Pretty much anything they can overpower! Most thrive on a diet of insects, such as crickets, roaches, grasshoppers, etc. Some tarantulas will eat larger prey, such as frogs, small lizards, and even mice. In captivity, however, crickets and roaches will do just fine!
Here’s What To Feed Your Tarantula And Keep It Healthy!
Tarantulas do need a variation in their diet, but if a multitude of small prey items is not available, variation of the diet of what is on hand will suffice. It is quite possible that spiders need carbohydrates, and cholesterol actually supplies a precursor necessary for growth (Amalin 695).
To ensure that your tarantulas are getting adequate nourishment, it is a good idea to feed crickets table scraps a few hours or the day before introducing them to a spider.
These crickets are enjoying a last meal of banana, tomato, and cantaloupe. Note how their food is kept off the substrate and the substrate itself is completely dry. This prevents the crickets from laying eggs and retards fungus growths or undesirable pests such as mites.
The brown tube protruding from this cricket’s rear is called an “ovipositor” and indicates that it is a female. She will stick this tube into moist soil and lay eggs the first chance she gets. I used to snip the ovipositors off at the base with scissors before presenting crickets to my tarantulas in hopes that the enclosure wouldn’t soon be filled with baby crickets that pester the spider.
As it turns out, I’ve observed the female crickets laying eggs despite the absence of the ovipositor; the act of cutting them off was simply useless torture.
The larvae of the beetle Zophobas morio, otherwise known as “superworms,” are a good source of protein. Like crickets, they can be fed fresh vegetables prior to introducing them to your spider.
However, these will attempt to burrow into the substrate as soon as they hit it, so it is best to put a few in a dish such as a peanut butter jar lid so that the tarantula may have easy access.
A tarantula will eat just about any insect it can overpower. Studies have shown that tarantulas and most spiders are most comfortable eating prey that is about 50-80% of their body length, but of course they will take smaller and, on occasion, even larger prey if hungry (Netwig and Wissel 1).
They have also been known to devour mice, frogs, snakes, each other, and even fish!
Some will gorge themselves on as many prey items as they can and others will stick to an apparent “diet.” Sometimes they fast for long periods for unknown reasons and they almost always avoid eating when they’re about to molt.
Don’t feed your spider anything that may have poison on or in it!
Most could do quite well on a diet of crickets or roaches alone, but you can try little lizards, superworms, newborn mice. . . just about anything small and defenseless. In fact, studies have shown that spiders in the wild variate their diets and that they do indeed require a myriad of nutrients (Toft 304).
You can “gut load” roaches or crickets with different vegetables and other foods by letting the insects enjoy a “last meal” the day before serving ’em up to your tarantula. If you live in an urban or suburban area that sprays for pests or where lawns are chemically treated, do NOT just find a grasshopper or something outside and throw it in with your tarantula.
Remember, even if it’s alive, the reason you were able to catch it is probably because it was in the process of dying and you could pass the same harmful chemicals on to your beloved pet. Also, older mice, larger lizards, etc., may be able to bite your tarantula. Leave such things out of its diet.
When your spider eats, it will snatch up the food with its fangs and mush it around with its pedipalps , sort of like a baseball player chewing tobacco. Unlike some other spiders, tarantulas don’t just make a neat little hole and suck the juices out of something- they have to masticate and let their digestive juices run all over their prey, then suck.
Also like a tobacco chewer, it will leave a wad of gooey leftovers when it’s done. Remove those and any prey not eaten within 24 hours, for the wads of former crickets and stuff will make your spider’s home unsanitary and may attract disease and mites, and uneaten things will pester your tarantula.
Some people have tarantulas that eat pre-killed prey like slices of beef heart, frozen and then thawed pinkie mice, etc. I tried chicken livers once and found, that while some large spiders enjoyed it, the smell was not worth it (same with small fish placed in a water dish. It was gross).
I have had tiny A. avicularia (pinktoe) spiderlings eat pre-killed crickets when they would not accept them alive. Other than that, I’ve found that pre-killed, meaty items just results in unnecessary nastiness and no benefit over roaches and crickets, even with breeding projects.