Tarantula Information for Beginners (and More)

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Malleus Aranearum
Staff member
Mar 7, 2012
Below are some helpful resources. (Rather than having half a dozen or more pinned threads, which clutter the top of the board, we are pinning this index.)

While the focus is on beginners, there are other threads on health and more advanced species that may be useful to more experienced keepers.

If you have a thread or other resource that you think belongs here, DM me, and I will add it if appropriate.

About Tarantulas

Anatomy and Terminology

Beginner-friendly Species
All of the most commonly recommended species for beginners come from the New World (North and South America); Old World species (everywhere else) are not suitable for beginners, because they have more potent venom and tend to be more defensive, faster, and/or more reclusive. Below are some recommendations by knowledgeable keepers.

Tarantula Care
General Information

Enclosures and Setups
  • The proper use of heat mats (by basin79): Heat mats are often unnecessary, and many recommend simply heating the whole room instead. However, they can be an economic option, particularly if you only have a few enclosures that need to be heated. If you choose to use heat mats, here are some tips for doing so safely.

Guides for Specific Genera or Species: Beginners

Guides for Specific Genera or Species: Intermediate and Advanced
We don’t recommend any of these species for new keepers, but we are listing all care guides in this thread for the convenience of more experienced members.

Handling, Bites and Urticating Hairs
Most experienced keepers discourage handling, because it provides no benefit to the tarantula but does increase the risk of escapes and injuries (to the tarantula or you). If the tarantula walks or jumps off of you, it could fall to its death. If the tarantula bites you, you might reflexively fling it to its death.

Not handling (along with using tongs for maintenance and not sticking your hands in the enclosure) are the best ways to avoid being bitten or haired.

While all beginner-friendly species have mild venom, and bites are easily avoided, being bitten would still be an unpleasant experience. (A large tarantula could inflict a painful mechanical injury with fangs alone.)

Most New World species (and all commonly recommended beginner species) have a special patch of hairs called urticating hairs, which usually appear on the abdomen as a shiny patch. These hairs detach easily from the body and are often barbed. Tarantulas lay these hairs around the enclosure and embed them in webbing as a defense mechanism. Most species with urticating hairs can also flick them at perceived threats.

Hairs that come in contact with your skin may produce an itchy rash that can last for days in sensitive individuals. (It is also possible to become more sensitive to these hairs over time with repeated exposures.) This is just a nuisance. If you are especially sensitive, you may want to wear gloves when doing maintenance.

However, it is really important to avoid getting hairs in your eyes, as they can potentially cause lasting damage if left untreated. (You should see an eye doctor if this happens.) To avoid getting hairs in your eyes, do not rub your eyes or face while or after working with your tarantula or its enclosure. Wash your hands after working with your tarantula or its enclosure. Avoid placing your face within hair-flicking range of the tarantula.

Tarantula Health Issues
Below are some helpful discussions of common health-related issues.

Molting (Ecdysis)
Tarantulas must periodically molt (shed their entire exoskeletons) to grow, and females will continue to molt even after reaching maturity. The technical term for this process is ecdysis.

Signs of pre-molt (a single sign might not mean pre-molt, but if you are seeing multiple signs, it is likely pre-molt):
  • refuses food
  • seems more lethargic, skittish, or reclusive than normal
  • coloring looks drabber than normal
  • spontaneously shedding hair around its enclosure (unprovoked by external stimuli)
  • seals itself into its burrow (do not disturb sign)
  • entire abdomen turns dark (not visible on larger tarantulas without a bald spot): will molt within a few days to a week
  • makes a molting mat: will likely molt within a day
  • flips onto its back or side: it begins!

In the vast majority of cases, a molting tarantula should not be disturbed. Once your tarantula is finished molting, it should not be fed until its fangs completely harden (turn black).

Other Organisms in the Enclosure

Other Issues

Identification and Sexing

  • How to Request Species Identification: Requests to identify (or confirm) a tarantula’s species or variation must be posted to the appropriate gallery. Please see this thread for instructions.

Sometimes you may see numbers like 1.0 or 0.1 or 0.0.1. This is a shorthand notification indicating the number and sexes of a tarantula species that an individual or dealer has. The digits stand for male.female.unsexed, so 2.1.3 would mean the owner has two males, one female, and three unsexed individuals of the same species.


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