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How to Choose Spider Enclosure Size & Type

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.

measure spider enclosure size

How to measure a spider?
 

Spiders, especially tarantulas, 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. 

On the other hand, true spiders are usually measured in Body Length or "BL," which is measured from the front of the cephalothorax to the tip of the abdomen, not including the spinnerets and chelicerae. This measurement excludes the distance the legs can stretch out.

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. Alternatively, you can use graph paper and have the spider walk on it while taking photos to count the squares and get an idea. Remember that spider males usually reach adulthood with a smaller DLS or BL than females.

Suppose you are buying your spider from a breeder. In that case, it is important to clarify if the measurements provided are DLS or BL to avoid confusion, as such measurements can differ substantially. However, we still recommend using the DLS measurement to determine the size of your enclosure; as such reflects the entire length a spider can use in terms of space while moving. 

How to determine spider enclosure size?
 

Get ready to do simple math calculations with your "DLS" measurement. The spider 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
 

JS Enclosure Size

Description: most common pet jumping spiders follow the arboreal enclosure style or setup, and we can make minor adjustments to the previous arboreal suggestions.

  • 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. 

Our "arboreal glass towers" are the perfect enclosure for your jumping spider. We offer eight different sizes, and to help you determine the best size option for your spider, we've created a list of recommendations based on the developmental stage of the average-sized jumping spider, also known as the instar stage vs the height of the enclosure. The suggested sizes are:

  • 6 - 8 cm enclosure: instar 2 to 5.

  • 10 cm enclosure: instar 4 to 6.

  • 12 cm enclosure: instar 5 to 7.

  • 14 cm enclosure: instar 8 & up.

  • 16 cm enclosure: instar 8 & up.

  • 18 cm enclosure: instar 8 & up.

  • 20 cm enclosure: instar 8  & up.


These are general guidelines. As a rule of thumb, smaller spiders fare better in smaller spaces but can benefit from larger enclosures as they grow. However, older spiders often prefer smaller spaces. It's important to note that each spider's activity level and enclosure preferences can be affected by factors such as the decor, texture, and spatial distribution in the enclosure.


Learn more about "How instar stages work"  by clicking the link. Or head over to the "Jumping Spider Enclosure Setup Guide"  for more information.

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 (aueri, leetzi, ritae). 

  7. Typhochlaena seladonia  - Brazilian jewel *(very pretty).

  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.

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