Keeping Avicularia Versicolor – The Antilles Pink Toe Tarantula (Care Sheet)

Originally described in 1837, Avicularia versicolor is the thing of legends; it’s not uncommon for new tarantula enthusiasts to quickly add it to their “bucket list” of species they want to keep – and for good reason.

There can be few who would deny that Avicularia versicolor is truly one of the most beautiful tarantulas known to science. As youngsters, they start off a rich, deep blue.

With time, as they mature, they develop the adult coloration; the metallic blue/green carapace and rich plum-colored abdomen. Add to this the fact that A.versicolor is a very “fluffy” tarantula and grows to a healthy 5″ of so in legspan and its little wonder that so many tarantula fanatics go weak at the knees when they see one.

If you’re considering purchasing your first Avicularia versicolor and are looking for advice then read on for the ultimate care sheet on keeping this species in captivity…

Wild Habitat of Avicularia versicolor

Martinique Pink Toes are known for being one of the more difficult species to keep.

Avicularia versicolor - the Antilles Pink Toed Tarantula - surely one of the best-looking tarantulas of all?Stories abound of high mortality rates, especially among youngsters, so this species should ideally be seen an an intermediate to advanced species, rather than one suitable for the beginner.

That said, an examination of their wild habitat may serve to offer some tips as to why so many keepers struggle to rear this species successfully in captivity.

One of the most critical elements to keeping tarantulas successfully in captivity is an understanding of their wild environment. Many tarantula species have evolved over millennia to perfectly adapt to a specific way of life, so by understanding their wild habits we can more accurately attempt to replicate these in captivity.

Avicularia versicolor is found in a number of close-lying Caribbean islands, namely Guadeloupe, Dominica and Martinique. A search of the scientific literature reports that on Martinique this spider may be found  around Mont Pelee (Martinique’s highest point) and Pitons du Carbet though it is likely these spiders are far more widespread.

Martinique’s climate is notable for its stability. Annual temperatures rarely deviate more than a few degrees from the average, sitting at around 82-82’F (28’C). It is interesting to note that this is considerably higher than the temperatures that most tarantula care sheets advise, and may suggest that a warmer captive environment might lead to improved husbandry results.

Humidity is also relatively stable, sitting at between 80% and 90% around the year, with mild seasonal fluctuations. While rainfall may occur at any time of the year, the island is occasionally lashed by cyclones.

This provides a good initial guide to the environmental conditions required by Avicularia versicolor in captivity; a warm and humid environment but with suitable ventilation to prevent stagnant air and mould growth.

Caging

Adult Aviculuria verisolor resting on bark in its cage.

Avicularia versicolor is a tree-dwelling (arboreal) tarantula and so will likely spend most of it’s time off the ground.

To accommodate this lifestyle in captivity requires a tall cage with suitable climbing material. Personally I use Exo Terras for adults of this species. These are ideal cages as they allow for easy heating, excellent ventilation and visibility. Furthermore the front-opening doors make it easy to landscape the tank and to carry out routine maintenance.

Alternatively a range of other arboreal tarantula cages may be utilized, such as large plastic sweet jars or all-glass tarantula tanks.

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Heating

It is critical that your A.versicolor receives both suitable levels of heat and a “thermal gradient”. We do this by heating one part of the cage, while leaving another without heat. In this way your spider can then move around the cage, finding the area which suits them best.

To this end a range of different reptile heaters can be used, though normally the easiest solution is a low-power heat mat attached to a thermostat for safety. The thermostat ensures that the mat won’t overheat, whereupon your spider could overheat.

For best results it is generally best to stick the heat mat to one side of the cage. The benefit of doing this, rather than sitting the cage on top of the mat is that the heat is able to permeate the cage more effectively, rather than trying to penetrate the substrate at the base of the cage.

Ideally one should install a thermometer in order to monitor the temperature and ensure it is appropriate at all times.

Water & Humidity

A.versicolor require high humidities in captivity, but ventilation should be considered just as important to prevent bacterial or fungal growth. Exo Terra’s come complete with a handy metal grill in the roof which allows excess moisture to escape. If you are using other types of caging then you should carefully consider how air will enter and leave the cage.

As high humidity is necessary, it is wise to spray the cage on a regular basis with a house-plant spray gun. Be sure to avoid your spider when doing this, as it can surprise them. Over time this moisture will evaporate in the warm environment and increase the humidity.

A decent digital hygrometer will allow you to monitor the humidity and re-spray the cage as necessary.

While Avicularia versicolor spends most of its time off the ground – so is unlikely to drink from a water bowl – it is a good policy to keep one present as an insurance policy. This should be shallow to prevent drowning (a jam-jar lid works well) and the water changed regularly to prevent bacterial growth.

Cage Furnishings

A stunning close-up of Avicularia versicolor showing it's metallic green carapace and plum-colored abdomen. A stunning tarantula.There are two key elements that you’ll want in order to furnish your Avicularia versicolor cage. The first of these is a suitable substrate and the second is a place for your spider to hide and build its’ web.

Personally I tend to use compacted coir as a substrate for my Pink Toes and find it works really. It is excellent at retaining moisture, looks great and is easy to buy online. Of course, there are alternative tarantula substrates that can be used, used as a mixture of potting compost and vermiculite.

In terms of hides you’re going to want to install at least one (ideally two) vertical pieces of cork bark, leaning up against the back wall of the cage. This bark is lightweight and environmentally-friendly.

By placing a number of such items into the cage your spider will be able to pick and choose, selecting the one that is best for them.

Remember that you’ll be creating a thermal gradient so offering more than one hide means your spider will be able to select the one that offers the optimum temperature for them.

While these are the essentials, feel free to go a little wild. These are awesome-looking spiders from tropical Caribbean jungles so if you want to you can really go to town and create a mini rainforest in your home. Adding artificial plants and moss, for example, can create an awesome-looking habitat to really show off your stunning new spider!

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Feeding Avicularia Versicolor

Like many tropical arboreal tarantulas Avicularia versicolor are reasonably fast-growing tarantulas.

This impacts their diet, meaning they’ll often eat much more frequently than slower-growing species like Brachypelma spp.

In reality its very difficult to overfeed these spiders so feel free to offer them food as often as they will take it. In spiderlings this is often every day or two, while adults may eat a couple of times a week.

Over time you’ll get used to how much – and how often – they eat and can set a schedule around this.

Handling

Tarantula Antilles Pinktoe (Avicularia versicolor), spider female
Tarantula Antilles Pinktoe (Avicularia versicolor), spider female

Like most of the pink toe tarantulas, A.versicolor is an incredibly docile tarantula. This can make it suitable for handling if you have the nerve. Before you do so, however, there are a few factors that you should take into account.

Firstly, while the Antilles Pink Toe is reasonably slow when it is just calmly walking about, if surprised or scared it can take off at quite a pace – or even jump. That means that if you’re going to handle your pink toe you’ll want to make sure that you stay nice and calm at all times to avoid startling your pet.

Secondly, as with all tarantulas, its important to remember that falling from a height can be very dangerous. Stories exist of spiders falling, and either limbs getting damaged or the abdomen splitting.

Therefore if you plan to handle any tarantula you need to be certain that if the worst happens and your tarantula does jump or fall that it won’t get hurt. My preference here is to only handle tarantulas over a bed – that way the soft duvet beneath will help break any fall.

Thirdly note that studies suggest that A.versicolor is one of the only member of its genus to be able to actually flick urticating hairs.

In contrast to this species, most tarantulas of the Avicularia genus instead rely on direct contact, whereupon they will force the barbs into their attacker. This means that care should be taken when observing these spiders out of their cage, lest you should be on the receiving end of these hairs.

If you need to move your tarantula for some reason (such as for cleaning) and you’d rather not risk physically handling it, these spiders can normally be coaxed gently into a plastic container using a pen to direct things.

Avicularia Versicolor Pictures

We have collected together some of the best Avicularia versicolor photos we could find onto a dedicated Pinterest board. Feel free to click any photo below to see it full-size – and please feel free to follow us on Pinterest for more exotic pet pictures:

Follow Keeping Exotic Pets’s board Avicularia versicolor pictures on Pinterest.

Avicularia Versicolor Facts

Adult Size: 5″ legspan

Latin Name: Avicularia versicolor

Urticating Hairs: Yes, but rarely used

Tibial Spurs? No

Attitude: Docile, skittish

Suitable for: All tarantula keepers

Alternative Names:
Martinique Pink Toe
Martinique Pinktoe
Martinique Pink Toed Tarantula
Martinique Pinktoed Tarantula
Martinique Red Tree Spider
Martinique Red Tree Tarantula
Antilles Pink Toe
Antilles Pinktoe
Antilles Pinktoed Tarantula

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