Keepers new to the hobby often feel overwhelmed with all of the feeding options that you can use for tarantulas. It isn’t uncommon to encounter someone wondering if they have to use live prey for their spiders, whether it’s due to the convenience factor of pre-killed or because they are squeamish about feeding live insects.
With the exception of very young specimens, tarantulas require live food. Small slings will often scavenge feed on pre-killed prey items. However, this tendency wanes the older they get. If you get a pet tarantula, then you will need to be comfortable feeding it live crickets, roaches, mealworms, and other types of feeder insects. You will not be able to use freeze-dried crickets or an artificial diet for your spiders.
Will a tarantula eat dead crickets or other insects?
Young tarantulas and slings will typically scavenge feed on dead insects readily. This makes them really easy to keep as long as you always have mealworms on hand (just cut the mealworms into the perfect meal-sized pieces for the baby spiders).
Adults generally show zero interest in prey that does not move. Occasionally an adult specimen can be enticed by a dead feeder that is wiggled in front of it, but I would not count on being able to do this regularly.
Accepting pre-killed food isn’t a species-wide trait, so you won’t be able to get a concrete answer to the question, “Will my B. smithi eat dead feeders?” Some individual specimens may sometimes accept dead prey, while others will completely ignore it.
Plan on having to buy, or breed, a source of live feeder insects for your tarantulas. Some hobbyists keep a large enough collection of spiders to justify breeding colonies of feeder insects.
Doing so ensures that they always have food on hand, even when pet stores are experiencing shortages (cricket shortages are surprisingly common).
Will tarantulas eat an artificial diet?
People considering the hobby of keeping tarantulas occasionally ask if it’s possible to feed spiders without having to kill insects.
There is not an artificial diet meant for tarantulas kept in captivity. You won’t be going down to the pet store for spider chow unless crickets and mealworms count!
While they may possibly scavenge on feeders that are already dead, especially if the dead prey is wiggled to simulate a struggle, a completely artificial insect-free diet is highly infeasible.
If you aren’t comfortable with the thought of a spider eating insects, and potentially having to incapacitate the prey for slings, then you may want to consider a different pet that has not evolved to be a predator.
Although that may sound harsh, it’s just the reality of keeping an animal as a pet that has evolved to eat other animals.
Will tarantulas eat freeze-dried crickets?
Freeze-dried crickets are not a suitable food source for tarantulas. There is no moisture left in freeze-dried insects, and tarantulas derive a lot of their hydration from their prey.
Some people have success using frozen crickets and roaches for their slings and juveniles, though. They will freeze excess crickets that they know will die before they are able to feed them off, or will specifically freeze a certain size to make sure they always have it on hand. Adults tarantulas will most likely not be interested.
Can tarantulas eat canned feeder insects?
Possibly. You may be able to get very young specimens to successfully scavenge off of canned crickets and similar fare (not freeze-dried). However, adult tarantulas will refuse them.
Just to clarify, canned crickets are not dried. They are still juicy for lack of a better term.
Many new keepers are initially hesitant to use life prey because they don’t want escapees. If you’re worried about live crickets escaping into the house, then consider using mealworms instead.
Mealworms make a great live prey option as they live a decently long time, and they don’t stink like a container of crickets can.
What is the easiest way to feed a tarantula?
Tarantulas are definitely what I would consider a low-maintenance pet. There really isn’t much you need to fuss about to keep them healthy and thriving. For the most part, they don’t even require attention every day, so I’m not sure you can get any more “lazy” than that when it comes to keeping a pet.
The easiest way to feed a pet spider would be to offer it all of its prey items in one sitting, as opposed to offering it one insect at a time. For example, this may mean that you are giving an adult specimen 6-9 crickets at a time.
This is completely fine as the tarantula will just round them all up into a cricket ball. Stick to a single prey item for younger specimens. There really isn’t a lazy way to go about caring for slings, though.
Always remember to remove any uneaten feeders within 24 hours, especially if you go the route of dropping in a bunch of them at one time. Live prey should not be left in with your tarantula.
Do tarantulas eat every day?
Unlike most other pets, tarantulas do not have to eat every day. In fact, offering them food so frequently will result in an obese spider.
When a tarantula’s abdomen is overly distended, they are at a higher risk for ruptures and other injuries related to being so heavy-bodied. Even arboreals will become clumsier and have a difficult time climbing the walls.
Feed adult tarantulas once every 7-14 days, and offer juveniles food weekly. Slings can be offered food 2-3 times a week if they will take it.
Always make sure you check the size of the abdomen before offering more food. If the abdomen is still plump, then you may want to consider waiting to offer food until the next scheduled feeding.
Do tarantulas eat fruit?
Surprisingly, some tarantulas have been caught chewing on pieces of fruit. However, they are not eating it in the way that they do crickets and other feeder insects, so don’t start offering your T fruit instead of feeders!
When tarantulas show interest in fruit the spider is trying to extract moisture. It’s essentially getting a drink. There are reports of this happening with cantaloupe and banana.
Final Thoughts on Feeding Tarantulas Live Prey
If you’re hoping for a pet that can eat dead critters in a can, then a tarantula probably isn’t the right choice for you. They will need to be regularly offered a variety of live feeder insects, such as crickets, mealworms, and cockroaches. Although tiny slings often readily take prekilled prey, this doesn’t apply to most adults, and no tarantula is going to be interested in eating freeze-dried bugs from a jar.