Pet Tarantula Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Updated: October 14, 2022

This post may contain affiliate links to our partners like Chewy, Amazon, and others. Purchasing through these helps us further the A-Z Animals mission to educate about the world's species..

Hearing the word “tarantula,” who doesn’t feel a bit squeamish, a little (or a lot!) intimidated? But despite the rumors, the tarantula isn’t dangerous, which is why many people opt to have a pet tarantula. They’re loved for their majestic and beautiful stance, and owners also like they need little maintenance.

They have a nasty bite but it’s pretty harmless. The venom is weaker than that of a bee. A tarantula bite’s red and warm. The spider attacks when it feels threatened. It rubs its hind legs across its body and projects multitudes of tiny hairs at the perceived danger. The barbed hairs pierce the skin. That leads to swelling and itching that can last for weeks.

Like most spider bites, there can also be allergic reactions. Doctors recommend if bitten, get medical help ASAP. First, wash the bite with soap and water. Put ice in a clean cloth and place it on the sting on and off for 10-minute intervals. If you have blood flow issues, reduce the ice placement time to prevent skin damage.

Tarantulas are available at reptile shows, pet stores, with dealers and breeders, and, of course, online. If you’re in the market for an exotic pet, read on to learn about costs, ongoing care, common health issues and more.

pet tarantula on a human hand
The Red-Knee Tarantula

Before Buying a Tarantula

No single animal is perfect for everyone. Never adopt an animal until you understand your responsibilities as a pet owner. Here are things to consider before buying a tarantula.

Tarantulas Aren’t Puppies or Kittens

If you’re in the market for a cuddly pet, get a gerbil or hamster.

The tarantula may be docile but spooks easily. If they squirm out of your hand and fall … Well, that’s a fatal accident for tarantulas. Their abdomens easily rupture. And don’t forget, those bites can come at any time. Imagine those flicking hairs jabbing at your face.

Long-term Commitment

A captive, healthy tarantula will live up to two and a half decades. You need to feed, provide a safe environment, clean and manage its health and happiness that entire time. We’d hope you never find the matter too taxing, resulting in abandoning the spider, especially in one of the selfish ways people who no longer want to be pet owners might do.

These Animals Can’t Be Trained

Tarantulas can be fascinating to watch, especially as they go after live prey. But, truthfully, they spend a lot of time doing nothing. They’re skilled at sitting perfectly still.

These creatures shouldn’t be left free. Leave them to roam and, unless you shadow the creature, you’re not going to find them. And trust, while they seem sluggish, the animal can put pedal to the medal.

Can You Handle Live Prey?

Small tarantulas diet on grasshoppers, cockroaches and crickets. Large ones want a nice slice of mouse. You need a store to supply these meals on the premises. Critters caught in the wild increase the chance of sharing infected pathogens with your tarantula.

Can You Find a Reputable and Ethical Spot to Buy a Tarantula?

As the popularity for pet tarantulas grew, many entities started snatching spiders out of the wild. Species like the Mexican Red Knee became victims of over-collecting. It got to the point where the Washington Convention put limits and prohibitions on the commercial trade and export of tarantulas outside their native range.

The regulations don’t stop you from obtaining a tarantula for commercial purposes. But you do have to purchase one from a reputable source.

How Much Does a Tarantula Cost?

You can get a pet tarantula from a variety of venues. That includes online and in-store. There are also rescue groups and reputable breeders. The advantage to those last platforms is you’ll have a much better idea of the animal’s life cycle and health history.

Option #1: Free

Free tarantulas aren’t falling from the sky, but you might find an animal at no cost to you. Check out animal rescues or talk to a vet or the local zoo. You may come across someone who no longer wants their pet spider. To close the deal, that owner may offer any resources they have for a nominal fee. The previous owners might even throw everything in at no cost.

Option #2: Adoption

Adoptions aren’t expensive and these places nurse animals back to health. Reach out to shelters that take in unwanted animals or ask around about finding a tarantula. You might find an opportunity on a website.

Adoption may not cost you anywhere between $20 and $50.

Option #3: Breeders

The most common (and perhaps best) path to a tarantula is a breeder. Many pet stores breed spiders. But there are private breeders too. For the common tarantula, you’ll spend around $25. Getting specific — size, species, colors — pumps up the price. Female tarantulas cost more. They grow bigger and live longer. The ultra-rare species may sell for as much as $150.

New Owner Shopping List: What To Buy

It doesn’t cost much to buy a tarantula. Nor is it expensive to keep. Tarantulas don’t require a lot to be happy. These creatures don’t need special heating or a lot of distractions to keep them stimulated.

But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Here are items to keep in mind for your pet and monthly costs.

ProductCost
Enclosure$18 and up
Toys$5–$50
Vet and medications$5–$10
Pet insurance$0
Food$5–$10
Optional accessories$25
Heating Pad (optional)$10
Cricket Pen$10
Spray Bottle$3–$5
Feeding Tong$5
Plants$15
Water Dish$5
Substrate$10
Grooming$0

One of the most important things is the tarantula enclosure. Here are some great tarantula enclosure options — reviewed and ranked by A-Z-Animals.com staff — to get you started.

After your initial investment to buy the tarantula and get all you need to keep them alive, monthly expenses are relatively nominal. And with a little ingenuity, you can lower the costs more. For instance, if you bred crickets, you only spend around $20 a year on food. Let’s take a closer look at some of the items on the shopping list.

Food

While the spiders like a variety of insects, in captivity they mostly feed on crickets. Crickets offer nutrients they need (as long as the insects aren’t wild captured) and the insects are cheap.

RELATED: What do Tarantulas Eat? 23 Foods They Consume

Grooming

You will need to manage the humidity level in the animal’s enclosure. With that, the only maintenance you ever need to do is remove shedded skin and give the tank a spray with a water bottle once in a while.

Meds and Vets

Sickness in tarantulas is pretty rare. Unfortunately, if they get sick, it’ll be a task to find a clinician to treat them. Before you get this spider, do some research for the location of the nearest animal facility that can help in an emergency.

Insurance

As it is rare for tarantulas to need vet visits, companies don’t have insurance to offset medical expenses. Even if they did, we’d suggest you forget about it. The premiums would exceed the possibility you’d ever need the policy.

Environment

Once the tank’s in place, you only have to change the substrate and spray down the environment from time to time with a bottle of water. And you’ll probably like to hear substrate only needs replacing once in a 12 to 24 month period. That means a $10 bag is going to last a good long time.

Entertainment

While tarantulas are self-sufficient, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to set them up for a little fun time. Like all eight-legged creatures, climbing is natural and explorative. Tarantulas are better off in smaller enclosures but like to hide, hunt and trap meals. Put in objects that can scale but don’t build too high as the spider will look at ways to escape.

End of the day, the tarantula is a great pet if you’re on a budget and want an exotic animal.

Ongoing Needs: What You Need to Know to Care for Your Tarantula

Spiders in general are solitary. House your tarantula(s) one to a cage. Keep a ventilated lid to prevent escape.

For ground-dwellers, use a cage at least three times the tarantula’s leg length. Cage width ought to be roughly double that number. Use the leg span to approximate the height. We’d suggest a five-gallon tank as anything larger will make finding prey difficult.

If you have a tree-dweller, cages should be three times the leg span with the height a good foot high. You should include a construction (not too high) that the spider can play in.

Substrates

Use a layer of vermiculite (use some peat or potting soil (or both)) that’s between two to four inches deep. These spiders like to burrow and hide. That’s why you want to vary the substrate height. Your tarantula could disappear on you!

Substrates will help keep humidity levels high. Replace the layers every 40 to 60 days. Spruce up the ecosystem with pest-free logs or cork bark.

Heating

Tarantulas need temps in the range of 75–80 degrees Fahrenheit. If your environment cannot manage this, the enclosure will need heating lamps, mats or a combination of both. Mats stick to the tank floor or walls and heat localized zones. Heat lamps provide better heat but may not be good for plastic-type tanks. It’s a good idea to keep a thermometer to track heat.

Humidity

Use a gauge to ensure humidity in the tank never drops below 50 percent. Too low and you risk your pet’s life during a molt. The animal could also suffer serious health problems. Use that spray bottle to lightly moisten the tank to help maintain humidity.

Food

Live food like crickets makes for the best tarantula meals. They also like newborn mice, worms and moths. Three or four insects at a time is a meal. Feed must be pesticide-free! You cannot be sure of this if you choose to capture insects.

Water

Keep fresh, de-chlorinated water in a small shallow bowl. Change it frequently.

Molting

Signs of a molt include tarantulas not eating and growing a darker color. Don’t feed throughout the molt and remove uneaten prey. In the molting stage, molting tarantulas can become the prey of insects.

Now, be aware finding a spider about to molt can be jolting. They commonly flip on their backs and look dead. Watch it closely for a few days and you may eventually see signs of molting. Don’t feed the arachnids throughout the molt and for at least four days after the molting’s done.

Handling

People love the idea of holding these large creepy-crawlers. But tarantulas are fragile and a fall could do serious damage. They will “bite,” flicking those sharp barbed hairs into your skin. In general, the rule is not to handle these creatures. Leave it for observation. If you need to move it, perforate a lid, scoop it into a large cup and leave it there until you need to put it back.

Exercise and Ongoing Care

Physical activity is important to ALL animals. Though relatively slow, activity keeps tarantulas healthy and manages good weight. Still, tarantulas don’t require lots of exercise. As long as the enclosure allows good space to climb and move, they’re fine.

Feeding Your Tarantula

Tarantulas like crickets. Supplement that with mealworms, cockroaches and super worms. Larger tarantulas prefer small lizards and pinkie mice. The size of any food must be smaller than the tarantula’s stomach.

The meal crickets need to be fed nutritious foods and be gut loaded as well as dusted with vitamin powder.

Feed tarantulas roughly once a week. The young need feeding every day or two. Drop food near the tarantula. That’s best done when the spider’s more active, in the evening.

A small amount of fresh water should be available at all times. Keep it shallow or you risk drowning the arachnid. Put some pebbles in the dish. This gives the tarantula something to climb on in case there’s an issue.

Check out this article called “What do Tarantulas Eat? 23 Foods They Consume” to learn more about what these creatures like to eat.

How Long Will Your Tarantula Live

There isn’t much info about creatures in the wild but captive tarantulas manage to live 15–25 years.

Naturally, lifespans depend on the species. The common brown tarantula lives seven to 12 years while the female’s good for 36. The Chilean Rose Hair male has five years to look forward to. The female has two decades of life ahead of her. As you might guess, the female has a much longer lifespan than the male arachnid.

Common Health Issues for Tarantulas

Being hardy creatures, tarantulas aren’t prone to many health issues as long as spiders stay secured in an appropriate environment. Still, they’re not invulnerable.

Tarantulas can become victims of parasitic oral nematodes. Symptoms of the infection include white material around the spider’s mouth and decreased appetite.

Also, like many insects, a growing tarantula comes with molting. Old exoskeletons come off and are replaced to accommodate the creature’s new growth.

This stage is stressful for the tarantula. It will lose its appetite and avoid socializing. Do not feed or handle the spider during the process. That could be up to two weeks which includes a recovery period.

Where to Buy a Tarantula

Tarantulas are popular and, fortunately, not rare. This makes the animals available to everyone that has room for one. Here’s how to find them.

You might locate a tarantula at an animal rescue or find a pet owner looking for a new tarantula home. Ask around at local animal hospitals or other organizations for info.

Adoptions are inexpensive. Check animal shelters (who likely won’t have a tarantula but might know where to look). Check websites, local zoos, conservationists’ societies and other animal organizations.

Breeders can work with you on size, species, colors and info you need to know about owning a tarantula.

Special Considerations With the Tarantula

Remember, the tarantula’s suited more for observing than handling. They bite and cause irritation, swelling and itching.

The barbed hairs can get under the skin or even in the eye, causing all kinds of problems. If you choose to handle them, it’s important to not touch your eyes, nose or mouth until you’ve thoroughly washed your hands.

As intimidating as they look, these spiders are delicate. They are easily fatal victims of falls. All species are venomous but the toxicity level is low and relatively harmless.

This is an animal that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance but shouldn’t be mistaken for a playful puppy or kitten.

About the Author

AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

Pet Tarantula Guide: Everything You Need to Know FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Tarantulas Good Pets?

Yes! They can be kept at room temperatures, only eat once or twice a week and only needs a few insects per meal. Species tend to be docile and, while you need to be cautious, they can be quite social and handleable.

Do Tarantulas Bite?

They are known to bite but the venom isn’t toxic and results in minor symptoms for most.

Are Kids Safe Around Tarantulas?

Relatively, yes. Should you go with one of these spiders, check out better-suited Mexican Firelegs or Rose hairs. Keep the tarantula on display and let the kids feed or observe in the cage. Avoid unsupervised contact. Many experts worry children can unintentionally hurt the fragile creatures.

My Tarantula's on Its Back? Is It Done?

No. Most likely it’s molting. The tarantula is ready to shed its exoskeleton and normally flips on its back until the process is done.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.