How to Pick a Pet Tarantula

While many people may find tarantulas disgusting or terrifying, you might be one of the few who find them completely fascinating! If you've ever wanted to keep a tarantula as a pet, there's no arachnid more interesting, cool, or calm. The important thing to remember is that not all tarantulas are created equal! You'll have to consider your resources, experience level, and environment when choosing a pet tarantula.


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    Consider and evaluate your experience level with tarantulas. Some tarantulas are easier to care for than others. If you haven't owned a tarantula before, you might want to start with one that is easy to care for and not very aggressive.
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    Species like the Common Pink toe (Avicularia Avicularia), Costa Rican Stripe Knee (Aphonopelma Seemanni), Chilean Rose (Grammostola Rosea), The Curly Hair (Brachypelma Albopilosum), the Mexican Redknee Tarantula (Brachypelma Smithi), and several other members of the Brachyphelma (although not all) are great starter species. Most are fairly docile and don't require much special attention.
    • Some of the more interesting tarantulas require past experience with tarantulas, but can have a lot of show quality. Species such as the Goliath Birdeater (Theraphosa Blondi), Cobalt Blue (Haplopelma Lividum), and Usambara Orange Baboon (Pterinochilus sp.) are all beautiful species of tarantulas. However along with many others they can be extremely aggressive and require a lot of special attention. Some species of tarantulas including Haplopelma and Poecilotheria have reportedly significantly dangerous venom. Side effects vary, but are usually limited to itchiness and swelling at the bite site and intense pain. Some blistering may occur as well. People with asthma should be cautious when dealing with such spiders as another side effect is labored breathing which might bring on an asthma attack. There have been reports of cardiac failure and coma as a result of bites from some tarantulas. If you are not experienced with keeping tarantulas, please, please, stick to the basic, docile, beginner species above.
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    Determine how much room you have for your tarantula. Most tarantulas don't need much room. If you purchase your tarantula as a baby (spiderling) they can live for months in a medium sized pill bottle or a small deli cup like one you would get blue cheese in from a chicken wing restaurant. Usually, if you buy a tarantula from an online dealer, they will send it in a little vial. You can keep the spider/spiderling in that vial until it reaches a molt that will make it too big for the container. As your tarantula grows, you might want to move up to a clear but clean margarine container. If you do purchase a spiderling, make sure you can adapt the heat source as it grows to the changing containers. Something else to consider is whether or not you are buying an arboreal (tree dweller) or terrestrial (ground dweller) tarantula. Arboreals need taller and larger tanks with a "tree" of sorts so it's able to climb, whereas terrestrials will make a small burrow for their homes in the material in the bottom. It is recommended that beginners start with terrestrials. However, a fall is much more likely to hurt and even kill a terrestrial than an arboreal (although handling is not recommended for either species).
    • Species like the Common Pink Toe (Avicularia Avicularia), Costa Rican Stripe Knee (Aphonopelma Seemanni), Chilean Rose (Grammostola Rosea), The Curly Hair (Brachypelma Albopilosum), Mexican Redknee Tarantulas (Brachypelma Smithi), Cobalt Blue (Haplopelma Lividum), and Usambara Orange Baboon (Pterinochilus sp.) will all fit well into a 5 gallon (18.9 L) aquarium or a medium/large Kritter Keeper when fully grown.
    • Some species like The Goliath Birdeater (Theraphosa Blondi) can have up to a 12" leg span, that's a spider the size of a dinner plate. It will need a significantly larger tank of 20–40 gallons (75.7–151.4 L).
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    Choose a reputable tarantula dealer. Some pet stores sell tarantulas and have great experience caring for them. Many tarantulas are available from online dealers if you can't find a local dealer with what you want. They are normally shipped as young spiderlings and are normally captive bred. If your local pet store has just 3 or 4 tarantulas (in case someone is interested in them) then you might want to look for someone with a bit more experience (unless you're experienced and want to rescue a neglected tarantula or educate the pet store).
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    Choose a healthy tarantula. Tarantulas that are curled up in the corner of the tank or have their legs tucked underneath them (tarantula death pose) are not very healthy tarantulas. If you see a tarantula standing over the water dish, then there are two possibilities: it's having a drink and you will be able to see it drinking or it's too dry and the tarantula is trying to take advantage of the added humidity of the water. Tarantulas that are laying on their backs with their legs up in the air should be okay, as they are probably getting ready to molt (shed their skin). You should probably wait a few days after this happens before buying a tarantula that has molted, as they don't need the added stress. Tarantulas (depending on the species) should be standing with their legs distributed evenly around it in a circle, or with its legs pointed forward and backwards.
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    Check for injury. Tarantulas, especially wild caught tarantulas, are easily injured when captured or while contained and shipped to stores. Some wild caught tarantulas can have parasites, so it is almost always a better idea to get a captive bred tarantula. Make sure your tarantula has all 8 legs and 2 pedipalps (like arms) at the front. Check for injuries on the body and the abdomen of the tarantula. If the pet store has a lot of experience dealing with tarantulas, they should be able to help you with this.
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    Research the cost of a tarantula before you buy one. Some tarantulas are inexpensive and some are very expensive. Spiderlings are much less expensive than a fully grown tarantula. Different stores often have different prices for the same species of tarantula. You may want to start with a less expensive species while you are learning, then move to a more expensive one. It's easier to take the loss of a $20 pink toe than it is a $300 Ecuadorian Birdeater Tarantula.
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    Shop around. Visit the website of an online dealer and print their price list. Take this with you to the pet store so you can compare prices. Maybe you will find a deal. If they don't have the price you'd like to pay, show them the internet price list to convince them to lower theirs.


  • Try to purchase a female tarantula. They usually live longer than males. Some species of tarantulas can live up to 30+ years, but the males might only live 2-5+ years.
  • Give your tarantula a good bottom layer (though not too deep) in its container. Materials such as peat as well as similar materials work well because of their ability to hold moisture to help with the humidity level as well as their similarity to the ground where a tarantula would live in the wild.
  • Get a good book on tarantulas. Books can cover a wide range of topics on your tarantulas and maybe cover something you've missed. You can never do enough research on tarantulas.
  • Buy the tank at the same time as your tarantula. Some pet stores will give you a deal on your tarantula if you buy the tank and supplies to go with the tarantula. Just be sure you've compared pricing on the tank and supplies ahead of time as well.
  • Use Google to convert common names to Latin names or vice versa. This also gives you an opportunity to confirm what the tarantula should look like.
  • Make sure you know the Latin name for your species of tarantula. Many tarantulas share common names so you might think you have one species when you really have another. Latin names or scientific names only apply to one species of tarantula and make research much easier.
  • Try to find captive bred tarantulas. Many pet stores only sell wild caught tarantulas because people like to start with a large tarantula (small spiderlings are not as eyecatching as a 6" Chilean Rose). It takes a long time for a tarantula to grow and requires some extra attention, so large captive bred tarantulas are not common in pet stores. However, by buying a captive bred one, you can help keep wild tarantulas in the wild.


  • Don't try to prank somebody with your tarantula-they might end up killing it out of fear.
  • Let your tarantula sit for a week in its new home before disturbing it. Changing the environment is stressful to tarantulas.
  • Tarantulas do not mix well with dogs and cats, which can easily injure or kill a tarantula. Also a bite can be fatal to your cat or dog as they are more susceptible to the venom. Although all spiders are venomous, a human has yet to die as a result of a tarantula bite. Nevertheless, it's better to be safe than sorry.
  • Although some species of tarantulas can be handled, holding a tarantula is not recommended. Tarantulas are extremely delicate. Tarantulas can be very unpredictable and a drop from a few inches can rupture the abdomen and your tarantula will suffer a slow, painful death. Also do not poke your tarantula, as there are certain areas that are extremely delicate and if you touch them, your tarantula will become extremely vicious in a matter of seconds. If you have to hold it, let it rest on both of your hands, but try not to cup your hands too much, keep them flat.
  • Never place a new tarantula outside of its tank, it's stressful for a tarantula to change its natural environment. Doing that might cause it to panic or suddenly become aggressive and might result into a bite.
  • Make sure the substrate you use for your tarantula enclosure does not contain pesticides that may harm your pet.
  • It's always handy to have some kind of cure against a tarantula bite, in case things could go wrong.
  • Do not make your tarantula feel threatened. It may flick hairs at you. These are called "urticating" hairs and will cause severe irritation on contact with your skin. Although not all tarantulas have these hairs, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
  • Make sure you know certain behaviors of the tarantula you intend to buy. Even though not all tarantulas do the same things, it's always good to know what your tarantula is capable of and its habits.
    • example: That you don't think it's dying because it doesn't drink or eat as much as you thought, take a closer look before you act

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