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Tarantulas as Pets
For some people, nothing is more horrifying than a massive, hairy, eight legged and be-fanged tarantula. Many others today have realized, however, that the arachnids are not dangerous to humans and fairly docile, and actually make for fascinating exotic pets that require a minimum of care. Tarantulas make no noise, have no odor, and their feeding and cleaning requirements are about as minimal as you can get with a living animal. Many species of tarantulas are well adapted to the conditions found in the average house, and will do fine at the same room temperatures that are comfortable for humans.
The first step in keeping a tarantula as a pet is choosing the species. In general, ground dwellers from the desert regions are slower moving, more docile, easier to handle, and have less exotic temperature and humidity requirements for their enclosures than tropical arboreal species. The following species are considered best for a first time owner:
Chilean Rose (Grammostola rosea)
Costa Rican Zebra (Aphonoplema seemani)
Mexican Redknee (Brachypelma smithi)
Mexican Redleg (Brachypelma emilia)
Desert/Mexican Blonde (Aphonopelma chalcodes)
Curly Hair Tarantula (Brachypelma albopilosum)
As pets, always choose the female spiders. Female spiders grow much larger, and live up to 20 years. Males are smaller, live only a few years, and will spend most of their time trying to get out of their enclosure to find a mate, which is stressful to them. Any reputable dealer will verify the sex for you. In any case, choose a specimen that appears healthy and active, not with its legs drawn up under it, and make sure it has been enclosed with a water source.
Most tarantulas do not require that large an enclosure. A five gallon aquarium will suffice for most species. Ground dwelling spiders should be provided with hiding places and/or appropriate substrate to burrow in. Vermiculite mixed with potting soil or peat works well for this. A cage much taller than the length of these spiders is not recommended since they will sometimes attempt to climb and a fall can be fatal for them. Arboreal species should be housed in taller enclosure and given sticks and other objects upon which to climb. Adequate ventilation is a must, but secure lid must be provided, as spiders are very strong for their size and can often push one that is unsecured open or off. The spider should be caged in an area of the room out of direct sunlight and incandescent bulbs should not be used for heating the enclosure. A temperature between 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit should be maintained. A dish of water should be provided at all times, shallow in form to prevent the possibility of drowning. Humidity needs vary with the species. Spiders from dryer regions will do quite well with a weekly misting of their enclosure, while those from tropical regions may require daily misting. A diet of crickets is quite sufficient for tarantulas. The tarantula does not need to eat frequently, a feeding once or twice a week should be sufficient.