While tarantulas are certainly some of the most taboo creatures out there with people loving and despising them, they've become quite popular pets within the past few years.
Despite their reputation, many people have found them to be surprisingly great pets. There are over 800 different types of tarantulas, so there seems to be a species for everybody.
Owning a pet tarantula is very different from owning other animals, though. Tarantulas are more of a collector's piece than an addition to your family. If this is what you're looking for, however, then you really can't find a better pet than tarantulas!
Pros Of Pet Tarantulas
With such an incredible animal, it makes sense to first focus on the many pros that come with tarantula ownership. There are quite a few benefits to owning tarantulas as opposed to other pets like cats and dogs.
If you bring home a pet tarantula, you can expect to experience the following pros:
Tarantulas are very discrete creatures that won't take up a lot of space in your life. Of course, tarantulas come in many different shapes and sizes, but there are very few that have a legspan of over a foot.
In fact, most tarantulas only grow to a legspan of around 6 inches!
This small size makes tarantulas very easy to house, taking up very little space in whatever room that they're kept in. With this small size comes discretion as well.
So, if you live with roommates or family members that aren't fans of pets running around, tarantulas will stay far out of their way.
Just like with size, tarantula lifespans vary greatly depending on their species. Additionally, females live on average about 4-5 times longer than males, so it's recommended that you purchase a female tarantula so that you can get the most enjoyment out of them.
Regardless, female tarantulas typically live between 10 and 30 years, with many species sitting around the 20 year mark. This is an incredibly long time, long outliving many other pets.
So, if you purchase a young female, you'll likely have the same pet tarantula for a couple decades!
Pet tarantulas are very easy animals to maintain and don't require a lot of time or money annually. The care requirements of a tarantula involves feeding them, lightly cleaning their enclosure, and making sure that their humidity and temperatures levels are optimal.
Essentially all that you need to do is construct an optimal tarantula enclosure, make sure everything is perfect for them, and then maintain that enclosure indefinitely!
If you buy a small spiderling you will need to move them from a small enclosure to a larger enclosure as they grow, but that only needs to be done once or twice.
Later on in this post we lay out more specifics about how to care for your tarantula and keep them healthy.
If you purchase the right tarantula, you'll be bringing a creature into your home that's an absolute pleasure to watch. First of all, some tarantulas are just beautiful and display bright colors and patterns, much like the popular Poecilotheria metallica.
When they're out and about in their enclosure and the light catches their hairs, you'll be in awe at how majestic these animals are. It's something I never grow tired of.
If the tarantula that you purchase is active, their day-to-day activities will also be a joy to watch. A pet tarantula constructing a web, fortifying its burrow, or hunting down a cricket has a special entertainment factor to it.
This is even more interesting once you've formed a collection of tarantulas and you get to observe how each individual species behaves differently.
Cons Of Pet Tarantulas
While there are many pros to tarantulas, there are also some cons that make them sub-optimal pets for quite a few people. It's important to weigh these cons with the pros to see if a tarantula is truly the right pet for you.
Hard To Interact With
Tarantulas are extremely interesting, but if you're looking for a pet that you can handle and directly interact with, you'll need to look elsewhere. Tarantulas are prey animals, so they've developed very effective self-defense mechanisms that make them dangerous to handle.
Because of this, we can't recommend that you ever handle a tarantula.
There are two main types of tarantulas, and those are old worlds and new worlds. Old world tarantulas possess a nasty bite that delivers venom that can cause anything from mild cramping to severe pain and difficulty breathing.
New world tarantulas mostly don't bite, but they do possess urticating hairs, which are barbed hairs that they fling at prey and result in severe irritation.
Because of this, you should only ever observe your tarantula while they're safely contained in their enclosure.
Tarantulas have aggressive defense mechanisms, but that's because they're actually quite fragile creatures. Very short falls onto a hard surface can break a tarantula's leg or cause devastating internal damage.
This is also why handling tarantulas isn't recommended -- they could jump right out of your hand and onto the ground below.
Additionally, environmental conditions that aren't optimal can result in serious health problems. If it's too hot or humidity levels are too low, your tarantula can suffer from dehydration and die if it's left untreated.
Therefore, they require a healthy amount of monitoring.
Tarantulas are becoming more popular, but a lot of people are still anti-tarantula. If you think that your friends or family will be exposed to your pet tarantula a lot and they're quite scared of spiders, a different pet might be optimal.
Bringing a tarantula into an environment that isn't 100% accepting of it may be dangerous for the tarantula and uncomfortable for those that are forced to be around it.
Hint Of Danger
As stated above, tarantulas possess defense mechanisms that are quite dangerous to people. A well-aimed flick of urticating hairs could enter your eyes or throat, causing lots of pain and irritation and likely requiring a hospital visit.
A bite from a particularly venomous tarantula may not be fatal, but it will cause days worth of pain that you definitely want to avoid.
This is also quite dangerous for your tarantula. If your pet tarantula flicks hairs at you or bites you, you'll likely jerk back in retaliation. This reaction could result in your tarantula being flung across the room -- not good for these fragile creatures.
How To Properly Care For A Pet Tarantula
Many people turn to a tarantula breeder to buy their first tarantula without first knowing how to care for it. It's essential that you know how to house and care for tarantulas in general, in addition to caring for the particular species that you're looking to bring home.
Tarantulas have specific needs in terms of care that aren't difficult to meet. However, it can still be very easy to care for them incorrectly and drastically shorten their lifespan.
Housing A Pet Tarantula
Housing a tarantula is very simple, and an optimal enclosure can be set up within a short amount of time. The first thing that you need to determine is if your tarantula is a terrestrial or arboreal species.
Terrestrial tarantulas require more floor space in their enclosure, while arboreal tarantulas need plenty of height to climb.
Tarantula enclosures don't need to be large, but they need to be large enough for a tarantula to move around and burrow or climb comfortably.
These enclosures have great accessibility, cross-ventilation, security, and visibility -- all factors that define great tarantula enclosures.
Then, you'll just want to decorate the enclosure. For substrate, terrestrial tarantulas need about 6" so that they can create burrows, while arboreal tarantulas only need about 2". This should be a high-quality, moisture-retaining substrate like coconut fiber.
On top of the substrate you should place a suitable tarantula hide, a water dish, and a fake plant or two. Provide your pet tarantula with several things to climb and make webs on, but leave plenty of open space for them to walk around.
Temperature & Humidity
All tarantulas have slightly different temperature and humidity requirements depending on where they originally come from. However, in general tarantulas are kept in 76°F-82°F enclosures with humidity levels between 60% and 80%.
Make sure that you read a care sheet about your specific tarantula species so that you know their exact requirements.
Many tarantula owners keep their pets tarantulas at room temperature, which is usually more than acceptable. However, if your house is a bit colder, you'll need to provide supplemental heating through either a space heater or a very gentle heat lamp that doesn't emit light.
Humidity levels can be maintained through both keeping the water dish filled and misting one side of the substrate as needed. Health problems arise in enclosures that are both too wet and too dry, so try and keep it consistent!
You'll need to monitor your pet tarantula's enclosure conditions with a hygrometer/thermometer tool so that you can make changes when necessary.
A tarantula's diet is incredibly simple and requires almost no effort. Feeding your tarantula several crickets per week (depending on their size) is the majority of their diet.
These crickets can occasionally be supplemented with foods like dubia roaches or mealworms, and a monthly treat could be a pinky mouse or house gecko.
It's important to keep the food smaller than the tarantula. As stated, tarantulas are delicate, so you wouldn't want your pet getting hurt in the process of feeding.
Also note that tarantulas will stop eating for a substantial amount of time before a month, so don't get concerned if they start to refuse their food! It's always better to oversupply food than undersupply it, though, as tarantulas can't be overfed.
What Tarantula Species Makes The Best Pet?
With hundreds of different tarantula species in existence, some are bound to be better pets than others. If you're an experienced tarantula keeper, there won't be many species that aren't suitable for ownership.
However, if you're inexperienced, you should take a bit more caution before purchasing your new pet.
Below we've highlighted some of the best tarantulas for beginners looking to get into the tarantula hobby. All 3 of these tarantulas are new world tarantulas, as old world species don't make the best pets for inexperienced owners.
Avicularia avicularia (Pink Toe) - Any tarantula in the Avicularia species tends to be great for beginners. They're hardy and gentle yet have interesting personalities. As they're arboreal, they aren't the easiest to care for, but they are all-around incredible tarantulas for pets.
Brachypelma albopilosum (Honduran Curly Hair) - A very inexpensive, active, and friendly tarantula that's excellent for beginners. Its adorable appearance and level of activity around its enclosure means that its owners get to appreciate it quite frequently.
Aphonopelma seemanni (Costa Rican Zebra) - A great pet tarantula all-around. It's very attractive, active, affordable, and doesn't show many signs of aggression. They do tend to be nocturnal, though, so daytime visibility may be limited.
Pet Tarantula Species To Avoid
As stated, if you're an experienced keeper, no tarantula is off-limits. However, if you're looking for an easy first tarantula to keep as a pet, there are a few that you should avoid. These tarantulas are "old world tarantulas" -- the kind that are more aggressive and can deliver a painful bite.
This aggression doesn't mean that they're "bad" pets, though. Often it's old world tarantulas that are more active and put on a great show while feeding or redecorating their enclosure. For people that are willing to deal with the hazard, these are awesome pets.
Thinking further down the same line of thought, you may want to avoid fossorial species. The reason why these tarantulas don't make great pets is because they spend way more time down in their burrow than other species. Monocentropus balfouri is a popular example of this.
Questions For Prospective Tarantula Owners
If you've read through this post and still feel like a tarantula is the right pet for you, that's great! However, you should first ask yourself the following questions to make sure that tarantulas align with what you're looking for in a pet.
Are You Looking For An Interactive Pet?
If you are, small furry pets like hamsters or gerbils may be better for you. You should never handle tarantulas because of the potential threat that it poses to both you and them.
Tarantulas are display pets only, so don't purchase one thinking that you'll have it running freely around your room all day.
Can You Commit To This Tarantula For Years?
As stated, tarantulas live for many years. Some species like Grammostola pulchra can live upwards of 30 years! That's over 1/3 of the average human lifespan! Buying a tarantula is a commitment, so be sure to think about where you'll be a decade or two from now.
If you ever get tired of your tarantula, letting it go outside is a death sentence for it. So be sure that you're ready for this creepy commitment.
Do Tarantulas Or Their Feeding Gross You Out?
Surprisingly, some people get tarantulas despite the fact that they're creeped out by them! If you aren't the biggest fan of tarantulas but are still planning on getting one for the vanity, think twice.
If you don't love your tarantula, you won't be willing to put in the years of effort to keep them going.
Also consider that tarantulas eat live prey like crickets and roaches. If these bugs gross you out, feeding time for your pet tarantula will be an uncomfortable disaster.
Do Tarantulas Make Good Pets?
In short, tarantulas are incredible pets. They're definitely unorthodox creatures that aren't suitable for everybody, but they're great when kept by the right people. With proper care and precautions, these dangerous-looking animals can make a great addition to your daily life.
You should be the owner of a very healthy and happy tarantula by performing just a few simple tasks like feeding them a couple of times per week, keeping their water dish full, and spot-cleaning their enclosure. Very few other pets have such simple care requirements.
As long as you find a tarantula species that's right for you and your wallet, you can enjoy the presence of your new pet tarantula for many years to come.