Spider housing

Here's a list of a few things you will need to house your tarantula:

  • A tank / terrarium (fish tanks are suitable)
  • Shallow water bowl
  • Substrate (1-4 inches for bottom of tank)
  • Sheltered area
  • Logs / plants / rocks / bark chips
  • Mesh screen at the top of the tank
  • Heat pad
  • Hygrometer & thermometer

Once you have done your research about the species of tarantula you are going to have, it's best to try and match your spider's new habitat with the one he would naturally live in. For example, a Chilean Rose tarantula is a terrestrial species, so naturally lives on the ground. Therefore ground space in his tank is far more important than height. This rule will apply for all the theraphosidae species. The width of your tank should be at least 1.5 times the overall diameter of your spider, which will be more than enough space for him. 

You may find that a 10-gallon fish tank will do just fine, and this size is more than enough for an adult tarantula. In the wild, they won't normally move any further than 10cm away from the entrance to their burrow or hiding place, so your tank does not need to be big.

Alternatively, you can purchase a proper spider terrarium from your local pet store, which will have a suitable lid with vents and a good seal on it to prevent the spider from escaping. All lids for any tank will need to be checked for air vents and look for any other spaces that your tarantula may try to get out of. If the lid to your tank is lightweight you may want to place something heavy on top just to be sure your spider can't get out — as they are quite strong!

Choosing the right substrate

Your tarantula will need a good amount of substrate at the bottom of his tank, this can be coir, peat or potting soil. They all have different qualities, however both peat and potting soil will need to be sterilised before use as they can cause more fungal and pest growth which is best to avoid. Below is a brief breakdown of the different qualities of each substrate:

Coir: this is a composted coconut fibre. It's great for the burrowing species and is relatively clean to work with. It holds moisture well and is easy to re-use. You can buy this in compressed, dehydrated blocks which means it will be more sterile and pest-free. All you have to do is add water to it so that it expands and becomes a substrate rather than a block. It is slightly more gritty than peat.

Peat: This is also good for the burrowing species, is clean to work with and holds moisture well. However, due to it being a natural resource that's running out, it may be best to use other substrates. It's also slightly acidic and is more prone to accomodating mites and pests.

Potting soil: This again is good for burrowing, and is not acidic like peat. You must make sure you choose a potting soil that has no added pesticide or fertiliser so you don't cause harm to your spider. It's dirtier to work with, but holds moisture well and is easy to re-use. Like peat, it's more prone to pests and mites.

You can sterilise your substrate by either popping it your microwave or oven. This should kill off any unwanted pests and bacteria. Be careful not to dry out your substrate or burn it by doing this, and keep an eye on it if you choose the microwave option. The substrate should be replaced two to three times a year, or whenever you feel it needs to be cleaned. If you spot any fungal growth or other activity in your substrate then clean or replace it immediately to avoid any germs harming your spider.  

Providing hiding places

Your spider will either burrow or have places that he likes to hide, so providing him with areas where he can shelter or hide behind during the day is recommended. You can create your own shelters using plant pots — cut them in half and bury part of them in the substrate, with enough of an entrance at the front to allow your spider access. Specially-designed shelters can also be found at most pet shops. You can also add other decorations such as rocks, small logs, bark chips and artificial plants, but try not to overcrowd the tank and leave enough floor space. A shallow water pot should also be provided in the tank.

Keeping your spider warm

Because the tarantula's natural habitat would have been in a warmer climate, his tank should also be kept warm. You can use a heat pad for this, and place it up against one of the sides inside the tank. Try to keep the temperature of the tank between 23 to 28 degrees Celsius. The humidity will also need to be at least 60 per cent, so keeping the substrate moist and having small air vents should help maintain the humidity. Buying a hygrometer and thermometer will help you monitor these levels. 

Tarantulas must not live together

If you were thinking about getting another tarantula, then you will also need house it in another tank, as you cannot put two together. Tarantulas are cannibalistic and will probably try to eat the other if they live together. Females in particular won't think twice about eating their male housemate — so always house them separately.

Pet care advice