How to Care for Your Chilean Rose Tarantula
One of the newest fads in pet ownership is giant fuzzy arachnids. These spiders are gaining popularity because they are an exotic novelty. They are unique, easy to care for, and really neat to watch. Plus, the neighbors won't complain about their barking. There are many sizes and breeds in the pet stores to choose from, but if you decide to make one part of your family, do your research.
Choosing a Tarantula
There are more than 800 species of tarantula, and they are native to almost every climate. Tarantulas are broken into two groups: "old world" and "new world". Most of the old world species, or tarantulas from the eastern hemisphere, are too aggressive to handle, and should only be display spiders. Ground dwelling burrowing spiders are generally slower and more easily handled. The Chilean Rose (Grammostola rosea) is believed to be the best first time spider, by far. It's from Chile, and lives in the desert. It isn't aggressive or prone to biting, and it isn't a fast mover unless frightened. They can adapt to many environments, so they're easy to care for. Do your research. Learn everything you can about different spiders, including lifespan (females can live longer than fifteen years), what they eat, how often they molt, and what kind of habitat they need. A spider molts as it grows, or sheds its exoskeleton. Knowing how large your spider is supposed to get, and how often it's supposed to molt will be a good gauge for you to know if your spider is growing at a healthy pace. It's very important that you know how to care for your tarantula before you bring one home.
Habitat is very important for your new pet. The Chilean Rose doesn't require very much space. Space may seem important, and natural, but a 5-10 gallon tank is perfect. The shape of your enclosure is important, and it must have a lid that your spider can't escape out of. Be sure that the width is at least three times the leg span of your spider. Also, be sure your tank isn't too tall. Twice the leg span is sufficient, because they climb the glass, and you don't want them to fall too far because they don't have a strong exoskeleton. Use 2 inches of peat moss, orchid bark, sandy sanitary soil, or vermiculite bedding, and provide a shelter for privacy. A hollow log or fish tank decoration work well. The temperature of the tank needs to remain between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit with 60-70% humidity. A small heat rock can be placed in the tank, as long as you check it regularly for hot spots. Provide a shallow water dish with some pebbles in it to prevent drowning. The heat source and the water dish will keep your tank humid. You can also spray a fine mist of water to keep humidity up. No lighting is needed for their enclosures, because natural lighting is plenty.
Take special care when handling your pet. They aren't deadly, but they are venomous. There is no record of human death due to tarantula bites. People bitten by tarantulas usually react the same way they would to a bee sting. Although not aggressive and docile, the Chilean Rose can be speedy if it's afraid. Most owners never get bitten. Your spider will give you a warning before it bites by rearing up on its back legs, and even making a hissing sound. Sit down while handling your spider. Don't rub your eyes with you hands until your spider is put away and your hands are washed. On the spider's abdomen are little hairs that can cause skin irritation. See a doctor immediately if one of them gets in your eyes. The hairs can be released just by handling them, and if they feel threatened, they will ‘throw' them at you with their back legs. Don't hold the spider high above surfaces, because if they fall, their abdomen will surely split, which is almost always fatal. Your spider's skeleton is on the outside. If the abdomen breaks, its insides will spill out, killing the spider. Very few are saved when this happens. Another problem is people freaking out, either because of being bitten, or the spider releases some itchy hairs, and they fling the spider into the wall, killing it. If you plan to handle your spider, you must be very calm, very careful, and very aware of what can happen.
Tarantulas eat insects, such as crickets, mealworms, or roaches. Also, pinky mice and other spiders can be occasionally thrown in. You can purchase crickets and pinky mice at the pet store. Feed your tarantula weekly. They stop hunting when they are hungry, so don't overdo it, because you don't want the crickets to start attacking your spider. Most people get ten at a time. Remove any uneaten prey after being in the enclosure for 24 hours.
If you choose to have a tarantula, provide it the right habitat and food, you will have years of enjoyment watching your spider explore, eat, molt, and grow. Contrary to popular belief, they do have personalities, and all of them are a little bit different. They may be scary to some, but to others, they are fulfilling companions.