While some tarantulas can be hardier than others, there are certain things that all tarantulas dislike and could potentially harm them. Experienced tarantula keepers already know about these things but they might not be too obvious to most new keepers. In some cases, pet shops will even give you out-of-date information which can be harmful.
Tarantulas hate extremes and anything unnatural. This includes higher temperatures than is normal for them, colder temperatures than normal, being touched by humans, and more. Tarantulas want things to be as natural as possible for them. Move too far from this and they will hate it.
The information in this guide is up-to-date to give you the best possible information about what makes a tarantula unhappy. Knowing what makes them unhappy and what they hate makes it easier to give them the things that will make them happy.
Things Tarantulas Don’t Like:
1. Tarantulas Don’t Like Bright Lights
Tarantulas are generally naturally nocturnal animals. They are most active when the sun goes down so it’s only natural that they dislike bright lights. Tarantulas are still small animals and they’re at risk of being eaten by larger animals so moving around during the day is dangerous to them.
Bright lights won’t harm them but tarantulas will naturally run for cover or freeze when the area suddenly becomes bright. Some keepers will use bright lights to help them move their tarantula into their den when it’s time to change the water or so they can safely open the enclosure. Different species and individuals will react differently to bright lights so this trick doesn’t work with all of them.
While bright lights can cause a tarantula to flee or hide, red light is fine for them. Tarantulas can’t see the red light side of the light spectrum so using red lights will allow you to see them while they go about their business.
2. Tarantulas Don’t Like Extreme Temperatures
Tarantulas normally like to be a room temperature. The general rule is that, if you’re happy with the temperature then your tarantula is happy too. Some species of tarantula might need some modifications to the local temperature and this depends on your local temperature too.
Extreme temperatures can depend on the species but tarantulas don’t like it being too hot or too cold. They don’t live in freezing conditions or go stay on the surface during very hot conditions. In deserts, tarantulas will usually stay in burrows during the hot days and come out at night instead.
They don’t need a heat lamp since tarantulas don’t need to bask in the sun and they will naturally dig down when the surface gets too hot for them. The flip side of this means that putting a heat mat on the bottom of the enclosure results in the tarantula digging closer to the heat and cooking to death.
3. Tarantulas Don’t Like Excess Food
Tarantulas don’t need to eat a lot of food. They’re used to going without a meal for weeks or months at a time. When tarantulas molt, it’s common for them to fast during the entire process so there’s no need to give them lots of food all the time. Feeding them too much can be harmful.
Excess live food in their enclosure can be stressful for a tarantula since their web is constantly being stepped on and triggered sending them alerts that something is there. To make this worse, it can interfere with the tarantulas molting schedule and regular behavior.
Dead uneaten food in the enclosure also increases the chance of a mold outbreak. It’s best to remove uneaten food as fast as possible and if there’s multiple live food running around the enclosure, it’s hard to keep track of them all. This means they could hide, die and you’ll never be able to find the body.
4. Tarantulas Don’t Like Cohabitating with other Tarantulas
Tarantulas are not social animals and they prefer to spend their lives alone except for mating. There are very few species that can stand living nearby and even then… there’s a good chance some of them will be eaten.
Even when tarantulas may be willing to cohabitate, there’s no guarantee it will work out long-term and there are usually specific circumstances involved. The gooty sapphire ornamental tarantula (Poecilotheria metallica) can tolerate cohabitating but it’s more likely to be successful when they grow up together in the same enclosure as spiderlings. This doesn’t guarantee success however and it should be expected that the smaller ones will be eaten by their larger siblings.
While it might be possible, cohabitating with other tarantulas is stressful for all of them. They all like to have their own space so forcing them to interact won’t end well. It’s best to avoid this situation entirely if possible.
5. Tarantulas Don’t Like Being Handled
Being picked up isn’t something animals are used to or enjoy. Usually, if something picks them up, it’s because they want to kill and eat them. Our skin also isn’t a natural surface for them to walk on so when a tarantula touches our skin, they instinctively pull away and become defensive because they’ve touched something big and alive who might try to eat them.
While a tarantula can get used to being handled, it’s not natural for them, stressful and they could hurt themselves by accident. They can learn to accept that your hand is part of the environment or isn’t a threat to them but this takes time. It’s just not worth the risk to the tarantula.
Some species are more willing to tolerate being handled than others. The Mexican red-knee is commonly recommended to be someone’s first pet tarantula because they are very docile and easy to handle as a result. This doesn’t make them immune to bolting from your touch or hurting themselves by accident due to it.
6. Tarantulas Don’t Like High Humidity or Damp Conditions
It’s a common misconception that tarantulas need very humid conditions to be happy. As always, the required humidity depends on the species. No tarantula wants their enclosure to contain enough water to swim in but they do need some humidity.
Always research your tarantula first to see how much humidity they require before building their enclosure. An enclosure that’s too wet will grow mold very quickly and there’s a risk of your tarantula getting a fungal infection which can be difficult to treat.
High humidity is unlikely to kill your tarantula but it does increase stress levels and increase the chance of other problems happening. Most tarantulas only need occasional misting of the enclosure and a water bowl. However, desert species need even less misting and only want a water bowl.
7. Tarantulas Don’t Like Busy Areas
Tarantulas are very sensitive to vibrations, it’s how they know when potential prey is in the area or if there’s a potential predator nearby. They can pick up on things that we don’t even recognize as being ‘loud’ on a vibration level such as a door opening. Tarantulas hate being in busy areas because of all the vibrations it causes.
Humans moving around, trains going past, other pets, and any other kind of movement cause vibrations that could bother a tarantula. Some species are more sensitive to it than others but the general rule is that tarantulas should be kept in relatively quiet locations. Keeping their enclosure in a busy living area is a bad idea but a quieter part of the house would be ideal for them.
It can take a bit of time to recognize where would be best for your tarantula to stay since we don’t always recognize vibrations. Tarantulas are also much more sensitive to them than us. Keep a close eye on their behavior, if they never want to leave their burrow then there’s a good chance the area might be a bit too busy for them to cope with.
8. Tarantulas Don’t Like Loud Noises
Much like with busy areas, tarantulas are sensitive to sounds since they can ‘feel’ them through the vibrations. Sound is a type of vibration and this can be very upsetting to a tarantula, especially when they can’t escape it or find somewhere quieter to hide.
If you can hear a noise, the tarantula can feel it. Each tarantula will react differently to sounds of different types and noise levels. Keeping them somewhere quieter is ideal for the tarantula to reduce the vibrations they feel and reduce their stress levels.
Some noises might be hard for you to control such as a train, traffic, or living on a flight path. In these cases, you’ll need to do some research to dampen the area the tarantula is in as much as possible if the noises seem to both them.
9. Tarantulas Don’t Like Being Petted
As mentioned earlier, being touched isn’t natural for a tarantula. When something alive touches or picks up a tarantula this normally means that it’s either food or wants the tarantula to be food. Petting your tarantula will just cause them stress.
Invertebrates such as tarantulas don’t have the same level of emotional complexity as mammals such as cats, dogs or humans. They don’t appreciate being pet by someone they like or feel attached to. There are still very limited data about if tarantulas can even like you or become attached to you at all. Touching them when you don’t need to is entirely for your benefit and not theirs.
10. Tarantulas Don’t Like Wide Open Spaces
A lot of animals dislike wide open spaces, especially ones that have a lot of potential predators waiting to attack them. Tarantulas are no different. They don’t like wide open spaces since this makes it easier for predators to see them and attack them. A common mistake made by new tarantula keepers is giving them an enclosure that’s just too big for them or one with too much open space.
Tarantulas naturally prefer areas that are more hidden and difficult to see. While you can give them an enclosure that’s larger than they need, you must fill the space properly. This means providing lots of covered areas for your tarantula to hide in or around. It’s easier to provide them with a smaller enclosure, however.
A larger enclosure with lots of cover such as strategically placed cork bark and plants can both look great and make your tarantula happy. Getting this right is difficult, however.
11. Tarantulas Don’t Like Being Forced to Move
Tarantulas are prey to a lot of bigger animals which means they can be easily spooked. They don’t like being forced to move or placed into an unfamiliar area that could be filled with predators waiting to pounce on them.
They need a lot of time to adjust to new areas so don’t rush them into eating once you’ve upgraded them into a bigger enclosure. If the tarantula isn’t interested in food, remove it and give them a few days to adjust and feel more comfortable.
Sometimes you need to move the tarantula and that’s okay. Just remember to be careful to avoid harming them and to give them some time to adjust if they need it. Touching your tarantula with a paintbrush before moving them is a good way to see what mood they’re in before attempting to move them. This won’t hurt your tarantula if you’re gentle but it will tell you if moving them is a good idea that day.
12. Tarantulas Don’t Like Transit
Unsurprisingly, tarantulas don’t like being shipped in the post. There are multiple good reasons for this but it’s mostly due to a combination of reasons from this list.
Being shipped forces the tarantula to not only move but exposes them to loud noises for an extended time and also a lot of vibrations for an extended time. This is very stressful for a tarantula! They also run the risk of being exposed to extreme temperatures such as the freezing cold in the winter or extreme heat during hot summers.
Tarantulas will regularly die in transit due to the stress of it so it’s best to buy tarantulas locally whenever possible. You should only ever buy from a reputable dealer who knows how best to ship a tarantula to keep them as safe as possible during their journey.
It’s easy to forget that tarantulas are very sensitive animals who have to feel every sound and vibration near them. While tarantulas are very low-maintenance pets, it’s important to meet their needs and avoid the things that will cause them stress. It’s hard to help them avoid every potential stressor since you can’t control everything but there are steps you can take to reduce their exposure to most of the things on this list.