How to Choose SPider Enclosure Size & Type

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Spiders and most insects or critters need a minimum enclosure dimension of two to three times their body length, often measured diagonally. Learn how to measure and choose the right enclosure size & type as well as style with this guide. We will mainly cover Jumping spiders (Spoods), Tarantulas and other species that may fall under the same recommendations.

You will need to calculate the leg span of your spider, as the measurement can be used to determine the ideal enclosure size. Research care sheets for the expected growth timeline and final adult dimensions. Such information helps determine how many times and how often the spider will need to be upgraded and rehomed. Last, the care sheet research will also help determine humidity, temperature and ventilation requirements, and the type and quantity of substrate needed.

How to measure a spider?
 

Spiders are measured as stretched out; this is called outstretched diagonal leg span or "DLS," crossing the spider from the tip of the top leg to the bottom leg, the legs as straight as possible without bends on the knees. Measuring a live specimen is relatively complex compared to a moult, but it can be done with a ruler and the spider in a relaxed position; this yields more of an estimation as the legs may not be stretched, and you may need to add a bit more. A few photos next to a ruler from different angles in the enclosure can be used for reference. Remember that spider males usually reach adulthood with a smaller DLS than females.

measure spider enclosure size

Ventilation:
 

 

Ventilation refers to the movement and balance of air and humidity inside and through the enclosure. In general, high-ventilation enclosures will have a humidity similar to the one found outside the enclosure and dry faster. Conversely, enclosures with less ventilation will have a humidity gradient pronouncedly influenced by substrate moisture and can stay humid longer. 

What is Cross- ventilation? - air that flows directly through the enclosure space forces all air inside to move and exit on an opposite side. The benefit is that airflow keeps items dry and reduces mould outbreaks. 

What is the "Stacking-effect"? - Is the movement of air into and out of the enclosure through openings, gaps, screens or lines, resulting from air buoyancy. Buoyancy occurs due to air density differences resulting from temperature and moisture differences. This effect can work in combination with cross-ventilation to maximize airflow.

Click here to learn more about ventilation lines vs holes.

Please do not overwater your spiders; believe it or not, this happens very quickly and often (if it looks wet, it is probably too humid); having the proper humidity in the substrate in an enclosure also helps maintain the optimum balance of humidity and ventilation. 

The enclosure substrate impacts the moisture levels in the contained air directly. The air surrounding the enclosure also impacts the air inside the enclosure via temperature, humidity and movement; from this, we can observe the balance these two aspects maintain. Substrates often comprise coco fibre, vermiculite, peat moss, or potting soil (or a mix). Ensure it is organic and free of chemicals or fertilizers. Do not use sand, pebbles, sharp rocks, wood chips, or anything else that could cut or injure a tarantula.

What Size?
 

Get ready to do simple math calculations with your "DLS" measurement. The enclosure size depends on the leg span or DLS of the spider, and the features depend more on the spider's age (spiderling, juvenile, sub-adult or adult). Below, you will find some general recommendations; find an enclosure that matches the closest size to what you calculated.

Please do not house a spiderling or juvenile in a large enclosure to avoid damage from falls and to facilitate catching feeder insects. Using an overly large enclosure is often not recommended. 

The formula is usually the leg span times 2 to 3 (DLS x #) per side. So, for example, a 2cm terrestrial spider can be housed in a 8 x 6 x 6 cm (LxWxH) enclosure; the formula used in this instance: (2cm x 4) / (2cm x 3) / (2cm x 3).

Should I multiply by 2, 2.5 or 3? Indeed, 2.5 seems to be the number that fits all. If you are going for a cubical length and width proportion, perhaps multiplying by 2.5 is best. On the other hand, if you are looking for a rectangular enclosure, we can multiply the length by 3 and the width by 2. Keep in mind that most spiders feel comfortable in tight spaces.

 

Height, in general, usually requires more than 3 x (times) the DLS due to the space occupied by the substrate. Also, remember that clearance above the ground is another aspect to keep in mind. The overall height of an enclosure is the result of the substrate height plus the top clearance. Excessive top clearance height can be a risk for falls that can cause injury to some species.

The following is a very general breakdown of the types of species and the minimum enclosure setups that can house a wide diversity of species. We can list four categories:

Arboreal Species

Description: such lives mostly above ground in cavities of trees, plants, branches or foliage, with ample airflow.

Length and Width Size: 2 to 3 x leg span (DLS).

Height: bare minimum 4 x leg span (DLS).

Amount of substrate: 1/8 to 1/4 of the enclosure height; some species do not need any. 

Top clearance: most of the enclosure volume.

Ventilation: As much cross ventilation as possible. 

Style: Tall enclosure, much taller than wider, with climbing decorations and airspace vs substrate.

Terrestrial Species

Description: lives on or in the ground,  mostly burrows near the surface, often hiding under rock, bark or leaves, while others create burrows.

  • Length and Width Size: 3 to 4 x DLS for Length, 2 to 3 x DLS for width.

  • Height: 3 to 4 x leg span (DLS).

  • Amount of substrate: 1/2 to 2/3 of the enclosure height.

  • Top clearance: 1 to 2 x leg span (DLS).

  • Ventilation: Cross-ventilation & top ventilation is preferred in most cases. 

  • Style: Cubic or rectangular proportions, usually longer than taller, filled at least halfway with the substrate.

Semi-Arboreal Species

Description: lives and burrows on land or above ground, also shows activity above the substrate level. A semi-arboreal enclosure is usually a terrestrial enclosure with more airspace or top clearance and objects above ground to climb and construct webs on. Semi-arboreal species are not arboreal. Usually, they are mainly terrestrial species that show some arboreal behaviours.

  • Length and Width Size: 3 to 4 x DLS for Length, 2 to 3 x DLS for width.

  • Height: 3 to 4 x leg span (DLS).

  • Amount of substrate: 1/4 to 1/3 of the enclosure height.

  • Top clearance: 2 to 3 x leg span (DLS).

  • Ventilation: Ample cross-ventilation is recommended.

  • Style: Usually a cube or slightly rectangular shape, top clearance height should not be greater than length or width. Otherwise, it would be an arboreal setup.

Fossorial Species

Description: adapted for digging or burrowing; lives primarily but not solely underground, often deep under, dig tunnels that can reach the bottom of the enclosure.

  • Length and Width Size: 2 to 3 x leg span (DLS).

  • Height: bare minimum 4 x leg span (DLS).

  • Amount of substrate: 2/3 to 3/4 of the enclosure height, a decent amount of substrate for burrowing.

  • Top clearance: 1 x leg span (DLS).

  • Ventilation: Top ventilation is preferred in most cases; as such spends more of its time underground. 

  • Style: Tall enclosure mostly filled with substrate. 

Jumping Spider Enclosure Notes:

Description: jumping spiders follow the arboreal enclosure style or setup, and we can make minor adjustments. 

  • Length and Width Size: 4 to 6 leg span (DLS).

  • Height: minimum 8  to 10 leg span (DLS).

  • Amount of substrate: Usually not needed. Small amounts of an inorganic substrate can be used as a humidity buffer or for aesthetical purposes. 

  • Top clearance: most of the enclosure volume.

  • Ventilation: As much cross ventilation as possible. 

  • Style: Much taller enclosure vs length/width, with plenty of climbing and hiding surfaces, big enough to have plenty of exploration areas but also small enough to facilitate capturing prey. Jumping spiders usually make nests or hammocks up high but can also do it on side walls or near the bottom. 

Dwarf Tarantula Enclosure Notes:

Description: the category of dwarf tarantulas is usually assigned to small species under 8 cm (3 inches) in DLS as full-grown adults; such spiders also follow the enclosure guidelines. They are our preferred tarantula species as our equipment better suits spiderlings, juveniles, sub-adults, jumping spiders and dwarf tarantulas. Most of our enclosures currently max out at 24cm in any direction, meaning a spider DLS ratio of 3 places the spider at 8cm max DLS. A dwarf tarantula species can be housed in a compact, elegant setup even as an adult. 

Here is a list of some available dwarf species in Canada that we can suggest (legally available from reputable breeders):

  1. Heterothele villosella - Tanzanian Chestnut Baboon

  2. Neoholothele incei - Trinidad Olive Tarantula

  3. Neischnocolus Sp. panama - Gold Banded Sunburst Dwarf Tarantula *(Top choice).

  4. Davus pentaloris - Guatemalan Tiger Rump

  5. Hapalopus sp. colombia (small) - Pumpkin Patch Tarantula

  6. Cyriocosmus elegans - Trinidad Dwarf Tarantula, the entire Cyriocosmus genus is small. 

  7. Typhochlaena seladonia  - Brazilian jewel

  8. Kochiana brunnipes - Brazilian Dwarf Pink Leg Tarantula

  9. Cardiopelma cf. mascatum or Cardiopelma sp. oaxaca - Orange Flame Rump

  10. Hapalopus sp. columbia (small variation) - Pumpkin Patch