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  1. #1
    Registered User Shadowspider's Avatar
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    General Tarantula CAre, what to know BEFORE you buy

    Ok, this is a pretty long write up, so, grab a cup of coffee and a snack and settle in for a bit of a read.
    If you take the time to read the whole thing, you'll learn a lot and will be *much* more prepared for making a wise decision as to what species tarantula to get, how to choose one, where to get one and how to take care of it.

    Making The Choice

    The first question a potential keeper must ask themselves is "what kind"?
    While there are several hundred species from which to choose, choosing the right one for your lifestyle, experience level and personal taste can prove to be challenging. Many hobbyists have said that the New World species are calmer, more docile and less venomous than the Old World species.....this is not entirely true. While most Old World species do tend to be more skittish and/or aggressive, do tend to have a more potent venom and usually do not have uriticating hair, it would be a bit short sighted to use it as a blanket statement. Whether you choose a Grammostola or a Poeciotheria, you must consider the species typically known temperament, aggression level and "mood swings."

    ALL tarantulas are venomous, and to say that "A" is more venomous than "B", or that "A" is more likely to bite than "B" would be incorrect. A and B can both bite you and can inject venom. Some species of tarantula are known to have a higher toxicity level than others, however, it is more the probability of which has the greater history of aggression and tendency to bite as well as the amount of venom injected.

    The toxicity of tarantula venom is often compared to that of a bee's sting; this is a very poor analagy to make. Tarantulas are considered harmless to humans (there have been NO reported deaths due to a tarantula's bite). However, this statement is a bit too general. While indeed, there have been no reported deaths from a tarantula's bite, they are not "harmless" to humans. There is, however slight, a chance of allergic reaction to tarantula venom; although, given the compounds that tarantula venom consists of, the likelyhood of allergic reaction and/or anaphylactic shock are very small, even in the event of a venom injected bite from a Poecliotheria or related species. Make no mistake, getting bit by *any* tarantula can and generally does hurt and will usually swell, turn red and cause some level of discomfort for anywhere from a couple hours up to several months (in the case of Poeclotheria bites which can cause full body muscle spasms for months).
    If you are allergic to bees, wasps, other stinging insects, or have had a severe reaction to a true spider bite or scorpion sting, it is advised that you either not keep a tarantula or do so at your own risk and DON'T handle the spider.


    There are many species that have, over time and through the reports of hobbyists and researchers world wide, been "proven" to be of a more docile nature and more of an acceptable pet for the beginner than others. Among these are the Aphonpelma, Brachypelma and Grammostola species. However, just because it's a "Rose hair" or a "Red knee" doesn't mean that it might not be one of those that is just grumpy all the time. As a rule of thumb, tarantulas are a "display pet: like your fish. We, as humans, tend to feel the need to handle our tarantulas, but the tarantula does not feel the need to be handled, they prefer to be left alone...how often do you take your fish out of the tank and pet them? The assumption that "if I start handling my spider ling now, every day, then it will get use to me and won't bite or kick hair" is absolutely WRONG. While it is possible for a tarantula to become accustom to being handled and some have even been known to walk up to and into their keeper's hand when the hand is placed into the enclosure, this is NOT true of all tarantulas. Some tarantulas never adapt to being handled. Even those that do, the slightest disturbance (example, being blown on or a loud noise) can frighten them and cause them to bite or run. Tarantulas are not kittens or puppies, they do not get accustom to their keepers and "bond" with them. They are a wild creature and are not tamable. Handling should be kept to a minimum, IE, when moving them from one enclosure to another or for examination in suspect of injury. If these duties can be done without physical contact, all the better for you as well as the tarantula. [The owners and managers of this group DO NOT condone handling a tarantula for entertainment purposes]

    Tarantulas, by nature, are somewhat nervous creatures. Whether wild caught or captive bred, they do possess instincts like anything else. If they feel threatened or frightened, they will react. While this reaction is most commonly to run for cover, if they feel cornered and have no means of escape, they will defend themselves. Knowing the typical tarantula body language is the most important factor for keeping yourself as well as the tarantula free from harm.

    Continued in next post....
    Last edited by JLC; 09-09-2007 at 08:31 PM.

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  3. #2
    Registered User Shadowspider's Avatar
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    Re: General Tarantula CAre, what to know BEFORE you buy

    Where Do I Find Them?

    The hobby of keeping tarantulas as pets has become very popular over the past several years. Anymore, you can find tarantulas at just about any pet store that sells exotic pets. There is also a vast selection of dealers online, as well as private breeders and reptile\invertebrate shows. Where you choose to purchase your tarantulas is up to you, however, there are some basic guidelines you will want to follow.

    First, what is the shop's\dealer's\breeder's reputation for knowing about and caring for the species? Can they tell you the scientific name of the tarantula as well as the common name? Can they tell you what sex the tarantula is? If no, why not? Can they offer any information as to the attitude and habits of the tarantula? And (most importantly) are they afraid to put their hand in its enclosure? If you can answer YES to all of these and NO to the last, then your place of purchase probably knows what they are doing.

    Second, what are the tarantula's living conditions? Does it have enough room to stretch out and move around comfortably? Is there any kind of substrate on the floor of the enclosure? If so, is it clean? Is there a suitable, clean water dish in the enclosure? Does the enclosure smell stale, musty, or just plain foul? Is there mold or mildew on the substrate or enclosure? If you can answer YES to these and NO to the last two, then your place of purchase probably knows how to care for them and has taken the time and effort to do so.

    Third, what shape is the tarantula in? Is it skinny with a shrunken opisthosoma (abdomen)? Does it have missing legs or obvious signs of injury? If so, why? Is it curled up with it's legs under it or does it move slowly or not at all when touched? Is there a large amount of missing hair on it's opisthosoma? If so, why? If you can answer YES to all of these then you are probably looking at a dying tarantula. Does it look plump with good color? Is it agile and moves quickly when disturbed? Does it have an even coat of hair? If not, why? If you can answer YES to these, you're looking at a happy, healthy tarantula. [Tarantulas will lose hair on their opisthsomas when they are in pre-molt or if they have kicked hair a lot from being over stressed. Hair loss due to impending molt is not a sign of illness or injury. Loss due to them kicking it is not a sign of illness or injury but can lead to a bad temper for a while until they have the chance to relax]

    "If I buy one online, how am I supposed to see it before hand?" Good question! Most of the larger dealers that you will find on line tend to have good stock, are reliable and usually have a limited time guarantee on all their products. [always ask if the dealer has a satisfaction guarantee] You can ask for a photograph of the desired tarantula prior to purchase. You can also ask for references from other costumers.

    Continued in next post....
    Last edited by JLC; 09-09-2007 at 08:37 PM.

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  5. #3
    Registered User Shadowspider's Avatar
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    Re: General Tarantula CAre, what to know BEFORE you buy

    What Do I Put It In?

    Once you've decided on the species that you want, you will want to make certain that you have its new home ready for it when it gets there....after all, the nursery and crib are all set up before the new baby gets home...right? If you have a spider ling, you will want an appropriate size container for it.

    A 1 inch spider ling does not need, nor could it handle, a 10 gallon aquarium tank. Some are of the opinion that it will "grow into it"...WRONG AGAIN!! Tarantulas are nearly blind creatures and they do not have ears. If you put a s'ling into a large enclosure, they will not be able to find their food and will most likely starve to death. Tarantulas are passive hunters, not aggressive hunters, meaning, they sit at the mouth of their burrows or in their web on their tree and wait for dinner to come to them. While some have been known to go out "hunting" for that late night snack, this is NOT their usual behavior. They locate their prey by feel...vibration of the prey's movement more so than by sight, although it is assumed that they can detect movement (when you wave the meal worm in front of them on a set of tongs) and that perhaps they do have some sense of smell or instinct, as they know that the pinky is laying there in front of them, even though it's dead and not moving.

    The general rule to proper housing is this: For terrestrials: the container should be 2 times the tarantula's width [leg span on opposite sides] and 3 times it's length [leg span from the tip of leg 1 to the tip of leg 4 on the same side] minimum. Terrestrials need more floor space than height. For Arboreal: the same applies only to height and depth. Arboreal need more height than floor space.

    Then What?

    So you know how big your container should be, but what should you use? Small deli cups for slings, plastic shoe boxes, or glass aquariums all work well. Most pet stores sell "critter keepers" in various sizes and colors, these too work well, however, they tend to *not* work very well for s'lings as the vent holes in KK's are just large enough for the little bug to squeeze through to freedom. A tarantula should not be put in a KK until it is at least 2" in length.

    Your container can be just about anything of an appropriate size, so long as it has a means of ventilation. A strong, secure lid is a must with any tarantula as they will climb and some have proven to be quite the skilled escape artists. For aquariums, a snug fitting heavy gauge metal screen top is most common. Critter keepers come with latching tops. For smaller tarantulas, the lids that come with the deli cups work well. Several small holes will need to be made in the top one third around the cup.

    The first thing you will want to put down is the substrate. While there is much debate as to which is best, there are several that have been collectively agreed upon. 'Bed a Beast' or 'Jungle Mix' which can be found at pet stores are a common choice, as they contain a mixture of various types of soils and fillers and are not treated with fertilizers or insecticides. Some keepers choose to not use these as they tend to be expensive. Other common choices are a 50\50 mixture of un-treated potting soil and peat moss. Potting soil and vermiculite are also very common (make certain the vermiculite is the florists' variety, not the industrial variety)

    Some materials you DO NOT want to use as substances are: wood chips, as they can cause abrasions; sand, terrestrials can not burrow in it; pine chips, the sap has been known to harm tarantulas; perilite, as it is made from crushed glass and other materials that can be harmful; and most important....DO NOT USE CEDAR!!!! Cedar is a natural insecticide and can kill your tarantula.

    There are also certain decorations you should consider NOT putting in the enclosure. Some things to consider NOT putting in are: Live/artificial plants, rocks, or figurines. There are several reasons why these items can not only be a nuisance to your tarantula but also potentially dangerous as well. Live plants have care requirements of their own that must be met and a good deal of those requirements are contradictory to the requirements of the tarantula and could be harmful to it. Artificial plants, while these do not need any care aside from the occasional rinsing off, they can provide a hiding place for prey items, making it difficult for the tarantula to find and catch it's meal.
    Rocks, while they can make for a very decorate and visually appealing set up, they can harm a tarantula. Sharp rocks should be avoided at all costs as they can puncture the tarantula. Even smooth rocks can be a hard landing for a tarantula who has climbed and fallen. Small, smooth river rocks sunk into the substrate can usually be considered safe for an adult tarantula.
    Figurines, yes, little castles and signs look real neat ~in fish tanks~ but tarantulas do not need and probably should not have them. Unless you can find them or make them out of a soft, flexible material, wooden and ceramic figurines can be dangerous to a climbing tarantula if it falls. While we like to have a decorated home, tarantulas would prefer that we leave theirs a bit less cluttered, and for good reason.

    Continued in next post....
    Last edited by JLC; 09-09-2007 at 08:56 PM.

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  7. #4
    Registered User Shadowspider's Avatar
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    Re: General Tarantula CAre, what to know BEFORE you buy

    What to feed them?

    Once you have your tarantula all snug in it's new home, you will want to make sure it gets it's belly full. Depending on the size of the tarantula will depend on what to feed it. First of all, let's go through the primairy rules for feeding:

    1. You do not want to offer your tarantula any prey item that is larger than it's opisthosoma (abdomen).
    2. You do not want to offer your tarantula any prey item that is very aggressive and could attack and or eat your tarantula.
    3. If offering pre-killed prey such as pinky mice, make certain they are warm, but DO NOT heat them in a microwave. If purchsing pinky mice from a store, thaw them out in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes until they are warm, then offer them to your tarantula.
    4. If offering live prey such as mice, rats or lizzards, make certain that they are "pups", IE, newly born so as to minimise the chances of them attacking and injuring or killing your tarantula.
    5. Never leave prey items in your tarantula's enclousure for more than 24 hours.
    6. Do not try to feed your tarantula for several days after a molt. For larger tarantulas, allow at least a week for their fangs to harden and become shiny black again.

    If your tarantula does not eat as soon as you get it home, do not fret, some will, others will not. It is common for tarantulas to not eat for upwards of several weeks after arriving in a new home.

    For spiderlings:
    Pinhead (newly hatched) crickets no larger than 1/4 inch, flightless fruit flies, Fresh cut pieces of cricket, moth, meal worm or other small insects.

    For larger tarantulas:
    Larger crickets, Grasshoppers, Meal worms, Super worms, Moths, pinky mice, fuzzy mice, rat pups, or small lizzards.

    How often you feed your tarantula is really up to you, however, it is common to only feed a tarantula once a week. Many tarantulas will eat every day, especially after a molt but that is NOT necessarily good for them. Offer one to two prey items (unless feeding vertebrate prey, then only give one) at a time. Do not place more than 4 prey items in a tarantula's container at one time. Do NOT feed the tarantula until it's "full." Tarantulas are instinctive eaters and will eat whatever is available in effort to "store up" for the "off season" when food would be scarce.... instincts from the wild. It is not necessary to feed any tarantula more than 4 appropriately sized prey items per week at the *most*.

    How about water?

    First and second rules:
    1. Do not use that gel that the pet stores sell...no matter how "good for them" the sales person swears it is. Tarantulas can not "drink" that stuff and it is not good for them.
    2. Do not use a sponge for water. All sponges do is breed bacteria and other nasties that can make your tarantula sick. They are perfectically capable of drinking plain ole' water...yes, even spiderlings.

    Make certain that you have a clean water dish in the enclousure. For spiderlings under 2 inches, a plastic soda or water bottle cap works well. Make certain to wash it well if it was a soda cap. For larger specimens, a shallow, wide dish or plastic lid works. Place a small, smooth rock or piece of slate in the dish so that crickets and the tarantula have a means of getting out if they fall in.

    After you have your tarantula's new home all set up, it has eaten (if it chooses to) and is all snug...sit back and admire your new pet.

    Denise Metzger for Venom List.com 2004-2006
    Last edited by JLC; 09-09-2007 at 09:02 PM.

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  9. #5
    BPnet Veteran recycling goddess's Avatar
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    Re: General Tarantula CAre, what to know BEFORE you buy

    wow, thanks for posting this denise.
    in light, Aleesha




    You have 1440 minutes a day... how are you going to spend yours?

  10. #6
    Registered User Shadowspider's Avatar
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    Re: General Tarantula CAre, what to know BEFORE you buy

    You're welcome.
    I figured it might come in handy....if anyone has the time and patience to read it. :eek:

    ~Denise~
    My pet and critter list......in short form:
    38 different tarantula species
    8 different scorpion species
    0.1.0 MBK
    1.0.0 Bull snake
    1.0.0 Blue point Siamese
    1.0.0 Black/gray tabby
    1.0.0 husband
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    Lunacy General, Not Crazy, Just Different

  11. #7
    Registered User Shadowspider's Avatar
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    Re: General Tarantula CAre, what to know BEFORE you buy

    I did notice some typos and a couple things that were left out while re-reading it just now which bug me. But, I guess that's the capricorn in me.

    ~Denise~
    My pet and critter list......in short form:
    38 different tarantula species
    8 different scorpion species
    0.1.0 MBK
    1.0.0 Bull snake
    1.0.0 Blue point Siamese
    1.0.0 Black/gray tabby
    1.0.0 husband
    1.4.0 Children

    Lunacy General, Not Crazy, Just Different

  12. #8
    BPnet Veteran Flirtycuddle's Avatar
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    Re: General Tarantula CAre, what to know BEFORE you buy

    i am getting my first tarantula this weekend...tomorrow after I set up the home tonight and this really helped
    1.1 Children
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    1.1 Dwarf Hamster(Rainbow and Scooby)
    1.0 Ferret (Trouble)
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  13. #9
    BPnet Veteran lord jackel's Avatar
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    Re: General Tarantula CAre, what to know BEFORE you buy

    That is really good write up.... Thanks for taking the time


    You got my vote for a Sticky
    Sean

  14. #10
    Registered User Shadowspider's Avatar
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    Re: General Tarantula CAre, what to know BEFORE you buy

    Thanks to the staff for pinning this.

    I am going to have some edits done on this write up. After reading thorugh it, there are some things that need to be changed, added and a thing or two taken out completely that are not correct.

    Obviously not everything that *could* be covered is covered.... I'd have to write a whole book for that, so, if you have questions, don't hesitate to ask.

    ~Denise~
    My pet and critter list......in short form:
    38 different tarantula species
    8 different scorpion species
    0.1.0 MBK
    1.0.0 Bull snake
    1.0.0 Blue point Siamese
    1.0.0 Black/gray tabby
    1.0.0 husband
    1.4.0 Children

    Lunacy General, Not Crazy, Just Different

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