Tarantula Enclosures – Premium and DIY

Perhaps one of the most fun facets of T keeping is the never ending quest for the perfect tarantula enclosure. Whether you’re a money-is-no-object keeper interested in assembling the most aesthetically pleasing enclosures, or a more frugal enthusiast who wants to save precious funds for future spider purchases, there are literally thousands of options available. Once you are thoroughly hooked on the hobby, you will find yourself wandering the container section of your local Dollar Tree, Walmart, or craft store measuring up plastic canisters for size, price, and alter-ability.  And, for your “showcase” spiders, there are many attractive options that won’t break the bank.

As I’ve done a lot of experimenting with enclosures, both professionally constructed and “found” varieties, here I will present some of the ones I’ve continued to use along with some of the pros and cons. These enclosures are listed in no certain order.

Adult Tarantula Cage from Jamie’s Tarantulas

Retail: $64 (With substrate, moss, cork bark, and water dish, $84)

For keepers looking for a more attractive home in which to house their Ts, but who don’t want to pay upwards of $100 for a cage, Jamie’s acrylic tarantula enclosures are fantastic. These 8″x8″x14″ cages are perfect for most large tarantulas sized 4″ to 7″. She offers the option of purchasing just the cage, or you can get the Complete Cage package with all the fixings for $20 more. The crystal clear acrylic offers complete viewing from all angles, and the hinged door can be locked for security. Also, I have found these enclosures to be much more durable and well-constructed than other acrylic enclosures I have used.

CAGE Acrylic

Acrylic tarantula cage from Jamie’s Tarantula – Terrestrial set up.

CAGE Acrylic arb

Acrylic tarantula enclosure from Jamie’s Tarantula – Arboreal Set-up

Even cooler, the cages are specially designed so that they can be used as both terrestrial OR arboreal cages. I have three of these beauties; two house terrestrial Ts, and the other is set up for my arboreal A. metallica. The air vents on both sides allow for good cross-ventilation while keeping in precious humidity. Both sizes are offered in either Terrestrial and Arboreal versions.

Spiderling and  Juvenile Enclosures from Jamie’s Tarantulas

Retail $7.95-$13.95

For slings and juveniles, Jamie also offers Spiderling and Juvenile Enclosure kits. These wonderful and affordable cages come with all of the fixings (substrate, moss, silk plant, cork, and water dish for the juveniles), and they are often offered as a package deal with a sling or juvie. I’m particularly enamored with the spiderling kits, as the offer great visibility and seem to limit the chance for escape when opening for feeding. When buying from Jamie’s, I also find it incredibly convenient that I can get my sling and the enclosure at one place.

Spiderling and Juvenile Enclosures from Jamie's Tarantulas. These are sold as kits with all of the fixings.

Spiderling and Juvenile Enclosures from Jamie’s Tarantulas. These are sold as kits with all of the fixings.

Exo Terra Nano Glass Terrarium

Various sizes /Retail: $34.99-$67.99

These all-purpose terrariums are gorgeous, and with prices starting at $34.00 (or even less expensive if you catch them on sale on the Petco website). The black framing looks very sharp, as does the foam faux-rock background. These tanks also offer two ways to access them, with both a front door and a removable screen top.

It should be mentioned, these are not designed exclusively for tarantulas, and some models suffer from some design issues that make then less than ideal. For example the unique venting system beneath the door prevents owners from packing in more than a couple inches of substrate in the bottom. With 5 or more inches of space between the top and the substrate, a plump climbing terrestrial T could fall and injure itself.

An Exo Terra Nano Tall (left) and regular 8 x 8 x 8.

An Exo Terra Nano Tall (left) and regular 8 x 8 x 8.

Also, the screen top can be a problem for terrestrial Ts whose legs can become stuck in it. To combat this issue, the cage top can be altered by ripping out the screen and replacing it with Plexiglass with several breathing holes drilled into it (see below).

CAGE Exo top

The top of a Exo Terra Nano, modified for a terrestrial T. The screen has been removed and replaced with ventilated Plexiglas.

The Exo Terra Tall, on the other hand, makes a fantastic home for an arboreal with no modifications. The 8″x8″x12″ tall enclosure is the perfect size for a medium arboreal species, and makes for a stunning display. For species that require a higher humidity, you can block off part of the screen top with saran wrap or plastic (as I have done with the one housing my P. vittata), to slow evaporation. And, for a T who may get 7″ or longer, the larger Exo Terra Mini Tall (12″x12″x18″) will do. These larger models feature two opening doors, which can make cleaning or feeding faster species a bit easier.

Kritter Keepers/Pet Keepers (both trademarked and generic)

Various sizes / Retail: $3.99-$19.99

These clear plastic containers with colored plastic lids are produced by several different companies, come in many different sizes, and are made to house small animals including hermit crabs, fish, reptiles, and insects. They also happen make quite good homes for tarantulas and have become a staple for keepers looking for attractive, low-cost enclosures.

Medium Sized Kritter Keeper/Pet Keeper. I use these to house my juveniles.

Medium Sized Kritter Keeper/Pet Keeper. I use these to house my juveniles.

These nifty little cages are great for burrowing Ts due to their depth, and the covers have wonderful little windows on the top that double as a feeding hatch. They can be found online through Amazon and Petco.com (Once again, Petco’s sales and free shipping can really make these a steal), and Walmart even carries the medium sized cages in their fish section.

As for cons, there are only a couple issues. First, larger holes where the handle connects to the lid, and another round hole meant for running tubing, can both be potential escape routes for small and determined Ts. It’s best to fill these three holes up with a little hot glue before using the enclosure. Also, because the entire lid is vented, water and moisture will evaporate quickly in the winter months. To combat this issue, use plastic wrap and tape to close of some of the vents.

Sterilite Plastic Storage Containers

Numerous sizes / $1-$15

The go to enclosure for T enthusiasts with huge collections. These plastic containers come in just about every imaginable size, and they are generally quite inexpensive, with many of the larger sizes going for less than $3. Sterilite even makes a set that locks securely and is designed to stack (see photo below).

To make the ventilation holes in cages meant to house slings, there are a couple alternatives. The easiest is to use a soldering iron (the one I use was about $10 on Amazon, and has been a dream). The tip of this iron comes to a conical point, meaning that you can use various levels of pressure to make any size hole you need. I can use just the tip to make tiny holes for small spider enclosures, or use more pressure to make up to .24″ holes for larger ones.

A more time-consuming way to create the holes is to heat a very small nail on an oven burner, pick it up with pliers and use it to melt holes through the plastic. I will actually use several nails on a burner so that I always have a hot one ready. You can usually put three to five holes in before having to trade nails. A word of caution: make sure to have adequate ventilation, as the plastic fumes can be dangerous.

For cages meant to house larger Ts, a power drill is the easiest and fastest way to perforate the plastic for ventilation. When positioning holes I try to create cross ventilation by putting some holes lower on one side and higher on the other.

A Sterilite plastic container modified to house tarantula slings.

A Sterilite plastic container modified to house tarantula slings.

 For a step-by-step tutorial on how to create a custom enclosure using Sterilite containers, click!

Mainstay Plastic Canisters

2-Quart and 1-Gallon Sizes / $1.99-$3.99

I love these plastic canisters. The 2-quart size is perfect for juvenile arboreals or terrestrial burrowing species. These inexpensive plastic jars can be found at any Walmart, and are easily ventilated using the hot nail method. As I wanted adequate ventilation, I used a 2″ hole saw and aquarium silicone to put a 2″ inch vent in the lid.

Plastic canister modified with lid vent and side ventilation holes.

Plastic canister modified with lid vent and side ventilation holes.

Ziploc or Tupperware Plastic Containers 

Various sizes / small 3 for $3.57 / medium 2 for $2.57

There are dozens of these types of containers on the market; I just happen to prefer the Ziploc Twist ‘n lock for the wonderful screw on caps. Like the other plastic containers, these can be vented using the hot nail method. The small containers are perfect for terrestrial slings, and the taller medium sized ones are great for arboreals in need of climbing room.

Ziploc container modified to house arboreal tarantula.

Ziploc container modified to house arboreal tarantula.

At the time of this blog, I have several other containers that I will be altering and trying out as enclosures, and I will surely add to this list as I discover new possibilities.

Also, I should point out that I did not include two of the most popular enclosures used by hobbyists. Clear plastic pill bottles and plastic deli cups are immensely popular due to their very low cost and practicality, and many keepers swear by them. It just so happens that I currently use neither, as I prefer Jamie’s spiderling enclosures. However, as my collection grows, and I get into breeding, this is likely to change.

For a comparison of some Tarantula sling enclosure alternatives, click away!

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12 thoughts on “Tarantula Enclosures – Premium and DIY

  1. Hi Tom,
    what a fantastic blog!!! so informative, I love it.
    I have just got my first T, G. porteri. I have been told it is female and around 3 years old but for reasons I am not overly confident in that information. I am going to get G. porteri an enclosure from House of Spiders (I’m in the UK) as I want to admire her from all angles! Would you say that 12x8x8 (inches) is the correct size? Also they do a Tarantula Starter Kit, which is that size tank plus a few accessories including substrate, would I be better just getting my own sub? what do you suggest for G. porteri? Do I need to bury the water dish and can I use tap water? Also what kind of hide shall I get and are crickets adequate?
    Sorry about all these questions Tom but I really want to get it right. I would really appreciate any advice or tips.
    Many thanks, look foward to hearing from you
    Hessy

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    • Hi there, Hessy!

      Thanks so much for the kind words. I love hearing that folks find this useful. 🙂

      Congrats on your new pet! A G. porteri was also my first tarantula; she was a young adult when I acquired her, and 18 years later, she’s still going strong.

      A quick question: what size is your T? Can you estimate from the tip of the front leg to the tip of the opposite back leg (diagonal leg span or DSL)?

      Is this the enclosure you were looking at? http://shop.houseofspiders.co.uk/epages/es134535.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/es134535/Products/%22Tarantula%20Starter%20Kit%22

      If she’s a young adult, a cage 12 x 8 x 8 inches (as long as it’s 12″ in length and NOT height) will be fine. Just make sure that you put in enough substrate to ensure that if she climbs (and she will!) that a fall wont hurt her.

      As long as they give you enough substrate to fill the enclosure enough to prevent the T from getting injured if it should fall, then it’s a good deal. For my G. porteri, I use dry coco fiber. However, dry peat or topsoil would also work fine. I use cork bark for a hide, although mine rarely uses it. She’s usually sitting right out in the open.

      There is no need to bury the water bowl. It will be fine sitting on top of the sub. When you place it, however, try to keep it away from the edges. If the T climbs, it can fall on the edge of the dish and injure itself. I have well water, so I have no problem using water from the tap. If you have city water, or water with fluorine added, you may want to used bottled.

      I just checked the listing for their Tarantula Starter Kit, and there are a couple things included that I would set aside. First, do NOT use the heat mat. Unless your home gets very cold during the winter, supplementary heat with this species will be unnecessary. Heat mats can be dangerous as the spiders will sit on them and dehydrate. Also, the hygrometer is pretty useless. Analog hygrometers are notoriously inaccurate, and the G. porteri likes it dry, so there is no need to monitor humidity.

      As for feeding, I feed mine crickets, so they are perfectly fine. Just make sure not to over feed; 5 crickets a month is enough! Also, be prepared for this species to fast for seemingly no reason. They are notorious for it. 🙂

      I hope that helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions!

      All the best,

      Tom

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  2. Hi Tom,
    thank you for such a speedy reply.
    Yes I’m really over the moon with G. porteri, she looks so adorable if you know what I mean!!!
    I’ve just had a look and I estimate the space between her back and front leg (tips) to be between 2-2 and a half inches, she’s really not that big.
    I’ve decided not to get the starter kit, just the enclosure and accessorise it myself. So you think those dimensions will be suitable for her? there are other sizes listed but I’m awful with measurements, sizing etc.
    Ok I’ll order some Eco Earth, if I get the loose bag (not the brick) can I just put it straight in without adding water?
    Do you just add a hide and water dish to each enclosure? I guess the fake plants are just for decoration?
    Many thanks again, and kind regards
    Hessy

    Like

    • Hi, Hessy!

      Yup, I’m a big fan of this species. They are truly cute at that size. If she is about 2″, the cage you are looking at might be a little large for her. Don’t get me wrong, you could certainly house her in it. It will just take a while for her to grow into it (they are very slow growers).

      If she’s around 2-2.5″ or so, the 8 x 6 x 6 terrestrial enclosure might be more appropriately sized. This should be the link: http://shop.houseofspiders.co.uk/epages/es134535.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/es134535/Products/%228%20X%206%20X%206%20Ter%22

      Again, you can still use the larger enclosure, and it wouldn’t be wrong to do so. The smaller one is just a bit better sized for a smaller T.

      If you buy a bag of Eco Earth (and not the brick) you won’t have to add water. In fact, you may have to dry it out a bit. G. porteri like it dry, so if the substrate is too moist, they will usually climb the walls until it dries up. To dry it, you can either leave it out a few days, allowing the extra moisture to evaporate, or bake it in an oven on about 175-200 degrees heat for 15 minutes to a half hour or so. If you bake it, just put it on a cookie sheet or large, shallow pan, keep the oven door open, and stir it occasionally.

      I usually add a hide and some plastic plant if I have them. The plants for a G. porteri would be only for decoration. With some of my other species, they will use these to anchor webbing to.

      Hope that helps!

      Tom

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  3. Hi Tom,
    what a fantastic blog!
    I want to know what light I can use for my Chaco Golden Leg Tarantula. I want to begin a terrarium with real plants but in order to do so I need a light to keep the plants alive! The light must not hurt my beloved Tarantula! Please help me!
    Hope you can help. Many thanks
    Gordon

    Like

    • Hi, Gordon!

      First off, thank for the kind words!

      What size is your T? How long have you had it?

      Personally, I wouldn’t attempt a natural enclosure with a G. pulchripes (Chaco golden knee) for a variety of reasons. Although they tolerate light, they don’t like bright light. Those that create naturalistic enclosures with real plants choose ones that don’t need a lot of light. If you want your Ts to be happy, you want to keep them away from bright light sources. Many keepers will even use red lights in their tarantula rooms for nighttime viewings.

      Also, plants require water and this is a species that likes it on the dry side. Those who create enclosures with real plants do so with species that have higher humidity requirements (like Avicularia species and the big tropical terrestrials. These guys would actually benefit from the moist substrate and higher humidity.

      By keeping the soil moist enough to allow for plants, you’ll inadvertantly create a high humidity environment for your G. pulchripes, which wouldn’t be ideal.

      Finally, most G. pulchripes are little bulldozers, constantly digging and rearranging substrate. They would likely spend their time digging up the plants (although, perhaps yours isn’t a digger).

      I’ve seen some examples of naturalistic enclosures, but they are difficult and only appropriate for certain species. It’s probably not what you want to hear, but I wouldn’t try it with that species.

      Tom

      Like

    • Hi, John.

      I love those jars! The gallon sizes are great for juvenile arboreals.

      Do you have any other pokies? I have a male and female P. regalis, and I love them. One of the calmer Poecilotheria species, too. 🙂

      Tom

      Like

  4. I’m looking for an enclosure for an adult Theraphosa blondi. At least 20″L×12″W×12″H. Can u help. An also one for an adult Mexican red knee. Maybe not as big though.

    Like

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