Spiders in Captivity | An Overview

Spiders as Pets

I wanted to write an overview post about spiders in captivity for a while. Then I read the latest post on The Frog Bag and I could think of no better time than now. Spiders (scientifically known as Arachnids) have long played into the fears of the human species as a whole. From fairy tales to the silver screen and even the small screen; although now that term itself seems an oxymoron as most own big screen televisions, there’s not a place in society as we know it that doesn’t regard spiders with at least suspicion. More on the topic of Spiders and Man.

Since recorded time spiders in general have been looked upon by the majority of earth’s populations as evil creatures to be feared and better yet smashed with the heel of a shoe rather than left to their own devices. This has been perpetuated by horror films; even action movies have their hero walking through the webs of spiders to imply danger and foreboding. While most, if not all of the films are inaccurate, it instills the thought

Spiders are inherently bad creatures.

This is complete nonsense as science has shown us. There are people who enjoy a smaller niche of the reptile industry keeping & breeding what are colloquially referred to as ‘bugs’.  The term ‘bugs’ refers to  one of two things; food for insectivorous reptiles or the species of domestic and exotic creatures which aren’t classified as reptile and or amphibians being kept as pets. These include millipedes, centipedes, tarantulas, scorpions, mantid, phasmid, and yes even roach species as pets.

Within this article, we’ll share with you the aspects of keeping arachnids specifically tarantulas. For specific information on tarantula species commonly kept in the industry see our Tarantula pageTheraphosidae is the familial name for the spiders we will cover more commonly known as Tarantulas. This name is a derivation of the word Taranto from the people of the town called Taranto. Being envenomated by a Wolf Spider Lycosa tarantula the people would do a dance in order to sweat out the venom. The dance itself was called the Tarantella.


Within the family of Theraphosidae there are reportedly in excess of 850 species occupying 113 genres. It’s unknown how many are now being kept regularly in captivity. New species are being imported all the time.  For the sake of brevity these can be broken down into two classifications arboreal and terrestrial species.

Poecilitheria rufilata Courtesy of Courtney Shock

Poecilitheria rufilata Courtesy of Courtney Shock

Arboreal Tarantula

Arboreal species are considered to be tree dwellers spending most of their time either off or above the ground. These particular species are some of the more delicate species when it comes to care as they’re more likely to have a wider variety of care requirements when it comes to humidity, heat, and décor.

Terrestrial Tarantula

Terrestrial species seem to be easier to care for in my experience as they’re more tolerant of ambient temperature fluctuations and some consider them to be overall a gentler species than the arboreal species which are more skittish when the enclosure is disturbed as is needed for regular maintenance.

Tarantula Keeper Tips

  • Temperatures for most tropical species can be between 75-85 degrees.
  • Desert species will obtain all the humidity they need from a shallow water bowl.
  • Tropical species should be sprayed regularly with distilled water.
  • Arboreal species need very little substrate.
  • Terrestrial species need floor space more than vertical space.
  • Arboreal species tend to be more high-strung and defensive.
  • New World Arboreal species should have adequate air flow.
  • Some species can and have taken large mammals such as mice!

Look for more species centric posts here Tarantulas and don’t forget to check out the Reptile & Invertebrate Library for all the latest sales on books regarding invertebrates and reptiles both.