Gooty Sapphire (Poecilotheria metallica) Care Sheet

Poecilotheria metallica goes by a variety of different common names; the Gooty Ornamental, Gooty Sapphire, and Peacock Parachute Spider to name just three.

Peocilotheria metallica is considered one of the most beautiful tarantulas in the world, combining the intricate patterning of other Poecilotheria species with a metallic blue sheen.

Interestingly, the Gooty Sapphire was originally discovered in 1899 by arachnologist Pocock, but was then “lost” to science having not been seen in years. Finally, in 2013 it was rediscovered, alive and well. Poecilotheria metallica may be one of the most beautiful tarantulas known to science, but it is also considered one of the most endangered.

Pressure arises both from it’s tiny home range, plus the obvious appeal to exotic pet owners. The species is now classed as Critically Endangered, with no export of the species allowed.

This rarity makes Poecilotheria metallica one of the most expensive tarantulas currently available on the market, with even juveniles selling for more than most adult spiders.

While this is undoubtedly a stunning tarantula, its also one that is reserved only really for the serious tarantula keeper with large amounts of cash to blow.

poecilotheria metallica photo

Wild Habitat

Very little is known about the Gooty Sapphire in the wild. The original specimen used to describe this species (the “type”) was found in the town of Gooty in India, hence the common name.

poecilotheria metallica photoWhen the spider was rediscovered, however, it was found in the Chittoor and Kadapah districts of Andhra Pradesh.

It has been suggested that as the original site of discovery is so far from it’s current stronghold, the first Poecilotheria metallica to be discovered may actually have been inadvertantly moved on a train, to the area where it was found.

Today, the Gooty Sapphire is believed to be restricted to just one tiny area of less than 100 sq km in size. According to the IUCN, “the habitat where the species occurs is completely degraded due to lopping for firewood and cutting for timber. The habitat is under intense pressure from the surrounding villages as well as from insurgents who use forest resources for their existence and operations”.

Like other Poecilotheria species, the Gooty Sapphire is an arboreal (tree dwelling) tarantula, which uses tree holes and crevices to hide away during daylight hours. At night, it comes out to hunt any prey that is small enough to be subdued.

The predominant habitat found in this area is described as tropical deciduous forest, enjoying a comfortable average temperature of around 25’C and humidity ranging between 70 and 80%.

Caging

While the Gooty Sapphire may be jaw-droppingly unusual in appearance, the captive care of this species is very similar to that of other Poecilotheria. As an arboreal spider, specially adapted to live on tree trunks a tall cage which accurately mimics this tends to work well.

Thus, a cage some 18″ or so in height works well for Poecilotheria metallica, especially when combined with a range of vertical hides such as curved pieces of cork bark. In this manner your spider can live out a reasonably normal life, taking refuge behind the bark when it desires.

As a group, tarantulas are known for their exceptional abilities of escape. This is arguably even more impressive among the arboreal spiders, thanks to their lighter bodies and more athletic abilities.

Security should therefore be paramount, to prevent your spider being able to slip unnoticed out of any gaps in the cage. A tight-fitting lid, which is either fastened shut or heavy enough not to be moved, should be considered essential with this species.

Glass or plastic cages can work equally well, so long as make for ease of maintenance and offer suitable ventilation. Maintenance is an important topic as Poecilothera species are well-known for not just their potential speed, but also the strength of their venom.

Several bites from Poecilotheria tarantulas are considered medically relevant, so great care should be taken when keeping this species to avoid being bitten. Larger cages arguably make this easier, as they afford you more time to close the cage safely should your Gooty Sapphire try to make a break for freedom.

Related:  Fast Growing Tarantula Species

While this species seems to do well at higher humidities, air movement should still be considered a critical aspect of their care. Stale or stagnant air, especially when warm, can be a breeding ground for fungi and other microbes.

Suitable ventilation should therefore be provided to avert this risk. Some cages offer a piece of metal gauze as part of their design, helping with ventilation. In others, especially plastic cages, it may be necessary to create ventilation holes, such through the use of an electric drill or soldering iron.

In brief, therefore, a glass or plastic cage of suitable dimensions is the required caging for this species. The cage itself should be secure, and offer suitable ventilation.

As this is such an expensive (and impressive) tarantula, it’s worth spending the extra money to buy a really beautiful cage. Not only does this present your pride and joy in the best possible manner, but such cages can also offer practical benefits too.

I make extensive use of Exo Terra cages for my tarantula collection.

These glass tanks come complete with a mesh lid for ventilation, are easy to heat and clean, and also offer the benefit of front-opening doors which lock shut when not in use. For fast-moving arboreal species in particular these doors can make routine maintenance easier and safer.

Exo Terra currently sell a range of different sized cages, with their 18″ tall and 24″ tall models being particularly suitable for Poecilotheria.

poecilotheria metallica photo

Tank Decor

The goal of an exotic pet keeper should always to try and mimic the wild habitat of their captives as much as is possible. Such an attitude not only encourages us to learn more about their natural habitats, but also affords them the most suitable care possible.

As described, the Gooty Sapphire is a tree-dwelling spider from deciduous tropical forests. The first piece of tank decor should therefore be one or more vertical hides.

Curved pieces of cork bark, of a dimension that your spider can clamber behind, tend to work best. These should be laid on end to create a vertical environment.

They may also be firmly attached to the tank – or to one another – using aquarium-safe silicon sealant. This therefore reduces the risk of the bark falling over when your spider is out exploring.

Ideally, try to provide multiple hides in the cage so that your specimen can choose the one that suits them best.

In terms of substrate to line the base of the cage, all the standard media used in the tarantula keeping trade are suitable, such as potting compost or coir fibre.

The Gooty Sapphire is not a burrowing tarantula, so only a modest depth is necessary. Just a few centimetres should be enough to aid with moisture control.

It is considered best practise, particularly with larger spiders, to include an open water dish. This should be shallow-enough to prevent drowning, and should be thoroughly scrubbed on a regular basis, before refilling with fresh water. While your tarantula may only drink from it occasionally, its’ like having insurance on your car – it’s there just in case it’s needed.

Lastly, as this is such an expensive and beautiful species, deserving to be the highlight of your collection, some keepers opt to “landscape” their Gooty Ornamental cage.

Artificial plants have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, and a range of very life-like plants can be bought. Adding a few plants not only gives the cage more visual interest, but also provides more hiding places for your Gooty Sapphire.

Heating & Temperature

As stated, the Gooty Ornamental has evolved to live in tropical forest, meaning that artificial heating with be required in captivity. A temperature of around 25’C works well, but a thermal gradient should always be present in order to allow your tarantula to move to cooler areas if desired.

Heating of your Poecilotheria is most easily and cost-effectively arranged with a reptile heat mat attached to a thermostat (“matstat”). These two items ensure that suitable temperature is provided at all times, and that the heater is gently turned down in warmer weather to prevent overheating.

Related:  How To Heat A Large Number Of Small Vivariums

Such heaters cost just a few pence each day to run, meaning that the ongoing running costs of heating your tarantula are minimal.

As these are tree-dwelling spiders, heating the base of the cage (by placing the tank on top of the heat mat) is rarely as effective as attaching it to the side of the cage. Simply peel off the covering to the adhesive side and then stick it to the outer side of the vivarium.

If you opted to use an Exo Terra cage then inserting the probe of the thermostat into the cage becomes simplicity itself; these cages have special closeable holes designed to accommodate electrical cables neatly.

The probe should be placed inside the cage, right next to the heat mat. In this way one side of the cage will receive additional heat, while the other will remain comparatively cooler. This creates the necessary gradient, allowing your tarantula to pick and choose the area (and hide) that is most comfortable for them.

Water & Humidity

poecilotheria metallica photoA humidity of 70-80% works well for the Gooty Ornamental. This is most easily provided by regularly spraying the cage with a houseplant spray gun.

These can be purchased very cheaply online or from garden centres, and should be reserved specifically for your tarantula. In this way you can be certain that they haven’t been contaminated with any harmful chemicals. Spray the cage once or twice a week, allowing it to dry out gently in between.

Particular attention should be paid when you know that a moult is coming up. This is the most critical time in the life of a tarantula, where a bad moult can lead to a malformed exoskeleton or, in extreme cases, death.

As a result, ensure that humidity is kept within the agreed limits around these times to ensure a successful moult.

Feeding

Like all Poecilotheria, the Gooty Sapphire is a fast growing species with a healthy appetite.

Youngsters may reach adulthood in as little as 18 months, and can eat on an almost daily basis. If you’re purchasing a younger specimen (which is likely with such a premium-priced species) then feel free to feed it generously and prepare to be surprised by just how quickly it attains adult size.

Any live insects will be taken, assuming they are of a suitable size. That said, insect prey which climbs tends to be more effective, while ground-based feeder items may not receive quite as much attention.

For my own collection of Poecilotheria my preference is for locusts – these climb well, are easy to handle and attain a good size as adults. They are available in a range of different sizes, suitable for almost any size of Gooty Ornemtnals. Alternatively, standard fare like roaches and crickets may also be fed.

Some Poecilotheria may even be willing to take small dead mice, as sold for snakes. Some keepers claim that feeding a picky or fluffy every few weeks speeds up growth, though be aware that such a meal can also create a fair amount of mess in the cage.

Handling

Super-expensive, fast moving, aggressive and with potent venom this is not a species suitable for handling. Take great care when carrying out routine maintenance to avoid the risk of getting bitten.

If your Gooty Sapphire needs to be removed from their cage for some reason it is wise to take precautions to avoid risk to you or the spider. Place the tank into a bathtub. Then gently place a clear plastic tub over the top of the spider, before sliding the lid underneath tends to be the safest and easiest option. The holding tub can then be safely removed and tank maintenance carried out.

When your cleaning has been completed, the tub can be placed back into the cage and the lid gently loosened/removed. There is no need to poke the spider out; just leave the container and the spider will make its own way out over night.

Images c/o DJANDYW.COM & DJANDYW.TV AKA ANDREW WILLARD & snakecollector

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I've been keeping and breeding exotic pets for over 20 years. Come and join our reptile-keeping community and prepare for some exciting discoveries! You can join us on Facebook here or follow me on Twitter for the latest reptile news.

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