The Rose Hair Tarantula is the single most popular tarantula available in the pet trade.
They are naturally very docile and can be safely and easily handled. They’re also long-lived, very forgiving and are relatively cheap to buy when compared with other popular tarantula species.
Growing to a respectable size of around 5″ across the legs, the Rose Hair therefore makes an ideal pet.
Interestingly, the Chilean Rose Hair (Grammostola rosea) comes in two main color forms; the standard brown color, often accompanied by a pinkish or purplish carapace, and a far more colorful “red” version with bright red/ginger hairs.
This second form is sometimes known as the “Chilean Flame” or “Chilean Fire” to differentiate it from the more common – and plain – form.
Debate is still ongoing (and has been for decades) as to whether these are distinct species or simply different color forms of the same. For now, most taxonomists agree these are likely to be simply different forms of the main species, hence the single Latin name in use for them.
Rose Hair Tarantula Environment
The Rose Hair is known to come from Chile (hence the words “Chile or Chilean” often added to the name) but is actually much more widespread. Specimens of this tarantula have been found as far afield as Bolivia and Argentina, where they are typically to be found in dry scrubland and desert areas.
Here they may burrow or – more commonly – will simply find shelter from the sun wherever it comes, such as crawling beneath rocks, plants or dead branches.
The Rose Haired Tarantula has also become known as a “wanderer”. That is to say that unlike many tarantula species, who dig a burrow and never stray far except to moult or hunt, the Rose Hair is more likely to travel far and wide, seeking cover where it is to be found.
Studies of Grammostola rosea suggest that they try to maintain a body temperature of around 23’C, though this varies throughout the day, with an increased interest in warmer conditions early in the day.
As a cold-blooded species this makes perfect sense; after a relatively cool night it is natural to seek out warmer temperatures in the morning.
Chilean Rose Caging
The Chilean Rose is a reasonably forgiving species in captivity which helps to make it the perfect beginners tarantula.
The best Rose Hair tarantula cages are typically made from plastic or glass, which allows for easy cleaning while providing an excellent view of your pet.
This cage should measure no less than 12″ x 8″ but the larger the better for such a relatively active spider.
If you’re considering buying a Rose Hair you should note that these are agile spiders which may try (successfully) to climb the sides of their cage.
A close-fitting lid is therefore critical to prevent escapees.
Just as importantly, for a desert/scrubland species such as this the humidity should not be allowed to get too high. Damp, soggy cages are to be avoided, though extra care should be taken at moulting time to provide a suitable humidity for your pet.
Personally I am a huge fan of Exo Terra cages for terrestrial tarantulas. The gauze lid provides excellent ventilation, the tanks are designed to make adding electrical units (such as heating) very simple indeed and they also look great. With their front-opening doors (which lock closed when not in use) they also look great, while also providing easy access for feeding, watering and cleaning.
However if you’d rather use an alternative cage there are an assortment of alternatives available, including specialist tarantula vivariums.
Coming from desert areas it should be no surprise that Rose Haired Tarantulas like a warm environment.
As stated earlier, an average temperature of around 23’C, with warmer and cooler areas to allow thermoregulation, is ideal.
This means that on all but the warmest summer days, most keepers will need to provide artificial heating.
There are a number of ways to heat tarantula cages but arguably the most effective (and cheap) is through the use of a heating mat or heating pad (these terms are generally used interchangeably).
These mats come in a range of different sizes and provide a gentle background heat. You’ll find they’re warm to the touch, yet use very little electricity. As a result your tarantula will stay warm and healthy, while your utility bills won’t suffer too much.
As these heaters come in such a range of sizes it is wise to select your cage first, and then choose a heat mat of a suitable size. Generally speaking these heaters are placed outside the cage; either rest your tarantula cage on the heater, or alternatively attach it to one of the walls of the cage.
It is critical when installing a tarantula heater that it should provide a “thermal gradient”. This is a posh way of saying that some parts of the cage should be warmer than others.
This allows your tarantula to move around, selecting the area that suits them best. A tarantula that is getting too hot, but cannot escape from the heat, is going to struggle in captivity.
For this reason most experts recommend covering only 1/3 to 1/2 of the cage with the heater, leaving the other area unheated.
Installing a digital thermometer to help you monitor the temperature of your tarantula tank is a very smart idea, as is the use of a thermostat. These so-called “mat stats” aim to carefully control the temperature of your Rose Haired Tarantula tank, ensuring that it is warm enough in winter yet cool enough in summer.
While some tarantula keepers dispense with this small additional cost, I always recommend their use as an added source of insurance that your spider won’t overheat while you’re out for the day.
Water & Humidity
Unlike many other popular tarantula species Rose Haired tarantulas don’t require an overly-high humidity.
A standard humidity of around 70% is ideal, though this can be increased for short periods of time when your spider it coming up to moult.
A decent method of maintaining humidity is to spray the cage with tepid water once or twice a week.
This is most easily done using a house-plant spray gun which has been specially purchased for the purpose; beware of using existing equipment you might own in case they are tainted with unpleasant chemicals.
Alternatively you can gently pour a little water onto the substrate, where it will quickly be soaked up. From here the warmth of the cage will cause the moisture to gently evaporate over a number of days, providing increased humidity.
If you have any concerns about the humidity in your tarantula cage then the use of a digital hygrometer to measure moisture can be a worthwhile investment. A decent hygrometer only costs a few dollars but will give you peace of mind and additional visibility that all the environmental conditions are appropriate for your spider.
Lastly all tarantulas should have a shallow dish of fresh water available to them at all times. The water should be changed regularly, with the bowl being thoroughly scrubbed to remove any algae or bacteria.
Putting aside the water bowl, heater and plant spray gun, what else does a Rose Hair need to be happy in captivity?
The first element is some form of substrate to line the base of the cage.
While there are a range of different substrates available, arguably the best is coir – or composted coconut husk.
This provides an attractive background for your spider. It also absorbs moisture well, helping to retain humidity, while allowing your pet to move it around to its own design.
A layer of 1-2cm tends to be perfectly acceptable for this species. Note that if you are using underfloor heating, a thick layer of substrate can lead to heat pads overheating.
For tarantula keepers who choose to attach the heater to an outside wall, a thicker layer of substrate can be provided if required.
Tarantulas are naturally quite shy animals, mostly moving about after dark. As large and juicy animals they make an ideal meal for all sorts of predators, it makes perfect sense that they should spend much of the day hiding away out of view.
When keeping rose hair tarantulas, therefore, it is important to provide some sort of “hide” – somewhere your spider can feel safe and secure during daylight.
Examples can include pieces of curved cork bark or a plastic flower pot laid on its side. Whatever option you choose, the hide should be big enough to allow your tarantula to safely climb in/under and so feel secure.
These are the main requirements, however some tarantula keepers opt to take the subject of cage furnishings to extremes. Some keepers select larger cages and then landscape them to try and mimic the wild habitats of these spiders, complete with artificial plants, burrows and rocks.
While this is in no way required, it can be great fun to create a captive habitat like this, and it certainly creates an amazing focal point for your room.
Like all tarantulas, Chilean Roses are carnivores. For pet keepers this generally means feeding a range of live insects such as crickets and locusts. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever overfeed a tarantula so feel free to feed your spider as much and as often as it will eat.
Generally speaking this means feeding your spider a handful of suitably-sized crickets or locusts once or twice a week. Smaller spiders will generally eat more often, so can be fed every 2 or 3 days so long as they’re eating all the food provided.
It is important when feeding your Rose Hair that live insects shouldn’t be present at all times. You should only give your spider what it will realistically eat in an hour or so.
The reason is that left-over livefood can be an annoyance to well-fed tarantulas, especially in the confines of a cage. In addition, a tarantula that moults while there are crickets in the cage is at risk of being damaged by the prey items while in its soft and sensitive post-moult stage.
Generally speaking most tarantulas will stop eating for a period around a moult. It is not unusual for larger spiders to stop eating for some weeks before a moult, and even a couple afterwards.
If you find that your spider has stopped eating then reduce the food supply and keep an eye out for signs of moulting. If and when your spider moults hold off providing any food for a week or two, before resuming normal feeding.
It is worth noting that the Chilean Rose Haired tarantula has been known to be one of the more fussy feeders. It seems that this species more than any other tends to go through periods of feast and famine.
As a result, even a tarantula not coming up to a moult may refuse food for weeks at a time. Assuming your spider looks healthy this shouldn’t necessarily be anything to worry about.
If you find that your spider stops feeding then just reduce the feeding down. Try putting in just one or two medium-sized locusts and wait to see your spider’s response. If they ignore the food, or run away from it, simply remove the insects and try again a week or two later.
You’ll likely find that soon enough your spider will re-discover his or her interest in eating and will begin feeding at quite a pace!
Handling Rose Hairs
One of the reasons that Rose Haired Tarantulas have become so popular is their docility; they rarely if ever try to bite, and are quite slow moving, which makes them ideal for handling. If you decide that you’d like to handle your tarantula the best course of action is to gently coax it into a flat hand using a pen or paintbrush.
Note that tarantulas have a very sensitive abdomen, and more than a few tarantulas have died over the years after their owners accidentally dropped them.
As a result, if you want to hold your tarantula you should do so over a surface, so that if the spider falls it has only a small drop onto a soft surface. A tarantula dropped from height might not come off to well.
An alternative solution when it comes to cleaning is to gently coax your spider into a plastic tub. Here you can secure the lid and remove the whole container from the cage.