The Poecilotheria metallica – Yes, Tarantulas Can Be Beautiful

When  I first started researching the different species of tarantulas currently available in the hobby, I stumbled across a photo of a Poecilotheria metallica (common name “Gooty sapphire ornamental”). This stunning tarantula sported an amazing metallic blue coloration with a gorgeous fractal pattern on its abdomen and vibrant yellow marking on its legs. The tarantula in the photo was so mind-blowingly beautiful, that I immediately assumed that it was just a clever photoshop job. After all, there was no way a tarantula could be this blue; the picture had to be a fraud.

My 1.75

My 1.75″ P. metallica sling a week after its last molt. It is finally displaying some of those gorgeous blues it will sport as an adult.

It was close to a week later when I encountered another amazing photo of this species, and this time, I decided to do some investigating. Not only did I learn that this was, indeed, a real animal, but also that it was one of the most coveted species in the hobby. Despite being quite readily available, this species still commanded prices as high as $100 for a small sling. Also, although captive breeding efforts provided for healthy numbers in the hobby, this incredible animal is critically endangered in the wild. Limited to a 100 square kilometer region in India, its habitat is being threatened by deforestation.

Although these tarantulas are undeniably pretty, they are still members of the Poecilotheria genus. As such, they possess blinding speed and, though usually reluctant to bite, very potent venom. At the time, I decided that that I needed some more experience with faster species before trying my hand at keeping a P. metallica, so I moved on to other species.

Several months later, my wife took me to a semi-local exotic pet store called Cold Blooded Pets & Supplies for my birthday so that I could peruse their stock of Ts and choose a few for my gift. It just so happened that they had several P. metallica slings among their rather diverse stock. Needless to say, we left with one that afternoon.

Gorgeous … and So Fast!

Although I’ve found most poecilotheria slings to be high-strung and skittish, my P. metallica is particularly prone to make dashes whenever disturbed. Anyone who thinks that they could possibly react in time to a fast fleeing T should watch this little bugger zip around its enclosure four or five time in the blink of an eye. I’m extra cautious when opening its enclosure for feeding or maintenance, as to lose focus could result in an escape.

Like my other pokies (nickname for Poecilotheria), my P. metallica has been growing quickly, having molted two times since late February and picking up .5″ in growth or more. For an enclosure, I use a tall Ziploc Twist ‘n Lock container modified with numerous ventilation holes allowing for good cross-ventilation. Because this is a an arboreal species, the height offered by the enclosure is more important than floor space. Although it is provided with cork bark hide with a thick faux vine for climbing, it tends to just stay at the top of the enclosure. As P. metallica’s are known to be particularly photosensitive, I keep this T in a darker corner of a shelf where it is shielded from light a bit.

The current enclosure for my 1.75-2

The current enclosure for my 1.75-2″ P. metallica sling.

Although kept at the same high 70s day/low 70s night temperatures, I do keep the humidity a bit higher for this T. I moisten, not soak, the substrate a bit once a month. To do this, I don’t spray as it would drive the little guy nuts. Instead, I dribble some water on the substrate.  Besides that, a water dish keeps the humidity inside the enclosure slightly higher.

My P. metallica is a great eater, consuming two medium sized crickets a week. The only time it refuses food is when it’s in premolt. As it does not like bright light, I usually drop a cricket in before bed, and it will grab and consume it overnight.

Ventral shot of my P. metallica sling. Despite the poor quality of the shot, you can still make out the yellow banding.

Ventral shot of my P. metallica sling. Despite the poor quality of the shot, you can still make out the yellow banding.

Update: 2/27/2016

As it’s been over a year since this post, and my P. metallica has been doing quite well. Time for an update!

The P. metallica, suspected female, has molted three times since the original post and is now about 4″ in total length. Currently, she is kept at temperatures between 80° during the day and about 74° at night. She eats two large crickets a week and has proven to be a lively and proficient hunter.

It’s worth noting that the P. metallica went through a lengthy period of almost six months in which she didn’t molt at all (previous to this, she would molt every two months or so). This period began in November and lasted until May and coincided with the winter months. It was a particularly cold and brutal winter in which the furnace was running constantly. Although the temps in the tarantula room never dipped below 70°, the humidity was in the teens for several months. The P. metallica had a water dish, and I would periodically moisten the substrate, but I’m convinced that these lower humidity levels and slightly-lower temperatures triggered some type of response in the specimen that led to the lengthy time between molts.

P.-metallica

It should be noted, however, that the P. metallica DID continue to eat during this period. However, due to the fact that its abdomen was quite large and distended, I reduced it’s feeding schedule to one cricket every week or so. Therefore, it appears that although it didn’t show any signs of distress as the humidity levels became less than ideal, it certainly slowed its growth rate a bit.

When it did finally molt, it was time for a rehousing. For its next home, I used a repurposed Sterilite “Showoff” container (15 1/4″ L x 9 3/4 W x 11 1/2″ H), which I ventilated with several holes in the sides for cross-ventilation. After packing in about 3″ of coco fiber, peat moss, and vermiculite substrate, I added a water dish, a cork bark flat, and some plastic plants. I also added some long fiber sphagnum moss to hold moisture. When winter approaches, this new enclosure will make it much easier to maintain a micro climate with higher humidity.

Enclosure-top-down

Temperament wise, I think that I got lucky with this one. Once very skittish and photosensitive, she now sits mostly out in the open and tends to crouch down rather than bolt when disturbed. That’s not to say that she doesn’t have frantic speed bursts left in her; she can still run when startled.

Poecilotheria metallica

Poecilotheria metallica

A Stunning Species for the More Experienced Keeper

When someone gives me that incredulous look after I say a tarantula can be beautiful, I usually show them photos of P. metallicas. Even to folks who don’t “get” tarantulas, they are undeniably pretty. Many keepers count them as the most beautiful species available. Still, they are Poecilotheria, and as such, are not a beginner species. This T has slightly more involved husbandry requirements, and its blinding speed and potent venom make it a potentially dangerous pet for an unwary keeper. For those experienced with fast-moving arboreal Ts, the P. metallica is a must for the collection.

For more information on this gorgeous species, please visit Arachnoboards and search for P. metallica care.