Tarantulas by Experience Level

Updated on August 6, 2016
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

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)

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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

Greater Horned Baboon
Greater Horned Baboon | Source

Terrestrial Old World Species

Old Worlders do not flick hairs, so 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 Tarantua, aka Orange Bitey Thing
  • Haplopelma lividum Cobalt Blue
  • Haplopelma schmidti (No common name)
  • Hysterocrates gigas Camaroon Baboon
  • Ceratogyrus darlingi Horned Baboon

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

Ivory Ornamental
Ivory Ornamental | 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 form 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 hub. You can find many "bite reports" via Google if you'd like to research the venom of a particular species.

Feather Leg Baboon
Feather Leg Baboon | Source

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's 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 you have written on HubPages.


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      Lol 2 weeks 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.

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      Jack 7 months 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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      Xander 8 months 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.

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      Lex 9 months 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.

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      Hereholdmybeer 11 months 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

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      Ivan C 11 months 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.

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      Vikki 15 months 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!

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      John 19 months ago

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

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      Avicularia diversipes 21 months ago

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

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      Asuh dude 22 months 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!

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      Martin 2 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.

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      BeZerkaveli 2 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.

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      Jesse Chernioglo 2 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.

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      Meow 2 years ago

      Where would a LP be on this list?

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      Name 2 years ago

      i started with a gooty sapphire ornamental

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      Lex 2 years ago from Denver, CO

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

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      Ian jennings 2 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