Grammostola pulchra – Brazilian Black Tarantula Caresheet

species-grammostola-pulchra

Back to tarantula species list

Scientific Name: Grammostola pulchra (Mello-Leitão, 1921)

Common Name(s): Brazilian Black Tarantula

Range: Brazil and Uruguay.

Habitat: Grassland and pampas

Experience Level: Beginner/Intermediate

Type: Terrestrial, opportunistic burrower

Size: Leg span up to around 20cm (8″)

Growth rate: Slow

Venom: Mild

range-g-pulchraUrticating hairs: Yes

Temperament: A generally calm and docile species, suitable for beginners though care should be taken due to their large size. They tend to be reluctant to bite and don’t tend to flick hairs as much as many other species making them very desirable for beginners.

Description

It’s not difficult to see where this impressive looking species of tarantula gets its common name – as adults they are jet black with a striking velvety appearance (immature spiders such as the spiderling shown below tend to be brown, taking on their adult colour after several moults). Combined with their striking looks, their impressive size and generally docile and tractable demeanor make them incredibly desirable to enthusiasts, and suitable for beginner tarantula keepers. A ban on export from Brazil however, combined with their slow rate of growth, means that adult specimens tend to be rather expensive.

Keeping G. Pulchripes in Captivity


brazilian-black-slingG. pulchra
 is a terrestrial species which will often burrow if given the opportunity, so a decent depth of substrate (of several inches) should be provided, though many specimens will tend to take up residence in any type of hie provided.

For general care requirements, read the basic guide to tarantula care page which gives a good overview of tarantula husbandry.

An adult Brazilian Black will require a large enclosure such as a large plastic or acrylic tank, or a 10 – 15 gallon aquarium with a suitable top.  Provide a deep, fairly dry substrate (4 – 5 inches of coconut coir, or dry potting soil), plenty of ventilation, and a secure lid.  A large piece of cork bark will serve as a suitable hiding place (half a coconut shell won’t be large enough for an adult!), and a large shallow water dish should be provided at one end of the enclosure which can be overfilled to dampen the substrate slightly at one end of the tank.  No special care requirements are necessary.

A diet of large crickets, cockroaches and locusts should be provided.  But as with all tarantulas, feed prey items of a suitable size (no larger than the spider’s abdomen).

Like with G. pulchripes, one of the reasons for G.Pulchra being so sought after for some people is their tolerance to being handled.  It’s true that this species in general tend to be docile and fairly tolerant to handling, but remember that every individual tarantula is different.  Though they don’t tend to bite and have relatively mild venom, care should be taken since the fangs of an adult are large enough to do mechanical damage.  As always, handling is at the individual’s own risk and should be avoided if possible.


Further reading

The Tarantula Keeper’s Guide Stanley A. Schultz, Marguerite J. Schultz. (2009)

Brazilian Black Tarantula blog

Brachypelma albiceps – Mexican Golden Red Rump Tarantula Caresheet

brachypelma albiceps

Back to tarantula caresheets

Scientific Name: Brachypelma albiceps (Pocock 1903) (Previously B.ruhnaui)

Common Name(s): Mexican golden red rump tarantula

Range: The central highlands of Mexico, particularly Guerrero and Morelos

Habitat: Scrubland and grassland, burrowing under rocks and in abandoned rodent burrows.

Experience Level: Beginner

Type: Terrestrial, burrower

Size: Leg span up to around 13cm (5″)

Growth rate: Medium

Venom: Mild

Urticating hairs: Yes

Temperament: Depends on the individual , while some can be quite docile, some individuals can be somewhat feisty and skittish and are often a little unpredictable so best left as a “look but don’t touch” tarantula.

Description

brachypelma albiceps rangeThe reason for the common name, Mexican Golden Red Rump, is easy to understand.  This striking looking tarantula comes from Central Mexico, has deep red hairs overlaying the black on the abdomen and a light golden carapace, with black legs.

Like all Brachypelma species B.albiceps are CITES II listed which prevents international trade, but they do breed successfully in captivity and so are available on the pet trade, if not quite as commonly as some other Brachypelma species.  Slings tend to be fairly easy to obtain but, typically for a CITES listed tarantula, adult specimens are harder to come by and more expensive.  They are a hardy species however, easy to care for, and with both their striking coloration and tendency to be fairly active and often on display, they are highly sought after.

For general care requirements, read the beginner’s guide to keeping tarantulas page which gives a good overview of tarantula husbandry.

golden-red-rump-tarantula-brachypelma-albicepsAs a medium/large terrestrial tarantula and an opportunistic burrower, a golden red rump will need a glass or plastic enclosure with more floor space than height, with a deep dry substrate (2 – 3 inches of coconut coir, or dry potting soil), and plenty of ventilation. Provide a hiding place (such as half a flower pot, coconut shell, or a piece of cork bark), and a shallow water dish. In my experience B. albiceps don’t tend to be heavy webbers compared with some other Brachypelma species (such as b.albopilosum) and they are quite active, often out on display and often moving things around and rearranging their substrate and cage furniture, making them a fantastic species to watch. They don’t like high humidity (around 50% – 60% is ideal) so don’t mist or spray for adults, but always have a small dish of fresh water available.

A diet of crickets, cockroaches and locusts is ideal. As with all tarantulas, feed prey items of a suitable size – no larger than the spider’s abdomen.

Mexican golden red rump tarantula moulting

B.albiceps moulting (see more pics in this series here)

Premoult B.albiceps showing a large bald patch on the abdomen

Premoult B.albiceps showing a large bald patch on the abdomen

 


Further reading

Stanley A. Schultz, Marguerite J. Schultz. The Tarantula Keeper’s Guide (2009)

 

How To Buy A Tarantula

I’ve had a number of emails and messages recently asking about buying tarantulas, in particular where to buy a tarantula, and how to choose one. So, I thought it would be a good idea to write a post on the subject to save repeating myself over and over.

Where can I buy a tarantula?

In an ideal world, you want to buy a tarantula locally at a specialist store or from a breeder, so you can inspect the specimen, see its condition, get an idea of its temperament and have a good chat with the breeder/dealer. In the real world however, that’s often easier said than done. Unless you are very lucky, your local tarantula dealer is likely to be a pet shop or reptile specialist which also happens to stock a few tarantulas. That will usually severely limit your choice of species, and while some pet stores are good, many have very little knowledge when it comes to tarantulas and often give bad advice.

So what’s the alternative? Well, with tarantulas becoming more and more popular, there are more and more amateurs successfully breeding a wide variety of tarantula species, so you may live nearer to a breeder than you might guess. While it’s certainly worth looking through the local free ads and places like Craigslist for adverts like “Tarantulas for sale” that can be rather hit and miss. Much better to check the specialist tarantula and reptile forums online. Places like Reptile Forums UK and Arachnoboards are not only great places to meet and chat with other tarantula enthusiasts, but you’ll also find lots of people on there selling tarantulas, and offering swaps. Most forums with a classifieds section allow you to search by location, so if you’re lucky you might well find some close by!

Tarantulas for sale online

A major advantage to keeping tarantulas and other inverts over other types of pet, is that if they are packed and sent carefully, they can be safely couriered. That means it’s possible to mail order tarantulas online and have them delivered to your house the very next day!

Because you won’t be there to see the actual tarantula you’re buying if you chose the mail order route, it’s important to only use suppliers you trust. The best way to discover new and trusted suppliers is to ask on forums, and find out from other tarantula keepers where they recommend. As a good starting point though, if you’re looking for tarantulas for sale in the UK I can highly recommend The Spider Shop, and in the US Jamie’s Tarantulas has a good reputation.  If you’re buying from a private individual or an unknown source, ask lots of questions first.  Ask for photos of the actual spider you’re buying, ask what courier they use, and how it will be packed.  Ask if they will pack it with a heat pad if the weather is cold.  Ask when it last ate, and last moulted.  Finally, ask them what their terms are if the spider arrives either dead or injured.  Most reputable dealers will give a refund or replacement is a spider is “dead on arrival” so long as you notify them within 24 hours.  This not only covers you if the worst happens, but also ensures they will take care to pack and courier the tarantula carefully and safely.

How to pack or unpack a tarantula

If you do buy a spider by mail order, you’ll need to know how it will be shipped, and how to unpack it. If done correctly, the tarantula should be perfectly safe and secure for the journey, but if done badly it can easily be injured. Rather than reinvent the wheel and go into detail on packing here, check out this excellent article on RFUK about how not to post a tarantula, which also shows you how it should be done!

Even though you’re not planning on packing and posting a T yourself, seeing how it should be done will allow you to understand how to reverse the process and unpack the tarantula carefully when it arrives.

Unpacking your first tarantula can be a nerve wracking experience, especially if you’re at all arachnophobic. The key is planning, and staying calm. First, make sure the enclosure you’ll be transferring your new tarantula into is set up and ready to go. Get your tarantula toolkit ready (long handled soft paintbrush for “nudging”, long handled tweezers for unwrapping the tissue, empty cricket tub or similar to use as a scoop if needed). Choose an uncluttered, safe area to do your unpacking – somewhere that doesn’t have many hiding places should your new tarantula decide to make a run for it! Finally, make sure there are no distractions (put the dog/cat/small child in another room for now!)

First open the outer packaging, do this carefully just in case there has been a packing problem and the inner packaging has somehow come undone (this can’t happen if it was packed well, but better to be careful just in case). Once you get to the inner packaging (usually a tub, or something like a 35mm film pot for slings) place that into the new enclosure, and carefully do the final unwrapping there, using the tongs if necessary.

unpacking-a-tarantula

Once you can see the spider, very gently nudge it using the paintbrush so that it walks out of the packaging and into its new home. Remove the packaging, close the lid, and enjoy your new pet!

Note: New world tarantulas with urticating hairs are likely to shed some hairs during transit, so be careful to dispose of the inner packaging carefully and wash your hands afterwards!

Your new tarantula is likely to be a little stressed from the journey, and will take a few days to get used to its new home. Avoid disturbing it for a few days to allow it to acclimatise, that means no feeding and certainly no handling. Just make sure it has access to water as it may be a little dehydrated from the journey, and then offer it a meal after a few days of settling in.

Grammostola pulchripes – Chaco Golden Knee Tarantula Caresheet

Grammostola pulchripes

Back to tarantula species list

Scientific Name: Grammostola pulchripes (Simon 1892)
(previously Grammostola aureostriata)

Common Name(s): Chaco Golden Knee

Range: The Chaco region of Argentina, and the Grand Chaco region west of the Paraguay river.

Habitat: Grassland and scrub

Experience Level: Beginner/Intermediate

Type: Terrestrial, opportunistic burrower

Size: Leg span up to around 20cm (8″)

Growth rate: Slow/Medium

Venom: Mild

Urticating hairs: Yes

Temperament: A generally calm and docile species, suitable for beginners though care should be taken due to their large size.

Description

Deriving its common name from the golden stripe on each knee (its former latin name was Aureostriata, meaning “golden striped”) this beautiful species grows to an impressive size, yet tends to be calm and docile.  They are a new world terrestrial tarantula, and opportunistic burrower.   They are reported to be one of the fastest growing species in the Grammostola genus, and they also tend to be quite active, though they tend to prefer using an existing hide rather than digging a burrow.  Combined with their striking looks, their generally calm nature and impressive size, and the fact that they tend not to be shy of staying out on display makes them a desirable species both for the beginner tarantula keeper, and for more experienced keepers looking to add a new impressive spider to their collection.

G. pulchripes is often misidentified as Eupalaestrus campestratus (the Pink Zebra Tarantula) which live in the same region.  Chacos coming from Argentina are less hairy than specimens from the Paraguay population, and it’s thought that there may be a third population in Uraguay.

Keeping G. Pulchripes in Captivity

Chaco Golden Knee copyright Flickr user Óscar MéndezG. Pulchripes, as already mentioned, makes an excellent choice as a first tarantula species.  They are generally low maintenance with no special care requirements, and will thrive given the standard husbandry for generally arid, terrestrial species so long as they are given an enlcosure large enough for such a big tarantula.

For general care requirements, read the basic guide to tarantula care page which gives a good overview of tarantula husbandry.

An adult Chaco Golden Knee will require a large enclosure such as a large plastic or acrylic tank, or a 10 – 15 gallon aquarium with a suitable top.  Provide a deep, fairly dry substrate (4 – 5 inches of coconut coir, or dry potting soil), plenty of ventilation, and a secure lid.  A large piece of cork bark will serve as a suitable hiding place (half a coconut shell won’t be large enough for an adult!), and a large shallow water dish should be provided at one end of the enclosure which can be overfilled to dampen the substrate slightly at one end of the tank.

A diet of large crickets, cockroaches and locusts is ideal.  But as with all tarantulas, feed prey items of a suitable size – no larger than the spider’s abdomen.

One of the attractions of G. pulchripes for some people is their tolerance to being handled.  It’s true that this species in general tend to be docile and fairly tolerant to handling, but remember that every individual tarantula is different and that this species can be fast.  While its venom is mild and this species rarely bites, the fangs on a spider this large are more than capable of doing real damage.  At the same time, a fall from even a very small height would easily kill a tarantula of this weight so handle carefully, only if you understand and accept the risks to both yourself and your tarantula.


Further reading

The Tarantula Keeper’s Guide Stanley A. Schultz, Marguerite J. Schultz. (2009)

What Spider is that?  Gabriel, R. (2005) Eupalaestrus campestratus. Journal of the British Tarantula Society 20(2): 50–54

Brachypelma albopilosum – Honduran Curlyhair Tarantula Caresheet

brachypelma albopilosum

Back to species list

Scientific Name: Brachypelma albopilosum (Valerio 1980)

Common Name(s): Curlyhair tarantula (Honduran curlyhair tarantula)

Range: The east of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica

Habitat: Scrubland, brush, and the edges of forest

Experience Level: Beginner

Type: Terrestrial, burrower

Size: Leg span up to around 14cm (5.5″)

Growth rate: Medium

Venom: Mild

Urticating hairs: Yes

Temperament: A very docile species, one of the most handleable tarantulas

Description

The curlyhair gets its name, as you might expect, from the exceptionally long and curly hairs covering its plump body and legs, giving a very distinctive look to offset its rather drab colouration.

Range or Brachypelma albopilosumBeing CITES II listed, as all Brachypelma species are, hasn’t prevented this wonderful tarantula from becoming very popular with keepers, primarily due to their docile nature and tolerance to handling. Most keepers report that their specimens are among the most tractable of all tarantulas, almost never acting skittish or defensive, making them an ideal beginner species. They do have urticating hairs, but they are not quick to flick them.

B. albopilosum breeds readily in captivity, so slings and juveniles are easily obtained and relatively cheap, though like all Brachypelma species adults will tend to be more expensive. They are a hardy species, and faster growing than some other Brachypelma species such as the popular Redknee (B. smithi) which only adds to their popularity. While it’s true they don’t have the beautiful coloration of species such as B. smithi, or even G. rosea, and their unique curly hairs can make them look somewhat “scruffy”, that only adds to their charm and any would be tarantula keeper could do far worse than starting out with one of these wonderful Ts.

For general care requirements, read the beginner’s guide to keeping tarantulas page which gives a good overview of tarantula husbandry.

curlyhairAs a medium/large terrestrial T and an opportunistic burrower, a curlyhair will need a glass or plastic enclosure with more floor space than height, with a deep dry substrate (2 – 3 inches of coconut coir, or dry potting soil), and plenty of ventilation. Provide a hiding place (such as half a flower pot, coconut shell, or a piece of cork bark), and a shallow water dish. In my experience B. albopilosum tend to be heavier webbers than other Brachypelma species. They don’t like high humidity (around 50% – 60% is ideal) so don’t mist or spray for adults, but always have a small dish of fresh water available.

A diet of crickets, cockroaches and locusts is ideal. As with all tarantulas, feed prey items of a suitable size – no larger than the spider’s abdomen.


Further reading

Stanley A. Schultz, Marguerite J. Schultz. The Tarantula Keeper’s Guide (2009)

 

Brachypelma smithi – Mexican Redknee Tarantula Caresheet

species-brachypelma-smithi

Back to species list

Scientific Name: Brachypelma smithi (F.O. Pickard-Cambridge 1897)

Common Name(s): Mexican Redknee (Mexican Red-kneed tarantula)

Range: Southwestern Mexico

Habitat: Dry scrubland and brush

Experience Level: Beginner

Type: Terrestrial, burrower

Size: Leg span up to around 15cm (6″)

Growth rate: Slow

Venom: Mild

Urticating hairs: Yes

Temperament: A generally docile species, though many will flick hairs quite readily.

Description

The beautiful Mexican Red Knee is the most iconic of all tarantula species, having been a popular pet species, and its appearance in a number of Hollywood movies and TV shows including Home Alone, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and several James Bond films to name just a few.

range-b-smithiOne look at this impressive tarantula and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular.  A large, robust looking spider with bright banded coloration, from deep blacks to oranges and the distinctive dark orange or red colour on the legs.  Females are full bodied and reach a leg span of around 15cm (6 inches).  They are also believed to be one of the longest living species, with females living 25 years or more in captivity.

They were once by far the most popular species of tarantula. but the entire brachypelma genus were added to appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) treaty in 1985, which prevented their export from Mexico, and effectively stopped international trade.  However, B. smithi breeds quite readily in captivity, so it’s still widely available though adult specimens in particular are markedly more expensive than some other tarantulas.

Keeping B. Smithi in Captivity

B. smithi makes a hardy and low maintenance pet.  As a terrestrial, new world species with low humidity requirements, the Mexican Redknee is one of the simplest tarantulas to care for, and is suitable for beginners to the hobby.

For general care requirements, read the beginner’s guide to tarantula care page which gives a good overview of tarantula husbandry.

As a ground dwelling burrower, your redknee will need a glass or plastic enclosure with more floor space than height, with a deep dry substrate (2 – 3 inches of coconut coir, or dry potting soil), and plenty of ventilation.  Provide a hiding place (such as half a flower pot, coconut shell, or a piece of cork bark), and a shallow water dish.  Brachypelma species don’t like high humidity (around 50% – 60% is ideal) so don’t mist or spray, but always have a small dish of fresh water available.

bsmithi-bald-spotA diet of crickets, cockroaches and locusts is ideal.  As with all tarantulas, feed prey items of a suitable size – no larger than the spider’s abdomen.  Redknees tend to be good eaters, so if they seem uninterested in food you can be fairly sure they will soon moult.  Since they like to flick hairs, there will likely be a bald spot on the abdomen and this will darken in premoult (picture shows a bald spot on a female red knee, when in premoult this will look a lot darker).


Further reading

Distribution and Natural History of Mexican Species of Brachypelma and Brachypelmides
A. Locht, M. Yanez and I. Vazquez – JOURNAL OF ARACHNOLOGY, 1999
 (PDF)

Stanley A. Schultz, Marguerite J. Schultz. The Tarantula Keeper’s Guide  (2009)

Brachypelma smithi in the wild – www.mantid.nl