Dealing With the Kids: Some Thoughts on Spiderlings
Odds are if you're here, you have a pet tarantula or are thinking about getting one.  You've no doubt been scanning the internet and looking at advertisements and noticed that most focus on selling captive-bred baby theraphosids.   If I may put my two cents in (as if I haven't been on page after page), I think getting some spiderlings is a great idea for the novice and the experienced!  The primary reason is somewhat parallel to the aims of this site: a few people have studied some tarantulas enough to successfully produce a steady stream of captive-born specimens.  By doing so, breeders are fostering interest in and knowledge of a widely misunderstood animal and are also curbing the practice of catching adult tarantulas in the wild.  It is my thought that when adult tarantulas are captured for the pet trade,  many die in pet stores from ignorant personnel and the many more that are sold will never get a chance to reproduce.  Therefore, their numbers in the wild decrease.  While the demise of tarantulas in to the pet trade is certainly not even comparable to the level of the loss of their habitat in the wild, there is seldom reason enough to compound the problem by purchasing a wild-caught adult tarantula that is not intended for breeding.

     Tarantula breeding is a very, very new thing.  There are few spider breeders  that have been around more than a decade, so many types of tarantulas that were the first of a species to be born in captivity are only now reaching maturity (captive bred Pelinobius muticus are an example of this).  If those that sell captive bred are supported and are thus able to thrive to produce second and third and perhaps tenth generation tarantulas, then the demand for wild caught individuals will be all but stemmed.   Ponder for a second about the need for "wild caught" mice and hamsters and crickets and horses and dogs and cows- once a species established, its population in captivity could exceed that of its population in the wild (sad truth, but that is some animals' only hope of averting extinction).

    Another reason for having a few baby spiders is that it is simply fascinating to watch them grow and change!

 
Look how TINY! (Avicularia versicolor)

 
 

Even smaller!
(Pterinochilus murinus)

It's always a thrill to watch a baby start to acquire elements of its adult coloration, such as with this Poecilotheria rufilata.
Spiderling Care:

Houses and Food: Most baby tarantulas look nothing like their parents, save for the same number of legs.  They are tiny, fragile things that need somewhat different arrangements if they are to survive.  Of primary importance is recognizing that spiderlings are indeed babies.  They need to eat. . . and eat a lot.  Wingless fruit flies (for very tiny babies), little "pinhead" crickets, termites, and little mealworms are acceptable for newborn tarantulas. You can progressively graduate to larger sizes of prey as the spider grows.  What's most important is that your spiderling needs to be able to find its food easily.   If you place your spiderling in a large enclosure with the notion that it will be happy with room to roam as it "grows into" its container, you're doing your new darling a disservice.  Like human babies have cribs, spider babies need a small, safe place where they do little but eat, rest, and grow.   Little pill bottles or small deli cups work well for housing very young spiderlings.

Here is a small sampling of the myriad of different containers that can house spiderlings.  As they grow, they move to progressively larger facilities.
Note: There are copious ventilation holes poked into the tops of each container.  Though tarantulas don't consume much air, ventilation is essential to prevent fungus growth.
 
This baby Poecilotheria formosa has not one, but two little crickets stuffed in its face!

 
Water: Humidity is important for a spiderling's survival.  Spiderlings are too tiny to drink out of a water dish and so get their refreshment from sucking moisture out of damp substrate.  Also, they will be molting frequently and the extra moisture they absorb into their bodies will help them while shedding.  Even the babies of desert species need humidity, so it is important to lightly mist the substrate of their homes often (note: that does not mean they're amphibians- moist substrate will be fine.  Don't make it a swamp).
(Poecilotheria regalis) See the dramatic increase in size spiderlings experience when they molt.  The individual to the right was 1 7/8" in legspan before shedding, roughly the same size as the spider on the left.  It's now 2 11/16"!


 

Few things are more satisfying than helping something grow and thrive.  If the tips above are coupled with general practices for adult tarantula care, then your spiderling should live a long, healthy life and you'll enjoy many fascinating hours watching them grow.
 
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