Author: Tung
•Monday, January 26, 2009
I will summarize some traits that you should avoid for your first (few) Tarantulas. Hope it will help those who want a specie that is not in my Top 10 beginner's Tarantulas list. Just because it is not in the top 10 doesn't mean it is not suitable for a beginner. In fact, there are so many species out there that I am not even aware of. Again, I need to remind you that all Tarantulas are venomous and some can cause serious medical consequences with their bites. So you should show the Tarantulas the appropriate respect.

Please remember this article is geared towards beginners so please don't generalize it to other more experienced keepers. And just because a specie fits into 1 category doesn't mean it is not suitable for a beginner. I interprete it as it will be more challenging. The list is in order of importance in my experience (most important first) so for example fitting the no.1 category will be more challenging to keep than fitting the no.2 category. Certain species fit into multiple categories and I will definitely try to avoid those as my first few Tarantulas.

1. Too delicate
Some species have certain requirements that are not easy to maintain. For example, Theraphosa blondi (Goliath Bird Eater) requires a lot of humidity; otherwise, it usually results in molting complication. This also applies to Theraphosa apophysis (Pinkfoot Goliath).

Some species just have strange requirements that are at odds with the majority of other species. For intance, Poecilotheria subfusca (Ivory Ornamental) prefers low temperature (in the 70's F) and do not enjoy it in the 80's F like other Poecilotheria species.

Or some species are just plain not hardy. For instance, most Avicularia spiderlings (particularly Avicularia versicolor in my experience) can die for no apparent reason - even in good care conditions. There is even a word for it - Sudden Avic Death Syndrome (S.A.D.S or SADS) - the T just dies. The word is quite appropriate because when a beautiful and docile T like an Avic dies or SADS, it's really SAD!

As a result, you should research and check (especially with relatively less experienced keepers) to make sure that you are not getting a delicate T. The best T's are those who have no specific humidity requirement (or just prefer it dry), like it around 75 - 85 F and hardy. I hate to say it but please don't listen to the experts who say it is easy to keep this or that specie. Trust me, there is a reason they are the experts!

2. Strong venom
Many people can make the argument that a Tarantula's venom can neither kill a person nor cause allergic reaction. I don't care if the argument is medically accurate. It creates a false sense of security for beginners that there is no need to worry about a T's venom. The fact is some Tarantulas can mess you up pretty badly with even long-term effects. That doesn't mean you are totally afraid of the venom either. Just respect a Tarantula. And for your first (few) Tarantulas, you should be rather more cautious. Be safe, don't be sorry!

Generally speaking, all Old World Tarantulas (those not coming from the American continents) have strong venom. The title of Most Venomous Tarantula currently have the following contenders:
  • All Poecilotheria species e.g. Poecilotheria regalis (Indian Ornamental Tarantula)
  • All Stromatopelma species e.g. Stromatopelma calceatum (Feather Leg Baboon Tarantula) - one source believes a bite in the neck area is extremely dangerous, possible fatal if one has pre-existing conditions.
  • All Haplopelma species e.g. Haplopelma hainanum (Chinese Black Earth Tiger) - I saw rumor that it caused one death in an infant but the report was not substantiated.
  • All Heteroscodra species e.g. Heteroscodra maculata (Togo Starburst Baboon Tarantula)
  • Pterinochilus murinus (Orange Bitey Thing - Orange Baboon Tarantula)
So please check to make sure your Tarantula does not have strong venom and try to avoid the above list as your first few Tarantulas. The safest bet in my experience is to go with New World Tarantulas (found in the American continents - including North, Central and South America).

3. Too fast
How fast is too fast? Basically anything that can move faster than your reaction time is too fast. Firstly, it can startle you and cause accidents (e.g. dropping the feeding tongs on your foot - it hurts!). Secondly, because you can's react in time, the T can escape or bite you.

What species are considered too fast? Below is a nonexhaustive list:
  • All Poecilotheria species e.g. Poecilotheria regalis (Indian Ornamental Tarantula)
  • All Stromatopelma species e.g. Stromatopelma calceatum (Feather Leg Baboon Tarantula)
  • All Haplopelma species e.g. Haplopelma vonwirthi (Vietnamese Tiger Tarantula)
  • All Heteroscodra species e.g. Heteroscodra maculata (Togo Starburst Baboon Tarantula)
  • Pterinochilus murinus (Orange Bitey Thing - Orange Baboon Tarantula)
  • Hystrocrates gigas (Cameroon Red Baboon Tarantula)
I rate speed more imortant than defensiveness/aggressiveness because you can dodge the attack of a slow defensive Taranula! You can notice that most are also highly venomous species. So ya, try to look for the slow Tarantulas (medium speed is ok though slow is much better).

4. Too defensive/aggressive
Many beginners want to handle their Tarantulas (I don't recommend it though!). Defensive means you cannot handle - no way no how! Don't watch those videos on Youtube of people handling defensive Tarantulas and think it is easy. It requires lots of experience, good technique, awareness, reaction and familiarity of the specific specimen. Degree of defensiveness varies even within a specie so it may be hard to predict exactly what you will get. But the safer bet is to get a generally known to be docile/skittish specie. Try to avoid Old World species because they are mostly defensive.

Of course, aggressiveness is a big no-no. Defensiveness means a T will react negatively to disturbance but will not chase after it - it only defends its territory. Aggressiveness means a T will react negatively to disturbance and will chase after the disturbance to a certain extent - it wants to attack the disturbance. There are 2 species that I consider aggressive. Make no mistake, they are likely to chase you around the room!
  • Stromatopelma calceatum (Feather Leg Baboon Tarantula)
  • Haplopelma hainanum (Chinese Black Earth Tiger)
I personally care a lot less about defensiveness as compared to speed because if it takes 10 seconds for the T to attack me, I usually can dodge it.

5. Visibility
You want to participate in the hobby for the Tarantulas, don't you? I think that means you want to see a Tarantula, not a hole or a tube web! Yes, visibility is very important for a beginner, especially those starting out. It is much harder to appreciate a hole on a ground than a Tarantula.

Visibility CAN be improved vastly with the correct enclosure design/material! However, most beginners are more comfortable with a simple tank-subtrate-hide-water dish set up so it's still better to choose a specie that prefers to hang out in the open to begin with.

Usually you should avoid burrowing species (e.g. the classic pet holes - Haplopelma species). They burrow and spend much of their time in tunnels underground! And one big concern for a beginner is to find out if the T is in the molting process and premolt. Removing a prey from the tunnels undeground is very challenging.

Then you should also avoid species that web too much or web a tube web and hide in there most of the time (e.g. Avicularia avicularia). Those are not visible and will be a big frustration if you want to see them.

So the below is a non-exhaustive list of what you need to avoid as your first few Tarantulas.
  • Spiderlings of all Avicularia species (too delicate!)
  • All Poecilotheria species - strong venom, defensive, fast
  • All Stromatopelma species - strong venom, defensive/aggressive, fast
  • All Haplopelma species - strong venom, defensive/aggressive, fast, not visible
  • All Heteroscodra species - strong venom, defensive, fast
Pterinochilus murinus (Orange Bitey Thing - Orange Baboon Tarantula) is a split case. I put it in the Top 10 beginner's Tarantulas mainly for its outstanding hardiness and beautiful color, which increases its score very substantially. However, it is defensive, fast and possesses a strong venom so you should know what you are getting into.

I don't say it just for the sake of saying it. I really hope that you can find a good Tarantula (or better a lot of Tarantulas) that fits your preferences and become part of this exciting hobby.

Below is a disclaimer for formality. It's like you don't want to write a dog breed review and then get complaints from those who are bitten by the dog!
Disclaimer: 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.
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