If you’re used to keeping other small pets or reptiles, then it would be natural to assume that a tarantula enclosure needs to be cleaned just as frequently. However, this is not the case when you are keeping spiders. The adage, “less is more,” definitely applies in this situation as tarantulas prefer to be left alone.
A tarantula cage only needs to be spot cleaned when there is leftover food, dead prey items, visible old molts, a fungus growing on a patch of the substrate, or a dirty water dish. To spot clean a spider tank, you will need long tongs to keep your hands out of the enclosure. Occasionally, you may want to wipe down the white tarantula poop that accumulates on the walls using a damp paper towel held in the tongs. The substrate very rarely, if ever, needs to be fully emptied.
How often do you have to spot clean a tarantula cage?
Although you will very rarely be emptying and cleaning your spider cages, spot cleaning is a task that you will be doing pretty frequently when you keep tarantulas. As a general rule of thumb, you will need to pick out anything from the enclosure that can grow mold every time you offer food or refill water bowls.
Leftover food items should be removed after 24 hours once it’s apparent that the spider does not want them or cannot finish them. The water dish will need to be cleaned or replaced whenever it gets fouled which can happen pretty regularly with some species, especially arboreals. It can simply be dumped and rinsed if the tarantula covers it with the substrate.
A tarantula cage rarely, if ever, needs to have the substrate fully changed. The only time that I fully empty out my tarantula enclosures to replace the substrate is when I rehouse the spider into a larger container or if there is an outbreak of a fungus that spreads throughout the entire tank.
When I rehouse tarantulas, I dump the old substrate into the new tank as long as it’s free of fungus problems.
What tools do you use to spot clean a tarantula cage?
The tools that you will need to do routine maintenance on a basic tarantula cage are very simple. You will need long tongs, a moist paper product to wipe away poop, and possibly some fresh water dishes (I keep a jar of water bottle caps for this purpose).
Make sure you are using long tongs to keep your hands out of the cage while you’re are cleaning. This is both for your safety, and to minimize how much you are disturbing the enclosure for the tarantula’s sake.
Most keepers use tongs that are 10-inches or 12-inches long. An alternative to tongs is 16-inch hemostats. You may also need some moist paper towels, cotton balls, or a foam painter’s brush to clean up the tarantula poop if your spider likes to poop on the walls as opposed to pooping in the water dish or the substrate.
Do you have to remove the tarantula to clean the cage?
You do not have to remove the spider while you spot clean the cage. Doing so would just cause unnecessary stress to the tarantula. Instead, wait until they are in their burrow or web hammock before you start cleaning. You can tap the cage before you start maintenance to give them a head’s up which usually sends them running into their home.
Do you have to wear gloves or a mask to clean a tarantula cage?
Protective gear like gloves or a mask can be helpful when you are dealing with New World species that have urticating hairs.
Many keepers choose not to wear gloves or a mask when they are spot cleaning. This is because they are not disturbing the substrate, which is where the bulk of the hairs would be located (tarantulas will often put down urticating hairs on their molting mat as protection against predators). I personally keep my skin, lungs, and eyes protected even while spot cleaning if I know I’m dealing with a hair flicker because I don’t want to become more sensitive to the hairs.
If you have to disturb the substrate or replace it fully because of a fungus, make sure you are wearing protection if you’re working with a species that has urticating hairs. I like to spray down the substrate before I mess with it in an effort to prevent things from going airborne.
Do I have to wipe the tarantula poop off the walls?
I very rarely worry about removing the poop, except for when it gets really bad on the walls making it hard to see in, or I’m planning on showing someone the tarantulas.
You don’t have to clean off the tarantula poop from the walls, plant leaves, or other tank decorations. It does not harm the spider. That being said, the white splatters will eventually impede your view into the enclosure so you may want to remove it occasionally.
You can wipe off tarantula poop using a damp paper towel held in your tongs, or by using a foam painter’s brush dipped in hot water, as long as you feel like the tarantula is not at risk for bolting. Never use any chemicals to scrub away the poop, you only need to use water.
New World species, with some exceptions, are usually very tolerant of this infrequent maintenance. However, it may not be advisable to attempt scrubbing the poop away if you are keeping Old World species or any other species that is prone to being bolty or bitey.
Do I have to remove the hard water spots on my tarantula cage walls?
If you are using tap water inside your enclosure, then it may start to accumulate hard water spots. You do not have to remove these as they don’t harm the spider. However, you can prevent them from developing by using distilled water instead.
That being said, if you are developing a lot of hard water spots on your walls due to misting the enclosure, then you may want to look into the species-specific husbandry to make sure that’s even necessary to do (for most it is not). Misting the enclosure is not a recommended way to maintain soil moisture.
Do I have to wipe away the webbing occasionally in a tarantula cage?
Despite the fact that the cage may start to look a bit messy with all of the web that gets put down, there is never a need to intentionally mess with a tarantula’s webbing when you’re cleaning the cage.
Aside from being completely unnecessary and potentially stressful for the spider, your tarantula will just put the web back where it wants it to be anyway negating your efforts.
I personally feel that the heavy webbing species are some of the most fascinating to watch, and it’s amazing to see the tunnels they fashion as well as how much webbing they can create in short amounts of time.
Do tarantula cages stink?
A tarantula cage should smell like a container of dirt if it is being properly maintained. It should not have any foul odors coming from it. The only time it will stink is if you are keeping soggy substrate due to poor ventilation, or not promptly removing dead feeders and food boluses.
Cleaning the water dish out whenever it gets dirty is also a task that will prevent a tarantula container from developing a bad odor.
Spiders tend to drop their food bolus and old molts into the water dish, and live feeders will often drown in the bowl. You may notice a foul smell coming from the cage if the tarantula has passed away in its burrow.
Final Thoughts on Cleaning Tarantula Cages
Try not to overthink keeping your tarantula’s cage clean! You do not need to remove or otherwise disturb the webbing, even if it’s looking dirty – the only exception to this is when you have to dispose of something moldy or a dead feeder. Unless your enclosure gets infested with fungus, you do not ever need to replace the substrate during the life of your spider.