Brachyplema albopilosum, the Curly Haired Tarantula, is considered one of the very best species for beginners. Slow-moving and docile, it is safe to handle. It is easily cared for in captivity, and is very forgiving of a wide range of different conditions.
Growing to a legspan of some 5-6″ like most members of the Brachypelma genus, it’s common name comes from the “fluffy” appearance it develops over time. It is typically covered in curly gold or tan-coloured hairs, so while it may not be the most colourful species of tarantula in the pet trade, it does have a certain appeal with it’s unusual, “blow dried” appearance.
Originally described by Valerio as recently as 1980, Brachypelma albopilosum is also known as the Hondruan Curly Hair, which hints at it’s natural habitat.
This Central American species may be found along the Atlantic side of Honduras, Nicaragua and northern Costa Rica.
This necessarily means a warm and rather more humid environment than many other members of the genus. As a terrestrial species they may build a burrow, or alternatively reside in a “scrape” under rocks or logs.
Central America is known for it’s stark differentiation between dry and wet seasons, when torrential downpours can appear out of nowhere.
This is interesting to observe, as the rainy (“verde”) period represents the breeding season for Brachypelma albopilosum. Presumably this is so that when the spiderlings hatch there is an abundance of tiny insect prey around for them to feed on.
The Curly Hair tarantula is quite an easy species to care for in captivity, requiring only a modicum of experience to keep and even breed. As with all exotic pets, successful care begins with getting their housing right. Once this is established, care becomes very routine, while the ongoing costs drop considerably.
The best cage for a Curly Hair tarantula addresses a number of factors. Firstly, it should be easily cleaned on a regular basis in order to maintain a hygienic environment.
Secondly, it should prevent escape thanks to a tight-fitting or lockable lid. Of course, for your own pleasure it should offer excellent visibility. Lastly, consideration should be given to ventilation, ensuring that the air within the cage cannot get stale and stagnant.
In general plastic or glass containers represent the best cages. A number of specialists now sell tanks specially designed for tarantulas, and possibly the best-known and most widely-available of these is the Exo Terra.
Made from glass, with front-opening doors for ease of access it makes a perfect cage for Brachypelma albopilosum.
Alternatively, a range of household objects may be turned into suitable accommodation assuming that they offer enough ventilation and suitable dimensions.
As a mid-sized tarantula, the Honduran Curly Hair does well in a tank of 8″ x 8″ at a minimum. The aforementioned Exo Terras come in a range of sizes. The Exo Terra Nano may be suitable for smaller specimens, while I would suggest the standard 30cm cube model works best for adult specimens.
This provides ample space for your tarantula to find somewhere to hide away during the day, yet plenty of room to explore when hunting at night.
Brachypelma albopilosum can make a great first tarantula, especially for those who want a spider they can watch. Curly Hairs tend to spend more time out in the open than many other species, and can be surprisingly active especially in the evening.
All the same, while these tarantulas seem quite comfortable in the open, it is still a good idea to provide a suitable hide for them and/or to provide enough substrate for burrowing in.
A range of substrates may be used for this species, though my own personal preferences are for coconut fibre or potting compost. If you’re not planning to let your spider burrow then just an inch or so of substrate will be enough. A depth of some 6″ is preferable for burrowing situations.
Most appropriately-sized reptile hides will be suitable for Curly Hair tarantulas. The important thing is that they provide a dark, secluded environment into which your spider can move.
Possibly the most popular option is a piece of curved cork bark, though resin reptile hides may also be used, as can plastic plant pots laid on their side and partially buried.
The important thing is that whatever hide your choose should be easily cleaned and lightweight; the last thing you want is for your spider to burrow underneath at some point and get crushed.
Heating & Temperature
The Curly Hair likes a warm environment, meaning that you’ll be needing a suitable heater for your pet spider. A temperature of around 25’C at the hot end of the cage is ideal, with the other end being cooler.
This “thermal gradient” created by heating just one side of the cage creates a varied environment where your Brachypelma albopilosum can choose the area most suitable for them.
Heating is most easily achieved with a heat mat, though other “under tank” heating options including heat strips or heat cables are also effective for those with larger collections. A reptile thermometer should be placed into the cage at the hot end in order to monitor the temperature and ensure it is appropriate.
Great care should be taken as summer approaches, when there is a risk of tanks overheating. Here a thermostat can be a wise idea, to turn down your heater when you’re not around. Ensuring the cage is sited away from windows and sources of direct sunlight are also beneficial.
Water & Humidity
Brachypelma albopilosum appreciates a humidity of around 65-70% with consistently good ventilation.
The best way to achieve this is in a cage with gauze or mesh that allows moist air to escape. The cage can then be sprayed using a houseplant mister once or twice a week.
This will not only raise the overall humidity in the cage, but will also allow smaller specimens to drink from the condensed droplets of water on the cage walls.
Besides this regular misting it is considered wise to include an open yet shallow water dish for your spider. Those sold for small mammals tend to work well. The water should be changed regularly, and the bowl itself sterilized in boiling water or reptile-safe detergent once a week.
Over the years the genus Brachypelma has developed a reputation for being slow growing.
Cousins like the Mexican Red Knee and Mexican Red Leg may take years to reach maturity, and possess far smaller appetites than faster-growing species like the Usumbara Baboon.
Coming from a rather more tropical area, further south of many of her relations, however, Brachypelma albopilosum tends to have a rather more healthy appetite and grows noticeably faster.
It has been reported that males take 8-12 moults to reach sexual maturity, while females take some 9-13. Feeding your spider on a regular basis will speed up this growth, ensuring that even a youngster soon reaches impressive proportions.
In light of this, a good rule of thumb would be twice-weekly feeding for youngsters, migrating to once a week for adults. All the same, it is wise to use this only as a guide, and to adapt it based on your spider’s behaviour.
If your tarantula always seems to be hungry, and lunges onto it’s food instantly, then feeding larger prey items, or offering them more frequently might be advisable. The opposite is also true; a spider that pays very little attention to food that has been put in their cage can have their feeding schedule reduced to accommodate this.
Note that like all tarantulas the Curly Hair will cease feeding some time before a moult. Live feeder insects should not be left in the cage with a moulting tarantula as they can cause issues.
Should your spider refuse food several times in a row then it is likely that a moult is approaching. Under these circumstances it can be wise to hold off feeding until the moult has been successfully completed.
All the standard feeder insects are suitable for Brachypelma albopilosum including crickets, locusts, roaches and mealworms. The feeder insects should be selected based on the size of your tarantula; most Curly Hairs will readily take insects up to their own body length.
Larger specimens can of course be given a number of smaller insects instead, depending on personal preference and local supplies.
It is wise to keep close tabs on your tarantula’s food consumption, removing any uneaten insects, and recording any fasting periods. Not only is this an interesting exercise in itself, but it also helps to identify when moults are likely on the horizon, when extra care can be taken over your tarantula’s care.
Brachypelma albopilosum is one of the best tarantulas for handling. It is docile and slow-moving, which means that even children can handle this species safely (with appropriate supervision).
Note, however, that like other members of the Brachypelma genus, the Curly Hair does possess the potentially irritating urticating hairs. In truth, it seems that Brachypelma albopilosum is less likely to kick off these hairs than many other species, but all the same it pays to take precautions.
Your Curly Hair can be gently coaxed onto a flat hand and lifted gently out of their cage. Here you should aim to keep them at arms reach to avoid the risk of urticating hairs getting into the face.
Many Curly Hairs are so relaxed that they will just sit there calmly on the hand – barely even walking. Once safely replaced in their cage, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly for the sake of hygiene.