Page 1 of 4 123 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 38

Thread: Tiger's guide to Tarantulas

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Oceanside, CA
    Posts
    756
    Thanks
    9
    Thanked 45 Times in 34 Posts

    Default Tiger's guide to Tarantulas

    Seems like a fair number of folks are getting new tarantulas (hereafter T's) and asking questions. T's are some of the easiest things a person can keep and are really very interesting and unique pets. To successfully keep them a baseline of knowledge is required though which is what I am going to try and accomplish here.

    First off: Learn the scientific names! Yes they are complicated and jawcrackers to say but when you are talking about species without standard common names , and some with no common names, this is really the only way of conducting business. You can learn the basic genera right off. After that take your time.

    Second off: Although fuzzy, they are not cuddly. Many can be handled but they tolerate it at best generally. Others I am careful just looking at them much less handling or feeding them. I will mention some good starter genera that are more likely to tolerate handling.

    Third: Related to above, all T's are venomous. All of them have fangs. Bites can be dry (no venom) or wet (venom). The effects depend on the person, species, and to a certain extent where and what the person does about it. While I have never been bitten (it is rare with caution) most are not supposed to be worse than a wasp sting. Some genera can cause systemic effects for days, or weeks, though (the Poecilitheria, Heteroscodra, and Stromatopelma genera come to mind, but anything with "baboon" in the common name or from Australia are also good for a trip to the hospital for pain meds). It is VERY important to note that there are no credible cases of deaths from a T bite. There are three attributed but they are from the 1800's and really are more likely from tetanus or some other infection rather the bite itself.

    Now that that's out of the way....

    There are a few major categories you can lump all T's into. The first and most general is old world (OW) and new world (NW). The new world is the americas, the old world is everywhere else. In general, old worlds are more temperamental, and have worse bites; while new worlds are more tractable with a lesser bite, but they have urticating (see itchy) hairs that can be kicked at you and can be a B* to get out. The next is what type of environment the T lives in: arboreal (trees), terrestrial, and fossorial (obligate burrowers). Again in generalities: arboreal T's tend to be more delicate care wise with shorter life spans and must have vertical climbing surfaces, terrestrials make up the majority of species and some will climb (semi-arboreal) and most will dig (semi-fossorial) so this is rather a catch all category, fossorial T's are the rarest group and are sometimes referred to (lovingly of course...) as pet holes. Seriously, you might not see a truly fossorial T for months.

    These are major categories, but do provide some useful hints about the T you are looking at keeping. Remember though there are always exceptions.

    Now for a general care sheet. This can be adapted for really any T you care to name:

    Housing: T's don't need much space. You can give them all you want, but it's not necessary. A wild T might not move more than a meter from it's hidey hole it's entire life span if it can help it. Some people will say they won't find their food: bull. A general rule is that if a T has 2-3 times it's leg span of appropriate room (vertical for arboreal, horizontal for terrestrial) it's got enough. A fossorial T will need this and possible more in substrate depth to dig.

    Temps: All T's will do well at room temperature. They can handle cold well for short periods but are surprisingly intolerant of too much heat. In short, it's much easier to bake one than to freeze one. 70's to low 80's are good starting points.

    Humidity: This is the only category where knowledge of a particular species is truly important. Depending on where your T came from it will need a different level of moisture. Most will be fine at whatever, with more humidity at molting time. Some species are very particular though, 2 examples: Theraphosa blondi (Goliath birdeaters) need swampy conditions, whereas Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens (Green Bottle Blues) like it bone dry as they come from a very harsh desert region.

    Lighting: Not necessary, and truth be told disliked. If you put one on the tank it won't hurt or help, but your T will likely be found in the darkest corner it can find.

    Feeding: Bugs. They can live happily on crickets or roaches their entire lives with no problems. Superworms and meal worms tend to be more fatty but that might not be to much a problem with T's. Vertebrates are generally not a good idea. This is due to higher calcium loads, which *could* lead to bad molts. A note about how T's eat: they kill by the mechanical damage of their fangs and simple violence rather than venom and then use the venom to start to digest the prey as they mash it around with their fangs. With inverts you are left with a ball of chitin called a bolus, with a mouse....eww. An interesting note is that T venom is incredibly toxic to mice. This is thought to be more defensive though as they would be a major danger to most T's and inhabit the same dark out of the way spots. Also, no calcium or supplements, just gut load. It's not likely a a T would get any of the powder from a usual supplement so it's a waste. Be extra careful about wild caught bugs as pesticides are especially bad for obvious reasons.

    Feeding schedule: They don't need much to thrive. They will not overeat, but you would think some are hollow the way they gorge. Others will go on hunger strike for months. The longest I've heard of is 2 years for Grammostola rosea (Rose hair tarantula, extremely common in pet stores). Don't worry. It will eat when it's ready. A few crickets once every week or so depending on size of the spider and what you want growth rate to be (more on this in another thread) will be more than enough. I feed slings a little more often, adults I feed.... not very often, roughly 2-3 weeks or so. Look for prey about the size of the abdomen of the T. Some species (C. cyaneopubescens and Acanthoscurria geniculata in my collection) will take down much bigger prey though of about their own size to a little bigger. The beasts.

    Molting: Like a snake shedding its skin a T molts it's exoskeleton. IF YOU SEE A T ON ITS BACK IT'S NOT (necessarily) DEAD! DON'T TOUCH IT! Seriously, don't move or touch the T from the start of the molt until its shell has rehardened if you can help it. If you do you can cause major damage to the T. The best way to tell when a T is done "drying out" is to look at the fangs as these are generally the last to harden up. They should be black and shiny. Any other color leave it alone. For a sling (baby) this might just take an hour or so, for an adult it could be a couple of weeks! An interesting thing with T's is that molting will let them regenerate lost limbs. If they lose a leg you can expect another one to be regrown (slowly) over the next few molts.

    Gender: Male and female is important to know in T's as it effects a more than the obvious breeding concerns. Males are much shorter lived than females and are generally much drabber in coloration. It's difficult to tell a male from a female, and might take until the animal fully matures. I won't go into it here, if wanted I can post more on this later or you can head to a Tarantula forum to know more than you ever wanted too. There is a good one in my sig, even if some folks there are less friendly than the critters in question.

    Slings: Slings (slang for spiderlings) are baby tarantulas. While relatively delicate they are much cheaper than an adult (sometimes exponentially so) and you get to see your animal grow. These are also the most readily available T's on the market. Patience and caution go a long way in this particular hobby, doubly so for slings. Once a sling is 2" or so (depending on species) I'd consider it a juvie and out of the truly delicate phase.

    Starter T's: I suggest new world terrestrials, as would most other folks. The genera Grammostola, Brachypelma, and Aphonopelma are all excellent choices. If you have more questions on this it's a common thread topic on T forums and you are free to PM me about my suggestions.

    I have heard it said that you can start with any T as long as you respect it. True...kinda. I started with a relatively advanced NW species Tapinauchenius violaceus (Purple tree spider, what can I say? It's freakin purple! Also arguably the fastest species out there) and it lived to be a male and go for a post ultimate molt (I went into more detail on this in another thread). RIP Amethyst. I wouldn't go hopping into the deep end of the pool right off though, remember some of those will seriously wreck your day (week...month....).

    Books: If you really are interested in this as a hobby get "The Tarantula Keeper's Guide" by Schultz and Schultz. This is the best hobby book out there to my knowledge on any pet hobby. Seriously it answers everything. Best of all it's cheap for what you get!

    Good luck! Feel free to add to the thread, ask me questions or just say "Spiders? Gross!".

    By the way T's are not spiders. They are technically mygales (Mygalimorphidae).....I've said to much.
    Last edited by Tiger Cowboy; 12-02-2011 at 04:31 PM. Reason: Grammar, more info

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    sacramento, ca
    Posts
    5,190
    Thanks
    6
    Thanked 65 Times in 55 Posts

    Default

    Yeah, learned the hard way, Don't pet your new world T and then touch your face. Very unpleasant, though the spider was fine with it, I got some of the hairs on my face and it itched! Did not wash off. Best not to pet those cute furry little behinds. They use to make itching powder from the hairs.
    Roxanne
    and the zoo
    www.geckoluv.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Buffalo
    Posts
    137
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Nice write up Tiger! Thanks

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Arizona
    Posts
    963
    Thanks
    11
    Thanked 27 Times in 18 Posts

    Default

    I don't know if I'll ever be "allowed" to own one, but I find T's incredibly interesting. Great write up, it was to the point and full of information. Thanks!
    Formerly known as eel588, new name same great taste!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Oceanside, CA
    Posts
    756
    Thanks
    9
    Thanked 45 Times in 34 Posts

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by rhatfield View Post
    Yeah, learned the hard way, Don't pet your new world T and then touch your face. Very unpleasant, though the spider was fine with it, I got some of the hairs on my face and it itched! Did not wash off. Best not to pet those cute furry little behinds. They use to make itching powder from the hairs.
    Who has 2 thumbs and isn't affected by urticating hairs (at least so far)? This guy . Some people don't react to one species and will go nuts with another. Theraphosa sp. are supposed to be the worst but I've never dealt with them.

    They don't wash off once they are in you, best is to use tape and try and pull it off. DON'T TOUCH YOUR EYES after doing anything involving a NW species until you have washed your hands! Seriously that's a trip to the opthamologist. There are some horrific threads on it out there. Also don't breathe them in (be careful cleaning). For humans it will itch like crazy and possibly be a major sinus problem for a while. Interestingly linked to something mentioned in the original post, urticating hairs kicked in a rodent's face has a good chance to kill the thing.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    St. Louis, MO
    Posts
    1,048
    Thanks
    34
    Thanked 61 Times in 43 Posts

    Default

    That was a great write-up! I've had my rose hair, Fluffy, for 11 years now, and never really did much research (I took her in from an unwanted home). Honestly, I didn't know at the time that they lived that long. She's always been healthy and 'tame', with not much in the way of care requirements.
    I love the part about 'no deaths'. I'm notorious for dispelling rumors about 'dangerous' animals to whomever will listen; I'll add that fact to my speech.

    Noelle

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Oceanside, CA
    Posts
    756
    Thanks
    9
    Thanked 45 Times in 34 Posts

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by rcarichter View Post
    Honestly, I didn't know at the time that they lived that long. She's always been healthy and 'tame', with not much in the way of care requirements.
    11 years, and I'm assuming she came as WC adult (this accounts for most rose hairs out there). She's likely 20+ years old and you very well might see her live another 10 or more! Grammostolas and Aphonopelmas can live a very long time, 30-40 years is often quoted for females, but nobody's really sure how long.

    Amazing creatures really.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    St. Louis, MO
    Posts
    1,048
    Thanks
    34
    Thanked 61 Times in 43 Posts

    Default

    You're kidding me! Holy cow!! She was bought from Petsmart 12 years ago, so I guess it's certainly possible she's WC.
    Well, I promised I'd care for her for life. And I will.


    Noelle

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Oceanside, CA
    Posts
    756
    Thanks
    9
    Thanked 45 Times in 34 Posts

    Default

    There are relatively few captive bred rose hairs. If it came from a pet store 12 years ago there is almost no chance she is not wild caught. Most them there now still are actually.

    That being said, there is no telling how old the girl was when she was collected! 10 years at collection would be a conservative figure. They are slow growers under good conditions in captivity and come from the Atacama desert, a very harsh spot where their growth would be slower still and seasonal in nature. If she were an adult when you got her I'd start her at around 10 years at least.

    She's likely older than I am actually.

    Pretty neat when you think about it. Weird too.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Carnation, WA
    Posts
    6,975
    Thanks
    75
    Thanked 49 Times in 32 Posts

    Default

    Oh lawdy, my G. rosea is female and I got her as a little bitty sling from some friends who had captive bred her. She may well outlive ME!
    Thank you for the awesome write up, Tiger Cowboy. I'm looking forward to more on this!
    Help! Crested Geckos! 0.1.Leachie, 2.1.1 Gargs, 1.0 Chahoua, 2.1. Blue Tongue Skinks, 1.1. White Lined Geckos, 1.3. African Fat Tails, 2.2.0 Tokay Geckos, 1.0. Giant Day Gecko, 2 tarantulas

Similar Threads

  1. Vivarium Lighting Guide
    By AeroWRX in forum RHACODACTYLUS CAGING & TERRARIUMS
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 09-20-2014, 03:10 PM
  2. MORPH GUIDE!
    By crestedkeeper in forum Crested Gecko Morph Discussion
    Replies: 17
    Last Post: 03-22-2010, 10:47 AM
  3. Reds and Tigers
    By Bill22 in forum RHACODACTYLUS GECKO PHOTOS
    Replies: 13
    Last Post: 11-01-2006, 01:44 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •