Despite their exotic (or perhaps foreboding) appearance, many kinds of tarantulas are actually easy to keep in the home. Because they can be so intriguing to look at, and their requirements for survival are few, they have grown in popularity over the years as fairly docile pets. The increasing availability and variety of specialist equipment for their shelters and their diet has simplified the task of caring for them even more. Tarantulas can even be kept in small quarters, such as studio apartments, where traditional pets like cats and dogs might not be so comfortable.
These creatures are, as a general rule, reclusive and shy. Most like having a place to retreat to for a good part of the day. Their bite, while not typically fatal, is about as painful as a bee sting, and their body hairs can be irritating to the touch. They are, therefore, pets to be watched and admired, not handled or petted. Spiderlings are oftentimes much cheaper to purchase than adult tarantulas. Keep in mind, also, that a male has a considerably shorter lifespan than a female does.
Tarantulas are kept in a vivarium, which is like a dry version of an aquarium tank. The units available in pet stores often come equipped with a lift-off lid, an ultraviolet fluorescent light, and another small light bulb that serves as a heat source. A vivarium should be kept out of direct sunlight, as its glass will magnify the sun’s rays and the interior will heat up to a dangerous level. Tarantulas, being hermetic by nature, will prefer the darker corners of a room anyway. A background heat source should be used at night so that the creatures aren’t kept in constant light.
The type of environment that you create inside the vivarium will depend upon the kind of tarantula that you plan to keep. Zebra tarantulas, one of the best-known varieties, are burrowing creatures that will prefer plants or some other form of cover lest they become nervous. Broken flowerpots half buried in sand can also provide suitable shelter; such a set-up, kept at a relative humidity reading of 70-80 percent, will be ideal for other burrowing species like the Mexican red-kneed tarantula and the Mexican blond. Pink-toed tarantulas, on the other hand, are accustomed to climbing and building their nests off the ground. A pink-toed’s vivarium should provide branches for it to climb – ideally, enough to allow it to spin its hammock-like web at the top.
The pet shop where you purchase your tarantula can give you more specific details about its preferred habitat as well as its diet, though small invertebrates like crickets and wax moths make suitable fare for most varieties. Specially formulated nutritional supplements are available that can insure their optimum health. On average, however, tarantulas seldom fall ill and tend to lead contented lives once they’ve grown accustomed to their new surroundings.