In this article, we will be taking a look at a number of substrates for tarantulas that have proven very popular amongst the tarantula owning community over the years. We would like to point out that some types of tarantula may prefer one of these types of substrate over another but this is a general list of the best products out there.
Each of these base layers has a proven history of being an effective substrate as well as having a sizable amount of the tarantula owning community using it as their go-to substrate. As we cover each of the products in greater detail throughout the article, we will also be offering any little tips or tricks that we have managed to pick up to help make your experience with that option as easy as possible for both you and your pet tarantula.
100% Sphagnum Peat Moss
We have seen a number of people posting their worries online about peat mosses ability to hold its shape. Tarantulas tend to web up any burrows that they make to reinforce them and help them hold their shape anyway so there’s no need to worry.
If you choose to source your own Sphagnum Peat Moss for your tarantula then be careful of products that are labeled as “organic”. Although rare these days, it can mean that the moss has had manure added to it before shipping. As you can imagine, this can cause no end of issues when added to your tarantula’s terrarium.
While doing our research for this post we found the community poll on what tarantula owners use as their substrate as shown in the image below. As you can see, using 100% peat moss was the most popular choice in the poll.
Although there are a number of different types of sphagnum peat that you can pick up, Canadian peat moss has the best reputation for a substrate amongst the tarantula owning community. When looking for your own sphagnum moss you can check the ingredients listed on the packaging, if it says 100% sphagnum moss (some companies will only list it as 99% sphagnum moss) then it is usually good to use with your tarantula.
One word of warning if you do choose to use sphagnum peat moss for your tarantula is that if it dehydrates too much it can be a pain to rehydrate. The best way to work around this is to check your terrariums regularly and rehydrate as required.
If for some reason it does dehydrate too much then you can usually rehydrate it by gradually adding small amounts of water to it. This will prevent any water build up at the bottom of the terrarium while also preventing any puddles building up. Some people do choose to add a small amount of coco fiber in with their peat moss to help with this but it is not required if you are able to check your tank at least once each day.
100% Potting Soil
Potting soil is able to hold its moisture without issue and is also easy to rehydrate when needed. If you have a breed of tarantula that like to burrow then potting soil can be a good second choice if you are unable to pick up any sphagnum moss. You will have to keep an eye on how damp the soil is as the dryer it becomes the harder it will be for your tarantula to burrow into it.
Similar to choosing your own sphagnum moss product, many potting soil products have additional ingredients mixed in with it as it is designed for use in gardening and not as a substrate. If you see lime, fertilizer, pesticides, pine mulch or extraneous additives listed on the ingredients list avoid the product.
50/50 Potting Soil And Sphagnum Peat Moss
Next up on our list of best substrates for tarantulas is our first hybrid substrate. Simply mix a high-quality sphagnum moss with a high-quality potting soil. Although at the time of writing, using one hundred percent of either material is more popular amongst the tarantula owning community, this hybrid substrate is quickly increasing in popularity.
Using a 50/50 mix increases the lifetime of the substrate by slowing down the development of mold and other common issues that result in needing to change the substrate in your terrarium sooner. When mixed, the substrate will still hold moisture well and still be able to hold the shape that your tarantula burrows it into, especially when webbed up. Just be sure to keep the substrate damp enough as one of the most common problems for burrowing tarantulas is their substrate becoming too dry and either preventing them or making it difficult to burrow.
Although the initial cost of using this 50/50 hybrid is initially higher than using a one hundred percent mix of either product, the cost does balance out over time provided you store your bags in a suitable place allowing you to use the whole content of the bags.
Depending on where you look online, you may see people recommending that you base your sphagnum moss and potting soil before adding it to your tarantula’s terrarium but this is now seen as out of date advice provided you are sourcing your materials from a reputable brand.
The developments in how soil is processed prior to shipping massively reduce the chances of you having bacterial, fungal, or parasitic problems these days and thus removing the need to bake your soil. Another common problem was with mites but many tarantula owners report that they no longer bake their soil and have no problems.
50/50 Sphagnum Peat Moss And Vermiculite
Next up on our list is another hybrid substrate, this time it is made up of fifty percent high-quality sphagnum moss and fifty percent high-quality vermiculite. The idea behind this hybrid is to take the idea of the sphagnum moss and soil hybrid to the next level. The vermiculite helps to hold off the growth of any mold longer increasing the durations between required substrate changes in your tarantula’s tarantula.
Vermiculite had a bad rap in the past due to issues long ago when a single vermiculite quarry became contaminated and caused a bunch of problems. Since then it has managed to claw back its reputation and tarantula owners are starting to use it again although many people feel that it is more trouble than its worth and prefer to just use a substrate made up of one hundred percent sphagnum moss instead.
Another popular warning spread about the use of vermiculite is that it can cause cancer or clog up your tarantula’s lungs. When researching the cancer part it does seem that it all stems back to the vermiculite quarry contamination incident with no more cases being reported since.
When researching about it being able to clog up your tarantula’s lungs it does seem more based on theory than fact and we could not find a single report that had actually reported this happening to their tarantula. The general opinion within the tarantula owning community is to keep your vermiculite damp and prevent it from getting air born anyway.
That said, there are a lot more tarantula owner who report negative experiences with it such as their tarantulas seemingly afraid of it and avoiding walking on it at all costs due to its strange texture and consistency when not mixed with anything else.
Another problem is that vermiculite does not hold its shape or climb at all. This makes it a terrible substrate if your tarantula likes to burrow as it won’t hold its shape long enough for your tarantula to web up its burrow and may also result in a cave in.
From what we can see when researching the substrate, the majority of the negative thoughts on it stem from the belief that coconut fiber is prone to mold growth when in actual fact it takes longer to begin decaying that peat moss. In actual fact, the mold growth comes from any leftover prey or decomposing matter that is left to rest on the fiber. Provided you keep your terrarium clean then this should not be an issue for you.
If you are using some other type of substrate and you notice that your tarantula substrate is too wet then a coconut fiber based substrate could be perfect for you. Although it holds its humidity well, it also absorbs a surprisingly high amount of water making it easy to keep your tarantula’s terrarium dryer than you would be able to when using some other types of substrate.
Coconut fiber also has a number of natural properties that repel parasites such as mites from it helping to keep any mites or other nasties out of your tarantulas terrarium.
Although we feel this article should provide you with all the knowledge that you need to make an informed decision on what substrate you should be picking up for your pet tarantula, this is an excellent thread that has over 450 replies at the time of writing and is jam-packed with high-quality tarantula substrate related tips.
The video below also has a number of decent tips in it that may also help you out.
One thing that we would like to mention is that you should avoid using any kind of sand or gravel even if you use it as a hybrid and mix it with some other type of substrate. Neither will hold any shape that your tarantula molds it into and they are prone to collapsing presenting a possible danger.
When adding substrate to your tarantula’s terrarium try to add at least one inch of substrate but be sure not to add more than three inches. This does depend on the type and size of the terrarium that you have though so there is some wiggle room but we would recommend always having at least one inch minimum. When deciding how high you want your substrate just remember that all tarantulas are climbers and surprisingly good escape artists.
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pcouture – IMG_2753a – https://flic.kr/p/8MfK7N
Matt Turner – Tarantula – https://flic.kr/p/45xNiQ