Tarantulas will usually stop eating when they’re preparing to molt their current exoskeleton. While it’s tempting to immediately feed them afterwards, this can be harmful to them if they haven’t had enough time to harden.
Ensuring your tarantula’s exoskeleton and new fangs have hardened before feeding them will protect them from harm. Tarantulas can damage their fangs if they try to eat too soon due to the fangs still being soft. They can go for months without food, a few weeks is normal for them.
A freshly molted tarantula will usually have brighter colors in addition to their new size. It’s extremely exciting to see how they’ve grown and changed with every molt. However, it’s important to not forget a few key things.
How Soon After Molting can you feed a Tarantula
Spiderlings can eat sooner than adults after molting however, they are still vulnerable to damage. It would be best to wait at least one week before offering them any food. However, waiting a bit longer until ten days would be much better for them. If in doubt, wait longer!
When it comes to bigger tarantulas, a two-week wait period is the minimum. For big and older females, it’s better to wait at least one month but two months would be better for them. Female Theraphoa blondi (Goliath Birdeater) have been known to fast for three months before and after a molt. When in doubt, wait an extra week.
If you offer your tarantula food and they’re not interested in it then it’s best to remove the food from their enclosure and wait an extra week. Your tarantula will eat when they’re ready to. Don’t try to pressure them into eating or into any kind of confrontation.
How Soon after Molting should you Feed your Tarantula?
When it comes to feeding a tarantula after a recent molt, it’s important to wait for a while to avoid harming them. The needed wait time for each tarantula has a lot of potential factors so knowing for sure can be tricky.
Here’s what affects the wait time between molting and food:
Spiderlings can be fed again sooner than adult tarantulas. Typically for a sling, they only need 1 week between molting and food for their fangs to fully harden. Adults can require up to three weeks but generally, two weeks is the normal advice.
If you’re uncertain about how long to wait to feed your tarantula, there’s no harm in giving it another week just to be safe.
Tarantulas can go a long time without eating and will regularly stop eating. In the wild, tarantulas are opportunistic eaters who will attack any prey that’s a suitable size for them. This is because food might not always be available in the wild, so tarantulas may go months without eating. There’s no harm in not feeding your tarantula for two or three weeks. If your tarantula refuses food after this time, don’t worry! They will eat again when they are ready.
How to Know When your Tarantula is ready to Eat after Molting
While waiting at least two weeks after molting before feeding an adult tarantula is a good idea, there are some signs to look for that will tell you if they’re ready to eat again. However, even if you see these signs it’s still best to wait for at least one week before feeding a spiderling and two weeks before feeding an adult. This ensures no harm will come to the tarantula.
1. Their Fangs will Turn Black and Harden
When a tarantula has just molted, their new fangs are soft and a light color due to them not being hard yet. Once the fangs have hardened they will turn black which indicates it’s safe for them to bite food.
2. Their Exoskeleton will Harden
It’s difficult to tell when a tarantula’s exoskeleton has fully hardened after molting since there isn’t always a visual sign. Most species will get a darker exoskeleton as it hardens. Tarantulas with a soft exoskeleton will behave differently so it’s best to watch their behavior instead.
3. They will become More Active
A vulnerable freshly molted tarantula doesn’t want to move around too much to avoid harming themselves. When your tarantula becomes more active, they’re almost ready to eat.
4. They Will Exhibit Hunting Behavior
Tarantulas can behave differently when they’re hungry. Some will sit at the edge of their burrows with their legs out and others might explore the enclosure. If you know how your tarantula acts when they start looking for food, you know when it’s time to feed them again.
What to Feed your Tarantula after Molting
What to feed a tarantula after they’ve molted depends on the size and age of your tarantula. You also need to consider the food items your tarantula prefers to eat and the ones they usually reject. If you’ve waited at least 2 weeks after the molt, your tarantula should no longer be vulnerable and is now able to eat normally.
1. Pre-killed Prey
Spiderlings have an easier time eating when you offer them pre-killed prey. After molting, feeding them pre-killed prey for their first meal will also make things easier for them. Slings will naturally eat dead food so this isn’t an issue for them.
For adult tarantulas, not all of them will accept dead food. Some tarantulas might reject the free meal while others will appreciate the gift.
2. Live food
Feeding your tarantula live food after molting is also acceptable, especially for prey that is less dangerous. Some prey may attack your tarantula so only feeding them ‘harmless’ meals such as cockroaches, mealworms and super worms is a good idea.
Crickets are known to sometimes eat vulnerable live tarantulas so it’s best to avoid using them as feeders for a freshly molted tarantula. Other options such as beetle and isopods would also not be good ideas due to their potential tough exoskeletons which could damage tarantula fangs if they’re not fully hardened yet.
3. Gut Loaded Food
While it’s not essential, “gut loading” crickets, cockroaches and other prey animals ensure your tarantula is well fed. All of the nutrients the feeder eats will be passed onto the tarantula when they eat the prey. Feeding the livefood healthy meals will ensure your tarantula has the best possible diet.
Why isn’t my Tarantula eating after Molting?
Most tarantulas prefer to not eat after molting and will naturally wait a few days, weeks or months depending on their size. Tarantulas are opportunistic hunters who can go weeks or months without eating so there’s nothing to worry about. Their natural fasting time varies depending on species, size, sex, and individual preferences. Some tarantulas might be immediately ready to eat while others might reject food offerings for several months.
Trying to force a tarantula to eat is a bad idea. It will cause them stress and your tarantula knows when they’re hungry. There’s also a chance that your tarantula needs extra time to harden fully after the molt so trying to make them eat before they’re ready to could also cause them damage.
Why Can’t Tarantulas Eat Immediately After Molting?
Tarantulas are vulnerable through the entire molting process. The new exoskeleton underneath the old one is still soft for a few days once the tarantula has shed the old one. This means your tarantula is more vulnerable and delicate than normal. They also molt their fangs during this process which then means their fangs are also soft and vulnerable.
A freshly molted tarantula is still ‘soft’ so they’re less mobile and willing to move very far. Your tarantula won’t be too interested in going after prey since they’re still vulnerable and need the new exoskeleton to harden. Trying to attack any live food at this point also comes with the risk of the tarantula damaging their legs from the sudden movement.
Feeding a tarantula immediately after molting runs the risk of damaging still soft body parts, especially around the mouth. This can cause them to lose hemolymph (invertebrate ‘blood’) which can look quite scary. If there is internal damage due to attacking while vulnerable, this could prove fatal for the tarantula.
What happens if I feed them Too Early?
Attempting to feed a tarantula too soon after a molt can cause them harm. The fangs take time to harden and this depends on several factors. If a tarantula tries to eat or catch prey too soon it can damage their fangs which will make eating much harder or potentially, impossible. This doesn’t mean the injury would be fatal, however. Injured invertebrates such as tarantulas will often have an early molt to heal the damage and can even “re-grow” lost legs.
Fang damage isn’t always obvious. The external fans might look okay but the internal fangs attached to their next exoskeleton could be badly damaged and you won’t know this until their next molt. In some cases, a freshly molted tarantula might not even have fangs due to previous damage done while they were still vulnerable after a previous molt.
When this happens, feeding them is more difficult and needs at least one molt to regenerate the missing fangs. However, it could take longer.
There’s also the risk that your choice of live food might hurt your vulnerable tarantula. A freshly molted tarantula is vulnerable to attack by animals who would normally be food to them. Crickets in particular are a risky food choice for a tarantula since crickets will eat a vulnerable tarantula if they get the chance.
The tarantula will be unable to defend themselves and as crickets are opportunistic feeders, a vulnerable tarantula looks like a meal to them. This is why it’s important to not leave uneaten crickets in the enclosure with your tarantula at any time.
Tarantulas will fast before and after molting, it’s perfectly normal behavior for them and there’s no need to be concerned. Trying to force your tarantula to eat too soon after molting is harmful to them and while it might not always be obvious, you could seriously hurt them. It’s best to wait at least one week before trying to feed a sling and at least two weeks before trying to feed an older tarantula.
When it doubt, wait an extra week to feed your tarantula. If they aren’t interested in your food offering then remove it and wait another week. Tarantulas can fast for months at a time, a few weeks is not a problem or concern for them.