So you’re planning to buy your very first tarantula? If so, welcome to the hobby! However, before you take that giant step to tarantula ownership there are a number of things you should carefully consider…
Based on my experiences of chatting to new tarantula keepers over the years I thought it would be useful to make a list of these. So before you bring home your Rose Haired tarantula or your Brazilian Black ensure you have suitable answers to the following questions….
Have You Fully Researched Their Care Requirements?
These days it is easier than ever before to find tarantula care information – whether that is through blogs like this one or on YouTube.
That means there’s really no excuse not to do your research, ensuring that you have a full understanding of how to keep the species you have set your heart on.
Is Your Cage Positioned Appropriately?
Tarantulas can be sensitive animals, and correctly positioning their cage can help to ensure your success. For example, you’ll want to make sure that your tarantula’s cage doesn’t receive direct sunlight (where a glass tank can overheat like a greenhouse in the summer).
I have a detailed article considering these elements here.
Is Your Heater Working Properly?
Unless you’re lucky enough to live somewhere really hot then you’re going to need to artificially heat your tarantula cage. This is especially important in the winter months, where there can be a huge difference between the tropical 25’C temperature that your spider will enjoy and your cold, unheated house while you’re out at work.
So don’t just buy a heater and assume all will be well; instead invest the time to set up the cage and heater, then monitor it for a few days to ensure all is well. A thermometer is recommended to help you track temperatures over this period, easily allowing you to confirm all is well.
Do You Have the Necessary Time & Passion?
Tarantulas are awesome pets, but they’re generally not the kind of animal that we build a “bond” with. As a result, there is a temptation to see tarantulas as easily “disposable” pets – something to enjoy for a short period of time and then to get rid of in the future when the passion dries up.
Before taking on the care of any live animal it is therefore crucial to be honest with yourself. Is your desire for a pet tarantula really just a passing fad, or are you certain you’ll maintain your interest for years to come?
Additionally, while the weekly time commitment of keeping tarantulas is much less than for other pets like fish or dogs, there is still some commitment. Therefore it is wise to make certain you will have a little time each week for feeding, cleaning and any other routine maintenance required.
There is little more frustrating than seeing people giving up their pets because they just don’t have the time.
Have You Selected the Correct Substrate?
Over the years opinions have changed considerably when it comes to the “best” tarantula substrate. Once upon a time it was normal to use substrates like gravel, sand or even Astroturf, but things have moved on.
Not only do the substrates we use today differ quite significantly to the early days of the tarantula hobby, but furthermore you may want to add a decent depth of substrate in which they can burrow. You’ll find detailed information on tarantula substrates here.
Does Your Tarantula Have Somewhere to Hide Away?
Very few tarantulas will willingly sit out in the open during the daylight hours. Instead, they’ll hide away, out of view, to ensure they don’t become dinner for something larger. In captivity, providing your tarantula with a hide of some kind will help to ensure that they feel safe and behave normally.
Additionally, the more skittish tarantula species seem far more likely to bolt for freedom when you open the cage if they don’t have a hide. There are plenty of options available, though arguably a suitably-sized piece of cork bark is the most effective (and attractive) option.
Does Their Cage Allow Suitable Ventilation?
There is little more guaranteed to result in a sick – or even dead – tarantula than a cage that is dripping wet. Such an environment allows fungi, bacteria and other pathogens to gain hold which can quickly lead to demise of your tarantula.
Therefore when selecting a suitable tarantula cage you’ll want to ensure that it has suitable ventilation in the form of air holes or a section of mesh, allowing the air to circulate properly.
Where Will You Get the Food?
Tarantulas will, on the whole, eat live insects. Typical food items include roaches, locusts and crickets. A question to ask yourself, therefore, is where you’ll get these insects regularly. You’ll also want to ensure that you have the budget to regularly buy new feeder insects.
If you live in a very rural area, like the wilds of Canada, it may not be easy to source suitable insects, even via mail order. As a result, you may end up having to breed your own insects; another “hurdle” to consider before investing in your first pet tarantula.
What Will You Do At Vacation Time?
One final consideration is what you’ll do at vacation time. After all, very few pet boarding services will accept your eight-legged friend. Fortunately, there are a number of potential alternatives which I’ve written about here.