Tarantulas are the number one pet spiders in the US and Canada right in front of jumping spiders. And for good reason, they are generally quite easy to care for and they can be bought in almost any pet store.
In this article, I will explain exactly how to take care of a pet tarantula and what makes them such interesting pets to keep.
Is it Easy to Take Care of a Tarantula?
Tarantulas are very interesting pets to keep but most interesting pets usually need a lot of care and usually have quite a few specific needs. So is it easy to take care of a tarantula?
As a whole, tarantulas are easy to take care of. They only need to be fed 3 to 4 times a week with a few crickets or roaches. They are usually happy in their cage as long as it is big enough and has enough places to hide. They are solitary animals so they don´t need any social contact with other spiders or their owner.
You have to clean the cage of the spider regularly from poo and you have to completely clean the cage once every 2 months.
Which is still very low-maintenance when compared to other pets like dogs or guinea pigs, for example.
Tarantulas are not great pets, however, if you want something to cuddle or hold in your hand.
Tarantulas will rarely bite but they have so-called urticating hair on their abdomen that they can kick off if they feel threatened or annoyed. It is their primary defense mechanism.
The hair is not dangerous to humans but it can be irritating to the skin. SO it isn´t pleasant.
How Long do Pet Tarantulas Live?
A lot of people severely underestimate the life span of a tarantula. This is why I put it so high up in the care guide. Before you get a tarantula as a pet make sure that you are committed to caring for it for as long as it lives!
Tarantulas live between 10 and 30 years. Males tend to only live around 10 years but female tarantulas can live 30 years or longer. The Female Chilean Rose Hair tarantula lives for around 20 years and the male for around 5 years while the female Mexican Red Knee lives around 25 years and the male up to 10 years.
The two tarantulas that are most often held as pets are the Mexican Red Knee Tarantula and the Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula.
The Mexican Red Knee lives on average longer than the Chilean Rose with the female Mexican Red Knee Tarantula living around 25 years and the male living up to 10 years.
The Chilean Rose Tarantula is perfect if you don´t want to commit to having a tarantula for 25 years plus. The male Chilean Rose Tarantula only lives for around 5 years and the female Chilean Rose Tarantula lives for around 20 years.
How to Feed a Pet Tarantula
Tarantulas are carnivores so they only eat insects or in some cases even small mice. But you don´t have to feed your tarantula mice, they can usually live happily and healthy if you only feed them insects.
As a whole, tarantulas eat live food only. The easiest way to feed them is by throwing live insects like crickets, roaches, worms, or similar in their cage. They will then hunt and eat their prey. Young tarantulas need to be fed every other day while adult tarantulas only need to be fed 3 to 4 times a week.
You can buy live crickets, worms, or roaches at your local pet store.
It is not recommended to just throw four or five crickets in the cage once a week and let the spider hunt the prey whenever they want.
This is because the crickets that the spider did not eat will eventually get hungry themselves and the only thing in the cage that is edible is often just the spider itself.
So if you are unlucky then the crickets might start hurting the spider.
So only throw one cricket at a time in the cage to feed the spider and remove any crickets that weren´t eaten.
How to Give a Pet Tarantula Water
If you are wondering if tarantulas even drink water then consider reading our article about how tarantulas drink water right here. But basically, they do drink water and you have to provide them with water.
As a whole, a tarantula cage needs a water tray to give them a source of water that they can drink if they need to. It is also recommended to lightly dust the substrate in the cage with some water once a week to provide water.
Most beginner tarantula species are desert or grassland species and don´t need much water. It is very important to keep the cage itself dry and don´t spray too much water on the substrate as the tarantula is used to dry conditions.
There are also some tarantula species that live in tropical areas that need high humidity in their cage.
How to Create the Perfect Home for a Pet Tarantula
A tarantula will rarely leave its cage so you should make sure that the tarantula is happy in its cage and has enough hiding spots and everything else it might need.
As a whole, the habitat of a pet tarantula should be at least three times the leg span of the spider long and two times that size wide. The minimum height should be around 10 inches for tree dwellers and 5 inches for ground dwellers. On average a habitat is 17 inches long, 12 inches wide, and 5 inches high.
You should use the length of an adult tarantula to calculate the optimal size of the habitat even if the spider is still little. It will grow fast and if you buy an appropriately sized habitat right away then you don´t have to upgrade later.
An adult Mexican Red Knee or an adult Chilean Rose will be around 5.5 inches long.
What do Tarantulas Like in Their Cage?
Next up we need to fill the habitat so that our tarantula has a nice and comfy home. So what should be in a tarantula cage?
As a whole, tarantulas like mulch-type substrate (like coconut fiber), half logs or stones for hiding, and if it is a tree-dwelling spider then it will also like cork bark, branches, and plants to climb on and build their webs.
So you will need a whole lot to make your spider feel at home. You can also get dead branches or logs from outside but you have to wash them off with hot water first and make sure that no wild insects are on them before placing them in the habitat.
For substrate, you need mulch-type substrate for your spider.
This includes coconut fiber substrate or reptile bark.
Don´t use gravel or sand as a substrate for your spider because these will hurt the feet of your spider after a while.
The decoration is very important. This will give your spider something to climb and to hide behind.
You can use bark, half logs, branches, stones, plants, and more to decorate your spider’s home.
Spiders don´t eat plants so you don´t have to worry about poison plants. Spiders especially like plants that they know so try and get some plants that would also grow in their natural habitat.
You should give your spider multiple possibilities to hide. So half logs or stones are great for every spider habitat.
If you have a tree-dwelling spider then provide it with some branches that it can climb.
Do Tarantulas Need a Heat Lamp?
I see lots of new spider owners wondering if they need a heat lamp for their spider. And I see where they are coming from, most pet tarantula species come from either tropical or desert environments.
As a whole, a heat lamp is not needed for a pet tarantula. Room temperature or slightly above that is perfectly fine for most tarantulas. Especially cheap heat lamps should not be used as these could even hurt the spider in the long run!
Even spiders that usually live in deserts don´t need a heat lamp. Simply watch your tarantula closely when you put it in its new habitat and if you see that it does not eat properly even after 3 or 4 days in the new habitat and if it won´t come out often or seems very lazy then you might need to heat the habitat a little.
But even then a heat lamp is not the best solution. You can use heat maps that you bury under the substrate instead. Just make sure to turn them off overnights.
The heat map will keep the ground warm and heat up the cage of the spider a little bit.
Lisa is one of the two founders of Animal-Knowledge. She has been very interested in animals and insects from a very young age and has owned different kinds of pets such as snails, ants, fish, turtles, mice, rats, hamsters, rabbits, a dog, … you get the idea 🙂