Theraphosa stirmi (The Burgundy Goliath Bird Eater)

My young adult T. stirmi.

My young adult T. stirmi.

One of the true “bird eaters”.

Although there are hundreds of species of tarantulas currently available in the hobby, nothing seems to get folks more interested (or horrified) than talk about 12″ spiders. We’ve all seen the garish news reports and sensationalized nature shows that seek to disgust and shock rather than educate with reports of ferocious arachnids with leg spans the size of “dinner plates.” For the majority of “normal” people out there, a giant spider of this size is a thing of nightmares…

For the tarantula keeper, however, it is something to be coveted; an enormous spider that could easily become the jewel of a collection.

Years ago, the Theraphosa blondi, or the true “Goliath Bird Eating Spider” was the holy grail for many collectors. Pursued for its supposed legendary size (some folks bragged of specimens reaching 14″!), this giant spider became the Humvee of tarantula collecting. Sure, they were large, beefy, and came with certain bragging rights, but their difficult husbandry requirements made them a bit impractical. Specimens had to be kept in warm, moist conditions that made proper husbandry a nightmare. Kept too moist, the animals would die from the fetid conditions. Kept too dry, and they would perish during bad molts. For many enthusiasts, keeping this exotic T became more bother than it was worth.

With the introduction of Theraphosa stimi into the hobby, keepers were given a more practical and forgiving alternative to the T. blondi.  Easier to breed than its cousin, the T. stirmi not only became more widely available, but captive-bred offspring have proven to be quite hardy in captive conditions. With a max size and appearance almost identical to a blondi, this species has eclipsed its more difficult relative in the hobby.

Several months ago, I was able to purchase a sub-adult, likely wild-caught specimen, and I was immediately in awe of its size and appetite. Since then, I’ve procured two T. stirmi slings, which have each molted once in my care. Although requiring a bit more attention to husbandry than some of my other Ts, this species is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

Moist substrate + good ventilation = Happy Stirmi

Ziploc 60-qt storage bin modified to house a T. stirmi sub-adult.

Ziploc 60-qt storage bin modified to house a T. stirmi sub-adult.

Before purchasing my T. stirmi sub-adult, I spent months reading all the notes I could find by those who have been successfully keeping this tarantula. Although most report that this species is much more hardy and less moisture and heat dependent than the T. blondi, there are still some requirements that make this giant a bit more difficult to keep.  The key to keeping this spider thriving is to supply moist substrate and adequate cross-ventilation.

Check out my T. stirmi husbandry video below!

Although many use 15-20 gallon long aquariums to house their stirmis, I didn’t feel that the glass sides would provide the cross ventilation that I would need. Also, the screen tops that one might normally use on a glass aquarium would allow too much vital moisture to quickly evaporate, meaning that I would either have to cover some of the screen, or replace it with vented Plexiglas. Instead, I kept a lookout for a plastic container that I could repurpose.

A tarantula this large needs a BIG home.

For housing, I chose a 60-quart Ziploc plastic storage box. Although more shallow than a 20-gallon long aquarium, it offered about the same amount of floor space. With six locking clips, it was also wonderfully secure, even for a T this large. I modified the container using 3″ plastic vents and strategically drilled holes (to see how I made this custom enclosure, click away!)

To make sure that my substrate would retain moisture (and allow for moisture to soak in when I needed to wet it down), I used a combination of top soil, peat moss, and vermiculite in about a 60/30/10 mixture. Before adding the main substrate, I also put about 1″ layer of vermiculite on the bottom of the enclosure and soaked it down. I then packed down about 6″ of moist substrate on top of that.  This helps keep the lower levels of the substrate moist as the top layers dry out. The spider than can then retreat to its den if it needs more humidity.

For a hide, I used a 3″ pvc elbow that I angled deep down into the substrate as a starter burrow (which my specimen adopted after entering pre-molt). Although I originally started with one medium water bowl, I soon added another to keep the humidity up a bit within the enclosure.  Finally, I added some plastic vines for cover and some long fiber sphagnum moss to help with moisture retention.

For my slings, I used a 2-quart clear plastic canister with ventilation holes burned on all sides. Both were provided with about 4″ of substrate, as well as cork bark hides and small water dishes . When I first acquired my little ones, they were about 1.5″ long, and these containers were the perfect size for them. However, after only one molt, they’ve put on so much size that I will have to rehouse them after they next shed. Right now, my two are about 2.25″, and both are getting ready to molt again. This is a fast-growing species, so it may make sense to provide enclosures for slings and juveniles that allow room for growth. 

A note about temperature and humidity.

Because it was mid-summer and temps were high when I set this cage up, and the conditions inside were a bit more moist than I usually have, I decided to monitor it for a week or so before getting my spider. Twice, I added more ventilation after I noticed tiny mold spots. I wanted the humidity to be high enough to support the animal, but not so high as to foster mold, mildew, and other undesirable conditions. The combination of heat and humidity can easily create an overly stuffy and ultimately dangerous living environment for even moisture-loving Ts.

To keep conditions favorable, I usually wet down one side of the substrate once a week or so using a bottle I modified into a watering can. This allows me to simulate a downpour and adds more water than simply spraying. Because of the vermiculite, the water percolates down into the lower levels, keeping them damp while the top eventually dries out.

I don’t really monitor the humidity inside the enclosure (I soon pulled the useless Petco hydrometer in the photo above out), but I would estimate that it stays about 65% to 75% most of the year, with the humidity being even higher in the burrow.

As for temperatures, my specimens are kept at about 72-77º during the winter, and about 75-84º during the summer. They have eaten well in both seasons, and I’ve observed no differences in behavior. However, it’s important to note that warmer temps mean faster metabolisms and faster growth.

I have read accounts of some folks raising captive-bread stirmis from sling in temps that hit as low as 68º and with mostly dry substrate with a water dish. Although I don’t know if these are ideal conditions, it’s worth noting that this species can adapt to different micro climates.

It should also be mentioned that keepers have observed that wild-caught specimens are not quite as forgiving as their captive-bred counterparts when it comes to adaptability to low temperature and humidity levels. If you suspect that you have a wild-caught spider, exercise a bit more caution when controlling the environment.

A gigantic T with a gigantic appetite!

This is a species with an amazing appetite, and it must be kept well fed. My adult is around 7-8″, and in its first month with me, it was constantly hungry. During this time, I would feed it twice a week, usually offering 5 or so large crickets one day and a 1.5″ dubia roach the next. To say its feeding response was enthusiastic would be an understatement. Once, when dropping in a roach, I could only watch in awe as this spider leaped from about 7″ away to snatch up its prey. It was an impressive display and a good reminder of just how quickly this big tarantula could move.

My slings are also voracious eaters, consuming two or three medium crickets a week. Once a prey item is dropped into their enclosures, they don’t take long to quickly snatch it up and pull it into their burrows. They definitely possess impressive speed at this size.

It’s important to remember that the stirmi has an amazing appetite, so you are going to want to make sure that you are easily and consistently able to procure larger prey items for it once it reaches its adult size. I’m already looking to procure some Madagascar hissing cockroaches to fatten it up after its upcoming molt.

As always, caution is a must!

As mentioned earlier, both sling and adult stirmis can REALLY move. Despite being a large and heavy-bodied tarantula, this species is deceptively fast. And although mine would rather retreat to their burrows when disturbed, there are many examples of feisty and defensive specimens out there that will stand their ground when they feel threatened.

T.-stirmi-sling

Now, I’ve heard some folks ask about venom potency as if this species mild venom somehow makes a bite from this spider less threatening. That notion, of course, is just foolish. These Ts are known to sport fangs 1″ long or more. Just the mechanical damage from a stirmi bite could cause huge amounts of physical trauma. Couple that with the fact that they would be delivering deep puncture wounds with large fangs covered in bacteria and other contaminants, and the venom level becomes irrelevant. Make no mistake, a bite from this animal would be a nightmare.

Also, what it lacks in strong venom, it surely makes up for with some of the most potent and irritating urticating hairs of any species. Folks have described excruciating levels of burning and itching from T. stirmi hairs, and I’ve seen photos of the many raw, oozing blisters these hairs can cause. Several folks have found these hairs to be so bothersome, that they no longer keep this species. Getting haired by a stirmi is NO joke, and this threat should be taken very seriously.

Whenever working with your stirmi, wearing long sleeves, gloves, and eye-protection is definitely encouraged. Even if your specimen seems calm, all it takes is one good hairing to ruin your week. Some folks even wear face shields to protect their eyes and nasal passages from hairs. It’s also important to remember that tarantulas will often kick hairs around their enclosures, even if you don’t see them do it. That means you should always wear gloves when dealing with old substrate or cleaning dishes.

A gorgeous display tarantula for the conscientious keeper.

There is no denying the awe-inspiring size of this amazing T; it just has to be seen to be appreciated. However, although this is a species on many keepers’ wish lists, this is not an animal to be trifled with. Along with this Ts amazing size comes quite a bit of attitude and the potential for nasty bites and an incredibly painful hairing. Couple that with larger space requirements and trickier husbandry, and you have a spider that is definitely not a good match for an inexperienced keeper.

As always, don’t just take my word for it. If you are considering purchasing a T. stirmi, do your homework, search the forums, and read what other keepers have to say!

Humidity, Temperature, and Tarantulas

We’ve all done it.

After hours of exhaustive research in which we read about a tarantula’s natural habitat and peruse a plethora of care sheets (many of them with conflicting information), we set up what we hope will be the “ideal” habitat for our new pet. We add the appropriate substrate, a cork hide, a water dish, maybe a plant or two, before introducing our new pet to his “perfect” home. All is well for a night or two..

And then the stress begins, as we obsess about keeping temperatures and humidity at the optimal level for this species. The care sheet said 75% humidity, but the $8 ZooMed hydrometer I picked up at Petco says it’s only 60%. Time to spray down the substrate until it’s a muddy slurry, right? Or, the temperature in my house just dipped to 68º, so I’d better put a heat lamp or mat on my critter, correct?

The short answer to both of these questions, in most instances, is a very emphatic NO.

Tarantulas are not as fragile as we make them out to be.

One very important thing to keep in mind when working with tarantulas; they are very adaptive animals. You don’t survive millions of years of evolution and climate change without being able to tolerate a dip in temperature or a bit less humidity. It’s true that some species have evolved over the centuries to adapt to different ends of the climate spectrum. Sure, a T. strimi is accustomed to living in humid conditions that would likely kill an arid species like a P. murinus. However, in between these two extremes, there is a lot of gray area and quite a large margin for error when correctly controlling the environment of your tarantula.

Now, I’m not saying that we want to keep our pets in less than comfortable conditions just to make it easier for the keepers. It’s still important to acknowledge the difference between “comfortable” and “tolerable.” It’s just very important to keep in mind that the high and low temps present in a tarantula’s natural habitat may not not represent the ideal temps for the T.

For example, consider the M. balfouri. On the island of Socotra, high temps can be in the high 90s with low temps around the low 60s. That’s a huge range, about 30º, and neither the high nor low temperatures there would make for a particularly comfortable spider. Therefore, a keeper trying to keep these exact highs and lows would be seriously missing the mark. Yet, some keepers will still obsess over keeping these highs and lows in their home setups.

Burrows = The “X” factor.

We also tend to forget that many tarantula species live in burrows and some dig them deep into the earth. This allows the spiders to escape hostile environments and to seek more humidity (or less) when needed. Temperature and humidity measurements from within tarantula burrows in the wild reveal the climates inside are much different than the outside climates. Considering that many species spend the majority of their time inside their burrows, this would mean that we actually have NO idea what the ideal humidity and temperature levels are for many of these species.

So, what do we take from this? Well, first off, it means that the temperature and humidity “requirements” included on many care sheets are next to useless and that the stress you get from not matching these numbers in your setup is also unnecessary. If you are obsessing over either, you are making the hobby more stressful than it should be.

Normal “room temperature” is okay for most species.

I hear this said on the forums all of the time, and it is a good, if slightly too vague, rule of thumb. For most folks, their normal room temperatures will be sufficient for the majority of species of tarantulas. Generally, if you’re comfortable, then your tarantula will be comfortable, too.

My all-purpose thermometer/hygrometer.

My all-purpose thermometer/hygrometer.

That being said, this rule causes confusion as normal “room temperatures” may vary from home to home. For example, in my house, we like it a bit cooler than most, so my living room at the moment is about 64º. My grandmother, on the other hand, likes it toasty, and her home is around 88º this time of year. Both of these temperatures represent extremes, and some species of Ts kept for long at either end could experience distress.

Therefore, a modicum of common sense is needed when applying this rule. If you’re cuddled up in several sweatshirts and a blanket to watch TV, then this is not a comfortable room temperature for your animals. Conversely, if it’s summer and the 89º heat in your home has your sweaty clothes sticking your body like blistered layers of skin, your Ts are not going to be happy.

The majority of the species will do well in a temperature range between high 60s and mid 80s, and will tolerate temps slightly higher and lower than these for shorter durations. If your home is 67-70º throughout the winter, you don’t have to worry about procuring some sort of alternative heat source or else risk your tarantulas dying. They may not eat as much or grow as fast (warmer temps lead to faster metabolisms) but they will be just fine.

If you should decide that you need supplementary heat…

I’ve read posts by hobbyist who live in drafty houses where the temps consistently get lower than would be appropriate. Or, there are folks like myself who have a room dedicated to raising these animals, and they purposely want to keep temperatures higher to promote growth or breeding. In these instances, it is always best to control the overall temperature of the room and not the individual enclosures.

The space heater I use in my tarantula room.

The space heater I use in my tarantula room.

The best heating option for situations like these is a space heater. There are many types available on the market, including oscillating heating fans and oil-filled electric space heaters. Most also come with built in digital thermostats and timers, allowing for you to create an optimal day/night cycle. If you do go this route, be sure to do your research and look up reviews to get the best, safest heater for your money.

And if you do decide to go with supplementary heating, please remember the following:

  • No heat mats!
  • No heat pads!
  • No heat rocks!
  • Absolutely NO Heat lamps!

Most pet store heat mats, heat pads, and heat rocks are not appropriate heating sources for tarantulas. All three can create hot spots that can injure, dehydrate, and kill a T.

That said, there are some folks that use heat mats combined with rheostats to heat their collections, but doing so takes some experimentation and finesse. If you absolutely can’t use a space heater and feel that heat mats might be a better fit, do some research and speak to keepers who have experience with these setups. Most who use them heat larger areas, like tanks or cabinets, then put the T enclosures into these. Heating individual tanks is much more tricky and risky.

Heat lamps are very dangerous and can dry out and kill a tarantula very quickly. I don’t care how many thermostats and temperature-regulating gadgets the pet industry sells, these heating sources are likely to do more harm than good.

Humidity … Stop Worrying!

NO-HYGROMETERThe anxiety created by dreaded “H” word is likely a leading cause of stress-induced hypertension in new hobbyists. All joking aside, the humidity “requirements” listed in many care sheets have created a massive issue where none should exist. Too many times, a new hobbyist will read some arbitrary humidity level on a care sheet, rush to Petco to pick up one of their cheap, inaccurate (read: USELESS) humidity gauges, then panic when they can’t hit that magic moisture number. This is a waste of time, energy, and stress that can better be spent on sports teams, money, and taxes.

It’s important to keep a few things in mind before obsessing about humidity.

  • Accurate humidity levels are almost impossible to measure with cheap, over-the-counter humidity gauges. In other words, if you’re obsessing over the number on your Zoo Med hygrometer, you are likely stressing over an inaccurate measurement.
  • Humidity requirements listed on care sheets often don’t take into account that humidity levels differ from region to region. If you live in an area with high-humidity naturally, like Florida, and you are misting down your avic, you are likely doing much more harm than good. Always take into account local climate conditions when setting up your enclosures.
  • Most species are able to thrive at many different humidity levels. Even genera like Avicularia, Poecilotheria, and Lasiodora, once thought to need much higher humidity levels, have demonstrated the ability to do very well at lower humidity levels when supplied with water dishes. In fact, some keepers now attribute many Avicularia deaths to overly-humid, stuffy enclosures.
  • Humidity levels in properly vented enclosures are often much different from those in the homes they are in. The humidity gauge in your home may read 45% humidity, but the moisture level in your enclosure may be much higher. If you go spraying the cage down, you might be raising the humidity to dangerous levels. Overly moist enclosures are a death trap.

The fact is, most species do very well in a cage that allows for proper cross ventilation (holes in the sides, not the top) and a water dish. That’s it. For asian species, using deep, moist substrate and supplying a water dish is all that they need. They will construct burrows beneath the sub which will provide the correct humidity level for them.

Now, are there situations where you should keep an eye on moisture and humidity? Certainly. I live in New England where the winters can be cold and my home’s furnace may be running for weeks at a time. This dries the air in my home, often resulting in humidity levels in the teens. In these instances, it makes sense to run a humidifier to keep levels at a safer level (I usually opt for about 40-50%).

Slings are also more susceptible to dehydration, so many folks choose to keep all spiderlings on moist substrate with good ventilation. Slings around .75″ can also be given water bowls, which also aids in preventing them from drying out. For my tiniest slings, I keep the substrate slightly moist on the bottom, then offer sphagnum moss on the top, which I keep moist for drinking.

With proper enclosures and husbandry, humidity level should never be a factor, even if outside conditions seem less than optimal. Here are some husbandry tips that will keep you from every having to fret about humidity.

1. Keep a water dish filled with fresh water at all times.

The easiest way to keep the humidity up in an enclosure is to add a water dish. A large, open dish will allow water to slowly evaporate, raising the humidity inside the enclosure as long as it isn’t overly vented. It will also, obviously, serve as a drinking source for a parched T. For some species, like my T. strimi, I will even include two dishes.

2. Restrict ventilation.

Are you using a screen top on your aquarium, or is your T housed in a critter keeper-type enclosure? Both of these cages will allow for too much airflow and rapid evaporation, which will inhibit you from creating a “micro climate” inside the cage. A good enclosure should offer cross ventilation (holes/vents should be on the sides) and airflow, but should also prevent conditions inside the cage from becoming too dry. You must be careful not to restrict airflow too much, though, as not enough ventilation will create a stuffy, dangerous environment.

3. Use moist soil for tropical or Asian species.

For species that appreciate a little extra moisture, I use moist, not wet, substrate. My go-to mixture for these enclosures is topsoil combined with a bit of peat moss with some vermiculite mixed in for moisture retention. It’s moist enough that it will stay together when squeezed without water wringing out of it. My O. philippinus, P. cancerides, C. discolus, P. antinous, H. gigas, and T. stirmi are all kept on topsoil mixed with some vermiculite to maintain moisture. When the levels in my room are too low, they can retreat to their dens for a more humid environment.

4. Provide enough substrate depth for burrowing.

Many keepers opt to keep Ts on shallow substrate so that they can see them out more. Although this is obviously up to the keeper’s discretion, and most species will easily adapt, it will prevent some animals from burrowing to find more suitable conditions. When in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to give the T extra depth in which to dig. Even for species that don’t dig, the extra depth will allow the bottom levels to remain moist while the top remains dry. As this trapped moisture slowly evaporates, it will elevate the humidity in the enclosure.

5. Don’t spray … make it rain.

An old juice bottle modified with some holes to be a watering bottle.

An old juice bottle modified with some holes to be a watering bottle.

Many hobbyists talk about spraying water into their enclosures to increase humidity. This technique only raises levels for a short period as the surface liquid quickly evaporates. When I want to add moisture to an enclosure, I like to “make it rain.” Using a soldering iron, I put several holes in the top of a large juice bottle and turned it into a handy watering pot. Instead of spraying water into the enclosure, I simulate a downpour and soak down one side. The moisture eventually sinks in, keeping the sub moist as the top dries up.

6. Use a humidifier.

If you live in a region with cold winters, necessitating that you use a furnace, chimney, or wood stove to heat your home, chances are that the humidity levels will get dangerously low. In these instances, even properly set up cages can dry out quickly. The best solution to this is to purchase a humidifier. You don’t need to overdo it if you go this route; a humidity level between 40 and 50% will suffice.

Don’t let needlessly worrying about temperature and humidity add stress to the hobby.

For the majority of the species available, and for all of the tarantulas I named in my Beginner Tarantula guide, room temperature and humidity will be fine. In my opinion, there is NO need to purchase a humidity gauge, as they are woefully inaccurate, and in most instances, supplementary heat is also unwarranted (and sometimes dangerous).

Is there a time where more careful, species-specific micro-climates are necessary? Yes, as those looking to breed species, especially some of the more difficult ones, will look to recreate natural environmental triggers, like high temps, winter lows, or wet seasons to stimulate a mating response. In these cases, some careful management of their tarantulas’ micro-climates will be warranted. However, for the casual keeper or for one new to the hobby, this should never be an issue.

So toss those humidity gauges and heat mats in the closet, leave the spray bottle for the plants, and stop worrying about temperature an humidity. Your Ts will appreciate it.

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!

 

Beautiful Tarantulas!

Let’s keep it real … tarantula keeping is not the most respected hobby in the world, and tarantula keepers are generally thought to be a bit eccentric at best and creepy at worst. And believe me … I get it.

With the majority of folks either being terrified of spiders, or thinking that they are disgusting animals to be squished on sight, it’s difficult for them to understand why someone would willingly choose to keep larger, hairier, scarier versions of these creatures as pets.

When asked why I don’t keep “normal” pets, I explain that I have three big rescue dogs who I absolutely adore (I’m petting two in between typing this). I also grew up on a small farm, and I look forward to the day when I will get to keep goats again. I don’t eschew common animals to keep giants spiders; I love them all.

Inevitably, when I’m asked what I could possibly find appealing about these “giant, hairy bugs,” I usually mention my fascination with them from an early age (even when I considered myself arachnophobic), and the fact that they’ve been around for millions of years. I try to explain the thrill of watching them molt and mature from fragile slings to large, bold adults. I talk about how feeding and maintenance time becomes a way for me to relax and unwind.

Then, knowing full well what’s coming, I usually explain how I actually find them to be quite beautiful.

“Beautiful?” the person will ask incredulously, a look of pure disgust smeared over his/her face.

“Beautiful,” I answer again, then take out my phone to show a couple pics of my stunners.

And usually, this is when the non-believer mutters a stunned, “Wow, is that real?” then asks to see more pics. It never gets old.

For some, this glimpse of a few of the more colorful species is enough to help them cross the threshold from fear and disgust to curiosity. What do they eat? How long do they live? How to you house them? These are some of the questions that often follow.

Do I win everyone over? No, of course not. People have a right to their opinions, and I understand my love for tarantulas puts me in the minority. Still, more often than not, the next time I talk to one of these people about my hobby, their questions are more genuine and inquisitive and not as judgmental.

Yes, tarantulas can be beautiful. Want proof?

My juvenile O.philippinus.

My juvenile O.philippinus.

B. boehmei

B. boehmei

Female B. smithi

Female B. smithi

Male P. murinus

Male P. murinus

P. murinus (OBT)

P. murinus (OBT)

Hapalopus sp. Large

Hapalopus sp. Large

GBB-two

GBB-December

C. dyscolus

C. dyscolus

A. versicolor

A. versicolor

VERSICOLOR-MOLT

A.-versi-NEW-1

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.

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.

P. metallica

P. metallica

M. balfouri

M. balfouri

My young adult female E. pachypus.

My young adult female E. pachypus.

C.-darlingi

C. darlingi

Eucratoscelus pachypus – The Stout Leg Baboon.

My female E. pachypus

One of my E. pachypus young adults

 An adorable and beautiful baboon tarantula.

About a year ago, I stumbled onto an article about good “beginner baboon” species for hobbyists not currently keeping Old Worlds. One of the species mentioned was the Eucratoscelus Pachypus or “Stout Leg Baboon” tarantula. I immediately Googled some pics and was floored by the unique look of this species. With a sleek and golden overall body and overly-large, thick brown back legs, I was favorably reminded of the satyr from Greek Mythology. When I saw that Ken the Bug Guy had some of these Tanzanian beauties in stock, I had to have a couple.

A good “starter” Old World with simple husbandry.

The E. pachypus is an obligate burrower, meaning that any enclosure setup should provide deep substrate to allow for it to construct a burrow. My 2.5″ young adults are in enclosures that offer about 4-5″ of depth in which to dig. As this species comes from arid climates, I use a combination of dry coco fiber and peat for the substrate. A water dish is also provided at all times. I initially supplied each with a piece of cork bark over a small “starter burrow” (a hole made with my finger), and both of my specimens quickly utilized these starter dens to construct their own homes.

The custom enclosure for my juvenile E. pachypus.

The custom enclosure for my juvenile E. pachypus.

Unlike some of my other burrowers that angle their entrances , this species digs a deep vertical tunnel that leads to a large burrow at the bottom. When a prey item wanders nearby, they use those large back legs to explode out of the hole with amazing quickness. It really is fascinating to watch. And, because the entrance is vertical, you are afforded many more glimpses of this species than you’d normally get from a “pet hole.” So far, mine have proven to be excellent eaters. I feed them two adult crickets a week, and so far neither has refused a meal.

When it comes time to rehouse my two, I will likely look to create an enclosure that offers even more depth than I usually allow for my burrowers. I’ve been impressed by how they construct their homes, and I’m eager to see what they will do when given even more room to dig.

A look down my E. pachypus' vertical den. You can see my specimen sitting at the bottom.

A look down my E. pachypus’ vertical den. You can see my specimen sitting at the bottom.

E. pachypus hails from arid regions, so there are no strict humidity requirements. A water dish will supply all of the moisture it will need. As for temperatures, I keep my specimens in a the warmer corner of my tarantula room, which ranges from 72-77º in the winter, and 76-84º in the warm summer months. Although these are the temps I keep mine at, the species would also do well at temps in the high 70s to low 80s.

A small, relatively calm baboon.

This is a smaller species, with full-grown specimens obtaining a max size of about 4-4.5″ DSL. They are also reportedly a slow-growing tarantula, with some folks comparing their growth rates to the glacial pace of the P. muticus. I will be looking forward to the first molts from mine, and I will be sure to document the amount of time that passes in between each molt and the size gained.

Although a baboon tarantula, the E. pachypus is generally recognized for having a less-aggressive temperament than some of the other African spiders. My two specimens seem very content to flee into their burrows if I disturb them, and I’ve yet to see a threat pose. That said, they can show a bit of spunk, and some report specimens that have quite a feisty attitude. They are also very fast and, being an Old World species, can pack a heck of a bite. Despite their reputation for being more calm, it’s important to remember that this is not a T to handle, and respect should always be shown when interacting with it.

Where are the boys at?

This is a sexually dimorphic species, with only the females getting the large dark fluffy back legs. Unfortunately, this is a notoriously difficult species to breed, and a strong captive bred population has yet to be established in the States. Further complicating things is that most of the specimens available in the states are wild caught females. Males are rare and very difficult to come by. Some believe that those capturing the sub adults for the pet trade don’t recognize the males as being the same species, and therefore don’t collect them. Whatever the reason, keepers trying to breed this species have a heck of a time finding mature males. Hopefully, someone in the US has luck with breeding this species soon so we can start seeing some captive bred stock.

My young adult female E. pachypus.

My young adult female E. pachypus.

A unique, beautiful, and easy to care for tarantula.

For those interested in acquiring their first Old World species, or for established keepers looking for an interesting tarantula, the E. pachypus deserves your attention. With simple husbandry, a manageable attitude, and truly unique look, it’s an excellent addition to any collection.

AT-A-GLANCE--Pachy