A Guide to Keeping Tarantulas by Experience Level
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.
What was your first tarantula?
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)
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
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.
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
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.Helpful 7
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.Helpful 10
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.Helpful 9
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.Helpful 7
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.Helpful 6
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