are large spiders that belong to the family Theraphosidae. They are Arachnids and not insects.
My fascination with these lovely creatures started when I first saw one in Home Alone (movie) and grew deeper when I read this book in National Bookstore back when I was younger (no private reading!).
I acquired my first tarantula in 2007 and plunged right away in the very addicting hobby of keeping them.
I love spiders even though they have established a wicked image when they appeared in movies and started giving people nightmares. Another social misinformation is that they are “poisonous” and can kill humans with just a single bite. They are always misunderstood and stereotyped as frightening inhabitants of the planet we live in.
But as we separate the facts from the misconceptions, I can say that tarantulas are indeed wonderful creation of evolution.
I used to have a lot of tarantulas including some species of scorpions but now I only got a few left in my rack. I’m neither an expert nor a collector but I will be so glad to help and inform people who are interested in the hobby.
This is a little information page of my own experiences regarding the proper husbandry of the tarantula species that I keep and kept for the past few years. Feel free to comment and share your other thoughts about our beloved Arachnid.
I DON’T RECOMMEND HANDLING TARANTULAS. I JUST DID SOME ON THE DOCILE ONES TO GIVE YOU A POINT OF COMPARISON ON THEIR SIZES AND NOTHING MORE.
I KNOW ALL THE CONSEQUENCES THAT MIGHT HAPPEN TO ME AND TO THE SPIDERS THEMSELVES.
DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME OR ANYWHERE ELSE IF YOU ARE NEW TO THE HOBBY. OR MAYBE, JUST BE CAREFUL.
(Mexican flame knee)
Usually compared to the classic and famous Brachypelma smithi (Mexican red knee), B. auratum offers a different twist from the former. Its legs are not as “bulky” as the B. smithi’s, but the striking red flames on its knees are the just too perfect you’ll never get tired of looking at them.
B. auratum is fairly docile in nature though nervous at times.
It also has a long life span just like the other Brachypelma species which, as they say, can reach 20-25 years or more.
Keeping this species is easy. Give it a tank with drilled holes and dry substrate. Provide a wide and shallow water dish. A weekly misting on the side will be fine. It has an average growth speed but it sometimes go on “hunger strike” and will not eat for weeks.
It is safe to say that in right conditions, you can never go wrong with a Brachypelma auratum.
B. auratum molting here!
(Honduran curly hair)
A very under-rated tarantula maybe because of its drab coloration and the lack of “interesting” characteristics as many people say.
But how about its long gold and tan curly hair, bronze carapace, and a very greedy eating attitude while being calm in nature? And how about being docile, fast grower, long-living, inexpensive, and hardy at the same time?
In my opinion, B. albopilosum is an awesome and one of the best beginner’s tarantula in the hobby.
I use a semi-damp substrate (with dry parts) for this species. Also, provide a water dish (overflow it). It tends to dig and hide in a burrow when it is still young but as it grows bigger, it will find its refuge inside a given “retreat”.
In my experience, B. albopilosum may stop being a heavy-eater when it reaches 4″ DLS so once or twice a week feeding will be enough.
(Mexican fire leg)
B. boehmei is another beautiful tarantula. No doubt about it.
It has an orange carapace and it’s knees have a bright orange-red color that fade down to the feet.
It can be so skittish and a little defensive at times though it is still temperamentally docile. A constant hair flicker and has the most itchy bristles of all the Brachypelma species, in my experience. My hands and arms always itch big time after every tank maintenance.
It can go in a “fasting period” sometimes but most often, it will eat, a lot.
B. boehmei might also live long like the rest of its genus. A good choice for a display-type pet tarantula because proper caring means it can stay longer in your captivity.
A tank with dry substrate and a water dish is enough for keeping it in captivity. Misting the walls of the enclosure once every two weeks is good too.
B. boehmei is definitely a must for every spider collector around. Beauty and attitude in one.
(Mexican red knee)
This is what they call the classic tarantula in the pet trade. It is probably the most popular species because of its docile nature and beautiful orange-red coloration on the “knees”. The adult female B. smithi will reach its decent size of about 6″ DLS and may live between 15 – 40 years.
An enclosure 2-3 times of its size is needed with dry substrate and a water dish (overflow it). Provide a “retreat” and spray the side of the tank with water every week or once every two weeks.
Of course, being a New World terrestrial species, it’s main form of defense is kicking urticating hair. Be careful when cleaning the tank and refilling the water dish.
B. smithi is one of the most suggested first tarantula if you want to start the hobby.
(Green bottle blue)
Having a green carapace, bright orange-red abdomen, and notable blue legs when adult, C. cyaneopubescens is one of the most colorful and most desired Tarantula in the hobby.
Green bottle blue (GBB) tarantulas go into an amazing color transformation as they molt to maturity so it’s a rewarding experience to keep one from sling to adult. They have a somewhat beautiful pattern on their backs when they are younger that will eventually fade.
Not typically aggressive, but they are very nervous and skittish. They also kick urticating hair when threatened (though I’ve never seen mine doing so).
Coming from the scrubs and dry land of Venezuela, keeping GBB in captivity requires a DRY substrate. I repeat, DRY. You can add a water dish but never let the water spill down on the substrate. GBBs hate damp surroundings and it will just make them climb, stressed-out on the walls. It is somehow advisable to add tree barks inside the enclosure because these beautiful tarantulas are also known for webbing the entire cage extensively until they are fully comfortable.
Slings or smaller ones need a bit higher humidity so a weekly misting will do the trick. Adult females may grow up to 6″ DLS and males are usually smaller. They have a huge appetite so you won’t be disappointed during feeding time.
(Costa Rican Tiger Rump)
Known for the stunning “tiger” markings on the back, this is one of the beauties of the genus Cyclosternum. A small tarantula (4-5 inches DLS as maximum size), skittish, and has a very huge appetite.
It usually makes a webbing like the famous Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens and a fast grower, in my opinion. It can be speedy especially when taking down a prey but it can be calm (sometimes) when pre-molt.
It usually flicks hair even when just opening the enclosure, showing the semi-defensive characteristic. Most often, it just sits hungrily on its webbing and waits for something to eat.
A great addition to anyone’s tarantula collection.
(Pink zebra beauty)
Eupalaestrus campestrarus is the most docile species of tarantula that I know. You won’t be turned-off by the beautiful pinkish hair around its abdomen and the yellow stripes on the knees.
Did I say docile? Indeed. I can always let Ampi sit on my palm and she won’t move while I stroke her back and even her underside. She will not even let go when it’s time to put her back in her enclosure.
My daughter can even pick her up anytime at will. But calm as she can be, she’s one good hunter when it’s feeding time. There are times that I feed her twice a day but there are also weeks that she just doesn’t want to eat.
I keep her in a tank with a semi-dry substrate and a water dish. I also provided her with a “retreat” that she doesn’t want to use. She just like to bask in the open and sit motionless.
A “pet rock” as you may call a Eupalaestrus campestratus but it is a very great tarantula for beginners (and kids); for display; or for educating people about these lovely creatures.
It is also a very hardy species. With proper care and maintenance, it will surely stay in your captivity for a very long time. Yes, you can NEVER go wrong with a PZB!
(Chaco golden knee)
Chaco golden knee is yet another under rated species in the hobby. It is very docile in spite of its maximum size of 9″ DLS.
A “gentle giant” in the tarantula world and easy to take care of which make it a suitable pet for beginners. It has bright yellow bands on the knees that makes it attractive and a good display pet.
The most common and ideal starter’s tarantula as they say.
Hardy, docile, and long-living (20 years or more). It is known for its different color morphs (grey-brown-copper-light pink-red) which confuse some people that the other color forms are different species.
In the part of Chile, where it came from, is a very dry country so it needs a very arid environment. DRY SUBSTRATE with a water dish is enough. There are also times when “Roses” fast (or what we call “hunger strike”) and will not eat for months which slows its growth.
The ironic thing about this species is that it has the MOST bite report in the entire hobby. Being labeled as “the beginner’s tarantula” usually make people take this species for granted.
Like I said in the first part of this page, HANDLING TARANTULAS IS NOT ADVISABLE. They are NOT domesticated animals and still has the instinct to bite when threatened.
But there’s no doubt, G. rosea is still popular and one of the prettiest tarantula around. I’m sure almost everybody in the hobby has this species.
My male G. rosea was mated and the female produced 200 slings. A little low in numbers but the fact of a successfully breeding it is a good achievement and learning experience. The next challenge is raising a lot of .cm small slings.
Grammostola rosea RCF
(Red Color Form)
(Vietnamese tiger rump)
A very gorgeous Haplopelma species. This is a burrower-type tarantula that needs a damp (not wet) and deep substrate in order to dig its underground retreat.
Very fast and defensive. She likes to wait for something that will pass near her lair and grabs the helpless prey inside for dinner.
The largest possible leg span (for a female) is 5-6″ DLS.
I love this species and I loathe that most from this genus are caught, cooked, sold to local tourists and eaten on skewers as local delicacies in some parts of Asia like Cambodia (Skuon to be specific) , Thailand, and Vietnam where it is widely distributed.
Check this out!
(Togo starburst baboon)
… is a very fast-moving and shy old-world arboreal tarantula from Africa. It is not actually “aggressive” nor defensive because it tends to run and hide than to fight back when threatened.
It has a grayish-tan coloration with beautiful black markings on the abdomen and carapace. An adult female might grow from 4″ to 5″ DLS (or slightly bigger). Quite small for an arboreal tarantula but somehow “bulkier” than the rest of its kind.
H. maculata’s bite won’t kill you at all but it is said to be the second most venomous tarantula in the world so take extra caution when having one. This is not recommended for beginners.
Togo starburst baboon tarantula is a very good hunter. Having that speed means that it can dash and make a quick kill even if the helpless prey is on the other side of the enclosure. It can also escape that easily too if you’re careless.
Keep it in a vertical enclosure and add some barks and a log retreat. I repeat, this is an arboreal species.
The “Hmac” that I keep apt to settle on the bottom part (the “hide” is below) and fill its lair with a thick webbing. I use dry substrate with a water dish and I spray the side of the tank with water every other week.
(Bahia scarlet bird eater)
In my opinion, it is the most beautiful species in its genus. Lasiodora klugi is another giant tarantula that might grow up to 11″ DLS. The difference between this tarantula and the famous Lasiodora parahybana is that the former is “bulky” while the latter is “leggy”. It’s like comparing Shaq and Yao Ming.
Defensive. Skittish. Will flick urticating bristles when disturbed or threatened.
One of the reasons why I love Lasiodoras is because of their extremely huge appetite. My L. klugi can eat three adult Blaptica dubia roaches at the same time and will eat even on pre-molt stage.
Basic enclosure set-up needed with a wide and shallow water dish. I use semi-damp substrate for this species with some dry parts plus a tree bark.
I tried handling her but she wasn’t really in the mood for love.
(Bahia grey bird eater)
… can reach the maximum leg span of 7″ DLS that is smaller than the other tarantulas in its genus. But don’t under-estimate this one because even though it is not as popular as L. parahybana and L.klugi, it still carries the Lasiodora attitude!
L. striatipes is an adept hunter; consistent hair flicker; and a fast grower too.
If an A. geniculata eats like a very hungry crocodile, a L. striatipes eats like a very hungry dinosaur! It is extremely voracious and doesn’t want to stop eating even on pre-molt stages. It will not be uncertain to bite your hand or anything that goes inside its tank.
I use slightly damp substrate (with dry parts) with a water dish (overflow it). Of course, spraying water on the side of the enclosure every other week is good too.
… is one of the most desired tarantulas in the hobby though it is not an ideal pet for beginners because of its defensive characteristic. It also doesn’t make a very good display tarantula because it is a burrowing-type, Old World species that spends most of its time inside its “hole”.
Though not always visible, P. muticus is still a beautiful species having a rusty (orange) brown coloration and can grow up to 9″ DLS. I think it has the scariest “threat pose” and it makes a hissing noise when in danger. Cool, eh?
Since it is a burrower, it has to be provided with a tank of very deep and moist substrate. A water dish can be good too. A well-ventilated tank will also help in providing the tarantula the right amount of humidity that it needs. King Baboons are slow grower and females will take about 7-8 years before reaching maturity. The handler needs a lot of patience with this species. But in the end, when it grows to its adult size, the whole wait is worth it.
(Philippine dwarf tarantula)
The name speaks for itself. P. baeri is a small species of tarantula found in the Luzon part of the Philippines. Adults grow up to 2″ DLS and typically black-grey-brown in coloration.
It is your burrower type of tarantula so enough moist substrate is needed in order for it to build multiple tunnels as its respective “retreat” and territory.
P. baeri is an Old World tarantula which means it is fast-moving. But unlike the other Old World species, it is not that defensive and can be properly handled. Just give extra care when handling one. Because of its speed, there is a tendency for the spider to escape and get injured.
(as posted here)
(Orange baboon tarantula)
P. murinus is quite small and has the maximum DLS of slightly more or less than 5 inches. But never ever underrate this beautiful Old World tarantula. It has a brilliant orange coloration and has a distinctive golden “star burst” pattern on the carapace. But beside being an attractive species, it is very defensive, fast, and voracious.
Just like the other Old World species, it builds a burrow covered with a thick webbing that serves as its “retreat”. I personally provided mine with a “hide” (half of a clay pot) and she’s fine with it. She just waits inside her hole and just the slightest vibration will set her outside to take down anything that moves there. By the way, I use dry substrate and a water dish for this species.
I really love my Orange Bitey Thing. It’s not the size, it’s the bite.
(our very own cave tarantula)
This is Inday, my female Selenocosmia samarae. One of the Philippines’ beautiful local tarantulas.
A speedy spider; leggy; and a heavy eater too. I’ve never seen her build webbings nor dig tunnels because like my P. murinus, I provided her with a “hide”.
She is doing fine with a slightly moist substrate, a clay pot (retreat), and a water dish. A pretty common set-up.
Beside eating, she also likes to “escape” and I always find her in the comfort room munching on house cockroaches.
(Feather leg baboon)
S. calceatum is like a larger and leggy H. maculata with feather-like bristles on the legs. It is an Old World arboreal tarantula. It lives in trees or in some hollow barks on the ground. Fast and very defensive. Definitely not for beginners and for those who want a more “visible” display-type pet. Moderate humidity is needed for this species: not too wet but not dry.
S. calceatum is a very unpredictable tarantula maybe because you can’t see it often as you want since it is always inside the “retreat” full of heavy webbings. Poking its lair might just end up to intense biting or escaping.
WARNING: It is said to be the most venomous tarantula in the world. Be careful when having this species in captivity.
————F A S T F A C T S————
These are tree-dwelling tarantulas that live entirely in trees or in the hollow barks below. Some examples are the Avicularia and Poecilotheria species. They require delicate care in captivity and need a stable and balance humidity. Thus, they are more challenging to keep.
These are ground dwelling tarantulas that live in holes and fallen tree barks in the wild. These are probably the easiest type of tarantula to take care of. They don’t require much attention if given the proper conditions that they need. Some popular species are from the genus Brachypelma and Grammostola.
From name itself, these tarantulas dig long silk-lined tunnels and live deep down the ground. King baboon and the species from the genus Haplopelma are good examples.
New World Tarantulas are from North and South America. They are fairly docile, calm, and are probably the beginner’s tarantula. They don’t bite right away when threatened but they will kick their urticating hair to put-off the attacker.
Old World Tarantulas on the other hand are “fast-moving” spiders and “defensive” in nature . They are mostly found in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Since they lack the urticating bristles, their main form of defense is their nasty bites.
So in general, New World Tarantulas are more gentle than the Old World Tarantulas. But of course, there are exceptions.
Remember, they are more scared than us than we to them.
“Urticating bristles” are sharp microscopic hair that cover the abdomen of the tarantula. They “kick” it from their backs using their hind legs to launch a cloud of small barbed hair to their potential attacker (or threat) like other animals or even people. The results to humans are skin irritation (some days of itching and redness); uncontrollable sneezing and restricted breathing (when inhaled); and even temporary blindness when it gets in the eyes.
When you unfortunately got in contact with the nasty bristles, you should
(1) Wash the affected area with soap and water or (2) use this:
The venom of tarantulas cannot kill a person though there is the pain similar to a bee or wasp sting. Allergic reaction (and/or slight fever) might occur to children and elder people. They also do not carry any disease that can be picked-up by us or by other pets.
… is the process of shedding the tarantula’s old exoskeleton and producing a bigger one. It is their way of growing. Molting occurs depending on how often you feed your spider. The more you feed your tarantula, the faster it molts and grows, though the shorter its lifespan becomes.
Molting usually takes one to several hours before the tarantula gets out of its old skin. The spider makes a web matting, lies on its back (or side) and starts the process.
This is a very sensitive situation for the tarantula. The spider must not be disturbed in order to avoid stress. Remove any live (uneaten) prey items (especially crickets) that might stress or eat / kill the helpless Arachnid.
Proper humidity is needed so you might wanna spray the side of the enclosure with water or overflow the water dish.
The tarantula will not eat for several days or weeks before a molt. It is the pre-molt stage. Some other signs are big, swelling abdomen; bald patches at the back that will eventually darken; inactivity; and dull coloration.
It will also take several days or weeks for the new exoskeleton to harden AFTER molting so do not disturb or feed the spider right away. The tarantula is still weak at this time because of using too much energy during the molt. You will see the tarantula do its “stretching routine” and adjustments for its new legs and body parts after a few days. I usually give a large adult roach to a tarantula two to three weeks after the molt or I will wait for its fangs to turn black again.
Another great thing in a tarantula’s molt is that you can guarantee and determine its gender through its exuvia (cast skin).
Females have flaps which are called spermathecae that are used in storing sperms. Males obviously do not have these.
Here’s an example of a molt sequence.
WHAT DO I FEED THEM?
Despite of having eight eyes, tarantulas are almost blind and they should be fed live prey so that they can sense it through movements (vibrations). They are adept hunters by nature so they will not heed any dead and unmoving meal.
I feed my pets with these:
image taken from the net (I ran out of the actual stocks)
REMEMBER THAT IF YOU REALLY WANT TO KEEP A TARANTULA FOR PET, YOU MIGHT HAVE TO KEEP THESE AND OTHER INSECT FEEDS IN YOUR HOUSE.
WHERE DO I KEEP THEM?
Here is my little altar.
I keep my tarantulas in custom-made, all-acrylic enclosures made by Marvin Arcena. Small slings and juveniles are kept in small delicups.
My rack’s legs are sunk in little containers filled with water (mixed with dish-washing liquid) to avoid ant attacks. I also put oil in the lower sides in case some ants manage to pass the first defense.
Note: Stagnant water alone might invite mosquitoes to breed there.
IS THAT SOIL?
I use this as the only substrate for my pets.
The ever-trusted Coco Peat Brick from Ace Hardware!
Tarantulas (and other inverts like scorpions) need an appropriate substrate in their tanks. Coco peat (coco dust) has the ability to hold moisture for a very long time that somehow helps to maintain the right amount of humidity a specific tarantula needs.
I also provide each one of them a wide and shallow water dish because tarantulas do drink. If the water dish is too high, I put some rocks or pebbles inside so that the spider won’t drown.
Clay pots and driftwood as hides are not that essential but if you want to really replicate their natural environment, add some in their enclosures. It will also make them calm because tarantulas prefer to stay in dark places since they are nocturnal creatures (active at night only). Do not put them in a place where there is direct sunlight.
1.) 10″ Stainless Forceps for catching feeds and for removing uneaten food and frass (like the one in the picture below).
2.) Some sticks for poking.
3.) Water sprayer for refilling the water dishes and for, err, spraying the walls of the enclosures for controlling humidity.
1. You don’t need to walk a tarantula in the morning and at night.
2. No need to give it a bath. NEVER.
3. Tarantulas don’t shit on the floor and to anywhere else but inside their enclosure. You won’t even notice that they shit.
4. They don’t make loud noises. They don’t smell.
5. It’s OK NOT to feed your tarantula up to a month. Just leave them with a source of water.
6. Tarantulas don’t have lice and ticks though they are prone to mites. But mites are just fine in controlled population.
7. You don’t have to give them vitamins nor take them to the Vet.
8. Tarantulas don’t take up much space in your house. Good pet suggestion for yuppies, busy individuals, and for those who have a small residence like me.
9. Very low maintenance. You don’t have to clean their tanks regularly.
cons: (just to be fair)
1. ADDICTING. Once started, you will then start dreaming of having all the species available around which will lead you to impulse buying.
2. Impulse buying will surely minimize the “life span” of your pay check.
3. Keeping tarantulas means keeping (breeding) different kinds of insects like crickets (males’ chirps are irritating when place inside the house); roaches (some roaches really stink like B. Lateralis); and worms (which will make your mother and sister scream) because it’s not practical spending a lot of money to buy feeders every week, or worst, everyday.
4. Tarantulas won’t love you back. They won’t cuddle you nor play fetch with you.
5. You can’t train your T’s to do tricks like “sit”, “play dead”, or “kill him”.
6. Won’t guard your house not even your room.
7. You will unconsciously be an instant ”basurero” when you have a lot of T’s in your captivity. You will collect gravy dishes; tissue rolls; deli cups; tree barks; branches; broken terra cotta; leaves; rocks; pebbles; even plastic spoons because there will always be a possible use for those junk. Yes, there will always be.
8. You wouldn’t allow anyone spray insecticides and air fresheners near your room. Good luck to mosquitoes and house roaches.
9. Your girlfriend, wife, or any special partner will be jealous to your inverts weeks after your first purchase.
10. People will avoid you because they’ll think you’re a weirdo.