Tarantulas sometimes do weird things that aren’t always easy to explain and sitting in water is one of those strange events. Although this behaviour can be bizarre – I mean come on, it’s a tarantula, not a reptile – there are a few possible explanations.
Why is my tarantula sitting in water? The main reason why your tarantula is sitting in water is that it is dehydrated due to low humidity levels in its enclosure. It might not actually even be drinking the water but just hovering over it to absorb some of the moisture.
So, instead of increasing the size of the water bowl because it looks like your T may be a swimmer, let’s look at the importance of water in your tarantula’s life.
1. Tarantulas and Dehydration
Dehydration is one of the leading causes of death of pet tarantulas. Although supplying a tarantula with 24/7 access to water is a hotly debated topic, I am going to assume that you’ve made up your mind and decided to join team ‘water dish’.
If you ask me, that was a good decision to make because a water dish does not only provide your T with water to drink but also plays a role in regulating the humidity of its enclosure.
However, if you live in a very dry climate, a water dish alone may not be enough to boost the humidity your T needs to stay hydrated, and that is why your tarantula is hovering over or even sitting in the water.
To help increase the humidity, even more, tarantula keepers will spray the substrate and sides of the enclosure when needed. However, it’s easy to drown your tarantula this way.
Okay, I know that sounds a little dramatic, but it’s actually true. A tarantula’s book lungs don’t have the mechanism to remove water from the air it breathes, so if the air is too wet, your T will essentially drown with every breath it takes.
Humidity levels should be kept between 60 and 70%, but it is a good idea to do some research on the species of tarantula you own. Some tarantulas do come from drier climates and will hate an overly moist enclosure.
- Top tip: Overfill the water dish a little to soak the surrounding substrate. This will increase humidity levels.
2. Tarantula in Pre-Molt
This section actually ties in with the previous once since it’s also inherently about dehydration. When a tarantula is in the pre-molt phase, it is preparing to shed its old exoskeleton. During this process, the tarantula should be well hydrated to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Dehydration can lead to your tarantula getting stuck in its old skin, and this is dangerous as it can lead to death.
Your T may be feeling that it is too dehydrated to safely molt, and that is why it is lounging around in its water dish. The moisture will soften the old exoskeleton and act as lubrication during the actual molting.
3. Nematode Worms
Now, the chance of this being the reason behind your spidey liking its water bowl too much is very unlikely. However, it’s good to cover all your bases when you’re caring for a living creature.
These microscopic non-segmented worms are found in soil around the world. Although most species are harmless to tarantulas, Steinernema sp. is dangerous as they transmit bacteria that are lethal to its host.
These parasites penetrate their host through a small opening – in the case of tarantulas, it will be the book lungs or the anus – and then spreads throughout the spider’s entire body. During the final stages of infection, the worms will emerge through the tarantula’s mouth.
A tarantula infected with nematode worms will be restless, their spinning patterns will be unusual, an unfamiliar sweet smell will come from their enclosure, the tarantula will drool in ways not to be confused with normal cleaning behavior, and the tarantula will spend a lot of time around or in its water dish.
In the final stages of infection, a white sticky substance will appear around the mouth.
I know, sounds gross and worrying, but as I said, this is a worst-case scenario. To put your mind at ease, gently shake your tarantula’s enclosure. A healthy spider will steady itself with all its legs and place its palps on the floor.
If your spider is infected, the white mass around its mouth is holding its palps permanently under the chelicerae, making it impossible to move.
Also, if your spider eats, nematode worms are most likely not present.
What To Do When Your Tarantula Is Dehydrated
If you pay extra attention to your tarantula’s enclosure and match it with your T’s needs, it will be a hydrated and happy spider and issues like getting stuck when molting don’t even have to cross your mind.
But, we’re only human, and at times, mistakes get made. Here are some signs that will show you are dealing with a parched tarantula and some tips to get your T hydrated.
Look out for the following to spot a dehydrated T:
- Lethargy and slow-moving
- Small and shriveled abdomen
- In a semi-death curl position
And, of course, sitting in water is another sign but not as worrisome as the others because spraying the substrate and sides of the enclosure should do the trick to put some moisture back into the air and subsequently, into your T.
Lethargy, a shriveled abdomen, and a semi-death curl position are more advanced symptoms of dehydration, and you need to act fast.
First things first, create a makeshift ICU for your dehydrated tarantula.
- Find a container big enough to keep your tarantula and a water dish in. Size of the container should limit unnecessary movement.
- Add ventilation holes to the container.
- Wet paper towels and line container.
- Put your tarantula in ICU.
If your tarantula is already in a semi-death curl, you can take things a step further and feed your tarantula water. Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures, so grab yourself an eyedropper and some water and let’s get to it!
Gently and slowly flip your tarantula on its back. Take the eyedropper that is filled with water and drop a small amount of water onto your tarantula’s mouth. If the T is very thirsty, it will sip up the droplet.
Continue doing this until your T stops drinking. Now you can flip your tarantula over and put it in ICU.
If you check back in 10 hours, your tarantula will be all plump and hydrated. You’re welcome to put it back in its enclosure – humidity permitted.
There you go, the most probable reasons why your tarantula is sitting in water. But, of course, you can’t rule out that your T is just a weirdo that badly wants to go for a swim and is making do with the little splash pool you call a water dish.
Don’t believe me? Check out this video of a tarantula practicing its breaststroke.