• Tarantula Spiders

    Tarantula Spiders

    Everything you need to know to raise Tarantula Spiders

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Tarantula Spiders

Raising Tarantula Spiders
Have you ever watched the movie 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'? In the opening scene, Harrison Ford, famous for his role as Indiana Jones in the movie, brushes a hairy spider off his shoulder - and the viewers almost always go 'eeeww' in disgust or 'ooohh' at Mr. Jones' bravery!

Almost as famous - at least in spider-world (and second only to Spiderman in the popularity ratings) - is the Tarantula spider, mostly due to its size and its sinister reputation. Now if there were ever a case of bad publicity, this has got to be it.

Tarantulas, while venomous like all spiders, are shy, delicate creatures and their bite is only (usually) as poisonous as a bee sting, although you might have an unpleasant reaction if you're allergic to their venom. As pets, they're not meant to be handled too much, and can be fun to observe.

The most common one among all the 800 species found worldwide is the Chilean Rose tarantula. Females can live as long as 20 years, and no, their hairy legs don't turn grey when they get old (although they do go bald in some spots)!

All spiders belong to the class Arachnida (er-ak-nid-aa), as do scorpions, ticks, mites and a few other kinds of creepy crawlies. There is an interesting story behind how the word Arachnida came about. Arachnida comes from 'Arachne' (er-ak-nee), who in Greek Mythology was a young woman from Lydia who boasted that she could weave better than the patron goddess of weaving herself, Athena. A contest was held and, angered by Arachne's challenge, Athena turned Arachne into a spider.

Stories apart, spiders - and tarantulas in particular - make some of the most fascinating pets, and if you can look past their undeserved reputation for being dangerous and 'evil', you'll have an eight-legged, palm-sized friend for many years to come.

A name for your newt

Easy-peasy - I'll bet you can think of names for each one its legs! That would be confusing for the spider, though, so let's just stick to naming the whole hairball instead, what say?

Here are some names for boy tarantulas:

  • Tip-toe Terry
  • Hairy Houdini
  • Daddy Longlegs (although that is actually the name of one of the spider's relatives, otherwise known as the Harvestman)
  • Hagar the Horrible
  • Cliff Climber
  • Sprinting Stanley

Some interesting names for girl tarantulas:

  • Tap-dancing Tessie
  • Hairyet
  • 'Fraidy Freda
  • Granny Grey
  • Lil' Miss Muffet
© 2004 - 2020 Leonard Rego

Before you buy

This is important, so don't forget it. Thousands of people all over the world, including kids, keep tarantulas as pets, but a few people have been known to have bad reactions to tarantula bites. Just to be on the safe side, you should make sure that you're choosing one from among the less venomous types. The best way to keep safe is to never handle your tarantula, and instead look at it through the tank glass.

In any case, pet shops usually sell the ones that are considered 'safe', but don't skip the educational bit, and read up as much as you can about your new friend before you invite him or her home. There are lots of websites that tell you about choosing and caring for tarantulas, and as a responsible pet owner, you ought to check them out.

Also, make a firm decision that if you do want to handle your pet, you won't do it too much. Think of how you'd feel if King Kong kept picking you up and prodding you every time!

Set up a small 5-10 gallon tank that is about two to three times wider than the leg span of the spider, two-and-a-half times as long, and only as tall as its leg span. 2-3 inches of vermiculite can be used as a 'substrate' (the bedding your spider will walk on), covered by a thin layer of chipped bark, which should be available at the pet store. This must be kept damp to maintain the humidity levels. Wood, cork bark, or half of a small clay flower pot can be used as a Hairy's hideaway. Use a locking screen to cover the tank, because tarantulas can climb glass and can easily escape if you leave the tank open. That would make him Hairy Houdini now, wouldn't it!

Remember, the two most important factors in keeping tarantulas healthy are the humidity level and a constant temperature above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Some even require temperatures at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Under-tank heating pads are the safest way to warm Spidey up, and these can be found at stores that keep reptiles. Light bulbs or hot rocks aren't a very good idea because they can burn or dry tarantulas out. A humidity gauge will tell you how humid it is inside the tank, and this level should not drop below 60%.

Choosing your pet

As a pet, the longer-living female is usually a better choice, simply because the males don't live more than a couple of years. Most pet store owners know how to differentiate between the sexes, and can help you with choosing. Don't believe anyone who tells you that the female is the one that has its hair neatly combed back - that's a lie!

Avoid tarantulas that are hunched with their legs curled underneath, or the ones that are housed without a dish of water. Ask the store attendant to tell you what the scientific name for the tarantula is, so that you can read up in more detail about this type of spider.

Your best bets are the Chilean Rose, Costa Rican Zebra, Mexican Redknee (my favorite) and the Curly Hair Tarantula.

Care and feeding

Crickets, and sometimes other insects, make up a diet a tarantula would be happy with, although you should be very careful to feed it with insects that are totally pesticide-free. You can dust the crickets with a special vitamin powder that some pet shops sell, and a weekly feeding is usually sufficient. For variety, meal worms, super worms and roaches can be fed occasionally. Who likes eating crickets every day, huh?

A very shallow container half-filled with water will provide drinking water and help keep the humidity up.

Be careful, as mentioned earlier, to handle your tarantula only very occasionally. If you drop this spider even from a very low height, it could hurt its delicate abdomen and even die. In fact, this is the reason why you should have a tank that is only as high as the spider's leg span.

Your spider will shed its skin through a process called 'moulting' about two or three times a year. During this time, it will eat less frequently, and you may even find it lying on its back, but don't be too worried. This is perfectly natural, and let Spidey do what he has to. You can learn more about moulting in the book you buy, or online on various websites dedicated to this beautiful spider.

Tarantula Trivia

  • Tarantulas - in fact, all spiders - are arachnids, and not insects. Insects have only six feet, while spiders have eight.
  • Tarantulas are often killed by wasps called tarantula hawks. The tarantula hawks sting their prey and use the dead tarantula's body to lay an egg in. The offspring larva feeds on the tarantula's leftover body parts!
  • Tarantulas have eight closely grouped eyes, but funnily enough, their vision is not great.
  • The largest spider in the world is the Goliath Bird-eating Tarantula. It feeds on frogs, small snakes, beetles, lizards, bats, and sometimes even baby birds kidnapped from their nests.
  • Tarantulas have retractable claws, just like cats.
  • Some tarantulas can get as big as dinner plates.