Living Organism Care Guide: Tarantula | Carolina.com

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Living Organism Care Guide: Tarantula

Living Care Information

Brachypelma albopilosum,
Aphonopelma hentzi

commonly known as curly hair tarantula,
wooly tarantula, brown tarantula,
Texas brown tarantula, Oklahoma brown tarantula, Missouri tarantula

Quick Start Information

  • Each tarantula must be housed in its own terrarium. Having the habitat prepared ahead of your tarantula’s arrival minimizes stress on the animal.

  • All tarantula habitats must have a secure lid to prevent escape.

  • Tarantulas can be kept at room temperature and will need a dish of water in their terrarium to help maintain humidity.

  • Tarantulas will eat most insects.

About the Organism

  • The common name, tarantula, is actually a misnomer derived from Lycosa tarantula, the scientific name of a European wolf spider.
  • Tarantulas do not spin webs, but they do use silk.
  • Tarantulas have special hairs on their abdomen that they use as part of a defense mechanism.
  • Tarantulas are nocturnal.
  • Female tarantulas are considerably larger than male tarantulas.
  • Domain: Eukarya
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Arachnida
  • Order: Araneae
  • Family: Theraphosidae
  • Genus: Brachypelma or Aphonopelma
  • Species: Albopilosum or hentzi

Preparation

Tarantulas do not need a large terrarium. At a minimum, the terrarium should be 2½ times the spider’s leg span in length by 1½ times in depth. Tarantulas do best in warm temperatures, in the 24 to 27 °C (75 to 80 °F) range. Mist the terrarium daily. Tarantulas will not thrive in damp conditions, but they do need some humidity—50% to 80% is ideal.

Housing

Tarantula habitats can range from glass or plastic tanks, jars, and plastic storage boxes to custom-built tanks. The tarantula should have enough room to move about; otherwise, container size is not important.

Add about 5 cm of soil as the substrate. A mixture of peat and vermiculite holds moisture well and allows the spider to burrow easily. Coconut bark also makes a nice burrowing substrate for a tarantula. You may also wish to add a small amount of sphagnum moss to help maintain the humidity in the terrarium. Avoid using wood shavings and pure sand as substrates.

Provide a place where the tarantula can hide, such as a cork hollow or tube, plants, ceramic molded products like those used in fish tanks, or floral foam. We recommend using plastic plants for greenery because live plants are often damaged.

Provide water in a petri dish-size container, but add pebbles to the dish to help keep crickets and other live foods from drowning. You can also mist the terrarium daily to help with humidity.

Check the cover to be certain your tarantula cannot escape.

Feeding

Adult tarantulas eat only every 7 to 14 days, and it is normal for them to skip several meals. Feed spiderlings more often—2 to 4 times per week. Offer spiderlings live food items every other day.

Remove any uneaten food, alive or dead, after 24 hours. Tarantulas prefer live crickets or wax worms but will eat most insects. Do not feed captured insects unless you are certain that they are pesticide-free.

Tarantulas may not eat for several weeks before and after molting.

Maintaining and culturing

Your tarantula is more likely to be a female specimen than a male and may live up to 10 years.

Your tarantula may burrow and rearrange its habitat. This is natural behavior. You may observe your tarantula lining its burrow with silk strands that extend to the outside of its burrow. This behavior helps it detect prey.

Spot clean your tarantula’s habitat once a week, and replace the substrate every 6 months.

Disposal

We strongly recommend giving any unwanted organisms to another individual.

We do not advocate the release of organisms into the environment. Please contact your local (state) Department of Agriculture for any restrictions on the release of organisms.

As a last resort, place unwanted organisms in a sealed container in a freezer for 48 hours. Then dispose of the organisms in the regular solid waste.

Biosafety

Wash your hands with soap and water before and after working with any living organism.

Video

There are no suggested videos for this organism.

FAQs

Can I add a plant to the terrarium?

Yes, sturdy plants with lots of leaves that create hiding places work best. Examples include sansevieria, philodendrons, Epipremnum aureum, bromeliads, ivy, and other vines.

Why isn’t my tarantula eating?

Tarantulas are cold-blooded animals and don’t need as much food as an animal such as a cat or dog. Be patient. Adult tarantulas need to eat only every 7 to 14 days, and it is normal for them to skip several meals. Also, they may not eat for several weeks before molting. Spiderlings eat more often—2 to 4 times per week.

I’m worried that the terrarium is too cool. Can I use a lamp to warm it?

Tarantulas are nocturnal creatures, and bright light may drive them into hiding. They are fine at normal to slightly elevated room temperatures. A better solution is to provide a heat pad made for reptiles.

My tarantula is lying on its back. Is it sick?

Your tarantula is molting. Leave it alone, and it will be fine.

Can I handle my tarantula?

It is better not to. If you drop the tarantula or if it jumps, it may be injured. Some tarantulas are placid; some are more aggressive. Tap your tarantula lightly on its abdomen. If it turns to face you or rears up, it is aggressive and should be left alone. Tarantula bites are painful but not known to be dangerous unless the person is allergic. Nevertheless, in the unlikely event you are bitten, seek medical attention.

The hairs that cover the tarantula’s body are irritating to some people and can cause a rash. Never touch your face after handling your tarantula or the inside of its terrarium, and always wash your hands after contact.

How much space does my tarantula need?

Tarantulas don’t need a lot of room. At a minimum, the terrarium should be 2½ times the spider’s leg span in length by 1½ times in depth.

Will my tarantula spin a web?

Tarantulas are not web-weaving spiders. You may occasionally find strands of spider silk in the terrarium, but the tarantula will not create a web.

Will my tarantula reproduce?

Once mated, female tarantulas store sperm in special receptacles. When eggs are deposited, the female releases a mixture of egg and sperm into an egg sac that she constructs. She will guard her egg sac until the spiderlings hatch. Spiderlings should be removed from the parent’s terrarium as soon as they hatch. Tarantulas sold by Carolina Biological Supply Company may have previously mated.

Need help?

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