The Columbian Giant, also known as the Columbian Giant Redleg, is a tremendously attractive spider. The most eye-catching specimens have a black carapace with bright orange/red hairs on the abdomen and legs. This contrast really makes them an appealing pet spider.
Despite their name, however, I have found that they’re often not really “giants”. Certainly they may get larger than your Rose Hair or your Mexican Red Knee, but some 7-8” is normal for large adult females. Adult males tend to be slightly smaller.
While a little “flighty” when surprised, I have found that specimens in my collection happily spend reasonable amounts of time out in the open. If you’re fed up with keeping a “pet hole” like many African tarantulas, Megaphobema robustum can make a colorful, sizeable and easily-seen species; perfect to take pride of place in your display.
If you’re considering adding this species to your collection then read on for my detailed Columbian Giant care sheet…
Wild Habitat of Megaphobema Robustum
As its common name suggests, Megaphobema robustum hails from Columbia, where it was originally described in 1875 by taxonomist Ausserer. A number of biological surveys have provided location data for this species in the wild.
For example, it has been reported to occur “in the Norandina Province, in the low areas near the inter-Andean valleys”. Other studies have identified the species in “Orinoquia and Guiana, in an altitudinal range between 0 and 600m”.
So many tarantula species that come from the more tropical parts of the world are assumed to live in lush jungle. However, in the case of the Columbian Giant tarantula this does not appear to be the case.
The Orinoquia region which we know is home to this species comprises just as much savannah as it does forest. Indeed, this relatively flat area has a long history of agriculture thanks to the soil quality and ease of cultivation.
While Megaphobema robustum is a burrowing species, it therefore seems just as happy in savannah as it is in dense jungle. Indeed, one specimen in the scientific literature that was captured in 1973 is reported as having been found “in cow pasture savannah”.
Temperatures in this part of Columbia tend to vary between 18’C and 36’C throughout the year, with very clear seasonal cycles of moisture. Heavy rainfall occurs on a regular basis, and the rivers may flood at these times. It therefore seems fair that the ideal habitat for the Columbian Giant in captivity would be at the higher end of the humidity spectrum with reasonable warmth provided also.
Housing Columbian Giants
Megaphobema robustum grows to a reasonable size, and so adult specimens will likely require considerably larger cages than more traditional pet tarantula species. Personally I am a huge fan of Exo Terras for my adult tarantulas.
For an adult female Columbian Giant I would suggest the 30cmx30cm model, though smaller specimens may be kept in comparatively smaller enclosures.
Of course, Exo Terras might be both practical and good looking but they’re also often far from cheap. As a result, many other tarantula keepers use a range of alternative cages for their spiders.
Specialist glass tarantula tanks are available from exotic pet stores, while some people even opt to build their own cages out of glass or perspex. Alternatively, the cheapest option is to use a secure plastic tub of suitable dimensions. The downside, of course, is that such cages don’t tend to look great, which seems a crime when you’re keeping such an amazing species.
Broadly speaking my own experience of keeping this species suggests that the cage for your Megaphobema robustum should offer:
Space – I like 30cmx30cm for adult females, but some people get away with a slightly smaller cage of 20cmx30cm.
Security – these are reasonably large, expensive and strong tarantulas so you don’t want them escaping for everyone’s sake. If you choose to build your own cage or repurpose a tupperware box etc. then ensure the lid fits securely.
Ventilation – Even tarantulas like the Columbian Giant who seem to appreciate a high humidity shouldn’t be kept in stale, stagnant environments. Ventilation is therefore a concern, with the cage being allowed to dry out between sprayings.
Visibility – If you’re going to the expense of buying one of these incredible tarantulas then the last thing you want to do is hide it away! Consider how you’ll landscape the vivarium to make your new spider a real feature of your home.
Heating & Temperature
Megaphobema robustum, like most tarantulas, requires artificial heating in all but the warmest weather. Heating should be provided in such a manner that one area of the cage is much warmer than the other. This enables your spider to move around the cage, choosing the temperature that suits them best.
Such an arrangement can also provide useful information for you as a tarantula keeper. After all, if your Columbian Giant never seems to move away from the hottest area then their cage probably isn’t as warm as it should be. On the other hand, should you find your tarantula pressed up against the side of their cage in the coolest spot then their cage may well be too warm.
For the hot end I would suggest a temperature of some 24’C plus or minus a few degrees. This is easily provided with a heat mat, heat strip or heating cable, ensuring just section of their cage is heated. Leave the other side without direct heat and provide the gradient discussed.
While there are a range of different thermometers designed for reptile keepers my own personal preference is for a digital thermometer that utilises a temperature probe attached to a wire. It is therefore easy to fix the probe inside your tarantula’s cage with the LED read-out showing outside the cage.
As a note, many experts recommend never using any kind of artificial heating for exotic pets without them first being attached to a reptile-safe thermostat. The reason is that a thermostat allows you to control the temperature very precisely, and prevents the risk of overheating should something go wrong.
While there is logic to this, the low-wattage heat mats that tarantula keepers use very rarely get overly hot, so many other tarantula keepers go without. Only you can decide whether you’re willing to take the chance in order to save money. If you do opt to invest in a reptile thermostat then something like a matstat tends to work well and won’t break the bank.
Water & Humidity
Columbia is known for a relatively humid environment, though the savannah areas that many Megaphobema robustum inhabit tend to be less moist than the jungle areas. A simple process that combines regular sprayings with excellent ventilation tends to work well.
A liberal spraying will help to raise the humidity on occasion, while the warm, well-ventilated surroundings will allow the water to evaporate rapidly. This prevents wet surroundings that can encourage mites, fungus and other potential problems. Allow the cage to virtually dry out between sprayings to prevent this happening.
For Columbian Giants it can be wise to provide a water dish. The water should be changed every day or two, with the dish being scrubbed clean. This ensures that even if the cage is reasonably dry your spider can still get any moisture that it needs.
Once you’ve bought a suitable cage and correctly heated it there are a few other bits of kit that you’ll probably be needing. For starters you’ll want to provide a suitable volume of substrate so that your Megaphobema robustum has an opportunity to burrow if it so desires.
A substrate of some 6” or so should enable this, but if you are providing so much substrate then ensure that the heater is attached to the side of the cage. If glass tanks filled with a depth of substrate are placed onto a heater then the heat can build up, cracking the cage eventually; something best avoided.
A variety of different tarantula substrates are available but coir or forest bark tend to be two of my favorites. They do a good job of looking natural and allowing burrowing while also maintaining suitable humidity levels in the cage.
My personal preference here is to provide one or more pieces of cork bark. This bark should be curved to provide a “burrow like” experience for your spider, and should be suitably sized to allow your tarantula to conceal itself fully underneath.
If space allows I like to provide two different hides for my spiders, one on the heater and the other elsewhere. In this way your tarantula can choose the hide that suits them best.
There are also a range of alternative hides currently available, including attractive resin hides. The cheapest and easiest option (but also the ugliest) is to lay a plastic plant pot on its side and partially bury it in the substrate.
Besides this, as mentioned, you’ll likely want a small water dish and a digital thermometer. I also have several long pairs of forceps (tweezers) that help with removing food etc. without the need to pop my hands directly into my tarantula cages.
Feeding Columbian Giant Tarantulas
Columbian Giants are well-known for their strong feeding behaviour. Unlike some “fussier” tarantulas who may go off food for long periods of time for seemingly no reason whatsoever this rarely seems to happen with Megaphobema robustum.
These large tarantulas will eat almost anything they can subdue in the wild, though in captivity they’re normally fed on a wide range of invertebrates. These “feeder” insects can take a variety of forms, from crickets to cockroaches and locusts. Obviously, larger tarantulas will manage larger meals.
In terms of feeding regularity, Megaphobema robustum tends to be a reasonably fast-growing tarantula, and to support this rapid growth they have healthy appetites. I therefore feed my adults once every week or so, while juveniles are fed two or three times a week.
You cannot overfeed tarantulas so if you buy a juvenile and want it to grow as rapidly as possible then try feeding them frequently. Over time you’ll figure out how often they’ll accept food.
As with all tarantulas, try not to leave feeder insects in the cage for too long. I feed my spiders in the evening, and then recheck all the cages the following morning. Any remaining food is removed to prevent stressing out my spiders.
Additionally, appreciate that tarantulas will stop eating anything between a few days and some weeks before they change their skin. Tarantulas going through a moult can be damaged or stressed by livefood that has been left in their cage, which is why uneaten insects shouldn’t be left indefinitely.
The Columbian Redleg is a large and skittish tarantula. This really makes it unsuitable for handling. While there is always someone on YouTube showing off about handling a certain tarantula it is generally just not worth the risk to your spider. If they suddenly bolt then they may fall, and even a modest drop can lead to the death of your tarantula.
If you needed any more convincing then also bear in mind that the Columbian Giant will happily kick off its urticating hairs which can cause irritation and redness when they make contact with your skin.
Instead, I try to use the “catch cup” method of transporting this species. Rather than picking it up directly I catch it in a clear plastic tub, secure the lid and then remove it safely from the cage. This keeps both me and the tarantula safe.
Photo by snakecollector
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