“ Animal Species: Spiders „
On Xmas Eve 2008 our pet tarantula died, we had her for just over 8 years and found her an interesting, but not very exciting pet and I have no plans to get another one.
Strider, as she was called, was originally bought by a teenager, as he thought she would make a cool pet, that he could show to all of his friends. That was until his mum found her in a tank under his bed and told him in no uncertain terms, to get her out of the house. She was then passed around all of his friends, until she found her way back to the original owner!
The boy's dad knew my brother and asked if he knew anyone who would take her in and that is how Strider ended up in my house. I did not want a tarantula, but am a sucker for unwanted and unloved animals and my son said that he would look after her.
I'll give you two guesses who ended up looking after her!
We originally thought Strider was a male, but as they only live until maturity, which is around 3 - 4 years old, I guess Strider was definitely a female.
Strider was a Chilean Rose, which is the most commonly kept pet tarantula. They come from Chile and are hardy, easy to care for and the best choice of tarantula for a beginner.
They may be a common tarantula, but in no way do they look common. They are in fact very pretty with an base colour of tan/brown, covered in pink hairs with flashes of metallic pink on their body. The leg span of an adult Chilean Rose ranges from 4.5 - 5.5 inches and females can live to around 15 years. Although we had Strider for over 8 years, I am not sure what age she actually was, as I don't know how long the previous owner had her for.
A Chilean Rose is very easy to keep. You need a small, well ventilated, 5 - 10 gallon tank, a heat pad to keep the temperature at between 21 - 30C and a thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature. They need shelter from the heat and Strider had half a plant pot to hide under. She also had a shallow dish, where she could get regular, fresh water.
Over the base of the tank, you should spread 2 - 3 inches of soil, peat moss or vermiculite. Although it is not necessary to decorate the inside of the tank in anyway, I did like to make it look as interesting as possible, because I couldn't help but feel that Strider's life looked terribly boring.
I would put in a combination of different textured covering in her tank, including a small area of sand, some bark and rocks. The sand was kid's play sand and was washed and bagged and the bark and rocks were purchased from the pet shop, so everything was clean and hygenic.
I also purchased Strider's food from the pet shop. She had to eat live crickets, which came in a plastic tub and made quite a racket! I would usually pop 3 or 4 in at a time. She would usually manage to eat about half of the tub, over a few weeks, then lose interest. It was then another month before she would want to eat again. I can't remember exactly how much the crickets cost now, but it was only around £3 - £4, so they are very cheap to keep.
Tarantulas are very clean creatures and their tank hardly ever needs cleaning out. Every couple of months, I would remove any waste products from the surface, although any dead crickets should be removed immediately. About twice a year I would remove Strider from the tank and give it a thorough clean and give her fresh soil etc.
Although Chilean Rose tarantulas are docile and can be handled, they do not really like it. They have very fragile abdomens and if dropped the abdomen can be damaged, which leads to a slow death. Unless absolutely necessary, it is best not to lift them at all.
When a tarantula feels threatened, they have the ability to scrape off tiny hairs, which have barbs in them. They then flick these barbs onto your hands and they dig in and cause the most itchy, irritation. I unfortunately know this through personal experience. I am also unfortunate enough to know just how painful their bite can be, after picking Strider up the wrong way, believe me, I never made that mistake again!
The one fascinating thing I did see while we had Strider, was her molting. After making what looked like a very thick web, she flipped herself onto her back and just lay there. Her body would seem to vibrate every so often, then she would go really still. This went on for a few hours before bedtime and the next morning, it looked like there were two tarantulas in the tank. It was pretty weird, removing the old exoskeleton from the tank.
I should mention that it is really important to not have any live food in the tank, while your spider is molting. It is very vulnerable at this point and could be killed by a cricket!
Strider was an unusual pet and there were times when I found here quite interesting. Most of the time though, she was very dull.
Unless you have a real love or interest in tarantulas, I would not bother buying one. They may be cheap to keep, but they are living creatures, that deserve respect and the best of care. If you are going to lose interest and not give it the care it requires, it will of course have an early death, which just wouldn't be fair.
Due to just finishing reading the other two reviews on this subject i have to put in my two pence and shed a little light on the vague world of the hobbyist tarantula keeper.
First and foremostly half of what you read on the internet is a lie, most pet shop owners and amateur keepers will give you duff info about the particular species that you are purchasing, your best bet is to find someone who ACTUALLY KEEPS AND BREEDS TARANTULAS IN CAPTIVITY their hands on knowledge is second to none when seeking out advice for your new pet.
Most serious keepers also belong to reckognised associations such as the british tarantula society and know a lot of other hobbyists too who are not only keepers and breeders but also taxonomists and arachnologists to boot.
So now that we have the advice part settled let me talk you through the world of the tarantula keeper.
I CANNOT STATE THIS FACT ENOUGH, BEFORE YOU PURCHASE A TARANTULA DO YOUR RESEARCH!, find out if a tarantula is the right pet for you, and keep in mind before deciding that some of the females can live in excess of 30 years in captivity if well looked after!.
Also take into account the fact that a tarantula is NOT a pet you can play with, stroke or cuddle but is infact a wild animal that although for the most part docile they can and will have moodswings and they are most definately unpredictable.
Although tarantula venom is NOT HARMFUL TO HUMANS and the bite no more painful than a wasp or bee sting, there is a chance that you may suffer from an allergic reaction, it is reccomended that if you do get bitten you seek medical attention the first time it happens just to ensure you are safe and not allergic.
They also have coarse hairs on their abdomens which although look nice and fluffy are actually urticating a bit like glass wool and they do irritate the skin, this when you consider it is a really smart first line of defense for the tarantula as they utilise them in fighting off any predators by flicking them off at any would be attacker.
Another thing to take into consideration is that they are predominantly nocturnal and most species will not be very active during daylight hours, preferring to roam their enclosure at night when they feel safe from the animals that prey on them.
Also you will have to feed them live food, all tarantulas vary and some can be quite fussy so when you get a new specimen it's best to have a little mix and match of various livefoods so that you can figure out what your tarantula likes best!, i find that for the most part though they will eat brown crickets.
ok so now that you have decided that you want to be a part of the hobby and have considered the factors above you'll be wanting to buy your spider now. but wait a second we haven't talked about enclosures!.
Contrary to popular belief your tarantula does not need an elaborate enclosure, preferring instead a nice and plain setup with just enough room to have a little stretch when required, humidity and temperature settings do vary among species however with most desert species obviously preferring the dry and rainforest specimens needing a higher humidity.
To maintain humidity we need to use a substrate in the base of the enclosure this can be a variety of things but most keepers use coconut fibre which is also known as coir, this can be purchased from your local exotics store or online from good retailers, sometimes it goes by the name of eco bark or forest bedding and i reccomend this to the novice keeper as it is easy to use and quite inexpensive.
You'll also be needing a heatmat, bear in mind that tarantulas do not like heat from underneath the enclosure and prefer a side mounted heating system, this can easily be achieved by fixing the heatmat to the outside of the enclosure and using a reflector such as a piece of polystyrene so the heat only travels into the tank and not away from it, heatmats come in various sizes, you'll be wanting one that covers about half the length of the enclosure.
The enclosure itself can be anything with a secure fitting lid, however most folk like to see thier tarantula so you'll want something clear, make sure it is well ventilated to allow airflow, you can use anything from a glass tank to a plastic blanket box, most keepers prefer to go for the blanket box or plastic kritter keeper as these are inexpensive and save money in the longrun as your tarantula collection grows, and it will grow because this hobby swiftly becomes an addiction.
You'll also need a thermometer and a hygrometer again you can find these in exotics stores, digital are best but there are cheaper stick on alternatives that do the job also.
Add to this a hide which can be half of a plastic plant pot or something similar and a shallow waterdish and we are ready to start setting up the enclosure.
Assuming you are new to the hobby you would have picked one of the begginner terrestrail species which we will talk about in a second but this is how you would go about the setup.
Firstly take your brick of coir and soak it in fresh water, remeber the bricks look small but they do expand a lot so assuming you havce an average sized kritter keeper you'll only need around half a brick and 2 litres of water.
When the coir has soaked up the water it becomes like peat, you need to take handfulls of the stuff and squeeze it out until it is only slightly damp before placing it in the enclosure, you'll need to repeat this with handfulls until you have roughly 4 inches of substrate evenly spread around the bottom.
Next stick on your thermometer and hygrometer in what will be the warmest end of the enclosure but slightly away from the heatmat.
After this take your hide and place it into what will be the cooler end, i'm assuming as i recommended you are using a half plant pot so push this down into the substrate and start a bit of a burrow at the entrance, this will help your tarantula to find it and make it easier for it to start digging out it's new home.
After this you'll need to mount the heatmat, take your piece of polystyrene and using some sellotape stick the mat down onto it, after this you need to secure it to the side of the enclosure with the heatmat touching the enclosure and the polystyrene facing away from it.
take your shallow waterdish and fill it with water, NEVER use spidergel or place a sponge in the waterdish, your tarantula can drink fresh water perfectly well and it will NOT drown, this is a myth and is only true with spiderlings which as a begginer you do not need to worry about at this point in time.
You may however want to place a small piece of slate or a few pebbles into the dish to help any live food climb out, crickets are extremely stupid and have a habit of drowning in the water, the pebbles will save you from having to fish them out.
And there your setup is ready, what you have to do now is leave it for around 24 hours and make sure the humidity and temperature is fine, most starter species need around 60% - 70% humidity and between 26 and 28 degrees centigrade heatwise.
Assuming this is all fine and dandy, your ready for your tarantula.
Tarantula's are not "true spiders" like the common house spider or the black widow, they are infact Mygalomophae, and as i have previously stated they are WILD ANIMALS and cannot be tamed. they can however, make fascinating pets that you will spend hours observing and never tire of watching and learning about.
Tarantulas fall into two main categories OLD WORLD and NEW WORLD, the best starter species are new world tarantulas which come from the americas as opposed to the old world asian, african etc specimens that tend to need a little different care and are faster and more aggressive making them extremely unsuitable for the begginer.
The next two categories are TERRESTRIAL (meaning they spend thier life living in, under or on the ground, don't be fooled though they can still climb) and ARBOREAL (which live up in trees etc and are much faster and agile climbers).
We as i mentioned during the setup part are concentrating on NEW WORLD TERRESTRIAL spiders as these make the best starter species, mostly they are very docile and easy to handle if required, though you should try not to handle your spider for reasons we will discuss in a bit.
A good starter species for anyone is Brachypelma Smithi (the mexican redknee tarantula), this was the first tarantula ever introduced into the hobby and due to the numbers starting to dwindle can only be purchased now through captive breeders and they are protected by CITES and it is illegal to export them from mexico if they are wild captured.
There are a few other species that you may also want to consider, Grammostola Rosea (chile rose) and Aphonopelma Bicoloratum (mexican bloodleg) are very beautiful specimens and generally quite docile, there are more but i'm not going to list them as it will take too long and this review is nowhere near complete yet, the above are all hardy specimens and do well in captivity, they are favoured as starter species but are still held in high regard by experienced collectors.
Remember when purchasing your tarantula to ask for it's moult history, any good breeder should be able to tell you when the last time the spider moulted was, also a feeding record is a good addition as if the spider is off it's food it may be a sign of an upcoming moult asking to see it feed is a better idea, however this is not always possible as some tarantulas are a little shy about eating whilst being watched.
Also MOST IMPORTANTLY make sure your spider has all of it's limbs, no mites and is CAPTIVE BRED, wild caught specimens are not only more likely to be aggressive but can also be diseased or carrying parasites which will ultimately lead to it's death.
As a starter you'll be wanting to buy either an adult or a sub adult as raising younger spiders takes a little more work and knowledge.
You'll want to ask the keeper what sex it is also, if you are purchasing a captive bred sub adult or adult from a reputable source then there is no reason that a spider that size should not be sexed, sex can only be 100% determined by examining the inside of the exuvium (moulted exoskeleton). any good breeder knows this and will happily tell you what sex it is.
If you plan on keeping your pet for any length of time you'll be wanting a female as male tarantulas only live until they mature and then die off either naturally or during mating when the female gets hungry, females on the other hand can live for years after they mature, the actual lifespan varying dependant on species.
Thats about all you need to know about picking a healthy starter specimen, just pop her in the enclosure now and she'll make herself at home.
Do not feed your tarantula for a few days after first rehousing her, she will need to settle in and will dig out her burrow and lay down a groundweb so she can feel what is going on in her new enviroment, make sure that your spider has fresh water daily though as they can get really thirsty sometimes.
Feeding your spider is simple, simply drop a cricket, locust, mealworm, waxworm or cockroach etc in there and leave her to it, tarantulas like all spiders are excellent ambush predators and she'll know it's there and devour it when she feels like it.
Remember that all food you offer your tarantula must be bought from a supplier of feeder insects and should never be wild caught, wild caught insects have been outside and subject to pesticides, disease etc, all of which can result in the death of your new prized pet.
I like to drop my feed in at night before i go to bed, this is when the spider is most active and it gives her a couple of hours to catch and eat her prey while you sleep, in the morning there will be a small ball of discarded cricket that she has left over, simply remove this with a pair of tweezers and dispose of it, leaving in unfinished food can cause mite problems in the enclosure and they are a bugger so you won't be wanting them.
Your tarantula will only need two to three crickets a week, it is not a good idea to feed more than this, this will result in your tarantula dying prematurely, a good idea to make sure your tarantula is healthy and getting nutrients is to use a technique called "GUTLOADING" which is basically feeding the crickets or other food some fruit or vegetables before offering the nicely fattened up insect to your tarantula.
YOUR TARANTULA WILL NEED WATER DAILY HOWEVER I CANNOT STIPULATE THIS ENOUGH !!.
Occasionally your tarantula will refuse food, if like me you feed at night and come down in the morning and the crickets have not been touched, remove them from the enclosure and wait a week or so before offering them again, do not worry if your tarantula does not eat, tarantulas are notorious for going months without eating and can do so with no threat to their lives, again just make sure your spider has water.
apart from the above you do not need to maintain the enclosure all that much, tarantula droppings are not that big so you'll rarely notice them (apart from the odd white stain on the inside of the tank which can be wiped off with a moist cloth).
Cleaning can be done 3-4 times a year as required, just pop your tarantula somewhere safe for 5 minutes while you give the enclosure a rinse out and replace the old coir with new in the same way you did it when you setup the tank, then pop her back in.
Apart from this maintanance is as simple as making sure that the humidity never drops below 50% as this is too dry and could cause problems for the spider during it's moult, easily solved by a quick misting of water across the enclosure, using a spray bottle the likes of which you'll find in a hairdressing supply shop.
So there you have it contrary to what you may have read elsewhere after the initial setup tarantulas are generally low maintanance, they do not need taken out for exercise and are quiet so don't disturb your everyday activities.
AND THEY MOST CERTAINLY DO NOT SMELL.
Which brings me to my next point you do need to know that as spiders grow they moult, this basically involves the shedding of the external skeleton, (spiders are inverts and have no bones). this is by far the most vulnerable time in a spiders life and it is imperative that you do not disturb your tarantula while this process is happening as if she is spooked and trys to run she may very well die, most of all do not touch your tarantula at this time and make sure that there is no live food in the enclosure.
During a moult your tarantula will lay a thicker groundweb (known as a hammock) and flip over onto it's back. it may lie there for hours or even days before the process starts but do not be alarmed your spider is NOT DEAD (although there have been folk that have made this mistake). eventually your tarantula will start to pump it's legs and push off it's old skin which will come off in one piece, after which your spider will be very soft and require a few days to harden before you go near it or attempt to feed it again, larger spiders can take over a week to get back to normal after a moult as this is a very strenuous experience for them.
I am not going to give you a guide on how to handle your tarantula as you shouldn't do it unless it is necessary, the spider will not enjoy or benefit from being held and terrestrial species can die if dropped.
I reccoment that for transporting your tarantula you use a deli cup with a lid and use a ruler to gently nudge your spider into it when you need to maintain the tank.
This is pretty much all you need to know about keeping tarantulas to get you started on the right track, there are many good community forums online with helpful advice that will help you to better understand the keeping of individual species and techniques for handling etc.
I recommend you look up The British Tarantula Society at www.thebts.co.uk if you would like further info on tarantula keeping or looking after other specimens, they are definately the pioneers of the hobby.
Hopefully you have taken the time to read this review, i have been keeping tarantulas for a while now and i have 19 specimens currently in my collection old world and new, my display pic is one of my beautiful girls a CYRIOPAGOPUS SP "blue" (the singapore blue tarantula) she's an old world arboreal and i currently have her in a breeding tank with a male, so fingers crossed for a succesful breeding.
And remember if you do enter the hobby, not only are you going to learn about, observe and be captivated by some amazing and beautiful species from all around the globe, you are also helping in the conservation of a magnificent species.
Tarantulas are 8 legged, 2 palp, 2 fanged, exo skeleton creatures.
The number of different types of tarantula becoming available in the pet trade is growing all the time but the red knee origionaly from mexico is the most common and also my favorite.
This species grows to around 12cm, the girls usually being bigger than the boys, sexing them is very difficult as it is only once the male reaches sexual maturity at around 5 years old that he grows hooks on his front legs, this doesnt happen on the females.
A male will live to about 6 years of age but the females live much longer, mine is 15 years old now although she is begining to slow down now and go a bit grey.
Breeding is difficult as the female will usually eat the male after mating as she is looking for a source of protein to feed her eggs and the male is the nearest thing.
In the wild tarantulas would eat moths, butterflys, crickets, locusts, smaller spiders and baby mice but i feed mine on crickets and hoppers brought from a pet shop.
They are easy to keep and dont require large cages.
Most species can be kept at tempretures of around 21 to 24'c.
My cage is a glass tank with sand and vemiculite in the bottom with a piece of bark for her to climb on.
My tarantula ruby doesnt spin a web like most house hold spiders but lines the bottom of her cage instead to slow down insects.
All spiders have to shed there external skeleton to be able to grow, the shedding of the skin may only occur once a year for an adult spider but more often in the young.
To shed your spider will turn it self on to its back and the carapace will then split open, the spider then climbs out leaving its old skeleton behind.
When the spider first comes out it is wet and has to dry before it can move around or feed.
Although red knees are venomous they are not dangerous to humans as there venum is no stronger than a wasp sting but it does hurt when they bite and the skin around my bite swole and was red for about 4 days.
Tarantulas require a very shallow water bowl as they are rubbish swimmers so i use a plastic lid or mine.
Spiders arnt a pet that needs a lot of attention, as long as they are kept warm, given water daily and fed once a week they are more than happy to sit in there cage without any bother.
Mine does like to come out and crawl over you but wont go too far, she gets on my hand when i open the cage climbs up to my sholder and usually stays there although there have been ocasions where she has decided to climb into my hair.
We have had her since she was a baby and she has always been handlable, although my husband is petrified of her and wont even come intio the same room as her if she is out.
She has bitten me once as i have previously said but that was my own fault, she had escaped and i had been hounding her for hours trying to get her back in her cage but i won in the end even if i did get bit.
I love spiders and think they make great pets.
Tarantulas (and spifders which actually aren't of that species but are generally known as such) do not make good and easy family pets, whatever pet shops tell you. They need quite a high degree of fairly specialist care, and I've seen so many sad and sorry specimens that I thought I'd write a few words about them. A lot of spiders are actually quite aggressive. Some, like the Mexican red-knee aren't, but even they can be provoked into giving a nasty bite. A spider never becomes 'tame' in the way that a dog or cat can. Handled regularly and properly they can learn to tolerate it, most of the time, but it remains an inexact science. They must be handled carefully because if you drop them from any height at all they can easily die. Spiders have quite specialist needs, they must be kept at the correct temperature or they may become overly-aggressive or refuse to feed; they must have appropriate humidity or they suffer from skin problems. They must almost be cleaned out regularly (so handling becomes inevitable) because, perhaps surprisingly, they do smell. Spiders, in the natural state, largely only bite to eat - they need to preserve their venom for their prey. For many species and sub-species their main method of self-defence is their hairs, which are covered with a very irritant substance. If the spider feels hassled it can 'fire' these at you. If you get one in your eye it will *hurt*. Finally, a note for the squeamish. Spiders must almost always be fed live food. Very few spiders will learn to love something that isn't moving. Usually that means crickets which you can buy from specialist suppliers. You need to judge the spider's needs very carefully in this respect. Uneaten crickets left in with the spider, especially if there is a few of them, can 'worry' the spider to death - so only ever give one at a time and remove it if the spider hasn't eaten it after a few hours.