Back in the late 90s, when I bought my first tarantula, there were limited options for one in my state who wanted to procure one. Pet stores in Connecticut were prohibited from selling venomous animals, which meant you couldn’t just drive to the local Petco to pick one up. Therefore, you either had to drive across state lines in hope of finding one in an out-of-state pet store or reptile convention, or scour the local Bargain News and classifieds in hopes of finding someone locally who was selling them.
It was through one of these classified ads that I found my first T, a wild caught, sub-adult G. porteri. On a gorgeous Saturday in the summer of 1997, I took a drive to the sleepy, picturesque little town of Chester where I met a marine who collected exotic pets. After getting a tour of his amazing collection of venomous snakes, pedes, and spiders, I got my first look at the tarantula I would be taking home. $25 bucks later, I had my first T.
It wasn’t until recently that my wife and I were talking and I expressed interest in possibly acquiring a new tarantula. I still had my G. poteri, and although she was going strong, I dreaded the day she would no longer be with us. As I started to do some research, discovering the staggering variety of tarantulas available, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find these amazing species. After all, my state couldn’t sell them, and the out-of-state pet stores had a very limited selection.
While doing some research online, I stumbled onto Jamie’s Tarantulas. Not only did Jamie carry the three species I had been eyeing, but she would ship them to my door. That’s when I discovered that the tarantula trade had been thriving, not just at local pet shops and reptile/arachnid conventions, but through mail order vendors. I was shocked to learn that there were several reputable breeders who sold their stock through online stores, and that many collectors used the mail to trade Ts and to acquire new pets.
After reading reviews on several dealers (Arachnoboards has an amazing dealer review section), and researching their stock and shipping policies, I made my first online order with Jamie’s Tarantulas. It proved to be a wonderful experience, and many more orders were soon to follow.
Having made over a dozen purchases online from several dealers, I now feel like I have a better idea what to look for before ordering. Below are some things you want to consider before plunking down your hard-earned money at an online shop.
Stock: Before you order, make sure the animals are in stock. Some dealers get huge import shipments in, and they will prematurely list animals they are anticipating to receive, but don’t yet have in stock. This is not a good practice, and you should avoid these situations. Also, some dealers do enough business that their site may not accurately list what they have in stock. Trades are made, animals are sold at conventions, and sometimes the site hasn’t been updated. It doesn’t hurt to toss out a quick email to double-check that an animal you are interested in is still available.
Shipping: As you are dealing with live animals, Priority, 2-day, or next-day shipping is a must. Fedex Overnight is generally the most trusted and widely used, as it is currently illegal to ship tarantulas with the USPS. And, as you might have guessed, this costs money. $35-$45 is to be expected, with $50 not unheard of. Although some dealers will offer less expensive shipping options, these usually do not come with a LAG (Live Animal Guarantee). Speaking of lag…
LAG: Reputable vendors offer a “Live Animal Guarantee” from 24 to 72 hours after your purchase. This means if you open your packaged to discover that one or more of your new acquisitions didn’t survive the trip (a rarity), the seller will either replace the animal or give you a store credit, usually minus the cost of shipping. Or, if your animal dies a couple days later, some will even replace those as well. Before ordering, be sure to read the dealer’s LAG policy and familiarize yourself with the the stipulations.
Weather: Tarantulas are animals and, as such, they do not do well in extreme temperatures. Below freezing? 90s and humid? These are not good conditions to ship in. Although dealers can use heat packs and cold packs in some situations, most will not ship if the weather is below 40 or above 80. Make sure if you’re ordering during the heat of summer or in the heart of winter, that you check the store’s policy on shipping in poor weather. And, be patient and think about the well-being of your animals when a shipment has to be held. Also keep in mind that your Ts may be shipping across the country. Just because it’s warm and sunny in Florida doesn’t mean that it’s not snowing in Connecticut.
Assistance: I wouldn’t call this mandatory, but it certainly something I look for. Good dealers are very knowledgeable people, and they should be able to assist you if you have a question. Now, I’m not insinuating that they should be your 24/7 help hotline for all of your questions. Please, do your research and know the species you are looking to procure. However, vendors should be willing to help you with any questions that come up during the process. In truth, many are more than willing to share their experiences and knowledge about the hobby they love.
Packing: I once received a package of five Ts sent during 20 degree weather that contained no heat pack. Talk about a depressing experience, as I pulled dead T after dead T out of the stone-cold box. Packing Ts is almost an art form, and the good dealers know how to do it well. Foam insulated packaging, animals well packed in plastic containers or cups, padding, and heat/cold packs when the weather dictates. When researching your dealer, be sure to pay attention to what the reviewers say about packaging.
Now that you know what to look for in a dealer, here are the dealers I’ve had positive experiences with, as well as two with fantastic reputations that I have yet to order from (but definitely will in the future).
Jamie’s Tarantulas was where I placed my first online order, and they have continued to be my go-to shop for Ts, enclosures, and feeder roaches. They’re packing is excellent, and they confidently ship when the weather is too severe for others. She carries a good selection of animals with very fair prices. Her custom enclosures are great deals and very convenient for those ordering new slings. Jamie and Jon are always a pleasure to talk to, and they are very responsive to emails and queries. I’ve ordered from Jamie and Jon over a dozen times, and I’ve never had a single issue. Just a fantastic seller all around. NOTE: Although Jamie offers a cheaper shipping option using the USPS, this is not advised.
REVIEWS for Jamie’s Tarantulas
Tanya at Fear not tarantulas carries an excellent array of species at fantastic prices. Their website is well organized, with sections for slings, juveniles, adults, females, males, and package deals. Even cooler, there is a Species Description page where those looking for information can read about the folks at FNT’s personal experience with them. Shipping is done via FedEx overnight for $45, with orders $500 or over getting free shipping. Tanya’s communication is also amazing; she texted me the day my order went out make sure that it was a convenient day to ship and to ask if I wanted it held. My order came perfectly packed, and I was delighted to discover that the Ts’ vials were labeled with the names AND the dates of their last molt. Fear Not Tarantulas is an excellent vendor for established and beginner hobbyists alike.
Ken is one of the largest dealers of tarantulas and arachnids online, and he has a reputation that proceeds him. His selection is amazing, and he frequently gets shipments of new import, so his stock is always changing. You will want to shoot him an email to make sure that the animal you want is in stock, as he does a large volume of sales, and the website isn’t always up to date. Not a knock, just testament to how many Ts he sells. Ken is known to include freebies or to upgrade the sizes of purchases (a 1.5″ L. itabunae I ordered was actually 3″) Packing is good and both of my shipments from him arrived with my spiders in great shape.
Anastasia at Net-Bug has a fantastic selection of Ts, including some very rare and sought-after species. She is also one of the few dealers who always seems to have several sexed females in stock, which is fantastic. After months of window shopping on her site, I finally placed an order from her site in March. Her communication was excellent; she went out of her way to phone me to make sure that the Fedex facility my package would be sent to was the closest to me. As she is within driving distance, she also offered to meet up for next purchase to save me on shipping. Very cool. Her packaging was outstanding, and the Ts arrived healthy and active. I will definitely be ordering from her again.
NOTE: Although I haven’t personally ordered from the next dealer, Kelly Swift has a stellar reputation in the business. It will only be a matter of time before I order from him, and I will update this blog then.
A fantastic selection along with a great reputation.
18 thoughts on “Buying Tarantulas – Online Vendors”
Ordered a Chaco and a rosea from Swift’s that is arriving today. I’ll comment back, but 2nd day air and the rosie was a freebie (he always has them at 20$ and 100$ levels (differing species). No DOA guarantee on 2nd day air though. (20$)
I went with Swift as his Chaco prices were more reasonable, and his online forum rep is outstanding. 🙂
For starters, congrats on getting your first Ts! Please, do let me know how it goes once they arrive.
Thank you so much for commenting on your order from Swift’s. Out of all the major and respected online dealers, Kelly Swift is the only one I haven’t purchased from yet. I know it’s only a matter of time, and I’ve been close on a couple occasions. His reputation in the business and as a tarantula expert in general is just stellar.
I would be very interested in getting a review from you once they arrive and are unpacked! I would love to spread the word and direct some customers his way!
All the best!
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Thanks Tom. I’m sitting here (mr. nocturnal guy) waiting for the fedex order now. Oh, and not my first. These WOULD have been the first, but while supply shopping at petco a few days ago, I saw they had two rosies…and under bright UV. The poor buggers were visibly stressed…so after talking to the clerk, well, yeah, 1/2 off was incentive enough to snag em’. The story here in the google+ Tarantula enthusiast group. My own blog will have that as well, but been busy last few days. 🙂
Whoops! Well, congrats on your G. porteri/roseas then! I think that’s fantastic that you rescued them. Pet stores aren’t allowed to sell tarantulas in Connecticut, but I’ve heard horror stories about how poorly they are cared for in Petco stores. I read your Google+ post…great stuff. Now that’ll you’ll have four, I’ll be interested to see if you get addicted like many of us do.
All the best!
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I purchased my first and only T from Petco 17yrs ago. Of course it’s a G rosea. I frequent many Petco stores as I have quite a menagerie of other critters and find most in my area are pretty well equipped to care for rosies. The lights are bright, but I have never seen a rosie in distress from light. In my experience they have hides usually as well. I regret not pulling the trigger on a Green Bottle Blue I saw in a Petco shortly after getting my rosea. I have only seen rose hairs in Petco stores since.
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Do you still have your rosie? I have one I’ve had for close to 20 years, and I love hearing from other keepers who have old females. 🙂
If your Petco stores are properly taking care of their tarantulas, that’s fantastic. The sad fact is, the majority of the Petco, PetSmart, and other pet stores have no idea how to properly care for the various species of tarantulas they sell. Worse still, when folks in the know try to help them with some husbandry tips, they are often ignored or shooed away.
I just spoke to someone who purchased a “rose hair” from a Petco, and they were keeping the poor thing on wet substrate. They told this keeper that she had to spray down the enclosure once a day because “the spider will die without moisture”. Ugh
My state isn’t allowed to sell tarantulas in pet stores, so our Petco and Petsmart stores don’t carry them. I will say that the local one DOES do a nice job caring for its snakes and reptiles.
You should start seeing fewer and fewer rosies for sale in pet stores. Chile has closed its borders to the exportation of its tarantulas, and most of the rosies sold in pet stores were wild caught. I’ve heard folks say they’re are starting to see other species, like Avicularia (pink toes) and P. cancerides.
Do you have any other tarantulas?
Yep she is still going. She had a bad molt a couple years ago and lost a pedipalp but it’s growing back. She doesn’t seem to molt often. As far as the spraying, often local animal control agencies require they maintain certain levels of humidity and it ties their hands to the laws of the land. I had a long discussion at a Petco store when I saw them misting sand boas. The manager came out to talk with me and explained. I spoke with someone in the county I lived in and they were trying to make stores go further and install automatic misters or airators to water bowls of all reptile and invert enclosures. Madness.
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Mine just molted for the first time in 7 years. I know that older Ts often die during molts, so I was really worried that she wouldn’t make it through. She did, though, so I’m hoping to have her for many more years. She’s literally been with me since I first moved out of my parents house!
If that’s the case, madness is right. Wow. So frustrating.
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and no link came through in comments. heh. Tarantula Enthusiast group on G+. Fairly new post.
The http://www.swiftinverts.com/ purchases came in. One Chaco (3/4″) and the freebie..drumroll…another rosie (1/2″). Very VERY impressed with Kelly’s business. Packaging was top notch, (with cold pac), and he included a vial of pinheads as well, labeled, “just in case”. heh heh.
The slings were in moist padding rolled up in small vials with air holes punched in the lids. Both slings were immediately active and responsive upon unpacking. (So were the pinheads which were shipped with a moist bit of twisted padding. -no deaders.
So a day later and all of my ‘T’s’ (big uns’ and the new arrivals) are feeding and settling in. The lil rosie is a character, and puts all the rest to shame. She’s also micro-houdini. One, JUST one airhole was a bit too large…and yep, she was off to the races. A partial tour of the bedroom office later, she was put in timeout in a plastic dessert cup with pinholes for air…and there she shall stay until at least the next molt.
She’s the dinkiest one o’ the bunch, and although I injured the pinhead for her (almost as big as her), she was all over it. The Chaco, although bigger, freaked like a little kid and hid in her hide. So I yanked the cricket out, crunched it’s head and put it back in. If seniorita chaco isn’t in pre-molt, I’m going to start to tease her mercilessly for letting the rose make her look like an utter wimp.
Fun times. :-)
Awesome review! I absolutely HAVE to get around to ordering from Kelly soon.
Your new guys sound like they have plenty of personality. I’m glad that you were able to catch your little rosie; it’s amazing the tiny holes they are able to squeeze through. I had an adult male A. seemani many years ago that squeezed out of a tiny gap in the top of its terrarium. As luck would have it, my poor highly arachnophobic mother was watching my son that day, and she evacuated my apartment in sheer terror!
When I got my first two G. pulcripes (chacos!), they were about an inch long and I had to pre-kill everything for them. Now they are about an inch or so (sllllooooowwww growers!) and they are stone cold killers. Love that the rose is out eating her. 🙂
So glad everyone is housed and doing well.
All the best, and thanks for the review!
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Yvw (review). Also, yeah, one of the two larger spiders definitely fits the “porteri” descriptions more than “g. rosea”.
The lil’ rosie is a complete character and fun to watch now that it’s in an escape proof room. -snicker.
I’m thinking that the chaco got here JUST in time. Refused food, and now its dug into the hide and walled it almost completely off, and unless I miss my bet it is probably very close to molting. (From reading, they tend to burrow wall off for the molting process.
Even though I’m a “noob” keeper, I’m not a “noob” arachna-head, and patience is key with these lil’ dudes/ettes. 🙂
Do you think the other might be a G. rosea? From what I’ve found, the Porteri version seems to be more brownish/gray in overall coloration with a carapace that’s a metallic purple. They also seem to get a bit larger (my girl is a solid 6″). The rosea version, or RCF (red color form) are generally redder in coloration and max out at around 5″. Porteris are commonlty reported to be the more “calm” of the two.
Although there’s still a lot of debate on whether or not they are two different species, the World Spider Catalog now has them listed as being separate. There was also a scientific report done on the physiological differences between the two. Essentially, it’s a case of two spiders being sold under the same common name!
My chacos were a bit finicky when I first got them, and at one point, both didn’t eat for about four months. During that period, they had secreted themselves away in their burrows and NEVER came out. I was actually really worried for a spell that they had both died. Then, I was convinced that they were just in a ridiculously long pre-molt period. Nope. They emerged after their fast and both ate for another month before REALLY entering pre-molt.
So, although yours are likely in pre-molt, especially if they were nice and fat before they disappeared, just keep in mind it could be a brief fast as they get used to their new surroundings.
You may be a “noob” with tarantulas, but you obviously possess the observation and research skills needed for this hobby. I think that for folks who are naturally curious, observant, patient, and savvy in doing a bit of internet research when needed (and that means not just looking at the first thing that pops up and recognizing the BS), do very well with tarantulas. And, your experience with other arachnids is definitely going to help.
Get ready…the addiction is just taking hold. 😉
All the best!
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Tyvm for the compliment. It is really appreciated coming from someone more experienced…and it is the second time I’ve received one. Dave, the owner of “Fevered Frenzy” a local reptile store here in town asked if I’d been “keeping” for a long time when we talked. Flattery gets ya ever-where. 🙂
This hobby “suits”, as you will, and now after things have started to settle into a routine, I’m still jazzed just watching them.
After further consideration, the darker one is DEFINITELY a porteri. I’ve scoured enough pictures now to be sure. The other one, Ms. Fumblebutt, might be a rosea and is shades lighter (brown). Both of them have a darker carapace with only minimal traces of pink, so I think I’ll hold off on typing her until after she molts.
Fumblebutt is much more skittish in her cage. The porteri is cool and calm pretty much no matter what is going on, and is freakin’ deadly when hunting. (She (the notorious F.B.) on the other hand, needs glasses.)
My sling is definitely a rosea as my source (Kelly Swift) has an excellent rep as a breeder and seller, and if he says ‘rosea’, then that is it. …heh.
Going to name the rosea sling “Iskierka”. –again see the new blog post for that bit o’ fun. 😀
Oh, and I put more info on the pulchripes in my 2nd blog post as well. You’ll laugh. Even now, I look over on my desk and can see the glowing headlamp eyes staring out of a very cool looking burrow under her hide. 😀
When is the best time to buy a tarantula? It will be first time but with Winter coming now here I don’t want to risk the T being killed during transit due to the weather. Or am I stressing out too much lol?
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That’s a great question! Although many vendors will use ice packs in the summer and heat packs in the winter, it CAN be too hot or cold to safely ship. I have bought them in the summer, but I wait until I have a few day of temps in the low 80s. In the winter, I won’t ship unless I have several days where it’s 40s or higher. I’ve had good luck with that. Most reputable vendors will hold a shipment if they think the temps in your area are too hot or too cold.
I also will have my packages held at my local FedEx when the temps are high or low so that my package doesn’t have to sit on the truck for hours.
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Hey Tom, I’m a new keeper with a sorta continuation of this question. I live up in Montana and during Winter there is frankly no time in which here would be, ‘a few days of 40 or more’. Most often it is in the teens, maaaaybe 20s at the highest. Vendors would not be willing to ship during this time, yes? If that is the case, do you know if I could purchase a T and have it ship some months later when the weather clears up. Thank you for your time! Also you look like a white Michael Che.
Hi, Daniel! Absolutely. Most reputable dealers will check the temps in your area and will wait to ship until temps aren’t too hot or too cold. I’ve asked them to hold as well. They have no problem doing that. And HAHAHAHAHAHA! Were you the one that commented that on one of my videos? That made my day. lol