Tarantula owners know that all animals have the capacity for love and curiosity, but sometimes owning a spider is like having a creature from another planet in your home.
Why is my tarantula not eating? There are a variety of reasons why your tarantula is not eating the most common one is that they are not hungry. The tarantula has a slower metabolism than mammals which causes newer owners to believe their spider is sick.
If this is the case calm down. Most likely your spider is not hungry. However, being full isn’t the only reason why tarantulas don’t eat. Observe your spider’s behavior and consult the list below to see what is going on.
Read further to understand the diet of your tarantula, the reasons they are not eating and what you can do about it.
The diet of the tarantula
Feeding a tarantula might be a culture shock for people who are new to spiders. They don’t eat as much as we mammals eat and something about that is upsetting to their new owners.
You might feel like you are starving them if you don’t put something in their terrarium every few hours. You aren’t starving your spider. The tarantula just doesn’t eat as much as you are accustom to.
They only need one cricket, or whatever you feed them, once a week. Anything more than that they will just let live with them until they are hungry.
This slow metabolism might not manifest itself at first. When first bringing your tarantula home they might stuff themselves with whatever you put in their home. This is natural.
Spiders are not domesticated like cats and dogs are so they are still highly in sync with the natural order of things.
In the wild if they saw a bunch of crickets coming their way they don’t know that a larger being is feeding them, they just think “heck yeah better eat up now in case tomorrow is bad.”
Slowly they will realize that they have found themselves in a cricket haven that is never without, so their metabolism will settle down to its typical level.
Even though your spider doesn’t need to eat every day, they do need fresh water daily. Otherwise, they will become dehydrated. The amount of water that they will drink depends on the type of tarantula and the environment that they live in.
To make sure you don’t go wrong with their water needs, read our article on how to hydrate your tarantula correctly.
It might freak you out at first since you have already gotten used to your spider’s habits. They aren’t sick, your spider is just adjusting to their surroundings and balancing it with their natural rhythm.
Reasons your tarantula isn’t eating
The most common reason your tarantula isn’t eating is that the owner is not used to the way they feed. Don’t worry it’s just a simple misunderstanding and now I’m sure they have a lot of crickets in their tank to feed them for a month.
It’s not the only reason why your arachnid isn’t eating.
Does your tarantula even need food right now?
Some tarantulas are more prone to long cycles without food such as the Chilean rose hair tarantula. Since Chilean roses are one of the most popular spiders out there, tarantulas not eating is a common problem.
There is no rhyme or reason for the long periods that Chilean roses don’t eat, they simply do not want any food. Some have been known to go a year without eating.
Then all of a sudden one day they will eat again then gorge themselves on whatever you can provide. You can’t force food down your tarantula’s mouth as much as you want to. So just go with the flow on whatever their feeding schedule might be for that time period.
As long as they don’t lose weight and are moving around they are perfectly fine.
How to judge your tarantula’s hunger based on his activity? If your tarantula is active and moving around as usual even though they haven’t eaten in a while then they are fine.
However, if there is a sudden spike in their activity, it might be because they are searching for prey.
(By the way, if your tarantula seems to be hyperactive all the time, it doesn’t always have to be hunger. In this article, we show you 5 reasons why your tarantula might be hyperactive. One of those reasons can even lead to death so we highly recommend reading it!)
If you see signs that the lack of food is affecting them, such as a shrinking stomach or it’s not moving around, try to feed it.
Even if your spider isn’t eating still provide enough water to prevent dehydration.
To determine what is going on first you will need to observe their habits and ask yourself some questions.
- When was the last time they ate?
- How is your spider acting?
- Are there any other changes?
- What are you feeding them?
- How old are they?
These questions will help narrow down exactly why your spider isn’t eating so you can take a breather. Below are some simple reasons why your spider isn’t feeding in no particular order.
During the early to late spring tarantulas will go through a pre-molting stage. During this time period, all of their energy will be going into the molting process so they will eat very little.
Typically this time period will last a month, but some spiders will go for two months without eating before molting.
Signs your tarantula is molting:
- Bald patches on the skin
- Clear liquid coming from joints
- Exoskeleton becomes darker
- Stops eating at least a month before
With some tarantulas, another indication that they are molting is a clear liquid coming from their leg joints. You might also notice patches of hair and skin missing. Right before the spider begins to molt their exoskeleton will turn dark.
Molting in tarantulas is a similar process in snakes. They are just outgrowing their skin.
During this time remove any bugs or whatnot that you might have in the terrarium. When the tarantula has its full energy these bugs like crickets are the prey. But in a weakened pre-molted stage your spider could be subject to nips and bites from what was intended to be food.
Molting happens more frequently when your tarantula is young when they become adults they will molt at least once a year to regrow parts and hair.
The molting process might be a little overwhelming for new owners because when the spider molts they look like they are dead. They lay on their back anywhere from 15 to several hours. Just leave them alone during this period.
Disturbing your spider while it’s molting could result in death. This makes all the more important to know about molting in tarantulas and how you can help your T. Read our comprehensive guide on molting to help your T molt successfully.
After they are done molting give them a week before any handling. Their skin is going to be too tender. After molting is completed wait to feed them again for at least 3 days.
Believe it or not, your tarantula is in a compromised situation where even bugs as small as cricket can harm them. Just let them hideout after they molt and they will let you know when they are hungry again.
2. They simply are not hungry.
Tarantula’s don’t eat square meals like the rest of us. For a time period, they will eat whatever you give them then all of a sudden they start refusing food. It doesn’t mean that your spider is ill, they just aren’t hungry.
Large tarantulas eat a bit more than the regular sized ones and they will need to feed a cricket every day.
Most breeds only need one cricket a week. This might seem strange to those of us who are accustomed to eating every day, but for the spider, they eat when they can catch food. So most will go several days without food depending on where they live.
They eat a lot at first because they haven’t been domesticated as long and their instinct is to eat when they are able to get food, but it won’t always be there. Just because they are in a glass cage doesn’t mean that instinct has disappeared.
Tarantulas will not overeat themselves if they are full if there is any uneaten food in the tank after 24 hours clean it out. Continue to try to feed your spider.
You have no idea when their feeding cycle will turn and they will be hungry again so as a just in the case continue to offer them food.
Tarantulas go on and off of feeding for several reasons included on this list and also because they are just not hungry. Typically that will last a few weeks. With some species, the time they go without food is in the month’s range.
In all, a tarantula can survive two years without eating. Just continue to offer them some food and refresh their water every day, water is more important to the tarantula than food is anyways.
3. The food that you are feeding them
The way that tarantulas hunt is to feel for the vibrations of their prey. Feeder insects need to be selected for how they will react. Crickets move around a lot giving your tarantula notice that there is a food source there with them.
Feeder insects that just lay there or don’t move around a lot will not be noticed by your spider and will just end up being an aquarium mate.
When feeding the tarantula all food needs to be smaller than the spider. Don’t give your tarantula any insects that you find in the wild. You have no idea what that bug has been in or through.
You might be giving your spider an insect that has been tainted with pesticides. Stick with bugs that can be found at your local store. Crickets are typically enough, but owners can also feed their tarantula:
- Dubia roaches (learn which roaches to feed your T and which not in this article)
- Red runners
- Mealworms (learn about the benefits and dangers of feeding mealworms in this article)
If your tarantula is on the larger size they can eat pinkie mice and smaller lizards. These additional feeding choices are necessary parts of a tarantulas diet, rather they should be considered treats.
Before feeding your tarantula you will need to be gut loaded. It is just a term for feeding the crickets before feeding your tarantula. This is important to the tarantula because whatever the cricket has ingested will be ingested by the spider.
Market available cricket feed is available, but there are options in your pantry.
To provide feeder crickets a balanced diet which in turn will give your tarantula a balanced diet a mixture of dry and wet vegetable-based diet is needed. Stick with nutritious food to gut load your crickets such as:
- Cricket chow
- Seeds and nuts
- Wheat Bran
- Dry animal food (cat, dog, chicken) veggie-based
- Fresh Greens
- Sweet potatoes
Gut loading is different from the regular feedings for the crickets because of the mixture of dry and wet ingredients to overload the cricket’s system with nutrients right before being given to the tarantula.
4. You just got your tarantula
If this is your first spider and ever since you put it in your enclosure it doesn’t seem to do anything. Just sit there without eating. Tarantulas are a lot more sensitive than you think.
When they are first put in their new environment they need some time to get used to everything including you. Leave them alone for a few days so they can grow accustomed to everything new in bits and pieces. The environment first then you through feeding.
There is no set time for this period of adjustment so let them set the terms. If they skitter off whenever you go up to their tank back away and try again. At first, when you are feeding them you might just have to pop a cricket in and then leave.
Once they start to move around their environment try taking more time at the terrarium so they can become accustomed to your presence. Take each step of the process slow and let your spider make the calls.
This process will build trust between the two of you and later you might be able to hold your spider outside of the cage.
Just check the information on your tarantula before doing so. Some have hair that causes skin irritation.
They also have a painful, if not harmful, bite if you try to pick them up without them being accustomed to you. Learn about the warning signs of when a tarantula is going to bite and how to treat a bite in this article.
Also, watch out for the spiders that are quick on their feet. At first, they are in your hands, and then all of a sudden they are nowhere to be seen.
Another issue with the environment is if the setup that you have doesn’t reflect their natural environment. If they are native to the desert then the terrarium needs to reflect that.
Like if your spider comes from a rain forest type of place then the enclosure needs to have plenty of plant life, wet and hot.
Look up your particular tarantula’s environment. Just because they live in a desert environment doesn’t mean that they don’t have some humidity.
Getting this part right will help them thrive for decades. To understand your tarantula’s humidity needs better, read our comprehensive guide on it.
5. Your tarantula is becoming an adult
Even in spiders the amount of food they eat when they are younger tapers off as they age. If you purchased a young tarantula expect them to stop eating as much when they reach adulthood.
Younger tarantulas will eat more than adults. When they reach adulthood is when the tarantula will start eating once a week if they are smaller. The lifecycle varies from spider to spider, but most tarantulas reach adulthood in two to five years.
As your spider ages, they will again reach a different feeding cycle where they eat less. The amount of time varies from spider to spider, but it is a natural process.
Male tarantulas don’t live as long as females. Some female species of tarantulas live up to 40 years while the male will make it to 14. Even though the tarantula will continue to molt all of their life, it is for regenerative purposes rather than accommodating growth.
If the reasons above do not explain the lack of eating check the gender of your spider. It’s easier to look at a microscopic image of the exoskeleton after molting, but not all of us have the ability.
Instead, the easiest method is to look at the spider’s pedipalps. These are the little antenna feet looking things next to the spider’s head. In the males, the ends of the pedipalps will be bulbous.
Males do not last as long as females do. In fact, if your spider dies within 5 years, it is most likely a male. There is nothing that you can do about this since there is not a lot of medical care for spiders.
If you are interested to know the biological differences between a male and a female tarantula (like growth rate and lifespan), definitely give this article a check!
Continue your process of feeding them every week and providing them with plenty of water.
The tarantula’s system works a bit differently than ours. They don’t require as much food as a larger animal. This can be hard for tarantula owners because not eating is one of the first indications of sickness from animals.
Just keep an eye on your tarantula so that you are aware of their typical habits. If they wander outside of this or start to act weird along with not eating talk to your local shop or to your vet if you have one that can handle s