Although tarantulas are hairy, scary, venomous and downright creepy, their popularity as pets is on the rise, especially with people whose landlords have put the kibosh on larger pets like cats and dogs.
OK, I sound a little biased. It’s not that I’m scared of spiders — I’m not — I just don’t understand the appeal of pet tarantulas. I like critters I can cuddle with at night. If I tried to cuddle a tarantula…well, it would not end well for the spider. They’re very easy to squish. But not everyone shares my opinion about this hairy arachnid.
“Tarantulas are slow-moving and do not usually bite unless threatened,” says Molly Keck, Texas AgriLife Extension Service integrated pest management specialist. “Though scary-looking, tarantulas actually make docile pets.”
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There are about 800 species of tarantulas living on almost every continent, including North America, Europe, Australia, Africa and southern Asia, but the greatest population is in South America. In their native habitats, they burrow into tunnels they’ve dug in the ground or live in trees, making nests of spun silk.
Pet Tarantula Care
Your tarantula will be happiest living in a 5- or 10-gallon aquarium topped with a secure mesh screen. Line the bottom of the aquarium with 1 to 5 inches of substrate (affiliate link), depending on whether your tarantula likes to burrow, and place a heating pad under his habitat.
He’ll also need an area to hide in, like a half-log, as well as branches, rocks and leaves to make him feel more at home.
Although he doesn’t need a light, you can use a red light for spider habitats if you’d like to see him better at night.
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Tarantulas eat crickets or other gutload insects (affiliate link). Keep a shallow dish of water in his habitat.
Watch this video to learn how to pick up a pet tarantula with your hand:
Although tarantulas would probably rather not be handled, as pets they don’t really have a choice in the matter. If you want to handle your tarantula, be gentle and move slowly. Not only are they easy to crush but also they’re venomous.
Don’t be too scared, though. Tarantula bites are about as serious bee stings.