A Guide to Insects and Arachnids as Pets

All About Tarantulas

Tarantula Spider

Arachnids are a family of crawling animals which includes spiders and scorpions. They are often referred to as creepy crawlies due to their ability to frighten. In modern times, they have been found to be quite delightful pets. For the last several years, people have kept arachnids as pets. One of the most popular ones is the tarantula spider. It is a unique pet that is quiet, low maintenance and that requires very little space. Keeping a tarantula can be an interesting hobby. Here's a guide.

Background on Arachnids

There are 800 different species of tarantulas. They all belong to a family of animals that are known as Theraphosidae. Tarantulas can live in various environmental conditions such as tropical, arid and subtropical areas. They are organized into two categories. Old World tarantulas come from the Eastern Hemisphere, while New World tarantulas come from the Western Hemisphere.

Tarantulas can bite and release venom into their prey. For most species of these spiders, the venom is not very harmful to humans. Bites are comparable to a bee or wasp sting. Effects can include swelling, redness, and pain. Some species of tarantulas have potent venom. If they bite you, the effects can include nausea, paralysis and serious illness. In some cases, they can cause death. So it's a good idea to choose less venomous types of tarantulas for pets.

Caring for a Tarantula

Treat the tarantula with respect. Doing so prevents it from getting aggressive and biting you. Tarantulas require careful handling. New World tarantulas have urticating hairs on their abdomens. If they feel threatened, the tarantulas rub their abdomens and release these hairs. The little hairs are barbed. If you touch them, they can get embedded in the skin and cause serious irritation. This can manifest as redness, swelling, and insatiable itching. If they penetrate the eye, they can cause inflammation. To avoid this, always wash your hands thoroughly after handling a tarantula so as to eliminate all the urticating hairs that may have got on your hands.

Choosing a Tarantula

There are many tarantula species that are ideal to keep as pets. One of these is the Chilean rose (Grammostola rosea). It is a popular type that is native to Chile. Some other types include the Mexican Redknee (Branchypelma smithi), Curly Hair Tarantula (Branchypelma albopilosum) and the Costa Rican Zebra (Aphonoplema seemani).

As you pick a tarantula, know that female tarantulas live much longer than males. A female can live for up to 20 years while a male lives for only a few years. Make sure to ask about the gender of your tarantula during purchase.

How to Keep a Tarantula

There are two types of tarantulas: arboreal and terrestrial. Arboreal tarantulas like to climb on trees and branches. Terrestrial ones prefer to stay on the ground and burrow underground. If your tarantula is arboreal, you will need to have a tall, glass cage. The burrowing tarantula requires a medium sized cage with substantial substrate that they can burrow into. Note that you should only keep one tarantula per cage. This is because they aren't social.

If you have a terrestrial tarantula, its cage should have a length that is 3 times its leg span and a width that is 2 times its leg span. The height should range between 1 and 3 feet tall. An arboreal tarantula should have a glass cage whose length is 3 times its leg span and width is 3 times its leg span. The height should range between 3 and 5 feet tall. It should have branches and twigs inside for climbing purposes. The tarantula will also make its web upon these props.

For both types of tarantulas, the bottom of the case should have a vermiculite substrate. It can be mixed with peat or potting soil and be 2 to 4 inches deep. This is to provide moisture along with room for burrowing. The lid should be firmly closed, because all tarantulas are good at escaping. The lid should also facilitate ventilation.

There should be some rocks, bark or props where your tarantula can hide. A half hollow log is a good option that you can purchase from the pet store. A shallow water dish needs to be included in the case.

The glass case should not be placed in an area where it is subjected to bright, direct sunlight. It should be in a shaded area because tarantulas prefer to hide in the darkness. The interior temperature of the case should range between 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Feeding Tarantulas

Tarantulas eat insects. A diet of crickets is ideal. Adult pets need to eat only once per week. To ensure good health for the tarantula, crickets should be gut loaded. This means that they should have fed well so as to provide the tarantula with ample nutrients. You can feed the crickets with some fiber-rich vegetation. These insects should also be dusted with vitamins prior to feeding to the tarantula. A change of diet is also advisable for this pet. They can also eat some super worms, mealworms and roaches.

The tarantula can be an interesting and fascinating arachnid to have as a pet. If well maintained and properly handled, she can be your pet for a long time. It's important to note that tarantulas grow through a molting process. This is where they shed their exoskeleton and grow a new one. During this time, the tarantula will lie on its back and fast. It should not be handled during this time. Once the molting process is done, the tarantula should be handled very carefully for 2 weeks.