Tarantulas are cold-blooded – meaning that they are unable to generate their own heat. Instead, they absorb warmth from their environment.
At the same time we know that most tarantulas come from the warmer parts of the world, so it is natural to ask whether tarantulas need a heat lamp to remain healthy.
The answer to this question is simple:
Tarantulas do not need a heat lamp, but should be kept warm through the colder months using alternative methods.
However, while this answer may sound simple, the devil is in the details. Read on to learn more about heat lamps, the importance of warmth to tarantulas, and how to best provide it.
Do Tarantulas Need Heat?
Let’s start by considering the first part of the question – what sort of temperatures do tarantulas require?
While tarantulas can tolerate low temperatures for short periods of time – and indeed some have even been found in snow in South America – they generally appreciate a warm environment.
Temperatures of 70-80’F / 22-27’C are ideal for most pet tarantulas. Some species may appreciate even warmer temperatures.
The question of whether your tarantula needs artificial heating really therefore comes down to how far away from this optimum your house is.
If you live in a warm area, or your central heating keeps your home above 70’F/ 20’C year-round, then it is unlikely that any supplementary heating will be necessary.
Some tarantula owners refer to the “t-shirt test”. If you’re comfortable in your home in short sleeves even in the dead of winter then your tarantula will probably be absolutely fine.
In reality, many of us have homes that get quite a bit colder than that, especially at night when your tarantula is likely to be most active.
My home, while reasonably new, still gets well below 20’C when the heating is off at night and it’s cold and frosty outside.
While I have the heating on from time-to-time, when I’m out at work or in bed the heating is generally turned off.
In these circumstances you may want to consider adding some heating to your tarantula cage.
Are Heat Lamps Good for Tarantulas?
As the name suggests, heat lamps are essentially bulbs that produce considerable heat. Most, though not all, also generate bright light.
Sadly, even for tarantulas that require heating, heat lamps aren’t an ideal solution. Here are some of the problems associated with heating tarantula cages with heat lamps:
Small Cage Size
Tarantula cages are generally quite small, even for adult tarantulas. This means they can easily overheat when a powerful heat lamp is shone on them. For this reason lower-power heating options can be more suitable for pet tarantulas.
Heat lamps can get very hot indeed. You’ll not only want to prevent your tarantula from overheating, but a tarantula that comes into direct contact with a heat lamp is likely to be harmed.
This means that heat lamps require both a thermostat, and some kind of guard to prevent your tarantula making contact with the bulb. Not only do these add to the cost of installing a heat lamp in a tarantula cage, but they can also be difficult to accommodate in a small tarantula tank.
Don’t Play Nice with Plastic
Many tarantula cages are made of plastic. Sadly, heat lamps get so hot that that can cause plastic to melt or crack. While this is less likely to be a problem in a glass tank, even many of the “glass” tanks sold for tarantulas actually have plastic fittings.
Difficulties with Fitting
Consider how you’ll fit a heat lamp over your tarantula tank. This is a particular problem for those people like me who maintain multiple tarantulas, with all their cages kept on racks. I simply don’t have enough vertical space to fit heat lamps above my cages.
Expensive to Run
Heat lamps are powerful heaters, and as a result they use a lot of energy. This makes them expensive to run, especially when compared to some of the “better” options available to the caring tarantula owner.
Ineffective for Multiple Cages
At the time of writing there are some 300+ tarantulas in my spider room. Heating each cage with a heat lamp is therefore totally impossible. I don’t have enough plugs, and the cost of equipment would be unreasonable.
Of course, you might only possess one or two tarantulas, so this might not be such a concern for you. However I should warn you how addictive the tarantula hobby is, and therefore it is very likely you’ll end up with more specimens very soon indeed 😉
How Do I Keep My Tarantula Warm?
So if heat lamps are generally not a great idea for tarantulas then what better options are out there?
There are two far more common, and more effective solutions, that you might want to consider if your home gets cold in winter. These are:
Heat Mats & Heat Cables
Heat mats are a superior heating option for tarantulas in many ways. Here are a few of the benefits:
- Come in a range of sizes – so can be used to heat multiple cages at once
- Cheap to buy
- Low energy output – so cheap to run and less likely to overheat the cage
- Easy to fit – simply fit to the back of the cage meaning to extra space required
In fact, the one similarity between heat mats and heat lamps is the requirement for a thermostat. Even that is less of an issue with a heat mat, however, as one mat can be used to heat multiple cages at once, meaning far fewer thermostats are required.
A second alternative is whole-room heating. That is, put your tarantulas all into one single room of the house, and aim to keep this room as warm as necessary. This is the primary method I use myself these days – as do many other keepers with large collections.
A small oil radiator remains on throughout much of the year, easily keeping the temperature in the room above 20’C even at night. In this way my collection is only limited by space, rather than by plug sockets or electricity bills.
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