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 Many present outdated information that, if used, could lead to the death of your beloved spider.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.