Animals

Choose a tarantula

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Tarantulas, although they are often given a bad reputation in movies, are actually fascinating animals and are interesting pets. They are a popular choice of arachnids for pets, have a quiet disposition, and are great and fun to watch while wandering around their surroundings. If this is the first time you have a pet tarantula, you need to know that there are several species to choose from. You will have to consider your resources, experience level and environment when choosing a pet tarantula.

Hosting your spider

A small aquarium, a plastic box or even a gallon-sized glass jar will serve most tarantulas. Because they are excellent climbers, however, a safe upper part is crucial to prevent them from escaping. Only a few air holes at the top will allow enough oxygen to enter, while maintaining the moisture that the tarantulas need. Some tropical forest tarantulas require a considerable amount of moisture. Take the time to learn about the conditions in your spider's natural habitat and do your best to recreate them.

To get the best soil coverage from your tank, some recommend moistened vermiculite, a common ingredient in potting soil. A mixture of clean sand and topsoil will also do well. The important thing is to use a material that retains only enough water to maintain moisture. Most tarantulas are comfortable between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, being 80 degrees more or less optimal. Thermal pads under the tank are the safest way to heat the spider's enclosure. These can be found in stores specializing in reptiles. Heating tarantulas with bulbs or hot stones can burn or dry them.

Tarantulas tend to be more active at night and like to hide during the day. Provide them with some kind of shelter. A piece of curved cork bark available in pet stores or a small half pot on its side will work. If you intend to have more than one tarantula, they should be kept in separate containers, like most spiders, they tend to be cannibals.

Food and drink

A spider can survive a few weeks without food, but not without water. A jar lid full of water is all they need, but a piece of sponge to absorb some of the water makes it easier to drink. Although they can spin silk, tarantulas do not create cobwebs. Instead, they stalk their insect food on foot or wait for ambushes. They can eat almost any type of insect they catch. Avoid catching insects in areas where you suspect pesticides are used as they will damage your spider. Crickets are sold in many pet stores, usually as reptile food. Adult tarantulas will only need one or two meals a week, and will never overeat. If your spider stops eating, he or she may be about to move.

Molting and bald points

Tarantulas stop all activity before molting, so if you see that your spider is upside down, do not disturb it. In all likelihood, after a week or more, it will emerge from a hatch on its previous deck with a new shiny skin. The old skin resembles an intact spider.

If your tarantula develops a bald spot on your hairy abdomen, don't be alarmed. As a defense against animals that could eat them, the New World tarantulas have a patch of special barbed hairs on their abdomens that cause an itchy rash. (These hairs were once the main ingredient of the itchy powders sold in the novelty stores.) If they are stressed or upset, they rub their hind legs against the skin to release a small cloud of these irritating hairs. If they bother too often, spiders develop a bald spot, another reason not to handle them.

Life expectancy

Caring for a tarantula can be a prolonged commitment: some women live 20 years or more. Male spiders have much shorter lives, most live a year and a half as adults. Adult males of most species can be identified by the distinctive hooks at the bottom of the third segment of their front legs for walking. Their pedipalps, the short appendages on each side of the mouth, are also different. In females they have thin tips that resemble the legs, while in males the ends are blunt and rounded.

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