So you've decided to get a tarantula. FANTASTIC!
I myself have 25 tarantulas and can honestly tell you that they are an amazing pet and its hard just to have 1.... it's seriously addicting (you have been warned). Tarantulas make great pets for those who want a pet to observe and have minimal care requirements.
I'll be covering 8 of my top recommended starter species. These are species that are easy to keep and sometimes able to be handled. I'll also give you some basics in tarantula keeping and where you can obtain more information about species and their care. These are just my opinions and it will be up to you as a pet carer to do your research!
Things to consider before buying:
Your expectations- Tarantulas are on observational species. Meaning they are better to be looked at than interacted with. So think of them as you would in keeping fish. Fun to observe, but not so much to touch. They do not benefit from interaction the way a dog or cat would. Each tarantula has it's own personality. The tarantula you get may be a docile species, but the individual you have may not. This is why I recommend only handling if you must. They are also nocturnal and will usually be out late at night. This may be boring for some people, so think about if that will be ok for you. Choosing the right pet for you is important.
Live Feeding- Tarantulas eat live insects. This means if you are keeping a tarantula (or a few) you will need to also keep some locusts, cockroaches, or crickets to feed. Make sure you are ok with this and know how to care for those feeder insects.
Commitment- The lifespan of a tarantula varies widely. This can depend on individual species, care, and if it is a male or female. Some males only live for 5 years, while some females can live to be as old as 30! This needs to be taken into consideration as this is a big commitment and could be a pet that you have for quite a long time.
Handling- There is a debate amongst tarantula keepers as to if you should or should not handle. This can end in very heated debates online, however this is up to the individual as to what they feel most comfortable in doing. Remember these animals do have fangs, venom, and urticating hairs. Most tarantulas will kick hair at you or go into a threat posture as a warning before they bite. The hairs give the same sensation as touching fibreglass. Very itchy and some minor redness. If you are wishing to handle a tarantula, do your research first on safe methods of handling and tarantula behaviours.
Personally, I handle only when I am moving my tarantulas to a newer home or showing friends and family. This is minimal handling, but I can still enjoy having them out on occasion. I do not fear my tarantulas, but I do respect them as they are an exotic, almost wild animal and should be treated as so.
Research- You should do your research before getting any pet. There are many books, websites, and YouTube keepers out there that make deciding a lot easier than it used to be.
I recommend the below resources to get you started:
https://www.theraphosidae.be/ - Species specific information as well as tarantula anatomy and physiology
https://tomsbigspiders.com/beginner-guides/ - Multiple beginner guides on keeping tarantulas
The Tarantula Keeper's Guide (2009, Schultz)- A complete book and guide to all things tarantula
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC178kThBUvGNps5cabRP_2Q - The Dark Den YouTube Channel. Excellent source for care and exploring different species
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCM8wItkzBPPBHwysaubmyZg - The Tarantula Collective YouTube Channel. Covers up the date care of tarantulas and current events.
Aphonopelma Chalcodes (Arizona Blonde)
This species is native to the state of Arizona in the United States. This is a species that is blonde, brown, or rusty red in color. These colors can change depending on the region they are obtained from. These are slow growers and can take 10 years to grow from a spiderlings (baby spiders) to a full adult. I recommend this species for beginners because they are docile, medium sized, and calm in their behaviour. They like dry conditions so will not need any special care requirements such as misting. My female Olivia (the one in the below photo) is very mild and does not mind a wander onto your hand from time to time.
2. Grammostola Pulchra (Brazillian Black)
This eye-catching species is native to southern Brazil. Do not be fooled by it's plain black appearance. It's been described as the ''black lab of spiders'' making it perfect for the beginner or novice. This species prefers a dry environment so does not require much extra care such as misting. They do however love deep substrate to move around during the night. During their juvenile years, they tend to hide away in their burrows. Once adult size, they can be seen out on display and make quite the conversation piece for guests! They are a larger species, but a slow grower. Reaching adulthood can take 10 years. Because of their great reputation, they can be expensive as far as spiders go. We got our little one at a show in Brighton and she cost £40. Adult females can go for as much as £100.
Shelob (pictured here getting a drink) was our first tarantula species. She is so lovely!
3. Grammostola Pulchripes (Chaco Golden Knee)
This striped species is also known as the Chaco Golden knee. This tarantula is from Paraguay in South America. I consider this a medium sized tarantula with a moderate growth rate and females can live 20-25 years! These are very common in the hobby and are cheap in price. The Chaco Golden knee is typically docile and rarely kicks hairs. I have seen many calm ones who are fine to handle. This species will usually hide in a burrow when it is younger, but come out more on display as it gets older. I just love the golden stripes on this species which makes it a stunning part of any collection. My female Ochre (pictured below) is skittish, but does not kick hairs. She has shown defensive behaviours in the past and we do not handle her. A great example of how this species is considered docile, but individuals do vary!
4. Grammostola Porteri (Chilian Rose)
This species was once very common and cheap in the tarantula keeping hobby. This is due to their docile nature and ease of care. The country of Chile has since banned the export of this species which has driven the price up when they do become available. I love this species because of its mild and docile personality. They are pretty bomb proof when it comes to care so its a solid choice for a novice they needs a little bit of forgiveness if they make a minor mistake. They like a dry environment with no specific temperature requirements. They are a medium size and was one of the very first species I ever held. This species is what started it all in my love for tarantulas. My girl Rosie (pictured below) is an absolute sweetheart and will usually win over anyone who is afraid of handling a tarantula for the first time!
5. Brachypelma Hamorii (Mexican Red Knee)
The Mexican Red Knee is the poster child of the tarantula keeping hobby. This species is the most recognizable and familiar to most of the general public. This species was made particularly famous from the Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Brachypelma Hamorii has those brilliant orange stripes and a charming personality. As the common name suggests, their origin is from Mexico. As with most of my recommended beginner species, these are easy to care for and docile for the most part. They are slow growers so you will need to be patient if you get a little one. My little guy Elmo (seen below) is very chill and does not mind being handled occasionally. I have known some to kick hairs when startled, but this is just a warning to tell you they do not want to be bothered. Remember, they all have their own personalities!
6. Caribena Versicolor (Martinique Pinktoe)
Colorful and breathtaking are 2 words that come to mind when describing this species. When I first saw a photo of these beauties I knew I had to have one. As the name suggests, they are from the Caribbean. They are a little more complex in their care needs so this is one to do some careful research on. This is an arboreal species. This means they like to climb and live in tress and other high up places. They are excellent eaters and won't say no to a meal! My girl Silvana (pictured below) has been a fast grower so if you get a little one, you won't be disappointed in their growth speed. She is quick, but a total sweetie. She has been out on my arm exploring many times with no problems. The best part is, they start out as blue babies and change color as they grow. This makes watching them grow up even more exciting!
7. Avicularia Avicularia (Pinktoe)
The common Pink Toe is a simple, but elegant species for the beginner keeper. They originate from Central and South America. Relatively common in the hobby, they are not too expensive. This is also an arboreal species that loves to climb and live up high. They are fast growers so you will not have to wait long to see a spiderling grow into a stunning adult. Pink Toes have a shorter lifespan compared to others with females living to around 12 years. They are also a bit smaller than other species as adults which can make them a bit easier to handle if needed. Our Pink Toe named Socks is still a baby and is just now getting her adult colors. They are calm, but can move quick when they want to. These are a great beginner species due to their easy care requirements and docile nature.
8. Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens (Green Bottle Blue)
If you are looking for a stunning, beautiful species look no further! This gorgeous species is a must have for any collection. Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens come from Northern Venezuela. The Green Bottle Blue has a moderate growth rate and I would recommend a beginner gets a juvenile to start with. Females can live to be around 14 years old. They have low care requirements, which makes them a great starter tarantula. They are fantastic webbers and will cover their enclosure in a blanket of webbing. This species is a little more feisty in their attitudes and if they feel threatened or disturbed, they won't hesitate to kick some hairs at you. For those reasons, this is not a tarantula I would handle. My girl Martina (pictured below) is quite shy and will run and hide when I open her enclosure to clean or fill up her water. On a normal day she loves sitting on top of her skull house. She has not kicked hairs and has even been handled once due to an unfortunate mite infestation she got from some bad crickets. This is one of my most treasured species and cannot recommend them enough!
Getting your first tarantula shouldn't be confusing. It should be fun and exciting. We hope you have found this informative and that you feel more confident on what tarantulas are good for a beginner. If you can't decide on one, you might just come home with 2 or 3!
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