Tarantulas are carnivorous invertebrates that will eat almost any live animal they can subdue. While this can include small birds, reptiles or even mammals, in reality this means tarantulas almost exclusively eat other suitably-sized invertebrates.
Baby tarantulas, being so tiny when they hatch, most commonly eat very small insects.
For baby pet tarantulas the most common feeder insects are:
- Fruit flies
- Pinhead crickets
- Cricket parts
- Mealworm parts
Let’s look more thoroughly at each of these options in turn so you can select the answer most suitable for you…
Fruit flies – sometimes sold under their Latin name of Drosophila – are tiny flies measuring just a few millimeters in length.
As their name suggests, the larvae of these flies feed on fruit, rather than the carcass-loving flies many of us loathe. As a result they’re quite hygienic to buy and work with.
They’re also quite easy to culture at home, meaning you can have a constant supply for your baby tarantulas.
Drosophila have been used in all sorts of experiments over the years, particularly with regards to the inheritance of genes from one generation to the next. They were one of the first animals to have their genome fully sequenced.
This is important because we know more about the genetics of fruit flies than the vast majority of the animal kingdom. While studying these genes scientists have discovered all manner of recessive genes not typically seen in wild populations.
This has allowed feeder insect suppliers to culture flightless fruit flies. As the name suggests, these particular fruit flies are unable to fly away. As you might imagine, this makes them far, far easier to feed to a baby tarantula.
Fruit flies that can fly can become quite a pain when they escape around your house – which they will. So ideally look for the flightless variety when possible.
Crickets have long been one of the most popular types of feeder insect. Like fruit flies, they’re easy to breed in captivity, with the hatchling crickets being absolutely tiny. That makes them a perfect food for baby tarantulas.
These recently hatched crickets, like fruit flies, measure just 1-2mm in length. They can either be bought at this size from reputable insect breeders, or you can culture your own quite easily after buying a box of adult crickets.
There are two downsides to pinhead crickets. Firstly, of course, they grow into adults. Within a matter of weeks your hatchling crickets may be getting too large for newly-hatched baby tarantulas to eat.
Secondly, pinhead crickets get very easily dehydrated. They require proper care or they can quickly die off.
Fortunately there are a few solutions available to this issue.
Firstly, you can just order regularly. I have enough baby tarantulas in my collection at any time that I just receive a regular weekly delivery from my chosen livefood breeder. Almost all of the crickets get used up before the next tub arrives.
Secondly, you can try to provide proper care for the baby crickets. Principally this means taking them out of the tub they come in, so they can receive proper ventilation. Then provide not just dry food (bran etc.) but also food that will prevent them from getting dehydrated. Slices of carrot, or greens such as cabbage, can work well.
Thirdly, some tarantula keepers have found that their baby tarantulas will eat even dead pinhead crickets. Some keepers, therefore, place pinhead crickets into their freezer to preserve them, then just thaw out what they need each week before feeding night.
I must confess that I have not tried this last technique myself so cannot vouch for how successful it is.
Some keepers report success giving baby tarantulas just a piece of a larger feeder insect. One popular example used are individual legs of larger crickets.
This is very much akin to freezing hatchling crickets to use later for feeding. To my knowledge, tarantula keepers aren’t chopping the legs off live crickets. Instead, a tub of crickets is purchased, then placed into the freezer.
Once dead and frozen, a handful of these crickets is defrosted each week. Once defrosted, the cricket is “chopped up” using tiny scissors or nail clippers, and the tiny individual pieces are then popped into the baby tarantula vials.
Mealworms are another popular feeder insect among exotic pet hobbyists. Even a small piece of a mealworm might be an overly large meal for the tiniest of baby tarantulas. However for slightly larger specimens a section of mealworm can be a welcome meal.
Mealworms have a lot going for them as feeder insects. They can be easily bred in the home (and baby mealworms are tiny – ideal food for baby tarantulas). They can be kept in the fridge for long periods of time, which will slow down their metamorphosis into adult beetles. They’re also slow-moving and flightless, making mealworms easy to work with.
Like feeding cricket pieces, some tarantula keepers report success by cutting up a larger mealworm into smaller pieces and feeding these to their spiders.
Scaling Up Food Sizes As Your Baby Tarantula Grows
It goes without saying that while the above feeder insects are the perfect for feeding baby tarantulas, as your pet tarantula grows, the food items should increase in number and/or size.
Try to aim for a feeder insect of roughly the length of your tarantula’s abdomen as a broad rule. So as your spider molts and grows, you can start to offer bigger crickets, baby cockroaches, small locusts and more.
Removing Uneaten Food After Feeding
Feeder insects, whether alive or dead, should be removed from your baby tarantulas’ cage if not swiftly eaten. Personally I feed my spiders in the evening, then the following morning check each and every one. Any uneaten food is removed.
Some keepers like to give their tarantulas even less time, taking out any uneaten food after just an hour or two.
The timing itself isn’t crucial. What matters most is removing the uneaten food. You don’t want a live insect causing issues for a tarantula that is coming up the molt, and you don’t want a dead insect attracting mites into your collection. So clean, and clean regularly, to keep everything hygienic for your pets.