Friendliest Tarantula Species: What are the Most Docile Pet Tarantulas?

Tarantulas can vary significantly in how “friendly” they are. The friendliest and most docile species can make an ideal first pet tarantula for beginners, significantly reducing the chances of losing your tarantula or getting bitten. 

Before we look at the friendliest tarantula species it’s worth quickly discussing exactly what I mean by this word. Essentially I’m including tarantulas here if they are both relatively slow-moving and very unlikely to bite. 

Even some very docile tarantulas can actually be surprisingly fast-moving and that really doesn’t make for a stress-free tarantula keeping experience. What you want from a friendly tarantula is a “plodder” – one that moves slowly enough that their movement is easy to predict and work with.

One important disclaimer is necessary before we get to the list of spiders: all tarantulas are unique. The species listed below are typically very docile and slow-moving, but that isn’t always the case.

 Many juvenile tarantulas move much faster than adult specimens, for example. Additionally, some will still bolt if surprised. And the odd one may even rear their fangs at you on a bad day. 

So the point is the list below is my best approximation but you should treat any tarantula specimen with a healthy respect until you’ve satisfied yourself they really are as friendly as you’ve been led to believe.

Aphonopelma chalcodes

Aphonopelma chalcodes, sometimes known as the Arizona Blonde, is a stocky brown tarantula growing to an adult size of around 5” when measured diagonally across the legs (sometimes known as “diagonal legspan”). Slow moving and long-lived, Aphonopelma chalcodes can make an excellent introduction to the hobby for the more conservative owner. 

From the perspective of a pet, there are really only two downsides to Aphonopelma chalcodes. Firstly, this species tends to be slow growing. If you save money by purchasing a juvenile specimen then expect it to be some time before it reaches adult proportions. 

Secondly Aphonopelma chalcodes is a relatively boring brown color. That may not concern you, but there are some much more colorful species on this list if it’s of interest. 

Brachypelma hamorii

Traditionally known as the Mexican Red Knee tarantula, Brachypelma hamorii is the “classic” tarantula seen in books, movies and posters for decades. While they may be quite common in the hobby, don’t let this detract from the stunning colors to be found here. 

A largely black tarantula, with bright yellow and orange “knees”, there is no doubt this is a beautiful tarantula. Like A. chalcodes they tend to be reasonably slow growing, slow moving and long-lived, with some suggestions that females may live for 2 decades or longer. They can therefore be quite a long-term investment. 

Brachypelma hamorii is fortunately quite common among breeders so is easy to source as a captive-bred specimen. The fact that they grow so slowly can mean that larger specimens are expensive – due to the time and effort put in by the breeder – but juveniles can be picked up for quite a reasonable price. 

Caribena versicolor

Caribena versicolor, the Martinique or Antilles Pink Toe, is possibly one of the most beautiful tarantulas of all. Youngsters are a stunning blue, while part way through their development they achieve their adult colors – a metallic green carapace combined with rich plum-colored hairs on the abdomen and body.

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Pleasantly, Caribena versicolor also tends to be quite a friendly tarantula. I have a number of specimens in my collection, and while I don’t actively handle any of my spiders, if my C. versicolor crawls out onto my hand during feeding and maintenance it certainly isn’t a concern.

Caribena versicolor is reasonably commonly bred these days, though the laws of supply and demand mean that larger specimens can be pricey. While spiderlings are much cheaper, they can be rather more difficult to rear than some other species. Appropriate ventilation is absolutely essential for this species, and without it spiderlings can easily pass away.

If you’re a new tarantula keeper seeking a “friendly” tarantula to start your collection then Caribena versicolor really is something special, though I’d advise you to buy a larger specimen if you can afford it, to avoid the difficulties of rearing tiny spiderlings. 

Grammostola pulchra

In many ways Grammostola pulchra resembles a black version of A. chalcodes. These are pleasingly chunky, velvety jet-black tarantulas and are known to be one of the most docile species of all. They can be handled, if that is your desire, with little risk of you ever getting bitten.

That appearance, combined with their docile nature, makes them one of the the tarantulas that every hobbyist aims to have in their collection.

The desirability of this species can, sadly, impact the price. While they’re certainly not the most expensive tarantulas to buy, larger Brazilian Black specimens in particular can come with a hefty price tag. 

Grammostola pulchripes

Related to the Brazilian Black is this species – often known by the common name of Chaco Golden Knee. As the name would suggest, this friendly tarantula develops attractive yellow/gold patches on its knees. Viewed close-up this helps to make Grammostola pulchripes a very pretty tarantula indeed.

At present, Grammostola pulchripes probably represents one of the very best friendly tarantulas on the market for a number of reasons. Firstly, the females are known to lay big eggsacs. This means a good supply in the hobby, resulting in lower prices than many of the other species discussed.

The Chaco Golden Knee also grows slightly larger than many of the other tarantulas mentioned here. This can make them rather more visually appealing when sat in their cage. Some experts also claim that Grammostola pulchripes spends a reasonable amount of time outside their hide, simply sitting around their cage. This can add to their appeal as a “display tarantula”.

Lastly, that subtle beauty is a thing to behold. Grammostola pulchripes may not be quite as “showy” as some other species like Caribena versicolor, but they do have a definite subdued beauty all of their own.

Grammostola rosea

Grammostola rosea, also known by various similar common names such as the Chile Rose, Chilean Rose Hair and Rose Haired Tarantula, is another “classic” tarantula. Indeed, this was one of the very first tarantulas I kept, back in the last 1990’s. 

These days, however, things have changed considerably; this is no longer a cheap or readily-available tarantula, since Chile introduced a ban on the export of live specimens. Now essentially only captive-bred, the species tends to achieve similar prices to the Brazilian Black.

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Grammostola rosea is a truly beautiful tarantula, quickly developing stunning red/orange hairs all over and a distinctly fluffy appearance. 

While they are generally considered very friendly tarantulas I have equally come across a few specimens that would happily rear up and attempt to bite. 

As always, remember that spiders are unique. If you’re looking specifically for a docile tarantula then it is wise to have some hands-on time before you buy.

Hommeoma chilensis 

Hommeoma chilensis is possibly the friendliest tarantula available in the hobby. 

This is a reasonably small tarantula when adult, and displays unusual coloring. While the majority of the body is black, a small red/orange patch develops on the abdomen. This creates quite a unique appearance that sets this species apart from others in the hobby, and has led to the common name of Chilean Flame.

Hommeoma chilensis has developed almost mythical status in the hobby thanks to how friendly it is – in many ways the absolute perfect beginner’s tarantula. Or at least it would be if it weren’t for how difficult they are to find, how expensive they can be, and how slow growing they are. 

Indeed after 25 years of keeping tarantulas I think Hommeoma chilensis is probably the slowest-growing species I’ve ever reared. Spiderlings I bought over a year ago are still barely a centimeter in legspan. It will be a good few years till my specimens are anything close to “adulthood”.

While Hommeoma chilensis is therefore a fantastic, beautiful, friendly tarantula that would be welcome in any collection, you’re going to have to be patient when looking for one. 

If you’re willing to wait then you won’t regret the day you bring home your own Hommeoma chilensis.

Tlitocotl albopilosus

Tlitocotl albopilosus, commonly known as the Curly Hair tarantula, is probably the “best” friendly tarantula for beginners. 

While it’s certainly not the most colorful tarantula species available, it is regularly bred, reasonably priced and tends to be very docile. They’re also freely available so are simplicity itself to pick up from a breeder, expo or exotic pet store. 

While juveniles can be reasonably speedy, they do start to slow down as they reach maturity. And while they are primarily a “brown” tarantula like A. chalcodes, they also have a subtle beauty to them – especially the curled hairs themselves in the right light. 

Richard Adams

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