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Basic Care for Tarantulas

Rose Hair Tarantula

      Many species of tarantulas have been intriguing pets from collectors to children for many years. Most tarantulas have the same basic care needs, but some are more dangerous than others are. You should inquire on the conditions that will suit your species best before you buy a tarantula. I will discuss the basic care for tarantulas, mainly Chilean Rose, Grammastola rosea, and other tarantulas similar to the Rose Hair Tarantula.

Rose Hair Tarantula
Photo by Kristine Murawski.

      You can keep your tarantula in a very simple and inexpensive plastic terrarium or in a more expensive glass terrarium container with a screen lid. Tarantulas do not require plants or decorations, but if you want to make your petís home more attractive, you may choose to decorate the enclosure. Cork bark and larger rocks are nice items to decorate with, avoid items that are sharp or rough in texture. Remember that terrestrial (ground dwelling) tarantulas like more ground space and a deeper substrate. Arboreal (tree dwelling) tarantulas need taller enclosures with a piece of cork bark or similar item to climb. Vermiculite is a very good substrate to use, it holds moisture and it allows the animal to burrow. Also, a combination of vermiculite and commercial potting soil is a versatile substrate. Tarantulas do not do well with the ornamental sand that is often used with reptiles. Some require a high level of humidity that can not be achieved using sand and many tarantulas burrow and this is not possible in sand.

      Tarantulas do require a source of drinking water that you can provide by using any shallow container filled with water. Soup lids can be used for spiderlings and small tarantulas. Shallow bowls work for larger tarantulas. You can also supply water by misting water on the substrate and the sides of the enclosure. Care should be taken to keep a minimum of one moist corner within the enclosure, and gauging the amount of misting to the humidity requirements of your particular tarantula.

      You can keep the temperature for your tarantulas in the range of 70-85 degrees. Red light bulbs are not very suitable for heating spider tanks. It is important that you refer to the specific temperature and humidity needs of your pet tarantula. Remember that the warmer you keep your tarantula, the quicker it will grow and the more it will eat. If your tarantula requires moderate to high humidity, you can provide this by keeping the substrate partially too completely moist. If you use a light for heat and display, be sure to monitor the humidity levels closely, and turn the light off at night. Again, it is important to know the specific needs of your pet. It is advisable to let the temperature decrease as much as 10 degrees at night.

      When a tarantula approaches a molt, it may not eat for at least a week prior to the molt. Remove all uneaten prey items, they can be damaging to a molting tarantula. Be sure that you are maintaining proper humidity levels if your tarantula is approaching a molt. If your tarantula is a species that requires less humidity, then you should mist one corner of its enclosure to insure adequate humidity for an easier molt. Your tarantula will be on its back during the molting cycle. Do not be alarmed, it is not dead. Do not disturb or feed your tarantula for at least three days after molting. It takes several days for tarantulas to harden up and to regain their normal color and mobility after molting.

      Some species of tarantula are known for their docile nature, and hence, are handled by some people. I would recommend learning about your tarantula before handling it. Tarantulas can easily be injured from a fall. In addition, all tarantulas are venomous and have the ability to bite or flick hairs. Tarantulas are untamed animals and are therefore unpredictable.

      Most Tarantulas will eat crickets, moths, wax worms, superworms, houseflies and cockroaches. Do not to feed your tarantula anything larger than it is; usually feed it prey approximately half its size. Some tarantulas are aggressive eaters and will eat prey up to as large as they are. You should always feed any of your animals prey items that you are not contaminated with pesticides. You may prefer to feed their tarantulas purchased prey items like crickets and meal worms or raise their own cricket (although this is noisy). Offer your tarantula 1 to 3 prey items two to three times a week, depending on the size of the tarantula and how much it will eat at one time. Some larger tarantulas will eat pinky mice. To process their liquid meals, tarantulas have developed an extensive digestive tract consisting of an esophagus, sucking stomach, midgut, and excretory organs. Such an efficient system permits the tarantula to go for over a month without eating. You may want to remove prey that have not been eaten within 24 hours, because having his/her lunch crawling over him/her can be stressful and may kill tarantulas if left too long. It is advisable to remove the remains of any prey items so that they do not cause unhealthy conditions for your pet.

      A tarantula has a heart and lungs similar to mammals, but tarantulas have an exoskeleton instead of a spine. The slender heart tube is connected by ligaments to the exoskeleton. Blood pulses out of branching arteries and into the open body of the tarantula and then returns to the heart through a series of slits, or ostia, located along the wall of the heart. Tarantulas breathe when air moves through the tarantula's four book lungs where oxygen diffuses into the bloodstream. Stacked side by side are alternating spaces of air and blood, which resemble the leaves of a book, hence the apt name of book lung.

      At least three different silk glands reside within the tarantula's abdomen. While inside the glands, the silk is liquid. The transformation to a solid thread results from tension when the silk is excreted through spinnerets. This is how the tarantula spins its web.

      The tarantula's precarious courtship begins prior to coupling with the male spinning a sperm web. After completing the web, the male deposits droplets of sperm onto the surface. He then loads the bulbs of his pedipalps, short, leglike appendages near the mouth, with the sperm droplet and pursues a female. After locating her, the male gently subdues her with caresses, then bends her backwards and inserts his palpal bulbs into her reproductive slit. Following copulation, the male scrambles away since females occasionally kill their suitors.

      The tarantula's abdomen swells with eggs just prior to their release into a cocoon. Packed with energy, the egg cell's yolk contains all the energy needed for the embryo to develop into a juvenile tarantula.

      I've had my rose hair tarantula since 1999.

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