Poecilotheria – Keeping Exotic Pets http://www.keepingexoticpets.com Tue, 26 Dec 2017 10:39:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.8 Gooty Sapphire (Poecilotheria metallica) Care Sheet http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/gooty-sapphire-poecilotheria-metallica-care-sheet/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/gooty-sapphire-poecilotheria-metallica-care-sheet/#respond Mon, 15 May 2017 14:07:30 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1490 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 […]

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The Gooty Sapphire Tarantula (Poecilotheria metallica) is one of the world's most beautiful tarantulas, and one of the most popular pet species with keepers. Discover all about the natural history of the species, together with advice on caring for this stunning blue tarantula in captivity.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.

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.

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.

The Gooty Sapphire Tarantula (Poecilotheria metallica) is one of the world's most beautiful tarantulas, and one of the most popular pet species with keepers. Discover all about the natural history of the species, together with advice on caring for this stunning blue tarantula in captivity.

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

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Indian Ornamental Tarantula Care (Poecilotheria regalis) http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/indian-ornamental-poecilotheria-regalis/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/indian-ornamental-poecilotheria-regalis/#respond Wed, 14 Dec 2016 07:28:19 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1381 The Indian Ornamental tarantula has been a mainstay of the pet trade for years. Even today, with so many new species discovered by scientists, it is considered one of the most beautiful tarantulas of all. First described the Reginald Pocock in 1899, the Latin name roughly translates to “royal spotted beast”. The Indian Ornamental tarantula […]

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Indian Ornamental tarantulas are a stunning species from the Indian sub-continent. As one of the most beautiful pet tarantulas they're justifiably popular with tarantula keepers, and this detailed care sheet reveals exactly how to keep Indian Ornamental tarantulas as pets. The Indian Ornamental tarantula has been a mainstay of the pet trade for years. Even today, with so many new species discovered by scientists, it is considered one of the most beautiful tarantulas of all.

First described the Reginald Pocock in 1899, the Latin name roughly translates to “royal spotted beast”.

The Indian Ornamental tarantula is a complex and beautiful combination of silvery-grey fur with an assortment of darker stripes and spots, especially on the abdomen.

If this weren’t enough, the underside of the front legs are a rich, banana-yellow.

Lastly, a terracotta-coloured stripe exists under the abdomen, something that taxonomists consider unique, helping to identify Poecilotheria regalis from other similar-looking members of the genus.

Also known variously as the “tiger spider”, “regal parachute spider” or “royal parachute spiders” there are few that can deny this is one good-looking spider, and one that every exotic pet enthusiast should have in their collection.

Wild Habitat

As the common name of this species would suggest, P. regalis is found through much of India. Unlike some other members of the genus, which are confined to small pockets of habitat, the Indian Ornamental is not considered under threat in the wild.

poecilotheria regalis photoOf course, India is a large country, and this spider is typically found in a large area between the Eastern and Western Ghats.

Interestingly, the IUCN reports that the two known populations could turn out to be two different species “but this needs taxonomic confirmation”.

Unlike many other tarantula species, the Indian Ornamental is primarily an arboreal species, generally at an altitude above sea level of under 1000m. Here they hide in the holes and crevices in dry deciduous forest.

These areas receive a surprisingly diverse range of environmental conditions, which might help to explain why these spiders tend to be so hardy in captivity. Reputedly temperatures in such areas can vary between 8’C and 45’C, though the “nesting” holes help to temperature the extremes.

It is fascinating to note that some species of Poecilotheria have been found to be sharing their holes with some frog species in the past. It is suggested that the large Indian Ornamental tarantula offers protection for the frogs, which in turn eat the ants that otherwise might consume the India Ornamental eggsacs.

Housing Indian Ornamentals

Like many theraphosids from this part of the world, Indian Ornamentals tend to subscribe to the “live fast, die young mentality”. This is a fast-moving and fast-growing species, with males maturing at between 12 and 18 months of age, and females reaching maturity in less than two years.

That said, the lifespan of Indian Ornamentals is considerably less than some New World species, clocking in at between 12 and 15 years for females.

Growing to around 6-7″ in legspan these are both beautiful and good-sized spiders, with even spiderlings quickly growing to become impressive display specimens. While some internet chatter in the past has suggested that Indian Ornamentals can be kept in groups (if well fed) this is generally not advised.

While a happy community may arise, it is just as likely that unnecessary losses will occur. Interestingly, extensive searches in the wild have found adult females sharing their homes with youngsters, but two or more adults have never been found co-existing for any meaningful period of time.

In captivity the Indian Ornamental requires a suitable amount of space, which should be vertical as well as horizontal. As these spiders can move quickly, and are known to have a rather “firey” bite, consideration should be put into how best to maintain them.

My personal preference for housing Indian Ornamentals is within glass spider tanks. A number of manufacturers and hobbyists build glass terraria specially for arboreal spiders, though Exo Terras are my personal preference. These cages have front-opening glass doors, which swing open to make maintenance simple, while reducing the chance of escape.

A cage of at least 30cm in each direction is recommended, though for a really impressive display I increasingly rely on tanks giving a height of 18″ (45cm).

Tank Decor

Once you’ve purchased a suitably-sized tank to keep your Indian Ornamental in, the next subject for consideration is what decor you’ll need. Here there are a number of elements to consider…

poecilotheria regalis photo

Substrate – First and foremost you’ll want a suitable substrate to line the base of the vivarium. This should ideally not only look attractive, but also help to moderate the necessary humidity in the cage. While there are a range of different substrates you can choose between, my own personal preference is for coir, which can be bought in condensed blocks from reptile stores.

These tarantulas tend not to burrow, so it is not necessary to provide a generous depth. Just a centimentre or two should be enough to absorb any excess moisture.

Hide – One of the more interesting aspects of keeping Indian Ornamentals is their choice of hide. While most ground-dwelling spiders like Cobalt Blues will do well with a plant pot or curved piece of bark on the floor of their tank, Indian Ornamentals are more evolved to live in trees. To this end, the choice of hides must be rather different.

The best solution here is to furnish your Indian Ornamental cage with one or more tubes of cork bark. These can easily be sawn to the appropriate length, and should be securely positioned on one end. In this way, the vertical arrangement of the cork bark will effectively resemble a tree trunk, while the hollow centre will allow your spider to climb inside safely.

Please note that Indian Ornamentals, like so many arboreal tarantulas, often produce copious amounts of web. This will particularly be used within the hide to create a secure place to rest during the day.

Water Bowl – In truth, Indian Ornamentals spend most of their time off the floor of their vivarium, so a water bowl is only very seldom used. At the same time, it is considered best practise to ensure that every tarantula – especially adults – have a ready supply of fresh water. A shallow water dish, cleaned and topped up regularly, is therefore recommended.

Thermometer – A dial or digital thermometer can be useful for monitoring the internal temperature of the cage.

Artificial Plants – While there is no practical need for artificial plants, an increasing number of tarantula keepers over the years have enjoyed setting up “naturalistic” vivariums. The use of artificial plants can really help to add another layer of interest and visual appeal to an Indian Ornamental cage, as well as providing somewhere else for your spider to explore.

Heating & Humidity for Indian Ornamentals

Indian ornamental tarantulas require a temperature of around 24’C in captivity, with one side of their tank kept warmer than the other. In this way, a range of temperatures are available to your spider. When combined with two or more potential cork hides, your Poecolotheria regalis will be free to build their nest wherever suits them best.

poecilotheria regalis photoPossibly the easiest way to accomplish this is by attaching a heat mat to the outside of the cage. An increasing number of manufacturers are selling heat pads with self-adhesive surfaces, so they can easily be stuck to one side of the cage.

Using a digital thermometer with a probe, keep an eye on the temperature to ensure the hotter area reaches the required temperature.

This setup works well in colder months, where the challenge is keeping the temperature of your tarantula viviarium up, can can yield problems as the seasons change and the ambient temperature in your home starts to rise. This is where a thermostat designed for heat mats comes in handy.

Known as a mat stat, all you need to do is plug your heat mat into it, place the sensor into the cage and then set the required temperature on the dial.

In this way the thermostat will continually monitor the temperature within the cage, gently turning the heat up or down as necessary in order to reach the target.

All tarantula keepers know that the right humidity is important for their pets. The Indian Ornamental spider is no different, with a recommended humidity between 75 and 90%. The fact that you are already heating the tank makes this easier to achieve; all you need to do is add some water that will evaporate slowly.

Broadly speaking the easiest method is to gently mist the inside of the tank once or twice a week, using a houseplant spray gun. Aim to use lukewarm water, and try to avoid spraying it directly on your spider. A squirted spider has a nasty habit of dashing out of their lair, and potentially straight out of the cage too. You have been warned!

Feeding Indian Ornamentals

As discussed previously, Indian Ornamentals are fast-growing tarantulas, but only when they have suitable nutrition. As spiders cannot be overfed you should feel free to add livefood to your spider tank on a regular basis. When kept at ideal temperatures it is not unusual for an Indian Ornamental to eat on an almost daily basis given the opportunity.

poecilotheria regalis photo

While the wild diet of Poecilotheria tarantulas has been described as “termites, beetles, grasshoppers and moths” the standard range of livefood are all suitable. Great options include crickets, roaches and – my personal favorite – locusts.

Keepers should aim to vary the foot items being given regularly to offer as balanced a diet as possible. Some larger Poecilotheria regalis may even accept small dead mice to eat, which can be messy but is a great treat to try after a moult.

As with all invertebrate pets, be very careful about feeding around moulting time. When your spider goes off it;s food, the most likely reason (assuming your cage is set up correctly) is a pending moult.

When you notice that your tarantula has started to fast, be sure to remove any remaining insects from the cage. Once a moult has been completed it is generally wisest to leave your spider alone for a week or two before feeding resumes.

Note that moulting in the Indian Ornamental ca be difficult to diagnose, as many specimens will simply hide in their cork bark tube, making it impossible to see whether or not they have actually moulted. They will also often produce an even greater volume of web, making visual confirmation even more challenging.

Under such circumstances the easiest solution is simply to wait until you see your spider out exploring it’s cage, at which point you can be confident that the moult has been completed successfully.

Handling Indian Ornamentals

Indian Ornamentals are not really a species suitable for handling. Their lightning-fast movements can make them difficult to predict. Furthermore, while most Ornamentals would rather flee than fight, the Indian Ornamental is know to have one of the more potent venoms in the tarantula world.

One report in the scientific literature reports someone being bitten and suffering “persistent local cramps in the affected hand” while others have experienced considerable pain and swelling for up a week after a bite.

This is probably a species best admired from behind glass, therefore.

Indeed, there are a number of techniques that can help with routine maintenance, but keep your hands well out of harms way. Firstly, I would suggest that yo invest in a long pair of forceps. Mine are around 30cm long and allow me to retrieve uneaten food, old sloughed skins and the water bowl with minimal risk.

Secondly, when it comes to moving the spider, a clear plastic container (such as a cricket tub) can be valuable. One can simply use the forceps to gently guide the spider to a suitable position, then place the tub over the top. Being able to see the spider through the clear plastic sides of the tub, you can then just gently slide the lid underneath, before snapping it shut. The spider can then be safely moved, without risk to your fingers.

Indian Ornamental tarantulas are a stunning species from the Indian sub-continent. As one of the most beautiful pet tarantulas they're justifiably popular with tarantula keepers, and this detailed care sheet reveals exactly how to keep Indian Ornamental tarantulas as pets.

Photos c/o snakecollector & Enygmatic-Halycon

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