Pet Spiders for Beginners: Qualities, Advantages, and Types of Pet Spiders
Although not for everyone, many children and adults enjoy raising spiders, also known as arachnids, as pets. Tarantulas and wolf spiders are interesting to observe and are the two most popular types of spiders kept as pets.
Before purchasing one for yourself, do your homework, so you’ll be able to properly determine whether keeping pet spiders is a good fit for you, and for other members of your household.
As the great Stan Lee, creator of Spiderman famously wrote; “With great power comes great responsibility.” The same could be said of owning a pet spider.
Don’t be fooled by their simplicity, arachnids are curious little creatures, requiring good upkeep, maintenance and the right environment to flourish in.
To celebrate our eight-legged friends, here are eight essential facts that potential spider owners ought to know:
Eight things you didn’t know about keeping spiders as pets
- Tarantulas are the most popular. There may be 40,000 different breeds of spider, but it might be surprising to know that tarantulas are among the most popular types to own. Due to their popularity, you can often find them in your local pet store. While they can bite, it’s uncommon and they rarely pose a threat to humans. Of the many species in this range, the Chilean Rose, Mexican Redleg and Costa Rican Zebra are some of the more docile types. But, be prepared; while they may start small, some of them can weigh up to 85g and live as long as twenty years!
- Keep calm! There’s no point buying a pet spider if you are in any way squeamish. This is a species after all, that is known to run at lightning speed when released and at some times can even jump. Likewise, some larger breeds eat grasshoppers, cockroaches and crickets – so you’ll need to be able to feed these to your pets too. If you’re fearful of handling them, this might not be the best pet choice!
- Yes, they do bite. Horror films have paid a disservice to this particular breed. Because while they can and do bite, this tends to be when they feel threatened, and in most cases a bite is no more harmful than a bee sting. And while some breeds are venomous, they may not have fangs to bite a human. According to a spider physiology report, there were only 100 deaths from spider bites in the 20th century, to put it in to perspective! The few with deadly bites include the Black Widow Spider, the Chilean Rescluse Spider and the Northern Funnell Web Spider; none of which are advisable as pets.
- Some grow huge. Because spiders come in different sizes, it’s always wise to research the breed you want first. Least of all so that you can cater to their growing size. For instance, some types such as the Desertas Wolf Spider is one of the largest in the world, measuring 4cm, while the fang-waving African-bred ‘King Baboon’ tarantula can have a legspan of up to 20cm.
- Some of them are shy. Believe it or not, some breeds, such as the humble grass spider, can be shy! These are popular with owners, due to their easy maintenance. Growing around 10-20mm, their life cycle is about a year. They are also fascinating to keep due to their funnel-weaving ability, evolved to catch prey. Again, it’s worth keeping in mind that these spiders do have a venomous bite, but this is rarely exercised, except when feeling threatened.
- They like to build webs! Sure, we all know that spiders like to build webs. But, did you know that these works of art can take usually just an hour, and they like to build a new one every day? As a pet owner, this is a wonderful educational experience, especially for younger family members to observe.
- They’re easy to keep. Once you’ve invested in the right cage, you’ll find that spiders are cheap to keep. Most cost little if anything in food, with some of the bigger breeds like tarantulas eating one or two crickets a week max. That said, you may need to consider the environment they’re living in, since some need humid conditions. But as an added bonus, unlike their rodent friends, they’re quiet and clean too.
- They’re prohibited in some states. Check the state law that applies to where you live before getting a spider. You may find that you are in one of the states that prohibits the purchase or even possession of spiders. FindLaw and the US government websites are good starting points.
Pros and Cons to Consider
Here are some of the advantages of choosing a spider for a pet:
- Spiders are quiet and clean.
- They can live quite comfortably in a small terrarium.
- Pet spiders are interesting to observe.
- Spiders are inexpensive to maintain.
- You may be able to catch one as opposed to purchasing a spider from a pet store.
- A spider requires little to no socialization, so it won’t be lonely if you only own one.
Possible disadvantages of raising a pet spider:
- Nearly all spiders are poisonous to some degree. Some spiders have more potent venom than others, and you’ll want to take this into consideration before choosing a spider for a pet. Some people are allergic to spider venom, even if it has a low degree of potency.
- Tarantulas have more than one mode of protection. In addition to mildly poisonous venom, they can flick their hairs if they feel threatened.
- Many spiders are known escape artists and need a properly sealed environment.
- Most spiders, even in ideal conditions, don’t live very long. Tarantulas, the exception to this rule, can live over 20 years with proper care.
- Most spiders do not enjoy being handled. Dropping a tarantula can cause its abdomen to burst, which usually results in death.
- Spiders do not react well to other household pets.
- Some states prohibit the purchase or possession of spiders.
Choosing the Right Spider
If you’ve decided that a spider is right for you but you’ve never owned one before, it’s probably best to select a species that isn’t delicate or dangerous. Some tarantula types that are ideal for beginners are the Chilean Rose or the Mexican Redleg. Their venom is fairly mild, and they’re docile compared to other tarantulas.
Find out about the care (housing, environment, diet) needed for the spider you are considering. While many spiders are inexpensive to obtain, providing them with the right environment can be complicated for some of the more exotic species.
Food and Water
Spiders are predators. Their diet consists of crickets, moths, grasshoppers, bees, butterflies, and flies. If you plan on capturing their food yourself, be sure the insects have not been exposed to pesticides or you may kill your pet spider. Usually, spiders only need to eat one or two times each week, although this depends on size and species, so check available information to ensure proper health of your pet.
Small and shallow water bowls are all you’ll need to keep them hydrated, or even a soggy piece of sponge or cotton ball will provide sufficient moisture.
Although a spider is not the choice pet for everyone, they can inspire an interest in science, and can also be a wonderful learning tool.