How to Choose and House a Pet Tarantula
If you are like most people, you will purchase your first
pet Tarantula from a pet store. Hopefully you have done your
homework well and already know the pros and cons of keeping
Tarantulas, have researched the various species, and have
already prepared a suitable habitat for your spider when you
bring it home. But, here are some suggestions for detailed
things to ask the staff or to watch for when it gets down to
choosing the exact animal you will live with:
What are the Specs? What Kind of Tarantula Is It? Can the
clerks tell you the scientific species of the particular
tarantula you are looking at? There are a wide variety of
characteristics between the different Tarantula species, and
one type may work well as a pet for you while another may be
far too aggressive, fragile, or boring. And common names are
often confusing or wrong, so the scientific name will help
you to know the spider's habits as well as its needs.
Is it Healthy?
How does it look? Is it at least standing up? If it is
curled up in hiding and doesn't react much when it is
touched, it may be sick or dying.
What gender is it and/or how old is it? Most male Tarantulas
don't live longer than one and one half to two years. Female
Tarantula spiders can live for decades. Check for tibial
spurs. These tiny hooks on the underside of the front legs
of an adult male Tarantula are used in mating. If the spider
is a male and already has his tibial spurs he won't live
that much longer - from a few months to two years depending
on his species.
Has the Spider Been well Cared For?
Is there food and water in the cage? Tarantulas can die
quickly without adequate water and humidity, so if there is
no water dish, the spider may already be ill.
Housing your New Tarantula
Many pet shops sell small cages that work well for spiders,
hermit crabs, small snakes and the like, and many household
containers, both plastic and glass, will work well for
Remember that wide is safer than tall. Some pet Tarantulas are
very fragile, especially the burrowing species, and a fall
from the sides of a tall habitat can rupture its abdomen or
break a leg. They also can catch a foot in a screen top and
injure themselves. Ground-dwelling spiders don't need a tank
any higher than they are long. Arboreal Tarantulas are
hardier, and a tall cage may be okay for them.
Make sure that there is good air circulation in the
vivarium. That will help prevent breeding of mites, molds,
fungi and bacteria. You will also need to know whether your
particular species of Tarantula needs high humidity and will
require misting, or if a water dish will be adequate.
In the vivarium you will need a substrate of vermiculite
(Wood chips, especially cedar, can poison your spider and
also provide a breeding ground for mites.) for the non-
burrowing spiders and good sterile topsoil for the
Arboreal Tarantulas will like branches or boards to climb on
and from which to hang their tube webs. Burrowers will want
a deep substrate and half buried hiding places such as small
clay pots half sunk in the soil.
Most Tarantula species do well at temperatures between
seventy-five and eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit (twenty-four
to thirty Celsius). They can take a little cooler
temperature in the winter but they do need a long warm
season each year in order to stay healthy.
Some thought and thorough preparation can make you a
successful spider wrangler!
More on Tarantulas,
Spiders & Invertebrates
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