Tarantula Sling Care Guide – The Video Version

A picture is worth a thousand words…

When I first became hooked by the hobby, I literally had to be convinced by a vendor to pick up my first spiderlings. True story.

At the time, I was looking for sexed juveniles and adults, and the thought of caring for a tiny, fragile ‘sling was terrifying to me. What would I feed it? How should I give it water? What if the temperature in my house was too low? A thousand daunting scenarios played through my mind, and almost all of them ended with a dead spider.

When I finally took the plunge and ordered my first two 3/4″ slings, I remember the feeling of dread I had waiting for them to be delivered. I was convinced that I had bit off more than I could chew, and now there was no turning back. When they arrived, I fussed over their enclosures, fixated on their burrowing and webbing habits, just about developed an ulcer when one buried itself, and panicked when they inevitably refused meals. I also spent hours on Google researching each seemingly odd or worrisome behavior for some type of reassurance that I wasn’t screwing up. Continue reading

Phormictopus Species Husbandry

Awesome intermediate species tarantulas with plenty of character.

Anyone that follows me on Tom’s Big Spiders, Tumblr, or YouTube has probably picked up on my Phormictopus obsession. I currently keep seven different Phormictopus species, and I am attempting to acquire all the species and color variations available. These spiders have quickly risen to the top of my list of favorite terrestrials. and I’m looking very forward to some future breeding projects with them.

But why the fascination?

I first encountered this genus while perusing the Jamie’s Tarantulas website for something new and interesting. She had just listed some Phormictopus cancerides or “Hatian Brown” slings for sale, and something about them caught my eye. At this point, I had a much smaller collection, and the majority of the specimens I was keeping were the more docile beginner terrestrials. I decided to do some research, and I discoved that most described the P. cancerides as a large brown, ornery tarantula with a bad attitude.

Phormictopus sp. purple

Phormictopus sp. purple

Large and brown? Having just acquired an A. versicolor and two C. cyaneopubescens, I was on the market for more colorful tarantulas. The idea of a “blah” brown spider didn’t quite appeal to me. Of course, after some investigating, I learned that males from this species were a gorgeous purple, and females were more a metallic bronze. This was far from just a big “brown” spider.

P. cancerides female

P. cancerides female

Ornery with a bad attitude? THAT, on the other hand, caught my attention. Most of the Ts I kept were quite calm and well-behaved, and I felt that it was time for me to graduate to something a bit more spirited and “advanced”. The idea of a larger, more feisty spider appealed to me.  It wasn’t that I necessarily wanted to add a giant eight-legged terror to the collection, but I felt I was ready for the challenge if this species turned out to be less than friendly.

In my research, I also learned that this species apparently “required” moist substrate, which was a husbandry requirement that I hadn’t yet contended with. As I had my eye on some Asian terrestrials down the road, this would be a good stepping stone to keeping spiders with more complicated husbandry.

Beautiful blue slings with vicious appetites

After a week or so of research, I decided to pull the trigger and order two P. cancerides slings. When I unpacked them, I was immediately amazed by the color. These two little 1.25″ slings sported a gorgeous a metallic blue sheen that looked nothing like the supposed “brown” tones sported by their adult counterparts. I rehoused each and, as is usually my habit, I offered each its first meal.

And I instantly fell in love.

I watched in awe as one of these gorgeous blue slings bolted across the enclosure and LEAPED on a cricket with so much force that it actually rolled over onto its back for a few seconds while it wrestled with the bug on top of it. I had never seen anything like it. I quickly fed the other and was delighted to discover a similar response.

P. atrichomatus sling

P. atrichomatus sling

Since then, I’ve discovered that all of my Phormictopus species attack their prey with the same fervor, and it honestly never gets old to see one of these guys launch itself at a roach or cricket.

As slings, Phormictopus species do appreciate deep, moist substrate, and the majority will burrow if given the opportunity. For substrate, I use a mix of topsoil, peat, and some vermiculite, and I keep it moist enough that it will hold its shape when squeezed but no water will drip out. As the spiders become established I let the top layers of the sub dry out a bit. This allows the T to burrow to the more moist depths to find the correct humidity level. If I need to add water, I’ll use the end of a paintbrush to carefully put some holes down the side of the enclosure and allow the water to filter down to the lower levels.

Phormictopus sp. purple sling

Phormictopus sp. purple sling

As slings, these guys are voracious eaters. During this period I will feed them 2-3 times a week, depending on the size of the prey. Unlike other species, I’ve found that Phormictopus have no trouble taking down larger prey, so I will often give my little ones crickets that aren’t much smaller than they are. They have only ever refused a meal when in heavy premolt, and even then I had one eat just a couple days before molting.

Get ready for an amazing growth rate

As I’ve stated in my other husbandry articles, my spiders are kept between 70-76° in the winter and about 75-80° in the summer. Although higher temps would obviously lead to faster metabolisms and growth, my Phormictopus species do very well in these ranges. Not only is this a species that will molt very regularly (at one point, mine were molting about every 5-6 weeks as slings), but the amount of size they gain between molts is amazing. After keeping slow-growing Brachypelmas and Grammostolas for a while, I was floored when my P. cancerides slings first molted, putting on about .5″ of size as well as impressive girth.

Phormictopus-before-after-m

Although I started off with small slings, it didn’t take too many months or molts before I had large, hairy bronze spiders. In their first year, my 1.25″ P. cancerides slings reached about 3.5″ in size. Imagine the growth rate if they were kept at higher temps. On the other hand, my 1″ Phormictopus sp. purple slings grew from about 1″ to a leggy 3.75″ (I’m sure the fact that I bought them closer to the summer had something to do with the slightly faster growth rate). So far, my atrichomatus specimens, which I purchased in April as 1.25″ slings, are about 2.75″ or so.

Once mine hit about 2.5″ or so, I slow down the feeding schedule. I currently feed my juveniles a large cricket every five days. For my sub-adult specimens, they get a couple large (1-1.5″) dubia roaches once a week or so. If I have extra large crickets, I’ll sometimes toss a couple in as well for variety.

Housing for Phormictopus species

Due to the fast growth rate, I tend to house my Phormictopus species in larger enclosures than I would for other species. As slings, I usually use 2-quart clear plastic jars or the small Sterilite stackables containers (I believe it’s about 1.75 quarts or so). After filling them up with moist substrate, I supply them with a bottle cap water dish, a cork bark hide with a plant, and a starter burrow.

PhormiCAGE-Canister

2-quart plastic canister (purchased at WalMart for about $2)

Although enclosures this size might seem a little large at first for a 1″ sling, they grow fast and need a bit of extra space to eliminate the need for frequent rehousings. Trust me, they will quickly grow into their new homes.

Small Sterilite stackable container.

Small Sterilite stackable container.

Once my guys reach about 2.5-3″ or so, I will move them to their juvenile enclosures. For these, I use Sterilite clear plastic shoeboxes and set them up more like a terrestrial. They’ll get about 3″ of moist substrate, a cork bark hide, and a water dish. I find that at this size, my Phormictopus have become more bold and will mostly hang out in the open. They no longer burrow, but will retreat to a hide if disturbed.

My Phormictopus sp. blue female's enclosure (a clear Sterilite shoe box)

My Phormictopus sp. blue female’s enclosure (a clear Sterilite shoe box)

My largest specimens (5″ or over) are currently housed in Sterilite 15-quart “ClearView” containers (purchased at the local Target). Once again, they are set up terrestrially with cork bark hide, water dish, and 3-4″ of damp substrate.

Although a lot of the early care information I read about Phormictopus indicated that they needed to be kept moist, I’ve discovered that they do fine if the sub dries out a bit in between as long as they are provided water dishes. Although I start all of mine on moist sub, I let it dry out a bit and periodically moisten down part of the dirt when they are near a molt. I’ve noticed that they don’t seem to gravitate to this moist area, and are quite content to sit on the dry end.

I will note that other keepers still make sure to keep their Phormictopus species moist at all times, and those interested in breeding are often much more careful in keeping the moisture levels up.  However, unlike my Pamphobeteus and Theraphosa, I don’t obsess about it with these guys. If you buy one of these species and the enclosure dries up a bit, they will be fine as long as they have water.

A note about temperament

Phormictopus species have developed a bit of a reputation for being a bit ornery and defensive. I’ve found slings of this genus to be quite fast and skittish, often bolting around their enclosures or to their burrows if disturbed. As they gain some size, they become a bit more bold, often sitting out in the open when their enclosures are opened. Still, they can move quite quickly when motivated, and I’ve heard of instances where they are not reluctant to use their fangs.

Phormictopus sp. Purple

Phormictopus sp. Purple

Out of the seven species I currently keep, I’ve only ever received a threat posture from my sp. purples; they seem to be a bit more high strung than my other species. Personally, I’ve found that if I’m careful not to disturb them when I perform maintenance or feed them, they are relatively calm when they get older. They also seem quite reluctant to kick hairs, which is a huge plus in my book. To date, only one has ever kicked hairs that I’ve witnessed.

Still, these guys get pretty large, with some reaching 8″, and their amazing feeding responses often have them charging anything that enters their enclosure (including a keeper’s tongs or paint brush). Caution should be exercised whenever feeding or performing routine maintenance.

A wonderful stepping stone to faster and feistier species.

For those who have successfully kept some of the beginner species and are looking to graduate to faster, more defensive intermediate species would do well to check out some of the  spiders the Phormictopus genus has to offer.  These are large, hardy,  fast-growing tarantulas with relatively simple husbandry that are very similar to the super-popular Pamphobeteus species in terms of build and temperament.

It’s also worth mentioning that males of these species are often quite colorful, with some sporting beautiful purples and blues after their ultimate molts. This makes discovering that your spider is a male quite a rewarding experience…after all, who doesn’t like purple spiders?

Phormictopus species I currently keep:
  • Phormictopus cancerides
  • Phormictopus sp. purple
  • Phormictopus sp. green
  • Phormictopus sp. blue
  • Phormictopus atrichomatus
  • Phormictopus cautus violet
  • Phormictopus sp. south hispaniola

Power Feeding Tarantulas

Powerfeeding-for-dummies

Or, how to learn to stop worrying and just feed your tarantula when it’s hungry.

Power feeding: The act of accelerating an animal’s growth by increasing temperatures and the amount and/or frequency it is fed.

If you’ve been in the hobby for any amount of time, you’ve likely been privy to a debate between hobbyists about the virtues or dangers of feeding tarantulas too much. Although a less incendiary topic than handling, this subject of “power feeding” still manages to elicit some strong views as folks are seemingly split over whether this is a harmless practice or a detriment to tarantulas’ health and longevity.

I’ve had many new hobbyists contact me over years needlessly worrying about whether or not they are going to overfeed their tarantulas or concerned with this horrible thing called “power feeding” that they’ve heard about and been told to avoid. When I tell folks to feed their slings as often as they want, I often get a response along the lines of, “But isn’t that power feeding? Won’t that shorten the life of my T?” I’ve even be trashed by a concerned hobbyist that told me that feeding my animals more than once a month constituted animal abuse.

Okay then…

In many ways, the term “power feeding” has become a bit of a dirty phrase to some in the hobby … which is ironic, as many informed and experienced hobbyist would argue that it doesn’t even apply to tarantulas. The term actually originated in the herp hobby, particularly when breeding color morphs of ball pythons. While snake breeders have used power feeding for decades in order to quickly get their specimens to breedable size, the practice has been recognized for having adverse effects on the animals’ health. Therefore, the assumption is that the same practice would also be harmful for arachnids.

Unfortunately, comparing snakes to tarantulas, two very different organisms, doesn’t work in this instance. 

The fact is, many expert keepers feel that feeding your tarantulas as much as they will eat has no negative impact on their health and longevity. Although much has been said about the negative impacts it could have on an animal, they point to lack of scientific proof (and point to mounds of keeper anecdotal data that seems to dispel this idea). They argue that the worst that can happen from feeding a spider all it will eat is a fat tarantula that will fast for a while.

Many inexperienced hobbyists will understandably err on the side of caution and avoid this practice for the sake of their animals’ well being. They will unfortunately read about “power feeding” on some website and immediately worry that they might overfeed their pet. Due to this misinformation, they feel strongly that, by allowing their animal to “overindulge”, they are putting its health and lifespan at risk.

However, are they really extending their tarantulas’ lifespans, or is the idea of “power feeding” tarantulas only a myth?

First off, how would one “power feed” tarantulas?

Before we get any further, it’s important to define what supposedly constitutes “power feeding.” Although most folks think power feeding is just increasing the amount of food you give to your tarantula, it’s not quite that simple. To truly power feed, you need to do two things:

  1. Increase the temperature: To get the quick growth “power feeding” is meant to promote, you also need to stimulate the T’s metabolism. This is done by increasing the temperatures to the low 80s for most species. Basically, the warmer the surroundings, the faster your tarantulas will grow. If the temperature in your home is dipping to 68° F (20° C), then your T will not have the fast metabolism required for quick growth. For true “power feeding”, it’s more about speeding up the metabolism than just pumping your T full of food.
  2. Feed the tarantula as much as it will eat:  With its metabolism sped up, it’s now time to increase the frequency food is offered. This can be every day or every couple days, depending on the size of the meal. If you give your .5″ sling a medium cricket to scavenge feed on, it might only be need to be fed a couple more times before it’s ready to molt. If you are feeding smaller, more manageable-sized prey, then it may eat every day to every other day.

It’s really that simple. Unfortunately, many folks will try to feed their Ts more without providing a warmer environment. Doing so will likely result in a fat T who takes its time molting (trust me … I’ve done it). It’s important to remember that higher temperatures have more to do with growth rate than how often you feed.

Now, some folks seem to consider it “power feeding” when you feed a slings multiple times a week. Personally, I think that’s a bit ridiculous. Many tarantulas are at their most voracious when they are slings, and this is a great time to make sure they get as much food as they can take. If the temperatures are high enough, and they are well-fed, this will lead to faster growth (and get your animal out of the delicate sling stage earlier).

Many hobbyists reason that tarantulas know what they are doing; if they want to eat, they’ll eat. If they’re not hungry, they won’t. In the wild, it behooves a sling to grow as fast as possible to outgrow this vulnerable stage. As slings, these animals are at particular risk from predators and the elements. During times when prey is plentiful, they would likely eat as much and as often as possible in order to foster faster growth.

So, why wouldn’t this hold true in captivity?

Even in captivity, tarantulas are most vulnerable during their sling stage. At this time, they are prone to dehydration and extra susceptible to environmental factors like humidity and temperature. Many, if not most, of the sudden deaths reported by keepers are spiderlings. Therefore, many keepers will feed their sling much more often

Personally, I tend to feed my slings as much as they’ll eat in the summer when the temps are around 80 or so for just this reason. Once the sling hits about 1.25-1.5″, I slow the feeding down to one or twice a week (depending on the size of the prey). This has worked very well for me.

Is feeding slings as much as they will eat really “power feeding”? Most experienced keepers would argue NO. Eating while food is available is a natural adaptation that allows for them to quickly grow in the wild.

But what about the adults? Again, many would argue that the “power feeding” really doesn’t apply, at least not in the way it does with snakes. Keepers have discovered that tarantulas will only eat until a certain point, then they stop and prepare to molt. Furthermore, feeding them more often doesn’t make them molt faster; instead they will usually spend quite a bit of time fasting as their bodies have told them they’ve had enough. Therefore, feeding your larger specimen more often isn’t likely to lead to a faster growth rate the way it would with slings.

For example, I have a young adult P. cancerides who I fed large dubia roaches to several times a week. After about a month of living the high life, it stopped eating…and didn’t molt for almost five months. Feeding her as much as she would eat definitely didn’t speed up her growth.

There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence from experienced keepers that seems to indicate that “power feeding” really doesn’t apply to these animals. If that’s the case, then, folks who are choosing to feed their spiders multiple times a week aren’t doing their animals any harm.

Why might a keeper decide to feed her spiders more often?

A new keeper may be thinking, why might someone feed their spiders more often when they can get away with once week? There are a few solid reasons a keeper might partake in this practice.

The keeper is trying to grow a female to maturity faster for breeding purposes. If you’re a breeder with a young female you are hoping to mate, you may not want to wait the several years it could take for her to mature on a normal once a week feeding schedule. Breeders will often jack up the temps and feed females as much as they’ll eat in an attempt to get a breedable specimen faster. This is especially true for folks who pay huge amounts of money to import new species with the hopes of producing some of the first captive bred slings. In this case, the goal is to get a viable sack (and big money for the sought-after spiderlings) as quickly as possible.

The keeper is trying to mature a male faster for breeding purposes. So, you have your female ready, and you’re having a difficult time locating a mature male. Just like in the instance above, the keeper may try to mature a sling or juvenile male more quickly through power feeding to get a mature male faster.

The keeper is trying to grow his/her spiders out of the delicate sling stage faster. Personally, this is something I do. Tarantulas are at their most vulnerable during the sling stage, where they are much more sensitive to environmental conditions and husbandry mistakes. Personally, I want my tiniest guys out of this stage as quickly as possible, so I usually give them as much as they will eat until they reach about 1.25-1.5″ in DLS. At this point, I switch them back to a more normal schedule of about twice a week.

The keeper wants his/her tarantula to grow to adulthood faster for aesthetic reasons.  The fact is, when you tell people that you have tarantulas, they are expecting to see giant hairy spiders. Unfortunately, even the largest of these awesome beasts start off as tiny, fairly unimpressive slings. Some hobbyists opt to power feed in order to get a large display spider faster.

But does feeding your tarantula often shorten its life?

It should be noted that nothing has been done in terms of scientific research as to how power feeding might negatively impact a spider. Most of what we think we know is postulation and guesswork. Until someone does some controlled experiments comparing sac mates that are power fed to those who aren’t, we’ll have to continue with our own observations and anecdotal evidence.

That said, there are keepers that have been in the hobby for decades who seem to find that the idea of overfeeding a tarantula is simply foolish. Their years of collective experience in keeping and breeding has taught them that these animals do not experience the same health issues snakes or mammals would when fed regularly.

So, now that we’ve heard the benefits of feeding spiders whenever they’ll eat, what are some of the perceived issues surrounding this practice. Below is a list of the supposed cons according to folks who are against it.

  • Shortens the lifespan of the tarantula
  • Can cause molting issues
  • Stretched abdominal skin can rupture more easily
  • Some believe it can cause fertility issues in males and females (although this one had been disproved repeatedly)

Now, it must be mentioned that many of these side-effects, like molting and fertility issues, have all been disproved. There are plenty of breeders out there who have fed their Ts often to get them to breeding age, and none have reported issues. As for molting issues, some have argued that in species like Theraphosa stirmi, it can cause bad molts. However, many keepers feed this species as much as it will eat and have no issues whatsoever. Again, this appears to be a myth.

Now, it IS absolutely true that fat spiders are more prone to abdominal ruptures, so this is a very real concern.That said, a properly set up enclosure with the correct amount of substrate and ceiling height would seriously limit the chance of this happening.

But doesn’t “power feeding” reduce lifespans?

The answer is: if it does, it’s usually not enough to worry about. For most species, the only time feeding them more will make a difference on growth rate is when they are slings. As established, they are designed to eat as much as they can during this period, and well fed slings will grow faster than slings fed less often. That said, their growth rates will usually slow down a bit once they put on some size, so the amount of time supposedly sheered off their lifespans would be very short indeed.

Take a look at the charts below. For the first one, I used a hypothetical female tarantula with an average lifespan of 15 years. Due to the longevity of this species, “power feeding” has a very nominal effect on the overall lifespan (the gray area designated by a “?”) In this instance, the amount of time potentially taken off of its life is a matter of months, not years. This is a very small amount of time in the grand scheme of things.

Now, this would be a female with a medium lifespan. Imagine if we were to use a Brachypelma, Aphonopelma, or Grammostola species female. Because they can live 25 years or more, the time power feeding one would take off of its lifespan would be negligible at best.

Personally, I think this is a worthwhile trade-off to ensure my spider better chances earlier in life.

Power-feeding-females-chart

For males, it can be a little bit different. Obviously, males have shorter lifespans as it is, and most will outgrow their female counterparts in the same time span. Therefore, the accelerated growth earlier in the male’s life-cycle may have a more profound effect on its overall lifespan.

In the chart below, we look at a male tarantula with a lifespan of three years. Here, the sped up growth cycle eats away a higher percent of its life. That being said, if you find out that the sling you raised is a male, you don’t have to starve your animal, but a lighter feeding schedule would prolong its life and make up for some of the time lost to power feeding.

Power-feeding-males-chart-w

(Note: The charts above are meant only as approximations, and many factors, including temperature, diet, and the genes of individual species could impact these estimates.)

Either way, these charts illustrate the fact that the sling stage is actually a very small part of a spider’s life cycle, and power feeding a sling at this point in its life really doesn’t impact the tarantula’s lifespan that much at all.

Also, lets not forget that we are still not sure how long some of these spiders can live. So, if the T above were to die in the span of that gray area at the end, we would have no way of knowing if its lifespan had been shortened by early power feeding, or if there were other factors involved.

Just something to think about.

The Verdict

Honestly, I don’t really believe that “power feeding” applies to Tarantulas, and that there is nothing wrong with feeding your pets as much as they will eat. Worst case scenario, you’ll get a fat T that will fast for a bit.

Could it shorten a T’s life? I suppose, but in most cases, if it did shorten the spiders’ lives, it would be by a nominal amount. Personally, I’d rather risk rushing my tarantula through the fragile sling stage than possibly “prolong” its life by withholding food. As long as proper husbandry is followed, and the animals are kept correctly, there really isn’t any harm to the T and its comfort level.

After all, in the wild they exist to eat, mature, and breed.

And, if a keeper wants to savor every minute with their beloved animal as it grows over the years, who’s to judge if she decides not to cut back on the feeding her. These animals are, for many of us, pets, and it would make sense that we would want them with us as long as possible. If this keeper has no interest in breeding, then it would behoove her to not rush its growth.

To each his or her own.

Tarantula Feeding – What, when, and how much to feed

P.-crassipes-eating

Now that I’ve got a tarantula, how do I go about feeding it?

Whether you have a dog, a cat, a hamster, or a pot-bellied pig, if you’re a pet owner, you’ve become accustomed to certain standards of care for your wards. For those of us who have kept these more domesticated pets, we are very used to feeding and providing fresh water to our pets daily, often more than once, and having a variety of conveniently-packaged foods available for their consumption. Most of these pet foods come with handy instructions on just how much to feed your pet, dependent upon the size of the animal. When our furry little friend doesn’t eat for a couple days, we take it as an immediate sign that something is very wrong and seek veterinary care.

Well, now you own a tarantula, and suddenly, all of the rules you’ve learned about pet care go right out the window.

No one sells “Tarantula Chow”, and there are a plethora of feeder insect that would make a good meal for your new pet. There are no “portions”, and determining what size item to drop in with your hungry spider can be cause for stress. As for a feeding schedule, some healthy adult species only need to be fed once a week. And if your T doesn’t eat for a while, it is no cause for immediately alarm. This is an animal that can go months at a time without eating and still stay healthy.

Tarantulas don’t come with instructions, and learning some of the rules and tricks around feeding them can be a stressful and tricky endeavor that involves experience and research. The message boards are often full of posts by newbies asking feeding-related questions like, “How often should I feed?” or “What size item should I offer?” Here, I hope to answer some of the most asked questions and give those new to the hobby one less thing to stress about.

I. Frequency of feedings:

There are a few important points to consider when coming up with a feeding schedule. The life stage of the tarantula, the size of the prey you are feeding it, and the species you are feeding should all be carefully considered when devising any sort of feeding schedule.

Sling? Juvenile? Adult?

Younger tarantulas, like slings and juveniles, are doing a lot of growing and are much more vulnerable than their adult counterparts. Slings are particularly fragile, and keepers report more sudden and unexplained deaths in the sling stage than in adults. In the wild, a spiderling  is particularly vulnerable to predators early in life, so it behooves the young T to eat as much as possible as often as possible so it can quickly grow out of this precarious stage. Therefore, most keepers choose to feed their slings as often as they’ll eat. For many, a feeding schedule of every two or three days for slings is perfect. However, if they are being offered a large prey item, once a week will certainly work.

A lot of folks express concern that they can overfeed a sling. Although some have insisted that a tarantula can become too fat, resulting in organ failure and molting issues, there has been no scientific proof of this, and most keepers believe it to be a myth. Most slings will chow down until they are ready to enter premolt, then they will stop. They will NOT eat until they explode. The only danger posed to a fat T is a possible abdomen rupture from a fall.

Once the tarantula reaches the “juvenile” stage at around 1.5-2″ or so, most keepers ease off on the feeding a bit. A spider of this size is usually out of its fragile sling stage, and growth at this point will slow down a bit. Although you can certainly continue with a more aggressive feeding schedule at this point (see “power feeding” below), it is no longer necessary. At this stage, I usually feed my animals a larger prey item once or twice a week.

For adult tarantulas, you need to also consider the species before settling on frequency. An adult Grammostola porterie/rosea needs only four or five crickets a month to be healthy. Conversely, an adult Therophosa or Pamphobeteus species would eat that in a single meal a couple times a week. Generally, the feisty tropical genera (Therophosa, Phormictopus, Pamphobeteus, Acanthoscurria, Nhandu, etc.) will need larger and more frequent meals.

As an example, my 6″ Pamphobeteus antinous female eats five crickets and one 1.5″ dubia roach in a single week. My 6″ female G. porteri, on the other hand, eats four crickets a month. Both species are healthy and plump, but the feeding schedule for one would definitely not work for the other.

Know the species of T you keep and listen to other keepers about its appetite. If you have questions, ask. Observe the feeding responses and growth rates to determine if more or less is needed.

A word about “power feeding”.

If you’re around the hobby long enough, you’ll hear folks talk about “power feeding” their tarantulas. Power feeding is when the keeper jacks up the heat and feeds his tarantulas as much as they will eat in order to grow them to maturity faster. This is usually done in an effort to get breedable adults as quickly as possible. Although this could shorten a tarantula’s lifespan as it is rushed through various instars (some males may mature in less than a year), there is no proof that this is harmful for the T.

II. What size feeders to use?

A.-theraphosoides

The size of the feeder being given to the tarantula can certainly impact the frequency that you feed the animal. Some keepers choose to feed their specimens smaller prey items more often. Others will offer their Ts much larger insects, then feed them only once a week or so. There is really not any right or wrong way, and the size and schedule comes down to the keeper’s discretion. Personally, I tend to feed medium-sized items a couple times a week.

Many keepers stress about the size of prey they should offer to their spiders. A rule of thumb many keepers use is that the prey item should be no larger than the abdomen of the tarantula. So, a juvenile with a abdomen length of about 5 mm would likely be comfortable with a pinhead cricket. Personally, I feed my slings and juveniles prey items slightly smaller than the total length of their bodies, and adults I feed items no larger than their abdomens. I’ve found that this works very well for me, although it is by no means law. Again, it comes down to the personal preference of the keeper. When in doubt, it makes sense to err on the side of caution and give your T smaller, more manageable prey.

Use your discretion.

Now, these are just guidelines, and it is okay for keepers to deviate from them. Case in point, some species of Ts will actually only attack smaller prey items. My M. balfouri and H. incei gold juveniles, for example, would only take much smaller prey for the longest time. Even when my balfouri juvies were about 1.75 inches, they would only attack small crickets. Conversely, my P. cancerides juveniles would easily take down sub-adult crickets at that size. Observe your Ts and their feeding habits, and feel free to go up or down a prey size as needed.

What to do for tiny slings?

For very small slings (1/4-3/8″ or so) small food can be very difficult to come by. Although B. lateralis roach nymphs can be a good alternative due to their small size, they are not always easy to come by. In these instances, it may be necessary to pre-kill and cut up a larger prey item into a more appropriate size. Spiderlings will scavenge feed, so this is a great way to make sure that they can eat as much as they want while not putting them in danger by dropping in an overly-large prey item.

Although this may sound a bit gross (and, well, it really is!), cutting the leg off of a larger cricket, or cutting a meal worm into smaller pieces is a perfect way to feed your tiny sling. Just carefully place the food chunk in the enclosure and, if the sling is hungry, it will find it. Just be sure to remove any excess the next day, as they may not consume the whole piece. If they don’t finish the item, you might want to wait several days before offering another item.

III. How many items should I feed at a time?

In the cases of slings and juveniles, I would say one prey item per feeding is completely appropriate. At this size, they usually have their hands full with an appropriately-sized food item, and adding a second would only serve to stress the animal.

For some adults, dropping in a more than one item can be an appropriate option. Personally, I tend to use larger insects, like dubia roaches, rather than bombard my tarantulas with a half-dozen spastic crickets. I’ve also seen animals become visibly agitated when more than one item is dropped in.

If you do drop in multiples, be sure anything that isn’t eaten is removed in a timely manner and that animal seems comfortable with taking down multiple feeders.

IV. What are my feeder options?

There are many possibilities when deciding what to feed your Ts. Personally, I find the many inverts available as feeders to be quite convenient, and I will often mix up what I feed my spiders to create a more diverse diet. Here are some of the more common feeder insects available as well as some pros and cons for each.

NOTE: Some folks supplement their larger tarantulas’ diets with vertebrates such as mice, geckos, and snakes. Personally, I’m not a fan of this. Besides being a rough death for the vertebrates, the mess left behind after the tarantula feeds can be a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and pests.

CricketsCrickets: Crickets have long been the go-to feeder insect in the hobby. They are sold at most pet stores in several sizes that make them a convenient feeder insect for almost any size T, and they can be purchased in bulk for those with large collections. They can also be relatively inexpensive if purchased in large quantities. TIP: To keep extras alive, use a large critter keeper or modified plastic storage container, provide egg cartons for a hide, and feed dry oats or fish food. Humidity kills them, so I supply slices of potato for moisture.

PROS:

  • Available in every pet store
  • Convenient pinhead, small, medium, large sizes
  • Non-invasive if they escape

CONS:

  • They can smell quite horrible
  • Can be difficult to keep alive
  • Can eat a molting T
  • Can be pricey when purchased in small quantities

mealwormMealworms: Another readily-available food source for tarantulas. Not only can mealworms be purchased in many different sizes, but they can also be raised rather easily. Unlike other prey items on this list, they can be kept in a refrigerator, meaning you can keep some on hand for when you need them. They are also very easy to reproduce and raise (for a tutorial on how to start a colony, click away!).  TIP: These are a prey item that will dig (often to return later as a black beetle that the T won’t eat), so I will often crush the heads before dropping them in to keep them from burrowing.

PROS:

  • Sold at most pet stores
  • Can be stored in a refrigerator for future use
  • No odor
  • Very easy to raise

CONS:

  • A bit small for some of the larger Ts
  • Can burrow and disappear if given the chance.

SuperwormsSuperworms: Like mealworms, superworms are another beetle larvae that can make for a good tarantula feeder. They are relatively inexpensive, and their larger sizes make them a better choice for larger Ts. They can also be raised and bred in colonies for those interested in always keeping some on hand. However, it needs to be mentioned that these worms WILL bite and eat a tarantula. TIP: To prevent a superworm from injuring or killing a T, either cut off or crush its head before offering it.

PROS:

  • Sold at many pet stores
  • Larger sizes are great for large Ts
  • Can be bred in colonies

CONS:

  • Not all pet stores carry them
  • They bite and injure/kill a T
  • Are a little more involved to raise
  • Can’t be refrigerated for storage

B.-lateralisB. lateralis roaches: Also known as “rusty reds” or “red racers”, these roaches make a wonderful alternative to crickets. They are fast moving, bold little bugs that will stay out in the open rather than dig. Their propensity to explore and move around when dropped into an enclosure makes them a very attractive prey item for Ts. Adults are also a bit larger than crickets, making them a little better for larger Ts. These can be purchased online in bulk, or kept in colonies. TIP: These are fast little roaches who are quite good at escaping when given the chance. Unlike the next roach on this list, given the right conditions, this one could thrive and be a pest in the home.

PROS:

  • Readily available online
  • Don’t burrow
  • Fast movements seem to attract Ts
  • Can be raised in colonies
  • Nymphs are great for small slings

CONS:

  • Not normally available in pet stores
  • If they escape, they can breed in the home
  • Fast and tricky to catch

bdubiamaleandfemale5B. dubia roaches: This tropic roach species can hit sizes of 1.5-2″ making them a great feeder choice for larger tarantulas (I feed most of my large tropical species with B. dubia). They can be purchased as colonies (about $30 shipped), which will produce nymphs of many sizes, providing a food source for slings, juvies, and adults. The one main drawback to this species is that some tarantulas won’t take them. TIP: This roach will freeze and “play dead” when a tarantula approaches, often leading to the T passing it up. They can also dig and hide (I’ve had ones I thought were eaten reappear months later). To prevent either of these scenarios, crush their heads before dropping them in. This will cause them to wander aimlessly keep them from burrowing and playing dead.

PROS:

  • Easy and cheap to raise
  • Adults are large and great for big Ts
  • No odors
  • Won’t breed in most homes if they escape

CONS:

  • Some tarantulas won’t eat them
  • They can burrow and hide
  • They play dead when a T approaches
  • Not usually found in pet stores

These are just a handful of the feeder options available, and some ones that I have experience with. I know hobbyists in the UK often use locusts, which sound like a fantastic food source. There are also waxworms, earthworms, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and lobster roaches. Feel free to experiment with any or all of the available feeders; a diverse diet is always a good thing.

For a wonderful article about some pros and cons of crickets, B. dubia, and B. lateralis roaches, check out A Roach in a Coach is Still … Food !

V. How to feed your tarantula in three easy steps!

I often read about the strange, complicated, and often totally unnecessary rituals some keepers go through when they feed their Ts. Now, I’m not judging, and if it works for you, great. However, I do think that some folks make this process a lot more complicated then it needs to be. In most situations, a tarantula can be feed in three easy steps…

  1. OPEN the enclosure –  Be sure to know where your T is when you take this step, and only open the enclosure as much as you have to.
  2. Drop in the prey item – You don’t have to hold it in front of the T or make it dance with tongs. Just drop it in!
  3. CLOSE the enclosure – Make sure the cage in securely latched and closed.

Congratulations, your tarantula has been fed!

P. vittattaAll joking aside, there is no need to do anything other than what is described above. This is an animal that has evolved over millions of years; they wouldn’t have made it this far if they couldn’t figure out how to eat. Tarantulas are excellent hunters and, in most circumstances, they will have no problems detecting and snatching prey. Don’t worry about dropping the feeder right next to the spider either, as you will chance startling the T. I like to drop it across the enclosure from the tarantula to give it a chance to detect the prey animal and to get a chance to hunt. It is quite fascinating to see how the different species go about capturing their food.

It worth it to note that many tarantulas are nocturnal, so you may want to do your feedings at night before bed. If the feeder hasn’t been consumed by the next morning, remove it. That being said, I feed the majority of mine in the afternoon, and I’ve seen the majority of them, even the “pet holes”, eat.

VI. But what if it doesn’t eat?

If your specimen starts refusing meals, don’t panic. Tarantulas will often refuse food during premolt (read about premolt here), and some species will fast for long periods of time. This is an animal that can go months without eating and still remain healthy, so missed meals are no reason to freak out.

When a T isn’t eating, don’t keep dropping bugs in with it every day. Instead, wait a week or two, drop in a prey item, and watch to see if there is any interest. If the T doesn’t eat, take the item out and try again in another week. Always make sure that fresh water is available.

VII. Tongs are for maintenance!

Finally, in most instances, there is no need to tong-feed your tarantula. I hear so many people new to the hobby using tongs to essentially hand-feed their animals. In most cases, this is completely unnecessary and serves only to put the keeper and the T in danger. Not only can a spider injure a fang if it attacks the tongs, but they’ve been known to run up tongs to escape or bite their owners. And, as someone who keeps feisty and fast Old World tarantulas, trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to try tong feeding an OBT or a pokie!

When in doubt, ask!

This is a hobby in which research and, more importantly, experience brings confidence. Although many of the issues one might encounter when feeding have been addressed above, there are always situations that pop up that might be unusual or rare. Luckily, there are forums and sites like this one that you can go to for help and guidance. Before you panic, though, always remember that tarantulas are tough, adaptive animals that have survived millions of years of evolution and, sometimes, questionable husbandry.

C. cyaneopubescens Feeding Video

It’s been a while since I posted one of these!

While feeding my Ts the other night, I though it would be fun to catch the GBB eating on video. Usually, this little guy grabs its food with almost unmatched speed and ferocity…

This time? Well … not so much.

On this occasion, my guy took a little while to realize that he had a very edible visitor in his enclosure. And, when he finally made the grab, it was less than spectacular. Still, I think that it’s fun to see this gorgeous specimen in action.

Warning: Once again, I have four children and three dogs, and there is often quite a bit of noise in my house at any given time. As a result, I’ve replaced the cacophony of screaming kids and barking dogs with some melodious metal (it’s the only music I have saved on my computer!). If you’re not a fan of the harder stuff, please hit MUTE before playing!

 

P. crassipes Feeding Video

Finally, I caught it…my P. crassipes feeding!

pcrassipesnew

I have spent the last several weeks trying to get a feeding video of my juvenile Phlogius crassipes. Although this smokey-gray beauty has become a bit more brazen as it has gained some size, it usually retreats to one of its many burrow entrances at the slightest disturbance. My first attempt in catching it hunting didn’t end in a kill, but served as a wonderful example of just how fast this species can be.

Well, last night, I was shocked to find this little guy just standing on the surface as I took the top off of its enclosure to feed it. After snapping a few pics of it just calmly hanging out in the open, I then dropped a cricket in. My T first bolted to its den. However, as I broke out the phone to catch it on video, it immediately went into hunt mode…yes!

My juvenile P. crassipes just chilling out on the surface.

My juvenile P. crassipes just chilling out on the surface.

Although I’ve seen this guy make much more extreme kills (it once bolted four inches from the burrow opening, grabbed a cricket, then literally tumbled back into another entrance in the blink of an eye) I was still glad to catch it. This species is voracious eater and a fast grower, and I love the sleek and powerful build of it. I will definitely be adding more of this genus to my collection very soon…

Hapalopus sp. Colombia – The “Pumpkin Patch”

A gorgeous little dwarf tarantula with plenty of attitude!

I was first introduced to this amazing little species by a Viper69, a member of the Arachnoboards forum. I was on the lookout for new and beautiful tarantulas to add to my growing collection, and Viper69 was kind enough to send me pics of his own Hapalopus sp. Colombia large (tarantula enthusiasts love to spread their addiction!). I was immediately floored by the appearance of this unique T. As orange is one of my favorite colors, I was enamored by the bright orange abdominal markings that lend this animal its common name of “Pumpkin Patch”. The fact that they were known to be hearty captives with huge appetites and fast growth rates made this “pygmy” species jump up to the top of my wish list.

Young adult female Hapalopus sp. Columbia large

Young adult female Hapalopus sp. Colombia large

Well, several months ago, I finally procured a trio these feisty little spiders from Autumn’s Eight-Legged Experience. I was amazed to discover that, even in the sling stage, these little guys already sported their adult coloration. I’ve been used to slings that look MUCH different from their adult counterparts, so this was definitely a unique trait and a wonderful surprise.

One of my three Hapalopus sp. Columbia large slings.

One of my three Hapalopus sp. Columbia large slings.

Keep that “Pumpkin Patch” moist.

As my slings started at about 3/8″ long, I housed these guys in 30 dram bottles with tiny ventilation holes poked into the top with a small needle. This is a species that requires a bit of extra moisture, so for substrate, I used a mixture of moist (not wet) coco fiber mixed with peat moss. For added moisture retention—and to supply a place to hide—I also added a pinch of sphagnum moss. Using the handle of a paintbrush, I also created little starter burrows down the side of each enclosure.

These little guys were quick to settle in, adopting the pre-dug burrows while webbing up the entrances. Within days, all three had dug extensive underground burrows, and two had begun webbing on the surface. Unlike some of my “pet hole” species, as slings these guys usually bolted out of their dens and into the open whenever their enclosures were disturbed. They are quite bold for little spiders.

Check out my husbandry video for this species below!

As young adults, all three are currently kept in ½ gallon enclosures made from repurposed Sterilite plastic storage bins. Although they were given several inches of moist substrate and cork bark burrows, they used their webbing and some sphagnum moss to create their own homes. All have water bowls, and I moisten down the substrate once a month or so by simulating rain with a make-shift watering bottle.

Hapalopus sp. Columbia Large young adult enclosure. This one is about 1/2 gallon.

Hapalopus sp. Columbia Large young adult enclosure. This one is about 1/2 gallon.

All three have webbed up their enclosures heavily. They are not particularly shy, and they have no problem sitting right out in the open waiting for prey. This is particularly nice, because this is a truly unique and beautiful tarantula. Haplalopus sp. Colombia is a very fast and skittish species, though, and they will bolt to their dens when disturbed. Care should be shown every time their enclosure is opened for feeding or maintenance.

Voracious eaters with amazing appetites.

When I first acquired my slings, they were still too tiny to take down small crickets, I cut two crickets in half and dropped in the smaller pieces for them to scavenge feed on. All three greedily accepted their pre-killed meals. To date, they have proven to be voracious eaters, only refusing meals when in pre-molt. Once they reached about 1/2″ in size, they were able to easily take down a small cricket on their own.

Kept between 70-76 degrees during the winter and 75-80 degrees during the summer, and fed two times a week, they grew quite quickly. During the first six months,  they molted about every month and a half.  In 11 months, they’ve grown from 3/8″ to about 2.25″.

I currently feed each of my sub-adults one medium cricket twice a week. When in premolt, they will stop eating and generally become more reclusive, hiding out in their dens and staying out of sight.

Males mature quickly, with mine hooking out at about 11 months at about 2.25″. Females will live longer, reaching a max size of about 3.5-4″. There is a smaller “dwarf” version of this species that reaches a max size of about 2″, but the Colombia Large is not quite small enough to be a true dwarf.

A stunning species for the keeper used to fasts ‘n feisty Ts.

Hapalopus sp. Colombia may be a small species, but what they lack in size, they make up for in attitude and personality. H. sp. larges are generally recognized as being fast and defensive, with many keepers also branding them as escape artists that will make a mad dash for any opening. Mine have actually proven to be quite well behaved, choosing to retreat to their burrows rather than try to escape.

Although this species is a bit high-strung, none of mine have shown any aggression. I do think that a beginner with some experience could keep this species if she/he is cognizant about their speed and care. They are very hardy, and their great appetites and quick growth rate make them an ideal species to raise from sling to adult.

M. balfouri Feeding Video

Look who stepped out for a bite!

Of all the species I currently keep, my little M. balfouri juveniles have been some of the more quirky and reclusive. After all three buried themselves for several months during the cold of winter, they emerged in the spring with better appetites and slightly less coy dispositions. I now see all three regularly, and I’ve even been afforded the opportunity to see two of them eat. That’s a pretty big deal considering that, from November to March, I didn’t even SEE them at all.

Well, after its recent molt, one of my M. balfouri juveniles has become extra bold, often coming out of his den to hunt, and remaining in the open even when I jostle his cage while feeding him. My first attempt to catch him feeding on film proved to be an epic failure as I ended up catching only the cover of his cage. However, I fared much better with the second attempt, and managed to catch him gently grabbing a cricket I tossed in (sorry, no brutal take-downs in this one). Although it starts off a bit blurry, I do adjust the framing several seconds in.

For anyone who wants to read more about this species, click here!

Now, onto the video…

Poecilotheria Regalis (Indian Ornamental)

The Poecilotheria regalis originates from India, hence its common name of “Indian Ornamental”, and it is probably the most commonly kept of the Poecilotheria genus of tarantulas. This is an arboreal species that, in its natural habitat, lives in tall trees where it catches flying insects as its prey. In captivity, they are a hearty and gorgeous display tarantula for any keeper experienced with fast arboreal species.

My 3" juvenile P. regalis male.

My 3″ juvenile P. regalis male.

A word of caution…

Although the regalis is recognized as being one of the “calmer” members of this genus, it is still blindingly fast and possesses “medically significant” venom. This is not an animal to be trifled with or underestimated. I have seen my juveniles run several laps around their enclosures in blink of an eye. This is definitely an animal that can move faster than human reflexes can react.

In the case of  the P. regalis, when disturbed it would much rather hide  or escape than attack. Their fractile-like patterns serve as amazingly-effective camouflage, so standing still can likely help them to avoid detection in the wild. When approaching any of my Poecilotheria for feeding or maintenance , I tap the enclosures a couple times until I see them either hunker down or scramble to a hiding spot. This hopefully prevents me from spooking or surprising the Ts, which could cause them to bolt frantically around the cage (or, even worse, onto me).

Keeping my guy comfy (while keeping my fingers safe).

To reduce the risk of bite, I keep my P. regalis juvenile in a Sterilite Large Nesting Showoff plastic storage bin modified with cross-ventilation holes for airflow. The container is a bit larger than what I would normally use for a specimen this size, but I like to give myself plenty of room to work when feeding or performing maintenance on my large, fast arboreals.

The enclosure is deep as well as long, as this species requires more height than floor space. I provide it with a cork bark slab, which is put at about a 45 degree angle, as well as some plastic plants and rocks for hiding places. A water bowl is also supplied.

With a max diagonal leg span of 7″, the P. regalis is a good-sized T. This guy will likely end up in a 5-10 gallon-sized enclosure as an adult. Again, I will use something that gives me plenty of room to work for when it comes time for cleaning or maintenance.

Custom enclosure set up for my 3" P. regalis juvenile male.

Custom enclosure set up for my 3″ P. regalis juvenile male.

For substrate, my P. regalis is kept on a coco fiber/peat moss combination with moist sphagnum moss placed around the base of the cork bark to provide extra moisture.  I also moisten the substrate a couple times a week; this coupled with the water dish keeps the humidity inside the enclosure at an sufficient level. I do not obsess over exact humidity levels, and so far my Ts have been doing just fine. This species does, however, benefit from higher humidity. For temperatures, my P. regalis is kept at low 70s to mid 80s.

A fast-growing arboreal with a great feeding response.

My P. regalis has demonstrated a fast growth rate. They are good eaters, and it’s quite amazing to watch them hunt a prey item. I give my 3″ juvenile two medium/large crickets a week. This species seems to have little trouble taking down larger prey items. I procured this particular tarantula in February, and at that time it was about 2″ long. It has molted twice since then, and it’s now 3.25″ long.  I also have smaller P. regalis that I purchased as a 1.25″ sling in January. After three molts, it is now 2.5″.

This is the modified Ziploc plastic container I use to house my 2.5" P. regalis juvenile. He will likely get rehoused after his next molt.

This is the modified Ziploc plastic container I use to house my 2.5″ P. regalis juvenile. He will likely get rehoused after his next molt.

With its beautiful coloration and patterns, impressive size, and slender and athletic build, the P. regalis makes a stunning addition to any tarantula collection. As they are very prevalent in the hobby, the slings are quite inexpensive, running anywhere from $20 to $30, and a juvenile female can usually be purchased for under $100. That being said, this is a large, fast tarantula with very potent venom and not generally a species recommended for inexperienced keepers.

For more information on this wonderful species, visit arachnoboards and search key words P. regalis!

Monocentropus balfouri Husbandry

A cream and blue beauty!

When folks try to tell me that there there is no such thing as a “beautiful tarantula”, I have a few go-to species that I will immediately Google. Besides the P. metallica and C. cyaneopubescens, I also pull up photos of the tarantula featured in this blog, the M. balfouri. These gorgeous spiders sport creamy tan bodies, metallic blue/silver carapaces, and blue legs, and are a stunning representation of just how striking blue coloration on a T can be.

My female M. balfouri, now a young adult.

My female M. balfouri, now a young adult.

This gorgeous spider comes from a group of islands off the coast of Africa of which Socotra is the largest, hence its common name of Socotra Island Blue Baboon. Although they’ve become much more established in the hobby, they are still in demand, commanding premium prices. I got my juveniles for $60 each as part of a newsletter promotion. Expect to pay up to $100 for the same size elsewhere. I’ve seen females of this species selling for $300, so this can be a pricey pet.

This 2" juvenile is starting to show some of its blue coloration. I'm hoping to see more blue on the legs after its next molt.

This 2″ juvenile is starting to show some of its blue coloration. I’m hoping to see more blue on the legs after its next molt.

M. balfouri care

I housed my three 1,75″ juveniles in medium (5″ x 6″h x 8″l) critter keepers with about four inches of bone dry cocofiber substrate. I provided all three with small water bowls, which they usually fill up with dirt or web over. This species will burrow, creating a maze of underground tunnels with several entrances. They are also prolific webbers, and all three of mine have laid down a thick, silky carpet over much the substrate. As  this species comes from a semi-desert environment, I do not mist the enclosure or moisten the substrate; the water bowl is sufficient.

Now that my female is about 3.75″ DLS, she will be getting a rehousing very soon. The next transfer will likely be the final one, and she will be getting a 3-4 gallon Sterilite enclosure with about 6″ of substrate (60/40 mix of dry top soil and peat).

A top down view of an M. balfouri's enclosure. Notice the thick webbing.

A top down view of an M. balfouri’s enclosure. Notice the thick webbing.

The growth rate for my M. balfouris has been medium, with all three molting five times in my care over a 19-month period. Between molts, they picked up around .25 – .5″ of size or so. During their first two winters, when temps in my tarantula room were mid 70s during the day and dropped to low 70s at night, they mostly stayed in their tunnels as they fasted for a few months. During these periods, I rarely saw any of them, and I would drop a small cricket in once every two weeks and remove it if it wasn’t eaten by the next morning.

When the temps warm up (low 80s during the day, high 70s at night), and their metabolisms are more active and they eat great. I have noticed that they seem to prefer smaller prey, and I was feeding two small crickets or meal worms twice a week when they were juveniles. Now that they are sub-adults, they get two medium crickets a week. They refuse food when they are in premolt or during the slightly colder and drier winter months. During this time, they retreat to their tunnels and surface when the molt process has been completed or when the weather has warmed up.

Too much reading? Check out my husbandry video below!

This species is generally recognized for having a calmer, less defensive temperament, which could make it a good starter Old World species. Although they are more shy and reclusive than many their baboon cousins, they can still, in theory, deliver quite a bite.  Mine generally bolt into one of their many tunnel entrances at the slightest disturbance, and not one has shown any defensiveness. However, that can always change with age, and temperament differs from specimen to specimen. Always use care when working with old world species.

Although I’ve read of instances where this species can become a “pet hole”, spending the majority of its time in its den, mine are are actually visible quite often. Usually late afternoon, I can look forward to my three juveniles creeping out of their dens to sit on the surface for a while. They only seem to stay submerged when in promolt or during the colder winter months.

This juvenile is showing some of the gorgeous blue on its legs after a recent molt.

This juvenile is showing some of the gorgeous blue on its legs after a recent molt.

Although I’ve yet to try to breed any of my tarantulas, the M. balfouri is high on my list when I do. Unlike most other Ts, M. balfouri mothers will actually nurture their spiderlings, killing prey and dragging it into the den to feed them. A search of balfouri breeding and parenting will bring up some fascinating stories about M. balfouri mothering, and most breeders have more success when they leave the sacs in with the mother. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Those looking for a gorgeous old world tarantula with beautiful coloration and relatively simple husbandry requirements should look no further than the M. balfouri. Their calmer temperaments also make them a good, if pricey, introduction species for those new to old worlds.