A Guide to Keeping Tarantulas by Experience Level

Updated on June 3, 2019
trainerlex profile image

I have LOTS of pets! I love animals, art, coffee, and video games.

Poecilotheria metallica, common: Gooty Sapphire Ornamental
Poecilotheria metallica, common: Gooty Sapphire Ornamental | Source

How to Use This Guide

I very much dislike calling tarantulas "beginner, intermediate, or advanced" because I feel it's misleading. They are non-descriptive terms that don't reflect the reasons a hobbyist considers a species to fall into any of these categories. Instead of creating a list using generic terms, I have grouped species by geographical origin, temperament, and habitat because it's more accurate in determining what type of behaviors you may expect from any particular species. You will be better able to decide if a species will fit your personality and demeanor, which I feel are more influential when picking a tarantula than experience level. As you work your way down the list, the difficulty of keeping each species increases. Each grouping is a little faster, more defensive, or has a more serious bite consequence.

I don't intend this list to be a comprehensive, nor do I have personal experience with most of the species here. If you have an addition, suggestion, or would like to share any experience, please leave a comment! I will be adding species as readers recommend in hopes of creating a working resource for tarantula keepers at any experience level.

A stunning Amazon Sapphire spiderling.
A stunning Amazon Sapphire spiderling. | Source

What was your first tarantula?

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Docile New World Species

These are the most laid back spiders you will find. If you're looking for a tarantula you can handle without too much worry, look no further. With time, you will learn how to safely pick up and place your little guy without much risk to yourself or spider. Please do a reasonable amount of research before attempting any handling. Arachnoboards.com has some very helpful guides if you don't know where to start.

  • Aphonopelma bicoloratum Mexican Blood Leg
  • Aphonopelma chalcodes Desert Blond
  • Aphonopelma seemani Costa Rican Zebra
  • Avicularia avicularia Common Pinktoe
  • Avicularia diversipes Amazon Sapphire Pinktoe
  • Avicularia geroldi Brazilian Pinktoe
  • Avicularia laeta Puerto Rican Pinktoe
  • Avicularia metallica
  • Avicularia minatrix Venezuelan Red Slate Pinktoe
  • Avicularia purpurea Purple Pinktoe
  • Avicularia Versicolor Martinique Pinktoe
  • Brachypelma albopilosum Curlyhair
  • Brachypelma emilia Mexican Redleg
  • Brachypelma smithi Mexican Redknee
  • Cyriocosmus elegans (dwarf, no common name)
  • Cyriocosmus leetzi (dwarf, no common name)
  • Eupalaestrus campestratus Pink Zebra Beauty

Skittish New World Species

These guys are more likely to kick hair, bite, or run from you than those previously mentioned. They are still quite docile, and often suggested as good first tarantulas for new hobbyists with less confidence. With care, they may be handled, if you must.

  • Brachypelma vagans Mexican Redrump
  • Brachypelma boehmei Mexican Rustleg
  • Cromatopelma cyanopubescens Green Bottle Blue
  • Cyclosternum fasciatum Costa Rican Tigerrump
  • Grammostola aueostriatum Chaco Gold Knee
  • Grammostola pulchra Brazilian Black
  • Grammostola rosesa Chilean Rose Hair
  • Iridopelma sp. "recife" (No common name)

A very small Blue Fang spiderling having a meal.
A very small Blue Fang spiderling having a meal. | Source

Defensive New World Species

Species here, and on out, are not to be handled, but instead maneuvered and coaxed with tools such as deli cups, lids, feeding tongs, fishnets, and paintbrushes in/out of their enclosures for maintenance purposes.

  • Acanthoscurria natalensis (No common name)
  • Ephebopus cyanognathus Blue Fang Skeleton
  • Ephebopus murinus Skeleton Leg
  • Ephebopus rufescens Red Skeleton
  • Ephebopus uatuman Emerald Skeleton
  • Lasiodora parahybana Salmon Pink Birdeater
  • Megaphobema robustum Columbian Giant Red-leg
  • Psalmopoeus cambridgei Trinidad Chevron
  • Psalmopoeus irminia Venezuelan Sun Tiger
  • Psalmopoeus pulcher Panama Blond
  • Theraphosa blondi Goliath Birdeater

Terrestrial Old World Species

Old Worlders do not flick hairs, so they have a more potent venom than their New World cousins. They also move much faster than New World spiders. Their first inclination is to retreat if the option is available, but an adult is less likely to do so in captivity because enclosure size is often very restrictive (in territorial terms). If they consider you to be within their territorial bounds, which many do as soon as you pop the opening on their container, they are ready to defend their burrow, legs, and fangs in the air. I should note that this is a generalization and there are certainly exceptions. Suffice to say, these species are easily provoked.

  • Chilobrachys fimbriatus Indian Violet
  • Idiothele Mira Blue Foot Baboon
  • Pterinochilus murinus Orange Baboon Tarantula, aka Orange Bitey Thing
  • Haplopelma lividum Cobalt Blue
  • Haplopelma schmidti (No common name)
  • Hysterocrates gigas Cameroon Baboon
  • Ceratogyrus darlingi Horned Baboon

Greater Horned Baboon
Greater Horned Baboon | Source

Venom Potency

Old World tarantulas have far more potent venom, with Asian species being strongest. Tarantula venom is not inherently lethal to humans, but bites from Old Worlders induce a more intense and widespread pain. There are no recorded deaths from tarantula bites; however, you should head to the emergency room if you have difficulty breathing from either swelling or an allergic reaction. For example, a bite to the face or neck can cause enough swelling to restrict airflow. Joint pain, muscle cramping, and irregular heartbeats are not uncommon side effects among many more, which deserve their own article. You can find many "bite reports" via Google if you'd like to research the venom of a particular species.

Arboreal Old World Species

Most tarantula keepers agree that these are the most challenging species in the hobby. They are wicked fast and not afraid to defend their territory (their whole cage) from invaders like yourself. However, If given a retreat, they would rather hunker down in hiding than go out of the way to attack. Individuals vary, of course. Issues usually only arise during cage cleanings and maintenance when disturbing your spider is unavoidable.

Personally, I recommend you keep a spider from the Psalmopoeus genus before attempting any Old World arboreals. The genus will allow you to become accustomed to arboreal speed and how to maneuver a more defensive spider without the more painfully dangerous consequences of Old World strength venom.

  • Cyriopagopus schioedtei Maylasian Earthtiger
  • Heteroscodra maculata Togo Starburst Baboon
  • Lampropelma nigerrimum (No common name)
  • Lampropelma violaceopes Singapore Blue
  • Poecilotheria metallica Gooty Sapphire Ornamental
  • Poecilotheria ornata Fringed Ornamental
  • Poecilotheria regalis Indian Ornamental
  • Poecilotheria rufilata Red Slate Ornamental
  • Poecilotheria striata Mysore Ornamental
  • Poecilotheria subfuscia Ivory Ornamental
  • Stromatopelma calceatum Feather Leg Baboon

My Personal Experience

My first tarantula was an Orange Baboon (Pterinochilus murinus), which is not typically suggested to new tarantula keepers. I had a great time with him, and don't regret jumping into what's considered an intermediate-level species right from the start. He fit my naturally cautious, introverted demeanor perfectly. Other species I've kept include individuals from the Avicularia, Grammostola, Cyriocosums, Psalmopoeus, Poecilotheria, and Stromatopelma genus.

As far as the Old World arboreals go, particularly Stromatopelma calceatum, I cannot stress how important it is that you take extensive measures in preventing opportunities for escape or being bitten. You cannot react to their speed, so set yourself up for safe interaction when maintaining these species. You have to be careful with everything regarding these tarantulas. Plan adult enclosures well in advance, minding how accessible the water dish is, where you'll be accessing the cage, how fast the door shuts, making sure there are lots of places to hide, etc., and you don't want to re-house these guys more than once, when you finally place them in their adult enclosure. If you always err on the side of caution, you will not find these beautiful beasties to be as much trouble as they're made out to be. I truly feel that successful keeping of S. calceatum is strongly dependent on your own personality and the way your approach danger in general.

Please share your experience with tarantulas! You are welcome to include links to safe handling advice or care sheets.

Ivory Ornamental
Ivory Ornamental | Source
Feather Leg Baboon
Feather Leg Baboon | Source

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

  • Was the OBT really hard, or is it just overemphasized?

    All baboon tarantulas should be dealt with cautiously. They aren't as predictable as new world species and fight before flight, but are a good intro to the old world if that's where your interest is.

  • What would you recommend for a new world tarantula?

    Wow. That's a big question and difficult to answer being that my interest are my own. Ignoring all that, I favor arboreals like Tapinauchenius and Psalmopoeus species. I had fun with a feisty Brazilian black for a while, but my terrestrial NW fave is the Mexican Red Knee, Brachypelma smithi. It's widely available, super forgiving, and displays well in an enclosure. You can't go wrong.

  • Have you ever heard of the species Selenotypus Champagne Robustus? Do you have any information on them?

    They are an Australian desert species that burrow to find an appropriate humidity. They are not known to be overly defensive, but it sounds like they can be lethal to small dogs and cats. Don't keep the substrate too wet, but make sure the T has access to some dampness near the bottom so he can find the right levels. Seems a hardy species and not a bad choice for a first spider, although venom is a concern as with any old world individual.

  • My juvenile P. metallica has gotten behind the 3D foam background in its ExoTerra cage. It's even webbing back there. Should I coax it out and close up the hole it's getting through?

    He is unimpressed by your choices for hiding places. I had to plug a few holes in all my ExoTerra enclosures to keep crickets from crawling back there, dying, and smelling awful. For the sake of both cleanliness and general viewing pleasure, I would do as you say and *gently* coax the little beast out, removing the styrofoam if necessary. It can be slid back in place after safely cupping the tarantula into another secure container. Get some good hides if you haven't already done so. It will reduce defensiveness and he won't be tempted to chew his way behind the back again.

  • Are Psalmopoeus irminia docile?

    I wouldn't call them docile, but I consider them relatively forgiving in temperament. The individuals I've cared for were generally nonreactive whenever I messed with their enclosures. They are a good step up from beginner species. And lovely.

© 2013 Lex


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    • profile image


      4 months ago

      My first was a lasiodora parahybana

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      Steve H 

      7 months ago

      My first was a Gooty Sapphire, and got a Indian ornamental 6 months later for my second. Both as slings and here I am 2 and half years later and they are big and beautiful.

    • profile image

      Lara K 

      7 months ago

      My first Tarantula is a P. metallica. Fell in love with this species whem I saw it for the first time.

      But it was a Sling

    • profile image


      7 months ago

      My first T was a GBB then caribena versicolor. I only handle my versicolor because my GBB loved to kicks hair and once attacked my tong. I only buys colorful tarantula

    • profile image

      Milos vasic 

      7 months ago

      My first T was l. Parahybana

    • profile image


      8 months ago

      People say it's so scary to take care of an rehouse OBT. Them they bought a Chilobrachys :O

    • profile image


      8 months ago

      My first was a euathlus sp red (chilean flame)

    • profile image


      8 months ago

      First T was/is a GBB. Got him/her as a sling

    • profile image


      9 months ago

      My first is an OBT

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      10 months ago

      My first was Ernest, my theraphosa stirmi. They're a darling, and they're about 4.5 inches now.

    • profile image


      11 months ago

      My first tarantula was a Costa Rican zebra knee tarantula and she’s really chill but is always in her burrow.

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      12 months ago

      I have my first Ts.. A selenocosmia samarae.. I really wanted to touch him but im afraid he's gonna bite me and i dont know if he carrys venom in him..

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      Kevin Davis 

      12 months ago

      As far as myself, when i realized that i could actually adopt and care for these magnificent creatures(Thanks to the internet), i adopted numerous animals,i'm not new to the mothering of young tarantulas but my beginners selection were Old and New world critters, I would'nt recommend the Old World P.Muticus(King Baboon) just for the factor that you never see it because it's always in it's burrow. If anyone wants a docile pet with a laid back attitude my recommendation is Brachypelma Albopalosum and their absolutely adorable to boot,mine is a Nicaraguan curly hair not Honduran.If a creative web weaver is your gig than the Old World Harpachtira Pulchripes would be your game and they still have a fantastic attitude. I am especially fond of the Grammastola Iheringi for which i adopted 3 of them, Jethro being the largest male of the 3 sports a 7" legspan

    • profile image


      13 months ago

      My first was a lasiodora parahybana, a very big girl .most say should not be handled but she was more friendly then my 2 smithy's.. she died last year at 18 years of age.

    • profile image


      13 months ago

      My first tarantula was a Philogius Proserpine and Wallace creek tarantula sp.8

    • profile image


      15 months ago

      My first Spider was A megaphobema robustum :3 this beautiful girl eats a lot and is not aggressiv at all but you shouldnt handle her because she seems very nervous when i do something in her enclosure.

      so if you want a big, beautiful spider then buy a megaphobema u wont regret it

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      I found Xanders post so interesting.

      I’m aracnaphobic to a stupid degree, I flip over medium sized garden spiders to the point I obsessively check they aren’t crawling on me, my boyfriend has to check my bedroom every night incase there is one waiting for me :’o but I knew I guy who kept tons of them and I couldn’t help from a distance be fascinated with tarantulas, especially the brightly coloured ones and it’s a strange mix between severe anxiety and admiration. So think it’s quite amazing that someone got over their fear by going out and buying one!!!

      Still don’t think I’m quite brave enough for that though. If it ever got out (happened to my friends) I’d have to move house :/

    • profile image

      Haela Miller 

      17 months ago

      Does anybody know anything about a skeleton tarantula? From my limited research, this spider is friendly and would likely fit into the first category on this website(as far as I know). I have never owned a tarantula before and I’m very interested in this species. Would a skeleton tarantula be a good start for me? Open to opinions and other suggestions. Thanks!

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      Michael D. 

      17 months ago

      My first T was a thai tiger

      I still have her and am still happy i started with an advanced species.

      Every other T i got after her is OW.

      When the breeder told me she was able to put me in E.R. i took that challenge.

      I raised every from sling, and each i handle.

      I love all of them

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      18 months ago

      My first t was a P. Metallica. Yes I’m aware it’s not a great idea but ended up being a great t to me and I still have her to this day.

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      19 months ago

      I don't believe you listed the Pumpkin Patch tarantula. I don't know the scientific name.

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      21 months ago

      My first T was an Aphonopelma Chalcodes and they are very nice tarantulas.

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      22 months ago

      My first ts are two p irminia slings, that i got two months ago. In a few days i will get a little h pulchripes sling.

      Found this page because i am planning on get more ts and i wanted to know more about the temperament about diffetent species.

      Maybe ill get Acanthoscurria ssp or Nhandu, there are so many cool ts!

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      23 months ago

      Mexican Golden Red Rump was my first T

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      T. C. 

      2 years ago

      Well I don’t think there’s much to add with everything you wrote in the different species and aggression levels. Just a little on my back ground. I use to work in one of the biggest importers and exporters of anything and everything pet trade. I was in charge of everything Venomous and dangerous from venomous snakes to all Tarantulas last but not least gators and several species of crocodilians. I think that you should find a species that is to your liking but with that being said a beginner should always start with beginner species like Rose hairs or Red knees until they work their way down the different species but above everything research, research, research . I was lucky I guess, I’ve had every species of tarantula in the trade including every type of scorpion down to death stockers. My favorites are all the arboreal old world species, Which I agree should only be handled by someone with experience. Because as you said they are wicked fast and can be extremely aggressive not a good combination for an inexperienced handler. My first T’s was an adult Sun Tiger and an adult Trinidad Chevron. This was a nice read keep it up.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      My first T was an H. Maculata, don’t really think I have to say much after that (very hardy T though) besides it shouldn’t matter what T you get as your first, get the one you want just do your research, of course they’re all amazing and eventually you’ll probably have 10 too even if you think you’re only gonna get one. It’s addictive really, because it’s a great pass time if you’re intrigued by them. Plus some personal bonuses - it’s really inexpensive, and way less needy than say a cat or a dog. If the research doesn’t help you can always look up the exact species you’re interested in on YouTube there’s hundreds of videos for every species and how they act and everything from many different people. Should give you a good idea if you’re looking at getting a specific one and aren’t sure.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Started with a cobalt blue, and it was a dick. Beautiful spider though, and taught me how to respect a spider. I've been out of the hobby for years, but I'm looking to get back in. I'm thinking about getting an arborial spider, "I've had a avic avic before," but I'm not sure weather I should start up with a real spider, "the old world variety" or get another starter to get back into it. What do you think?

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      2 years ago

      My first T was a Cobalt Blue. She was every bit the nasty, flighty pet hole she was supposed to be. I loved her. She never , never bit. But I was incredibly respectful of her and never handled her. She was exciting and stunning to admire on her midnight jaunts. I knew what I wanted after the research I did. I was terrified of spiders, and decided to purchase a T to break me of my fear. Having had never handled any T I've owned, I can now be calm enough to identify a spider, make sure its safe to handle, pick it up and toss it outside. It doesn't both me in the least. I wanted the cobalt because she was aesthetically pleasing and was leary of me as much as I was her. I wanted something terrified of humans so I could gain an empathy for them. It worked flawlessly. Nothing but good to say for my nasty pet hole.

    • trainerlex profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Denver, CO

      Yikes! I would not recommend a Cyriopagopus species for a first timer, but not saying it can't be done. I have to admit a hati hati does look attractive. I found it much easier to get used to some more "challenging" species if you get them as spiderlings. You kind of grow together and they aren't as intimidating as you get to know them over time. ALWAYS practice the same level of care and caution when doing maintenance or feeding with these species not matter what size they are. You will have an amazing time.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Found this article very inspiring. I'm an ex-arachnophob looking to take on a tarantula. Would you have an adult or spiderling? I love the idea of an adult female but a baby is appealing. Love the look of the hati hati but not sure if I'm upto the challenge of a stropy spider

    • profile image

      Ivan C 

      3 years ago

      Aphonopelma chalcodes. It was a tiny little sling. Bought for 10 bucks. It's growing up sooo slow but I feel very excited every time it molts. Also have: Chaco golden knee 3 inch. Mexican red rump 3 inch, Mexican red knee 2inch, and Mexican red leg 3/4 inch! I won't be adding anymore until these grow more but maybe next I'd like a GBB. Great hobby and very regarding.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Lasiodora klugi. My son was given this sling for his birthday much to my horror! We knew nothing about spider husbandry. I googled it and was even more upset that this is not a spider for novices. Planning on taking it back to the pet shop I landed up in the deep end with my son going away and not finding time to take him back. I fell in love with this little sling. Eventually setting him up in his ideal environment and even managed to sex him after a few molts. I am now hooked. Although I don't handle my Bahia, as he is quiet defensive he does tolerate me. I am now the proud owner of various species and take in neglected spiders as well. I do health checks, terrarium checks and set ups and sexing along with advice to handlers. I absolutly love my big guy!! From arachnophobia to spider enthusiast!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      First T = Aphonopelma species - New River Rust Rump. Docile, Docile, Docile!

    • profile image

      Avicularia diversipes 

      3 years ago

      this mine but i am not sure if this spider are handleable

    • profile image

      Asuh dude 

      3 years ago

      I starred with a P. Irminia as a tiny little baby sling, although I do not know what gender it is, it is up to about 3-4 in now and it is mind blowing fast, not to mention their 2 ft jumps that these arboreals do. Hence why I always use tongs. They may seem far away, but man do they gave hops! Excellent eater and gorgeous orange sun rays emanating from their legs.

      My second was an OBT, I rehoused it, and before I could even blink it was out of its tank and on my counter, I have never been more terrified in my life. They fast, and mean, will do threat stance as soon as you even look it, it's like it knows you're scared of it. It's kinda been a pet hole for now, will not come out and have barely seen it or seen it for about 3 months now, it is a sub adult. Regardless, beautiful bright orange coloration, not to mention those blue/green iridescent feet.

      My most recent is a skeleton blue fang E. Cyanognathus, it's a teeny little 3/4" baby, but is already fast! Cannot wait for it to grow!

      T's are fantastic animals, but you must always, always respect them and their venom!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I highly recommend: Euathlus sp 'red',

      then, Paraphysa scrofa, Avicularia diversipes, and Grammostola pulchripes. All of the aforementioned are currently in my possession, and are my best temperamented, and most beautiful T's, while not being all that expensive in my area (Southern California).

      Euathlus sp. 'red' have a near puppy-dog feel to them; almost begging to come out and 'play'. They're fairly small - being a dwarf species, and I'd be really quick to recommend this tarantula for the novice and above. This tarantula captivates me far more than the huge species because of it's, looks, docile nature, and almost 'friendly' attitude.

      I was surprised to see that you didn't include this species as one of your recommendations. Otherwise, I enjoyed the read, and I like what you had to say.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I started with a Rose Hair, which is truly one of the easiest and best tarantulas you can start with. They move relatively slow, and they do not attack much. I never once had her flick hairs on me. They will usually retreat before anything. They are pretty hardy to temperature and humidity. Very sweet for a spider. They live a decent live span with males living up to 3-5 years and the females living like 20 years in captivity. Do it right, and they can be perfect long term pets. They really don't seem to like to be handled, but with the right caution and care, they should be manageable.

      For my second spider, I got a Togo Starburst Baboon which is also known simply as Ornamental Baboon. They are two totally different spiders in every sense of the word.

      Even as a spiderling, these things are wicked fast. They can climb and move across my whole 5 gallon aquarium in about a second flat. It is almost mind boggling to see how fast these spiders move.

      It starts its life as more of a terrestrial spiderling, but as they grow older, they become arboreal. Its an Old World Spider which means it comes from Africa/Asia. This one comes from the African country of Togo and the surrounding areas, which is a very hot place, so you will need a way to keep your spider warm. Electric heater on the outside of the aquarium is the best way to warm any spider enclosure. Just make sure it's not too close to where you cook your spider. My small electric heater is almost 3 feet away from my cage.

      They like mid to higher humidity. 75% - 85%. I read it's recommended to only moisten the substrate after it dries with this spider. Temps you want in the higher 70's to low 80's.

      One thing I'd like to note about this species is that it is very bashful at first. I haven't seen the spiderling since I got her. I see little webs popping up out of nowhere, so I think she's still alive. As they grow older, they don't mind being out in the open, but as a small sling, they like staying hidden in wood. They seem to be very found of holes in wood, so drill some out if you can.

      As the article states, the spiders have very very potent venom, and they should never be held. They move way too quick for you to hold them. Not to mention, they are very defensive. Their little hairs are very sensitive to any movement in the cage. They will know when their lid is tampered with.

      I would not recommend getting a spider like this for beginners or those who want to be sticking their hand in the cages of their spiders. This is not for kids for sure, and be sure it never gets out around other animals. Though spider venom cannot kill you, some venoms have the potential to kill cats and dogs.

    • profile image

      Jesse Chernioglo 

      4 years ago

      I started with a B.smithi about 2 months ago and i am now up to 2 Ts but i take care of my brothers, so more like 3.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Where would a LP be on this list?

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      i started with a gooty sapphire ornamental

    • trainerlex profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Denver, CO

      Nice! OBTs are so engaging. And it's hard to stop once you start. =)

    • profile image

      Ian jennings 

      4 years ago

      I started with an orange bitey and an av. Metallica and couldn't be having more fun. I'll be adding to the collection intim


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