Caring for Your New Tarantula
Inside scoop from Aqualand Pets Plus re Big Spiders

 
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Warmer climes all over the world

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LA
Mexican red leg -- pretty tarantula.  Easily handled.  Cute face.  Do not drop.

In History.  In the middle ages, Italians danced the “tarantella” -- so called because observers thought the exuberant dancers jumped around as if suffering from Tarantula bites.

LA
You saw a rose hair in the "Home Alone" movie.  Very mellow tarantula.

LA
You won't see one of these starburst baboon tarantulas -- nasty disposition.

LA
To make 'em meaner, just blow on them.

LA
Starburst baboons WANT to bite you.

In Movies.  A few decades ago, the movie “Tarantula” featured gigantic Tarantulas that ate mobile homes.  (Thanks to Jim Small for correcting this incredibly important historical Hollywood footnote.  Pick up your Aqualand T-shirt prize next time you come into Aqualand, Jim.)  Years later, a cinnamon Tarantula walked across James Bond’s chest in one of his screen adventures.  And Indiana Jones found himself covered with Mexican red-legged Tarantulas in his very first action-packed movie.  And let’s not forget John Goodman in Arachnophobia.

LA

In Real Life.  Let’s face it, Tarantulas fascinate people.  We enjoy the way they walk like little wind-up toys.  Tarantulas usually walk tentatively, as if walking on thin ice.  We’re always surprised when they literally leap to capture their food.  Hungry Tarantulas can move very fast when pursuing prey.

Not for Everyone.  Tarantulas make fascinating and easy to keep pets.   Although, not everyone loves the hairy little beasts.  If you avoided seeing the movie “Arachnophobia,”  then the Tarantula is not a pet for you.  But for most of us, something about Tarantulas gives them a “mystique” of their own.

LA Pic
Small Critter Cages were made for tarantulas.

Cage Requirements.  Female Tarantulas spend most of their lives within two feet of their burrow.  Any Tarantulas seen out roaming are males looking for a good time.  A 10-gallon aquarium gives a Tarantula all the space it needs.  The slightly smaller plastic critter carriers with locking lids and the glass critter cages with sliding lids also make perfect choices.  They even allow enough room for decorations.  A proper cage serves a higher purpose than merely imprisoning your spider.  The cage also protects your spider from harm.

LA
Tarantula shipping containers.  A dozen rose hairs.

LA
Baby tarantulas take even less space.

LA
Tiny baby red leg tarantula living in her tiny burrow.  She eats baby crickets.

LA
Here's an even smaller baby white leg tarantula.  You can't mix them.

 

Loners.  Keep your Tarantulas in separate cages.  Most will fight to the death if housed together.  The winner eats the loser.  Dividers rarely keep them apart.  They are dedicated arguers.  The only Tarantulas that live together are the slightly smaller Pink Toes – a type of tree-dwelling Tarantula.  We don’t see Pink Toes as often these days.

Low Maintenance.  No cold morning or evening walks required.  No neighbors complaining about your Tarantulas howling at the moon or decorating his backyard.  No shoveling smelly piles out of your own backyard.  A semi-monthly cleaning will usually suffice.

Vacation Time?  If you feed your Tarantulas well before going on your summer vacation, no one needs to come over daily and feed them for you.  Your Tarantulas can skip meals for a couple weeks, if well fed ahead of time.  They will need water during this fasting period.

Menu.  Tarantulas eat most any insects.  They fare well enough on crickets, but it’s always a good idea to vary their diet.  Give them some mealworms, superworms, or an occasional roach to expand their menu.  No animal thrives on a single food.  Change their food occasionally. Forget most caterpillars.  Oddly enough, many Tarantulas learn to eat goldfish.

Provide Water.  Keep a small water dish in their cages.  Tarantulas expire very quickly when kept without water.  (Forget that nonsense about them living in the desert.)  Putting a little blob of aquarium filter floss in the container lets them rest on top and drink their water at leisure.  The new desert-oriented water dishes look very good in Tarantula houses.

Cricket Saver.  Crickets drown in the tiniest amounts of water.  Put a rock, piece of wood, or filter floss in your Tarantula’s water bowl, so that any crickets that wander in can climb from the water easily.  Smoky (former middle name the) Bear says, Only you can prevent cricket drownings.

LA
Bottoms up shot of a grey baboon cruising his cage lid.  He's too fast for us to open his cage.

Keep Covered.  Tarantulas like to climb.  Whatever you keep them in needs a lid.  They can also lift the lids off unsecured cages.  They can easily climb up the sides of a glass aquarium.  They use their invisible web strands to affix handholds to otherwise slick surfaces.

LA
Cobalt blue tarantulas look for an argument at all times.  Avoid spiders when they "rare up."

LA
Generally, if a tarantula builds a web, it does not like you and will fang you.  Nice looking fangs.

Deadly Fangs?  Will Tarantulas kill you?  Of course not.  Most could puncture you.  Not likely, but they could.  If your Tarantula rares up on its hind legs, quit pestering it.  It’s ready to fight.  Rose-hair Tarantulas rarely get ticked off.  They adjust to people very quickly.  Some have described their sting as somewhere between a mosquito bite and a bee sting.  Take their word for it. Don’t try it at home.  Do not pester the web builders.

LA Pic
Ticked off tarantulas throw their body hairs at whatever threatens them.

Irritating Hairs.  The Tarantula’s main line of offense involves grabbing hairs from the back of its abdomen and throwing them at enemies.  A clutch of fiberglass-type hairs in the eyes of the wiliest coyote will change its mind about snacking on a Tarantula.  Tarantula hairs have been sold as itching powder for years.  Wash your hands after handling them. Better yet, do not handle them.

Handle with Care.  You’re in little danger from handling most Tarantulas. Your Tarantula is the one that’s in danger.  If you drop your Tarantula on the floor, he’ll crack like an egg.  He might live another week, but he’s as good as dead. Duct tape will not hold your tarantula together again.  Nor will all the king’s horses and all the king’s men.

Cage Floor.  Some critters live better over certain types of surfaces.  Tarantulas don’t really care.  Use whatever you like.  We’re partial to the more colorful substrates that show off the spiders better.  Some fans use damp vermiculite.  Vermiculite makes them nearly invisible. Tarantulas love to dig huge burrows if you give them lots of moist vermiculite.

Provide a Cave.  Most Tarantulas like a hiding place such as a cave or rock to hide behind or under.  Even a piece of decorative wood or an overhanging leaf will serve their purpose.  They strive to re-create the security of their burrow.  Or give them enough damp vermiculite to dig their own burrow.

LA
Pink toe tarantula on the left with recently shed skin over on the right side.

Long Lived.  Tarantulas live several years -- over a decade.  They shed their old skin as they grow.  They shed quite frequently during their first year.  Unfortunately, there’s no reliable way to determine their current age.

LA
On her back and ready to molt.

Molting.  Tarantulas “molt” or shed their skins as they grow.  If you look in the cage and think you see two spiders, relax.  Your spider just molted.  Most replace lost limbs and regrow new “hair” when they molt.  They get inactive right before and immediately after they molt.  Don’t chuck yours out if it suddenly stops moving -- even if you find it lying on its back.  Newly molted Tarantulas are soft and vulnerable for a few days.  Leave them alone.

Sexing.  During their last year of life, males develop “hooks” on their front legs.  That’s the only way you can tell the sexes apart – and only during their last year of life.  The females are usually much plumper.   Males are leaner but not meaner.  If you plan to breed them, remember that hungry female spiders may eat their mates.  Tarantula females are not as bad as black widows, but be prepared to rescue your male.  

LA
Female rose hair carefully guarding her very large egg case.

LA
Another rose hair with an egg case containing hundreds and hundreds of hungry spiderlings.

Breeding.  You get lots of spiderlings from your female Tarantula.  Unfortunately, their favorite food is other spiderlings.  Put each one in its own tiny container (plastic tube with moist substrate).  Unless you have a good supply of fruit flies or pinhead crickets, you won’t raise many baby Tarantulas.  Most breed in October and lay their eggs next June.  

Note:  The two gals above laid their eggs in October.  We will wrap their critter cages in panty hose to keep the tiny spiderlings from infesting our entire store.  Then we intend to put a 100 or so in pill bottles with some moist vermiculite and grow them for a while.

Good Selections ...

Rose-Hairs Tarantulas.  Easy to get along with.  Tarantula owners like these because they will crawl on their owners and shock their friends.  Be the first kid on your block to get one.  Their hairs have a pinkish tinge.  As they mature, they get rosier and prettier.

Cinnamon/Tan Tarantulas.  About the same as a rose hair in shades of brown.  Mild-mannered also.

Redlegs/Red Knees.  Mexican Red-Legged Tarantulas are easily the prettiest Tarantulas.  Unfortunately, we can’t import them into our county anymore.  Maybe they were running out in Mexico?  The ones reared in captivity cost an arm and a leg.  And ours will not grow back.

Note.  Remember Indy escaping from the treasure cave totally covered with Mexican Red-Legged Tarantulas?  Probably the best scene in the whole movie.  Thousands of dollars worth of very pretty, potential pet spiders.

Other Embargos.  Haiti occasionally embargoes their spiders.  As a result, many spiders cost almost double what they cost a few years ago.  Tarantula availability varies from day to day for a variety of reasons.

Striped-Knee Tarantulas.  Almost as good looking as the red legs (but not quite).

LA
Pink toe tarantulas are cute little acrobats.

Pink Toe Tarantulas.  Rather dainty looking, these neat little guys and gals live together in groups – the only variety that gets along with its own kind.  They are tree dwellers who also love to climb all over their cages.

Ungood Choices ...

LA Cobalt tarantulas get even nastier when you pester them.  Great fangs.

Cobalt Blues.  These particular tarantulas are usually unfriendly.  They’re looking for an argument most of the time.  Not a kid’s pet.  

LA
Ornamental chevron.  Fast runner.  Fast biter.  Not a starter tarantula.

LA
Indian ornamental.  One of the prettiest tarantulas.  Do not handle.

LA 
Relax.  We're just fooling with her shed skin.  Nice fangs.

LA Pic
Guyana skeleton-leg tarantula.  Pretty but not the best type to play with.

Baboons.  Several different types of Baboon Tarantulas can be found from time to time.  Most are argumentative.  They move very fast when they want to, and they bite.  Not a kid’s pet.

Banana Tarantulas.  “Six-foot, seven-foot, eight-foot bunch, Hide the deadly black Tarantula.”  These used to come in on bananas all the time.  They’re not really deadly, but they’re not really friendly either.  (They’re probably the Black Woolies.)  We will ask Harry Belafonte when we have lunch next time.

LA
Peruvian bird-eating tarantula -- not very excitable.

LA
We had to pester her a lot to tick her off.  All tarantulas hate being blown on.

Bird-Eaters. Bird-Eating Spiders also show up occasionally.  These guys get large enough to catch birds.  These are some of the larger Tarantulas.  Reputedly with an “arm span” large enough to span a dinner plate.  Well, at least they eat birds (baby birds).  

LA
Goliath tarantulas show up very well over lighter substrates.

Goliath Tarantulas.  This is the largest of the bird-eating spiders.  Give all the Bird-Eating Spiders extra room.  We’ve only owned a few Goliaths in our career.

LA
King baboon at rest, en garde, and at lunch (Madagascar hissing roach).

King Baboon.  Very pretty.  Very aggressive.  Very expensive.  Not your best starter tarantula.

LA Pic
Baby Venezuelan sun tigre much enlarged -- body about one inch in real life.

LA Pic
Black trap-door tarantula at one-inch size.  Looks nasty.

LA Pic
Bald-butted tarantulas usually get new hairs on their next molt.

LA
Let's face it.  Tarantulas are pretty.

LA
Skeleton-leg.

LA
Mexican orange-leg tarantula. Pretty and mellow.

LA
Starburst baboon -- very pretty.

LA
2-inch Brazilian red & white.

 

LA
1.5-inch Martinique bird spider.

LA
3-inch salmon pink bird eater.

LA
Under 2-inch Iowa wolf spider.

LA
Goliath bird eater.

LA
Just shed pink toe.  Very mellow tarantula.

LA
Another cobalt blue -- pretty.

Great Pets.  Most Tarantulas adjust to captivity quite easily.  They settle down and seldom threaten their owners. The Blue Cobalts, Starbursts, and Baboons are the most easily upset of the ones we’ve seen.  They’re always mad.  However, many Tarantulas make very easy pets to keep.  LA.

© 1980, © 2002, © 2003, © 2004, © 2005, © 2006  LA Productions

James Bingham, January 11, 2006
First off, this email is not meant as an attack, more as a help.  Your section on tarantulas is obviously based on personal experience and NOT fact.  It is also obviously aimed at new owners/buyers to entice them into the hobby.  Let’s go through your web page... step by step. 
The Starburst baboon, easy to find... the reason you SHOULDN'T see one is it is a borrowing spider, meaning it NEEDS to have a good bit of soil, not rocks to dig its home in... most experts use coconut shells ground into a dirt substance as the substrate for their spiders.  This makes for great burrows.
The next picture you tell people to blow on them.  Lets kick the dog and pull the cats tail too?!?!  As a retailer, you should tell people how to properly CARE for the pets they purchase from you, not how to irritate them... but it is your website.  Your Starburst probably wants to bite you because you have irritated it, and the fact it is not able to dig a hole to escape you.
On to the next mistake.  MOST Tarantulas are not slow, Just let one of your pinktoes loose, or better yet one of your Ornamentals!  The arboreal (tree dwelling spiders) are VERY fast. 
Critter cages are NOT good for housing spiders, Most spiders will do anything to try to get out, especially if they are not housed properly, (burrowing spiders in deep dirt, terrestrial spiders with a home to hide in, arboreal spiders with a tall tank with silk or real plants to climb and hide in).  The holes in critter cages are just the right size for a spider leg to get caught and torn off.  Spiders can die from lost limbs... uncommon but it can happen.  Just imagine an angry new pet owner who lost an Ornamental because of a lost limb, a lot of money spent and he probably won’t be back to buy more spiders, at least from you.  These are also very hard to control humidity in. 
Web builders do not equal a species that will bite.  All spiders can bite.  All will when forced.  The key is knowing which ones are MORE likely to, and not provoking any into a state where they see a human as a threat.  Misinformation, lack of proper housing and tormenting spiders will usually get a person bit. And there are some that CAN be deadly.  Ornamentals are very venomous and there is no demand for anti-venom in the U.S.  Not likely a killer, but an allergic reaction could be fatal. 
Most Tarantulas are defensive in nature, not offensive.  When a spider flicks it’s urticating hairs, it is to give it time to escape.  Not all spiders will do this, some will skip it and just attack, i.e. Cobalts and Ornamentals.  If they cannot hide or run away, they will bite if given the chance. 
Dropping.  Most spiders will die if dropped, but arboreal spiders are designed to float. 
Tarantulas DO care what they live in!  Take your Cobalt and put him in a cage that is 3/4 full of substrate.  He’ll dig a hole, and only come out when it is dark.  Terrestrials need a little substrate and a place to hide, Arboreals need a tall tank so they can climb.  I would suggest Swift Invertebrates website to get an idea of which are which... There are just too many to list and I have no idea what species you keep.  Then there is the temperature/humidity mixture.  Each species comes from a specific climate, and thus needs to have the temp and humidity set for that area. 
Sexing is possible and there are many breeders who will sex a spider for free (cost of shipping a molt).  Again visit Swift or Michael Jacobi’s Spider Shoppe for the information.  I have two Indian ornamental and a Versicolor which have been sexed by Michael in the FIRST year. 
Your paragraph on breeding is OK, although anyone who is really wanting to breed will most likely go do some research on their own and find out about their particular species.
Even though you may not be able to import redlegs, they are still available through captive breeders.  Most give discounts for wholesale buyers.  It is always better to go with captive bred as this does not upset the ecosystem.
Pinktoes are not the only spiders that can be caged together.  Many species can house siblings together, as long as the cage is large enough.
Now for what really got me... you have pictures of a “Martinique bird spider.”  It is actually a Martinique tree spider, or the current common name is the Antilles Pinktoe.  My wife and I currently have two of these beauties.  She has a sub-adult female, and I have a 3 month old baby.
Now to your last paragraph... your list of “most easily upset” spiders... try housing these where THEY are comfortable, and yes they will still be aggressive, that is their nature, but they won’t be as easily upset either.  Their hairless butts will go away, making them more likely to sell.  Please do some research on the BEST way to care for your spiders, so you can instruct your customers...
I hope you found this informative and can use the information.  Please feel free to double check the information.  I have studied long hours before ever purchasing my spiders.  They do make great pets, and are very lovely.  Thanks for your time

A:  Thanks for YOUR time James.  Actually I prefer this type of letter to the “love your web site” comments.  You’ve provided some good info.  Most of my comments were for tarantulas in general as opposed to species specific comments.
We stock about 80 tarantulas, some 20 species, but we sell mostly rosehairs.  We recommend rosehairs to most people, but there are some aficionados out there who prefer the more exotic species.
I’ve added your comments to my Q&A page and to my tarantula page.  Thanks again for your time.  LA

LA
This weird critter crawled out of this Cost Rican tiger tarantula.  The tiger died.

LA
Looks like the larvae of an insect.  The tiger was in captivity for the last six months.  Was ist?

 

Jennifer Garson, June 3, 2006
I did a bit of research online after viewing your page with the photos of the dead tarantula with a maggot.  I thought the following information might be helpful to you:
Parasites

Not all species that associate with tarantulas are beneficial. Tarantulas fall victim to a diverse range of parasitic organisms. Of these the most well known are the tarantula hawk-wasps. Females of these large wasps seek out large spiders including theraphosids on which to lay their eggs. Once a wasp has located a tarantula, it lures it from its burrow and delivers a paralyzing sting through one of the spider’s flexible membranes (e.g. a leg joint). The paralyzed spider is then entombed within its own burrow or one dug in advance by the wasp. The wasp deposits a single egg on the immobilized spider and seals the burrow with soil. On hatching the wasp maggot proceeds to devour the still living spider which eventually dies. The fully developed maggot then pupates and emerges from the burrow as a large, metallic tarantula hawk-wasp. There are also parasitic flies that have maggots which burrow into the spider and feed internally. Prior to pupation they burst out of the spider’s abdomen killing it in the process. Some mite species are also tarantula parasites. These tend to be white in color and attach themselves to membranous regions on the spider’s external surface. Unlike the other parasites, these do not usually lead to the death of a tarantula unless the tarantula is weakened by secondary factors. In captivity mites have been seen to die out over time which suggests they may need secondary hosts or specific conditions to complete their life cycles.

A:  Thanks for the research, Jennifer, but this tarantula was not immobilized.  In fact, it was in captivity half a year before the larva of "whatever" emerged.  If the tarantula had become torpid, we'd have suspected a wasp larva.  It was entirely asymptomatic.  But I think you're right, the "thing" was about the right size.  How and when the tarantula could have been parasitized, is still a mystery.  LA

LA
1-inch Avicularia amazonica (maybe).

LA
Just arrived, very ticked off, Thai tiger with obvious fangs.

LA
Sunburst baboon blurry because we couldn't take his lid off.

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Red Parrots Spawn
Pikes
Pink Tilapia
Rams
Red Bay Snooks
Roger Stephen's Cichlids
Severums
More Severums
Severums III

Tanganyikans
Texas Cichlid
Texas Spawning

Texas Spawn II
Uarus
Misc Cichlids I
Misc Cichlids II
Misc Cichlids III
Misc Cichlids IV
Misc Cichlids V
Misc Cichlids VI
Misc Cichlids VII
Misc Cichlids VIII

Livebearer  
Guppies
Half-Beak
Mollies
Moons/Platys
Swordtails

Minnows/Tetra 
Barbs
Barbs, Black
Barbs, Gold

Barbs, Rosy
Barbs, Tiger
Barbs, Tinfoil

Danios

Distochodus
Fathead Minnows
Headstanders
Killies, Econ.
Killies, Golden
Killies, Peat
Killies, Plant
Misc Mini-Fish
Pacús 

Piranha, Black
Piranha, Red
Rainbowfish

Rainbowfish, Dwarf Neon
Rainbowfish, Irian

Silver Dollar
Tetras, Larger
Tetras, Smaller
Tetras, Spawn
Tetra, Vampire
White Clouds

Pond Fish
Carp
Channel Cat
Gold. Comets
Gold. Fantails
More Fantails
Gold. Oriental  
Gold Oriental II 
Gold. Spawn
Kloubec Koi Farm
Koi
Koi II

Koi III
Plecostomus
Shubunkins

Oddballs  
Af. Butterfly
Af. Lungfish
Af. Mudskippr
American Eel
Archer Fish

Arowana
Bichirs
Borneo Suckers
Brackish I
Brackish II
Brackish III
Brackish IV
Brackish V
Michael Troung's Pix
Butterfly/Wasp
Chameleon Fish
Chromides

Chin Alg Eater
Crazy Fish
Crocodile Fish

Datnioides

Dojo
Electric Cat
Electric Eels

Elephant Nose
Exodon paradoxus
Flounder
Gars
 
Glassfish
Goby Bumble
Goby Butterfly
Goby Dragon
Goby Misc.
Half-Beak
Knife African
Knife Clown
Knife Ghost
Loach Botias
Loach Clown
Loach Kuhli
Loach Weather
Moray Eel  
Peacock Gudgeons
Polypterids
Puffers

Ropefish
Scats
Siam Algae Eater
 
Spiny Eels 
Snakehead
Stingray
Stonefish
Wasp Fish
Wolffish
Wrest Half-Beak
Misc Mini-Fishes
Misc Odd
Misc Odd II
Misc Odd III
Misc Odd  IV

Misc Odd V

Sharks  
Bala
Black
Bull
Chinese Hi-Fin Banded
Iridescent
Red-Tail
Siam Algae Eater

Pond Info 
Blank Park Zoo
Bob Humphrey's Ponds
Cattails
Maffett Reservoir
DMACC's Pond
D.M. Botanical Center
D.M. Water Works
Dr. Ervanian's Garden
Duckweed

Dwarf Lily
Ewing Park "Pond"
Jan & Chris's Water Garden
John McDonald's Pond
Hall's Four Acres
Klines' Water Garden
Landscaper Effects
Mini-Pond Pics
Pioneer Corn's Pond
Pond Fish Predators
Pond on 38th Street 
Pond Pics
Pond Plants
More Pond Plants
Pond Plants III
Reiman Ponds
River Scenes
Riverview Island
Selin's Water Gardens
Selin's Japanese Garden
Tom's Used Cars Pond
Urbandale Duck Pond
Water Hyacinth
Water Lettuce
Wild Ponds