Tarantulas are among the most common cold-blooded pets in the world. These spiders’ popularity has to do with their (unexpected) docile and low-maintenance nature. Yet, first-time owners may wonder what to feed tarantulas, and we’re here to clear things out!
Tarantulas are carnivorous, which means they eat small insects like crickets and worms. In captivity, you should offer gut-loaded (recently fed) insects to these arachnids. Depending on the species, you’ll have to provide food to your pet once or twice a week.
But how many insects at a time should you feed to your tarantula? And can you also offer bigger prey like rodents to your pet? Keep on reading to find out!
A Basic Guide to Feed Your Pet Tarantula
As we mentioned before, tarantulas are carnivore beings. Thus, in the wild, these arachnids eat other insects such as:
Depending on the species, tarantulas can also eat other anthropods and smaller spiders. Even lizards and rodents can become prey to these eight-legged predators!
That said, the most common kind of live feeders for tarantulas globally are crickets. You can find gut-loaded (recently fed) crickets almost in every pet store in the world.
And why is it important that you offer gut-loaded insects to your pet? Well, because crickets who don’t need to eat soon are less likely to nibble on your tarantula and hurt it. Likewise, these crickets will bring more nutrients to your multi-legged friend’s diet.
You can buy gut-loaded prey in bulks. But you can also get crickets AND their cricket food, so you can feed the bugs before you offer them to your pet.
You can also catch insects in your backyard and feed them to your tarantula. As long as you make sure the bugs are pesticide-free, your arachnid will be okay.
Also, as a rule of thumb, you should aim to only feed the tarantula with insects that are smaller than its abdomen. Otherwise, there’s a risk that your pet has digestive problems or chokes.
When it comes to the frequency, you should know that, often, a cricket once or twice weekly is enough. After all, in the wild, tarantulas can go weeks (sometimes even months!) without eating.
Yet, some tarantula species may need more insects per feeding, so it is vital to do your research.
The good news is that, unlike other pets, tarantulas eat according to their specific needs. Thus, it’s impossible to overfeed one of these arachnids. But this side of these cold-blooded animals comes with a prize.
Sometimes, you may put insects inside the tarantula’s enclosure, and it won’t eat them. But don’t worry! This behavior doesn’t mean that the tarantula doesn’t like crickets anymore. Your pet is only “rejecting” the meal because it is still full.
So, if 24 hours later the cricket’s still in the enclosure, remove it. An uneaten insect can eat up chewing on your hairy friend.
Now that we covered the basics, it’s time to go through the dos and don’ts of feeding a pet tarantula!
Dos and Don’ts of Pet Tarantula Feeding
Do: Feed Your Tarantula With Proper-Size Insects
Though your tarantula can take on large insects and even rodents, you should try to keep its meals around its size.
If possible, offer prey to your pet that’s around the size of its abdomen. Yes, we know that watching a tarantula eat a mouse can be mesmerizing, but it could harm the arachnids.
Mice can be too large for a tarantula to digest and are rich in calcium, which can cause molting problems to your pet. These rodents are also aggressive and could end up injuring your hairy fellow.
Thus, please limit the tarantula’s diet to gut-loaded crickets. These insects also happen to be a less messy food alternative.
Don’t: Leave too Many Insects Inside Your Tarantula’s Enclosure
If you travel, it may be tempting to leave several live crickets inside your pet’s enclosure. But this idea could be more harmful than helpful.
As we said earlier, tarantulas eat according to their needs and hunger. So, one of these arachnids may only take one or two crickets per feeding, leaving the rest alive in the enclosure.
And you may think that live, gut-loaded crickets are harmless, but they’re not. These insects could start to chew or nibble on your tarantula and hurting it in the process.
Please, if you have to leave the house for a couple of days, give a regular meal to your pet before you leave. Remember that tarantulas can spend many days without food, so they’ll be okay when you’re back.
Do: Remove any Uneaten Insects from Your Pet’s Tank
Likewise, sometimes your spider may eat less, especially when they’re about to molt. So, now and then, these eight-legged fellows will leave uneaten insects in their tank.
Keep in mind: a hungry tarantula will eat prey in a matter of minutes or hours. But there are occasions when these arachnids take longer to hunt and kill insects. Thus, if there are live crickets in the enclosure after 24 hours, you must remove them.
Otherwise, there’s a risk that the cricket(s) will injure your pet.
Don’t: Feed Your Tarantula with Dead Insects
Always make sure you’re dropping live insects into the tarantula’s tank. These arachnids are visual beings who get most of their appetite from watching prey move. Thus, dead meals may not appeal to their natural, predatory hunting instincts.
Do: Give Water to Your Pet Tarantula
Though tarantulas get most of the moisture they need from the insects they eat, they still need water.
But you must make sure the water dish is not too deeper than an inch, or your pet could drown.
You’ll need to make sure the water is chlorine-free and change it as often as daily. If your tarantula doesn’t seem to drink that much, don’t worry! These cold-blooded pets don’t need to hydrate that much, but they still do now and then.
Don’t: Try to Feed Your Tarantula When It’s Molting
Molting is a vulnerable part of a tarantula’s life cycle. This process happens when the arachnids need to shed their exoskeleton to grow a newer one.
Younger tarantulas can molt once a month, but they will only do this once a year as they become adults. Before molting, a tarantula will stop eating and, when the process starts, it’ll lay on its back.
While it may be a scary thing to witness, don’t worry. It’s rare for an arachnid to die with its legs facing the air. If you see your pet in this position, remember it may be molting, and don’t try to feed it! Live crickets can hurt your tarantula a lot while it’s trying to molt.
Do: Pay Attention to How Your Pet’s Abdomen Look
While you can’t overfeed a tarantula since it eats following its needs, it is possible to underfeed it. Though most species thrive with only a cricket twice a week, some may need a more significant insect dose. So, you need to keep a close observation of your pet and its abdomen.
If the tarantula’s abdomen has a shriveled appearance, the arachnid may need more food. Drop two extra cricket and change the water to see how your pet reacts. But remember any uneaten prey after 24 hours.
Don’t: Use Tongs to Feed the Tarantula
Regardless of what you may have heard, you don’t use tongs during the whole feeding process.
Instead, you can drop insects from a smaller container into the tarantula’s enclosure. By using this method, you’re less likely to end up killing the prey before offering it to your pet. Likewise, your tarantula could hurt itself by accident with the tongs as well.
That said, tongs come in handy to remove any remaining food and uneaten prey from the enclosure. Think of this device as a maintenance tool and not as a feeding gadget.
Do: Close the Enclosure After Dropping the Insects
It’s essential to close the enclosure after leaving prey there, so they can’t run away. By keeping the lid shut, you also ensure that your tarantula will stay inside. After all, these cold-blooded creatures are incredible escape artists!