Author: Tung
•Saturday, December 27, 2008
I quite often come across people asking "What specie should I get?" The answers vary quite significantly due to people's personal preferences. So I wondered "why not a review for Tarantula?" I think that will help both newbies and experienced owners. I am by no mean an expert so I bet some Tarantula experts will find my reviews laughable. However, my conviction is that new and some old enthusiasts will find some uses for this.

I will try to be as objective as possible but sometimes, things just can't be 100% objective. To help newbies, I also include common names and a Beginner section. Please understand that there are many common names for the same specie so it's still best to look at scientific names. There is also a disclaimer, just as you don't want to write a dog review and receive a complain from someone getting bitten by the dog.

This will grow as time goes on. So check back frequently.
Updated: 12/27/2008

Click on the picture below.

How to read the table?
1. General characteristics

Types: Where the Tarantula usually hang out. Spiderlings are usually burrower regardless of specie.
  • T: Terrestrial (need more floor space)
  • OB: Opportunistic Burrower (will burrow if given enough substrate but has no problem adopting an artificial hide)
  • B: Obligate Burrower (need deep substrate to burrow, without which can lead to stress and even death)
  • A: Arboreal (need more climbing space)
  • /:Hybrids (some species exhibit different behaviors based on the husbandry conditions. E.g. a Pterinochilus murinus is supposed to be an obligate burrower but has no problem climbing, webbing and ending up above ground; the first type is the primary type)
Humidity: Specific humidity is hard to achieve and can do more harm than good. Here I break into 4 groups based on how much you CARE for the T, not how much humidity you measure. Note that you need to also be flexible based on the ambient humidity of the room and availability of an open water dish - I think my room is about 50% and all my T's above 2" get a water dish. Breeding may require different conditions. Spiderlings usually require medium/high humidity regardless of specie.
  • Insane (you'd better mist the enclosure daily to keep the substrate moist or face problems e.g. Theraphosa blondi NEEDS high humidity to molt properly)
  • High (maybe mist twice a week misting will suffice - letting the substrate partially dry out between misting is ok)
  • Medium (mist once a week - substrate can completley dry out between misting)
  • Low (maybe once a month or none at all)
Speed: Darting speed as compared to normal walking speed and a normal human reaction time. Most Tarantulas walk very slowly but some can dart at alarming speed. Spiderlings tend to be faster than adults of the same specie. This assessment is quite subjective.
  • Slow (difficult to differentiate walking and darting)
  • Medium (darting obviously faster than walking but slower than a normal person reaction)
  • Fast (darting obviously faster than walking and will require some good reaction speed)
  • Teleport (you pretty much can't tell whether it is running or teleporting)
Appetite: How well the specie reacts to prey items.
  • Voracious (usually chase after and crush or tear the prey apart)
  • Good (catch the prey quickly and never says no to food unless molting)
  • Ok (sometimes act afraid of food but generally eat well once a week)
  • Chicken (has serious eating problem - haven't found any specie fitting this label yet)
MS: Maximum legspan size in inches. 1 inch = 2.54 cm. Some species are bulkier so can appear bigger at smaller legspan (e.g. a 7" Lasiodora difficilis can look smaller than a 7" Acanthoscurria geniculata)

2. "Red" factor

Attitude: How the specie reacts to disturbance. Note that each Tarantula has a different personality ("Tarantuality") so a generally docile specie can produce some very aggressive specimens. Tarantulas usually do not show defensive behaviors unless cornered and cannot run away.

  • Docile (will take a lot of disturbance to induce a defensive behavior)
  • Skitish (prefer to run away from disturbance and is not quick to show defensive behaviors)
  • Defensive (Hair) (usually flick urticating hairs at disturbance - with or without showing a threat pose; Old World species have no urticating hair so this is not applicable)
  • Defensive (Bite) (prefers biting to defend itself - usually but not always throw a threat pose prior to biting)
  • Aggressive (actively go after the disturbance even as the disturbance is running away)

Itchiness: How itchy the urticating hair is to the hand skin - subjective. Urticating hair can cause allergic reactions to some individuals. See your doctor immediately if the urticating hair gets into your eyes - it can cause blindness.

  • NA (the specie does not possess urticating hair)
  • Low (no noticeable effect)
  • Medium (itchy but nothing unbearable)
  • High (very itchy and cause immediate rashes and may need intervention)

Venom: Strength of venom. Some people think Tarantula venom cannot cause severe allergic reactions but I beg to differ. ALL Tarantulas have and can inject venom in a bite though no verified death has been recorded. Effects of a bite can range from mere local pain to rapid heart rate, from short term (1-2 hours) to long term (months!). So you should exercise caution. Never underestimate a Tarantula and find things out the hard way.

  • Normal (pretty much just like any other Tarantula)
  • Strong (a lot of pain and may last up to a month)
  • Dangerous (strong possibility of a long term negative effect)

Grow: Some people like to watch their Tarantulas grow; some can't wait. Spiderlings are more abundant and reasonably priced so buying a fast growing Tarantula is a good way to save. Grow speed depends a lot on temperature, feeding schedule and gender (male grows a lot faster) so your experience may be different. Growing will slow down so this rating is based on the growth you will get from a 1" spiderling in 1 year.

  • Fast (up to 5")
  • Medium (up to 3")
  • Slow (up to 1")
  • Turtle (is there any change at all?)

3. Review scores
V: Visibility (how often do you expect to see your Tarantula from 10 (pretty much all the time) to 0 (can't differentiate from a tank of dirt). Note that tank design can significantly affect visibility.)

B: Beauty (How beautiful the Tarantula is from 10 (can spend whole day staring at it) to 0 (what the crap is this ugly thing?!?!). Note that this is very subjective and based on what I can see on normal lighting e.g. a Avicularia versicolor is beautiful under flash but pretty much black under normal lighting)

S: Size. I use a formula that use a base score of (MS - 2) and add more points from 8" up and deduct points for less than 5".

SC: Special characteristic factor (normally 1; add 0.5 for every additional special characteristic e.g. has a horn, can swim or communal)

Score: (V*2+B+S)*SC

Grade: Each specie get a grade based on how it scores compared to the other species on the list. So as more species are added, the grade may change. Grading is the same as in school: highest is A+, lowest is S (Satisfactory = pass: no Tarantula should fail!)

4. Beginner review
Cmod: A modifier factor based on the specie Characteristics. A deduction for high humidity requirement, fast speed and bad eating habit. Addition for low humidity requirement, slow speed and voracious eater.

Rmod: A modifier based on "Red" factors. Deduction for defensive behaviors, highly itchy urticating hair, strong venom and slow grow speed. Addition for docile, not so itchy urticating hair and fast grow speed.

Hardy: How tolerant the specie is to owner's husbandry mistakes? Standard score is 1. Less than 1 means easier to die from problems (e.g. Theraphosa blondi molt problems due to low humidity). Greater than 1 means you will have to do something very wrong to have a dead Tarantula (e.g. Pterinochilus murinus is known to be very hardy and adaptable to any environment).

Score: (V*2+B+S)*(SC+Cmod+Rmod)*(Hardy^2)

Grade: Each specie get a grade based on how it scores compared to the other species on the list. So as more species are added, the grade may change. Grading is the same as in school: highest is A+, lowest is S (Satisfactory = pass: no Tarantula should fail!). This score applies a lot more to a beginner collector.

Disclaimer: All information is based on my personal experience and research so there is no guarantee yours will be the same. In Internet term, it's YMMV (Your millage may vary). Exercise caution! I shall not be held responsible for any harm and/or negative consequences (to anyone and/or anything) resulting directly and/or indirectly from my article. Tarantulas are venomous and keeping them involve some risks. Tarantulas also have personalities ("tarantualities") so a generally docile specie can have some aggressive specimens.
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