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Fantastic Beginner Tarantulas and How to Keep Them

Discussion in 'Tarantula Questions & Discussions' started by wingedcoatl, Dec 28, 2018.

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    ** I saw Ungoliant post in a thread where a beginner was asking questions and they posted a really good primer on basic T care. I thought it was very useful, and decided to make a post about it that could be referenced in the future by beginners asking typical starting questions. I condensed some parts and added others. My purpose in posting it here was to see if I could get feedback on things that could be added, removed, or amended for clarity and accuracy. **

    The following guide is meant to be a primer for the beginning tarantula keeper. The information contained therein is paraphrased for the sake of brevity or clarity and the information sourced from posters on arachnoboards and my own knowledge. I have attempted to give credit where it is due.

    Fantastic Beginner Tarantulas and How to Keep Them

    Best Beginner Species:


    The following list includes a number of tarantulas recommended for the beginner. It is not exhaustive, but should be a helpful guide. You will note that they are all New World terrestrials. This is not an accident. They are easy to care for, have mild venom, and are more forgiving of husbandry errors. They range from small to large, plain to very colorful, and sedate to skittish. Picking from among these will help you build the skills that will help when you are ready to move on to arboreals and Old World Ts.

    Acanthoscurria geniculata
    Aphonopelma - any
    Brachypelma - any
    Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens
    Eupalaestrus campestratus
    Grammostola - any
    Homoeomma - chilensis, orellanai, sp. blue
    Kochiana brunnipes
    Lasiodora - any
    Nhandu - any
    Phrixotrichus scrofa
    Thrixopelma cyanoleum

    The Basic Enclosure:

    Housing the tarantula – Your first tarantula’s needs are very simple, and we start with some sort of secure and translucent container that is breathable and not overly large. One such container is the kritter keeper, which is relatively inexpensive, secure, and crystal clear. A word of caution: do not use the handles. If you’ll find yourself tempted, take them off and throw them away. Alternatively, there are hundreds of variations of “shoe boxes” that also fit the bill. These are also cheap and often stackable. Deli cups and AMAC boxes will house growing spiderlings effectively as well. Note that any container you use will have to be ventilated. This can be achieved with a small drill, or better yet, soldering iron. There are other options, of course, but for brevity’s sake I will not enumerate them all.

    A few cautionary statements: Tape and mesh do not mix with tarantulas. Cover with vented plexiglass, or apply more tape so that there are no sticky bits facing the enclosure’s interior. Tarantulas can climb sheer surfaces to reach them, and they can and will get stuck, which can lead to injury.

    Substrate - Coconut coir, topsoil, and peat are the best substrate bases, and they can be mixed to achieve different effects. Peat retains moisture. Topsoil is good for holding a burrow. Coir is good as an inert filler, or on it’s own. Whatever you use, ensure that it is free of fertilizers or pesticides. Pack the substrate a bit. Ts seem to dislike fluffy sub. Some people will mix in sand for weight or vermiculite for moisture retention. Using either of these two substrates on their own is the subject of some controversy, and for beginner's purposes, sticking to the main three is recommended.

    How much is enough?: It is generally recommended that you fill the enclosure to the point that the space between it and the top is roughly 1.5 times the length of the T. This mitigates the risk of the T falling from a great height. It is well known that falls are a big hazard to tarantulas. This also allows enough room so that it can flip over and molt.

    Water – Tarantulas should have regular access to fresh water. If your tap water is safe for human consumption it is safe for the T. Many people use caps off of various things. Do not use a sponge. Petsmart does this because they don’t know better. You now do. They are a magnet for all kinds of filth. Your T will not drown. If you are concerned about crickets drowning in the dish, glass marbles or beads can be added. Overfilling the dish is no big deal.

    Furnishing – Most Ts will appreciate somewhere to retreat to. Providing a hide gives the T the option to run rather than being defensive. This is especially helpful when you need to do maintenance. Cork bark, clay pot halves, and store bought hides are generally good. Anything with sharp edges or pointy bits is a no go. Partially bury the hide and clear out a little space underneath. Your T will excavate more if it feels the need. They may bury it and sit in the open – such is life. If you want to add character to your enclosure for your aesthetic purposes, this is ok. Fake plants and such provide the additional bonus of serving as anchor points for webbing.

    Food:


    The Menu: Tarantulas are strict carnivores and will eat just about anything they can overpower. In the hobby, practicality dictates we use what’s cheap, nutritious, and readily available. Crickets, roaches, mealworms, and superworms are probably the most common foods used in the hobby. European hobbyists get locusts. Lucky them. Hornworms are also a good “sometimes food.”

    The Meal Plan: A good rule of thumb is to provide meals that are no larger than the Ts opisthosoma (abdomen). If you have small slings, you can chop up things like mealworms into smaller bits, or pop the legs off of crickets (like a drumstick). Mealworms and superworms like to burrow, and can snack on a molting T. Crush their heads. They will continue to squirm for a while regardless. Sometimes a T will not eat. This is rarely if ever a concern. A tarantula will not starve itself. It has either stored enough food for the time being or it will molt soon. This is a good thing, and not a sign of illness. When a tarantula is not receptive to food, one option is to kill it and leave it for the tarantula to scavenge. This is helpful for slings, and Ts who are not eating at the moment for whatever reason. Leave dead food in the enclosure for 24 hours and then remove what remains for sanitary purposes.

    Cage Maintenance:

    Species that can be kept on dry substrate generally have low maintenance requirements. If you see any boluses (the indigestible remains of prey) or uneaten prey, remove it. You can keep it on the same substrate for a long time; I generally only change mine when rehousing.

    Get a pair of long tongs for doing your cage maintenance. It reduces the risk of bites and reduces exposure to urticating hairs. (Most New World species have a special patch of hairs on the abdomen that can be shed or flicked as a defense mechanism. If they get on your skin, they may cause an itchy rash. You don't want to get them in your eyes; that requires a trip to the doctor's office.

    Wash your hands after feeding, doing enclosure maintenance, or handling the tarantula.

    Handling:

    Handling is generally discouraged, as it risks injury/death/escape without providing any benefit to the tarantula. (Tarantulas do not enjoy being handled. At best, they tolerate it.) However, if you do choose to handle, I would limit the frequency, and I would always do so no more than a few inches above a soft surface with a catch cup handy in case it falls or bolts.

    Molting:

    If you ever see her on her back or on her side, do not disturb her. This is perfectly normal. It means she is molting (shedding her old exoskeleton). That's a vulnerable time for tarantulas, so you don't want to risk injury by messing with her or startling her.

    During pre-molt, your tarantula may refuse food. After molting, she will be hungry, but don't feed her until her fangs turn black. (Soft fangs might break.) Just keep her water dish full and leave her alone.

    Here's a @Nightstalker47 thread about inspecting the molt for the sucking stomach, a vital piece of the T anatomy responsible for eating:

    Checking for the sucking stomach on your molts

    Common Answers to Frequently asked Questions:

    My tarantula is sluggish or has sealed off it’s burrow/hide. What’s wrong?

    Your tarantula is working as designed. It is likely about to molt. If not, bear in mind that tarantulas can be very sedentary creatures, especially when they are not hungry. If your T has blocked off it’s burrow/hide, be advised that they can stay there for a very long time! Their metabolisms are very slow. When they are ready, they will emerge. DO NOT dig them up unnecessarily.

    My tarantula’s butt is going bald. Is this normal?

    Yes. This means your tarantula has kicked off some of it’s urticating setae (stinging hairs). It will do this in response to a perceived threat, or to impregnate their web as a defensive measure against predators. This is not something to worry about. The patch will fill in with the next molt. If the patch is dark, this is an indicator of pre-molt.

    My tarantula is missing a leg! Is it ruined forever?

    One great thing about having lots of legs is that there’s a certain amount of redundancy! The end of the broken off leg will seal itself, the T will still be able to walk, and as a bonus, it will grow back with successive molts!

    How warm do I have to keep my tarantula?

    Generally speaking a tarantula is going to be comfortable as long as you are.

    I think I have mold. What do I do?

    @boina made a great post about mold. Here it is!

    All you need to know about mold


    There are little bugs moving around in my enclosure. Help!

    They may be springtails. Google it. They are beneficial. If not springtails, then mites might be your commensal organism. Read the @boina thread on mites here:

    All you need to know about mites

    This guide indicates my T is molting, but it's been a long time with no progress. Is it time to panic?

    Ideally it is never time to panic, but a stuck tarantula is cause for alarm. Remember to breathe, and read these posts:

    Tarantula Stuck in Its Molt? Look Here for Advice by @boina
    http://arachnoboards.com/threads/po...should-intervene-asap-stuck-tarantula.314670/ by @Nightstalker47


    Can I have an introduction to beginner arboreals?

    Sure you can. Other forum users have made great primers on these if you want to skip NW terrestrials altogether. Starting with the Avicularia, Caribena, and Ybrabora species is recommended, and their care is covered in these two links:

    Avicularia care by @Venom1080
    Avicularia husbandry by @viper69

    I want to reference a body part on my T but have no idea what they are called. A little Help?

    Basic tarantula anatomy


    I've absorbed this whole guide and I can't get enough! Where should I go next?

    Way to go! You are well on your way to tarantula addiction. This is a good thing! Fortunately for us, there is a lot of information available. Unfortunately, the vast majority of it is not useful. Most of the available care sheets online contain glaring errors, and even popular YT channels can lead you astray. I recommend picking up a copy of the Schultz's "The Tarantula Keeper's Guide." It is a little out of date but there's an errata page online and it's a very handy reference. If you like videos, Tom Moran is great (his website also contains a beginner's section that is phenomenal) our very own EulersK has a channel that is very useful.

    ** CREDITS: Ungoliant, cold blood, The Grym Reaper, The Seraph, antinous, viper 69, Venom1080, Thekla, boina, Nightstalker47, Mintywoods826, Uial, PanzoN88

    Special mention: Ungoliant: Provided the basis for this primer and is quoted word-for-word for a good chunk of it. **
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2018
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  2. The Seraph

    The Seraph Arachnobaron Active Member

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    I would mention pre-killing prey as well. Otherwise, I am bookmarking this.
     
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  3. Tell me what to write and where to add it and I'll do it right now. I have a few hours left to edit it lol

    Edit: Actually, as an "active member" I've got 24 hours. Nice!
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2018
  4. The Seraph

    The Seraph Arachnobaron Active Member

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    Sometimes i a tarantula is not receptive food, you can kill it and leave it for the tarantula to scavenge. This is helpful if it is a sling or not eating at the moment. Feel free to change it.
    Edit: This is also helpful if it has recently molted and you do not want to risk the feeder hurting it.
     
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  5. Done, tweaked, and credit assigned :)
     
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  6. antinous

    antinous Pamphopharaoh Arachnosupporter

    Sadly even with this guide, there will be a number of threads asking about beginner tarantulas.

    I'd edit some of the sub information, vermiculite is good for moisture retention and I, as well as many others, mix it in with their other sub. Also, sand can be used, if mixed in with the sub and some even use it on it's own (debatable subject).

    It's hard to make a guide like this because it would take pages and every keeper, especially seasoned ones, have their own opinions and their own methods that they swear by.

    Great start though!
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2018
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  7. The Seraph

    The Seraph Arachnobaron Active Member

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    Even still, we now have a thing to link to instead of having to write that out.
     
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  8. I am trying to make this as simple and agreeable as possible. For example, I excluded A geniculata and N chromatus even though several sources recommend them because of their propensity for sudden movement and food motivation that might be a deterrent to someone trying to get used to the idea of owning a T (a former 'phobe like myself would have been intimidated). In light of aiming for "agreeable," how about this treatment of the substrate section:

    Substrate - Coconut coir, topsoil, and peat are the best substrate bases, and they can be mixed to achieve different effects. Peat retains moisture. Topsoil is good for holding a burrow. Coir is good as an inert filler, or on it’s own. Whatever you use, ensure that it is free of fertilizers or pesticides. Pack the substrate a bit. Ts seem to dislike fluffy sub. Some people will mix in sand for weight or vermiculite for moisture retention. Using either of these two substrates on their own is the subject of some controversy, and for beginner's purposes, sticking to the main three is recommended.

    Edit: Alternatively I could leave it "as is," preparing myself for inevitable well-intentioned "well actually" statements that I will gently rebuff because the more options you give a beginner, the more they might fuss and deliberate over nuance while they would probably would be better served sticking to the more popular methodology.
     
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  9. Haha. Got the "thumbs up" while editing my post. Bad habit. I'll make the amendment. Thanks so much for your input. This is fun!
     
  10. Uial

    Uial Arachnopeon

    The Meal Plan: A good rule of thumb is to provide meals that are no larger than the Ts opisthosoma (abdomen). If you have small slings, you can chop up things like mealworms into smaller bits, or pop the legs off of crickets (like a drumstick). Mealworms and superworms like to burrow, and can snack on a molting T. Crush their heads. They will continue to squirm for a while regardless. Sometimes a T will not eat. This is rarely if ever a concern. A tarantula will not starve itself. It has either stored enough food for the time being or it will molt soon. This is a good thing, and not a sign of illness. When a tarantula is not receptive to food, one option is to kill it and leave it for the tarantula to scavenge. This is helpful for slings, and Ts who are not eating at the moment for whatever reason.

    I would add a note that they should remove the dead feeder after 24 hours because there can be a build-up of harmful bacteria if they are left in the enclosure for too long.
     
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  11. Agreed. Tweaked and added.
     
  12. Arachnophobphile

    Arachnophobphile Arachnopeon

    wingedcoatl, This is sweet, thanks for posting this. I think I realize that most people that are experienced T owners on these boards get flooded with beginner questions.

    So I am going to thank everyone for keeping patient and most of all taking the time to help beginners like myself because I know it's alot of work typing alot of information up by replying to many beginners or posting a guide. Thanks again for this post :)
     
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  13. Thekla

    Thekla Arachnoangel Active Member

    This is really great. :) Good job!

    You could add some links to important threads for some further questions that may arise:

    All you need to know about mold
    All you need to know about mites
    Tarantula Stuck in Its Molt? Look Here for Advice

    These were all made by our fabulous @boina :)


    And maybe there could be a small additional section about arboreals because IMO if cared for correctly Avics and their relatives can be beginner Ts as well. All you need to add are these two threads ;)

    Avicularia care by @Venom1080
    Avicularia husbandry by @viper69
     
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  14. I will definitely add these. Just gotta figure out how to make those links...

    Edit: Heh. Copy/paste worked. Thanks for your help!
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2018
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  15. The Grym Reaper

    The Grym Reaper Arachnotank Arachnosupporter

    I would edit the highlighted ones to:

    Any species from the Aphonopelma genus.
    Any species from the Brachypelma genus.
    Any species from the Grammostola genus.

    Also, if you're going to include Lasiodora spp. then you should have Acanthoscurria geniculata in there as they're exactly the same to care for but a million times prettier ;)

    If you want to use the following images to illustrate the regeneration process then you have my permission to do so.

    N. incei female lost her left side leg IV after a moult.

    Left side leg IV is partially regenerated after one moult, it appears somewhat skinny/discoloured compared to the opposite leg.

    Left side leg IV is fully regenerated after another moult.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 29, 2018
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  16. Rigor Mortis

    Rigor Mortis Arachnoknight Active Member

    This is great. Hopefully it will reduce the number of "what T is good for a beginner" threads we get around these parts. Not that a beginner asking that question is bad, but this is a really nice thing to have for those questions.
     
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  17. MintyWood826

    MintyWood826 Arachnobaron Active Member

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  18. Bigme213

    Bigme213 Arachnosquire

    Put it up as the first thing u have to read when joining
     
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  19. Mychajlo

    Mychajlo Arachnosquire

    I love the play on words for the title ( for the Harry Potter universe fans )
     
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  20. Nightstalker47

    Nightstalker47 Arachnoking Active Member

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