There are estimated to be over 800 different species of tarantula known to science, so choosing your first pet tarantula is no easy task.
As the hobby has grown, so too has the range of spiders available in the pet trade. These days there are dozens of different tarantulas which are available to hobbyists; but which is the best pet tarantula for beginners?
In today’s article we’re going to discuss some of the best tarantulas for beginners, laying out both their strengths and their weaknesses, so that you can make an informed decision about which is likely to be the best pet tarantula for your circumstances.
- 1 Features of the Best Beginner Tarantulas
- 2 The Best Tarantulas for Beginners
- 3 Something A Little More Unusual
- 3.1 Brazilian Black (Grammostola pulchra)
- 3.2 Mexican Red Rump (Brachypelma vagans)
- 3.3 Mexican Beauty (Brachypelma boehmei)
- 3.4 Green Bottle Blue (Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens)
- 3.5 Antilles Pink Toe (Aviculara versicolor)
- 3.6 FAQs
Features of the Best Beginner Tarantulas
Tarantulas are a surprisingly diverse group of animals, differing in size, color, temperament, lifestyle and price. In my opinion the best tarantulas for beginners meet the following criteria:
Respectable Adult Size – The smallest tarantula measures only a few centimetres across the legs, while the world’s largest spider is the size of a dinner-plate. Clearly the first of these won’t make the most exciting first tarantula, while the other end of the scale requires considerable experience, space and money to purchase.
The best pet tarantulas for beginners tend to be moderately-sized – something in the region of 5-6″ across the legs as adults. Such a spider is both impressive to look at and easy to handle.
Easy To Care For – The second feature to look for is a tarantula that is quite “forgiving” in captivity. Some species are quite challenging to care for, especially for beginners, so selecting a tarantula that is easy to care for over the long term makes perfect sense.
Docile and Slow Moving – The best tarantulas for beginners are slow moving and rarely, if ever, attempt to bite. These are species that can be handled with care, and where something as simple as cleaning out the cage doesn’t become a major challenge. Be assured; while some species can be very fast and/or aggressive, all the species we’ll discuss today are perfectly handleable.
Easy To Source – While there are dozens of species freely available in the pet trade, many of these are available only from specialist breeders and in small volumes. If you’re looking to buy your first pet tarantula it’s unlikely you’ll want to spend the next 6 months shopping around trying to find that perfect specimen. As a result the species we’ll discuss are generally quite freely available from most reptile stores.
Reasonable Cost – If this is your first pet tarantula then you might be shocked to hear that some species can cost several hundred dollars thanks to their rarity or exotic appearance. While these are truly impressive spiders, the best beginner tarantulas are generally far more reasonably priced. This way, you won’t have to save up for months on end in order to purchase your pet and all the equipment necessary.
All of the spiders below match these criteria, though as we’ll see some are more appropriate for beginners than others.
Understanding Longevity in Tarantulas
One final point worth mentioning before we actually discuss the best beginner tarantulas is that male and female tarantulas can have significantly different life spans. Once becoming a mature adult, for example, most male tarantulas will only live for a year or so – sometimes much less. In contrast, an adult female can live for decades.
I mention this because if you’re shopping for your first pet tarantula it pays to search for a female specimen in order to ensure your spider will live a long life with you.
The Best Tarantulas for Beginners
Here we are then; the “meat and potatoes” of the article. Below you will find find a run-down of what I believe to be the best pet tarantulas for beginners, based on my 20+ years of keeping and breeding literally hundreds of different tarantulas….
Rose Haired Tarantula (Grammostola rosea)
Possibly the most popular of all the pet tarantulas, the Rose Hair is arguably the perfect starter tarantula.
These are moderately-sized spiders who are perfectly suited to new keepers.
These spiders are quite forgiving in captivity, only requiring the most basic of care.
They’re also typically one of the cheapest of all tarantulas to purchase, as many are caught in the wild and imported each year.
Lastly they’re also one of the most docile of all tarantulas, rarely if ever trying to bite. As a result they can generally be handled safely, even by beginners.
If there is a downside to the Rose Haired Tarantula it’s simply that they’re not the most excitingly-colored of tarantulas.
Most specimens are a standard dull brown, sometimes with a pink or purple sheen on the carapace.
It is worth mentioning that there are two color forms; this standard brown and a far more attractive orange/red form often known as the “Chilean Flame Haired” or “Chilean Fire Haired” tarantula.
While these are more difficult to find, they offer the same benefits as the brown version, but with more eye-catching coloration.
Curly Haired Tarantula (Brachypelma albopilosum)
At first glance the Curly Haired Tarantula (or simply “Curly Hair”) looks very similar to the Rose Haired tarantula, with it’s basic brown hair.
However closer inspection reveals why this species has such an unusual name.
This tarantula is actually clothed in long, curly hairs making it look very attractive indeed.
Coming from Central America this species requires slightly higher humidities than the Rose Hair tarantula but this is simply enough to provide in captivity with an occasional spray from a house-plant spray gun.
When considering all the criteria listed above it is fair to say that the best beginner tarantula is likely to be either this species or the Rose Hair.
Mexican Red Knee (Brachypelma smithi)
To many people the Mexican Red Knee is the “original” tarantula; it’s one even non-tarantula keepers know and recognize.
Now a critically endangered species in the wild, thousands of specimens live long and healthy lives in captivity these days, with captive breeding occurring regularly.
It is worth noting that the combination of only captive-bred specimens being available, combined with how slow growing this species is, means that larger specimens can be considerably more expensive than either Curly Hairs or Rose Hairs (which are frequently imported as adults).
That said, the bright yellow and orange patches on an otherwise black background makes for a truly stunning spider, which is as docile as it is beautiful. In addition it is worth noting that tarantulas of the Brachypelma genus are considered to be some of the longest-lived of all spiders, with adult females reaching 20 years of age or more – quite a feat for a spider!
Pink Toes (Avicularia avicularia)
There are many different species of Pink Toe tarantula available, though it is the original (Avicularia avicularia) which is seen most commonly in the pet trade. The Pink Toe is one of the only arboreal (tree dwelling) tarantulas that made it onto our list so it is worth noting that Pink Toes require rather different care to the other terrestrial species listed here.
With their black coloration and cute little pink “toes” this is a most unusual and attractive species. Note that while Pink Toes are docile-enough to be handled, it can be a little more “skittish” than other species on this list, so you’ll need to pay a little more attention when handling it, lest it starts to bound up your arm!
It is worth mentioning that Pink Toes tend to be quite fast-growing tarantulas in comparison to most of the other species listed here. This means that purchasing a smaller specimen and allowing it to grow can be a great way to save money while knowing that soon enough you’ll have an impressive spider to show off.
Equally, fast-growing tarantulas often suffer from a shorter lifespan and the Pink Toe is no exception, with adult females rarely making it to their first decade.
Something A Little More Unusual
While the above species most accurately meet the criteria discussed earlier, there are a few other tarantulas which might be worth considering if you fancy something a little bit more unusual. These have been included in a supplementary list simply because they’re not as perfect as the above species.
For example, while all the following species are docile and easily cared-for in captivity, they may cost rather more or be more difficult to locate. For someone with a little patience or a higher budget, however, they can still make great pet tarantulas for the beginner.
Brazilian Black (Grammostola pulchra)
You can think of Grammostola pulchra is a black version of the Rose Haired tarantula.
Coming from the same genus it should be no surprise that these spiders are equally docile, slow moving and easy to care for.
The primary difference is really in their appearance; rather than being a basic brown color these tarantulas are much more “chunky” looking (and therefore “cute” to my eyes!) as well as being a rich glossy black in color.
Truly a stunning, if slightly more unusual tarantula that makes an ideal beginner species.
Mexican Red Rump (Brachypelma vagans)
The Mexican Red Rump is the very first tarantula that I ever bred so its a species truly close to my heart.
Closely-related to the Mexican Red Knee, these spiders look absolutely incredible, especially after a recent moult. The legs and carapace are a rich, glossy black while the abdomen is clothed in bright red hairs.
These hairs stand out incredibly well on the black background, making for what is one of the most attractive – yet easy to care for – tarantulas available. Having said that, as mentioned, I am slightly biased about this wonderful species 🙂
Mexican Beauty (Brachypelma boehmei)
Brachypelam boehmei is another close relative of the Red Knee, and once again is critically endangered in the wild. For this reason almost all specimens available in the pet trade are captive bred, making them a more expensive and difficult-to-find species. Indeed, if you’re looking for a Mexican Beautiful it may be necessary to purchase from a specialist breeder; doing so you’ll find it easier to find a suitable specimen and it will also likely be more reasonably-priced to boot.
Green Bottle Blue (Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens)
Surely one of the world’s most beautiful tarantula species the much-loved Green Bottle Blue tarantula boasts an astonishing range of contrasting colors. Firstly it has a bright orange abdomen, secondly it has a beautiful metallic green carapace and – finally and most impressively – it has bright blue legs. What a spider!
With such coloration it should be little wonder that these spiders are so dearly-loved among keepers. Combine this with their docile (if someone what skittish) attitude and their ease of care and the Green Bottle Blue really is one of the top tarantulas for beginners or experienced keepers alike.
If there is a weakness its simply that the popularity of this species means they’re always one of the more expensive tarantulas to purchase. If you’ve got the budget, however, and you want a spider that is easily cared-for and will astonish your friends with its colors it can be well worthwhile trying to track down a Green Bottle Blue as your starter spider.
Antilles Pink Toe (Aviculara versicolor)
Lastly on a our supplementary list we come to the Antilles Pink Toe.
With a combination of blue/green and plum-colored hairs, together with it’s cute “fluffy” appearance A.versicolor is another of the most attractive tarantulas available to pet keepers.
As with the GBB, however, this stunning appearance makes them very popular – and therefore relatively expensive – tarantulas to purchase.
What size/age tarantula should I buy?
Over the years it has become ever more popular for keepers to breed tarantulas in captivity. As a result one can find tarantulas of almost any age/size from tiny little hatchlings (known as “spiderlings”) through juveniles right up to adults.
It should come as no surprise that adult tarantulas typically cost more than juveniles (unless they have been wild caught) so many beginner keepers are tempted by the lower costs of purchasing a younger spider. Be aware, however, that smaller tarantulas tend to be more fragile. Depending on the species in question they can also take some years before reaching adult size. Lastly, be aware that sexing immature tarantulas isn’t the easiest of tasks, and if you spend years rearing a tarantula only to find out that it is a male then you might be in for a nasty surprise.
If you are purchasing your first pet tarantula I would strongly encourage you to purchase an adult specimen which you can be sure is female. Such a spider will be sturdy and should have a long life ahead of them. As a second option buy a sub-adult female spider that has been sexed by a reputable professional.
Spiderlings, while cute and typically cheap to buy, rtequire rather more specialist care; generally something best attempted once you’ve gained some experience with an adult specimen.
Where is the best place to buy a tarantula?
There are a number of places where tarantulas can be bought. Many common species can be sourced from a reputable local reptile store, where you can ask as many questions as necessary and have advice on hand in the future.
Purchasing tarantulas from breeders potentially gives you the very best prices possible, but without the options to ask repeated questions as time goes on. Note that sourcing the less common spiders can be a challenge when it comes to pet stores, so many keepers end up relying on breeders who produce babies of the less common species on a regular basis. Many breeders sell privately on Internet discussion forums or can be found at major national tarantula shows.
Quite where you choose to buy a tarantula is up to you. On the one hand it is always nice to at least visit your local reptile store to see what is on offer, and with the intention of supporting your local reptile trade. That said, if your initial search fails to locate the spider you’re looking for it can be smart to approach some breeders who are far more likely to be able to provide the rarer species.