The Beginners Guide to Keeping Tarantulas as Pets — Preloved UK

The Beginners Guide to Keeping Tarantulas as Pets

Richard Adams

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Tarantulas can make surprisingly good pets – assuming you’re not afraid of spiders!

Many of the more common species are quite simple to look after, are docile-enough to be handled and some specimens can live for over 20 years.

In addition to this, tarantulas tend to be quite clean animals, make little or no noise and require minimal regular maintenance. They can therefore be ideal for those with minimal space or time, but who’d like something a little but “different” as a pet.

The Equipment List

Tarantulas are exotic pets, and as a result they require rather more specialist care than, say, a hamster.

If your spider is to live a long and healthy life, here’s a list of the equipment you’ll want to have at home…

Tarantula Tank

First and foremost you’ll be needing a suitable cage for your spider. Most exotic pet shops sell specialist spider tanks these days, or you might even manage to find one here on Preloved.

Generally speaking a spider tank will be made of glass, with dimensions of around 12″ long by 8″ deep. One popular brand to keep an eye out for is Exo Terra. It’s important that they have a secure lid, as tarantulas can be surprisingly good at climbing. This tank should be cleaned with a reptile-safe detergent spray before use, and the same substance can be used for future cleaning.


Tarantulas typically come from the warmer parts of the world, and are cold blooded, so some artificial heating will be required.

This needn’t be as difficult – or as expensive – as you might first think. One of the easiest heaters to use is a heat pad. These are thin pieces of plastic, with a wire coming out of one end. Once plugged in they produce a gentle, background heat and cost just pennies per day to run.


The base of the tarantula cage should be lined with a suitable material. Doing so doesn’t just look good; it also allows your pet to behave more naturally, by burrowing and re-arranging it to suit its needs.

In the past a range of different tarantula substrates have been used. Possibly the most effective solutions are a chemical-free potting compost or coir. Coir is made from coconut shell, and can be bought in many pet shops as a condensed “brick”. Simply soak it in water for a few minutes and the material will expand. Drain off the excess water and you have a perfect substrate for your spider.

Spray Gun

The right humidity is almost as important as the right heat for your tarantula. Dry cages can kill tarantulas, especially when they try to change their skin (something that adults normally do once a year). A plant spray gun can be used to give the cage a gentle spray from time to time, helping to keep the inside humid.

Be aware that tarantulas can be very sensitive to household chemicals. It is therefore a good idea to buy a new spray gun, and carefully label it, purely for your tarantula. In this way you can be certain that it is not used for other purposes around the house.


Low-cost thermometers can be used to monitor the temperature in your tarantula tank. Ideally you’ll want the hottest area of the cage to sit at around 25’C. Additionally, a hygrometer can help you measure the humidity, aiming for around 70-80% humidity. These can often be purchased in combined units for just a few pounds.

Water Bowl

While tarantulas don’t drink often it is considered good form to always make water available. A shallow bowl, as sold for hamsters, can be ideal. Be sure to wash the bowl and change the water regularly to keep it fresh.

If there’s one thing that most tarantulas have in common it’s that they can be surprisingly shy and retiring animals – quite the opposite of the fearsome creatures they’re made out to be in the movies.

It is kind, therefore, to provide somewhere private so your spider can hide away during the daylight hours. While reptile shops sell quite a wide range of hides, a cheaper solution can simply be half-burying a suitably-sized plastic plant pot – lying on its side – in the cage. This acts like a small “cave” and can give your pet the privacy it desires.

It’s no secret that tarantulas are carnivores, and will require live insects to eat. Before buying a tarantula you should research the subject thoroughly, so that you know where you can buy them from. Alternatively, a number of websites sell live foods by post.

Broadly speaking tarantula food comes in tubs. A range of options are available, with crickets and locusts being particularly popular. Aim for insects no more than half the length of your spider.

Tarantulas cannot be overfed, so feel free to feed your spider as often as they will eat. As a broad rule, start with twice a week for adults. The food should be eaten within a few minutes of introduction; don’t leave uneaten insects in the cage for long periods as this can stress out the spider, and cause problems with moulting.

It is a good idea to keep a diary of when your tarantula eats. A spider that goes off its food for some weeks is normally coming up to a moult. By monitoring this you’ll be able to predict a skin change, and pay particular attention to your spider during this period.

How to Set Up Your Tarantula Tank

Setting up a tarantula tank is reasonably simple once you have all the necessary equipment. Firstly, place an inch or so of substrate in the base of the tank, then place in the hide and water bowl.

The next (critical) step is setting up the heater correctly. Here there are two solutions. You can either rest the rank on top of the heater, or tape it to the outside (such as one end of the cage). Here’s the important point – you don’t want to heat the whole cage. Why not? You want to create a “gradient” – with some end warmer than the other. In this way your tarantula can move about naturally, selecting the area that suits them best.

This means that you’ll want to just heat 1/3 to 1/2 of the cage. For example, if you’re placing the cage on the heater then just place it half on, and half off.

Pop your thermometer in, close the lid and then monitor the cage. If you hit a comfortable 24-26’C at the hot end then you’re all good to go!

As a quick note, its important to mention that tarantulas tend to be cannibalistic. As a result they’re kept alone. Don’t feel guilty about your spider getting “bored” – if you give him a playmate you’ll normally end up with just one, very fat tarantula!

Choosing a Species

There are now over 800 tarantulas known to science. While only a tiny handful of these are common in the pet trade this does mean that the potential tarantula keeper has quite a decision to make.

The most popular first tarantula is the Chile Rose – a sturdy, low-priced and very docile species. New keepers are best to stay away from one of more exotic species until you have gained some experience. At this point, however, there are a vast number of dazzling species that can be kept – from the dinner-plate sized Goliath Birdeater to the incredibly-coloured Green Bottle Blue.

Can I Handle My Tarantula?

One of the most common questions that we tarantula-keepers get asked is whether you can handle a tarantula.

Here there are a number of factors to consider. Firstly, not all tarantulas can be safely held. Some are much faster, or more aggressive, than others. Examples of slow-moving and docile spiders which can be held include the Chilean Rose, the Curly Hair and the Mexican Red Knee. If you plan to handle your tarantula, check in advance whether or not you’re buying a species suitable for such an activity.

Secondly, opinions are divided on how safe this is for tarantulas. A tarantulas abdomen is surprisingly fragile, and dropping a tarantula from a height can be disastrous. If you do opt to handle your tarantula, therefore, aim to do so while holding it over a soft surface – such as a bed – so that if your spider falls it won’t damage itself.

The method for handling a tarantula is quite simple. The easiest method is to place your flat hand into the cage near your spider, and then gently coax it onto your hand, using a pen as a guide. Once there, gently lift the spider up and be ready to swap hands as the spider walks.


I’ve been keeping tarantulas for over 20 years now, and think they’re one of the very best pets around. You’ll be privvy to a glimpse of their private lives as you can watch them hunting, eating and changing their skins in the comfort of your own home.

Like any pet, keeping a tarantula comes with responsibilities. That said, their care requirements are pretty minimal, making for a low-effort pet. Like many others, you might even find yourself turning into quite a collector over time – very rarely does the spider enthusiast stop at a single animal!

You can find Richard over at his website Keeping Exotic Pets. Go and say hello!

We asked Richard whether he knew of any exotic pet rescues we could share with readers, we were shocked to learn that there aren’t that many at all! The two he recommended are Proteus Reptile Trust in the Midlands and a specialist RSPCA reptile unit in Brighton. Check out Preloved if you would like to rehome a tarantula.

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Richard Adams

Richard Adams is a British tarantula enthusiast who has been keeping and breeding exotic pets since the early 1990’s. Today he blogs about his passion at Keeping Exotic Pets.

Guidelines for Choosing A Pet Spider

These are incredibly quiet, tidy pets that are easy to care for and quite fascinating to watch.

Spiders are fascinating creatures to watch, but before purchasing one for yourself, it is best to do your homework so you will be able to properly determine whether spider ownership is both a good fit for you and the other members of your household. These fascinating creatures are special, and while they are not excessively demanding in their care, you should have the same amount of dedication to caring for them as for any other pet.


A lot of owners get pets on impulse, and as soon as the novelty wears off they tire of caring for them. This happens frequently with spiders. Here are some of the advantages of choosing a spider for a pet:

  • Spiders are quiet and clean.
  • Spiders can live quite comfortably in a small terrarium, taking up very little space.
  • Pet spiders are fascinating to observe.
  • Spiders are inexpensive to maintain.
  • A spider requires little to no socialization, so it won’t be lonely if you only own one.

Possible Disadvantages

Despite their convenience and simplicity, the following may need to be considered before owning a spider:

  • Nearly all spiders are poisonous to some degree. Before choosing a spider for a pet, you must consider that some spiders have more potent venom than others. There are some people who are allergic to spider venom (even very weak potency) just as some people would be allergic to a bee sting.
  • Tarantulas have more than one mode of protection. In addition to mildly poisonous venom, they can flick their abdominal hairs if they feel threatened.
  • Many spiders are natural escape artists and need a properly sealed environment in order to protect themselves and your home.
  • Most spiders, even in ideal conditions, don’t live very long. Tarantulas, may be the only exception to this rule; sometimes living over 20 years with proper care.
  • Most spiders do not enjoy handling. Dropping a tarantula can cause its abdomen to burst, which usually results in death.
  • Spiders do not react well to other household pets.
  • Some states prohibit the purchase or possession of spiders.

Selecting the Right Pet

If you’re in the beginning stages with a spider, it’s best to select a species th at’s neither fragile nor harmful. The best beginner spider would be a tarantula such as the Chilean rose, Mexican Redleg , or Costa Rican Zebra. These species aren’t terribly venomous and are pretty docile when compared with some other tarantulas (their venom is comparable to bee venom). Remember that if you have kids, many insect pets belong to the «look but don’t touch» category, mainly because they may be too delicate for constant handling beyond their main caregiver.

Things to Remember

Consult local, county and state government organizations with regards to legality. Not all locales allow the keeping of spiders, venomous or not, so it is a good idea to research this before making a purchase.

Find out about the treatment (housing, environment, diet) required for the pet you are considering. While many pet spiders are inexpensive to own, offering the suitable surroundings may be tricky for some species, especially for the greater exotic tarantulas. In most cases, you would like to simulate their natural environment as closely as possible. Find out what is required for food and take into account if you will be able to offer the proper diet.

Check the life expectancy of the species you have chosen. A lot of spiders have fairly short life-spans, but some tarantulas can live for 20-30 years (and females are considerably hardier than males).

Learn the proper method of handling your spider. While this is an obvious need for venomous animals, it is just as crucial for non-venomous arachnids as well. They can suffer critical or fatal wounds by incorrect handling.

Find out, from a reputable source, exactly which species are venomous; understand that even a mildly venomous tarantula may cause a lot of pain. Also, tarantulas have special fine hairs on their abdomen, which they expel if threatened; these could be incredibly irritating and dangerous if they get in your eyes. If you’re getting a tarantula, make sure you find out not only how best to avoid bites, but also how to deal with bites should they occur. You should also find out what to do if exposed to the spider’s irritating abdominal hairs.

10 Reasons Why Keeping Exotic Pets Can Be Very Dangerous

Wild animals belong to their native habitat and not in people’s homes. Exotic pet industry fuels illegal wildlife trade and fosters animal cruelty.

Wild animals deserve to be in their native habitat and not in the homes of people.

Exotic animals refer to rare and unusual wild animals that are kept as pets in households. The allure to stand out in society by owning an exotic pet has enticed people for many years, and there is no sign that the trend will change any time soon. Conventional pets usually include the already domesticated animals that are used to being in contact with human beings. Keeping wild animals as pets is a contentious issue that borders on the illegality as it has been fueling animal trafficking, an industry estimated to be worth $7billion. The practice of rearing exotic pets date back to 2500 BC when Sumerians started rearing fish, although in their case, it was for food. Ancient Egyptians and Romans were the first humans to keep fishes solely for their aesthetics. The obsession to possess rare animals later grew from only ornamental fishes to more dangerous animals like reptiles, big cats, and even elephants. However, keeping exotic pets in homes is not a good idea, and there are a host of dangers that come with sharing the same space with a wild animal. The reasons why keeping exotic animals as pets is considered dangerous include the following.

Threat Of Zoonotic Diseases

The reason why ordinary pets never have many issues with diseases is that they have evolved to accustom themselves with healthy living, and in exchange, humans have put their time and resources in developing medication for most of their diseases. Exotic pets cannot afford this luxury, they are unknown entities, and many, like bats, harbor dangerous infections that can infect humans, leading to a pandemic. Diseases that could be carried by exotic animals and have the potential of affecting humans include salmonella, rabies, herpes B virus, Ebola, monkeypox, and many others.

Possessing Such Pets Translates To Public Safety Risk

A wild animal will always be a wild animal. The greatest misconception that exotic pet owners love to hide behind is that a wild animal reared as a pet from a young age forgets its wild side. Wild animals operate on instinct, and they eventually attack, posing a risk to their owners, neighbors, and the whole residential community. Cases of dangerous exotic pets escaping and roaming residential areas and attacking people have been documented several times in the US.

Exotic Animals Are A Threat To Other Wild Animals

There have been cases where exotic pet owners, unable to handle their overgrown pets, release them into the wild to absolve themselves of the responsibility in the hope that they turn independent. Many times, these exotic animals end up becoming invasive species by multiplying quickly and driving out native animals. Such was the case with the Burmese python that took over the Floridian wild after they were released by their owners once they became too big.

The Exotic Pet Often Suffers

When an animal that is used to life in the wild gets confined in a small cage, it gets depressing. Exotic animals do not merely feed on anything they are given, and it takes a unique type of diet to keep them healthy and robust, this has to be accompanied by exercise, which cannot be achieved in restricted spaces. Without these necessities, most become weak, sick, or they succumb to depression which in turn increases the risk of going berserk one day and attacking everyone around them

It Disrupts The Gene Flow

It is estimated that there are more than 5,000 tigers kept in American homes as pets. The staggering number is way more than the number of actual tigers in the wild. These tigers would be better off flourishing in the wild and passing on their genes to the next generation, but instead, they are kept in captivity in less ideal conditions. Tigers in the wild are facing the threat of extinction, which makes the situation even more absurd when many tigers are wasting away in residential homes.

It Fuels The Illegal Pet Trade

The exotic pet trade is a huge industry worth $7b, and it fuels poaching and smuggling of endangered animals from around the world. These activities are banned in many countries, and being caught with an exotic pet can land one in serious trouble. In the US, the minimum penalty for keeping an exotic pet is a $3,000 fine for the first violation, a $13,000 fine for the 2nd violation, and $500,000 plus a 5-year jail term for subsequent violations. Getting that pet tiger may look like a cool thing to do, but it may not be worth the risk of being locked away.

Animal Cruelty Is Often Involved

How these animals are snatched from the wild is usually cruel. When it comes to choosing an exotic pet, potential owners prefer newborn babies in the hope that they get used to being near people before growing up. For this reason, poachers and smugglers usually snatch babies from their mothers with force, and in the process, they hurt the animals. The conditions under which the animals are transported are inhuman. Some even die on the way for lack of food, water, and suffocation.

It Creates An Ecological Imbalance

There is a misconception that keeping an exotic pet is akin to providing a home for it and saving it from unfavorable conditions in its natural habitat. It is wrong. Snatching animals from their natural ecosystems creates an imbalance that ends up disrupting everything else since each animal plays a role in their natural habitats. The same imbalance also occurs in the form of invasive species. A disruption to the ecosystem is bad for everyone that depends on it for sustenance, and that includes humans.

The Risk Of Habituation Is There

Habituation is a state where an exotic animal gradually gets used to a situation that they would rather avoid to survive. Sometimes when an animal that has undergone habituation is discarded by the owner, it finds it difficult to integrate back into the wild as its natural traits, instincts, and skills have become dulled and stunted. The animal becomes vulnerable to attacks from other wild animals leading to death at times. Many animals that are unable to cope with life in the wild could turn to attack humans and other easy target prey like livestock.

Native Animals Could Get New Diseases

When animals are transferred from one end of the planet to another without being adequately tested, they end up introducing new bugs to places that have never encountered them. Many wild animals are resistant to diseases from their natural habitats, an inherent trait that takes species ages to develop. But when they are transferred to a new habitat with different conditions, they bring the diseases with them and spread them to other animals, both wild and domestic, and this could create an animal disease pandemic that can wipe out native species that do not possess the same resistance.

Common Exotic Pets In America

Americans have an insatiable hunger for keeping exotic pets, and the animals that top their list include the capybara, the largest rodent on earth that weighs about 140 pounds. It is legal to own a capybara in Texas and Pennsylvania. The bearded dragon, a native of Australia, is loved by kids because of their calm nature and ease of maintenance. The serval, an exotic cat from Africa, is a big hit with many due to their beautiful appearance. The Fennec fox, with its large ears, is a native of the African continent, and it is legal to own them in the whole of America except the states of Minnesota, Washington, and Nevada. Others include the chimpanzee, the common hedgehog, the Hyacinth Macaw, the destructive Chinchilla, and the Ball Python.

Quick Exotic Animal Facts

Although most exotic pets are taken from the wild, there exist breeding farms where popular wild animals are bred in large numbers for the black market. Tarantulas, despite their scary appearance, is the most popular arachnid kept as a pet, it surprisingly lives for up to 25 years in captivity. The Loris, a small primate from Asia, usually dies after being separated from its offspring by traffickers. It is now a critically endangered animal.

Exotic Animal Attacks

Wild animals end up acting out their true natures eventually, regardless of the amount of training they are put through. Mark Voegel, a 30yr old German male, was found rotting in his house with his body wrapped in spider’s webs after he was bitten by his pet, a black widow spider. In 2009, a 37-year-old woman from Pennsylvania was attacked and killed by her pet, a black bear, as she was cleaning the cage. In an ironic twist of fate, Norman Buwalda, a 66-year-old man from Canada, was attacked and killed by his pet tiger. Norman had entered the cage of his tiger pet when he met his death. He was the chairman of the Canadian Exotic Animal Owner’s Association, a vocal advocate for exotic pets. A married couple Jaren Hare and Charles Darnell were handed 12 years in prison because their 2-year old daughter was strangled to death by their pet python. Gerald Rushton, a Texas resident, was instantly killed when he was kicked by their pet deer that weighed 550-pound when he tried to move the animal. In 2011, Marius Els, a farmer from South Africa, was killed by his pet hippo called Humphrey. The most bizarre case of exotic pet attacks is that of Alexandria Hall, who, against conventional wisdom, kept a pit viper, one of the most poisonous snakes on earth, as a pet. Hall was able to drive herself to the hospital, but she later succumbed to the snake bite after a week.

About the Author

Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.

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