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Tarantula Care Guide

Andy @ Allerton

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-- This page provides the 'basic' care for tarantulas. There are many species, each of which require their own unique type of living conditions, this guide will work well for Grammastola rosea (Chilean Rose)--





Housing Enclosures

Most species should be kept singly in a given enclosure. Arboreal tarantulas (tree-dwelling tarantulas), prefer enclosures that are larger vertically, whereas burrowing or ground dwelling tarantulas prefer a wider based enclosure.

I use plastic cages with locking lids or plastic shoe boxes. I stay away from cages with nylon screening because I have had spiders that were actually able to chew through the screen! Kind of scary when you sleep in the same room with your spider collection.



Ground Cover

The ground substrate I use most vermiculite or a mix of 50% vermiculite 50% peat. I think that a mix is better for burrowing tarantulas because it holds its shape better. My Hysterocrates gigas creates large burrows and likes to dig around. When I was using straight vermiculite it would cave in on him all the time. When I switched to a mix the burrows were stronger.

I would not recommend using anything with fertilizer in it, try to find sterilized peat or potting soil. I've heard that you can sterilize substrate by micro-waving it but I have never tried this. I change the substrate after about 4 - 6 months of use..or until it starts to get nasty.


Humidity and Airflow

Humidity is an important factor in keeping your spider alive and healthy. Air flow plays a factor in keeping down molds and fungus. For most species misting the cage a few times a week will be adequate. Some species from wet tropical regions will require a higher humidity level. If the amount of humidity is too low there is a chance that when the spider molts it could split it's exoskeleton(skin) and bleed to death. Don't keep your cage wet, just humid. Usually misting the cage every few days with a spray bottle will be sufficient. Hydrometers can be used to ensure a more accurate measure of the relative humidity.

Some plastic enclosures I've bought had over-ventilated lids which I scotch taped (from the inside so the spider can't get stuck to it) to keep the humidity up to acceptable levels. This doesn't always work because some spiders will chew it off within a few days.




Temperature and Heating

Most tarantulas should be kept at temperatures between 75-84 degrees F. In the summer I don't worry about heating except for especially cold days. In the winter I use a small space heater to heat my spider room. If you don't need to heat an entire room, heat rocks and heat pads are a way of heating a single enclosure. Don't leave your spider in direct sunlight for any extended period of time. A spider's enclosure can overheat rapidly!




Tarantulas should be provided with some type of shelter. Even though you won't see your prized pet all of the time, it will be much happier. Spiders like to hide in the wild and leaving them in a bare setup is very unnatural for tarantulas. I provide all mine with rigid plastic tubing (PVC) 3" - 5" or pieces or cork bark.




I usually use store bought crickets. Although I've used many different wild caught bugs, some people frown on this as prey items caught outdoors may be contaminated with pesticides or mites, but so far I have had none of these problems. Occasionally I'll offer small "pinky" mice to large spiders. Spiderlings may need tiny crickets, or even fruit flys which can be bought at specialty pet stores. Some species prefer two or more medium sized prey rather than larger meals. As a general rule, insect prey fed to tarantulas should be 1/4 - 1/2 the length of the spider body. If your spider doesn't capture it's prey within 30 minutes or so it usually isn't hungry, or is too stressed, remove the prey and offer it again at a later time.

After feedings there are usually parts left over from the prey that the spider cannot digest. Tarantulas will sometimes wrap these parts in a small web ball, remove these and any leftover parts from the spiders' enclosure. If not mold and fungus can become an unwanted problem. Some tarantulas don't eat as often as others, especially if kept too cool.

Tarantulas stop eating a few weeks before and after a molt. I've had some spiders that went months without feeding for no obvious reason. So don't get too worried if your spider has somewhat strange eating habits.




Tarantulas get most of their fluids from the prey they digest. I offer all my spiders a shallow water dish which I occasionally see them drinking from. You may want to put something in the dish so crickets don't drown, I use small rocks. Cotton balls are sometimes recommended by pet stores but I dont use them as they get real nasty with molds and cricket poop.



Shedding / Molting

Molting is the most critical time for your tarantula. Your spider will become seem more sluggish and stop feeding prior to molting.

Most tarantulas will molt on their back or on their sides. When molting, a tarantula should be left alone. If you find your spider on it's back, IT'S NOT DEAD! Dying tarantulas usually curl their legs up underneath them. When you find your tarantula beginning to molt sit back and watch for a while, it's a fascinating thing to observe but it can take a few hours so be patient. You should see the legs pulsating as the spider attemps to slip out of its old skin.

Click here for a picture of what the shed skin looks like from a Goliath Birdeater.

Make sure there are no crickets in the enclosure with your molting spider as it is very vulnerable and even a miserable little cricket could kill your pet. If stressed, a tarantula could have a 'bad molt' and bleed to death. Don't offer food for about a week after a molt, to make sure that the new skin has hardened as well as its fangs.


~ This concludes my Tarantula Care Guide ~

I hope you found it useful.

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