Before buying a tarantula you should consider the conditions it will need to live a long and healthy life. Many tarantulas die because the owner failed to provide the proper living conditions. Most are easily kept when basic conditions are met. The following is a guideline for most medium-sized species.
Housing – Glass aquariums and plastic tanks make ideal homes and should not be less than 12 inches long by 5 inches wide by 5 inches high. If you want to create a tank that tries to provide the spiders natural conditions (for example rain forest with leaf litter, logs, etc.) then you will need a much larger tank. Plastic “critter keepers” come complete with ventilated, secure fitted tops. Glass tanks will need a secure screen top to keep your new pet safely in it’s new home! Whether plastic or glass it’s best to ask about the size your spider will grow to, most spiders are not full grown when sold and some may need more space than others.
Substrate – A minimum of 1 inch of Vermiculite or sterilized terrarium soil (such as Eco-Earth) should cover the bottom of the tank and a thin layer of chipped bark on top of that. You can vary the depth if the species is prone to burrowing but you may not see your spider often! This kind of substrate will be easy to keep damp and will keep your humidity levels higher. Decorative items such as cork bark or logs may be used if they are pest free but remember to place them so as not to crush your pet! Change the substrate every 40 – 60 days.
Heating – A temperature of 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit should be maintained for most beginner species. If your home does not maintain these temperatures normally then you will need to consider heating mats and/or heating lamps. The size of both depends on the tank size. Mats stick to the bottom or side of the tank and will heat that local areas. Heat lamps will give better heat output but may be too hot for plastic type tanks. Choice also depends on the temperature in your home. It is wise to purchase a thermometer to place in the vicinity of your heat source to monitor the temperature properly. Many a disappointed Tarantula keeper has learned the hard way that an overheated spider is a very unhappy one!
Humidity – The humidity should not drop below 50% in the tank A humidity gauge will be helpful in monitoring the levels in the tank. If the humidity drops too low your spider may die during it’s next molt or may develop serious health issues. A misting bottle to lightly sprits the tank will help maintain the humidity correctly.
Food and Water – Crickets and other live items are readily eaten. Some will eat newborn mice and some will eat worms such as kingworms and butterworms. Moths and other insects are also good items to feed your spider. Three or Four insects offered once should be enough, although some spiders will eat more! It is important that any insects you feed not commercially bred for pet stores be free of PESTICIDES. Insects from local fields and farms should be avoided if it is unknown whether pesticides are used in that area. Feeding contaminated insects to your spider will result in death. A small shallow water bowl should be offered and de-chlorinated fresh water changed frequently.
Molting – As your Tarantula grows it will regularly molt (shed it’s skin). As spider that refuses to eat or has become darker in color may signal an upcoming molt. When feeding stops remove any uneaten food until the spider has finished with it’s molt. A soft freshly molted spider is helpless against nibbling insects and may be seriously injured by them. Wait at least 3 to 4 days after the molt before attempting to feed again. Spiders will commonly flip on their backs to molt so don’t panic if you find your spider upside-down and not moving! Just leave it be and watch it for a few days for signs of molting.
Handling – There is a fascination with the idea of holding such large spiders. But the truth is there is no need to stress it (or yourself) with handling. Spiders are fragile when dropped and patching a ruptured abdomen is rarely successful. Some spiders will flick small barb like hairs that can be very irritating and painful. Some, or course, will try to bite and though not fatal, spider bites can be very painful. The best rule for handling spiders is: DON’T! If you need to move it for cleaning try scooping it into a deli cup and seal it will a perforated id (watch those legs!).
Spiders are interesting and fascinating creatures to observe. Enjoy your new pet!
by Kreig Leblanc