By V. Berba Velasco Jr., Ph.D.
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If you're like me, then you don't really have the luxury of keeping a high-
maintenance pet such as a dog. Even a less demanding pet such as a cat might be
beyond your time constraints. Fish tanks can be difficult too, since it's easy to
under-estimate the time and effort involved in keeping them clean. So what options
do you have?
Well, you could try a snake or one of the hardier lizard varieties. My personal
favorites, however, are tarantulas. That's right—those big, hairy, eight-legged
Contrary to popular belief, tarantulas are not known for being deadly; in fact, there are no
known instances of anyone dying from a tarantula bite. In addition, most of the pet
store specimens that you'll encounter are exceedingly docile, and will generally not
bite unless they are severely provoked.
The most common variety available is the Chilean rose hair tarantula (Grammastola
rosea), which is notoriously gentle and easy to handle. It is also known to have
fairly mild venom, and almost never bites. Other docile and readily available species
include the Honduran curly hair tarantula (Brachypelma albopilosum) and the
Guyana pinktoe tarantula (Avicularia avicularia).
Unlike a dog or a cat, these animals do not require much care. They can go for
weeks without food or water, although regular care is still recommended. They do
not generate much waste either, and so cleaning their cages is easy as well. Some
species do have rather specific humidity requirements, but the most common pet
store varieties are not so demanding. They also require very little space, and most
of them can be kept in plastic shoebox-sized containers. Make sure that their lids fit
tightly though, since these animals can be quite good at escaping.
I do recommend reading up on tarantula care, so as to learn the proper care
requirements for the specimen that you choose. Be aware that some species can be
quite aggressive, and are not recommended for beginners. These species are less
commonly available though, and are generally obtained via mail order. If in doubt,
start with a Chilean rose hair, as this is an excellent beginner species.
Owners should be aware that even within docile species, there can be some
individuals that are more aggressive than others. In addition, there is always the
possibility of an allergic reaction if you are bitten. In theory, this could result in a
potentially fatal anaphylactic shock, although I am not aware of any circumstances in
which this has actually happened. For these reasons, new owners should learn how
to read a tarantula's body language, and should stay away from species that have a
reputation for biting without provocation.
Also, do remember that you never have to actually hold the tarantulas—just as you
never have to actually hold your aquarium fish. I recommend reading up on
handling techniques, so that you can move the animals around without having to
touch them. This can be helpful for those who are squeamish, or who simply wish to
be cautious. When in doubt, err on the side of safety.
If you're not intimidated by the prospect of keeping one of these wondrous
creatures, then I recommend them highly. They can be quite addictive, and they
never fail to entertain.
About the Author:
V. Berba Velasco Jr., Ph.D. is a senior electrical and software engineer at Cellular Technology Ltd (http://www.immunospot.com,
http://www.elispot.cn). The neighborhood children have referred to him as the
“Crocodile Hunter” though, due to his impressive menagerie of magnificent arachnids.