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When most people think of pets, they typically think of animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, and other cuddly creatures. Most people’s thoughts do not automatically turn to spiders. In fact, countless individuals are completely terrified of these eight-legged creatures and would never dream of having something like a tarantula in their home. However, if you are one of those who are not afraid of, and indeed are fascinated by, tarantulas, you might be interested in finding out whether they make good pets.
The Benefits of Tarantulas as Pets
If you are considering a tarantula as a pet, remember that spiders are completely different to dogs, cats, etc. that will interact with their owners and can be handled and loved. Tarantulas as pets are similar to fish as pets in that they are more about being observed rather than being handled. But this can be a good thing for some people.
If you prefer a pet that does not require a lot of handling, then a tarantula might be the perfect choice. These creatures are quiet and unobtrusive. They typically grow to a maximum of eight inches, meaning they do not take up a lot of space in a home. They also have fewer needs, and are less expensive to buy, than other kinds of ‘regular’ pets.
When it comes to maintenance, tarantulas are actually quite easy to look after. They only need feeding about once a week; some species of tarantula will even fast for months at a time.
What Do You Need for a Tarantula?
While tarantulas are easy to care for, there are a number of requirements in terms of the initial setup. The main thing you’ll need is a tarantula tank, which is where your spider will live. An ideal size is around 12 x 8 inches. The sides and bottom of the tank should be made from glass, and it should have a mesh lid to allow your spider to breathe (but to also stop it from climbing out).
Since tarantulas are cold blooded creatures that hail from hot countries typically found in the Southern Hemisphere, they may require artificial heating if you do not live in a warm part of the world. Heating lamps or heat pads are the usual choices, and these can be purchased online or at a local exotic pet store. However, the vast majority of tarantula owners (and this writer puts herself into this category) do not advocate using artificial heat sources as these could dry out your spider. Better just to ensure the room the spider is kept in is warm enough (even room temperature is fine in most cases).
Once you have a tank, you will need to make sure that it has a suitable substrate base (to almost ‘mimic’ the spider’s natural environment) as will allow the tarantula to behave more naturally (tarantulas like to burrow). You could use coir, which is condensed coconut shell. This is sold in brick form and needs to be soaked in water before being placed in the tank. If interested, Amazon has a range of coir products; click here to take a look. Alternatively, try using chemical-free potting soil or compost.
Tarantulas require a humid environment, so you will need to regularly spray/mist the tank. If you allow the tank to get too dry, the tarantula could become unwell and possibly even die. A water dish from which your tarantula can drink is also essential. Choose a shallow dish with around an inch of water.
Why a Tarantula Might Not Make a Good Pet
If you love spiders and are happy to have one in your home, there are many advantages to choosing a tarantula. However, you do need to be aware that these are creatures that should not be handled regularly. Although mostly docile, tarantulas can bite and may do so when feeling threatened. If you are looking for a pet that you can hold and play with, a tarantula is not a good choice.
While you might like spiders, you may not be too fond of bugs and insects. If this is the case, you might need to revisit your idea of getting a tarantula as a pet. The reason we mention this is that tarantulas are carnivores, and they eat, for the most part, live insects.
If you think you might struggle handling worms, crickets, or cockroaches, you should probably avoid a tarantula. Some larger species even eat small lizards and mice; this itself is enough to freak some people out.
You should also be aware that even if you are completely unfazed by spiders, countless others aren’t so keen on them. This could mean friends and family members not wanting to visit you while you have a tarantula in the house!
It is best to think about the pros and cons of having a tarantula as a pet before committing to getting one. Tarantulas can live up to twenty years, so consider whether you would be happy to commit to this. You should also contemplate how your circumstances might change going forward and if a tarantula will continue to fit into your life.
If after thinking long and hard you are sure that you want one of these fascinating arachnids, then you will have a wonderful pet that will be amazing to watch.
- Featured Image (Skeleton Tarantula): Psychonaught – This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
- Mexican Fireleg: Micha L. Rieser
- Acanthoscurria gomesiana: Source: Hector M. O. Gonzalez-Filho, Sylvia M. Lucas, Felipe dos S. Paula, Rafael P. Indicatti, and Antonio D. Brescovit (2012) “On the Taxonomy of Acanthoscurria Ausserer from Southeastern Brazil with Data on the Natural History of A. gomesiana Mello-Leitão (Araneae, Mygalomorphae, Theraphosidae)”, International Journal of Zoology, vol. 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/721793 Figure 1 – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
- Blue Foot Baboon: Quengsalinas – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
- Brazilian Red Birdeater: Hectonichus – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
- Trinidad Dwarf Tarantula: Morkelsker – public domain
- Chaco Golden Knee: PavelSI – public domain
- Acanthoscurria theraphosoides: Sjl197 – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.