One of the benefits of keeping tarantulas as pets is how seldom they need cleaning out. Tarantulas are generally clean, hygienic and scent-free pets requiring very little maintenance.
But that isn’t to say tarantulas require zero cleaning.
It is wise to spot-clean your tarantula from time-to-time in order to avoid it getting too nasty. Some owners also choose to carry a “complete” clean very occasionally though this is rarely necessary if routine maintenance has been carried out.
Reasons to Clean Your Tarantula Cage
There are a number of reasons why an occasional clean of your tarantula cage makes sense. The three most common reasons are:
Reduces Unpleasant Smells
While tarantula poop doesn’t smell at all, a dead cricket or cockroach can most certainly take on an unpleasant odor. Removing any of these regularly – as well as the leftovers of any that your tarantula has eaten – can keep your home smelling sweeter.
Reduces the Chances of Parasite Infestations
Leftover organic matter can attract parasites that are not just unsightly but may cause your tarantula distress.
In the warm environment of a tarantula cage probably the most common problem is mites. Eliminating mites isn’t always easy, because they are arachnids just like tarantulas. As a result, many mite-treatments can be as dangerous for your pet as they are for the parasites.
Looks More Attractive
Some tarantulas develop a habit of pooping on the glass of their cage. While this doesn’t really do any harm, it can look unsightly in your otherwise perfectly-landscaped tarantula cage.
How to Spot Clean Your Tarantula Cage
Spot-cleaning a tarantula cage is a reasonably quick and simple process, and should be considered an essential part of routine maintenance.
As the name suggests, “spot cleaning” means just cleaning small sections of the section as it becomes necessary, rather than emptying out the whole cage, scrubbing everything clean and starting again from scratch.
Possibly the easiest way to spot clean a tarantula cage is to use long forceps. Mine are around 30cm in length.
This means I can reach around the cage easily, accessing parts I might otherwise struggle to get to with my bear hands.
The use of forceps also means that I won’t risk getting bitten by a startled tarantula.
Simply work your way around the cage every few weeks, removing anything that shouldn’t be there.
What to Remove When Cleaning a Tarantula Cage
So armed with your forceps, what are you looking for specifically?
If your tarantula has molted recently then remove the old skin and dispose of it. Of course, if you’re interested you can also try to sex the molted skin in the process.
Dead Feeder Insects
If a feeder insect has avoided your attempts to repeatedly catch it, and has eventually died in the cage then try to remove the carcass as soon as possible.
Far more common in my experience is the sloughed skin of a feeder insect; it’s amazing how many crickets, cockroaches and locusts seem to decide that a nice warm tarantula tank is the perfect place for them to slough their skin.
When your tarantula catches prey and eats it, they won’t consume the insect in its entirety.
Instead, tarantulas inject digestive enzymes into the insect, then slowly suck out the now-liquidized insides.
This leaves a dry, crispy exoskeleton, which often barely resembles the insect you popped into the cage.
These too can attract mites or begin to smell so best remove them as they’re discovered.
Any Moldy Areas
Tarantulas tend to appreciate a reasonably dry habitat, rather than one which is truly wet. However tarantulas spill their water bowls sometimes, and some substrates can quickly go moldy in such circumstances.
If you spot any signs of mold growing in the tarantula tank then it’s best to scoop this substrate out and dispose of it. Top up the cage with fresh substrate as required.
Poop on Glass
Tarantula poop on the sides of the cage can be unsightly. Fortunately it’s normally pretty easy to get rid of this, especially if you’re using a glass cage.
A glass scraper can quickly remove the worst of any poop. Thereafter, I lightly spray the inside of the cage with tepid water and wipe it clean with kitchen towel.
The process is quiet and simple, though can be difficult in smaller cages or those made of plastic. On these occasions it may just be easier to transfer your tarantula to a whole new cage before giving the old one a thorough top-to-bottom clean.
Your tarantula should always have fresh water which is changed regularly. However as part of your spot cleaning process it’s also worth removing the water bowl, giving it a really good scrub clean and leaving it to dry before popping it back in with your spider.
How Often Should I Do a Full Clean of My Tarantula Cage?
Tarantula keepers disagree with one another on how often a full clean is necessary. That is, removing and disposing of all the old substrate. Taking out hides and giving them a really good scrub in hot water. You name it.
I can therefore only give you my own routine.
Appreciate, however, that other tarantula keepers may disagree. You will therefore have to make your own mind up.
Personally, however, I like to give my adult tarantulas an annual clean. With so many spiders in my collection I do a few each weekend throughout the warmer months of the year, where scrubbing them out in the garden isn’t too unpleasant, and where they can be left in the sun to dry properly.
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