Phlogius crassipes (Australian Barking Spider)

 A tarantula from down under!

My 2.5" P. crassipes sling.

My 2.5″ P. crassipes sling.

Anyone who grew up watching Steve Irwin, AKA ‘The Crocodile Hunter”, knows that Australia is home to some of the most stunning and awe-inspiring wildlife on the planet. Heck, I still own the carpet python I bought after seeing him handle (and get bit!) by one. When I stumbled across my first photo of a species of tarantula from Phlogius genus, and discovered that it was from Australia, I knew that I would eventually keep one.

With a common name of “Eastern Tarantula”  or the more colorful variations of “Queensland Whistling Spider” or “Australian Barking Spider”, this thick-legged Old World species can reach lengths of 8 inches. It earned the name “whistling” or “barking” spider because this species stridulates, or uses hairs on its body to produce a loud “hissing” sound when it’s agitated. And for those who don’t heed this warning, its large fangs can deliver a potent bite.

Deep, moist substrate = happy spider!

I purchased a 1.5″ sling from Anastasia at Net-Bug back in April of this year, and it has quickly become one of my favorite species. So far, my P. crassipes has been a fast-growing species, molting twice in my care and putting on about an inch in size. As a sling, it started off as a chocolate brown color, although as an adult it will be mature into a smoky dark brown/black coloration.

In Australia, this species lives in deep, moist burrows and enjoys a higher-humidity environment. Keeping that in mind, I gave my sling an enclosure with four inches of moist substrate so that it could create its own burrow. I set the enclosure up in much the same way I do with all of my moisture-dependent species. After laying a half inch of wet vermiculite on the bottom, I then packed down a mixture of peat moss and coco fiber with some vermiculite added for water retention and percolation. I don’t add too much vermiculite as it can make the soil difficult to pack for the burrowing species.

The soil should be moist, but not wet. A good test is to squeeze your mixture in your hand. If you can squeeze water out of it, it’s too moist. However, if it sticks together and holds its shape without water dripping from it, it’s just right.

The enclosure itself is a modified plastic Sterilite storage container. I keep a water bowl in the enclosure at all times, and I will re-moisten the substrate once a week. I do not spray, but rather use a clean water bottle with holes melted in the top to “make it rain”, so to speak. I also allow water to dribble down into the burrow. This keeps the lower levels of his den moist, and keeps the humidity in the enclosure up as it slowly evaporates.

The custom enclosure for my P. crassipes sling.

The custom enclosure for my P. crassipes sling.

For temperatures, my P. crassipes is kept between 72 and 78º. Although I’ve read reports of people keeping them at higher temperatures (mid-80s is mentioned quite a bit), I’ve found that mine has been thriving with more moderate highs and lows.

A lightning-fast eating machine!

Within a day, my P. crassipes had dug a burrow all the way down to the bottom of the enclosure with two different entrances. It then created a “volcano” shaped structure over the top of the substrate and webbed around this. He likes to sit at the top of this construct with his legs just poking out as he waits for prey. As soon as a prey item hits the substrate, he tenses up and prepares to hunt.

This species has proven to be a fantastic eater. It receives 2-3 medium crickets a week, and so far it has yet to refuse a meal.  When I once dropped in a large cricket, this amazing little predator had no problem snatching it up. Speaking of snatching up prey…

These guys are FAST.

Besides more specific moisture requirements and an Old World bite potency, keepers need to be aware of this species’ speed. I’ve been dazzled on a couple occasions by just how fast my little guy can move. I once watched him bolt out of his “volcano”, snatch up a cricket, and retreat back into his den in a blink of an eye.

The footage below was meant to be a feeding video, but he unfortunately didn’t snag the cricket here. Still, it serves as a wonderful example of just how quickly they can move. So far, my sling is more skittish than defensive, although this could change at any time. With his speed, this T could easily bolt out of his enclosure if I’m not careful.

A fantastic tarantula for those who like thick, sleek, fast species.

The P. crassipes’ potent bite, skittish and sometimes defensive nature, and tremendous speed mean that this guy probably isn’t for the novice keeper. Those use to keeping slower, more docile species might find the crassipes a bit overwhelming. However, any keeper experienced with faster Old World Ts would likely find the P. crassipes to be an amazing and rewarding animal to keep.

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