Tarantula Care Sheets – An (Un)necessary Evil



We’ve all done it.

While perusing a tarantula site, you come across a new species that totally catches your eye, but whose care and husbandry you are unfamiliar with. Eager to learn about this specimen, you hop onto Google (or bing, if you’re an iconoclast) and frantically type in the scientific name of species as well as the following words…


As you start clicking on the results, one-by-one, your excitement inevitably turns into confusion … and later frustration.

You see, each of the care sheets you read seems to contradict the one you read before it. One says the species enjoys low humidity while a second says they’ll die if not kept moist. One lists an ideal temperature range of 68-80° while another explains that temps below 80° can be deadly. A fourth sheet says the species can reach a maximum size of 9″ while a fifth states the size taps out at around 5″.

Now what?

Most of us learned years ago that the internet can be a literal sewer of misinformation and lies spoken as irrefutable truth. It takes a bit of patience, internet savvy, and general common sense to wade through the knee-high piles of internet detritus to find those useful and accurate nuggets of information.

Never is this principle more clear than when searching for information on tarantulas.. The amount of misinformation online is staggering, and it often feels like the bad information far outnumbers the good.


The fact is, many of tarantula care sheets are just plain WRONG.

For the sake of this argument, let’s define “care sheets” as those brief, usually single-page basic care instructions for specific pets or animals. These sheets usually offer the basics like what and when to feed, ideal temperatures, humidity, and set-up. They are basically distilled, stripped-down instruction manuals for your exotic pet.

There’s a reason experienced keepers abhor care sheets, and that’s because most offer incomplete or incorrect information. Many present outdated information that, if used, could lead to the death of your beloved spider. Others are written by folks who have little to no experience in the hobby who, in their misguided attempts to share their love for the arachnoculture, simply regurgitate earlier information they read on another inaccurate site or blog (or, even better, cut and paste from a Wikipedia page). Although I can appreciate wanting to write about an activity you love, doing so with no valid experience is a bit irresponsible.

Look at some care sheets for common species and you’ll soon see it; several different pages offering the EXACT same information, word for incorrect word. In some of the more comical examples, they even share the same typos and grammatical mistakes.


Personally, when I look for information, I’m looking to hear from folks who have successfully kept the species I’m researching. I don’t want some generic and random temperature ranges and bogus humidity requirements from some self-professed tarantula expert whose only experience comes from incorrectly keeping a G. rosea for ten years. In the very least, I want notes from someone who has proven they have kept this species alive and thriving for a reasonable amount of time.

The problem for many is that to correctly research a specimen, it takes time and patience, and those are two things that many of us lack. Care sheets offer a quick and easy read; something we can glance over in less than five minutes and feel that we’ve been adequately informed. However, as many in the hobby will point out, tarantula keeping is NOT something you want to take a haphazard approach to.

If you really want to learn about that new species, here’s how to go about it.

Tips for finding accurate information

1. Check the message boards for information and to speak to other keepers.

Arachnoboards and The British Tarantula Society forums are both amazing places to get current and relevant information about tarantulas. Start by using the forums’ search functions to find archived info about these animals. Look specifically for posts made by those who actually keep the species you’re looking for. If you still have questions, make a post and ask folks for their opinions on how they keep these species.

2. Speak to reputable dealers and breeders and ask for advice.

Many of the tarantula vendors online are very experienced and willing to help with your questions. In my personal experience, Jamie from Jamie’s Tarantulas and Paul from Pet Center USA are both incredibly approachable and eager to help. If you have a question about a species and are having no luck finding information, don’t forget to use the dealer as a resource.

3. Check the dates of the information you find.

The hobby is constantly evolving, with new species being introduced often. When searching for specific care notes, whether it be on a website or, even better, a dedicated forum, check to make sure that the information was posted recently. That’s not to say that older information can’t be correct; however, you’ll want to cross-reference it with a more current source to be certain.

4. Check the credentials of those offering advice.

If you’re on a reputable forum like Arachnoboards, or getting advice directly from a breeder, you’re likely in good shape. However, if you stumble on a tarantula site purporting to proffer expert advice, be sure to research the credentials and experience of the folks running it. Anyone can set up an intuitive and professional site these days, and a slickly-designed web presence does not necessarily equal quality information. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to toss the person an email inquiring about what species they currently keep. If they don’t or haven’t kept the species you are researching, move on.

5. Compare, compare, compare…

If you stumble across what you think is a good source, don’t stop there. Take the time to look at what some other keepers say. Then, when you’ve got a few sources, take a moment to compare and contrast them. What are the commonalities? Where do they differ? Are there questions that aren’t yet answered? If not, continue to research (or see numbers 1 and 2 of this list).

Take your time and do it right…your Ts will appreciate it.

In the early days of tarantula keeping, before Google became the go-to research tool, the only way T keepers could find information was to read often outdated books or speak with other dealers and keepers. Back then, photocopied care sheets detailing rudimentary animal care were commonly handed out at pet expos or in pet stores so that the customer had an idea of how to care for his/her new pet.

Back then, this was a necessary evil.

However, the hobby has grown immensely in the past twenty years, and advent of this little thing called “the internet” has made it simple to locate accurate and appropriate information for just about any species. Static, archaic, and often just plain inaccurate care sheets should be allowed to go the way of aquarium gravel for substrate.

It might take a little extra effort, but the next time you want to learn about a new species, take some time to do some research and to reach out to those who have experience. You’ll not only receive richer, more useful information than any care sheet could provide, you might just also make a new friend in the hobby.

Quick and Easy DIY Tarantula Enclosure – Arboreal

A simple, attractive, and stackable arboreal enclosure.

Having spent the last year burying and repurposing just about every conceivable container for use as tarantula cages, I’ve finally settled on a few sizes and styles that I plan to use from this point on.


I’ve found the large Sterilite Show Off containers, which are designed to hold hanging files, are very versatile and perfect for both fossorial (burrowing) and arboreal enclosures. Measuring 15.25″L x 9.75″ W x 11.5H, they leave plenty of depth for deep substrate or height needed when housing an arboreal.

If I’d planned ahead, I might have ordered some 3″ plastic vents from roundvents.com, However, this would have been a more aesthetic choice; holes work just as well.

To put together one of these enclosures, all you’ll need is:

  • Sterilite container
  • Soldering iron (for burning holes)
  • Glue gun
  • Substrate (I’m using a mixture of top soil, coco fiber, peat, and a bit of vermiculite).
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Cork bark flat
  • Water dish
  • Fake plants (optional)

1. Ventilating the enclosure

First off, if you find yourself making a lot of DIY tarantula cages, then immediately head over to Amazon and invest in a soldering iron. The one I use is manufactured by J&L, and it costs just over $10 (money VERY well spent).


Using the soldering iron, I make a series of holes horizontally starting about an inch below the lip of the container. As you’ll be housing large juveniles to adults in this setup, you can use a bit more pressure on the iron to make larger holes. I will do about five to six rows of these on each side, spacing the holes about 1/4″ apart or so. For the arboreal enclosure, you are going to have more vertical space, so it’s okay to put holes lower on the side of the enclosure. However, for a fossorial species, you’ll want to keep the holes toward the top to allow for adequate substrate depth.

You can add holes to the other sides as well if you prefer, but keep in mind that if you’re trying to create a micro-climate, too much ventilation will make it very difficult for you to maintain optimum conditions. I do not add holes on the lid, as this just allows moisture to evaporate faster.

2. Add the substrate.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. For an arboreal enclosure, you want to add 2-3″ of packed-down substrate. Appropriate substrate can be coco fiber (Eco-earth), peat, organic (no animal products added) top soil, or any mixture of the those. For more on substrates, feel free to check out this link.

3. Arrange the water bowl and cork bark

Because we’re setting up an arboreal enclosure, we’re going to be using a cork bark flat set at an angle. Now, cork bark can be quite pricey when purchased at a pet store, so I’ve been buying mine from New England Herpetoculture (NE Herp). Not only do they carry an amazing supply of everything you would need to decorate an enclosure (fake plants, bamboo, cork bark, etc.), but their prices are fantastic. A 13-16″ long slab costs about $10 and yields you enough bark for about three enclosures if you section it.

You want to lay your piece of cork bark at an angle, wedging the bottom of it into the substrate so that it doesn’t slip down. When positioning it, try to ensure that it doesn’t cover up your air holes as well.


I will usually put the water dish at the base of the cork bark, just off to the side. You don’t have to get fancy with what you use for your dish, either. Some folks use souffle cups or other “found” items. I like to use these small, white ceramic water dishes that I found at Petco. I know Petco has a rep for being over-priced, and the items sold in their brick and mortar stores usually are. However, if you sign up for their online newsletter, you’ll discover that they are constantly having 25-40% sales, often with free shipping after a certain amount. I usually end up paying only about $1 per water bowl, which I think is pretty darned good. I’ve also managed to score some gorgeous fake plants there for 50% off.

4. Add some sphagnum moss.

I generally buy long fiber sphagnum moss from my local Home Depot. It’s about $5 a bag, and it is enough to set up several enclosures. I add the moss behind the cork bark (my poecilotheria species like to use it to build “curtains”) and around the water bowl. For species that require a little more humidity, you can moisten down the moss to help keep the moisture levels up.

5. Decorate!

Now, if I’m being honest, the majority of my enclosure setups are rather spartan. However, for some of my big arboreals, I like to go the extra mile. Not only does it make for a beautiful display enclosure, but by adding some faux foliage, I give my spider more places to hide.

For this enclosure, I used my glue gun to glue some plastic leaves to my piece of cork bark. I also added an artificial plant next to the cork bark to give the animal more security (and, it looks darn pretty). I purchased both of these on sale at Petco during a 40% off sale. For the leaves, I buy the plastic vines then just pop the leaves off to use as needed.

6. Finally … add your spider!

It takes me about an hour to set up three or four of these enclosures, and most of that time is spent melting the ventilation holes in the plastic. As for cost, the Sterilite container retails for $5.99, the water dish was $0.99, the cork bark was about $3, and the plant (which is optional) was $5.99. So, this enclosure cost me about $16. Considering that it will housing my gorgeous, and pricey, female P. metallica, I think it’s well worth it.


Grammostola iheringi (Entre Rios)

A gorgeous “grammy” with plenty of spunk.


About a year ago, I was perusing various topics on a tarantula message board when I came across a spider I had never seen or heard of before. The lucky keeper was posting photos of his newest acquisition, a 4″ female “Entre Rios.” With its bluish-gray body and bright red rump, it was a truly amazing-looking spider. I would later learn that the scientific name of this beautiful specimen was Grammostola iheringi, and it was a much sought after tarantula for many enthusiasts. After reading up on the species, including many accounts from those who actually kept this marvelous spider, I decided that I had to have one.

Fast-forward to just a couple of months ago. I place an order with my favorite vendor, Jamie’s Tarantulas, and due to unfortunate circumstances, one of the animals I ordered couldn’t be shipped. Being the amazing dealer that she is, she offered me a replacement that easily trumped my original purchase…a 2.75″ female G. iheringi. Since receiving her in early May, she has become one of my favorite specimens.

GWA … Grammostola with Attitude!

The first thing that impressed me about this species was its temperament. Those used to other slow-n-steady Grammostola species (porteri, pulchripes, pulchra, etc.) might be taken off guard with the much more high-strung iheringi. This species is quite leggy and seemingly much faster than its cousins, and many keepers have commented on its speed. Upon opening her shipping container to rehouse her, she bolted from deli cup and took two laps around her container before I could blink. This is definitely not a slow, calm spider.

Also, those used to other Grammostola species with more tractable natures should be aware that iheringis are quite skittish and can be defensive. While cleaning out a bolus in my spider’s enclosure, I was startled when she burst from her den, slapped at my tongs, then bolted back to her hole. Although I’m pretty sure that she was rushing what she hoped to be a food item, the experience was still quite eye-opening. This is definitely not a species I would risk holding, and care should be taken for feeding and maintenance.

The G. iheringi has a voracious appetite and will charge at prey with impressive speed and ferocity. Unlike my other Grammostolas, who will generally wait and ambush prey when it gets close, my iheringi will stalk and charge the crickets. I feed my 3+” female two large crickets a week, and she has no trouble taking down the larger prey. The only time she has refused food was shortly before a molt.

Although most Grammostola species are painfully slow growers, the iheringi grows at a medium pace. Mine has already molted once in my care, and because of her amazing appetite, she is quickly packing on the weight. During her last molt, she grew from about 2.75″ to just over 3″. Some consider this species to be one of the largest Grammostolas with a max leg span reaching up to 8″. However, most keepers report their reaching about 7″ in size. Still, that’s a fairly good-sized specimen.

A gorgeous spider with simple husbandry.

Care for this species is quite simple. I keep my female in a repurposed Sterilite plastic shoe box that has been well ventilated to allow for a cross current of air. For substrate, she has about 3″ of coco fiber and peat, and I provided a piece of black PVC pipe for a hide. I keep the substrate dry, but I do provide her with a large water dish for drinking and for keeping the humidity up a bit.

Like most of my tarantulas, she is kept between 70 and about 78° during the winter and 74-84° during the summer months. As with most species, higher temps will usually allow for a faster metabolism and growth rate. This is a long-living species, with females expected to live 20+ years.

My juvenile G. iheringi enclosure made from a re-purposed Sterilite container.

My juvenile G. iheringi enclosure made from a re-purposed Sterilite container.

G. iheringi enclosure set up. I used a piece of black pvc pipe with cork bark for the hide.

G. iheringi enclosure set up. I used a piece of black pvc pipe with cork bark for the hide.

A must for any New World aficionado

The most common complaint I hear about Grammostola species is that their sedentary lifestyles render them “boring” species to keep. This is definitely not an issue with the iheringi; this tarantula has plenty of spunk and personality. For a keeper accustomed to keeping more lively tarantulas, the G. iheringi is fantastic specimen and a must for the collection.

My female G. iheringi after a recent molt. Notice her tiny abdomen.

My female G. iheringi after a recent molt. Notice her tiny abdomen.