If you’ve done research about setting up the perfect enclosure for your new tarantula, you’ll know that the topic of a T’s water needs is a hotly debated one. As with much in life, there’s not really a consensus; you have to gather information yourself and make up your own mind.
Do tarantulas need water? Yes, tarantulas, like other living things, need water to survive. Some desert species can go their entire lives without actually drinking water from a dish, but rather get their moisture from their food. However, most pet tarantulas will need a dish with fresh water in their enclosures.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably had a few mini heart attacks when you spot an uninvited guest in your sink or bathtub – even though I own tarantulas!
Spiders will make a quick pitstop in areas that contain water because they need it for their survival. Actually, some tarantulas can go for two years without food as long as there is water available!
That being said, a lot of hobbyists believe that it is not necessary for you to place a water dish in tarantula enclosures. Below is some important information that will help you decide if you want to give your T access to water 24/7 or not.
Tarantula Water Requirements
Most tarantulas get all the water they need from their food, but in some cases, food alone is not sufficient. It actually largely varies from tarantula to tarantula and factors like size, environment, and the T’s age play a role in how much water they need.
An example of the role the T’s environment plays in its water needs is the absence of a burrow for it to hide in. Without natural protection, tarantulas lose the water it receives from food sources faster, and without another source of hydration, your T won’t be feeling too good.
As mentioned, tarantulas can go for days or even weeks without food; the pre-molt stage is a good example of this. On the other hand, just a few days without water can lead to death, so it is crucial that they have a constant supply of water.
In the wild, spiders will drink from any water sources such as droplets on leaves, puddles in the mud, or the dew that condensed on their webs. Here is a video of how a Desert Blonde drinks water out of a plastic container.
Does My Tarantula Need A Water Bowl?
This question is like pressing a hot poker into a hornets’ nest. There are many hobbyists that don’t provide their Ts with water bowls, but there are also numerous people who strongly believe that tarantulas need water bowls in their enclosures. So, who is right?
Well, I believe the benefits of water bowls are too important to ignore; and the dangers without them too glaring.
Yes, not all tarantulas living without a water bowl will die. Ts are hardy creatures, and they’ve survived millions of years in changing and hostile environments. BUT! I, for one, am not willing to take the chance.
It is this exact fact – the many seasoned hobbyists don’t give their Ts water dishes – that keeps this subject on the fence without a definite answer.
These hobbyists opt to spray their tarantulas’ enclosures and rely on prey as a moisture delivery system – and their Ts don’t die. But, here’s another but, are these hobbyists trying to provide their captive Ts with natural conditions or conditions closest to ideal?
Tarantulas have evolved to navigate harsh temperatures, drought, flooding and have survived numerous predators. But this does not mean they wouldn’t benefit from having access to water 24/7, does it?
If, as a keeper, you are trying to keep the Ts enclosure 100% authentic – and possibly cruel – you may decide to skip the water bowl.
Giving a T the most comfortable setup possible is more my style. They’re not out in the wild, after all, so they don’t need to be subjected to unnecessarily harsh conditions.
So, although we can say water dishes aren’t 100% necessary in a scientific sense, they do provide other benefits, including making your T’s life a little easier.
It helps to increase the humidity in your tarantula’s enclosure more than misting can. This helps keep your T hydrated and prevents your T from going through a bad molt and getting stuck.
Tarantulas, Water, Water Bowls, And Myths
We’ll look at hydration more a little later, first, let’s play myth-buster and debunk some falsehoods!
1. Water bowls are dangerous for spiderlings
Slings (baby spiders) are tiny, as you can imagine, and some argue that leaving slings in an enclosure with a water bowl is equivalent to leaving a baby alone in a bathtub.
Even though you may think that true, spiderlings are covered in water-repelling hairs. That, combined with their small bodies, mean they are too small and light to break the surface tension of the water.
So, although there is a tiny risk of danger, the benefits of a water bowl outweigh the danger. Slings are fragile and prone to dehydration, and that is why it is vital to do everything in your power to provide the baby tarantula with enough moisture.
2. Tarantulas have no water bowls in nature
Really? Nature is one big water bowl! Raindrops and dew gather in anything with depth, and what about streams and lakes?
In nature, there is a never-ending supply of water sources, so should you decide to skip adding a water bowl to a tarantula’s enclosure, you’re actually providing it with less water than it would have out in the wild.
3. Tarantulas don’t use water bowls
If you do a quick Internet search, you will find numerous videos and photos capturing tarantulas using water bowls. We linked to a video earlier in the article, but in case you’re still not convinced, here is some more proof to debunk this myth.
4. Tarantulas disrespect their water bowls
Some Ts dirty their water bowls within a day. Instead of seeing it as a source of hydration, they may instead use it as a bath – tarantulas are neat creatures after all.
To some, the fact that they have to clean their T’s water bowl almost daily is very frustrating, and they may swear off using water bowls altogether.
Without sounding to disapproving, maybe you should not get a pet tarantula if you’re not willing to look after it correctly. Water is a basic need, and if you don’t even want to supply your T with that, how are you going to do all the other things that form part of good animal husbandry?
Keeping a pet’s living space clean and comfortable is part of being a responsible owner, even if it comes across as if your efforts are for nothing.
Now that we’ve had a look at tarantula water bowl myths, let’s look at some important things to keep in mind about your tarantula’s water needs.
- The dish should not be too deep.
- The water dish should be large enough for the T to submerge its Chelicera and fangs.
- Provide fresh water daily.
- Avoid using sponge, paper towels, cotton or cricket gel. It can harbor harmful bacteria, gets dirty and does not provide adequate moisture.
- Lightly mist substrate and sides of the enclosure if you live in a very dry climate.
- Arboreal species prefer to drink from the walls so spray the sides when it is dry.
Warning: When it comes to misting, make sure not to create overly damp conditions. Tarantula lungs cannot handle too much moisture, and it can lead to death. Also, never spray directly on your T.
How Do Tarantulas Drink Water
Tarantulas actually sip water like other creatures! This isn’t done frequently, but it has been seen by tarantula owners more than once. Other than leaning into the water bowl and drinking, tarantulas also get water into their bodies in other ways.
Firstly, food. Crickets, roaches, mealworms and other insects contain a surprisingly large amount of water – enough to sustain a tarantula until its next meal or even longer! This is one of the main reasons why you won’t often see your tarantula drinking from its water dish.
Secondly, the humidity of their enclosure is also a source of water for tarantulas. Hobbyists say an enclosure with 60%-70% humidity is perfect for tarantulas.
Many tarantulas come from tropical regions, so the correct level of moisture in the air is essential to keep them healthy and hydrated.
Even though tarantulas’ water needs can be met in three ways, it is advisable to not only use method but draw on all the methods to ensure dehydration is not even a possibility.
Tarantulas and Humidity
I think it is important to talk a little bit more about humidity because it is so important to your T’s well-being. Keeping a tarantula in a dry enclosure is much like dropping you off in the desert with only a couple of water bottles.
Oh, and you’re expected to thrive, not just survive. How horrible will that be?
Dehydration in tarantulas can lead to various issues of which the most dreaded is a bad molting where the tarantula gets stuck while shedding its old exoskeleton. This usually leads to death.
Below are three tips to ensure your T’s enclosure has just the right humidity to keep it healthy and happy.
1. Know your species and its humidity requirements.
This is actually not limited to just humidity requirements. Remember, every tarantula comes from a specific area with a specific climate.
While some tarantulas will be more than happy in 60% humidity, others may require a consistent 80% to stay hydrated. So, the first step is to know the species of T you have and its humidity needs.
2. Use the right equipment to monitor humidity
This is not something you can or want to eyeball. Invest in a hygrometer to keep close tabs on the moisture level in your tarantula’s enclosure. The reason why monitoring humidity is important is that you don’t want the enclosure to be too dry – or too wet.
Too much humidity is also not a good thing since tarantulas have book lungs that or not equipped to separate the water from the air they breathe. This means, too much moisture in the air and your tarantula is basically drowning itself with every breath it takes.
3. Keep water bowl full and clean
We’ve already covered the perks of having a water bowl in your T’s enclosure. Humidity is just one benefit of a water bowl, but an essential one.
- Top tip: Overflow the water bowl a little to let the water soak into the substrate. This will contribute to the humidity levels.
4. Mist the substrate
This is easy and effective. Be sure to keep the substrate slightly damp so that it keeps the enclosure humid around the clock. That being said, don’t create a swamp; too much water will do more damage than good.
Signs Your Tarantula Is Dehydrated and What To Do
Dehydration is very serious and is actually one of the leading causes of death in tarantulas. By preventing dehydration, you will remove many of the associated problems your T may run into. If you follow the steps above, your tarantula won’t ever be dehydrated.
But, we all know life happens, and something may prevent you from providing your T with enough water for a while. Should this happen, you need to know how to spot the signs that your tarantula is dehydrated, as well as know what to do to try and save your T.
Symptoms of a dehydrated tarantula are:
- Lethargy and acting slow
- The abdomen appears small and shriveled
- Found in a semi-death curl position
If you see your tarantula display any of the above, it is time to act. Luckily, curing dehydration is easy if caught early. The first thing you want to do is create a makeshift ICU for your dehydrated tarantula.
- Get a container big enough to house your tarantula and a water dish but small enough to limit excessive movement.
- Pierce some ventilation holes into the container.
- Wet some paper towels and line the bottom and sides of the container.
Next, you can do two things; you can either take your tarantula and place it directly in the ICU, or you can take things a step further and feed your T water.
I know this is not something everyone will want or be able to do, but if you’re brave enough or desperate enough, anything is doable.
Gently pick your tarantula up and slowly flip them onto their back. Then you want to take an eyedropper that is filled with water and drop a tiny amount of water onto the mouth of the T. Continue doing this until the tarantula stops drinking from the dropper.
Once done, turn your T back onto its stomach and place them in the ICU. After about 10 hours, your T will most likely have made a full recovery.
Before placing it back in its enclosure, it is important to figure out why your tarantula got dehydrated in the first place and rectify it immediately.
There you have it! Yes, tarantulas need water. This water can come from many sources: water bowls, food, humidity, but is important to keep your T hydrated and healthy.