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How To Care For A Pet Tarantula
Cobalt Blue Tarantula
What Size Enclosure Do They Need?
Tarantula's are moderately easy to keep and care for, as well as fairly inexpensive (once you have bought the tank and habitat necessities). What many people do not consider is that tarantula's can live up to (and sometimes exceed), 15 years of age, so when you purchase these fascinating creatures - be sure that you are committed and won't get bored easily. Fortunately, however, tarantula's are extremely low maintenance, are not bothered if they are never handled and can go for over a week without feeding, therefore they are actually extremely good pets for anyone who wants something that they can keep, but still go away on holiday and not worry about.
All tarantulas will appreciate and do well in a 10 gallon aquarium, with a secure lid (obviously you don't want any cats getting in, or your tarantula getting out). The kind of habitat necessary depends on whether your spider is a floor-dwelling spider (terrestrial) or a tree-dwelling spider (abboreal).
Either way you should provide a heat mat which covers half the floor space of the underneath of the tank. A light will also be required, though temperature will also depend on your species of tarantula.
Although tarantulas are capable of climbing glass, and will be happy to do so, you should provide logs and "branches", for tree-dwelling tarantula's to keep them entertained and happy. Generally both varieties of tarantula like to have a moist tank, but it should never be wet. A water bowl should be provided and fresh water should be given daily.
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Can Children Keep Tarantulas?
Tarantulas are not recommended as pets for children as they are fairly fragile creatures which can bleed to death if dropped from even a small height, and will drop their hairs if they are afraid or intimidated. These hairs contain venom which can cause rashes in humans. This is the only reason they are not usually able to be handled. They are also shy, and they will bite a human if they feel very intimidated.
Unless allergic to the venom, which is extremely rare, the bite is harmless, though it can be quite painful and the site where you were bitten may seem a little red for a while.
Although it sounds scary, tarantula bites are often compared to bee stings and normally aren't a cause for concern, depending on the species. If you do want to handle your tarantula, make sure it is only occasionally as tarantulas can become stressed if they are picked up too often.
When picking up the tarantula, you should lower your hand into the tank and let the tarantula walk (without encouragement), onto your hand. If you choose to do this you should be careful to be near a surface so that if you dropped her, the tarantula would not die from internal bleeding (they are extremely fragile).
Finally, remember not to keep your tarantula out of the vivarium for extended periods of time as she will begin to feel cold and become bad-tempered, which makes the risk of being bitten higher. A period of ten minutes or so is perfect - remember that tarantulas will find being handled completely unnatural and be respectful of that.
Tarantulas and Moulting
Your tarantula will molt around 3 times a year, and this means it is growing. It will continue to grow until it dies, and the better care you take of it, the longer it will live. Tarantulas are generally only active at feeding times, or when exploring to find water or a nesting site, other times they will appreciate a small "box" of some description where they can hide and feel safe. Many people choose to put the box in a corner, and give it a top and just two sides so that they can still see in the box when the tarantula is inside.
Once your tarantula has shed or moulted, you must not feed it for at least two days, as the skin will be very soft, and loose crickets can do serious damage to while the tarantula is in this vulnerable state. If you find your tarantula is laying on its back, it isn't dead, it is moulting and it will continue to lay on its back for up to 10 hours.
You must leave it completely alone, quiet and undisturbed when it is in this way, and should not handle for two days at least after it has shed its exoskeleton, and it is best to give the spider a full week to settle back to normal after moulting.
What Do Tarantulas Eat?
Although it is often portrayed that tarantulas feed on birds, other mammals and sometimes humans this is all due to myths (probably because, let's face it, they aren't the cutest pet in the world, right?) Pet tarantulas are generally not the kind of species, nor the right size to eat birds and will stick to insects. Tarantulas generally will only feed on crickets and other insects.
Some tarantula species can eat small lizards and chicks, but this is neither recommended nor necessary for most species which are being kept in captivity.
Most people feed their tarantula's crickets, and find they do not need to feed their tarantula with any other variety of food, although the crickets will need to be "gut-loaded", meaning they are fed on a very nutritious diet (you can ask for more information on nutritious diets for crickets from reptile specialists).
Tarantulas can also be fed on small meal worms and small grass hoppers. You should never leave live crickets or grasshoppers roaming around the tarantulas cage when the spider is not hungry as the live food can begin to gnaw on the tarantula's legs, causing substantial damage over time.
Tarantulas will not eat every day - sometimes only eating once a week and this isn't cause for concern, as their bodies and metabolic rate is totally different to ours. You should also never feed your tarantula anything that is bigger than it's abdomen length-way, or any other way, as it is unlikely the tarantula will be able to eat it without being harmed.
What Temperature Should Their Vivarium Be Kept At?
Between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit is normally more than adequate for your tarantula and this temperature in most homes is considered room temperature, meaning you shouldn't need additional equipment such as heat lamps, though most species will appreciate a heat mat.
Occasionally "misting" the cage by squirting a light layer of water (cold is fine) over the foliage in the cage is great for species of tarantula who like a humid environment, but as there are so many different species of tarantula you can ask your local reptile or exotic pet store for more information on humidity for your specific species of spider (whilst some may like this, others wouldn't appreciate it at all).