Some Popular Choices, How to Choose
Part I of this article described the many reasons why tarantulas have become very popular as pets, and what some of the pitfalls and common misconceptions might be.
In the second part of this article, we will present some of the popular species that pet owners seem to prefer – beginners and seasoned alike – and what some of the choice criteria may be.
The ideal tarantula pet is one that will survive without a whole lot of frills in a warm house, with a bowl of water and food provided once a month.
Ideally, they should be somewhat docile if you are planning to handle them. If they are agile or skittish, they should stand out in the terrarium due to their colors, behavior, webs or activities. Read on!
- Some Tarantula Species Popular as Pets
The 12 tarantulas listed below are very desirable as pets – especially to those who do not want to overexert themselves.
The females of most of the species below will survive for 20-30 years, whereas the males typically live for 5 years, though there are some that stray from these guidelines.
- Mexican Redleg Tarantulas (Mexican Redknee (Brachypelma smithi); Mexican Painted Redleg (B. emilia); Mexican Fireleg (B. boehmei))
Mexican Redknee Tarantula
Mexican Redknee and their two close cousins, all from the Pacific Coast of Mexico, are often considered to be staples in a collection. Adult females, especially, fill out nicely and exhibit gorgeous colors – with fiery red/yellow/orange leg markings against its dark base color.
Even though they can occasionally threaten, and are especially known to flick hairs, the adults are typically docile and tend to be out in the open most of the day, making them good display specimens.
They are hardy and females live for a long time (more than 40 years at times). Mexican Redknees can be expensive, but their longevity reduces the total cost of owning.
- Honduran Curly-hair Tarantula (B. albopilosum)
Honduran Curly Hair Tarantula
The Honduran Curly Hairs are known for their calm disposition and ease of care. They rarely kick up a fuss, throw hairs or bite, and are hence considered easy to handle.
Also, they are easy to find and not very costly. While not colorful, their abundance of woolly hair and medium to large size make them favorites as pets, especially for newbies.
- Chaco Gold-striped or Goldknee Tarantula (G. aureostriata or G. pulchripes)
Chaco Golden Knee Tarantula
Chaco Golden Knees are big, beautiful and have great coloration – sometimes referred to as the “golden retrievers” among spiders.
They are large (can grow up to 8” in span), easy to keep and very docile. They are good for display since they tend to sit out in the open.
However, this species from Paraguay is hard to find (especially due to bans on the export of wildlife). While they are slowly being bred in captivity, there are a limited number available for purchase.
- Brazilian Black Tarantula (G. pulchra)
Brazilian Black Tarantula
The Brazilian Black has been described as the “Black Labrador” of Tarantulas. While uniform in color, it is resplendently black, large in size and calm in nature.
They are slow to mature but even the males can live for up to 8 years, the females easily last 30. They do not need more moisture than from a filled water dish and room temperature.
The slings (young spiders) like to dig, so some subsoil should be provided for burrowing.
- Greenbottle Blue Tarantula (Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens)
Greenbottle Blue Tarantula – feeding
An extremely popular species, this tarantula is a bit skittish and not ideal for handling.
However, they are brilliantly colored with metallic blue legs and blue-green carapace, weave elaborate silken webs in the mouths of the burrows they live in, and are known to be voracious feeders that can tackle food almost as large as themselves.
They come from the xeric scrub ecoregion of the Caribbean and are also found in the Venezuelan desert. As such, these tarantulas do well in captivity even with new pet spider owners without a lot of experience.
- Pink Zebra Beauty Tarantula (Eupalaestrus campestratus)
Pink Zebra Beauty Tarantula
The Pink Zebra Tarantula is often sought out for both its beauty (as seen above) and its even temperament. While they have the capability, they seldom bite or kick hair.
They are ideal pets at room temperature, though a filled water dish should be kept inside the terrarium to provide some extra moisture for these creatures that normally inhabit rainy environs.
These spiders are not always readily available, the slings are likely to take some time to mature.
- Stripe-Knee (Zebra) Spider (Aphonopelma seemanni)
Costa Rican Striped-Knee Zebra Tarantula
The Costa Rican Striped-Knee Zebra Tarantula is a close and much more colorful cousin of several Aphonopelma genus spiders found all over the American Southwest.
Their habitat ranges over all of Central America – the northern specimens tend to be lighter and less distinctive, while the Costa Rican varieties have more striking colors. These pets are only available as captive-bred.
- Antilles Treespider (Avicularia versicolor)
The Antilles Treespider is not an easy species to keep. It is arboreal and needs an appropriate habitat with specific temperature and humidity requirements.
If you are able to maintain your terrarium suitably, though, the reward will be to view a colorful species which builds silk tubular retreats and have interesting habits. They are agile and not good for handling.
- Salmon Pink Birdeater Tarantula (Lasiodora parahybana)
Salmon Pink Birdeater Tarantula
This is one of the largest spiders on the list, growing 8-10” in size on occasion. Unlike other large spiders, though, as long as the spider is provided with more floor space in lieu of height.
They can grow out of space, and the danger from a bite is real due to its size. The Salmon Pink Birdeater does need a partially moistened subsoil from time to time to avoid dehydration. Slings and young spiders may be skittish, but they calm down with age.
- Chilean Rose or Redhair Tarantula (Grammostola rosea or G. porter)
Chilean Rose Tarantula
The Chilean Rose is one of the most common tarantulas sold as a pet in North America.
Its soaring popularity was owed to its reputation for being easy to handle, ease of care and the fact that an adult female specimen could often be found for under $30.
However, some concerns have been raised about the Chilean Rose along the way, as mentioned below.
The other problem with the Chilean Rose is that its often referred to as a “pet rock” due to its tendency to simply sit at one spot for hours on end.
- Some Choices Facing Beginners
If you are a beginner, many of the spiders described above will work for you.
The best spiders to choose will be the ones that require the least amount of care, are of even temperament, and ones that survive in a warm environment indoors and are not overly sensitive to aridity.
In general, the best beginner species tend to come from the species Brachypelma and Grammostola. They are typically scrub desert or grassland species that do better in hot and dry climates and tend to be docile.
Other popular choices, such as those belonging to Chromatopelma and Avicularia, may be excellent to observe in a terrarium but tend to be more skittish and therefore harder to handle.
One additional tarantula for beginners to consider is the dwarf species, Chilean Flame Tarantula (Euthailis sp red/yellow), shown below. The major drawback is that specimens are hard to come by, and expensive.
If you do find one, they are great as “companion” spiders. They grow, move and react slowly, and are naturally curious and calm. They will often come out of their terrarium and sit on your hand for extended periods of time.
You should also consider whether or not you want to try out a pet that will only last a few years, at least the first time around.
If so, you may want to invest in a male spider, which typically will not live more than a year or three. A female tarantula could easily live for 25-30 years, so you should be sure of your level of commitment before you get one.
- Other Spider Candidates for Pets
There may be other “interesting” spiders that you could conceivably try to house, but most of them do not compare to tarantulas, for a variety of reasons.
For example, consider the species below. They are both fascinating to scientists, but not necessarily to pet owners.
- Jumping Spiders
In general, if you are looking for intelligence in a spider, look no further than jumping spiders or salticides.
These tiny creatures both amuse and alarm scientists by showing a propensity to pre-plan their quest to capture prey and adjusting their hunting tactics based on how their prey then responds.
They have been known to quickly form and reverse associations and learn by trial and error.
Malaysian Jumping Spider
However, Jumping Spiders pose problems for pet owners, for many reasons. They do not look or feel particularly cuddly; they tend to be agile and are often shy or skittish; planning their habitat is more complex than those for tarantulas and they typically die within three years.
Last, but not least, you will need to maintain a stable of roaches, crickets, mealworms and the like if you intend to keep a jumping spider as a pet.
- The World’s Friendliest Spider?
Last year, researchers from Royal Holloway, at the University of London, discovered the Chikunia bilde spider, which along with its cousin the Chikunia nigra, may just be the world’s friendliest spider.
Unlike the normally solitary arachnids, these Indonesian spiders live in harmony in large colonies, not only with their own species, but others as well.
They feed their young, and possibly extend care to the young of other species. They also co-exist with humans, as recounted below:
This is another example of a species that is scientifically fascinating, not to mention a fantastic pest controller for farmers and gardeners, but not necessarily a great choice as a pet.
They are small in size, and the scientists’ fascination with their group behavior is unlikely to excite the average pet owner.
The examples above underscore why tarantulas are often considered to be the best and most consistent bet among casual pet owners looking to form their first terrarium.
- Choosing a Tarantula
Given the many do’s and don’ts mentioned above, and the choices of tarantulas listed, how do you go about finding the right one for yourself? Here are a few basic thoughts that could help.
- Do your Research
There are plenty of books that will guide you towards understanding tarantulas. These will provide insights into what to expect and what not.
To get an accurate grip on pet care, its best to read articles by seasoned breeders, such as those provided on the websites of the British Tarantula Society (https://www.thebts.co.uk/) or American Tarantula Society (http://atshq.org/) forums.
- Choose Non-Venomous Tarantulas?
All tarantulas have venom. However, you can choose species whose venom is not going to be extremely dangerous.
- Choose Non-Aggressive and Slow-Moving or Docile Species?
As mentioned previously, spiders can be fast and agile, or slow-moving and docile.
Choosing a more docile variety will help especially if you feel the urge to handle your pet occasionally.
Most of the Top 10 tarantulas mentioned above share this characteristic.
- Choose Tarantulas that are Easier to Feed
Some tarantulas and other spiders require special diets which could involve finding, fattening and serving food – all involving actions that are not meant for the squeamish.
Find species that are easier to feed, especially if you are squeamish handling the live “food”.
- Buy Captive Bred Tarantulas
There are a number of reasons for making this choice. First, tarantulas captured from the wild are more likely to be skittish and adopt defensive postures, whereas those bred in captivity are possibly less threatened by having humans around.
Second, given disappearing habitats everywhere, supporting captive-breeding is a good way to propagate rare and exotic species.
- Choose Spiders that are Colorful and/or Interesting
This is self-evident, but tarantulas that are good “display pets” are natural choices.
- Choice may Depend on Whether you are a Beginner or Experienced
As explained above, beginners will have more constraints in terms of being able to come up to speed on what their pet requires habitat, food and upkeep wise.
Choosing a skittish animal can also prove to be dangerous. They also may not be ready to commit to keeping a pet for decades on end, so a male tarantula may be the right choice.
- Decide which Recommendation to Follow
Sometimes commonly available advice does not tell you the full picture. Do as much research based on updated sources as possible, do not jump into a relationship that could stretch for decades without becoming as knowledgeable as possible about the pet you are about to purchase.
A classic example is the Chilean Rose Tarantula. It was perhaps the most popular pet till a few years back. Then, stories began to emerge about troublesome tendencies displayed by the species.
Among the milder problems was the fact that some of Chilean Roses would stop eating for extended periods (months on end).
This, coupled with the fact that they are sometimes prone to hide and tend to sit in one spot, led to anxious moments for their owners.
But the bigger problem was that there seemed to be “bipolar” specimens that were not calm or docile at all – and caused both distress and injury to their owners.
- All Said and Done …
As the articles show, adopting a tarantula as a pet requires some forethought and planning, especially if you are in it for the long haul. But prepare to be amazed on a regular basis.
Just be sure to exercise adequate caution and respect your pet. Tarantulas are wild animals with millions of years’ worth of survival instincts bred into them.
Enjoy them for what they are, without encroaching on their space in ways that make them react adversely or cause harm to themselves or humans.
If you want to learn more about various insects, then checkout our site categories, we have a bunch of articles there that are totally worth reading:
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All the best
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