How to Care for a Tarantula as a Pet

Keeping tarantulas as pets can be a fascinating hobby. They are interesting to watch, take up relatively little space, and are relatively easy to care for. However, tarantulas are not the best choice if you want a pet that you can handle, as they have venomous bites.

There are about 1,000 species of tarantulas in the family Theraphosidae. One of the most popular species kept as a pet is the Chilean rose (Grammostola rosea), a hardy spider native to Chile that is generally easy to care for. As pets, tarantulas require housing that mimics their natural habitat, as well as live prey.

Tarantula Behavior and Temperament

The best tarantulas for beginners are usually the ground dwellers, like the curly-haired tarantula. They tend to move more slowly, making the necessary handling easier. The pink-toed tarantula is often referred to as a good tree-dwelling tarantula, but overall it is not a good first tarantula. Generally, tree-dwelling species are harder to care for because they are fast and agile, making them difficult to handle.

Generally, tarantulas are solitary creatures. And handling them is only recommended when necessary, such as taking the spider out of its enclosure for cleaning. In this case, it is best to lure the spider into a small container for transport rather than moving it in your hands.

How to Care for a Tarantula as a Pet

Tarantulas are generally gentle, which is why some people let their spiders walk on their bodies. However, tarantulas will bite if they feel threatened, and their bites are poisonous. Another problem with handling tarantulas is skin irritation from tiny barbs on their abdomen. When they feel threatened, the spiders can shed these hairs, which burrow into your skin and cause itching and irritation.

Additionally, if the hairs get in your eyes, they can cause severe inflammation. So be careful not to rub your eyes when working with the spider and its enclosure, and wash your hands thoroughly afterward. Also, don’t allow children and other pets to come into contact with the tarantula.1

Although their defense mechanisms make their general care a little more difficult, tarantulas are still relatively straightforward to care for. And they’re a great choice for people who want a quiet animal that doesn’t require a lot of attention. Plan to spend a few hours each week feeding and cleaning. Then you can just enjoy observing this unique animal. A tarantula is generally most active when hunting live prey. Otherwise, it usually spends a lot of time in a seemingly calm state.

Size Information

Tarantulas have an average leg span of between 5 and 8 inches. Females are often larger than males.

Housing

Spiders are not social animals and should generally be housed singly in a cage. They need a secure lid for their enclosure, as they can be escape kings, but the lid also needs to be ventilated.

For ground-dwelling tarantulas, a rule of thumb is that the length of the enclosure should be about three times the spider’s leg span and the width of the enclosure should be about twice that. The height only needs to be about the same as the spider’s leg span. A 5-gallon tank often works well. And a larger tank isn’t necessarily better, as it can make prey harder to find.

For arboreal species, also choose an enclosure that is three times the length and twice the width of the leg span. The height should be about a foot. Consider branches for the spider to climb and build its web.

Your tarantula also needs a place to hide. A piece of cork bark, a half-hollowed tree trunk (often available at pet stores), or half a clay flowerpot on its side are all good options.

Tarantulas do not need bright light and should be kept out of direct sunlight.3 They also generally do not need heat lamps, as most species do well at room temperature. Some species require high humidity, which you can achieve by misting the enclosure daily.

Spot clean the enclosure as needed, removing uneaten food after 24 hours. It is generally recommended to completely clean the enclosure and change the bedding every four to six months.

Specific Substrate Requirements

Cover the bottom of the enclosure with a layer of vermiculite or vermiculite mixed with potting soil and/or peat at least two to four inches thick toto enable digging.

What do tarantulas eat and drink?

Feed your tarantula crickets, supplemented with other insects including mealworms, superworms and cockroaches. Large tarantulas can even be fed small mice and small lizards. The crickets should be fed nutrients and dusted with vitamin powder before feeding your tarantula. What goes into the cricket is what you ultimately feed your spider. Generally, the size of the food should be smaller than the tarantula’s body.

How to Care for a Tarantula as a Pet

Adults can be fed about once a week, while juveniles can eat every day or two. Simply drop the prey near your spider in the enclosure. Feeding is best done in the evening when the spider is more active. Check with your vet for the appropriate amount and type of food for your spider, as this can vary depending on age, size and species.

A small bowl of fresh water should always be provided. It must be very shallow to prevent drowning. You can put a few pebbles in the shell as a precaution so the spider has something to climb out of.

Common Health Issues

Tarantulas are generally hardy animals and don’t have many health problems as long as they are kept safely in the right environment. Still, they can face some problems.

Some tarantulas can catch oral nematodes, a parasitic infection, although this is not very common in captive tarantulas. Symptoms include decreased appetite and white material around the spider’s mouth.4

Also, during molting, the spider grows larger by shedding its old exoskeleton and forming a new one. This is a stressful time for a spider, and it usually loses its appetite before molting.3 Do not feed the spider during the molting process, which can last several days. Live prey can injure the spider while its new exoskeleton hardens. Also, the spider should never be handled during the molting process. It may take up to two weeks for the spider to fully recover after molting.

Exercise

As with any animal, physical exercise is important to keep tarantulas healthy and at a good weight. However, these spiders don’t need very much exercise. As long as they have an enclosure that gives them plenty of room to move and climb, they should get the activity they need.

Grooming

Moulting is tarantulas’ way of “grooming” themselves, and they generally don’t need any help from you. Just make sure their enclosure has the right humidity for their species, and keep live prey away from them until the molt is complete.

Maintenance Costs

On a monthly basis, your main cost for a tarantula is their diet. This can range from $5 to $10, and you can even reduce this cost if you raise crickets yourself instead of buying them from a pet store. Expect to pay between $10 and $20 for regular substrate changes. And be sure to schedule an annual health check with the veterinarian as well as emergency care.

Pros and Cons of Keeping a Tarantula as a Pet

Tarantulas are interesting and calm pets that don’t need a lot of space. They also don’t need a lot of care. But if you want a cuddly and sociable pet, they’re not the best choice. And since they’re not very active, they wouldn’t be ideal for someone who likes a lot of excitement from a pet.

Exotic Pets Similar to the Tarantula

If you’re interested in tarantulas as pets, check out the following:

Stick insect

Madagascar hissing cockroach

Emperor scorpion

Otherwise, check out other exotic animals that could become your new pet.

Buying or Adopting Your Tarantula

Many pet stores sell tarantulas. But if you can, try to get one from a reputable breeder or rescue group. You’ll get a better idea of ​​the animal’s health history and can be fairly certain you won’t get a spider that’s pregnant or sick. Expect an average cost of between $25 and $75, although this can vary greatly depending on the species.

Breeding/Reproduction

Local exotic animal veterinarians may be able to recommend a good breeder or rescue group. The main advantage of using a breeder is that you will likely have a wider selection of hatchlings.

When choosing a tarantula, avoid ones that are hunched over with their legs curled up under them. The spider should appear alert and move quickly. If possible, ask to watch them feed. Also, make sure the seller can tell you the age and gender of the spider. And finally, to avoid accidentally becoming a breeder yourself, keep your tarantulas individually.