Chilobrachys fimbriatus is an Asian species of burrowing tarantula. They are popular pets due to their attractive appearance, reasonable price and their habit of producing copious amounts of web.
At the same time tarantulas from the Chilobrachys genus are also not without their warnings. They are considered to have quite potent venom when compared with many New World tarantulas. They can also be quite defensive and fast moving, meaning that they are best suited to slightly more experienced tarantula keepers.
If I’m totally honest Chilobrachys fimbriatus has never been on my “shortlist” of wanted species. However, having received a few tiny spiderlings in a mystery box some years ago I’ve really grown to love this species. What follows in this Chilobrachys fimbriatus care sheet are my own experiences of rearing this much-loved Old World tarantula…
Chilobrachys fimbriatus is often known as the Indian Violet tarantula. In truth, I don’t think this is really the most accurate common name. Unlike many other colorful tarantulas (such as Tapinauchenius violaceus or Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens) the “violet” color is so subtle as to be barely visible (at least to my eyes). Only on a perfect day with the optimal lighting is there any purplish sheen to my specimens.
However don’t go thinking that this is a typical boring, brown tarantula. Far from it. The most noticeable aspect is the rich chestnut-colored or even copper-colored abdomen, which is clothed in black stripes. This makes it look almost like a tarantula with a sixpack!
This striped abdomen is coupled with a gold or copper-colored carapace and deep brown/black legs which, if you’re very lucky, will show the violet sheen on occasion.
So while I wouldn’t term this a “colorful” tarantula, it is probably best described as “striking” in appearance.
Chilobrachys fimbriatus was first described in 1899 by the arachnologist Pocock. As the common name suggests this species hails from India.
It is a heavy webber and readily builds deep burrows. This means that a deep substrate and minimal tank decor is likely to be the order of the day, as this is a spider that will readily re-arrange a carefully-arranged cage.
Cages & Housing
As a burrowing species, Chilobrachys fimbriatus needs a cage that provides a suitable depth of substrate. I would suggest that this is at least the legspan of your specimen. Under these conditions your Indian Violet tarantula will likely dig a deep burrow, in which it will spend the majority of its time. Indeed, some people have described this species as a “pet hole” which may only be seen resting at the entrance to its burrow when hunger brings it out.
A second consideration is that this is a classic Asian Old World tarantula. That means it can be both nervous and defensive. My specimens are quick to run for cover if disturbed when they are out and about in their cages. If cornered this species may throw up a threat posture, however with minimal interference they will live out a healthy life without any real hint of “aggression”.
So while these are certainly not the most defensive tarantulas in my collection, they should be treated with respect. This can impact the choice of cage; you’ll want to ensure you can carry out routine maintenance with the minimum of fuss, and minimise the risk that your tarantula may try to run for freedom or “tag” you when you’re not paying attention. This means no fingers in the tank; use long forceps for maintenance and stay focused at all times.
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A good example of suitable housing is a repurposed plastic household storage container. My preference is for those with clips on either end to secure the lid and add extra security. Drill plenty of ventilation holes in the lid and/or the top of the sides to facilitate proper air movement and add a good depth of substrate.
Try to choose a storage box where there is a decent amount of space between the top of the substrate and the lid of the container. This ensures you don’t get a nasty surprise as your Chilobrachys fimbriatus dashes up the side of the container when you open it.
Choosing a model that offers excellent visibility also makes sense for two reasons. Firstly, as this is a flighty species of tarantula you want to disturb your Chilobrachys fimbriatus as little as possible if you are to watch it. Clear sides make this much easier. Removing the lid will almost certainly result in your spider dashing down their burrow.
A second benefit of excellent visibility is it allows you to identify exactly where your spider is before you open the cage, minimising the chances of them getting out.
Critter keepers can work well too, though Exo Terras are probably only suitable for smaller specimens as it is harder to provide a generous depth of substrate.
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Chilobrachys fimbriatus grows to a legspan of 5-6” as adults, meaning that a cage of 30cm cubed or larger is a good starting point.
Heating & Temperature
One of the things that I really like about Chilobrachys fimbriatus is just how adaptable and robust they are. They don’t seem overly sensitive to environmental conditions and as a result will thrive at a range of different temperatures.
My specimens are kept at temperatures of between 22 degrees Celsius and 26 degrees Celsius (72 – 79 degrees Fahrenheit) , though a few degrees warmer or colder is unlikely to cause them any issues.
If you end up using artificial heating to keep your Indian Violet warm on cold winter nights then remember this is a burrowing species. That means that placing a heat mat under the tank is a very bad idea; tarantulas will generally burrow down to avoid excessive heat. If in doubt, attach it to one side of the cage, and use a thermostat to avoid overheating.
Water & Humidity
Larger tarantulas should have access to a water bowl when it is safe to provide it. Bottle caps can work well for smaller specimens, while larger spiders get water bowls designed for small rodents or deli cups. As this is both a burrowing species and a heavy webber be aware that water bowls may start to disappear from view over time, meaning you either need to dig them out or – for ease – simply add another one.
Smaller specimens should receive an occasional misting with lukewarm water so they can drink the droplets. Try to direct the spray at the webbing and the sides of the cage, while avoiding contact with the spider itself.
The substrate mustn’t be wet. A little moisture won’t do your Chilobrachys fimbriatus any harm, and may even make burrowing easier. However wet, stagnant conditions should be avoided at all times.
Food & Feeding
I have always been impressed with the appetite of Chilobrachys fimbriatus. They’re fiesty tarantulas and will aggressively take down even very large feeder insects. If you’re looking for a tarantula that makes feeding time into a spectator sport then the Indian Violet should definitely be on your hotlist!
A consequence of this behaviour means that Chilobrachys fimbriatus seems to grow quite quickly. Given a suitable feeder insect once or twice a week, even a tiny spiderling will grow into an impressive juvenile by the following year. I have found it quite rewarding to see my specimens growing and maturing so rapidly.
As always, pay attention to the behavior of your tarantula. Any uneaten insects should be promptly removed, and if your Chilobrachys fimbriatus covers over the entrance to their burrow with heavy webbing then it’s likely they’re coming up to a moult.
Handling & Temperament
Chilobrachys fimbriatus is considered nervous, defensive and with venom that could be of medical importance. All this means that Chilobrachys fimbriatus is not a tarantula you should consider handling.
Personally I use 30cm long stainless steel forceps for routine tank maintenance and suggest you do the same. Keep fingers well out of reach to avoid a nasty surprise.
When it comes to transferring your Indian Violet from one container to another it is a good idea to use a catch cup in a very controlled environment.
Photo by (C) TOM M.