So You Want to Buy a Tarantula…
During the course of visiting folks with our eight legged friends, we often get asked questions about obtaining a pet tarantula. So I added this section to help answer some of these what, where, and why questions about getting your first pet tarantula.
How Much is a Tarantula and Should or Shouldn’t You Buy One?
WHY? The first question the all prospective pet owners need to ask themselves is “why do I want this animal?” With the increase in popularity that invertebrates like tarantulas and scorpions have seen in the pet trade, “why” is a pretty rational question.
If your first answer is, “for the shock value of having a giant spider,” do the hobby a favor and think twice. That doesn’t mean it is wrong to enjoy the looks that people give you when you tell them about the tarantula living in your house, but it probably shouldn’t be the main reason.
These creatures are quite remarkable, as you will soon find out shortly after purchasing your first!
WHERE? The first place you might want to look, especially for your first spider, is a privately owned local pet shop. Many of these will have a selection of invertebrates for sale that you can browse. Look to see if the animal appears healthy, has water available (not a wet sponge), a place to hide, etc.
One good indication that the pet shop is knowledgeable is if they know the scientific names of the tarantulas. Here are a couple of true phone conversations I have had with prospective pet shops…
“ABC Pets. May I help you?”
“I understand you sell tarantulas. I am checking to see if you have any Grammostola species in the shop.”
“Uhhh…what specifically are you looking for?”
“I’m looking for either an aureostriata or pulchra.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what those are.”
“They may be labeled Chaco Golden Knee and Brazilian Black.”
“We have some dark tarantulas; mostly black.”
I said “thank you” and that was that. I kept looking, and found another private pet shop that was rumored to sell tarantulas. I called and asked the same question, and got this response…
“We don’t have either of those species, but we have a couple of roseas. We do have a lot of other species available, though.”
Sounded promising, so I went to take a look. They carried approximately 50 different tarantulas, all labeled with the scientific name. However, there were many tanks with no water source at all (and some with cotton balls that had been soaked with water some time ago), many with several dead crickets (which means they do not maintain the cages), and even one tank with a dead tarantula in it.
Needless to say, I moved on. I ended up finding two local shops that had a selection of tarantulas that were well taken care of, and the staff members were knowledgeable.
You might ask why I don’t go to some of the big chain pet stores that do sell tarantulas. Several reasons, including the fact that they are importing wild caught tarantulas, whereas MOST tarantulas sold at reputable private pet shops are captive bred. Also, the big chains do not always know the proper way to care for a tarantula, thinking that they should all be kept in the same environment.
Another great option is going online. This will probably be slightly more money that you may want to spend on your first tarantula, but there are some GREAT breeders/dealers out there that can guarantee the quality of your purchase. (Go to my resources page for a list of online dealers.)
WHAT? Okay, so what spider should you get? If you were to ask a number of tarantula hobbyists what species makes the best “beginner” tarantula, my guess is that a majority of them would answer the Chilean Rose Hair (Grammostola rosea).
In my opinion, it is smart to start with something relatively easy to help gain experience. If all goes well and you want your collection to expand, you can move on to other species first. For me, there are a few different things that a beginner should look at.
First is the expense of that first spider. Roseas are typically inexpensive to acquire ($20 to $30 for an adult). There are some wonderful species that would make excellent first time tarantulas, but the prices can be intimidating for that first spider.
The second thing to look at is how hardy the species is. You don’t want something that has tricky temperature/humidity requirements. The Chilean Rose Hair is about as tough as they come!
Third, you want a tarantula that is known to be docile and slow moving. Roseas have a good reputation for being very calm spiders, slow moving spiders. Remember, however, that there are always going to be exceptions. (These are wild animals, after all.)
Some people in the hobby do not like roseas, claiming they are too common and “boring” for them. However, our rosea is still among one of our favorite (and most friendly) spider in our collection.
If you have the money to spend and want something other than a Chilean Rose Hair, here are some other great “beginner” tarantulas. (You may have to order from a dealer online for these.)