Tarantula care

All the following details are based on the way I care for and keep my tarantulas. I would not like to say what is right, or wrong. I have been keeping tarantulas since 1998. So if you are thinking of buying your first tarantula, or have just bought one, you may find the following info helpful. I have tried to keep it short and simple, however if anyone needs additional info, do not hesitate to contact me.

Housing

Before I house a tarantula, I have to find out what type of housing is suitable. Most tarantulas will fall into one of two groups, Arboreal, a tarantula that will reside off the ground, such as in trees or on buildings etc. or terrestrial, a tarantula that lives on the ground or in a burrow. Arboreal spiders, I keep in sweet jars or other tall containers, I would put 2" of vermiculite in the bottom of the jar, and a piece of cork bark for the spider to climb on and web against, I then make several holes in the lid for ventilation. Ground dwelling spiders, I would keep in a glass tank or pet pal, I would fill it one third of the way up, with a mix of peat and vermiculite as most of our ground dwelling spiders enjoy digging, the substrate should be kept moist, with out being to wet. I also provide most of our ground dwelling spiders with a place to hide, such as half a flowerpot, there are some exceptions, such as Haplopelma, Hystercrates and Citharicanthus crawshayi, which will all dig their own burrow, if given deep enough substrate.

Heating

I keep all my spiders in my spider room where the room temperature is regulated to 80F day, and 75F night. for just heating one, or a few spiders, a whole room is a bit extreem. for one or two I would recommend a heatmat stuck to the wall behind the tank, or for several spiders, it may be easier to place a larger heatmat in a cupboard with a thermostat to regulate the temperature most tarantulas will do well at 75F by studying the temperature in the tanks, I can decide if a tank requires more or less heat, humidity is maintained by misting tanks when required.

Feeding

I feed all of my tarantulas on crickets, we always ensure that the cricket is smaller than the spider, but not so small that the spider can't capture it, I sometimes feed our larger spiders with a locust or a pink mouse, all food that is not taken with in 24 hours, should be removed, if your spider stops feeding, don't worry, tarantulas can go many months without feeding, more often than not, there is a good reason for your tarantulas fasting, we feed our tarantulas 3 or 4 crickets, once or twice a week, most good pet shops will stock crickets and frozen mice, if not they should order them for you.

Moulting

This is the way that spiders grow. I can usually tell when a spider is approaching a moult some spiders will develop a bald spot on the rump, which will gradually darken to black, most of our spiders will also loose their appetite, if the spider will not feed, we always remove any crickets from their tank, as they can attack or stress the spider during the moult, other signs of pre-moult include extensive webbing mostly in arboreal species, and a general lack of energy, they will gradually become less active as the moult nears, finally the spider will lay down a mat of web, and flip over onto its back, I've have had spiders stay in this position for up to ten hours, the final part of this process, is the shedding of the old skin. I never disturb the spider during this time, as it can kill the spider. The spider should also be left for at least a week after the moult, this is to allow the exoskeleton to harden.

Tools

The tool I use the most, is a pair of 12" tongs. I use them for removing dead crickets, the spiders moult and much more. I also use the top half of a coke bottle, for removing the spider from its tank, I coax the spider into the bottle, with a wooden chop stick, as its not sharp it will not harm the spider.

Escaping

Always ensure that your lid is fitted securely, as tarantulas can easily push up a lid that is not secure, also cricket tubs are not suitable for housing juveniles, as they easily chew a hole in it, I found my H. gigas in a cupboard.

Pesticide

If you keep tarantulas in your home, pesticides should not be used, including fly spray, ant powder and flea spray / powder / shampoo for dogs and cats, as they can be harmful to your tarantula, also catching bugs from the garden for food, may also contain some pesticide or harmful chemicals.

Urticating hairs

Some tarantulas have fine hairs which are barbed that they will kick off if disturbed, these hairs can cause irritation to your eyes, nose or skin, it is advisable to keep your hands and arms covered, and your face a safe distance away from the spider, when feeding or cleaning their tank.

Handling tarantulas

I don't hold any of my spiders, or recommend it to others, however if you do wish to hold a tarantula, do not pick it up, let it walk onto your hand, this should be done close to the ground, as a fall could be fatal to your tarantula, the rump is very fragile, and can easily bust, causing the tarantula to bleed to death.

If you have any questions or comments please post in the discussion forum.

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