Dark tarantula with bright red-orange legs climbing through a hollow log

Tarantula Cribs: Your Guide to Setting Up Tarantula Enclosures

When it comes to proper tarantula husbandry, it all begins with your tarantula’s enclosure. Choosing the right tarantula enclosure will have as much impact on your tarantula’s health as will the heat and humidity of the enclosure itself.

Of course, tarantula enclosures are readily available from your local pet store, or even on Amazon. But these can range in price anywhere from $20 to $30. And that’s just for adult tarantula enclosures.

The reality is, you’re going to need different sized tarantula enclosures for each of the four stages of your T’s development. And the type of enclosure you choose will depend on whether your T is fossorial, terrestrial, or arboreal.

So let’s explore options for tarantula enclosures, and maybe how you can save a few bucks simply by making your own.

Tarantula Enclosures by Age

There are two factors that determine the type and setup of your tarantula’s enclosures:

  1. Age
  2. Species

A tarantula’s lifespan is typically divided into four stages:

  • Spiderling (most often referred to as “slings”)
  • Juvenile
  • Sub-Adult
  • Adult

Sub-adults and adults can be kept in the same size tarantula enclosures, so for practical purposes let’s just merge those two groups together.

Tarantulas grow slowly, generally speaking. And the contrast between a sling and a full-grown adult is quite striking. The average size of a sling is about the size of a quarter. An adult T, on the other hand, can grow to be 7 or more inches, depending on the species.

If you were to put a sling into an enclosure intended for an adult, you expose it to several risks:

  • It’ll be more difficult to keep an eye on younger tarantulas to make sure they’re healthy and growing.
  • It’ll be more difficult to feed the Ts as the food may hide out on the opposite end of the enclosure.
  • In the case of slings, they can actually escape through the air holes of adult tarantula enclosures.

As a general rule of thumb, therefore, your tarantula enclosures should be no bigger or smaller than 3 to 4 times the size of your T’s leg span at any given stage of life.

Tarantula Enclosures for Slings

Applying our rule of thumb, your tarantula enclosures for your slings should be roughly 2 to 3 inches. Yes, you can purchase tarantula enclosures specifically for slings, but you can make your own for less.

AMAC boxes and plastic playing card containers make excellent sling enclosures, with just one simple modification. Your tarantula enclosures need to be properly ventilated. So you’ll want to get the smallest drill bit you can find and drill some holes in the top, bottom, and sides of the tarantula enclosures.

That’s it!

Tarantula Enclosures for Juveniles

Similar to slings, juvenile Ts do well in tarantula enclosures made of modified AMAC boxes. Again, your juvenile enclosures should be 3 to 4 times the size of your tarantulas’ leg span. This usually translates into AMAC boxes that are between 3 and 6 inches.

As an alternative to simply drilling a bunch of holes in the enclosure for ventilation, you can drill a half-inch hole in the top or the side, then cover the hole over with a screen. This is, perhaps, a little more labor intensive, but it’s very effective.

Tarantula Enclosures for Sub-Adults and Adults

When your tarantulas hit the adult stage, it becomes more difficult to create your own tarantula enclosures. It’s certainly still possible, but you’re going to have a difficult time finding the right size AMAC box.

Given that many tarantula species grow to be 6 to 7 inches long – some larger, others smaller – you’re going to need an enclosure that’s at least 18 inches long or more.

At this point, most T-keepers prefer to simply purchase an acrylic enclosure from an exotic pet store.

Black colored tarantula

Fossorial vs. Terrestrial vs. Arboreal: Tarantula Enclosures by Type

In addition to choosing the right size enclosure for your tarantula’s stage of development, you also have to set up your tarantula enclosures based on whether your species are fossorial, terrestrial, or arboreal.

Fossorial Tarantula Enclosures

Fossorial tarantulas need plenty of room to dig. For this reason, you need more vertical space than horizontal space. Fill the base of their enclosure ⅔ to ¾  full with substrate, but be sure to leave enough space at the top of the enclosure for a water dish, some plants, and some branches. Many fossorial species will web up the area around their burrow hole, so they need plenty of anchor points around the surface.

Terrestrial Tarantula Enclosures

Terrestrial tarantulas burrow, but not as deeply as fossorial Ts. In the wild, they’ll usually lay claim to an abandoned reptile or rodent hole, webbing the inside and part of the outside to make it home. Many T-keepers like to mimic this angling a half-log hide at the edge of the enclosure, digging a starter burrow around it, then securing it in place by packing substrate around it.

The important thing is to fill the tarantula’s enclosure about ½ to ⅔ full with substrate. Then add a hide, some plants, a water dish, and maybe even a decoration or two to suit your tastes.

Pro Tip: Knowing the behaviors of your specific species is important for terrestrial tarantulas. Some terrestrial species show arboreal tendencies, earning them the occasional classification as “semi-arboreal.” This simply means that you’ll need to provide slightly less substrate and more branches and plants for them to web around.

When setting up terrestrial or “semi-arboreal” tarantula enclosures, keep in mind that they need more vertical space than horizontal space. If you provide too much horizontal space, you actually put your T at risk of injury or death.

Arboreal Tarantula Enclosures

Finally there are the arboreal tarantula species. Like the fossorial species, these need more vertical than horizontal space, but for the opposite reason. Arboreal don’t burrow and will spend most of their time up in the branches you provide within the tarantula’s enclosure.

You’ll need cork bark and other branches that extend the entire height of the enclosure. And you’ll also want to provide plenty of cross-ventilation. However, you only need to fill about ⅓ of the enclosure’s base with substrate. And, of course, you’ll need a water dish.

As with terrestrial species, you’ll need to know the particular behaviors of the arboreal species you’re keeping. Some arboreals do all its webbing at the top of the branches, while others will do their webbing closer to the substrate. You’ll need either a side opening or a top opening, depending on the species, so you can access the enclosure’s interior without destroying its web.

Setting Up Your Tarantula Enclosures: What You Need

You don’t actually need much to set up your tarantula enclosures and make them comfortable for your Ts. And everything you’ll need is pretty easily obtained from your local pet store, craft store, and/or Amazon.

To set up a comfortable tarantula enclosure, all you’ll need is:

  • The enclosure itself
  • Substrate – typically a 50/50 mixture of Use a 50/50 mixture of organic topsoil and coco fiber, with a little sand added to help drain excess water.
  • Moss (Forest Moss) – to help maintain moisture and humidity levels within the enclosure.
  • Half log hide – for terrestrial and fossorial Ts
  • Cork bark and branches – for arboreal Ts
  • Fake plants – to serve as anchor points for your Ts webbing
  • Water dish – both for your Ts hydration, and to maintain humidity levels within the enclosure.

Takeaway: Choosing the right tarantula enclosures depends on the stage of your tarantulas’ life cycle, as well as whether they’re classified as fossorial, terrestrial, or arboreal. But actually getting your tarantula enclosures set up is a pretty simple task that requires only a few easy-to-find items to use for substrate, hides, and climbing.

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