Learn what to feed your pet tarantula in captivity

What do tarantulas eat?

What do you feed your pet tarantula?

If you’re wondering what tarantulas eat, you’ve come to the right place. Tarantulas are very opportunistic feeders, meaning they will pretty much attack and consume anything within reason, unless the prey is just too large to subdue.

This stems from feast-or-famine instincts—when prey presents itself, tarantulas eat it. This behavior can also witnessed when several feeder insects are offered at the same time. The tarantula will usually collect several of them before hunkering down to consume them one by one.

Virtually any insect or small rodent is fair game, based upon the size of your pet tarantula. They will sometimes even consume freshly pre-killed insects—this is usually done to offer a tarantula a food item that would otherwise be too large to overtake naturally. A good example of this would be offering a pre-killed cricket to a spiderling.

Lastly, it seems fitting to mention that your pet tarantula, if kept with another tarantula, will likely either eat it, or be eaten. Cannibalism is common with spiders and other arachnids, whether it stems from hunger or territorial behavior.

What do tarantulas eat

Rear-horned Baboon tarantula eating a superworm

How do I know if my pet tarantula is well fed?

One way to determine if your pet tarantula is well fed or not, is to look at the spider’s abdomen. It should be full and rotund, easily the largest section of its body. But, if it’s football-shaped or relatively small when compared to the other sections of its body, you need to increase your tarantula’s feeding regimen.

There can be other reasons for a disproportionately small abdomen, but generally, it’s the visual result of underfeeding. It can also mean the tarantula is dehydrated.

Feeding pet tarantulas

Greenbottle blue tarantula eating a mealworm

Spiderling tarantula foods

Spiderlings or “slings” as they are called, can be fed melanogaster or hydei fruit flies until they’ve molted two or three times, often called their second or third “instar.” You can read our article on how tarantulas molt.

When tarantulas hatch, they’re often referred to as EWLs, which is an acronym for “Eggs With Legs,” and as you can imagine their prey must be small and harmless. They don't eat during this short phase, instead focusing on completing molts and hardening their exoskeleton.

Spiderlings can easily consume 5-10 fruit flies each week.

Remember not to keep your spiderling tarantula in a large enclosure, as it makes it much more difficult for your spider to find its prey. Spiderlings can comfortably live in a small container or vial for several weeks or even months.

Spiderlings can sometimes overtake pinhead crickets, but fruit flies are a safer choice, as crickets can sometimes be aggressive. Newborn roach exoskeletons can be a little too tough to penetrate, so they aren’t an ideal tarantula food.

Tarantula food

This tarantula is eating a cricket

Juvenile and adult tarantula foods

Crickets are the most common feeder insect for pet tarantulas in captivity, and for good reason. They are active, nutritious, and affordable. You just can’t go wrong with crickets, as long as you don’t put too many in the tarantula’s terrarium at once. Crickets are vicious and can gang-up on spiders.

A good rule of thumb is that you should never offer your tarantula any food insect that’s longer than its own abdomen. Adult crickets should be reserved for medium to large tarantulas.

Feel free to experiment with other food options including waxworms, superworms, giant mealworms, dubia roaches, silkworms, and hornworms. Variety is great, and likely appreciated by your tarantula.

Feeding 2-3 crickets just once to twice per week is more than adequate. No supplementation is necessary.