With all of the videos and connect about ground cover for tarantulas it feels like a complicated subject, though it doesn’t have to be.
What is the best bedding for a tarantula? The best bedding for your tarantula depends on the type of spider you have. Tarantulas typically live in the southern hemisphere where the climate ranges from sub-tropical, tropical, or arid environments.
The tarantula’s habits also need to be considered when selecting bedding, a desert spider has unique needs than the arboreal type. Knowledge about tarantulas grows every year and what we thought was correct a decade ago is frowned upon now.
This article will tell you what the best substrates are, but further than that it will provide the basics on substrates so that throughout all the trends you can continue to make informed decisions for your tarantula.
Read further to understand what to look for in bedding, what to avoid, and the best bedding out there right now.
What to look for in bedding
The bedding that you put in your tarantulas’ tank should fit the environment that they naturally come from and what their habits are. There are 1000 distinct species of tarantulas currently discovered.
These wooly spiders are not known to live in cold environments mostly occupying warmer habitats. The first thing that you need to do when setting up your tarantula’s tank is to find out what kind of tarantula you want.
That decision will guide you on how to set up the ground cover for their terrarium.
When it comes to exclusively look at bedding for your tarantula there are three things that you need to consider. Are they a:
- Ground dweller
Determining how the tarantula will interact with the substrate tells you the type that you will need. Strictly ground-dwelling or terrestrial tarantulas need a lot of ground cover with little more than the length of their legs for vertical space.
Substrate for them needs to be sturdy and cheap because you will be using a lot of it. Burrowers are a category of ground dwellers that like to burrow into the ground to live.
Any ground cover for these types of spiders has to be solid enough to hold the burrow without collapsing on them. Climbing tarantulas, arboreal, are less heavy-bodied than their terrestrial counterparts so withstanding a fall is a lot easier for them.
Substrate for these tree-dwellers will be less than a ground-dwelling tarantula with cork for them to climb and build nests.
Something else to consider when getting bedding for your tarantula is the temperature of their natural habitat. Tarantulas live in:
Sub-tropical and tropical tarantulas need varying levels of heat and moisture to mimic their environment. This becomes an issue because not all substrates can hold water well.
The ground cover needs to be wet at the bottom while dry at the top. If the bedding is too wet or something that the tarantula doesn’t like to touch with their feet such as bark they will not walk on it and will climb on the things that you have in your enclosure and web.
This is dangerous for them, they could fall in the enclosure. Your tarantula might look ferocious, but despite their looks or maybe because of them, tarantulas are very fragile creatures. Ground dwelling spiders tend to be heavy-bodied so any type of climbing is dangerous.
Another issue with heat and humidity is mold. Not all mold and fungi are created equally. Some will just feed on the decaying matter and not affect your tarantula at all, while other varieties will kill your spider before you realize what is happening.
To help combat mold first check your substrate to see if it can handle moisture. Don’t ever pour water all over your tarantulas’ tank, the bottom should be moist and the top layer needs to be dry.
Make sure your enclosure has proper ventilation. Something that allows airflow, but is enclosed enough to hold the humidity. And lastly, be reasonable about the heat. Tarantulas do not need heat pads or lamps directly on them.
Keeping them at room temperature, where you are comfortable is fine.
If they are the type of tarantula that needs more heat that you are comfortable living in just get a heater for the room your tarantula occupies. It will provide the heat that they need without burning them alive.
What you should avoid!
To get a clear picture of what your substrate should look like what to avoid needs to be addressed. A lot of this is common sense and has to do with the body of your tarantula.
One thing is their feet don’t cover a lot of surface area making it difficult to walk on unsteady surfaces. They are also in danger of one of their legs slipping into the substrate causing an injury.
Even for burrow dwellers, the ground cover in a tarantula’s tank needs to be solid enough for your tarantula to move around with ease.
Bedding to avoid:
- Wood chips
- Corn cob
- Anything with fertilizer or additives
Some of these bedding choices are ok to mix with other substrates, they should just not be used on their own. While others should not be used at all.
Wood chips such as cedar and pine need to avoid at all costs for two reasons. For one these highly aromatic woods are toxin to your tarantula. To be on the safe side do not put any pungent type of material or conifers in the tank with your tarantula.
Another issue is the shape of the pieces themselves. If you handled un-sanded wood will just result in a splinter, painful, but no big deal. For your tarantula and their soft underbelly, it could result in a ruptured abdomen.
A lot of recommended substates have pieces of wood in them. These will have to be removed before setting up ground cover for your tarantulas’ terrarium.
This can be done either by manually removing each piece or sifting it through some mesh or in a colander.
Corn cobs are also too jagged to be placed in a terrarium. Even while mixed with other appropriate substrates shredded corn cobs are just too sharp for the tarantula.
Since corn cobs are an organic material it tends to get moldy, with the moisture level needed this substance is a big no-no even while mixing substrates.
While fertilizers and additives need to be avoided in approved ground cover. That includes organic fertilizers even animal waste. The compounds in these substances are toxic for your spider. Besides the fact, I’m sure you don’t want your house smelling like manure.
Just avoid anything that has a strong smell or if it is jagged.
The above substances should be avoided completely, then some substates are ok to mix with other substances but are not good on their own. Sand, for example, is just not substantial enough on its own for your spider to walk around on.
Even we have issues walking on sand with our expanded feet. Slipping and sliding all over the place, don’t do that to your spider. Even tarantulas who are desert dwellers need a mix rather than straight sand.
Gravel works similarly to sand. On its own gravel, think decorative rocks or aquarium gravel, it is hard for tarantulas to walk on. People will place larger decorative rocks at the bottom of the terrarium and mix a small amount in the substrate itself.
If you want to go down this path keep the rocks at the bottom of the terrarium where your tarantula will not come in contact with it. If your species is a burrowing type keep the gravel in the substate mixture at a minimum.
They do not like walking on these two substances and will do anything to avoid it. For the heavy-bodied spiders that action could be fatal.
Types of bedding
The best type of ground cover depends on your tarantula’s natural environment and you. Everybody has their opinion on what’s best. Is coconut fiber better or should you use peat moss? Is it better to use one substrate or create a mixture?
Research your species of tarantula and their natural environment, then look around at what other people are doing. If you are new to tarantulas don’t go overboard trying to get the perfect mixture when setting down some coco fiber will do perfectly fine.
While you want your tarantula to be happy you also want to enjoy having them in your home, overanalyzing every single detail will not allow you to enjoy anything.
Before bringing your spider home have your terrarium set up with the ground cover. Some substrates need to be prepared beforehand and are difficult to work with for newbies. Purchasing your spider and then setting up the tank will cause unneeded stress on you.
Regardless of the mixture used, or not used, pat the surface down before adding your tarantula to their new home just to make the ground cover easier for them to walk around on.
Below are the most commonly used substrates for tarantulas. All are mixable with other types of ground cover, but not all can be used on their own. Talk to your local dealer for any questions about your species-particular needs.
1. Coco Fiber
Coconut fiber works great on its own or mixed with other substrates depending on the needs of your tarantula. It is made from the fibers of dried coconut husks. Coconut peat absorbs water well, is mold resistant, and great for tarantulas from arid environments.
Coco fiber can still be used for spiders from more humid environments, but it will need to be mixed with another substrate. Straight coco fiber is best for ground-dwelling or climbing tarantulas.
Burrowers need a bit more structure to prevent the walls from collapsing on them. A mix of coconut peat and topsoil help create a hardier mix.
Coco fiber comes in brick and loses form. The bricks will give you a lot more bang for your buck, but you will have to prepare it for your tarantula’s tank. The loose form typically comes prepared, however, it will be more expensive.
Mist loose coco fiber gently with water or pour water on the side of the tank so that your tarantula isn’t walking on wet material. The compressed bricks take a bit more work.
Preparing a compressed coconut fiber brick
- Cut brick in half
- Soak coconut fiber for the directed amount of time
- Spread out peat on baking sheet
- Bake as directed to remove the water
- Let cool
A lot of people have issues with the compressed coconut fiber brick, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. If you are not able to cut the brick in half either with a knife or using a screwdriver as a chisel then soak the entire brick.
Before putting the coco peat in the oven pull the amount that is needed and wring it out before baking.
Sometimes owners will let their coconut fiber bake in the sun. This method is only an issue if you leave the coconut peat outside where bugs can find a free ride to a new home.
If all of it is too time-consuming just get the loose coconut fiber, think of the extra money as your stress tax.
It makes sense that for an animal that lives in the wild only need soil to be happy. Topsoil is easy to find (you can get organic topsoil here), even locally, and it’s cheap. It can be used on its own or mixed with other substrates to create the perfect ground cover for your terrarium.
This substrate works well for any type of tarantula including burrowers. However, for spiders that are used to a more arid environment, you will have to mix this with another substrate that absorbs water better.
Topsoil does have its drawbacks though. Just any old soil will not do, you will have to look for organic soil with no fertilizers including animal waste.
Whenever buying top or potting soil for your tarantula check the back for the ingredients, if anything comes from an animal even earthworms move on the next option. Any sort of animal product will decay in the terrarium.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in rot and I doubt your spider does either. Before using take out any wood or jagged pieces that might harm your arachnid.
This can be done either manually pulling each piece out or by shifting the amount needed through the mesh.
3. Peat moss
Another easy to find option. Peat moss does well for tarantulas that need moisture and humidity, it’s not such a great option for any desert types.
As with topsoil any peat moss that is used for your tarantula needs to be organic and must not include any animal waste. We recommend getting this peat moss here!
This substrate works well for ground or tree-dwellers as well as borrowers. For spiders that need just a little bit of moisture, peat moss mixes well with other substrates. Both peat and sphagnum moss work the same.
Of course, nothing is perfect so there are few things to look out for with peat moss. Just like with potting soil this bedding will need shifting to remove any wood or jagged pieces.
Peat Moss tends to mold easily so watch the level of water you use to moisten the bedding. Remove any pieces that seem to be molding.
Just as an additive for other substrates such as top or potting soil. Only use sand for tarantulas that live in a desert type of environment as a means of controlling the humidity level. We recommend getting this sand (see it here).
Using sand on its own can cause harm to your tarantula, is terrible for burrowing, and a lot of spiders just don’t like walking on it. It is also too heavy to use singularly.
It might seem like a good idea for spiders that live in sandy areas, but if they are the burrowing type underneath the sand they are living in a mixture of clay and soil. Mix 70/30 of topsoil and sand for arachnids that need little moisture.
If you are looking for another substrate for your arid friends that doesn’t include sand, just go with the coconut fiber.
Another additive that is one of the best things for tarantulas. Vermiculite helps prevent mold that is prevalent in substrates for more humid environments.
On its own, it does nothing for your tarantula. They can not burrow in it nor do they like the way it feels on their feet. Causing problems for more heavy body spiders if they climb away from it.
Cover the bottom of your terrarium with a thin layer of vermiculite and then place your main substrate on top of it. The vermiculite will absorb the water and evaporate slowly from the bottom of the tank.
That way they will not come into contact with the offensive material and you don’t have to worry if your spider is getting enough humidity. We recommend getting this vermiculite.
Similar to vermiculite and used for the same reasons. Perlite should not be used on its own, but as an additive to other substrates to help with humidity. If you have the option between vermiculite or perlite go with vermiculite since it holds moisture better.
If Vermiculite is hard to find then perlite is a decent alternative. You can get perlite here!
Perlite is harder than the other substrates so use sparingly depending on the environment that your tarantula lives.
After introducing your spider to their terrarium watch how they interact with their environment. Tarantulas are not subtle when it comes to things that they don’t like. If your spider avoids walking on their bedding then it is a huge hint to you that something isn’t right.
Safely play around with your options to see what works for both you and your tarantula. For those who can’t dedicate a lot of time to their tarantulas need to purchase a beginner species, they are more adaptable to captivity and do well in a variety of environment