How To Buy A Tarantula

I’ve had a number of emails and messages recently asking about buying tarantulas, in particular where to buy a tarantula, and how to choose one. So, I thought it would be a good idea to write a post on the subject to save repeating myself over and over.

Where can I buy a tarantula?

In an ideal world, you want to buy a tarantula locally at a specialist store or from a breeder, so you can inspect the specimen, see its condition, get an idea of its temperament and have a good chat with the breeder/dealer. In the real world however, that’s often easier said than done. Unless you are very lucky, your local tarantula dealer is likely to be a pet shop or reptile specialist which also happens to stock a few tarantulas. That will usually severely limit your choice of species, and while some pet stores are good, many have very little knowledge when it comes to tarantulas and often give bad advice.

So what’s the alternative? Well, with tarantulas becoming more and more popular, there are more and more amateurs successfully breeding a wide variety of tarantula species, so you may live nearer to a breeder than you might guess. While it’s certainly worth looking through the local free ads and places like Craigslist for adverts like “Tarantulas for sale” that can be rather hit and miss. Much better to check the specialist tarantula and reptile forums online. Places like Reptile Forums UK and Arachnoboards are not only great places to meet and chat with other tarantula enthusiasts, but you’ll also find lots of people on there selling tarantulas, and offering swaps. Most forums with a classifieds section allow you to search by location, so if you’re lucky you might well find some close by!

Tarantulas for sale online

A major advantage to keeping tarantulas and other inverts over other types of pet, is that if they are packed and sent carefully, they can be safely couriered. That means it’s possible to mail order tarantulas online and have them delivered to your house the very next day!

Because you won’t be there to see the actual tarantula you’re buying if you chose the mail order route, it’s important to only use suppliers you trust. The best way to discover new and trusted suppliers is to ask on forums, and find out from other tarantula keepers where they recommend. As a good starting point though, if you’re looking for tarantulas for sale in the UK I can highly recommend The Spider Shop, and in the US Jamie’s Tarantulas has a good reputation.  If you’re buying from a private individual or an unknown source, ask lots of questions first.  Ask for photos of the actual spider you’re buying, ask what courier they use, and how it will be packed.  Ask if they will pack it with a heat pad if the weather is cold.  Ask when it last ate, and last moulted.  Finally, ask them what their terms are if the spider arrives either dead or injured.  Most reputable dealers will give a refund or replacement is a spider is “dead on arrival” so long as you notify them within 24 hours.  This not only covers you if the worst happens, but also ensures they will take care to pack and courier the tarantula carefully and safely.

How to pack or unpack a tarantula

If you do buy a spider by mail order, you’ll need to know how it will be shipped, and how to unpack it. If done correctly, the tarantula should be perfectly safe and secure for the journey, but if done badly it can easily be injured. Rather than reinvent the wheel and go into detail on packing here, check out this excellent article on RFUK about how not to post a tarantula, which also shows you how it should be done!

Even though you’re not planning on packing and posting a T yourself, seeing how it should be done will allow you to understand how to reverse the process and unpack the tarantula carefully when it arrives.

Unpacking your first tarantula can be a nerve wracking experience, especially if you’re at all arachnophobic. The key is planning, and staying calm. First, make sure the enclosure you’ll be transferring your new tarantula into is set up and ready to go. Get your tarantula toolkit ready (long handled soft paintbrush for “nudging”, long handled tweezers for unwrapping the tissue, empty cricket tub or similar to use as a scoop if needed). Choose an uncluttered, safe area to do your unpacking – somewhere that doesn’t have many hiding places should your new tarantula decide to make a run for it! Finally, make sure there are no distractions (put the dog/cat/small child in another room for now!)

First open the outer packaging, do this carefully just in case there has been a packing problem and the inner packaging has somehow come undone (this can’t happen if it was packed well, but better to be careful just in case). Once you get to the inner packaging (usually a tub, or something like a 35mm film pot for slings) place that into the new enclosure, and carefully do the final unwrapping there, using the tongs if necessary.

unpacking-a-tarantula

Once you can see the spider, very gently nudge it using the paintbrush so that it walks out of the packaging and into its new home. Remove the packaging, close the lid, and enjoy your new pet!

Note: New world tarantulas with urticating hairs are likely to shed some hairs during transit, so be careful to dispose of the inner packaging carefully and wash your hands afterwards!

Your new tarantula is likely to be a little stressed from the journey, and will take a few days to get used to its new home. Avoid disturbing it for a few days to allow it to acclimatise, that means no feeding and certainly no handling. Just make sure it has access to water as it may be a little dehydrated from the journey, and then offer it a meal after a few days of settling in.

Choosing Your First Tarantula

If you’ve found this site then there’s a very good chance you’re thinking about getting your first tarantula. I remember very well being in that exact situation, and trying to get my head around the minefield of information out there, so I wanted to add a post here very quickly which helped the newcomer to the hobby make the RIGHT decision early on, and avoid some of the pitfalls!

Therefore, I’ve decided to share some of the best resources I found when I was looking at getting my first T in the hope that you’ll find them as useful as I did!

The basics of tarantula husbandry

The very best advice I can give a newcomer to the hobby, is to read as much as you can on the subject before buying your first tarantula. Depending on the species, age, and sex of tarantula you buy you could end up with an animal which you’ll have for the next 15 – 20 years or more! You’ll also be keeping a venomous animal, and one which has the potential to escape if you’re not careful, and one with very different care requirements to more “typical” pets such as cats, dogs, or hamsters! So please, do yourself a favour and do as much research now as you can, it really will help set you up for success.

To start you on the right path, read this Basic Tarantula Care article over at tarantulas.com It will cover a lot of the basics about housing and caring for your first tarantula!

The perfect beginner species

One of the most common questions I see from beginners on the forums is “what is the best beginner species of tarantula”. Well there really isn’t one definitive answer, and this will certainly be the topic of a future article on this site. In the meantime though, this short article from thespidershop.co.uk gives a few suitable choices:

Suitable species for your first tarantula

This certainly isn’t a definitive list (others such as Brachypemla albiceps – Mexican Golden Red Rump come to mind!) but they are all terrestrial, new world tarantulas which will be relatively easy to care for, generally slow moving and non-aggressive, and with mild venom. I would certainly recommend reading much more about any of these species which you like the sound of, but this is a good starting place!  Once you have an idea of what species you’re interested in, and have done your research on tarantula husbandry, your next task will be reading up on how to buy a tarantula.

Where to go for help

I intend to put a resources page together on this site and add to it over time, but for now here are a few of the resources I found invaluable when I was first researching tarantulas and trying to decide which species to start with:

RFUK – Being a long time reptile keeper, Reptile Forums UK was one of my first stops when I started researching tarantulas. As the name suggests, these forums are mostly about reptiles but they have an excellent spiders and inverts forum with a very knowledgeable community.

tarantula-keepers-guideThe Tarantula Keeper’s Guide – Of all the books on tarantulas I’ve read, this one is by far the most useful to the beginner keeper. It’s packed with great info, and it’s not too expensive. If you only ever buy one book on tarantulas get this one!

The British Tarantula Society – If you’re in the UK then I definitely recommend joining the BTS. For about £15 a year you get access to their journal and lots of great information. Even if you don’t join, there is lots of great free info on their website. If you’re not in the UK, they do international membership, or see if there is a tarantula society in your own country. For those of you in the US, The American Tarantula society can be found at http://atshq.org

My hope this that over time this site will become a valued resource for tarantula keepers and beginners, just like some of the resources listed above. In the meantime though, I hope you find these links as useful as I did when I first started.