Cyriocosmus elegans (Trinidad Dwarf) Tarantula Care Sheet

Cyriocosmus elegans is a dwarf burrowing tarantula species with a unique and most attractive appearance.

Cyriocosmus elegans is the total opposite of what most people think a tarantula should be. Big? Nope. Brown? No way. Aggressive? Negative. It’s the very fact that Cyriocosmus elegans is so “different” to more common species like Curly Hairs or Mexican Red Knees that makes them so appealing for many of us. 

Over the last few years Cyriocosmus elegans – sometimes known by the common name of the Trinidad Dwarf tarantula – has become a firm favorite of mine.

If you’re currently wavering over whether to add one to your collection, permit me to twist your arm in this Cyriocosmus elegans care sheet…

Appearance

C elegans juvenile

Cyriocosmus elegans is often referred to as a “dwarf tarantula” due to its diminutive adult size. The larger females can attain a diagonal legspan of roughly 2 inches (5 cm) at maturity, while males typically mature at closer to 1 to 1.5 inches (~3cm). In other words this is a tiny species.

What Cyriocosmus elegans lacks in size, however, it more than makes up for on account of their mind-blowing appearance (at least in my opinion). 

First is the caparace; a rich orange/brown but with a striking glossy black triangle at the front. 

However it is the abdomen which really takes things to the next level. On the top of the otherwise black abdomen you’ll find a unique heart-shaped pattern – leading some people to refer to this species as the “valentines tarantula”. 

The abdomen is further enhanced with “tiger stripes” down the sides of the abdomen which can vary in color. In my specimens these are a beautiful pink. Indeed, as a burrowing tarantula, it is these “stripes” that I see most of, as specimens push themselves up to the side of the container down their hole.  

Wild Habitat

Cyriocosmus elegans hails from Trinidad and Tobago, with some sources also claiming that they can also be found in Venezuela like our old friend the Green Bottle Blue. 

The Trinidad Dwarf tarantula is a burrowing species, and will quickly dig an impressive hole in captivity. Indeed, this is quite a shy species, which will spend the majority of its time hidden from view. This has led some keepers to refer to Cyriocosmus elegans as a “pet hole”. 

The Trinidad Dwarf is subsequently not a great “display” species, but if you’re willing to give them enough substrate and privacy then they can still be a very rewarding tarantula to keep. 

It is probably not best-suited as a first tarantula, but is an ideal pet for moderately-experienced keepers looking to expand their knowledge and experience into “less traditional” species. 

Cages & Housing

Cyriocosmus elegans

The tiny size of Cyriocosmus elegans has an impact on the care of this species in captivity – both in a good way and in a bad way. 

One area where the diminutive size of Cyriocosmus elegans comes into play is their housing, which can take up a lot less space than for more common pet tarantulas. 

Cages for Adult Cyriocosmus elegans

Adults will thrive in relatively small containers. I’m currently using plastic tubs of roughly 8 inches in each direction for larger specimens, though in reality I think you could easily get away with something quite a bit smaller. 

Smaller Critter Keepers and their kin also have potential, though all the ventilation in the lid could represent an opportunity for escape. 

Some keepers use Exo Terra Nano cages – which are of similar dimensions – though you’ll need to slope the substrate up towards the back to provide enough to dig a burrow. 

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All the usual rules for tarantula cages apply here: 

Ventilation – Whatever cage you select ensure it has suitable ventilation to prevent a build-up of mould or mildew. I’ve drilled numerous holes in my plastic containers to facilitate this. That said, be mindful of the small size of these spiders when choosing your drill bit; these could squeeze out of holes that are safe for more typical tarantulas.  

Substrate Depth – This species loves to burrow so you should consider how you’ll add a decent depth of substrate. I would suggest at least three times the legspan of the spider in substrate depth to be a good starting point. 

Escape-proof Lid – You don’t want your Cyriocosmus elegans going missing so a tight-fitting lid is essential.

Privacy – I would characterise this as a shy and retiring species of tarantula, that should have the opportunity to burrow and hide away from bright light when it so chooses.

Visibility – On the few occasions when Cyriocosmus elegans ventures out of its burrow it doesn’t take much to send them scurrying back down out of view. You may want to consider how you’ll manage to observe your spider when it does come “topside”. The last thing you’ll want to do is have to pull the cage off a shelf and rip open the lid to see the tarantula. 

Cages for Cyriocosmus elegans Spiderlings

I would guess that I’ve kept somewhere north of 50 different tarantula species over the last 25 years. I’ve reared thousands of spiderlings in that time, so I consider myself pretty experienced at housing and caring for baby tarantulas. 

That said, as a dwarf tarantula Cyriocosmus elegans has some of the smallest spiderlings I have ever cared for! This creates both challenges and opportunities. 

On the opportunity side, adding a few Cyriocosmus elegans spiderlings to your collection will barely impact any available space left on your shelf. On the other hand, you’re going to need to think very carefully about caging for these microscopic arachnids! You don’t want them escaping, nor do you want it to be too difficult to keep an eye on your new pet. 

For Cyriocosmus elegans I start off using tiny 2 oz clear plastic deli cups.

A dissecting needle is used to puncture some tiny holes around the sides of the deli cups for ventilation.

Several centimetres of substrate is then added, into which the tiny spiderlings burrow. I find that they almost always dig their burrow against one side of the container, allowing me to peek in and check on their health routinely.  

Note that for this species, I also place the deli cups into a larger container. This is because the tiny food that Cyriocosmus elegans spiderlings require can sometimes get out of even the tiny pinhole-sized air holes I add.

Placing the deli cups into a “tray” ensures that any escaped livefood is contained, rather than being allowed to run free around my home. 

Heating & Temperature

Tarantula keepers sometimes refer to the “t-shirt test” – that if you’re comfortable in a room in short sleeves then it will probably be fine for most pet tarantulas. I see no reason why the same wouldn’t apply to Cyriocosmus elegans.

Personally I use a space heater in my office / tarantula room, which varies in temperature between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius (68-77 degrees Fahrenheit) depending on shelf height.

I currently have something in the region of a dozen Cyriocosmus elegans specimens at various stages of development and they all seem to be thriving at these temperatures.

Of course, theraphosids kept warmer will typically eat more, and as a result grow more quickly. 

One observation I have made about the Trinidad Dwarf tarantulas in my collection is that they’re surprisingly hardy for something so small. This is a good thing, as it means they’re quite forgiving of differing conditions. 

Water & Humidity

I don’t worry about specific humidities for my tarantulas. I do however try to ensure that they have suitable access to drinking water. This means an upturned bottle cap for larger Cyriocosmus elegans specimens. 

Such a small body of water dries out very quickly in warm conditions, so be sure to top up the water regularly, and rinse the bowl in boiling water every so often to kill off any bacteria. 

Coming from the more humid, tropical areas of the world, I also give my Trinidad Dwarfs a slightly moist substrate. This seems to make burrowing easier, and reduces the chances of the spider becoming dehydrated. All I do is trickle a little lukewarm water onto one corner of the tub and let the substrate soak it up. This is allowed to dry out slowly before re-application.

Of course, providing drinking water for the microscopic slings is rather more challenging.

Here I use a houseplant mister which is kept just for my critters. I mist one side of the deli cup, which not only gently moistens the substrate but also leaves water droplets on the side. While this will evaporate over time, in the meantime your slings can drink from the droplets if they so desire.

Following this simple strategy has – so far – led to a 100% success rate with rearing quite a few specimens of this species. 

Tank Decor

There isn’t really any point in carefully decorating your Cyriocosmus elegans cage, as you probably won’t see your specimen very often at all. 

A cage offering the bare essentials will work fine for this species; a decent substrate depth, a water bowl (for larger specimens) and perhaps a piece of cork bark as a “starter home” before they’ve dug a burrow. Some keepers like to add a little sphagnum moss too, as it can help to absorb/retain moisture and looks visually appealing. 

I am using fine-grade coconut fibre for my Cyriocosmus elegans at the moment and this seems to work well. Of course, many other soil-based substrates can also be suitable, including chemical-free potting compost, topsoil or mixes sold specifically for tarantula spiders. 

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Food & Feeding

One of the things I’ve grown to love about my Cyriocosmus elegans is their rate of growth – which is quite impressive – and is fuelled by their healthy appetite.

These aren’t fussy spiders in my experience, and will take down almost any feeder insect you place into the cage. That said, I would personally avoid any “burrowing” prey – like mealworms. This is because your Cyriocosmus elegans may take some time to come up from their burrow to hunt, by which time the mealworm could have disappeared from view. 

Other than that most standard feeder insects will be fine, so long as they are of a suitable size.

Of course, what counts as “suitable” can be a challenge when it comes to the slings. I buy pinhead / hatchling black crickets from my supplier and they are readily accepted.

Other people have used fruit flies (Drosophila) successfully, though I personally find them a pain to work with. 

Still other keepers have experimented with pre-killed prey – such as dropping in a leg of a larger cricket, or a small slice of a mealworm. 

Personally I’ve never tested out pre-killed prey, and I’m quite comfortable dealing with hatchling crickets. If you can’t source any in your local area then it is possible to breed crickets reasonably easily. 

The warning I would give here is that you may want to consider purchasing a larger specimen if you’re a less-experienced keeper as feeding becomes simplicity itself. It takes a certain amount of experience and patience (and insanity?!) feeding tiny slings on even tinier feeder insects. For many people, that’s too much like hard work. 

Handling & Temperament

Cyriocosmus elegans can be quite a fast moving tarantula, though I would say they are far from unmanageable.

What’s more, once they’re established in their cage and have dug a burrow, they couldn’t be simpler to care for.

Even if your Trinidad Dwarf comes out while you’re carrying out tank maintenance they’re more likely to bolt back down their burrow then make a break for freedom.

Of course, the small size and relative speed of this species means it’s not ideal if you want a tarantula to handle. And of course how you’d even get the spider out of their burrow in the first place could also be a challenge. 

In reality, the only time you’ll come into close contact with your specimen is going to be for re-housing. Carry this out in a conservative manner, placing the container(s) into a larger receptacle and you shouldn’t have too many issues.

I would describe Cyriocosmus elegans as shy, flighty and fast but not defensive/aggressive. I have not had a threat display yet from any of my specimens.

Richard Adams

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