Tarantulas As Pets – The Good, Bad, and the Misunderstood

When I was around 6, my father took me with him when he visited a local pet store. While my dad spoke to the clerk, I wandered around the small shop checking out the many animals offered for sale. As I walked by the standard gerbils, lizards, guinea pigs, and frogs, I noticed something that just about blew my young little mind. In a large aquarium in the center of the store was the largest spider I had ever seen in my life. Sure, I had seen tarantulas in the old black and white horror films I would watch on Creature Features with my mom, but those lurid depictions didn’t hold a candle to actually seeing one of these animals just inches from my face. This striking creature, which I would later come to learn, was a Brachypelma smithi, or “Mexican redknee”, an icon in the tarantula hobby, was the single most amazing and terrifying thing I had seen in my young life.

Thus began my fascination with tarantulas.

It wasn’t until almost 15 years later, after I moved out with my wife, that I FINALLY got my first pet spider. And, although it took some time, I eventually found myself diving headfirst into the hobby and amassing a collection of over 130 species. A teacher by trade, I felt compelled to share what I had learned about tarantulas and their care, leading to the creation of the website Tom’s Big Spiders. Here I could post articles about care and husbandry and answer the inevitable questions hobbyists might have. 

Although the majority of people who contact me for advice are those who either already own or are committed to acquiring tarantulas, there are a handful of folks who are on the fence and trying to decide if one of these giant hairy arachnids would make a good pet for them. Now, I’m obviously all in on the tarantula hobby and adore these creatures as pets. However, that doesn’t mean that experience hasn’t taught me that they are not the right animal for some folks. Like any animal, tarantulas have their pros and cons, and any potential keeper should be well aware of both the good and potential bad when preparing to bring a furry eight-legged friend into their home. 

So, with that in mind, let’s break down the positives and negatives of keeping a pet tarantula! 


They take up little space

One of the top perks of keeping a tarantula as a pet is that they need very little space when compared to other animals. With most full grown tarantulas reaching a maximum legspan of 5-6”, they require little more space than something comparable in size to a 5-10 gallon aquarium. Many keep their spiders on shelves, desks, dressers, or even nightstands. This makes them perfect pets for smaller apartments, bedrooms, classrooms, or even offices. 

Their small footprint in the home also leads to another popular aspect of the hobby; collecting. Because they take up such little room, many tarantula enthusiasts find themselves keeping more than one as they amass collections of several different species. Why would someone want more than one tarantula, one might ask? That leads us to our next point…

There are many to choose from 

C. versicolor

When you say the word tarantula, most people envision the basic big, brown hairy spider. What many don’t realize is that there are over 900+ species of tarantulas with different characteristics and that come in a myriad of sizes, patterns, and colors. There are terrestrial tarantulas that live mostly on the ground. There are fossorial species that live in burrows. And there are stunning arboreals that live up in branches of trees. There are spiders that like a dry, arid environment, and there are other species that require some moisture to thrive.

They also come in brilliant blues, greens, oranges, and even purples. When I first started my research into tarantula keeping, I was convinced that photos I was seeing of these animals with dazzling and rich colors were Photoshopped fakes. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the stunning images I was seeing were totally real. Between patterning, colors, size, and living requirements, there are many unique and interesting choices for the interested future hobbyist.  

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