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. 

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11 thoughts on “The Poecilotheria metallica – Yes, Tarantulas Can Be Beautiful

  1. My P. metallica juvi arrived this morning and I found it remarkably easy to house (probably due to it being a little cold today and my not giving it a chance to warm up once it arrived at my house – I know how fast even a terrestrial can be when it’s warm, lively and nervous!)

    It’s now disappeared somewhere in the jar; last seen clinging upside down to a piece of horizontal bark some hours ago, so assumed burrowed for the time being (I know it’s in there: I’m so anal about checking new Ts that I even treble-checked the waste paper basket in case my tiny C. elegans had got caught in the tissue paper during unpacking – and that was after I watched it burrow and disappear who-knows-where).

    I’ve been getting fabulous advice from friends who love pokies and have learned as much as I can before buying, but from what I can find on the internet most knowledge comes from personal experience as opposed to any kind of prolonged study (quite unlike, say, the G. rosea). I was wondering if you could tell me anything about them that I may not already be aware of? This isn’t my first non-terrestrial (I have a very moody female E. murinus) but this is my first pokie.

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    • Hello there, Hairyhousewife!

      First off, congratulations on your first pokie (and one of the more beautiful and sought-after ones at that!).

      The temperature was likely your ally in that rehousing, which was a great call. Many folks rehouse fast/aggressive Ts on colder mornings, as it will render them a bit more placid and slow. Be on your toes for the next rehousing though, because out of the eight species of Poecilotheria I keep, the metallica is probably my second most skittish. 🙂

      Pokies will burrow when smaller, so don’t be too concerned if your P, met disappears for a bit. As it gains some size, it will usually abandon the burrow for some dirt curtains!

      Unfortunately, you likely won’t find any prolonged studies as they were only fairly recently rediscovered, and they are currently critically endangered in their natural habitat. G. rosea/porteri has had the luxury of being in the hobby for decades, and they are still fairly easy to find in the wild (as evidenced by all of the WC specimens available), so there is a lot more on them. Most of the information you will find on the metallica will be from those who have kept and successfully bred them over the past several years. Personally, I find this type of info very useful, as these are the folks who are having success keeping them. And, it sounds like you’ve got some good people already helping out with advice!

      If you respect its speed and appreciate that it is a very shy species, you should have little trouble with your P. metallica. One thing I’ve noticed about Pokies is that if you tap the enclosure before opening it for maintenance or feeding, most will tend to flatten out and try to use their natural camouflage to hide (or, if they have burrows, they will shoot to the safety of their homes). If they do get spooked and bolt, they will often circle the enclosure. Keep this in mind if you use a cage that opens from the front. My P. metallica seems particularly photosensitive, and will often scramble away with a change in light (or if you try to shine a flashlight on it).

      I’ve also found that a lot of the care sheets I read talked about keeping the P. metallica in a high-humidity environment. I have not done this. I keep mine in an enclosure with plenty of cross ventilation, so that it doesn’t get too stuffy, and I only moisten the substrate slightly, letting it dry out in between.

      I hope this helps!

      Tom

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      • Thanks so much for the reply! I’ve had my eye on this beautiful tarantula ever since I began in the hobby two years ago, but it’s only now that I feel capable and confident enough to keep one and I’m really excited. As you say, a truly stunning tarantula, and I can’t wait for a few moults for the colours to really start coming in.

        What you’ve said definitely correlates with what I’ve been able to gather through friends and general web searches, and I’ll certainly be careful not to moisten the substrate too much or too often.

        I hadn’t thought about tapping the enclosure before going in, so that will prove a useful tool – thank you! I tend to get rushed by the E. murinus if she’s in a mood (which is why I tend to only go in there if she’s in her “Hobbit Hole” so she can’t surprise me) and one of my main concerns has been the speed and skittishness of a pokie compared to anything else in my collection. I do have some amazing friends, and the ones I buy from would never sell me a T I’m not ready for, but as far as I’m concerned it never hurts to make sure no stone goes unturned when looking for the information needed to keep a particular species safe.

        I’ve been following your blog for a while and I really enjoy learning about your collection. Thanks for the advice, and I look forward to reading more!

        Gemma

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      • Hi, Gemma.

        Aren’t they just stunning? When I first got serious into the hobby, I stumbled onto a photo of a P. metallica, and I was positive the it was Photoshopped. I was stunned to learn that this animal really existed.

        The tapping has probably saved me from any escapes. Even the more skittish ones (ornata and metallica) who tend to bolt will usually settle down and hide after a couple taps. Then you can feed them or perform maintenance more safely. Unlike your E. murinus (which is high on my wish list!), pokies tend to be more flighty than confrontational. From my observation, if you give them a mean of escape, they would rather flee than attack. That’s not to say that, if spooked and cornered, they won’t bite. I’ve had only one strike at me, and it was my P. metallica after I accidentally scared it.

        I like the “Hobbit Hole” comment! Ha!

        It sounds like you have some experience with defensive and quick spiders. Although pokies are undoubtedly faster, they are not quite as aggressive. Try to set up an enclosure that gives them some room to grow (and you some room to work) and you should be fine! 🙂 They are fast growers, and good hunters, so I often put mine in enclosures much larger than I would use for other spiders of that size. This means fewer rehousings and less chance for escape. They grow into them quickly enough.

        And thanks so much for following! I have to be honest, I love knowing that people are finding this stuff interesting or helpful! 🙂

        All the best!

        Tom

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  2. I thought it had to be a Photoshop job too – I only had my rosea and my scrofa when someone sent me a picture, and I refused to believe that such a tarantula could truly exist. I was thrilled when I discovered it is actually real… until I looked up some information and asked about general care. I have epilepsy and my seizures weren’t properly controlled back then – and this has always been a serious consideration to me for the safety of both the tarantula and myself – and so my heart sank and I wrote it off as completely unviable. I also lacked experience of course, and therefore I had no confidence… but I’ve just spent six months preparing for this and making absolutely sure that this tarantula will be safe in my care. So far so good with this little one though; settled in well and I’ve just ordered some water droppers in place of the spray bottle that everybody told me to buy. It’ll do for my plants!

    I never thought I’d have the courage or confidence to move away from terrestrials, or even NW, but I’m currently putting together a small enclosure for the juvenile M. balfouri that’s arriving in a couple of weeks! I only recently took notice of these, when I found myself chatting to the owner of the M. balfouri that won BTS’ “Best In Show”. Those beautiful blue legs just sold me on having one 🙂

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    • Ha! I did the same with both the P. metallica and the C. cyaneopubescens (GBB). I flat out did not believe tarantulas as gorgeous as those two really existed. I was floored to discover that they were real species. These are some of the species I show people (as well as M. balfouri!) who tell me that tarantulas are hideous. They at least have to comment on the pretty colors. 😉

      It sounds to me that you’re more than ready for your metallica! You’ve obviously put your time in with other species and done the research. It’s just so much fun to watch them molt into their colors.

      Ahhhh…the old sprayer! I use one to fill hard to reach water bowls, but I generally use an eyedropper to moisten sub in smaller enclosures or a large plastic bottle I melted some holes in as a “watering can” for the larger ones.

      And a big congrats on getting an M. balfouri! I have three, and I love those guys. Such gorgeous and shy little baboons (well, shy until you catch one out of its burrow…then it threat posture time!). Not only are they stunning, but I think that they are one of the best beginner Old Worlds. You’re going to love him/her. 🙂

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      • The GBB is right up there on my wishlist, along with other beauties such as M. robustum, A. geniculata, N. chromatus and B. albiceps. I’ll always have my favourite terrestrials around, of course, but I’m enjoying discovering new (to me) species.

        Sadly I think my MM pulchripes is on his way out; he’s not eating much any more and he just hangs at the top of his enclosure for the most part. I’ll be very sad to see him go, but he’s given me plenty of entertainment and laughs (he’s just lovely) and I’ll definitely have a pulchripes again 🙂

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      • I love my GBBs. I got my two as .75″ slings and now they’re both pushing 4″. Just such beautiful spiders with such ease of husbandry. M. robustum has been been on my wishlist for a very long time. Twice, I was about to buy a female when someone snagged it before me. I don’t have geniculata, but I have A. brocklehusti and N. chromatus…just gorgeous animals. My B. albiceps is still just a tiny sling, but I can’t wait for those colors to start coming through (it’ll likely be years, though!).

        I’m so sorry to hear about your pulchripes. I’ve lost a couple mature males this year, and it is never easy. 😦 How old is he? Have you had him since he was a sling?

        Tom

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      • I don’t know how old my pulchripes is; I bought him as a sub adult female (my usual supplier was sold a ringer – she gave me a partial refund when he hooked out even though I’d refused one as it wasn’t her fault). He hooked out seven months ago, so I’m guessing that he’s a good six years old, bless him. My rosea (from a different seller) turned out to be male too, and hooked out six months ago – and I’m pretty certain that my maule is a penultimate (very long, skinny abdomen, whereas even my juvi females have huge round backsides).

        As luck would have it I won a juvi M. balfouri in my usual seller’s auction, right after I bought my P. met from her (and the P. met is *lovely* – 5cm and has already taken its first feed) and when I unpacked the balfouri I discovered a free albiceps sling! I’ve never had a sling before, so I’m a little nervous, but I’ve seen it cruising around when it’s not burrowed somewhere so I must be doing it right so far! The balfouri has also settled well and has made a tiny little web in the ivy decoration I provided!

        I lost the auction for a GBB (my seller was messed around by the person who was supposed to be buying it from her) but she’s sourced me a 2cm baby, which she’s expecting tomorrow and hopes to have with me by Friday. After this I’m saving my pennies for the BTS show, where I plan to meet my usual sellers, attempt to find a chromatus or a robustum and hopefully get a bag of substrate and some live food, saving on the post and packing fees!

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  3. I hope it’s a female. Dorsally, that looks like a male with its pronounced dark lines on it’s back. A female that size normally has most of the lines faded out. Thank you for your articles ..the whole blog! It is an amazing reference for everyone.

    Sincecerely,
    A newbie that spends the past 6 months of his life doing research 18hrs a day.

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    • Love to hear from folks doing the research! I did the same thing when I got heavy into the hobby…and still do. It’s kind of fun. This one is in premolt right now, so hopefully I get a molt to sex next time. Fingers crossed!

      Thanks so much for the kind words! I really appreciate it. 🙂

      All the best!

      Tom

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