Tarantulas do not need a large enclosure, but an arboreal species will require a tall cage and a burrowing type spider will need appropriate substrate or hiding places. For terrestrial or burrowing spiders, the enclosure generally should be 3 times the leg span in length and 2 times the leg span in width. The enclosure should not be much higher than the length of the spider because these spiders are fairly heavy and if they should climb and fall, it could be dangerous or even fatal for them.
A 2.5 or 5 gallon aquarium works very well for these tarantulas. A larger enclosure would make prey harder to find and is not really necessary since the spiders do not need a lot of space. A very secure lid is necessary, as tarantulas can be expert escape artists. Be sure the lid also allows for ventilation. A substrate of vermiculite or vermiculite mixed with varying ratios of potting soil and/or peat should be provided on the bottom of the enclosure. The substrate should be at least 2 to 4-inches deep to hold moisture and to allow room for the spider to burrow. Wood chips, especially cedar should not be used for the substrate due to the harmful chemicals they can contain.
Tarantulas should be provided with a place to hide within their enclosure. A piece of cork bark or a half hollow log (available from pet stores) or half a clay flower pot on it’s side are all good choices.
The arboreal tarantula needs a tall cage or enclosure to provide climbing room, with twigs, branches or other structure on which the spider can construct it’s web. A 10 gallon aquarium set on one end works well for this purpose.
Tarantulas should be kept in a darker room where direct sunlight will not fall on their enclosure. Incandescent lights can dry out the tarantula and therefore, should not be used for heating in the spider’s enclosure. Heating pads or strips, available at pet stores for reptiles, can be placed under a small part of the enclosure for heating needs. Most tarantula species do fine in temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees F.
The various species of tarantulas have different temperature and humidity requirements. Temperature and humidity gagues should be used to monitor conditions in the spider’s enclosure. At higher temperatures, extra care must be taken to ensure adequate humidity levels. At the same time, excess humidity can encourage the growth of mold and therefore should be avoided.
For those tarantulas that do not require high humidity levels, a shallow water dish in the enclosure and misting once a week should be sufficient. For those requiring a higher level of humidity, misting more often will be necessary. The water dish you place in your spider’s enclosure must be very shallow to prevent your spider from drowning. If you have any doubt, place some pebbles in the dish to give the spider something to climb out of if necessary.
Your tarantula’s enclosure should not need frequent cleaning. For spiders kept at a relatively low humidity level, once a year cleaning is most likely enough. For those housed in more humid conditions this would need to be done more often especially if mold or fungus occurs.
Generally, a diet of crickets supplemented with other insects is fine for tarantulas. An adult spider will not eat every day and may only feed once a week. Growing spiders need to be fed several times a week. Adult spiders may fast for extended periods of time, (a month or two is not uncommon), particularly before molting.
Crickets should be kept on a diet of nutritious food and can also be dusted with vitamins prior to feeding them to your spider. You can also feed your tarantula meal worms, roaches and super worms, occasionally. The larger spiders can even be fed pinkie mice and small lizards, although this is not necessary. Always make sure to keep the food smaller than the tarantula’s body and be sure the spider isn’t harmed by it’s prey. When the spider is molting, it is very vulnerable and even a cricket can kill it, therefore, it is important that you remove any uneaten prey within no more than 24 hours.
Molting or shedding the old exoskeleton and producing a new one, is how the spider grows to a larger size. This is a stressful time for your spider and is also a time when humidity levels are most critical. The spider will stop eating and will lay on it’s back to molt. This could take several hours. After the old exoskeleton is shed, it will require several days for the new one to harden. The tarantula should not be fed during this time as it is very vulnerable to injury and even death. Even from something as small as a cricket. It can take up to 2 weeks for the spider to fully recover from the molting process. Your spider should not be handled during the molting and hardening process.
Although most tarantula are not venomous, most experts advise against handling them. Bites can be painful and irritation can result from contact with itchy hairs on the spider, but the greater danger is to the tarantula itself. Even though a tarantula may be acclimated to being held on the hand, if it suddenly runs or jumps, it may fall and the injuries sustained may be fatal. Even a minor fall can kill a heavy-bodied tarantula, if the abdomen ruptures. Some tarantulas are very fast and there is always the risk of escape. Due to the risk of injury to the child and the spider, children should not be allowed to handle a tarantula.