Care and Keeping of Tarantulas - Veterinary Medicine at Illinois (2023)

Tarantulas May Live 10 to 30 Years

Not all “furry friends” have fur. Some people choose tarantulas as their family companion. Dr. Krista Keller, a board-certified specialist in zoological medicine at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, says big spiders need attention and love, just like a dog or cat does.

“The most common tarantulas in the pet trade are the Chilean rose tarantula and the Mexican red-kneed tarantula,” says Dr. Keller. “Overall, they are pretty easy keepers, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t require care.”

Prospective tarantula owners should be ready to make a long-term commitment to their pet. Males may live as long as 10 years, and females may live past 30! Owners also need to understand general spider husbandry to keep their arachnid family member happy and healthy.

Where Do I Keep My Tarantula?

Dr. Keller advises housing your tarantula in a 20-gallon aquarium or larger. The aquarium should be kept in a quiet area of the home that is not too bright, because an area with commotion and brighter lights may be stressful for most tarantulas. As many tarantulas can climb the glass sides of the enclosure, a tight fitting and locking screen top should be used to reduce escape.

“A big spider should be given enough room to move and walk around in so it can exhibit its normal behaviors,” says Dr. Keller. In addition, at least one hiding area should be provided to these shy creatures. Simple hiding areas can be a flower pot turned on its side or commercially available hiding places sold for reptiles.

The substrate that covers the enclosure floor should be a soft, absorbent material such as coconut coir, over which some species of tarantula may make a thin web. A few rocks can be added to allow for climbing opportunities. “Make sure the rocks are arranged in a way that the spider cannot fall and get injured, nor the rocks fall on the spider,” warns Dr. Keller.

“Most tarantulas enjoy a temperature range between 70°F and 85°F,” says Dr. Keller. “Ceramic heaters, under tank heaters, or whole room heaters work the best.” She recommends keeping a thermometer in the tank to ensure that the enclosure does not become too hot for the spider. The heat source should not emit light, because tarantulas usually shy away from light sources.

What Do I Feed My Tarantula?

As carnivores, tarantulas need live food sources. “The easiest food sources to offer are gut-loaded insects, including crickets, mealworms, king worms, silkworms, dubia roaches, or horn worms.” Tarantulas can also eat young vertebrate prey, such as pinky mice, but this source of food can be inherently messier.

“Some people may be tempted to drop several crickets or other prey items into the enclosure at one time to feed their spider throughout the week. However, this practice may lead to injuries from the hungry prey insects biting the tarantula,” explains Dr. Keller.

She recommends giving your big spider food and then removing whatever it doesn’t eat within about 10 minutes. Feeding your spider a few times a week should provide a sufficient amount of food.

Dr. Keller warns that your tarantula’s water dish can be a hazard. “Deep dishes can lead to drowning, so place a low dish of water in the enclosure and refill it daily,” she says.

When Does My Tarantula Need Veterinary Care?

Common reasons to bring your spider to a veterinarian include oral nematodes and problems with the molting process.

“Oral nematodes are a common infectious issue in tarantulas,” explains Dr. Keller. “A veterinarian can remove the nematodes while the spider is under anesthesia.” Clinical signs of oral nematodes include decreased appetite and white material around the mouth parts. Occasionally, several anesthetic episodes are required to clear the infection. Tarantulas that are hatched in captivity are less likely to be affected by this problem.

The molting process in tarantulas involves the spider shedding its outer layer and crawling out of its old exoskeleton. It is a remarkable process. Usually, tarantulas will fast and refuse food for a period of time prior to the molt.

“This is a normal physiologic fast,” says Dr. Keller. “When the tarantula actually begins to molt, it will lie on its back and not move. Molting can last anywhere from 15 minutes to a full day, but owners who aren’t familiar with the process sometimes rush their tarantulas to the veterinarian. It’s important to understand that the tarantula shouldn’t be moved during molting.”

One of the coolest things about owning a spider is that after the molting process, a complete, empty exoskeleton is left behind that you can show your friends! If you have any questions about big spider care or are considering a tarantula as a pet, contact your local exotics veterinarian to ask about breeders and how one could fit into your life.

By Hanna Netisingha

Image by Christine Sevdas from Pixabay


Do veterinarians treat tarantulas? ›

When Does My Tarantula Need Veterinary Care? Common reasons to bring your spider to a veterinarian include oral nematodes and problems with the molting process. “Oral nematodes are a common infectious issue in tarantulas,” explains Dr. Keller.

How much does it cost to take care of a tarantula? ›

On a monthly basis, your main cost for a tarantula will be its diet. This can range from around $5 to $10, and you can even decrease that cost if you raise crickets yourself rather than purchasing them from a pet store. For periodic substrate changes, expect to spend between $10 and $20.

How do you take care of a tarantula? ›

Care for tarantulas is relatively easy: Feed them once or twice a week depending on their hunger levels, keep humidity high in the cage (if a tropical species), and make sure that there are no crickets in the cage when the spider moults or else the cricket will kill the spider.

Do vets see tarantulas? ›

Yes and no. Most veterinarians won't have any experience performing treatments on tarantulas. They do have the tools, skills and medications necessary to treat some minor tarantula illnesses. They can be “tranquilized” safely to allow you to work on them without them struggling or biting.

How often do you need to clean a tarantula enclosure? ›

Tarantulas aren't generally very messy, so their habitats only need a little bit of cleaning on a day-to-day basis. Otherwise, all you have to do is do a deep cleaning of your spider's terrarium once every 4-6 months.

Are tarantulas medically significant? ›

tarantula, while sometimes painful, has no serious medical consequences for humans.

What is the life expectancy of a tarantula? ›

-A female tarantula can live 20 - 25 years. A male tarantula only lives about 7 - 8 years. -During most of the year tarantulas are nocturnal and stay close to their burrows.

What is the easiest tarantula to take care of? ›

Some of the best tarantula species for beginners are Brazilian black, Chilean rose, Mexican red-knee, and curly-hair tarantulas. These spiders are known to be fairly hardy and docile as well as tolerant to some handling.

Do tarantulas like to be held? ›

Generally, tarantulas respond to daily handling. They crawl freely when placed on an arm or shoulder, but they definitely are not a pet that an owner can cuddle. Tarantulas are very timid and bite only when provoked.

Do I need to mist my tarantula? ›

Mist the terrarium daily. Tarantulas will not thrive in damp conditions, but they do need some humidity—50% to 80% is ideal.

Do tarantulas need light or heat? ›

Heating. A temperature of 21-24°C is required for most of the tarantulas that you should buy as a beginner. If you have a centrally heated room which stays at that temperature all the time then you won't need extra heating during the winter, but you will between spring and autumn when the heating is switched off.

Do tarantulas remember people? ›

Tarantulas Just Aren't That Into You

Spiders do have feelings, but unlike a dog or a cat, they won't bond with you. In fact, they likely won't even recognize you. They simply aren't hardwired to be companions to humans and should never be bought at pet stores, online, or anywhere else.

What happens if a pet tarantula bites you? ›

If a person gets bitten by a tarantula, the bite will probably feel a lot like a bee sting, with pain in the area of the bite. It will look like a bee sting, too, with redness and some swelling. Because the tarantula's venom (poison) is weak, it's unusual to have more severe reactions involving other parts of the body.

Are tarantulas happy as pets? ›

Though their large, furry bodies may suggest otherwise, tarantulas are considered to be calm and quiet pets. Most species of tarantulas are considered to be docile, especially the Chilean rose-hair, the Mexican red-knee, and the Brazilian black tarantula.

How do you prevent mites on tarantula enclosures? ›

Thoroughly clean the secondary cage with bleach water and set it up with fresh substrate. Two days later move the tarantula back into the secondary cage and thoroughly clean the original cage. Switch the tarantula back and forth as many times as necessary to eliminate the mites.

How many times a day do you feed a tarantula? ›

A good rule of thumb is to offer insects that are half the spiders legspan or slightly smaller than the length their body. Feeding a Tarantula everyday will allow it to grow very fast. However, offering food every 4-7 days for young spiders and 7-10 days for larger spiders is a reasonable regimen.

What do tarantulas need in their tank? ›

Your tarantula will be happiest living in a 10-gallon terrarium or aquarium. (More on that below.) Your spider will also need an area to hide in, such as a half-log, as well as branches, rocks and leaves to make your tarantula feel more at home.

What is the most harmful tarantula? ›

Sydney funnel-web spider. According to the Guinness World Records, the Sydney funnel-web spider, Atrax robustus, is the most dangerous spider to humans in the world. Native to Australia, this poisonous spider is found in moist habitats such as under logs or in gardens.

What are the dangers of a tarantula? ›

Fever, nausea, and vomiting occur rarely. In general, the effects from tarantula bites are mild. A greater health risk is from contact with the spider's hairs. Contact of the hairs with the skin causes lots of inflammation including pain, redness, itching, and swelling that can last for weeks.

What is the most aggressive tarantula? ›

Of course, there are aggressive tarantula species out there. One of the most famous is the Cobalt Blue Tarantula from Asia. They are popular among pet spider fans, because of their amazing blue coloring, but also famous for their ill temper and aggressive nature.

What do you feed tarantulas? ›

Tarantulas inside cages are still carnivores, so they need live food sources. The best choices of food for tarantulas in captivity are gut-loaded insects, mealworms, dubia roaches, crickets, and other invertebrates. Larger pet tarantulas can also be fed with small pinky mice, frozen or thawed.

Do tarantulas ever bite? ›

If a tarantula bites you, you may have pain at the site of the bite similar to a bee sting. The area of the bite may become warm and red. When one of these spiders is threatened, it rubs its hind legs across its own body surface and flicks thousands of tiny hairs toward the threat.

What is the friendliest pet tarantula? ›

The best beginner spider would be a tarantula such as the Chilean rose, Mexican Redleg, or Costa Rican Zebra. These species aren't terribly venomous and are pretty docile when compared with some other tarantulas (their venom is comparable to bee venom).

How high maintenance are tarantulas? ›

Unlike a dog or a cat, these animals do not require much care. They can go for weeks without food or water, although some regular care is still needed and recommended. Tarantulas do not generate much waste either, and so cleaning their cages is easy as well.

What kills a tarantula? ›

Pesticides and spider-removal sprays are available, although they are not always absorbed well by tarantulas. Cypermethrin and Bifenthrin are two chemicals often found in liquid sprays designed to eliminate spiders. Liquid sprays need to be sprayed directly on to the tarantulas and tarantula's webs.

Do tarantulas need light? ›

For lighting, tarantulas require a 12-hour light/dark cycle. This means that they don't need any specific ultraviolet light but if they are housed in a room that does not provide enough light, use a fluorescent bulb to create 12 hours of visible light each day.

Do tarantulas go to sleep? ›

Spiders do not sleep in the same way that humans do, but like us, they do have daily cycles of activity and rest. Spiders can't close their eyes because they don't have eyelids but they reduce their activity levels and lower their metabolic rate to conserve energy.

Do tarantulas need bedding? ›

Substrate (Bedding)

Most tarantulas and scorpions do very well with a deep layer (2”-4”) of coconut fiber bedding as substrate. Depending on the species of tarantula and what habitat it comes from, it can be kept dry or slightly moist (see the species profiles at the end for more details).

Will a tarantula chase you? ›

One of the most-interesting parts of the tarantula is their fangs, which they use to subdue their prey with venom. Tarantulas are aggressive and will chase you. Myth: Tarantulas are not aggressive, but if they feel threatened, they could run towards you a short distance. .

How big should a tarantula enclosure be? ›

A good rule of thumb for terrestrial species is that the floor space of the cage should be 3-4 times the size of the tarantula when its legs are extended. In other words, if you could hypothetically clone your pet, you should be able to put 3-4 of them into the enclosure without them overlapping.

Should you wash your hands after holding a tarantula? ›

Always wash your hands after handling a tarantula. Be aware of its posture. Call the poison center or consult with your physician if you develop pain and redness in one or both of your eyes, or respiratory issues.

Do tarantulas like to swim? ›

Tarantulas have been found to "swim" in both the wild and captivity, using their front legs as paddles to "row" on the surface of the water. They won't be deep diving, but they can paddle.

Do tarantulas like heat or cold? ›

Tarantulas do best at warm temperatures, in the 24 to 27o C (75 to 80o F) range. Mist their terrarium daily. Although tarantulas will not thrive in damp conditions, they do need some humidity; 50 to 80% is ideal. They prefer live crickets, but tarantulas will eat most insects.

How long does it take for a tarantula to grow to full size? ›

Depending on the external conditions such as temperature or humidity, males can reach maturity within three to seven years, and they typically live for only one year after their last molt. Females, however, reach maturity in four to ten years and then can live to be as old as 25.

Do tarantulas cry? ›

Do spiders cry tears? No, spiders don't have tear ducts. Their eyes have hard and dry surfaces so they don't have to be moist.

What is the smartest spider? ›

Portia fimbriata, known as the Fringed Jumping Spider or often just as Portia is renowned as the world's most intelligent spider. It is a spider hunter which modifies its hunting strategies and learns from situations as it encounters them.

Do tarantulas carry rabies? ›

It's impossible for spiders and insects to be rabid. Only mammals (including people) are capable of being infected with the rabies virus.

What is the most painful tarantula bite? ›

Try not to annoy the king baboon spider, a tarantula native to Tanzania and Kenya: Its excruciating bite can cause days of pain, swelling, and muscle spasms in humans.

What happens if you breathe on a tarantula? ›

“They can break them off by kicking them off the rear end of their abdomen, and the hairs float through the air. If you breathe them in, or get them in your eyes or between your fingers, they itch like crazy.”

Do vets treat tarantulas? ›

When Does My Tarantula Need Veterinary Care? Common reasons to bring your spider to a veterinarian include oral nematodes and problems with the molting process. “Oral nematodes are a common infectious issue in tarantulas,” explains Dr. Keller.

What do I need to know about owning a tarantula? ›

Though common pet tarantula species are docile, they can easily spook if you are trying to handle them and squirm out of your hand. Falls are nearly always fatal for tarantulas, as their abdomens rupture easily. In addition, tarantulas can and will bite you if they feel threatened.

Are tarantulas friendlier than spiders? ›

Many people flinch in horror at the sight of them. These big, beefy spiders strike fear in the hearts of arachnophobes everywhere, but in fact, tarantulas are some of the least aggressive and dangerous spiders around.

Do vets work with spiders? ›

Spiders aren't often brought to the veterinarian for treatment so there's little risk of you ever having to decide between letting a creepy crawly die or saving it with your skill.

Do veterinarians deal with insects? ›

Veterinarians prevent and treat bugs and parasites in pets that can also affect human health, like ticks and worms.

Do you need to go to hospital if you are bitten by a tarantula? ›

DO NOT use it to treat or manage a tarantula spider bite. If you or someone you are with is bitten, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Are there spider vets? ›

Spiders that require medical attention will need to visit a specialist – yes, there are vets who deal with invertebrates!

What is a spider specialist called? ›

Definition: Arachnologist : A person who studies spiders, mites, ticks, or scorpions.

What is a doctor of spiders called? ›

Myth: Physicians, exterminators, and entomologists can identify spiders. Fact: Only arachnologists have the highly specialized skills needed to identify spiders, which take years of concentrated study to learn.

What a vet should not do? ›

We all tend to have a slightly glamorous vision of veterinary careers.
Do not:
  • Save every pet. I know we all want desperately to save every pet that comes our way. ...
  • Worry. ...
  • Skip a vacation. ...
  • Get into the drama. ...
  • Eat all the donuts. ...
  • Bring your baggage. ...
  • Take your boss for granted. ...
  • Pass up a veterinary convention.
Jul 29, 2015

What are Doctor of bugs called? ›

entomologist Add to list Share. If you are crazy about spiders, ants, beetles, and other creepy-crawlies, you might aspire to be an entomologist someday — a scientist who studies insects. An entomologist is a specific type of zoologist, or animal scientist.

What animals do veterinarians work with the most? ›

Companion animal veterinarians treat pets and generally work in private clinics and hospitals. They most often care for cats and dogs, but they also treat other pets, such as birds, ferrets, and rabbits.

Can you get sick from a tarantula bite? ›

Fever, nausea, and vomiting occur rarely. In general, the effects from tarantula bites are mild. A greater health risk is from contact with the spider's hairs. Contact of the hairs with the skin causes lots of inflammation including pain, redness, itching, and swelling that can last for weeks.

Do pet tarantulas have poison? ›

Tarantula toxicity is a rare occurrence. There are over 900 species of tarantula, and they are popular as pets. While tarantulas do possess venom, the vast majority of tarantula-related injuries occur as a result of urticating hairs.

How do you anesthetize a tarantula? ›

To anesthetize the tarantula, he advised soaking a piece of cotton wool in isoflurane and simply placing it in the container with the spider. Wait about 5 minutes, he added, until a sufficient plane of anesthesia results.

What does a tarantula enclosure need? ›

Your tarantula will be happiest living in a 10-gallon terrarium or aquarium. (More on that below.) Your spider will also need an area to hide in, such as a half-log, as well as branches, rocks and leaves to make your tarantula feel more at home.

What will a vet do for a spider bite? ›

Antibiotics may be required in some cases to aid in the fight against infection. Most bites heal in three weeks or less. When dealing with a Brown Recluse spider bite in dogs, complications and death are extremely rare. In severe cases, wounds may necessitate surgical treatment, and permanent scarring is a possibility.


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