KEEPING YOUR PET TARANTULA
Tarantulas have fascinated people the world over. Despite their reputation in movies, the majority of species are quite docile and are easy to keep and transport. All tarantulas are venomous, but the toxicity of the venom can be equated to a bee sting for most species. Still, caution should be maintained when handling them, in case of an allergic reaction to the venom. Watching the tarantula move and climb can be engrossing and fascinating. Some species can construct the most intricate webs. Beginners should opt for a more docile and easy to care for species.
One, Two or More?
Most species of tarantulas prefer to live in an enclosure by themselves. The obvious exception is during times of mating. The Pinktoe tarantula can be kept in communities, providing they are approximately the same sizes.
Determining a Tarantula’s Sex
Adult tarantulas are much easier to determine the sex on. In many species, the males will have a small shiny bulb, called a palpal bulb, near the end and on the underside of his pedipalps (the small grasping arms at the front of the body). Another difference in many species is the presence of tibial spurs (small hook-like structures on the ends of his first legs). Sexing can also be generally determined by the relative size of mature tarantulas, with the females being larger than the males.
The life expectancy of tarantulas really depends on the species you choose. An example of life expectancy for a Rosehair tarantula could be eight to 10 years for a male and 15 or more years for a female. The Goliath Birdeater tarantula can live to 20 or more years.
As a general rule, large tarantulas from deserts or scrubland areas tend to live longer than tarantulas from a tropical environment. Your pet counsellor can inform you about the approximate life expectancy of the species that you are interested in.
Like insects, tarantulas have exoskeletons, which provide protection and support, but doesn’t allow for growth. Moulting is the process by which your tarantula sheds his outgrown skin, replaces missing or damaged appendages and replenishes his hair. Adults will only moult one or twice a year, but growing spiderlings will do so quite regularly.
If you should notice the tarantula on his back, don’t fret, this is the normal moulting position. the moulting process may take several hours to complete. When entering a moult, your spider may refuse food for anywhere from a week to several months. It will often develop a black shiny cast to the skin of the abdomen as his new skin begins separating from the old one. It is a good idea to insure proper humidity levels at this time to help the moult go smoothly. Food should not be offered for at least a week after the moult to allow the new exoskeleton to harden. A good indicator of hardening is when the fangs turn from white to black.
There are approximately 800 species of tarantulas found in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Chile, Mexico and North America. With such a wide range, your tarantula’s habitat will depend on the species you keep. For example, the Pinktoe tarantula is native to tropical rainforest and lives in the trees. As such, an enclosure with climbing areas, such as branches or limbs to provide places for him to construct a web, as well as relatively high humidity, will provide a comfortable home. By contrast, the King Baboon tarantula is a fast-moving terrestrial species with a need to burrow and lesser humidity requirements. A habitat with good floor space and light substrate, such as vermiculite to encourage burrowing is recommended. Research your tarantula’s natural habitat with your pet counsellor.
To provide a happy healthy atmosphere for your pet, Petland recommends the following necessary accessories. We have listed them as your new pet’s four basic needs: Nutritional, Environmental, Maintenance and Behavioural. When these needs are met, along with a loving environment provided by you, your tarantula can live a long and happy life.
Housing – As a general rule, the enclosure should be more vertically oriented for arboreal species and more horizontally oriented for terrestrial species. Most species will do well in a 10 to 20 gallon aquarium with a secure screen lid to provide for proper air exchange. Larger tarantulas, such as the Goliath Birdeater and King Baboon will necessarily require a slightly larger enclosure for their long-term well-being.
Substrate – Bark, moss and soil (without pearlite, which are the white granules present in some potting soils) are all substrates, which retain humidity. Reptile carpeting is easy to clean, but may not satisfy your tarantula’s behavioural need to dig or create a burrow.
Humidity Gauge – Certain species of tarantulas like moderate to high humidity, while others like low humidity. It is imperative for your tarantula’s health that you find out what his humidity requirements are. A humidity gauge is helpful in monitoring what the relative humidity is at any given time.
Temperature – As a general rule, most species of tarantulas will do well if maintained between 78°F – 82°F. Every tarantula is different in his needs and you should research the specific temperature requirements for the tarantula you have. Tarantulas seem to do well if, in the evening, there is a drop in temperature.
Thermometer – We suggest using two thermometers. This is the best way to know if the enclosure and basking sites are at the correct temperature at any time. Place one thermometer by the basking area and one at the other end of the enclosure, preferably in the cooler shaded area.
Under-Tank Heater – An under-tank heater is recommended for all tarantula species to provide appropriate ground temperature. You should ensure that it is positioned on one side of the aquarium to allow your tarantula the choice of a warmer area and cooler area in the enclosure.
Ceramic Base Spotlight – A spotlight with a ceramic base is the best choice to provide localized heat (basking area) and as a light source. For most enclosures a 60 watt infrared bulb is sufficient, as it provides the necessary heat without a bright light, which may make your tarantula uncomfortable. A larger enclosure may require a higher watt bulb.
Lighting – The use of a full spectrum fluorescent bulb will highlight the natural colouration of your tarantula. It will also aid the terrarium environment if you have chosen to use live plants. While the tarantula is an invertebrate, and thus does not need to synthesize vitamin D3 as much as some other reptiles, it is still beneficial to your tarantula. Diffused indirect sunlight is sufficient. The enclosure should never be submitted to direct sunlight, as this can overheat and dehydrate your tarantula in a short period of time.
Decorations/Plants – A tarantula’s enclosure should mimic the environment that it came from. Small trees, real or artificial plants, hiding areas, burrows and basking areas, such as rocks, driftwood, and/or aquarium ornaments, will provide your tarantula with some of the environmental elements it will need.
Real plants provide many benefits for your tarantula. A plant aerates the enclosure, allows for refuge, provides shade from basking areas and the leaves provide natural drinking areas. *Ask your pet counsellor for a list of safe plants for your tarantula.
Spray Bottle – Most tarantulas require some humidity, and misting with a spray bottle helps in this area. Mist the enclosure on the opposite side of where your tarantula is. Your pet counsellor can advise you as to the humidity requirements for your species, and will tell you how often to mist.
Water Dripper – For species with high humidity requirements, a water dripper is recommended. It provides your tarantula with a constant water source and helps to maintain proper humidity levels.
Food Sources – Crickets, mealworms, waxworms, cockroaches and pinkie mice are all appropriate food sources for your tarantula. Feeding should occur once or twice per week, and a varied diet is essential. If the offered food is not taken within a couple of hours, it should be removed from the enclosure to prevent spoilage and prevent the tarantula from becoming stressed if the food source is live.
Vitamin Supplements – Adding vitamins to a tarantula’s food will ensure a balanced diet. Feeding your tarantula’s food a high quality, vitamin-rich supplement, 24 hours before feeding it to the tarantula is one method. The other is dusting, coating the food source with a vitamin supplement.
Fresh Water and A Water Dish – A shallow water dish with a sponge should be provided. The sponge give your tarantula a suitable, clean surface to drink from, and guards against smaller specimens accidentally drowning. Fresh water should be provided daily.
Spot clean the substrate often. When using carpeting, maintain the relative humidity in the enclosure, since it is not as efficient as other substrates in holding moisture.
Refill a water dripper on a regular basis to ensure proper humidity.
A Book About Tarantulas – Petland has many reptile books available. Your pet counsellor can help you select a book that best suits your needs.
Please ask your pet counsellor what other items pertain to your particular pet’s needs.
*Ask about the volunteer programs at your nearest Petland location.
Cleanliness and Safety
All pets must be kept in a clean environment to avoid the spread of dirt and contaminants to yourself and others. Always keep your pet’s home clean, and wash your hands before and after handling your pet or cleaning his home.
Please remember that all pets may bite or scratch, and may transmit diseases to humans. Young children, infants, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and the elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with pets or their homes.