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″.
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 Many present outdated information that, if used, could lead to the death of your beloved spider.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.
10 thoughts on “Tarantula Care Sheets – An (Un)necessary Evil”
Another great article :-). Seems like I was waiting for ages for another one of your articles (only a month on reality) and 3 come along within days of each other!
Replying to this article though as it couldn’t be more true and something I have experience of being a relatively new tarantula owner. Whenever I see a new species to me, I google it and drop the words ‘care sheet’ where before that would be in my search criteria. Funnily enough I was just looking up a species I had seen advertised when I checked my mail and had a notification that you had posted. Some of the best advice can be found on the forums. Might take a while longer but you can be sure it’s more up to date and provided by people experienced with the tarantula in question.
Keep up the great work – Lee.
First off, thanks so much for the kind words and for taking the time to read these! 🙂 I spend a fair amount of time writing these articles up, and there’s always that moment when I think, “Gosh…I hope someone actually READS this.” You’ve made my day.
I’m a teacher by profession, so I’m currently on my summer break (hence why I’ve been writing more frequently). Expect many more for the next couple months. 🙂
And thanks so much for responding to this article. I’m passing no judgement here, as I have done the exact same thing in the past. Quite frankly, I stumbled upon several forums while searching for care sheets, and soon found myself frequenting them. There’s just nothing like hearing current tips from the people actually keeping them.
Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from folks who have been led astray by faulty care sheets. I’ve also seen a couple people starting tarantula information sites who don’t appear to have any real experience in keeping them. As a result, some of their information is just plain wrong, and could lead to dead spiders. I don’t wish these people any ill will, but I can’t help but to be bothered when I read them giving faulty advice.
Yup, it does take a bit longer, and I think we’ve all been in situations where we are afraid that we’ll miss out on a certain specimen if we take too long to research it, but it really is the best way to go about it. Plus, there’s just such a wealth of info on those forums, that you can spend hours going though it.
Anyhow, I’m so glad you found it interesting, and it’s fantastic to hear from someone who actually follows me. What species were you currently looking at?
All the best!
Thanks for the reply – I actually thought my own reply had not gone through. Good job I checked on the off chance!
The species I was looking at was H. species cameroon? Was more of a ‘window shopping’ kind of research though.
As for your ‘no judgement’ statement I felt no judgement in the article or your reply, just sound advice. Believe me, there is plenty of judgement elsewhere as I’m sure you have seen. The results of which causes less people to ask for help.
I joined both BTS and Arachnoboards before I even got my first tarantula, along wth various Facebook groups. I quickly learned which groups to pay attention to and which groups were populated by imbeciles who keep tarantulas to be “cool” but who know almost nothing and care even less. Unfortunately I discovered Arachnoboards – the Facebook group – to be one of them. The forum itself is quite useful but you’ll never see me actually posting as there are already a good many knowledgeable and friendly keepers there to help newcomers.
I disregard everything care sheets say, and find it quite telling that sellers specialising in tarantulas don’t tend to print or supply any. TTKG is a perfectly good resource (although that’s some years out of date now and needs revising again) and I have always advised friends to buy a copy before ordering their first tarantula. A lot of the care is common sense from observing tarantula body language anyway: for instance, it’s been horribly hot here and so my M. robustum has dug herself a big deep burrow to escape the heat (I wish I could do that too!) and I’m leaving them all to it aside from checking water levels – which is currently almost a full time job!
Fantastic post! I was really hoping some folks would chime in with their experiences.
I had already had my G. rosea for years when I started looking at new species. However, I, too, was on Arachnoboards before I bought my first slings. The GBB care sheet that I referred to in my post? Yup, I found one of those while looking for how to care for the C. cyaneopubescens. One care sheet said that they were difficult to keep due to their high humidity requirements. While trying to make sense of the contradictory information, I ended up on Arachnoboards…and never left. I don’t post much either, but I DO spend hours going though the archives. So much info!
The one issue I have with Arachnoboards can be the “holier-than-thou” attitudes of some of the more experienced keepers. I understand that they get tired of rehashing the same information there, and I get that there is a search function that allows folks to find the answers to the majority of their questions without having to post. Unfortunately, the snarky replies some of the members post can drive away folks new to the hobby. Believe me, I get that it can be frustrating to answer your third molting question in a week, and that it’s irritating when someone posts that they received a spider and are just now looking up how to care for it. I get that. However, if you drive that person away, there’s a chance that the T doesn’t get the correct care.
I guess it’s just the teacher in me, but I don’t see any need to admonish or humiliate people in these situations. One of the reasons I started this blog was that I hoped to help some people out with some of the more basic questions. I get a ton of inquiries about molting, feeding, species care … things of that nature. I love answering these questions because I remember what it was like to be new to the hobby, and the anxiety I would get.
And sometimes I even get questions about species that I JUST wrote about in the article they commented on. Still, years of teaching teenagers has taught me a bit of patience, and I’ve learned that no one listens when they are being embarrassed or scolded. So, I stay patient and polite, and try to help the best I can.
And, if someone asks me about a species I don’t keep or have experience with, I point then in the right direction and give then links to information that could be helpful. I’m not an expert, and I continue to learn things. I’m only passing along what has worked for me.
I haven’t been on Arachnoboards Facebook group as I’m not big into Facebook. Sounds like I dodged a bullet there. I like the TTKG as well; it was a great resource when I first started. However, I also agree that it is in desperate need of revisions and updates. Hopefully, this next edition fills in some of the gaps and presents some more current info and techniques.
And you hit the nail … much of the most valuable information you’ll get is through experience and observation.
Oh, no … the heat hasn’t subsided yet? It’s been very humid here, but other than a week-long heat wave a couple weeks back, the temps have been quite nice.
All the best,
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Thanks for the response! Between us, perhaps you and I can educate the internet in a laid back and friendly manner (chance would be a wonderful thing). Most of the questions I’m thrown involve conflicting information concerning “starter” species such as the G. rosea, and some dimwit has usually thrown them the age-old “keep them moist” curveball. Once you point out that they’re from Chile and tend to live in the desert and are pretty much bomb-proof the keepers relax and do nothing more than monitor the T’s body language and feed with love… until the first moult or – my favourite (ha ha) – when they stop eating. My MM rosea didn’t eat for almost a year and I have a friend whose rosea hasn’t eaten for almost four, but I remember how worrying it was to me as a new keeper when my beloved red fluffball began what appeared to be starving himself. My usual response of “Congratulations! You have a perfectly healthy rosea and are Doing It Right!” always melts away their concerns and makes them laugh, so I stick with it. 🙂
I really don’t “get” why people think the GBB is so hard to keep. It’s a new world terrestrial, so I keep it as I keep all my new world terrestrials – dry with plenty of substrate, a water bowl and things to hide in and web over (in this case, mostly webbing, as even my juvenile has done some seriously impressive work). I feed it, overflow the water slightly in hotter weather and leave the tarantula to get on with it the rest of the time. I just got a moult and my GBB is a little girl! I’ve also had a moult from my SAF emilia (yet another Superman quick-change for her, as always lol) and my arboreal P. irminia (but that one ate the important bit – I suspect a female though) so I know I’m keeping them how they need to be kept and to the best of my ability.
The weather here has been horrendous. My OBT enclosure is all steamed up and I’d like to take the water dish out for a few days so it can become more arid in there, but the OBT is in premoult and I’m loathe to disturb him or her – so for now I’ll just watch and hope that the tank dries out on its own (it’s only a small water dish too, so it’s hard to understand why my OBT gets this issue when none of my other tarantulas seem to). I’m not overly worried as it’s not actual condensation and the tarantula seems happy enough, but neither can I allow the situation to continue if the issue lingers. It won’t be the first time I’ve had to dry things out in there.
In my next blog on “Arachnagirl” I’m planning to concentrate on my rescued porteri, in the hopes that her plight and subsequent recovery in my care will highlight just how very wrong pet shops can be, and how simple it can be to put things right. Then I think I’ll enthuse about baboons, since I love my OBT to bits and have just aquired both a P. chordatus and a P. lugardi. I also have a juvenile balfouri who I never see, but I learned a long time ago that a well maintained burrow entrance is all the proof I need that this fossorial, shy little pet rock who rarely eats is doing just fine.
All the best,
I guess I must be lucky, I really haven’t had to rely on caresheets in the admittedly short time I’ve been in the hobby! 😀 Arachnoboards has been helpful (it was the only place I could find info on my new P. Sazimai sling for instance) but for reasons previously stated in this comments section I try to avoid going there… I have little tolerance for that sort of rude elitism. >.> I didn’t have an issue getting info on the GBB… but that’s because it was one of the first posts I read on this blog! 🙂 Whenever I need info on a new T this blog is destination 1 and YouTube is destination 2… I’m partial to the community there… without the video contributions of several youtubers I’d still be terrified of spiders… In any case as always thank you for the post and I look forward to more! 🙂
P.S. Not surprised to hear you’re a teacher! 😀 Out of curiosity do your students know you keep Ts? 🙂
Thanks so much for chiming in! I think a lot of people figure out very quickly that there are better sources of information than care sheets (and if you’re looking for info on a less-common T, you’re not likely to find one). I just think some folks aren’t used to doing even rudimentary “research”, so they’ll hop on the internet, find the first care sheet that pops up, and run with that. Although in some cases, these care sheets are so generic, the info they offer won’t hurt the T, others are a bit more dangerous.
I lurk on AB quite a bit, but I don’t post very much. It’s a shame that board turns off so many people, as it really is full of fantastic information. I will say, I’ve interacted privately with some of the more snarky and knowledgeable folks on AB, and they were fantastically nice and helpful (not at all like their forum personas).
P. sazimai you say? I’m jealous! 😉 I’ve had them on my wishlist for quite a while. Soon…
I forgot to mention Youtube. There is some excellent information to be found there, as well as some very entertaining and informative collectors (tarantulaguy1976 and Jon3800 are two of my favorites). Sometimes, I just put a species name into the search bar to see what comes up.
Ha! Yes, my kids all know about the tarantulas. It has become a running joke that when they are driving me crazy during the day, I run home to my tarantula room after school because it’s my “happy place.” The kids actually find it interesting. Now, the teachers I work with? Not so much. 🙂
Again, thanks for commenting!
I was researching a new T I want when I ran across this “blog” I think is what you called it, I’m not good with the Internet, don’t like the internet and have a hard time finding what I’m looking for when it comes to ACCURATE information. I get so frustrated comparing all the care sheets together. Crazy, all crazy. I just want to thank you for the forum
names. I will definitely sign up. I have never killed one of mine for not keeping the humidity at the ridiculous numbers they mention as well as the temp! And I have been keeping some for years. Still feel like a beginner because I never remember the scientific name and thats what everyone uses so I do use google alot to find the common names. That’s always frustrating when I am at a reptile show and find a T table and have to google the names to see if they have any that I would be interested in! Anyway, just wanted to ket you know people are still reading you post. How would I “follow” you or get notified if you put more stuff on this site? Not just this thread or whatever it’s called. lol
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Yeah, it’s technically a blog, but website works just as well. It’s become more informational than fun anyway. 🙂
Thanks so much for taking the time to contact me and for the kind words. It really means a lot! I actually have several articles that I’m working on that I hope to post soon. Work has been kicking my tail lately, so I haven’t been as productive. 🙂
There should be a black FOLLOW or SUBSCRIBE button on the right of the page. If you click that, I believe that it allows you to get an email any time I add to the site.