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Caring For Your Pet Tarantula

You’ve done it. You made the decision to purchase a pet tarantula and have brought him home. Now what?

Hopefully, you’ve done your research, but if you need a little more information or are looking for some fun new nuggets of information, here we go:

Tarantulas are nighttime hunters who pounce on their prey (insects, beetles, grasshoppers). The large Goliath Bird-Eating Tarantula species will eat larger prey like lizards, snakes, frogs, bats and small birds. All tarantulas defend themselves by rubbing the sharp barbs of hair on their abdomens with their legs, and shooting them at their predator.

And you know how most people think a tarantula can kill you with a poisonous bite? Nope. Some will bite if provoked, but the wound usually feels like a bee sting and causes no lasting injury.

Tarantulas For The Beginner

Assuming you haven’t yet purchased your tarantula, you can go for the Burrowing or Ground Tarantulas. They are the most commonly kept tarantula species. They come from desert, semi-arid, or tropical environments. Chilean Rose spiders are one of the most common types of burrowing tarantulas kept as pets. Mostly, they’re docile and tend to have fairly long lifespans of 15 or more years in captivity. The Curly Hair Tarantula is a ground dweller that is good for beginners because they tend to move more slowly. And the Pink Toe Tarantula? They’re often cited as a good tree-dwelling tarantula to keep, but overall, they aren’t a good beginner tarantula because they’re quick and agile that make handling difficult.


As a matter of fact, handling tarantulas isn’t recommended except when necessary, like when you want to clean his enclosure. It’s best to coax the spidery fella into a small container for transport, rather than moving him with your hands. Though tarantulas are generally docile, they’ll bite if they feel threatened, and as stated above, their bites are venomous. Another reason not to touch your tarantula much is, remember those tiny barbed hairs we discussed earlier? If your tarantula feels threatened he might release these hairs into your skin, and they’ll work their way in, causing itching and irritation. And if the hairs get in your eyes, they can cause serious inflammation. For those times you do need to touch him, make sure to wash your hands well afterward

*Be extra careful not to allow kids or pets to come in contact with the tarantula if you want to keep everybody safe, happy and healthy.

Living Quarters

Spiders aren’t social animals and should be housed one to a cage. They need a secure lid to their enclosure but … important! … the lid must have ventilation.

For tree-dwelling species, choose an enclosure that’s three times the leg span and two times the leg span wide. The height should be roughly a foot. Include branches so your new pet can climb and construct its web.

For ground-dwelling tarantulas, the length of the enclosure should be three times the spider’s leg span, and the width of the enclosure should be roughly double its leg span. The height only needs to be the same as the spider’s leg span. A five-gallon aquarium often works well. Line the bottom of the enclosure with a high-quality layer of vermiculite or vermiculite mixed with potting soil and/or peat. Make sure the soil is 2-4 inches deep to allow for burrowing. And since your tarantula needs a place to hide, add a half hollow log, half a clay flowerpot on its side, or a piece of cork bark in his enclosure.

As far as lighting, tarantulas don’t need bright lights and should be kept out of direct sunlight.

Temperature and humidity are very important for your pet tarantula. Refer to your species’ care sheet to learn how best to mimic his natural environment in the wild. If you have to buy a heat source, avoid heat pads, lamps, mats and rocks. They can injure, dehydrate, and kill your pet tarantula. Use a space heater instead. And some species require high humidity levels so if this is the case for the type of tarantula you’ve chosen, mist his enclosure daily.

Spot clean the enclosure as needed. Remove uneaten food daily. Do a full cleaning and disinfecting of the enclosure including the vermiculite bedding every month.


Your tarantula is probably healthy if he is eating food regularly (except during the pre-most stage), has healthy skin, and is active and alert. If you notice dull skin, bleeding from an injury to the abdomen or leg, very slow movements, loss of appetite not related to molting, or he’s unable to shed his old skin consult your vet.

Dehydration is another common problem, especially if their enclosure isn’t humid enough. Your spidery fellow might appear slightly shriveled and become lethargic. If this occurs, consult your vet on the best humidity level for your species.

Did you know the biggest threat to pet tarantulas is being dropped or falling from a great height? A fall can cause serious injury. Make sure his enclosure is secure and be cautious if you handle him.

Regarding the size of the tank, a larger tank may make prey more difficult to find. Which leads us to …



When you feed your tarantula, the size of the food should be smaller than his body. Juvenile tarantulas can eat every day or two and adults can get feedings roughly once a week. Feedings are best done in the evening when your spider is more active. Talk to your veterinarian for the appropriate quantity and variety to feed your spider because this can vary depending on his age, size, and species.

Feed him a diet of crickets supplemented with other insects. Mealworms, superworms and roaches fall in this “other insects.” Large tarantulas can be given small lizards and pinkie mice. And … hope you’re not squeamish … the crickets should be fed nutritious foods and dusted with vitamin powder because what goes into the cricket goes into your pet spider.


Provide a small dish of water at all times. Make sure the dish is very shallow to prevent drowning. Place some pebbles in the dish to give the spider something to climb out on as a precaution.



Molting is how your spider grows to a larger size. He sheds his old exoskeleton and produces a new one. Amazing, right? But it’s a stressful time for the little guy, and he’ll typically lose his appetite prior to a molt. Don’t feed him during the molting process, which can take several days. Live prey can injure the tarantula while his new exoskeleton is hardening. If your tarantula gets stuck in its molt, you will need to wet him with water and if that doesn’t work, you should take him to the veterinarian rather than handle him yourself.

Don’t handle your tarantula during the molting process. It can take up to two weeks for the spider to fully recover after molting. And really, after all that hard work, can you blame him?


If you follow the above guidelines and take care to find out what works for your specific species of tarantula, you’ll be sure to have years of enjoyment from your furry, fuzzy friend.

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