As with all invertebrate pets, young tarantulas are altogether more fragile and sensitive than larger specimens.
While it can be much cheaper to purchase spiderlings, extra care must therefore be taken to ensure that they reach maturity without issue.
In today’s article we’re therefore going to discuss some tips and advice for keeping and caring for baby tarantulas. If you’re considering purchasing your first tarantula spiderlings read on for all the information you need to know.
Difficulties with Rearing Tarantula Spiderlings
Freshly hatched tarantulas can be surprisingly small. Some species measure just a centimetre or so across, and it can be quite a shock when you realize that you just paid a considerable sum of money for something that is smaller than a garden spider.
Fear not, however, because you are of course buying based on the potential for this fragile spiderling to turn into a beautiful adult in good time.
Rearing tarantulas from spiderling to adulthood is one of the most satisfying feelings around.
The time taken to reach maturity does of course vary by species. Some fast growing tarantulas like Indian Ornamentals or the so-called “Orange Bitey Thing” may mature in as little as 12-18 months when fed generously.
In contrast, slower growing species like the Mexican Red Knee may take years to reach maturity.
Whatever the case, rearing a tarantula from the tiniest of spiderlings up to adulthood is a tremendously satisfying experience. All that time and attention and effort finally comes to fruition in the form of a beautiful adult spider. Perhaps they’ll even end up having their own spiderlings in time, and so the cycle continues.
The point is this; don’t shy away from purchasing spiderlings. Learning to successfully rear baby tarantulas en masse is a useful skill; it will not only reduce the costs of your hobby, but also means you can successfully culture the species from egg to adult.
There are a number of ways in which spiderlings can be challenging to rear. For one, their small size means that they can easily escape if not housed securely.
Also, the comparatively small containers they are kept in can make maintaining a suitable temperature and humidity a challenge.
Lastly, of course, feeding a tiny arachnid is also not without it’s challenges.
In this article we’ll look at each of these topics in turn, and discuss my own strategies, developed over 20 years of keeping tarantulas as pets, to make rearing spiderlings as simple and successful as possible.
Housing for Tarantula Spiderlings
Spiderlings can be kept in a wide range of different containers. Typically these are made of clear plastic, which is easy to clean, cheap to buy and allows excellent visibility of your pets. The container should also have a tight-fitting lid to prevent any escapees.
For the very smallest of spiderlings, small vials or pill bottles may be used. They can be bought in large packs, ensuring that you always have a suitable supply on hand for future purchases or breeding experiences.
As spiderlings grow, so they can be moved up into ever larger containers. At minimal, the floor area of the cage should be roughly four-times the legspan of your spiderling.
Note that it isn’t always a case that more space if better for tiny spiderlings, as its important that you should easily be able to locate them in the cage to check on their health. A hatchling tarantula in a 30cm long cage might be near-impossible to find.
Additionally, many of us maintain dozens or even hundreds of young tarantulas at any one time, so it’s important to consider how easily the tubs you select can be maintained en masse.
For mid-sized youngsters, with a leg span of around 5cm, I like to use old cricket tubs. These offer a decent degree of space, and excellent visibility. They stack well when I’m growing on a whole batch of spiders, and thanks to all the feeder insects I get through I seem to have a never-ending supply of these tubs.
Other options can work just as well, however, including sweet jars or tupperware boxes.
As a handy guide, here are the exact containers that I am using at present to raise tarantulas from spiderling to adulthood…
Pro Tip: If you’re rearing more than one species of tarantula at a time it’s critical to label their containers correctly. Either use stickers, or write on the container in permanent market pen. This way you’ll always know exactly what species is in which container.
How to Heat Spiderlings
It is no secret that tarantulas require artificial heating in captivity. While adult tarantula cages may be heated individually, with each one possessing it’s own heat mat, this clearly isn’t practical for spiderlings kept in tiny plastic vials. Here a rather different technique is necessary.
The best solution that I have come up with over the years is to heat one large container, and then to place all the individual spiderlings tubs into this. As an example, at present I have a 48″ wooden vivarium like this one set up to rear spiderlings.
I have a heat mat attached to the inside of the cage, stuck to the inner wall at one end. This is attached to a thermostat to ensure the temperature within the vivarium remains within acceptable confines.
The vivarium is then filled from top to bottom with tarantula pots, all of which are kept pleasantly warm within the confines of the well-insulated vivarium. The front-opening glass door slides across, allowing easy access to the spiders.
Each week, when carrying out my routine maintenance, I try to “rotate” the spiderlings in the vivarium, ensuring that each specimen over time receives his or her fair share of time in the warmest part of the vivarium.
Of course, you don’t necessarily need to invest in a system quite as large or complex. Smaller vivariums can work just as well when you’re raising smaller number of tarantulas.
Alternatively, some keepers opt to keep all the tubs loose, but instead heat the room itself. A stand-alone oil heater or suchlike can be left on around the clock to maintain a comfortable temperature of around 25’C.
Humidity for Spiderlings
Like most living creatures, tarantulas need to be able to drink in order to survive. At the same time, providing an open water dish for dozens of tiny spiders is unlikely to be a realistic prospect.
Then of course there’s the way in which a reasonable humidity is useful for tarantulas when moulting, helping them to extricate themselves from their old skin without issue.
Moisture is therefore of critical importance.
For ease, start off with a sensible substrate in the bottom of each spiderling pot. This will help to control moisture, and avoid your poor tarantulas sitting in a soggy environment.
You then have two options for maintaining humidity.
Firstly, you can gently mist the individual spiderling pots during your routine maintenance.
Alternatively, we can follow a similar regime to the use of a vivarium for heating purposes. Firstly, ensure that each spiderling pot has suitable ventilation. It may be necessary to use a needle, drill or soldering iron to gently create a few holes in each tub. This should allow the free movement of air, yet be small enough to prevent the escape of your spiderlings.
From here, ensure that the inside of the vivarium is kept suitably moist.
This damp air will, be default, find its way into your spiderling tubs, thus achieving the same goal. Humidity can easily be monitored in the “kindergarten vivarium” using a digital hygrometer.
Whatever option you choose, keep a close eye on the individual containers in your collection. In cases where excess moisture build-up is visible, you should individually dry off the tubs a little with some kitchen towel.
How to Feed Tarantula Spiderlings
The larger that your tarantulas get, the easier the process of feeding becomes. By the time a tarantula is large enough to eat good-sized crickets (only a few centimetres in legspan) things become nice and easy. The difficulty is feeding spiderlings that are smaller than this.
The tiniest hatchling tarantulas are small enough to require a diet of either fruit flies or hatchling (“pin head”) crickets. Neither of these feeder insects are particularly easy to handle, especially if you’re trying to feed dozens of baby tarantulas each week.
The best solution that I have found is to use a “pooter”. This is in essence a plastic tub with two tubes coming out of it. You place one tube in your mouth, and the other over an insect, then you suck. The vacuum created sucks the feeder insects into the tub. You can then just take the lid off the tub and tip one o two insects into each spiderling pot.
Using this system I can feed dozens of baby tarantulas in a matter of minutes.
Don’t forget that as with older tarantulas, uneaten live food should be removed from the cage if not consumed.
Feeding is possibly the most time-intensive element of the whole process, therefore, especially when you like to try and feed your spiderlings twice a week if possible, to maximize growth rates.
On day one I use my pooter to gather up tiny insects, then tip one or two in each pot. The following day I check all pots, again using the pooter if necessary to remove uneaten food.
Then, a few days later, the whole process is repeated.
Lastly, for ease of feeding I like to number all my spiderling pots. This means that I can very easily identify spiders that haven’t eaten recently, safe in the knowledge that they probably be moulting soon. They can therefore be omitted from the feeding routine until a week or two after a moult.
Raising tarantulas can be a fantastic way to rapidly grow your collection on a budget. It’s also a great skill for all keepers to have mastered before they actually attempt to breed tarantulas for the very first time. As you can see, however, the process is rather more complex and fiddly than when caring for larger specimens.
In truth, once you’re set up with your various tubs, your “incubator” vivarium and your pooter, the process is reasonably simple.
The key is to just get started and develop your own patterns and habits. Once you figure out what works best for you, the whole process becomes a lot easier and more efficient.
And once you know that you can successfully raise dozens of tarantula spiderlings all at the same time, there’s nothing to stop you adding a few more specimens so your collection from time to time 😉