Tarantulas Vs. Spiders, What Is the Difference?

Not many can tell the differences between a spider and a tarantula. They seem pretty similar, with the same number of legs and two body parts. Considering you have to look closer and investigate further to tell them apart, we did the digging on your behalf to find out more about these two arthropods. 

Tarantulas are older, bigger, and stronger than spiders. They also have more complex claws, and they all have hairs on their bodies. In contrast, spiders are usually smaller, with simple claws and can withstand cold temperatures better than tarantulas, and have more developed fangs. 

If you are having trouble differentiating between tarantulas and spiders, we are here to help. We investigated their features to provide all conflicting and resembling characteristics. Read on for the detailed information.

Tarantulas Vs. Spiders

Tarantulas Vs. Spiders

It is common for people to confuse a spider for a tarantula and the other way around. It is best to know what these arachnids have in common alongside their differences to help you as an enthusiast to distinguish them and select one if you wish to keep either. 

Spiders and tarantulas originate from the same order Araneae. Tarantulas belong to the branch Mygalomorphae and spiders to Araneomorphae (true spiders). Secondly, they have the same body parts; the head fused with the thorax to form a cephalothorax and the abdomen. They also possess fangs that may clash in size and structure.

Both male spiders and tarantulas have male palpi, which assist in reproduction, and they use them to deposit sperms to their female counterparts. Moreover, true spiders use their limbs to build webs and sense obstacles on the path. Notably, you can keep these two species, but not all true spiders can make good pets

There are thousands of confirmed spider species in the wild, with only a handful known to make great pets. They are versatile animals and have managed to inhabit almost every part of the globe. Even researchers find it an uphill task to classify them all according to their particular families with the many species in existence.

Spiders reproduce by laying eggs and guard them until they hatch. Unfortunately, some female spider species feed on the males after mating. They are also generally social animals depending on the species, and you can tell by their communal nesting and how they all care for their eggs. These creatures feast on insects and other fleshy meals like frogs and worms. 

Tarantulas are under the same class as spiders. Most of them are brown or black with white markings, or orange abdomen and a green tinge in other body parts. Interestingly, most species molt as they grow, especially in their early ages; a mature one can molt at least once or not molt at all in a year. Among all the spiders, tarantulas can live for up to twenty-five years if under favorable conditions.

Also, they have various predators ranging from fellow arthropods to reptiles such as lizards. Hence, you need to provide a well-fortified terrarium for your pet tarantula. Finally, this arthropod feeds on some small insect reptiles.

With the knowledge of their characteristics, let’s take a look at other differences.


Based on their history and morphology, tarantulas are older than spiders. Research has established that tarantulas are also spiders and are more ancient than the true spiders we know. The two creatures are closely related, but tarantulas are a special type.


Taking a closer look, you will notice that the tarantula is bigger and looks stronger than a true spider. Most are raised and have longer bodies than spiders, with many measuring around 5 to 12 inches and weighing up to 80 grams. On the other hand, the largest spiders can only reach around 4 inches and weigh less depending on the individual.  

Temperature Needs

While true spiders can withstand lower temperatures, tarantulas would rather live in warm regions. Therefore, when you keep tarantulas, it is crucial to provide a heat source during extreme conditions like winter; otherwise, it may be fatal. Spiders have a special antifreeze feature in their bodies that helps them withstand temperatures as low as 41° F. When it is icy, they can lower their normal body functions until the temperatures rise. 

Body Hair

Another distinguishing feature is that all tarantulas are hairy, while some spiders are hairless. With evolution, the creatures use these hairs for their defense to ward off enemies and predators.

Tarantulas primarily effectively use the spiked on their legs and abdomen to irritate their predators to leave them alone. They can also use it as a hunting strategy to kill small insects. However, spiders have no use for these hairs; hence, most don’t possess them. Some people already find them terrifying even without these hairs. 

Hunting Techniques

Most tarantulas do not have impressive silk-spinning abilities like true spiders. Spiders are one of the most skilled hunters in the animal kingdom. They possess around six spinnerets, which help in silk spinning used to trap small insects. Once their meal gets entangled in the web, there is no way out, and the spider will have its meal. 

Only a few tarantulas can spin silk because they only have two spinnerets. As an evolutionary way to help them hunt like their counterparts, some have feet glands that produce silk. The few that make webs use them to keep away predators or trip and trap unwary prey.  


The spiders’ claws are not as complex as tarantulas’. Both creatures have two claws on every leg and use them to grip the ground or surface they walk on. It also helps them walk easily on their spun webs to prevent getting trapped.

Besides the claws, tarantulas have hairy limbs for added grip on surfaces. Being large than spiders, they need better grip to help them move. They can use these furry feet when climbing or descending from high surfaces. If you look at a tarantula’s limb under a microscope, you will notice hundreds of hairs on their footpads called setules.


Looking closely, you will also notice a difference in the two creature’s fangs. For the spider, its fangs are flexible, and they point towards each other. Whenever it has to attack, the fangs move to the side to help them open up. In contrast, tarantulas have sharp and strong teeth-like structures which are parallel and downward facing. Therefore, the teeth only help them bite from the top, and they tuck them inside when not in use.


Generally, spiders and tarantulas’ eyesight is limited since they can only see under light and when the object is in motion. All tarantulas have eight eyes, with the arboreals having more enhanced vision than other species.

Most true spiders, on the contrary, have six or eight eyes, and some cannot see at all. Among the various species, the jumping spiders have the best sight, which is so complex that they can see very tiny details on surfaces. They can also easily tell colors apart, and due to the large centered eyes and certain filters, they can distinguish more colors than humans can. Similarly, they can detect motion using another pair of eyes. 


Most spiders are known to be non-venomous but have deadly bites. Among the deadliest are species like the widow spider, the funnel web, and the brown recluse. These spiders’ venom holds potent neurotoxins that affect the victim’s nervous system. When they bite small insects, the cytotoxin liquefies their prey to render it completely immobile. Since humans are larger than insects, the venom causes blisters and can heal with immediate medical care. 

Read more: Do Spiders Bite Humans for No Reason

Tarantulas are less harmless than these deadly spiders. Victims report the bite to be like a bee sting, but it can be painful and cause nausea in extreme cases. It is still advisable to be cautious around both arachnids since they may cause serious infections and allergic reactions.  


Tarantulas generally live longer than spiders and have a higher value when in captivity. If you take good care of your pet, it can outlive most common pets like dogs. Females of the species tend to live longer, with some reaching thirty years. Males, on the other hand, mostly live for up to seven years. Spiders’ average lifespan is around three years, with only a few exceptions reaching twenty years. Female spiders also live longer than males since males travel long looking for mates and encounter many predators.

Wrap Up

Both tarantulas and spiders make great pets. The only challenge is that they are similar, and it needs a keen eye to tell the differences. You will find tarantulas giant and heavier than true spiders. They are primarily more complex and advanced, especially since they are older than most spider species.

All tarantulas have hairs on their bodies, which is the most noticeable feature to help you better distinguish them from spiders. The advantage with spiders is that they are more hardy, able to withstand extreme cold. Most arachnid lovers prefer keeping tarantulas since they can live longer than spiders, and most are harmless.

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Harvey Wells

I am an intense cool pets lover. I have tortoises, tarantulas and a few other exotic pets. And I would love to share what I have learned.

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