WHAT SHOULD YOUR TARANTULA LIVE IN? Again, a pet tarantula is best regarded like a pet fish. You want to provide a secure living environment for your fish, as it would die if it got out. Same for your tarantula.
The Best Tarantula Enclosures for a Happy Spider!
Your home may be cozy to you, but it’s a jungle of deadly hazards to a spider. There is probably pesticide and cleaning product residue in your house, perhaps there’s a violently curious cat, and there are all sorts of things that a delicate tarantula could fall off of or be squashed by (like your butt when you sit down on an unsuspecting spider that’s hiding in a couch cushion). In short, make sure they can’t get out of what you put them in.
Fortunately, living quarters for a spider are cheaply and easily acquired. Spiderlings do well in deli cups with ventilation holes poked in them (poke the holes in the cups, not the bugs). For larger tarantulas, any container that can be ventilated and made to have a securable opening for you to go in and clean, change the water, remove the spider, etc. will do.
Glass aquariums go well with lids (be cautious of most pre-made screen lids for reptiles. Tarantulas can get their claws caught in those), plastic shoeboxes and their counterparts do fine if you ventilate them, and large, clear candy containers with screw on lids (like you may see full of jawbreakers on the counter at convenience stores) work.
Give your bug some dirt (substrate). Peat, potting soil THAT DOES NOT HAVE PESTICIDES OR PLANT FOOD OR FERTILIZER IN IT, vermiculite, etc. make for a happy bug. A lot of people seem to use a peat/vermiculite mix. I use a lot of peat and plain topsoil, and sometimes some vermiculite.
Don’t put things like cedar shavings in there (that might irritate your spider); wood chips and the like are for hamsters, not spiders. In fact, anything you find for sale at a pet store is probably a poor choice for tarantula substrate.
Bark chips and gravel are not very comfortable, and water will go right under sand to make a stagnant haven for all kinds of nasties. Compressed ground coconut husk costs a lot more than peat moss. Be safe and save lots of money- use nice, normal “clean” dirt (there’s an oxymoron for you) that you may find in a gardening or department store.
How much of this dirt you need depends on your tarantula. If it’s a burrowing species, give it enough to do plenty of tunnel making. If it’s non burrowing terrestrial, give it enough to make any modifications it may feel like making and provide some sort of shelter to hide in when it doesn’t want to be bothered.
Hollow cork bark is great, and those foam “coolies” that you might put a beer in make decent shelters, as do small clay pots, little doghouses lovingly constructed from pizza box cardboard . . . anything that will provide a place to hide.
Plants may enhance the look of your spider’s home and provide cozy hiding spaces. Use fake plants if you desire greenery- the tarantulas won’t notice the difference and it will save you a lot of trouble.
If your tarantula is a ground dweller, provide enough room for them to wander about a bit, but don’t make looking for food a major quest for your poor bug. Though they do it well, it’s probably a pain to catch a cricket with one’s mouth, so don’t make it too hard by putting a tiny tarantula in an immense enclosure with lots of decorations for prey to hide in.
My 5 1/2″ B. albopilosum seems pretty content with her 5-gallon enclosure. If your tarantula’s arboreal, make sure it has enough vertical space to climb around in. They’re not so concerned with horizontal space. For clarification (or to further confuse you), enjoy my child-like drawings below:
Note: You may also choose to put the arboreal’s water dish up high where it can be more easily accessed.
Another consideration for terrestrials is height. There is no need for them to climb, so go ahead and fill the substrate up until the depth of empty space at the top is about the height of the spider’s legspan. That way, they won’t fall and get injured.
Make sure your spider has clean water! Spiders of decent size (about 2 1/2″ in legspan) will drink out of a water dish. Some of my smaller ones use the caps from “widemouth” Gatorade jugs and others have plastic tops from peanut butter jars. Anything that’s shallow enough for your spider to stand over will work, and there’s no need to stick a sponge or cotton in it.
In fact, making your spider drink from a wad of cotton or sponge is a bad thing because crickets will lay eggs in the moist sponge, cotton will get caught on your spider’s fangs, and both get stinky and dirty.
Spiderlings will drink water droplets from light mistings (I use a thoroughly cleaned out spray bottle for that). I must stress that you use VERY light mistings with smaller spiders and NO water dish for the teeny tiny ones. I put more information and pictures of water containers for tarantulas here .
Some tarantulas like it dry and others need a good deal of humidity. Figure out what your species needs and mist a lot, a little, or not at all as necessary. No tarantulas live in mildewy bogs, so never make a moldy, smelly swampland out of your spider’s home.
I once saw a beautiful wild-caught king baboon die in a pet store due to the fact that the owner read that “baboons like some humidity”. He put the spider in a frog’s environment and the poor thing was huddled up in the only somewhat dry corner of a moldy aquarium. They decided that was too much moisture and so put the beautiful 7-inch tarantula in a completely dry, sand-floored terrarium without a water dish. After a bit, it curled its legs up under itself in a dying posture, so they misted the container profusely and made another fungus-laden swamp, but no water dish. It died what must have been a miserable death.
Approximate Costs of Different Enclosures…
As mentioned, housing for tarantulas is easily acquired or made. Unlike most other pets, the actual animal is usually the primary expenditure. The options are numerous and could range from a small plastic storage box with holes drilled in it to an elaborate configuration of screen and glass and wood. All costs are approximations in US dollars.
Pre-Made Plastic Containers
Pre-Made Plastic Containers
Advantages: Lightweight, well-ventilated, have easy access doors
Disadvantages: Too ventilated for tropical species;
lid is noisy
Cost: $5 for smaller ones, $9 for a “shoebox” size, up to $16 for larger ones
I have used these for species that enjoy a drier climate. If you find you need to raise the humidity, the vents can be covered with clear packing tape (sticky side out).
Advantages: Well-sealed, easy to clean, very clear
Disadvantages: Expensive lid must be purchased or constructed. Not easily drilled to regulate humidity. Heavy and unsafe compared to plastic. Most are too tall for non-burrowing terrestrials. Too costly for large collections. Screen lids are traps for a tarantula’s claws.
Cost: $10 for a 10 gallon; $9 for a pre-made lid
I don’t use these anymore.
Plastic Storage Containers
Advantages: Cheap, easily drilled, quieter opening and closing than brittle plastic, retains humidity, available in a wide variety of sizes.
Disadvantages: Some are hard to see through
Cost: $2-4 for a “sweater box”
I use these for burrowers and terrestrials. I buy tall, clear “file boxes” for burrowers and shallow ones (pictured) for non-burrowers.
Plastic Jar for Arboreals
Advantages: Cheap, easily drilled, very clear
Disadvantages: Lid screws on from the top, where the tarantula may set up home. Difficult to clean and change the water.
I don’t use these anymore
Advantages: Light, very clear, easily cleaned,
easily drilled; the design is up to the user.
Disadvantages: Construction is time consuming
Cost: A $17 sheet of .100″ thick plexiglass will make one and a half 10×14″ enclosures
I primarily use these for arboreals
The sliding door of the plexiglass container is secured with a pin
The corners are screwed together for easy deconstruction
The door slides out, and only a very minimal amount of silicone is used on the bottom panel
There are many substrates and decorations that can be used. From left to right:
Sphagnum moss ($3 a bag), clay pot ($0.40), fake plants ($2), topsoil ($3 a bag), cork bark ($8/pound), and peat moss ($3 a bag). Ensure that there are NO pesticides and fertilizers in anything you use. Also, avoid plain sand, bark chips, gravel, cedar shavings, and other mammal/reptile beddings.
This lid off of a peanut butter jar makes a handy water dish.
All of these screw on caps will make good water dishes. For smaller spiders, there are plastic lids on milk caps and Gatorade jars.
This arboreal’s water dish is situated off the ground in a notch cut in the cork bark. It is refilled via a straw inserted through a hole in the top.