Tarantulas – Keeping Exotic Pets http://www.keepingexoticpets.com Tue, 26 Dec 2017 10:39:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.8 How to Handle Tarantulas http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/how-to-handle-tarantulas/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/how-to-handle-tarantulas/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 07:00:05 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1955 If there’s one question I hear more than any other it’s whether or not I handle my tarantulas. The answer often disappoints: not all tarantulas can be handled safely, while it is generally considered better not to handle even the more docile species. The reason is simply that handling even friendly tarantulas can still pose […]

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If there’s one question I hear more than any other it’s whether or not I handle my tarantulas.

The answer often disappoints: not all tarantulas can be handled safely, while it is generally considered better not to handle even the more docile species. The reason is simply that handling even friendly tarantulas can still pose risks to both you and the spider in question.

From your own perspective, even docile species which are unlikely to bite may have the irritating urticating hairs which can lead to itchy, blotchy skin afterwards.

More importantly, from the perspective of your tarantula, dropping a spider can lead to serious issues. In more extreme cases the soft abdomen can rupture, leading to almost certain death.

For this reason I rarely handle my tarantulas, except when proving to arachnophobes how docile many tarantulas really are, and that they have nothing to hear. Handling a tarantula, in my experience, really can be one of the very best ways to get over a lifelong fear of spiders.

But let’s put this aside for a moment, and assume that you want to handle your tarantula. How is this best achieved?

How to Pick Up a Tarantula

hold tarantula photo

Over the years a number of methods for picking up tarantulas have been suggested. Some are easier than others. Some are also much safer for you and the spider. In this article I’d like to discuss my preferred method for picking up and handling tarantulas…

  • Test the Tarantula’s Attitude

Tarantulas are wild animals. They don’t get tame with consistent handling; instead a species (or individual specimen) is typically either docile-enough to handle or not. That said, as wild creatures a range of factors can affect how docile a tarantula is on any given day.

A good example is a tarantula that is coming up to moult can be far more aggressive than normal. A hungry spider, too, may be more likely to try and bite you in the hope you are edible.

A smart first step is therefore to start by testing your tarantula’s reflexes. This I do with an inanimate object such a pen or, ideally, my long forceps. Simply gently nudge the rear end of the spider and watch for their reaction.

A tarantula that turns round and attacks the forceps, hisses, or reveals their fangs is likely best left alone for now. If the spider remains still, or gently moves forward away from your probing object is a much safer bet.

  • Hold Out a Flat Hand

Assuming your tarantula has not responded badly to the initial contact, the next step is to place your flat hand infront of the spider. This should be placed flat on the floor of the cage, directly infront of them.

  • Coax the Tarantula Onto Your Hand

Next, using your pen or forceps (or spare hand if you’re feeling brave) gently and patiently coax the tarantula to climb onto your hand by applying encouragement from behind. In time, the tarantula should gently walk onto your flat hand. When all feet are on your hand – rather than on the cage floor – you can move onto the next step.

  • Move Your Hand Over a Low, Soft Object

Once the tarantula is sitting fully on your outstretched hand it can be gently lifted out of the cage, trying hard to remain slow and calm, and to keep your hand flat. From here aim to move your hand – and therefore the tarantula – over a soft object.

Placing your hand over a bed, for example, is a good idea. In this way, should your spider be unlucky enough to fall, they won’t have far to go, and will land safely on a soft, springy surface that will prevent injury.

  • Move Your Hands as Necessary

At this stage you should feel free to enjoy handling your tarantula. Keep a close eye on them, moving from one hand to the other as necessary. This is also the ideal time to let them gently walk onto the hand of anyone else who would like to hold them.

If you are new to handling tarantulas, or are letting someone else hold your spider, be particularly aware of spider climbing gently up your arm. Be ready to block their ascent if necessary.

  • Place the Tarantula Back Into Their Cage

Once you’ve finished handling your tarantula it’s time to place them back into their cage. Here there are two options. The easiest is to place your hand next to the top of their cage, allowing them to gently walk off your hand into their cage.

A second alternative is to place your flat hand back into the cage, flat on the floor, before allowing your tarantula to walk off it.

  • Coax Them Off Your Hand

If necessary, it may be necessary to use your pen or a spare hand to gently shepherd them off your hand, and onto the floor of their cage.

When all eight of your tarantula’s legs are safely within their cage can you remove your hand and gently close the lid, making sure not to get any of their legs caught.

  • Wash Your Hands Thoroughly

Lastly, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after completion. While no transferrable diseases between tarantulas and humans are known, washing your hands is still recommended.

This ensures they are hygienic, reduces the chances of being affected by urticating hairs that may have been kicked off in the handling, and if you have other tarantulas it also prevents the risk of any cross-contamination.

Photo by Iain A Wanless

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How to Move Aggressive or Fast-Moving Tarantulas http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/move-aggressive-fast-moving-tarantulas/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/move-aggressive-fast-moving-tarantulas/#respond Mon, 24 Jul 2017 07:00:52 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1957 Moving aggressive and/or fast moving tarantulas from one cage to another can be a difficult exercise. Do it wrong and you could end up with a nasty bite mark or a missing tarantula in reward for all your effort. If you’re therefore graduating up from “docile plodders” like Chilean Roses or Mexican Red Knees then, […]

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Moving aggressive and/or fast moving tarantulas from one cage to another can be a difficult exercise. Do it wrong and you could end up with a nasty bite mark or a missing tarantula in reward for all your effort.

If you’re therefore graduating up from “docile plodders” like Chilean Roses or Mexican Red Knees then, it’s critical to learn how to move rather more fiesty tarantulas without risk either to yourself or the tarantula in question.

What follows, therefore, is the system I use to move such spiders having tried out various systems over the years…

Get Prepared

The last thing you want to do when dealing with a difficult tarantula is realizing that you need some equipment you left in another room. I therefore like to start by getting prepared for all eventualities well in advance of any move.

I gather both the existing cage and the new cage into which I will be placing the spider. I also gather a clear plastic tub with a close-fitting lid for the removal process. For all but the largest tarantulas an old cricket tub tends to work well. I also like to grab some long forceps incase I need to move cage decorations or coax a tarantula without getting bitten, and gardening gloves can be useful in some cases too.

Find a Containment Zone

If you’re just getting started keeping fast-moving tarantulas then you’ll be astonished just how quickly they can move when the need arises. Blink and they’re gone.

It therefore makes sense to try and create a “containment zone” so that it’s easy to capture your spider if it makes a run for freedom. Losing a fast-moving tarantula in a busy room can be a nightmare as you gently try to move furniture to keep to the little bleeder!

Personally, my containment zone of choice is the bathroom. I like to place both cages and all my equipment into the bath tub, which many spiders cannot climb up. Even then I add an extra level of protection by ensuring plugs are in, the toilet seat is closed and a towel has been rolled up to block the gap under the door. Now we’re ready for action…

Open the Cages

Once you’re confident that a fleeing tarantula can still be safely contained, the next step is to open the cages. I open the new cage first, making sure the lid is close at hand to close at a moment’s notice.

Then open up the existing tank. From now on you need to be “in the zone” when it comes to concentration – no getting side-tracked or the process may not go as you’d like.

Access the Tarantula

With the cages open, your next task is to gain access to the tarantula itself. Aggressive or fast-moving tarantulas tend not to react well to being poked and prodded, so using your gloves and/or forceps try to gently gain access to them. Move cork bark as necessary for example.

In some cases you’ll find a tarantula – such as Poecilotheria regalis – sits inside their roll of cork bark. You can then just swiftly transfer the whole log into the new cage while wearing your gloves.

In other circumstances, however, you’ll actually need to restrain the spider. This is a lot safer than just trying to nudge it into the new cage, at which point it may dash off at lightning speed in the wrong direction.

Place a Plastic Tub Over the Tarantula

Once I can see the tarantula I then gently yet firmly place the plastic cricket tub over the spider. You may need to be quick to capture the spider, which will often react swiftly.

Once the tub is over the top then the worst of the battle is over, and your fingers should be relatively safe.

Slide the Lid Underneath

Once you have your tarantula contained in the cricket tub, the next step is to gently slide the lid underneath, where your tarantula should clamber over the plastic. The lid can then be secured in place.

Place Into New Cage

With your tarantula carefully and safely now housed in the clear plastic tub with a lid, it is a relatively easy job to transfer the tub into the new cage, ready for the release process.

Loosen the Lid

With the tub in place is it time to remove the lid of the plastic cricket tub. I gently loosen it, then depending on how brave you are, and how aggressive the spider is, either open the lid with your fingers or gently move it aside with your forceps. The spider can then escape from the tub into their new cage.

While you can try to coax the spider out, this often doesn’t end well. Instead, my preference is simply to remove the lid of the cricket tub part way, and then leave it as is. The tarantula will come out in their own time, without dashing off into the distance.

Remove the Transport Tub

The final step, which I often leave to the next day, is simply to remove the now-empty cricket tub from the new cage. This is easily done with long forceps, while leaving the spider well alone in their new home. Mission accomplished!

What are your best tips for dealing with aggressive or fast-moving tarantulas? Have you ever run into any issues? Please leave your experiences in the comments section below so that we can benefit from each other’s knowledge…

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Cheapest Pet Tarantulas http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/cheapest-pet-tarantulas/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/cheapest-pet-tarantulas/#respond Mon, 03 Jul 2017 07:00:36 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1953 Pet tarantulas can vary widely in cost, with more expensive species costing many times that of the cheapest pet tarantulas. When you consider the other initial start-up costs, such as a tarantula cage and heater, finding a cheap pet tarantula ensures you can afford the whole setup – especially if you’re on a tight budget. […]

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Pet tarantulas can vary widely in cost, with more expensive species costing many times that of the cheapest pet tarantulas. When you consider the other initial start-up costs, such as a tarantula cage and heater, finding a cheap pet tarantula ensures you can afford the whole setup – especially if you’re on a tight budget.

But where do you find pet tarantulas that don’t cost the earth?

Cheapest Tarantula Species

There are a number of reasonably-priced tarantulas that you’re likely to stumble across in your search. Typically some of cheapest species of tarantula are as follows…

Chilean Rose Hair

grammastola rosea photo

Possibly the cheapest tarantula of all, the Rose Hair has been a mainstay of the exotic pet hobby for over a decade. Docile in nature, and achieving a respectable legspan of some 5-6”, the Chilean Rose Hair is an ideal starter species. Almost all exotic pet shops will have at least one specimen, which will likely be considerably cheaper than most other species available – even as adults.

Click here to learn more about the Chilean Rose Hair.

Curly Haired Tarantula

honduran tarantula photo

The second most-commonly encountered cheap tarantula is the Honduran Curly Hair. Initially resembling the Chilean Rose Hair in many ways, a closer inspection will reveal that this species is covered in lighter curly hairs presented in a brown background.

Another docile and slow-moving species, the Curly Hair makes another ideal starter species, not least for the fact that it is often available as an adult at very competitive prices.

Click here to learn more about Curly Hair Tarantulas.

Salmon Pink Birdeaters

lasiodora photo

Salmon Pink Birdeaters are some of the largest tarantulas available on the market, and may grow to almost twice the size of Rose Hairs or Curly Hairs. They are therefore perhaps better thought of as a spider for keepers willing to give it the additional space that it deserves.

For those willing to invest in a slightly larger cage, however, the Salmon Pink is a stunning spider, covered in pinkish hairs. Their size also factors into their appearance, making them truly impressive beasts.

Salmon Pinks are very fast growing, easy to breed, and produce a large number of youngsters. As a result, the species is regularly bred in captivity, and specimens of all sizes are commonly available very cheaply indeed.

Click here to learn more about Salmon Pink Birdeating Spiders.

Where to Find Cheap Tarantulas

tarantula photo

While the above species may typically be the cheapest commonly-available species there are of course a range of other ways to save money on your first tarantula. These additional tips can either help you to land one of the above species for even less money, or can sometimes help you secure a more exotic species for a similar price to the above common species.

Wild Caught vs. Captive Bred

Captive bred tarantulas tend to be more expensive than wild caught specimens. The reason is quite simple: the breeder has to put far more effort and money into producing captive bred specimens. In contrast, wild caught tarantulas can simply be imported as adults and then put up for sale. The costs involved can be far smaller, especially when tarantulas are imported in bulk.

That said, before you go out and select a wild caught specimen based purely on price, there are other factors to consider. For one, with an adult wild caught specimen you have no idea how old they really are – and therefore how long they will live.

You also can’t be sure if they have any parasites which might shorten their lifespan, or cause problems for any other tarantulas in your collection.

Lastly, and arguably most importantly, you also need to consider how you feel about removing specimens from the wild unnecessarily, potentially depleting wild populations, just to feed your hobby. In contrast captive bred specimens have none of these potential issues, and so I always recommend tarantula keepers try to focus their attention on captive bred specimens if at all possible.

Consider Tarantula Size

tarantula spiderling photo

In general, smaller (younger) tarantulas cost less than larger specimens. There are a number of reasons for this, but most important is the amount of care and feeding that a captive bred tarantula has received before sale.

It is often possible to save money when buying a tarantula by choosing a smaller specimen than you might ideally like. That spiderling or juvenile specimen will soon grow into a large adult with enough love and care – the only difference is that buying a smaller specimen will require some patience on your part.

Indeed, while I occasionally buy the odd adult specimen, the vast majority of my current collection is made up of spiders of varying sizes, all of which were bought as youngsters and then carefully reared up towards adulthood. Such a policy has the very real potential to save you a load of money – or to enable you to buy several tarantulas for the price you would have paid for a single specimen.

Breeders vs. Pet Stores

We exotic pet hobbyists should do all we can to support our local reptiles shops, but they’re often a very expensive way to buy a tarantula. The reason is that many reptile stores buy their stock from breeders and reptile shows before marking them up considerably.

It is often cheaper, therefore, to buy your first tarantula from a breeder. You can meet these at reptile shows, or via the Internet. Unlike a pet store, however, there is less redress if anything goes wrong – so choose your breeder carefully to ensure you receive the level of support and customer service needed alongside competitive pricing.

Rescue Opportunities

Lastly, be aware that exotic pet owners have an unfortunate habit of putting their pets up for adoption when the novelty wears off. While most experienced tarantula keepers know that their specimens have inherent value, many newer keepers simply want to get rid of their tarantula as soon as possible – frequently offering them for a very low cost, or even for free.

A great way to save money on tarantulas is therefore to keep an eye on your local newspaper, and visit local pet rehoming shelters. There are also many local Facebook groups for exotic pet keepers, as well as websites like Gumtree and Preloved, where exotic pet owners attempt to adopt out unwanted animals.

If you’re able to be patient in order to pick up a bargain then keeping an eye open for rehoming opportunities can often be your very best source of free or low cost tarantulas.

In Closing

As you can see, there are lots of cheap tarantulas available if you know where to look, and what to look for.

That said, it would be remiss of me not to point out the importance of having a proper budget to provide all the equipment that owning pet tarantulas requires. While there is nothing wrong with trying to save money, it is also important to have enough of a budget for cages, heaters, substrate and so on – as well as ongoing maintenance costs such as buying feeder insects regularly.

Photos c/o The Reptilarium & wwarby

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Fringed Ornamental (Poecilothera ornata) Care Sheet http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/fringed-ornamental-poecilothera-ornata/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/fringed-ornamental-poecilothera-ornata/#respond Mon, 08 May 2017 14:06:49 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1498 At first glance, some might mistake the Poecilotheria ornata for it’s cousin Poecilotheria regalis, but look more closely and you’ll find a whole host of differences. Firstly, the colour is subtly different; Poecilothera ornata may have a greenish or even purplish hue in some specimens. Then there’s the size. Poecilotheria ornata, commonly known as the […]

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At first glance, some might mistake the Poecilotheria ornata for it’s cousin Poecilotheria regalis, but look more closely and you’ll find a whole host of differences.

Firstly, the colour is subtly different; Poecilothera ornata may have a greenish or even purplish hue in some specimens.

Then there’s the size. Poecilotheria ornata, commonly known as the Fringed Ornamental, is considered to be the second-largest species of Indian ornamentals (Poecilotheria genus) and may routinely grow to a legspan of 9-10″ across. Second only to Poecilotheria rufililata, this is an epic tarantula both in patterning and dimensions…

Wild Habitat

indian ornamental photoOriginally described in 1899 by Pocock, Poecilotheria ornata has one of the widest ranges of common names seen in the pet trade.

It may be known variously as the Yellow Legged Ornamental, the Ornate Tiger Spider and even the Ornate Parachute spider.

Like all Poecilotheria, the Fringed Ornamental is confined to the Indian sub-continent.

Poecilotheria ornata is a tree-dwelling specialist from Sri Lanka, where the country experiences wide ranging temperatures throughout the year (19-34’C) and two different monsoon seasons, one from May to July, and the second from November to January. It is interesting to note that the average humidity in Sri Lanka is perhaps rather lower than one might expect, hovering around the 50% mark.

One assessment of the distribution of Indian ornamental tarantulas claimed that Poecilother ornata as been found in “Udamaliboda, Deraniyagala, one from the Kitulgala forest reserve and three from the Sinharaja World Heritage Site”.

The same study also examined the wild habitat of Poecilotheria ornata, and recorded exactly where specimens were located. The scientists claim that most specimens were found hiding in tree holes or behind pieces of loose bark.

Interestingly, Poecilotheria ornata is one of the few species to be reported living communally with tiny frogs. The frog, Latin name Ramanella nagaoi, has been found sharing tree holes with the Fringed Ornamental.

It has been suggested that this may be a form of “mutualism” where both species benefit; the frog is protected by the spider, and therefore does not fall prey. The spider, on the other hand, benefits because the tiny microhylid frog protects the tarantulas eggs from parasitic infection, feeding on any tiny invertebrates that make their way into the hole.

Caging

Poecilotheria‘s large adult size, arboreal nature and speed of movement has a large impact on their housing.

While this species does not require as much humidity as some other members of the genus, it is important that their cage is suitably-sized and makes for ease of maintenance. You will not want a full-grown Poecilotheria ornata getting out in your home, especially as the bites of Poecilotheria are considered “medically relevant“.

A cage no smaller than 18″ tall is therefore recommended, and a 24″ tall cage would be even more suitable for an adult.

While the length and depth of the cage are of less importance for tree-dwelling spiders, for such a sizeable captive it does make sense to ensure that the tank is at least 12″ long and deep.

The ideal dimensions would be 24″ tall by 18″ wide and 18” deep, which provides plenty of space for your Poecilotheria ornata to move around. Just as importantly, it makes your life easier with feeding and routine maintenance, giving you a fighting chance of your tarantula tries to make a break for freedom.

While these are fast-moving tarantulas, they seem more prone to running in a vertical dimension; they’re more likely to run up the side of the cage than across the bottom. As a result, cages with a front that opens can be rather more practical than one which involves taking off the lid continually.

Exo Terras work well for this species, offering both suitable dimensions and the locking, front-opening door mechanism.

Smaller specimens can be kept in a range of other containers, from unused plastic sweet jars to specially-built tarantula tanks. Irrespective of the option chosen, it should provide suitable ventilation to prevent the build up of moisture and, by extension, the growth of mould or fungus.

Once again, the Exo Terra performs strongly here as it comes complete with a close-fitting metal gauze lid.

Tank Decor

Keeping tarantulas like the “Orange Bitey Thing“, the Cobalt Blue or the Fringed Ornamental requires thought. These spiders are all fast-moving and are considered to have particularly toxic venom. You’ll therefore want to marry the comfort of your tarantula with the practicalities of maintenance to avoid the risk of an escape, or even a bite.

The first consideration should be in the provision of suitable hides. For Poecilotheria ornata, rolls of cork bark tend to work best. These mimic the loose bark that Fringed Ornamentals would conceal themselves behind in nature.

Be sure to select pieces which have dimension which allows your tarantula to get inside, and of a length that there is space at the end for entry and exit.

The cork bark should then be positioned vertically, giving the impression of a tree trunk. Your spider will be able to hide away inside this bark, accessing it from the top, and then during nighttime hours will come out to hunt. Your specimens may well be found resting gently on the bark in the evening.

I have personally found that the provision of suitable hides like this can make tank maintenance a much easier and less stressful event.

Most Poecilotheria will produce copious amounts of web within the hide to protect themselves, and will stay in there for long periods of time. Tank maintenance can therefore be carried out with relative ease if a careful eye is kept on the hide to ensure your spider remains within.

With patience and, let’s be honest, a little bravery, these hides can also make tank cleaning easier. The whole hide can be gently removed, with spider inside, and placed into a new cage if required. This prevents the potential fun of doing battle with a 10″ rapidly-moving spider and trying to coral it from one cage to another.

Second to the importance of hide provision is the use of a suitable tarantula substrate. Full guidance is given here, but in general you should aim to line the base of the tank with a few centimetres of substrate to help moderate humidity in the cage.

Coconut fibre is arguably one of the best possible solutions, and can be bought from most reptile shops in neat, condensed blocks. Simply soak a block in water for a few minutes and it expands to many times it’s original size. Being highly absorbent, this substrate is perfect for use with tarantulas and also looks fantastic.

Heating & Temperature

A base temperature of around 25’C, provided by a heat mat or heat cable controlled with a thermostat, works well for this species.

As we discussed above, however, Poecilotheria ornata often deals with temperatures considerably higher than this. As a result, this may be one species that appreciates slightly warmer temperatures on occasion; certainly one area of the cage reaching 28’C is unlikely to cause problems, though as always a thermal gradient should be provided.

In this way your spider can easily move away from the hottest part of the cage if it starts to become uncomfortable for him or her.

Water & Humidity

It is considered best practise to provide a water bowl for all species of tarantula, even if they rarely seem to drink from it. At least under these circumstances you can feel confident that your spider will not become dehydrated.

All the same, care must be taken with this species, and the front-opening door of an Exo Terra makes removing and cleaning the water bowl rather easier than top-opening tanks. If you need to reach down 18-24″ to remove the water bowl a long pair of forceps can be used if desirable. These are available up to 12″ in length, helping to make maintenance much simpler (and safer).

Just as importantly as the water bowl, the tank should be sprayed one or twice a week with lukewarm water. This will temporarily raise the humidity in the cage, and allow your spider to drink from the droplets that condense on the walls of the cage. Care should be taken to allow the substrate to dry out partially between spraying, to prevent an unhealthy soggy environment for your spider.

Feeding

Like the other members of the genus, Poecilotheria ornata is a fast growing species with an appetite to match.

If you’ve kept slower-growing species in the past like the Mexican Red Knee or Chilean Rose you could be in for a surprise here. I have had specimens in the past that would eat almost every day, given the option, and would tackle prey items considerably larger than what other species of a similar size might.

Youngsters will thrive on a diet of black or brown crickets, smaller roaches and half-sized locusts. Adults will happily take adult locusts and roaches, and some may even take the odd dead mouse. Specimens of all sizes tend to be reliable feeders, only generally going off food a week or two before moulting.

As tarantulas cannot really be overfed, feel free to feed your specimen as much and as often as they will eat, which will maximize their growth rates. Under such conditions Poecilotheria ornata may reach sexual maturity in just 18 months or so – quite an impressive rate of growth for any tarantula!

Handling

Poecilotheria ornata is definitely not a tarantula to handle, having potent venom combined with a skittish and fast-moving attitude.

As described earlier, possibly the best method of moving this spider when necessary is simply to transport it within it’s hide; moving the whole thing from one cage to another.

In cases where this is impossible or undesirable I find that the use of clear plastic containers can work well. The container should be roughly the same length as your tarantula’s legspan. When the spider is out exploring the cage, the tub can be gently but firmly clamped over the top of the spider.

Be sure not to trap or damage any limbs, which is simple enough when a clear container is used. When you’re happy that the spider is trapped safely, the lid of the tub can be gently slid underneath. The tarantula will step over the lid, essentially sealing it into the tub. Click the lid on firmly and remove the tub, complete with tarantula.

When it comes to releasing the tarantula there is no need to poke and prod him to get him or her out of the tub. Far easier is to gently loosen the lid, then place the whole tub into the new cage. Remove the loosened lid completely and leave the tarantula to make their way out in due course. The now-empty tub can then be removed the following day.

Note that for routine maintenance some long forceps can be handy. Personally mine are 12″ long, allowing me to remove uneaten food, water bowls or sloughed skins without having to get my hands too close to Poecilotheria ornata. While they’re not cheap, such an investment can make your tank maintenance easier and safer for years to come.

Image c/o Chris Parker2012

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The Best Tarantula Heaters http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/best-tarantula-heaters/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/best-tarantula-heaters/#respond Mon, 24 Apr 2017 14:04:48 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1514 Tarantulas are cold-blooded invertebrates that hail from the warmer parts of the world. For most of us, therefore, some form of artificial heating will be required to keep your spider in good health. While it always pays to seek out specific information on the type of tarantula you plan to keep, as a rough guide […]

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Tarantulas are cold-blooded invertebrates that hail from the warmer parts of the world.

For most of us, therefore, some form of artificial heating will be required to keep your spider in good health.

While it always pays to seek out specific information on the type of tarantula you plan to keep, as a rough guide a temperature of around 24’C tends to work well for most species.

Fortunately, heating tarantula cages is both simple and cheap, thanks to a range of reliable and low-cost alternatives on the market. So let’s get started with choosing and setting up the heating that your tarantula needs…

tarantula photo

The Best Heaters for Tarantulas

While big breeders may heat an entire room of their house to a comfortable 20+’C throughout the year, most of us will rely on heating only our tarantula’s cage itself.

Here there are three popular and effective options…

Heat Mats

A heat mat can be considered the “standard” among tarantula keepers. Resembling a flat, black piece of plastic, these heaters produce very gentle background warmth.

Even when running at full-pelt, they feel only comfortable to the touch, rather than unpleasantly hot. This makes them quite safe. The low power they produce also makes them cheap to run.

Heat mats come in a wide range of different sizes, depending on the size of your spider’s cage. They are freely available from most specialist reptile shops, and even some traditional pet shops.

It’s always worth checking out prices on sites like Amazon, where the prices can be considerably lower than in some pet stores.

Heat Strips

A heat strip can be thought of as a long, thin heat mat. The reason that they have these dimensions is simple; the can then be used to heat a number of invertebrate cages at the same time.

Should you decide to purchase a handful of different tarantulas at the same time (or long to expand your collection in the near future) then a heat strip might just be the answer to your needs.

Heating Cables

Lastly, an even more extreme form of heating comes in the form of heating cables.

These are often sold as “soil warming cables”, intended for use by gardeners. Looking like a thick flex of electrical cabling, they can be used to heat dozens of tarantulas, mantids, leaf insects and more all at the same time.

Really only therefore suitable for the hardcore invertebrate keeper, if you have a range of exotic pets then a heating cable can work out to be the most practical and cost-effective way to heat a multitude of different cages.

How to Heat a Tarantula Cage

tarantula photo

Tarantulas require what is known as a “thermal gradient”. This is a fancy way of saying that one part of the tarantula tank should be warmer than the other.

Typically one end (or one side) of the cage is heated using a heat mat, while the other is left unheated. This creates a range of different temperatures within the cage. Should your tarantula feel cold, it can then move towards the warmer end. Equally, if they’re getting too hot they can then move towards the cooler end of the cage.

A gradient like this can also be a handy tool for checking that your tarantula’s cage is an appropriate temperature.

For example, if your spider rarely ever seems to leave the warmest part of the cage, then it may pay to raise the temperature a little bit. Equally, if your spider is repeatedly found cowering in the coolest part of the cage then it may be time to reduce the heat overall.

There are two traditional ways to use all the tarantula heaters outlined above. Each is used outside the cage rather than inside. The first method is to place your tarantula tank ontop of the heater, ensuring that only 1/3 to 1/2 of the cage floor is actually heated. The other half is left without heat.

tarantula photoThe alternative method is to attach the heater to the side of the cage.

So why are there two ways to fit a heater to a tarantula cage, and which is the best option?

Placing your tarantula tank ontop of the heater was what tarantula keepers of old used to do. It was the “traditional” way to heat a tarantula tank. However, a number of concerns were raised over the years about this method.

Firstly, it can greatly increase the humidity in the cage, pushing it past acceptable limits.

Secondly, as tarantulas normally burrow down to escape the hottest conditions, it might seem odd for your tarantula to find it actually gets hotter the more they burrow down.

Lastly, many tarantula substrates aren’t very good conductors of heat. Placing the heater under a thick layer of substrate therefore reduces the heat getting up to your spider, and can even lead to heaters getting too hot. In extreme circumstances the glass of cages has split before thanks to overheating.

It is therefore understandable that attaching the heater to the side of the cage gained in popularity. It maximizes the heat that can get into the cage, without the risk of overheating.

It creates a more “natural” environment, warming the air rather than just the substrate, and is also ideal for arboreal species that spend very little time at ground level. This is made all the easier by the fact that many heat mats today come with a self-adhesive side. Simply peel off the plastic covering and glue it to the outside wall of the cage.

Thermotstats for Tarantulas

Manufacturers of heat mats generally recommend that even these low-powered heaters should be used in conjunction with a thermostat. Such a device controls the heat provided, ensuring that your tarantula doesn’t overheat in warmer weather, or that any issues with the heater don’t end with a roasted tarantula.

While some keepers still shun the extra cost of buying a thermostat (and thus take risks with their pet) the good news it that thermostats designed to control heat mats are actually quite cheap to buy. This isn’t always the case, as thermostats for more powerful heaters can be surprisingly expensive.

My own personal recommendation is therefore to grab both a heat mat and a matstat together, then sleep easy knowing that you’ve got all eventualities covered, no matter what the weather does.

Thermometers for Tarantulas

Lastly in this article I recommend that you keep a manual eye on the temperature of your tarantula tank on occasion. This is of particular importance when you first set up your tarantula tank, just to make sure that your thermostat is set up and working correctly.

Possibly the most effective option here (and my own preference) is one of the digital thermometers with a heat-sensing probe. This can easily be fitted to most tarantula tanks. Alternatively, dial thermometers may be used, though I have found their accuracy to not be quite as great as their digital equivalents.

So that’s it. Depending on how many tarantulas you’re planning on buying, buy a suitable heater and thermostat. Set them up as described above, monitor the temperature carefully for a day and or two and you should be all ready to go.

Following such a process your tarantula tank should be heated effectively, allowing your pet tarantula to live out a long and healthy life in your care.

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Humidity for Tarantulas http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/humidity-for-tarantulas/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/humidity-for-tarantulas/#respond Fri, 21 Apr 2017 14:04:43 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1512 One of the most important keys to success when keeping tarantulas is getting their environmental conditions correct. This means that they must have the correct temperature and – the topic of this article – the right humidity. So important is this subject that in this section we’re going to discuss the topic in some detail, […]

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One of the most important keys to success when keeping tarantulas is getting their environmental conditions correct.

This means that they must have the correct temperature and – the topic of this article – the right humidity.

So important is this subject that in this section we’re going to discuss the topic in some detail, so that you know everything necessary to keep your new pet in the best possible health.

Why is Humidity Important?

Humidity can be thought of as the microscopic droplets of moisture in the air. When humidity gets high it may also condense out of the air onto other surfaces – like the way your bathroom mirror steams up after a shower.

And just like our bathrooms, humidity is generally raised when fresh water is combined with a warm environment; the water droplets evaporate, and the humidity level rises.

There are a number of ways why specifically humidity, and more generally moisture, are important to keeping tarantulas.

First of all, the right humidity makes moulting – or changing their skins – easier. When a tarantula is kept in an environment that is too try, it may struggle to escape from its old skin. This can lead to malformed tarantulas, or even death.

Secondly, the amount of moisture around can affect your tarantulas’ need to drink. In tiny hatchlings in particular, it is impractical to offer them an open water dish as they are so small. However, ensuring that there are tiny droplets of water in the cage that they can drink can be a suitable alternative.

Thirdly, it is important to understand how tarantulas breath. The theraphosid spiders breath through a device known as a “book lung”. Like the pages of a book, so tarantula lungs have lots of sections, through which oxygen passes.

The thing is, the surface of the lungs need to remain moist for the oxygen to be effectively absorbed. An environment that is too dry can therefore even effect the ability of a tarantula to breath.

You might imagine, based on what’s been said so far, that a higher humidity is therefore better. While in many cases this is correct, there are a few provisos. Tarantulas actually don’t tend to do very well in really soggy conditions. Not only do they struggle, but such an environment also increases the chances of fungi and other microscopic pathogens growing.

This is why humidity is such a big and important topic; we need enough moisture in the cage, but not too much. We’re looking for the “goldie locks” number…

tarantula photo

How Do You Measure and Monitor Humidity?

There are a number of ways that the tarantula enthusiast can measure moisture levels in a tarantula cage.

The first of these is using a device known as a hygrometer. It’s basically a thermometer that measures moisture rather than temperature. They come in a range of forms, from low-cost dial versions, to slightly more expensive digital hygrometers.

My personal choice is for the latter option, because on average I find them considerably more accurate than dial-based hygrometers.

The second method of monitoring moisture in a tarantula cage is by observation. Moisture is visible as it condenses on the walls of a tarantula cage. A small amount of condensation is fine – good even.

However a cage which routinely has a waterfall rolling down the walls is probably too damp for the inhabitant.

The final way is to pay attention to the substrate itself. A slightly moist substrate it fine, but if you could pick up a handful and squeeze running water out then the substrate is likely far moister than is ideal.

The goal is to use these methods – basically a hygrometer and general observation – to keep the moisture within your tarantula cage to within acceptable limits.

What is a “Good” Humidity?

Tarantulas are a surprisingly diverse group of invertebrates, present on all but one continent. Here they inhabit everything from dry scrubland and semi-arid desert areas through to moist tropical jungles with exceptionally high annual rainfall.

The best bet when setting up a tarantula tank is therefore to research the natural habitat of the species in question, to accurately mimic these conditions as far as is possible. This is why many of our tarantula care sheets start with an analysis of the wild habitat of each species we cover.

But what if you can’t find suitable information, or the authorities you refer to all disagree? What are some “general rules” for what a good humidity should look like?

In general a healthy humidity for tarantulas is in the range of 75-85% relative humidity (RH). The substrate can be gently moist but should not allowed to become dripping wet.

It can be a good idea to lightly spray a tarantula cage once or twice a week, and then allow the cage to dry out in between. This prevents fungi being able to get a hold in a constantly damp and warm environment.

What is a “Bad” Humidity?

A bad humidity varies too much from this optimum. A bad humidity involves either keeping your spider bone-dry, or in an environment that is too damp, and so leads to sickness or death.

Possibly the most pressing element is how damp the substrate is. If this is gently moist, like potting compost straight out of a fresh bag, then this is unlikely to be anything to worry about. However if there are visible pools of water on the floor, or the substrate becomes soggy and “slimy” then it is too moist.

tarantula photo

How to Increase Humidity

Increasing humidity largely involves adding more water to the cage in a controlled manner. There are three simple ways to do this. Firstly, a houseplant mister can be used to gently mist the cage.

Care should be taken under such circumstances to use a mister bought and kept specially for the purpose; you don’t want to accidentally spray any harmful chemicals into the tarantula tank. Ideally the water should be at room temperature too, rather than cold and icy from the tap.

Lukewarm water not only evaporates quicker (raising the humidity more swiftly) but is also less likely to startle your pet. Try to avoid spraying your tarantula directly with the mister, which can cause stress.

A second method is to gently tip a small amount of water onto the substrate. Here it should quickly be absorbed, and will then be released slowly over time as the water warms up.

Lastly, particularly with larger tarantulas, their water bowl can be moved to the warm end of the cage, where it will evaporate more rapidly. Under these circumstances, however, be certain to monitor the water level carefully, replenishing it as often as necessary.

How to Decrease Humidity

In tanks that are too damp, there are a number of possible solutions. The best answer really depends on how extreme the moisture levels are, and how regularly you suffer from such problems.

Firstly, of course, stop adding any more moisture. Frequently, increasing the ventilation in the cage will help excess water vapour to escape – so open up any vents, or cut extra holes for air exchange.

Some substrates tend to do a better job of absorbing excess moisture than others, so opt for one that is well-known for it’s moisture control abilities, such as coir fibre.

Lastly, while this is an extreme solution, it may pay to actually clean out your tarantula entirely, removing the sodden substrate.

Thoroughly clean the cage and all the decor, allow it to dry out, and then set the cage up again. This allows you to start from scratch again, controlling moisture more carefully in the future.

Understanding Humidity Cycles

The last topic worthy of discussion here is that humidity rarely stays fixed at one figure. We spray the cage and a few minutes later the humidity increases.

A few days later the cage is drying out and the moisture levels are dropping again.

This is perfectly normal, and nothing to worry about. Indeed, some might argue that this is a good thing, as it makes it harder for fungi to gain a hold in the cage.

The goal is really that the moisture on average should hit the recommended figures, with a particular emphasis around the time of moulting, when relative humidity is of the greatest importance.

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Mexican Red Leg Tarantula (Brachypelma emilia) Care Sheet http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/mexican-red-leg-tarantula-brachypelma-emilia/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/mexican-red-leg-tarantula-brachypelma-emilia/#respond Fri, 14 Apr 2017 14:02:01 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1482 The Mexican Red Leg tarantula, Brachypelma emilia, is a chunky, slow-moving and docile tarantula. Closely related to the Mexican Red Knee, Brachypelma emilia is an undeniably stunning spider. The combination of glossy black background, highlighted with bright on the carapace and legs, makes this one of the more colorful species. Combine this with their reasonably […]

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The Mexican Red Leg tarantula, Brachypelma emilia, is a chunky, slow-moving and docile tarantula.

Closely related to the Mexican Red Knee, Brachypelma emilia is an undeniably stunning spider. The combination of glossy black background, highlighted with bright on the carapace and legs, makes this one of the more colorful species.

Combine this with their reasonably easy-going temperament and ease of care and it’s little wonder this species has become so popular.

Sadly, this popularity has historically led to high levels of collecting for the pet trade. In response, the Mexican Red Leg is now listed on Appendix II of CITES. This means that no more wild collection is possible, and all specimens available as pets are now captive bred.

When combined with their slow growth rates, Brachypelma emilia tends to be one of the more expensive tarantula species for hobbyists to purchase.

brachypelma emilia photo

Wild Habitat

The Mexican Red Leg tarantula was originally described by White in 1856, making it one of the early tarantula species to draw the attention of scientists. It is considered the most northerly species of Brachypelma tarantula, and is found in Western Mexico, primarily to the west of the Sierra Madres Occidental mountain range.

brachypelma emilia photoThey can be found in a wide diversity of habitats, from dry coastal forests to more typical tropical areas inland.

Brachypelma emilia is a fossorial species, meaning that it creates burrows in which to keep safe. In the wild, studies have found these burrows to vary enormously in length, depending on the size of the spider and the ease of digging.

Typical burrows extend to between 20cm and a metre in length, and may have one or two additional “refuse chambers” built in, where sloughed skins and leftover food items are stored. The burrow entrance is notable because it rarely shows any silk, and is typically concealed beneath fallen trees.

Due to their Mexican origin these tarantulas tend to enjoy a warm environment, typically quite a bit drier than the many popular rainforest species.

Housing Brachypelma Emilia

Mexican Red Legs – also known sometimes as the “Mexican Painted” – are a relatively undemanding species in captivity. Growing to a modest 5-6″ in legspan they are a mid-sized tarantula, and are not known for their speed or high activity levels. As a result a modest-sized tank measuring some 8″ x 12″ is acceptable.

I like to use Exo Terra vivariums for my specimens. These tanks, while not cheap, afford an excellent view of my specimens, while allowing for excellent control over humidity.

The front of the cage opens out on hinges, which makes routine maintenance simple, yet these doors can be locked when shut to prevent escapes.

Alternatively, a range of other items may be utilized. Specially-built tarantula tanks may be purchased from exotic pet shops or at reptile shows. These are typically made of glass or perspex, and have a solid, close-fitting lid.

If these cannot be sourced then it is possible to use anything from a small fish aquarium to a suitably-sized tupperware box.

The keys here are to ensure a tight-fitting lid which prevents escape, and enough ventilation that the air inside the cage does not become stale and stagnant. Under such conditions mould and mildew can grow; hardly a suitable environment for a tarantula.

Tank Decor

While adult Mexican Red Legs may dig long burrows in the wild, this is hardly practical in captivity. That said, it is wise to provide a healthy depth of substrate in which your spider can burrow. For larger specimens a depth of 4-6″ is reasonable.

A range of different tarantula substrates are available, though coco fibre or peat-free potting composts tend to work best. These both hold the necessary moisture to prevent a “wet” cage, while simultaneously allowing the construction of burrows.

Alongside this substrate I like to include an artificial “burrow” for my spiders. This way, there is always a solution if would rather hide away from view, as many will during daylight hours. A curved piece of cork bark works well, as does a partially buried plant pot, carefully placed on it’s side to create a “tunnel”.

While tarantulas will absorb much of the moisture they require from their food, and from regular mistings (see “Humidity” below) it is best practise to always include an open water dish in adult cages. These should be shallow to avoid the risk of drowning.

Water bowls – like all tarantula equipment – should be regularly scrubbed and cleaned with a reptile-safe detergent. Water should be replenished every 24-48 hours to keep it fresh, and avoid the risk of bacterial growth.

The last “must have” pieces of equipment are a hygrometer for measuring humidity, and a thermometer to keep an eye on warmth. A range of options exist, and some models offer both hygrometer and thermometer in one handy unit.

The cheapest and most popular option are those with dials, though my personal preference is for digital models. Once installed, these sensors will allow you to carefully monitor conditions in the cage, ensuring that they are optimal for your spider.

While this is what I consider to be the “essential” tank decor items, some tarantula keepers opt to add a range of other items to the cage as “dressing”. Artificial plants, additional pieces of bark and even artificial skulls can all add interest to the cage, both for the spider and owner alike.

Let your creativity run wild to enjoy creating as naturalistic a design as possible.

brachypelma emilia photo

Mexican Red Leg Heating & Humidity

Like all tarantulas, Brachypelma emilia hails from the warmer parts of the world. For this reason, some form of artificial heating is necessary in all but the warmest months. This is most easily provided with a reptile heat mat of a suitable size. These are both cheap to purchase and to run, and tend to be very reliable indeed.

As Mexican Red Legs will often burrow in captivity it is wise to attack the heatmat to the side or rear wall of the cage. This ensures the heat is able to move freely through the cage, rather than being blocked by a thick layer of substrate, as would happen if placed under the cage.

A temperature of 24-28’C is optimal for this species. As with all tarantulas, however, a temperature gradient is important. This means that one area of the cage should be warmer than another. This is easily achieved by placing the heat mat on the side of the cage, where the other end of the tank will naturally be cooler.

As a side note, while heatmats can be used without a thermostat this is generally not recommended. A thermostat helps to control the temperature of your heat mat more accurately, preventing overheating. This is especially important in spring, as ambient temperatures start to rise.

There is little more annoying than trying to decide whether to leave the heater on or turn it off, and such difficult decisions can also impact the health of your spider. Using a low-cost thermostat designed for heat mats (unsurprisingly known as “matstats”) ensures optimal temperature throughout the year.

Alongside this artificial heating it is also wise to keep an eye on the humidity inside your Mexican Red Leg cage. The tank should be sprayed gently when necessary to maintain a humidity of around 70%. Between sprayings the cage should be allowed to dry out gently, thus keeping the substrate in good condition and preventing mould growth.

When spraying the cage aim to use lukewarm water from a houseplant spray gun. Spray only gently and avoid your spider, which may be startled by such a “downpour”. The aim is to raise the humidity to a suitable level without causing any annoyance to your pet tarantula.

As stated previously, humidity can be monitored easily with a low-cost hygrometer.

Feeding Mexican Red Legs

Like many Brachypelma species, Mexican Red Legs are long-lived and slow growing.

Well-known tarantula expert Stanley Schultz claims to have purchased a fully-grown Brachypelma emilia in 1972, which finally passed away in 1991. This makes her at least 20+ years old, and likely considerably more.

Unlike some of the faster growing species like the Indian Ornamental or Salmon Pink you’re unlikely to find your Mexican Red Leg eating each day. More likely a feed once or twice a week will be more than sufficient.

Mexican Red Legs will eat all the standard insect prey fed to other spiders; from crickets through to locusts and roaches.

My own personal preference is for locusts, which are available in a wide range of sizes and are typically much easier to handle than crickets. Additionally, crickets can cause damage to tarantulas when they moult (read more about tarantula moulting here) so avoiding crickets limits that risk.

Note that any live food you provide to your tarantula should be removed if it is uneaten the following morning. Note also that Brachypelma emilia may go off food for periods of time, which is nothing to worry about so long as your pet does not lose condition.

Handling Brachypelma Emilia

Brachypelma emilia is considered one of the more docile species of tarantula, very rarely attempting to bite. Instead, they prefer to either kick off urticating hairs if harassed, or make a run for it. On occasion these spiders can be rather skittish, therefore, so care should be taken with handling.

That said, these chunky spiders are considered one of the better species for handling. They can be gently coaxed onto a flat hand and held quite safely.

It is important to note that in general, and in contrast to the many YouTube videos showing quite the opposite, it is generally considered best to avoid handling any tarantula if possible.

The main reason is that dropping a tarantula from a height can result in a ruptured abdomen and, most likely, death. Instead, many experienced tarantula keepers gently coax their spider into a plastic container and attach the lid firmly when the spider needs to be moved.

If you do opt to handle your Brachypelma emilia then it is wise to do so over a soft surface, and to maintain a minimal distance between the surface and your spider. In this way, should your spider fall the damage should be minimal.

Lastly, take note of the urticating hairs that the Mexican Red Leg possesses. If kicked off, the cloud of hairs can cause severe irritation.

On the hands, they can lead to red spots and persistent itching for some days afterwards. If the hairs get in your eyes or are inhaled the result can be far less pleasant.

As a result, when handling any tarantula with urticating hairs keep your face well away from the spider. If you come into contact with any irritating hairs you are advised to seek immediate medical attention.

Mexican Red Leg Moulting

Before closing it is worth mentioning one rather interesting factoid. As you may know, most adult tarantulas moult annually, however there is some evidence to suggest that the Mexcian Red Leg tarantula may miss moults on occasion.

In the Tarantula Keepers Guide (a recommended resource), Stanley Schultz reports that “adult females of Brachypelma emilia may begin skipping molting every second year as a matter of course within only a few years of maturity”.

Consequently, if you find that your adult has not moulted for over 12 months this may not be anything to worry about, and should be considered quite normal for this species.

Images c/o snakecollector & davidricardoabrenica

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Honduran Curly Hair Tarantula (Brachypelma albopilosum) Care Sheet http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/honduran-curly-hair-tarantula-brachypelma-albopilosum/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/honduran-curly-hair-tarantula-brachypelma-albopilosum/#respond Mon, 10 Apr 2017 14:01:56 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1496 Brachyplema albopilosum, the Curly Haired Tarantula, is considered one of the very best species for beginners. Slow-moving and docile, it is safe to handle. It is easily cared for in captivity, and is very forgiving of a wide range of different conditions. Growing to a legspan of some 5-6″ like most members of the Brachypelma […]

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Brachyplema albopilosum, the Curly Haired Tarantula, is considered one of the very best species for beginners. Slow-moving and docile, it is safe to handle. It is easily cared for in captivity, and is very forgiving of a wide range of different conditions.

Growing to a legspan of some 5-6″ like most members of the Brachypelma genus, it’s common name comes from the “fluffy” appearance it develops over time. It is typically covered in curly gold or tan-coloured hairs, so while it may not be the most colourful species of tarantula in the pet trade, it does have a certain appeal with it’s unusual, “blow dried” appearance.

Wild Habitat

tarantula photo

Originally described by Valerio as recently as 1980, Brachypelma albopilosum is also known as the Hondruan Curly Hair, which hints at it’s natural habitat.

This Central American species may be found along the Atlantic side of Honduras, Nicaragua and northern Costa Rica.

This necessarily means a warm and rather more humid environment than many other members of the genus. As a terrestrial species they may build a burrow, or alternatively reside in a “scrape” under rocks or logs.

Central America is known for it’s stark differentiation between dry and wet seasons, when torrential downpours can appear out of nowhere.

This is interesting to observe, as the rainy (“verde”) period represents the breeding season for Brachypelma albopilosum. Presumably this is so that when the spiderlings hatch there is an abundance of tiny insect prey around for them to feed on.

Caging

The Curly Hair tarantula is quite an easy species to care for in captivity, requiring only a modicum of experience to keep and even breed. As with all exotic pets, successful care begins with getting their housing right. Once this is established, care becomes very routine, while the ongoing costs drop considerably.

The best cage for a Curly Hair tarantula addresses a number of factors. Firstly, it should be easily cleaned on a regular basis in order to maintain a hygienic environment.

Secondly, it should prevent escape thanks to a tight-fitting or lockable lid. Of course, for your own pleasure it should offer excellent visibility. Lastly, consideration should be given to ventilation, ensuring that the air within the cage cannot get stale and stagnant.

In general plastic or glass containers represent the best cages. A number of specialists now sell tanks specially designed for tarantulas, and possibly the best-known and most widely-available of these is the Exo Terra.

Made from glass, with front-opening doors for ease of access it makes a perfect cage for Brachypelma albopilosum.

Alternatively, a range of household objects may be turned into suitable accommodation assuming that they offer enough ventilation and suitable dimensions.

As a mid-sized tarantula, the Honduran Curly Hair does well in a tank of 8″ x 8″ at a minimum. The aforementioned Exo Terras come in a range of sizes. The Exo Terra Nano may be suitable for smaller specimens, while I would suggest the standard 30cm cube model works best for adult specimens.

This provides ample space for your tarantula to find somewhere to hide away during the day, yet plenty of room to explore when hunting at night.

Cage Decor

tarantula photo

Brachypelma albopilosum can make a great first tarantula, especially for those who want a spider they can watch. Curly Hairs tend to spend more time out in the open than many other species, and can be surprisingly active especially in the evening.

All the same, while these tarantulas seem quite comfortable in the open, it is still a good idea to provide a suitable hide for them and/or to provide enough substrate for burrowing in.

A range of substrates may be used for this species, though my own personal preferences are for coconut fibre or potting compost. If you’re not planning to let your spider burrow then just an inch or so of substrate will be enough. A depth of some 6″ is preferable for burrowing situations.

Most appropriately-sized reptile hides will be suitable for Curly Hair tarantulas. The important thing is that they provide a dark, secluded environment into which your spider can move.

Possibly the most popular option is a piece of curved cork bark, though resin reptile hides may also be used, as can plastic plant pots laid on their side and partially buried.

The important thing is that whatever hide your choose should be easily cleaned and lightweight; the last thing you want is for your spider to burrow underneath at some point and get crushed.

Heating & Temperature

The Curly Hair likes a warm environment, meaning that you’ll be needing a suitable heater for your pet spider. A temperature of around 25’C at the hot end of the cage is ideal, with the other end being cooler.

This “thermal gradient” created by heating just one side of the cage creates a varied environment where your Brachypelma albopilosum can choose the area most suitable for them.

Heating is most easily achieved with a heat mat, though other “under tank” heating options including heat strips or heat cables are also effective for those with larger collections. A reptile thermometer should be placed into the cage at the hot end in order to monitor the temperature and ensure it is appropriate.

Great care should be taken as summer approaches, when there is a risk of tanks overheating. Here a thermostat can be a wise idea, to turn down your heater when you’re not around. Ensuring the cage is sited away from windows and sources of direct sunlight are also beneficial.

Water & Humidity

tarantula photoBrachypelma albopilosum appreciates a humidity of around 65-70% with consistently good ventilation.

The best way to achieve this is in a cage with gauze or mesh that allows moist air to escape. The cage can then be sprayed using a houseplant mister once or twice a week.

This will not only raise the overall humidity in the cage, but will also allow smaller specimens to drink from the condensed droplets of water on the cage walls.

Besides this regular misting it is considered wise to include an open yet shallow water dish for your spider. Those sold for small mammals tend to work well. The water should be changed regularly, and the bowl itself sterilized in boiling water or reptile-safe detergent once a week.

Feeding

Over the years the genus Brachypelma has developed a reputation for being slow growing.

Cousins like the Mexican Red Knee and Mexican Red Leg may take years to reach maturity, and possess far smaller appetites than faster-growing species like the Usumbara Baboon.

Coming from a rather more tropical area, further south of many of her relations, however, Brachypelma albopilosum tends to have a rather more healthy appetite and grows noticeably faster.

It has been reported that males take 8-12 moults to reach sexual maturity, while females take some 9-13. Feeding your spider on a regular basis will speed up this growth, ensuring that even a youngster soon reaches impressive proportions.

In light of this, a good rule of thumb would be twice-weekly feeding for youngsters, migrating to once a week for adults. All the same, it is wise to use this only as a guide, and to adapt it based on your spider’s behaviour.

If your tarantula always seems to be hungry, and lunges onto it’s food instantly, then feeding larger prey items, or offering them more frequently might be advisable. The opposite is also true; a spider that pays very little attention to food that has been put in their cage can have their feeding schedule reduced to accommodate this.

Note that like all tarantulas the Curly Hair will cease feeding some time before a moult. Live feeder insects should not be left in the cage with a moulting tarantula as they can cause issues.

Should your spider refuse food several times in a row then it is likely that a moult is approaching. Under these circumstances it can be wise to hold off feeding until the moult has been successfully completed.

All the standard feeder insects are suitable for Brachypelma albopilosum including crickets, locusts, roaches and mealworms. The feeder insects should be selected based on the size of your tarantula; most Curly Hairs will readily take insects up to their own body length.

Larger specimens can of course be given a number of smaller insects instead, depending on personal preference and local supplies.

It is wise to keep close tabs on your tarantula’s food consumption, removing any uneaten insects, and recording any fasting periods. Not only is this an interesting exercise in itself, but it also helps to identify when moults are likely on the horizon, when extra care can be taken over your tarantula’s care.

Handling

Brachypelma albopilosum is one of the best tarantulas for handling. It is docile and slow-moving, which means that even children can handle this species safely (with appropriate supervision).

Note, however, that like other members of the Brachypelma genus, the Curly Hair does possess the potentially irritating urticating hairs. In truth, it seems that Brachypelma albopilosum is less likely to kick off these hairs than many other species, but all the same it pays to take precautions.

Your Curly Hair can be gently coaxed onto a flat hand and lifted gently out of their cage. Here you should aim to keep them at arms reach to avoid the risk of urticating hairs getting into the face.

Many Curly Hairs are so relaxed that they will just sit there calmly on the hand – barely even walking. Once safely replaced in their cage, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly for the sake of hygiene.

Photos c/o wwarby & davidricardoabrenica

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Brazilian Black Tarantula (Grammostola pulchra) Care Sheet http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/brazilian-black-tarantula-grammostola-pulchra/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/brazilian-black-tarantula-grammostola-pulchra/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 13:59:07 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1492 The Brazilian Black, Grammostola pulchra, is one of my favourite tarantula species of all. I barely know where to begin singing it’s praises. Lets start with appearance; while Grammostola pulchra may not be as “showy” and brightly coloured as some other species are, this tarantula has a classy, subtle beauty about it. Clothed in velvet […]

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Learn all about how to keep the Brazilian black tarantula (Grammostola pulchra) in this detailed care sheet. All you need to know to keep these stunning tarantulas as pets. The Brazilian Black, Grammostola pulchra, is one of my favourite tarantula species of all.

I barely know where to begin singing it’s praises.

Lets start with appearance; while Grammostola pulchra may not be as “showy” and brightly coloured as some other species are, this tarantula has a classy, subtle beauty about it.

Clothed in velvet black hairs it looks sleek and glossy, especially after a fresh moult. The general body shape is chunky and thick-set, giving it a sturdy appearance overall; quite different to how leggy many tarantulas are.

Then there’s the personality of Grammostola pulchra. In my experience this is one of the friendliest species of tarantula available. I’ve never known one bite; they’re placid enough to be the perfect species if you’re looking for something to handle safely.

They’re also slow-moving, which makes handling easier, and reach an average legspan of around 6″ making it a mid-range species.

So while it may not be covered in stunning patterning like Poecilothera ornata, or brightly coloured like Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens, or the size of a dinnerplate like the Goliath Birdeater, it is a beautiful, hardy and easy-going tarantula species.

Perfect for the beginner, it is also unusual enough to hold the interest of more seasoned tarantula keepers, who like the ease of looking after the closely-related Chilean Rose Hair, but want something a little bit “different”.

Grammostola pulchra photo

Wild Habitat of the Brazilian Black Tarantula

As the common name would suggest, Grammostola pulchra hails mainly from Brazil, though it may also be found in northern Uruguay.

This species was originally described in 1921 by Mello-Leitão, the latin name “pulchra” meaning “fine” – a hat-tip to the fine “crushed-velvet” look of the hairs on this species.

Little is truly known about the Brazilian Black in the wild, though we do know that the species is ground dwelling. While it may attempt to build burrows in nature, it seems more likely that it will adopt a similar mentality to some other Grammostola tarantulas, taking refuge where it can under rocks, logs and vegetation.

In captivity the species seems happy to sit in a hide all day, but less likely to try and build a burrow than many other species.

Brazilian Black Caging

Like it’s cousins, Grammostola pulchra is a forgiving and easily-accommodated species of tarantula.

An adult Brazilian Black requires a cage no smaller than 12″ by 10″ as an adult, with suitable places to hide during daylight hours.

The cage should permit suitable ventilation, as Grammostola pulchra often does better at slightly lower humidities than many other species.

While these are not the most athletic of tarantulas, they do have a fair amount of strength. Thought should therefore be put into how best to prevent escape; a tight-fitting lid should be considered critical, lest your spider manages to push off a less study top.

A range of different cages may be used for this species. Generally they will be made from glass or plastic.

At it’s most basic a faunarium can be used, though these can prove challenging to heat properly in winter due to the extreme level of ventilation they provide. Alternatively a range of plastic containers intended for household use – such as plastic cake tubs or Really Useful Boxes – may be used effectively if suitable ventilation holes are added.

Thanks to growth in the hobby, a small number of companies are now producing specialist tarantula tanks made from glass. These come in a range of sizes and dimensions, and most offer a mesh area for ventilation.

If you want to go all out with what I think is the best-looking cage on the market then consider investing in an Exo Terra. These glass tanks look fantastic and allow you to create a very realistic “mini world” within.

They’re easy to heat, include suitable ventilation and the locking doors at the front make routine maintenance simple. A range of accessories are also available, including a separate lighting hood.

As most animals cannot see red light, fitting a low-wattage red lightbulb in the hood can enable you to watch your tarantula moving around after dark, without him or her having any idea that you are there.

Tank Decor

Grammostola pulchra photoThree elements should be included in your Brazilian Black cage before you consider the other aspect of landscaping.

The first of these are hides. At least one should be provided, but two or more is better. In this way your spider can select from a range of options and chose that which suits them best. As a ground-dwelling spider there are quite a few different hides currently on the market.

Traditionally, spider keepers have used pieces of curved cork bark, and this still works well to this day. Alternatively a range of reptile hides can be purchased, from artificial logs through to miniature caves. Any or all of these would be suitable.

Lastly, for a low-cost alternative a plant pot, laid on it’s side and partially buried is also suitable.

The second critical element is some form of substrate to line the base of the cage. Over the years tarantula keepers have experimented with all manner of options.

These days I almost exclusively use coconut fibre for my tarantulas. This is a renewable, environmentally-sound product, made from the composted husks of coconuts used in the food industry.

The material itself is light and fluffy, and absorbs plenty of water. This makes it ideal for moderating humidity in your tarantula’s tank. Lastly, it comes in condensed blocks, which are easy to store at home.

When you’re ready, you simply pop the brick into a bucket of water and leave it for half an hour or so. The substrate absorbs the water and swells to many times its original size. A single block can provide enough substrate for a whole host of spider tubs.

A your Brazilian Black may try to construct a burrow it can be a good idea to add a greater depth of substrate than you might for other species. Some 4″ of so tends to work well, and allows your spider a fair amount of digging activity if it so desires.

Finally, juvenile and adult tarantulas should be provided with a water dish so that they can drink whenever they wish.

Heating & Temperature

Experts recommend that the Brazilian Black is kept at a temperature of around 18-25’C. This is most easily provided by heating one end of the tank with a heat mat.

The heated end should ideally reach the 25’C mark, while the unheated end remains cooler. This creates a range of temperatures within the tank which, when combined with a number of hides, means that your spider can move about as in nature and select the area that suits them best.

Heat mat manufacturers recommend that all heat mats should be used with a thermostat, though some disagreement exists within the hobby. In truth, in all my years of keeping tarantulas and using heat mats I have never known one to overheat. Some keepers therefore use heat mats without a thermostat, making setting up a cage for Grammostola pulchra a much cheaper affair.

Others point out that overheating can occur, and that maintaining the right heat as the weather warms up in Spring and Summer can be problematic. A thermostat certainly helps to “automate” the environmental conditions in the cage, meaning your spider won’t overheat in warmer weather.

For this reason I recommend the use of a matstat to control the temperature of your Brazilian Black cage.

Due to the depth of substrate that many keepers opt to give this species, it can be more practical to attach the heat mat to the side or end of the cage (externally) rather than to place it under the cage.

In nature, of course, a tarantula would burrow down to avoid the harshest of weather. A under-tank heater, however, means that your spider will actually get warmer rather than cooler as it burrows. Placing the heat mat on the side of the cage helps to eliminate this issue, and well as reducing the chances of your heatmat overheating and cracking the glass.

Water & Humidity

Maintaining the right humidity level for your tarantula is important. Grammostola pulchra should be sprayed once or twice a week with a houseplant spray gun, which will not only increase the humidity for a period of time, but also allows smaller tarantulas to drink from the droplets that accumulate around the cage.

An ideal humidity for this species sits at around 60-70% – perhaps rather lower than many more “tropical” species like the Salmon Pink Birdeater.

Care should be taken to avoid a “soggy” cage, which can lead to health problems. Good ventilation should be maintained at all times to avoid this, and the cage should be allowed to dry out gently between spraying to prevent the build-up of mould.

Feeding

The Brazilian Black is a slow-growing and long-lived species. While some topical tarantulas may eat almost daily, and achieve adult dimensions in little over a year, Grammostola pulchra is altogether more sluggish in its appetite and growth. Spiderlings and youngsters can be fed twice a week, while most adults will be fine on weekly feedings.

Grammostola pulchra will happily eat any insect that it can subdue, which normally means anything up the the overall body length of your spider. Crickets have always been the go-to source of insect prey for tarantulas, though increasing tropical cockroaches and locusts are being used.

Be sure to remove any uneaten food the day after feeding to prevent your spider getting stressed.

Note that it can be very worthwhile to keep feeding charts for tarantulas, as this helps you to identify moulting times. When a spider goes off it’s food it is important to monitor the situation.

In most cases tarantulas fast before a moult; a loose insects in the cage during a moult can be a very bad idea. Accurate record-keeping can help to remind you which of your tarantulas are currently eating, and which are not.

As a result, you can manage the provision of food to minimize any disturbance during the all-important moulting phase.

Handling the Brazilian Black Tarantula

One of the very best things about Grammostola pulchra is simply how slow-moving and docile it is, which makes it perfect for handling. The spider can be gently scooped up, or nudged gently onto a flat hand.

Be aware that this spider does have urticating hairs like some other species, and that these can cause irritation in some circumstances. That said, the Brazilian Black seems less likely to kick these off than many other species; my specimens rarely if ever end up with a bald rump from kicking off these hairs, in stark contrast to some other species.

All the general tarantula-handling rules apply here. Hold the spider low over a soft surface, so that a fall won’t harm your spider. Remain gentle and calm throughout. Keep your face well away from the spider so that urticating hairs cannot get into your eyes if they are kicked off. And be certain to thoroughly wash your hands – ideally in a reptile-safe hand wash or gel – after handling.

Following these basic rules the tarantula keeper can enjoy handling this species regularly. It can also be an excellent species for introducing others to tarantulas, and for allowing formerly arachnophobic individuals to handle their very first tarantula.

Learn all about how to keep the Brazilian black tarantula (Grammostola pulchra) in this detailed care sheet. All you need to know to keep these stunning tarantulas as pets.

Images c/o bmairlot & Gexon

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How to Care for Tarantula Spiderlings http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/care-tarantula-spiderlings/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/care-tarantula-spiderlings/#respond Mon, 20 Mar 2017 14:58:46 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1508 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 […]

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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

tarantula spiderling photo

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.

Conclusion

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 😉

Images c/o bigringsberlin

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