Tarantula keeping is a brilliant hobby, and picking up your first tarantula is a memorable day. However, when you look at other keeper’s pictures or videos, and they all have stunning glass enclosures full of plants, decorations, and cork bark, it can be off-putting, especially when you start adding it all up. However, tarantula keeping doesn’t have to be as costly as it seems. You can still achieve an excellent enclosure on a smaller budget, especially if you’re buying a sling or juvenile, as you will have plenty of time to work towards a larger enclosure as it grows.
Firstly let’s talk about why people might use a glass enclosure over the other alternatives. The main reasons why keepers choose to move their tarantula into larger glass terrariums is because they look good, you have more freedom to add live plants, and usually, you won’t have to rehouse from this enclosure, as they’re large enough to hold a mature tarantula comfortably. Now, this isn’t to say keepers won’t use smaller glass terrariums for smaller tarantulas, if you have space and the money then it’s great to be able to provide that for your tarantula. It’s important to know they won’t be neglected or miserable in a simple plastic box with suitable husbandry.
Lets now look at the items that you can use to save you some cash.
When it comes to housing your tarantula, there are many different options to go for. Acrylic boxes or general clear storage boxes make a great alternative to glass enclosures. These can be picked up in many homeware or supermarket stores, and regardless of size, they are usually pretty cheap. Another positive to using storage boxes is that if you’re housing multiple tarantulas, they stack easily and look tidier. We suggest only using clear boxes as this makes it easier to check on your tarantula and observe their behaviour.
Plastic display cases and food storage boxes also make a brilliant alternative. If you would like to save money or would prefer not to use plastic, old jars and pots can make great and unique enclosures, particularly when decorated. Remember to always add ventilation holes, preferably on the sides and lids for cross ventilation. This is especially important if you plan on stacking.
If you’re handy with materials and have some plexiglass laying around, you can also look into making your enclosure. There are many youtube videos on enclosure making that you can follow. But please remember always to use marine safe silicone.
Next, let’s look at alternative hides for your tarantula. Having an area where your tarantula can feel safe and secure is essential, as not only will this improve the overall well being of your tarantula, but it also reduces the risk of them bolting when they feel threatened. Cork bark tubes and tunnels make the ideal hide for tarantulas that will use them, but they’re not always readily available at pet stores, and when buying them online you will often enough need to buy a bulk load. This can be potentially problematic if you only have a few tarantulas that don’t need a significant amount.
One brilliant alternative to cork bark is plastic plant pots, cut vertically in half. You can usually find these in most garden centres, and they’re incredibly cheap, especially if you do prefer these and don’t mind buying a pack of them. You can cut the bottom out if your tarantula would prefer to burrow down deeper, or you can leave them as they are. If you’re after a hide for an arboreal species, then head off to your local woodland and pick yourself up some bark, logs or sticks. You will need to treat any decor that you pick up from outside to ensure there are no mites or harmful substances that may cause danger to your tarantula. You can do this by either placing it in the oven on low heat or treat it in hot water.
If you want to add some decoration to your enclosure, then marine safe artificial plants work brilliantly (the type you find in fish bowls). These come in a variety of colour and styles and can brighten up an enclosure. Alternatively, you can use real plants, but you must ensure that they have not been treated with chemicals, and that can be quite a lengthy process, on top of having to add topsoil to your substrate, and ensuring they get plenty of sunlight.
Water dishes and accessories
Lastly, let’s look at some of the smaller accessories for tarantula care that can be switched to cheaper alternatives. First of these are water dishes, which are widely accessible in all reptile stores as well as online, with a size range to suit nearly all sized tarantulas. They look great and add a perfect aesthetic addition to all enclosures, but there are other alternatives that you can use if you’re not too fussed on colours. After all, they’re only going to fill them full of substrate anyway. Using drink lids as water dishes is just as effective, but not as good looking, but can save you a lot of money in the long run. You can also reuse any takeaway sauce pots you get or order a bulk of them online.
There are plenty of things you can use around the house to help with rehousing or feeding. Deli cups, old feeder pots, takeaway cartons all make for handy catch cups. Using a paper straw or small paintbrush to tease your tarantula out or to give them a gentle nudge will also work wonders.
Frequently asked questions
There may be a few concerns regarding what is suitable and safe for tarantulas when it comes to enclosures, so let us clear a few of them up.
Are plastic boxes safe for tarantulas?
Plastic boxes are entirely safe for tarantulas if well ventilated and have a secure lid. Your tarantula won’t care what it’s in as long as the husbandry is correct. Plastic storage boxes make for a more cost-effective enclosure, as well as saving space as they can be stacked.
Can artificial plants cause harm to my tarantula?
Artificial plants are not harmful to tarantulas, unless they have a heavy base which could fall on them if they’re burrowing. They’re also not ideal if they are not marine safe, or are generally too large in comparison to your tarantula. Your tarantula is extremely unlikely to try and eat or pull apart the plant, the most it will do is flatten it.
Will my enclosure still look good without glass and real plants?
You can achieve incredible looking enclosures by using all the suggested items mentioned previously. Remember that these don’t and probably won’t be long term enclosures unless you’re particularly fond of them. Once your tarantula has gained its size, or you have the spare money to, you can upgrade to the enclosure you’d like.
To summarise, tarantula keeping doesn’t have to be expensive; you can still achieve aesthetically-pleasing enclosures on a tight budget, and without having to sacrifice husbandry. Just remember to choose the right sized box for your tarantula, ensure your decor isn’t going to cause harm, and that if needed, all decor are secured down tightly or hot glued.