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Feeding & Handling

Pet Tarantulas

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Some important safety rules when it comes to feeding, handling,
and other care tips for Tarantula keepers.

What to feed your Pet Tarantula

Most Tarantula keeper feed their spiders a lot of pet store
crickets. Crickets are good food for your Tarantula, but to
keep it healthy you should try to feed it a varied diet.

It can be fun to catch insects yourself for your spider, but
be sure they haven't been exposed to pesticides, and don't
feed your Tarantula earwigs or beetles, because they can be
dangerous or poisonous to spiders. Tarantulas will eat most
common insect food such as meal worms, large flies, moths,
grasshoppers or locusts.

Adult Tarantulas may eat baby mice (Use only pinky mice or
the mouse may eat the spider rather than the other way
around.), and many of them will take small pieces of beef or
dead prey. Baby Tarantulas can eat fruit flies and pinhead

Give your spider a water dish about one inch (2-3cm) deep
and three inches (7-8cm) wide, and change the water daily.
This will keep it hydrated and help raise the humidity in
the vivarium. Misting the tank occasionally and keeping the
substrate slightly damp is a good idea also.

If your spider stops eating it is probably preparing to
molt. If it looks paler and seems listless at the same time,
it is likely molting, rather than ill or dying. Remove all
food from the vivarium so there is no chance of its molding
while the Tarantula is not eating, adult spiders may not eat
for as long as two months before molting. (Do not disturb
the spider during this time or it may die. (More on molting

Avoiding injury to your Spider or yourself

Remember that your Tarantula, though smart for a spider, may
not perceive your friendly gestures as safe, and may react
differently than you or your friends expect. Tarantula
Spiders are both fragile -they can die from a simple fall
from your hand, and fast and venomous - the Arboreal
Tarantulas, in particular, are very fast moving. The
combination means that you must be very cautious and well-
prepared when you handle or care for your Tarantula.

Very few Tarantulas have venom strong enough to kill a human
unless the person is allergic to it, but their bites can be
very painful and cause other health problems. If your spider
bites you and you have any problem breathing, get to a
hospital emergency room immediately! Most Tarantulas from
the Americas also can fling abdominal hairs that contain
irritating chemicals and can cause severe allergic or
irritant reactions if breathed in or if they get into your
eyes. Keep faces away from Tarantulas and wash your hands
after any handling of them or their bedding.

Handling your Tarantula

There will be times when you simply must move your Tarantula
from its cage, for cleaning or changing cages. If you have a
jumpy, fast spider that you simply can't safely catch, put
the cage into the refrigerator for no longer than fifteen
minutes and the spider will probably be more tractable. Be
careful with this, however, as it is a shock to the spider's
body. You can use a paper or plastic cup or a fish net to
catch the spider if it tries to escape, and a small
paintbrush is good for a "spider steerer" to get it going in
the proper direction.

Molting Spiders

As spiders grow, the external skin (exoskeleton) does not,
so they must molt the old skin. When molting happens, the
spider will usually lie on its side or back. (Don't think it
is ill or bother it at this point.) Then the exoskeleton on
the top of the front body part (carapace) splits and the
spider works its body and then its legs out of the shell.

The process usually takes only a few hours. If your spider
seems stuck, it may need more humidity. Try misting it with
water, or you might even add a 1:20 dilution of glycerin to
the water to help soften the old skin. Once it has finished
molting, it will need several days for the new exoskeleton
to harden, and it probably won't eat until this happens. But
once it is hungry again, it will probably be very hungry, be

When your Tarantula molts you will wake up one day and find
two Tarantulas in your tank, one the fresh healthy live
spider and the second an exact copy - the shed skin. (Note:
be sure to avoid handing the shed skin without gloves and
care, especially if your spider is a new world Tarantula,
because the abdominal hairs are very irritating and can
actually cause damage if they fly into someone's or
something's eyes.)

What to do if your Tarantula is injured

If a Tarantula is injured and begins to bleed, it can bleed
to death if not cared for properly. (Tarantula blood is pale
blue.) You can try sealing the wound with clear nail
hardener or human "skin patch" liquids.

If your Tarantula has lost a leg but is not bleeding, simply
watch it carefully in case it does begin to bleed later. The
leg will eventually regenerate through several molts unless
the spider is a mature male.

If you discover tiny mites on your Tarantula or in its cage
transfer the spider immediately to fresh quarters, remove
and dispose of all the substrate, and clean all decorations
as well as the cage with warm soapy water and bleach. Be
sure to rinse every vestige of soap and bleach from the cage
and decorations and dry them completely before allowing your
spider to touch them again. You can also buy predatory mites
that will eat the pest mites and then die themselves. Ask
your pet store owner about them.

Be a Responsible Animal Keeper

Tarantulas are interesting, beautiful, and frightening
animals. If you chose to keep a Tarantula, learn everything
you can about them and try to help other people see them the
way you do. Don't keep Tarantulas just to show off or buy
one as a novelty and neglect your spider once the "newness"
has worn off. They are live animals, and all animals have
feelings and deserve respect. Spend some time researching
Tarantulas and you'll never lack for a subject of

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