost more.
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ's about tarantulas include the following:
- Is their bite venomous? Yes, it is venomous, but it's less painful than a bee sting. Even though it's not exactly comfortable, it's not often life-threatening.
- Do they make good pets? Yes, they make great, low-maintenance pets, as long as you aren't looking for a lot of interaction. Some people would rather have a pet that's more outgoing.
- Do you need to get a vet? Yes, before you decide to bring a pet tarantula home, you should find an exotic veterinarian in case of any complications. It's part of being a responsible pet owner.
- Can kids hold tarantulas? It's not generally recommended for children to hold tarantulas. You don't want them being bit. And tarantulas are surprisingly fragile.
- Is it normal for tarantulas to be on their back? Yes, it's weird, but that's how they molt.
Is a Tarantula the Right Pet for You?
Tarantulas are interesting and unique pets that don't require a lot of maintenance. But if you're looking for a pet that enjoys cuddling with you, the tarantula isn't the best choice. Also, unlike a pet like a Leopard Gecko, they aren't very active, so they're not the best pet to watch wander. Tarantulas are super-interesting, however, and if they fascinate you, definitely consider getting one.