Before you can choose the best tarantula cage, you’ll need to know more about the tarantula you want to get. Spiders don’t exactly occupy the same place in our culture as dogs or cats do when it comes to pets. Can you imagine the movie Marley and Me but with Owen Wilson writing about his life with a spider rather than a golden retriever?
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What most people don’t realize is that tarantulas are not deadly to humans unless an individual is allergic. The best way to combat fears around tarantulas is through education around these arachnid pals.
We can’t fix it all today. What we can do is shed some light on why tarantulas make great pets, and if you have one or want to get one, how to make the best home for them in their enclosure.
What makes tarantulas good pets
All biases aside, tarantulas are considered by many to be great pets. Arachno-fans are attracted to them for their natural beauty and ease of care. This makes them the ideal pet when you want something a little unique from the typical dog or cat and way more interesting than a fish.
Range of tarantula temperaments
When choosing a tarantula, there is a range of species to choose from. Each species will be predisposed to having slightly different personalities. Ranging from docile to aggressive, tarantula keepers can find species that fit their desired temperament, with the more docile species being the right choice for new or less experienced keepers.
Taking care of a tarantula
Tarantulas make great pets because they are easy to take care of. However, just because they are easy to take care of does not mean it is a thoughtless process. Like any animal, they require the right mix of habitat, food, and water to keep them happy, healthy, and alive. If you can learn the correct ways to keep your pet tarantula happy and healthy, it shouldn’t be a big time commitment.
Pet tarantulas don’t take up much space
Tarantulas make ideal pets for people with limited space to work with. Just because you live in a small house or apartment doesn’t mean you should be limited to a goldfish as your companion of choice. While we’re talking about companionship, tarantulas are solitary creatures a
nd almost always prefer to keep to themselves. Some pets prefer to have companions of their same species (making owning them a bigger commitment), but with tarantulas you avoid that aspect.
All your tarantula needs to be happy and healthy is a tank with the right substrate (ground material), access to water, and a place to hide. Contrary to popular belief, although they can be handled safely, it’s generally not a good idea. Handling a tarantula can cause stress to the animal, alon
g with the risk of a stinging bite to the handler or exposure to their irritating defense hairs. Tarantulas are much happier when left alone in their enclosure. Speaking of tarantula enclosures…
Finding the best cage for your type of tarantula is very important
As we touched on earlier, there are many different species of tarantulas you come across as pets. To provide the best enclosure for your tarantula, you need to understand what species it is and what the habitat requirements of that species are. If you fail to provide the right kind of environment for your type of tarantula, you could end up with a very unhappy and unhealthy pet.
Each tarantula species fall into one of three main buckets that define how they prefer to live and spend their time. These tarantula types determine many factors about the terrarium you set up for your pet and should be considered ahead of obtaining your very own arachnid.
Types of tarantulas
There are three main types of tarantulas, they are: arboreal, terrestrial, and fossorial. Each of these types of tarantulas has different habits when it comes to their preferred habitat that you will need to consider when setting up your tarantula’s new cage.
No, the term ‘terrestrial’ does not imply that these tarantulas have a spacefaring counterpart. Terrestrial tarantulas do love the earth though. These types of spiders prefer living on the ground, rather than an elevated area like trees or foliage.
Although handling tarantulas, in general, isn’t a great idea, you definitely don’t want to risk it with these ground-dwellers. Accidents can happen, and a fall from any height could severely injure or kill a tarantula designed to live at ground level.
Even though they may not burrow as much as some other types of tarantulas, you may find that your terrestrial tarantula would enjoy hiding behind any low-height decor or foliage included in its tank.
Arboreal tarantulas, as the name implies, live up off the ground in various types of structures. From foliage to their own webs, arboreal tarantulas will find a home in the heights of their cage.
Arboreal tarantulas are lighter-weight than their terrestrial and burrowing cousins. This, combined with the ability to scale almost any surface, makes them uniquely suited to their lofty habitats.
Fossorial or burrowing tarantulas
Again, the name of this type of tarantula leaves little mystery as to their living preferences. Burrowing tarantulas are the least social of the three types in the sense that they prefer to remain hidden the majority of the time.
Opportunistic burrowing tarantulas take advantage of existing elements of their environment to construct places to hide. Whether that’s rocks or roots, or artificial elements added to their terrarium (bowls, pots, shells, etc), they will dig under or around structures that are already there. It’s important to note that not every opportunistic burrower feels the need to burrow, and that’s ok! They just prefer acting more like their terrestrial cousins.
Obligate burrowing tarantulas (also lovingly referred to as ‘pet holes’ by the tarantula keeping community) prefer to dig their own burrow in their habitat’s substrate. Since these holes can be deep, they typically stay out of sight, hence the nickname.
Choosing the best Tarantula cage for your type of tarantula
As we have seen, different types of tarantulas have different behaviors and preferences when it comes to their home of choice. It is very important to consider these factors when preparing a tank or terrarium to make the best enclosure possible for your tarantula.
One of the biggest factors when choosing the right cage or tank is getting the right size. Not only is the volume important, but also the actual dimensions of the tarantula enclosure. Although we can make some general recommendations, the size of your tarantula cage for any type is going to be dependent on the size of your specific tarantula. Let’s take a look and see what that means for the different types of tarantulas.
Terrestrial tarantulas spend their time on the ground and should have a cage suited to that. A terrestrial tarantula enclosure should have more ground space than wall space. It should also be limited in height, a fall from even a small distance can injure one of these ground-dwelling varieties.
The floor space of a terrestrial tarantula’s cage should be at least 1.5x the leg span of your tarantula wide and 2.5x the leg span long. The max height of the tank above the substrate (ground) should be 1.5x the tarantula’s leg span. The substrate itself should be about 1-2x the leg span of your tarantula.
Again this height is important because your tarantula will explore its environment, and with it being a terrestrial variety, is more likely to slip and fall. Although the height shouldn’t be too high, also make sure it’s tall enough for the tarantula to be able to roll over as part of the molting process.
One of the best-reviewed terrariums on Amazon is the Exo Terra glass terrarium line. At 8 inches wide, 8 inches long, and 8 inches high, the ‘nano wide’ size would be a good fit for many terrestrial tarantulas. They offer many sizes, so make sure you get the right size for your particular tarantula.
Arboreal tarantulas spend most of their time up off the ground – living in foliage, on the walls of their enclosure, or in webs they have constructed. As you might imagine, for arboreal tarantulas cage height is the most important factor.
When choosing a tank to house your arboreal tarantula, you’ll want to find one that’s about 2x the tarantula’s leg span in width and length. The height of your arboreal tarantula enclosure should allow for 2-3x the tarantula’s leg span in height above the substrate. As for the substrate itself, your cage should allow for a substrate depth equal to the leg span of your tarantula. This distance is key in keeping your arboreal tarantula happy in the heights of his new home.
In the Exo Terra glass terrarium line, the ‘nano tall’ size would be a good starting place when looking for a cage for your arboreal tarantula. The 8 inch long, 8 inch wide, 12 inch high enclosure provides the right ratio of floor space to height an arboreal tarantula needs. Again, make sure you consider the size of your particular tarantula when buying a tank for them.
Burrowing or fossorial tarantulas have earned the nickname ‘pet holes’ for a reason. Their preference to live in hiding makes substrate depth the most important factor.
When choosing the right cage for your burrowing tarantula, make sure the floor space is about 2x the tarantula’s leg span width and length. The height of a burrowing tarantula’s enclosure above the substrate should be limited to 1.5x the tarantula’s leg span to eliminate the risk of injury from falling. The substrate itself should be 2-3x the burrowing tarantula’s leg span to allow for adequate burrowing.
For a burrowing tarantula, the Exo Terra ‘mini tall’ size glass terrarium would be a good starting point. To accommodate the substrate depth you’ll need, this terrarium would allow you to create a burrowing tarantula cage that will make your tarantula happy. It should go without saying at this point that this is just a starting point and you will need to find an enclosure with the best dimensions for your particular tarantula.
What do tarantulas need in their cage?
So you’ve picked out the best tarantula cage for your type of tarantula. What else do you need to include to turn your tarantula’s enclosure into a home that will suit it best? While there are some differences among the three types of tarantula, they also share many common traits for habitat needs.
The food and frequency of feeding are going to vary depending on your tarantula, so we won’t get into that here. What we can do is take a look at some of the common cage elements you’ll want to consider.
‘Substrate’ is just a word for the material used to create the ground of your tarantula cage. This is one of the most important parts of the tarantula’s habitat. The substrate you choose for your tarantula’s enclosure should not be hard and be able to be moistened (you will have to check on the preferred humidity for your particular tarantula species). You want to avoid anything hard or sharp that might injure your tarantula. This includes sand, rocks, or even substrates appropriate for other terrarium-based pets.
One popular substrate is Eco Earth. It is made from coconut fibers and provides the ideal burrowable, humidity-retaining consistency for tarantulas. Take the time and research to make sure you get the best option for your tarantula.
Although different species of tarantulas may have different water consumption needs, tarantulas of all types should have a water dish included in their cage. The provided water dish should be free of any cotton, sponges, or other elements that can absorb water. These materials can retain bacteria and prove harmful to your pet tarantula.
The water dish for your tarantula should be shallow. It should also be large enough that the tarantula can get a drink from it. If you are concerned that your dish is too large, place some aquarium rocks in the bottom to prevent any accidental drowning.
Zoo Med, the makers of the Eco Earth substrate, have a great shallow water dish that will also look good in your tarantula’s tank. As with all things in your tarantula’s home, make sure you get a size and type of water dish appropriate to your individual tarantula.
One thing that draws tarantula keepers to this particular animal is its beauty. Like with most terrarium-based pets, you will likely want a habitat that is also interesting to look at. Decorations recommended will vary depending on the type of tarantula. Fake plants, cork bark, and even certain live plants make great tarantula cage decorations. Like with the substrate, avoid rocks or other hard/jagged material that may injure your tarantula.
Burrowing or fossorial tarantulas do not need any decor. The essentially make their own home by living in the ground. Arboreal tarantulas should have something to climb up, like a piece of fake foliage or cork bark. Terrestrial tarantulas, like their burrowing cousins, need no decorations but may enjoy something to hide behind or under.
If you’re looking for a good starting point, check out Zoo Med’s line of cork bark.
Find what works best for your species of tarantula
As we’ve said throughout this guide, tarantulas of all kinds share many traits and preferences. However, the most important part of keeping a tarantula is understanding the unique needs of your tarantula’s species. This is meant to be a place to help you get started in constructing a cozy cage for your tarantula.
To recap, here are our recommendations as starting places for setting up the best tarantula cage for your pet.
|Exo Terra Nano Wide||Exo Terra Nano Tall||Exo Terra Mini Tall||Zoo Med Eco Earth||Zoo Med Water Dish||Zoo Med Cork Bark|
|Glass terrarium||Glass terrarium||Glass terrarium||Coconut fiber-based substrate||Small water dish||Used to allow your tarantula to hide|
|Ideal for terrestrial tarantulas||Ideal for arboreal tarantulas||Ideal for burrowing tarantulas||Ideal for any type of tarantula||Ideal for any type of tarantula||Ideal for any type of tarantula|
For learning more about tarantulas and connecting with other keepers, check out r/tarantula on Reddit.