Wondering how often you have to clean your tarantula’s cage is a common question for new keepers. Fortunately, spiders make a very low-maintenance, non-demanding pet to keep.
A tarantula’s enclosure does not need to be cleaned frequently. It only requires spot cleaning so long as it remains free of fungi, like mushrooms and mold. You can do this quickly with tongs whenever you notice old molts, food boluses, or tiny localized spots of mold that haven’t spread yet. The spider is not removed, or generally bothered at all, when you are spot cleaning.
If the cage gets infested with a fungus, then you will have to take the tarantula out and do a complete overhaul of the enclosure adding fresh substrate. The water dish is the only part of the enclosure that you will be frequently cleaning or replacing assuming that you choose to use water bowls with your spiders.
How do you spot clean a tarantula cage?
Spot cleaning just means that you are occasionally removing pieces of uneaten food, boluses (the little balls of bug carcasses the tarantula makes while it’s eating), old molts, and any tiny spots of mold that may start growing.
If you don’t remove the old food it will start to grow a fuzzy mold, so take it out as soon as the tarantula is finished if possible. The frequency at which you have to spot clean will depend on how moisture dependent the species is and how frequently they eat.
Always use long tongs when you are cleaning your enclosures. Don’t reach into your spider tanks with your fingers because this is the easiest way to get bitten. Cages that are kept drier will require less maintenance than the ones that house moisture-dependent species.
As long as you keep up with this type of cage maintenance you will rarely have to do a deep clean on your tanks. By rarely, I mean most of my tarantulas have the same substrate in their enclosures years later that I initially put in there when I set the cage up.
Picking up discarded food and molts doesn’t take very long, and you most likely won’t bother your tarantula while doing this as long as it’s already in its burrow or web hammock. I don’t ruin webbing or disturb tunnels to pull out boluses and molts. Tarantulas are pretty good about doing their own house cleaning, and they will eventually push their trash out of their burrow. I simply remove things as soon as I see them on the surface of the substrate or when they get dropped in the water bowl.
Should you remove tarantula poop from the enclosure?
You’ll find tarantula poop on the sides of the walls, on leaves, and on any decorations or cork bark that is inside the enclosure. If you’re not sure what the poop looks like, it’s the white splatters and streaks that usually end up covering one of the walls of the cage!
The frequency that you clean tarantula poop off of the walls and cage items is going to depend on your individual keeping style. It doesn’t bother the spiders. They prefer to be left alone.
I occasionally clean the poop off of the front walls of the enclosures for aesthetic reasons, or if the visibility gets really poor because of the poop. I never try to scrub it off the leaves or scrape it away from the cork hides.
After a brief scroll through some tarantula forums, it looks like a lot of older keepers also do the same. The only time that I completely clean everything is when I’m moving the tarantula to a completely new enclosure. So the gist of the answer is, removing the poop is done solely for you, the keeper’s, pleasure. The tarantula doesn’t care either way.
How do you clean up tarantula poop?
Most of my tarantulas seem to poop in the same general area of their enclosure every time, usually right outside where they’ve set up their house, which makes occasionally wiping it off pretty easy.
You can use a paper towel dampened with warm water to remove tarantula poop from glass and acrylic. I usually hold the paper towel in between a pair of tongs because I avoid placing my hands in my spider tanks.
Make sure you’re mindful of any dirt or other pieces of the substrate that gets on the paper towel while you’re scrubbing because these things can damage your acrylic.
Another easy method of cleaning off tarantula poop from the container walls or any decorations is to use a long cotton swab that has been dipped in water.
I do this for any bits that are really stuck on so I can scrub with pointed pressure, then switch to the paper towel to finish wiping up. I’ve also seen people mention that they use cotton balls held in chopsticks for this task.
How often do you change the substrate?
The substrate in a tarantula enclosure will rarely if ever need to be completely removed and replaced. If you’re doing this frequently, or even every few months, stop! All you’re doing is stressing the spider out. There are only two big reasons why the substrate would need to be taken out of the tank.
The first is if a fungus spreads through the substrate uncontrollably. You will need to do a complete overhaul if simply removing the affected areas isn’t doing the job. The other reason why you would completely replace the substrate is if you are moving the tarantula to a new cage (and even then, I still dump the old substrate in with the dirt in the new tank).
How do you clean an arboreal tarantula’s cage?
There really isn’t a difference between cleaning an arboreal tarantula’s cage versus a terrestrial T’s cage. You are still going to be removing bits of old food and molts whenever you see them, as well as scraping away any patches of fungi that may pop up (fuzzy mold and mushrooms will happen occasionally).
However, you may notice a difference in how often you need to clean up the poop your arboreal tarantula leaves if having white splatters on the walls of the tank bothers you. It can usually be found on the wall adjacent to the opening of their web tunnel or hammock.
Aside from spot cleaning, the majority of the cleaning that you’ll do in an arboreal tank is wiping off the poop splatters from the walls.
This isn’t because your arboreal poops more, it just happens to be more visible than where most terrestrials leave it. I say most because I have a couple of Aphonopelma where it looks like they spray paint one of the walls in their cage.
In general, arboreal tarantulas (especially Avicularia and Caribena) seem to be the worst offenders when it comes to shooting poop all over their cages. I’ve cleaned the poop off the door of my female C. versicolor’s tank more times in the past eight years than I have all of my terrestrial tarantulas combined.
You don’t have to bother your arboreal tarantula to spot clean their cage or to wipe off poop from the walls. Just wait until they are in their web tunnel or hammock, then start your cleaning tasks.
Should I totally clean out my sling’s container?
The only times you should completely clean out a baby tarantula’s enclosure is when it has outgrown its current one and you are moving it to a new container, or if its current container has entirely been infested with fungi (mold and mushrooms are both fungi).
If you’re only rehousing the sling to a larger home, then all you need to do is add new substrate so that there is enough to fully fill the larger container to the right depth.
The old substrate can be transferred into the new container as long as it doesn’t have any problems with a fungus. If you want to take the time to wipe poop off the decorations or leaves you can do this also at this time.
The general rule of raising tarantulas is keep it simple. Don’t disturb them more than you have to in order to keep them healthy. I watched a video once where someone recommended wiping off the webbing from the leaves and other tank accessories at least monthly. Please don’t do that. Your sling is going to decorate its house however it pleases with webbing anyway.
How often do I have to clean my tarantula’s water bowl?
The frequency that you have to clean the bowl will depend on your individual tarantula. Some will dirty a water bowl almost instantly, while others mostly ignore it except for drinking. Assuming you plan on using water bowls for your tarantula, then you should expect to check them at least every week (but possibly every day depending on the tendencies of the spider).
Tarantulas will often drop old food, leave molts, and kick substrate into the bowls. If the bowl still looks clean, just fill it back up with water. However, if the spider has left a bolus, an old molt, or dirt in the water make sure you take it out and rinse the bowl before refilling it.
In general, if a tarantula puts a bolus or an old molt in their bowl I will immediately change the water and clean the bowl. If they just fill it with substrate I empty the bowl and refill the water. Assuming that I don’t find any “trash” left in the bowl, then I just top the dishes off with water when I do my rounds.
Do you have to completely replace the substrate if there’s mold?
Most keepers agree that fungi in the enclosure is one of those times that the substrate does have to completely be removed if it has spread throughout the substrate (otherwise just scoop out the affected areas).
If the mold is just growing on a small bit of food, or underneath the water dish, then that’s easy to pick out with tongs. Even though most fungi seem to be completely harmless to tarantulas, I tend to be a cautious keeper.
Once a fungus outbreak has spread throughout the substrate, I always remove my spiders to a temporary enclosure while I clean the old container.
Then I clean the tank thoroughly, replace the substrate entirely, and replace the tank decorations if they can’t be cleaned or baked.
Unfortunately, molds and mushrooms can be a pain to eradicate from an enclosure because the spores can get tracked back onto the new substrate via the tarantula’s hairs.
The best way to deal with them is to avoid having an uncontrollable outbreak all together (they will inevitably pop up from time to time), which entails keeping up on spot cleaning, providing adequate ventilation, and never allowing the substrate to remain soggy.
Final Thoughts on Cleaning Tarantula Cages
There isn’t a lot to do to keep a tarantula enclosure clean – just take the time to remove uneaten prey, old molts if you can easily access them, and get rid of anything that may be molding. Unless your tank gets infested with fungus, you will not ever need to completely replace it during the life of your tarantula. Poop on the walls is unsightly for the keeper, but it doesn’t harm the spider, so you don’t have to worry about frequently wiping it off.