Grammostola pulchripes / Chaco Golden Knee Tarantula Care Sheet

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but when I first stumbled across Grammostola pulchripes at bug shows I was far from wowed. My key concern when choosing tarantulas for my collection is “color” – and at first glance Grammostola pulchripes is just a typical boring, brown spider like so many others. 

In the last few years, however, my opinions towards this tarantula have changed quite significantly. Now, with quite a few specimens of Grammostola pulchripes in my collection, I want to tell you why the Chaco Golden Knee has established a special place in my heart. 

Not only is this an amazingly docile tarantula, perfect for the less-experienced or more cautious tarantula keeper, but it also has a subtle beauty all of its own. 

If you’re considering investing in a Grammostola pulchripes then read on for my own experiences of keeping this species for some years. Let’s get started on our Grammostola pulchripes tarantula care sheet! 

Appearance

At first glance Grammostola pulchripes can seem a little less exciting than more colorful species like the Greenbottle Blue or the Colombian Lesserblack. However look a little closer and you’ll find a surprisingly attractive tarantula.

The first hint as to their appearance comes from their common name – the Chaco Golden Knee tarantula. The “knees” do indeed possess a rich yellow/orange coloration; almost like honey in many specimens. 

This is also quite a “fluffy” tarantula in the right light, possessing all manner of different browns and golds when you look closely. 

Lastly, and unlike many other Grammostola tarantulas, this is actually quite a large specimen at adulthood, with some specimens reputedly reaching 7-8” in overall legspan.

As a result, while you may have a look a little deeper than some of the more “showy” tarantulas this is certainly a beautiful tarantula that is sure to impress your family and friends.  

Wild Habitat

Grammostola pulchripes is known to inhabit the grasslands of Argentina and Paraguay. This is a reasonably dry environment, which means that Grammostola pulchripes can be quite a sturdy species that thrives in a range of different conditions. 

They are considered an “opportunistic burrower” which means they will burrow if the opportunity presents itself, but are often just as happy to hide under a log or rock. 

In captivity they’re often perfectly contented with a piece of cork bark to hide under, and are recognised for being one of the most “visible” tarantulas commonly kept. This makes them great display animals, as your Grammostola pulchripes will often be seen sat out in plain view in their cage; quite the opposite to many of the “pet holes” like the King Baboon (Pelinobius muticus) that are kept by pet owners. 

Cages & Housing

One of the most impressive things about Grammostola pulchripes is their ultimate adult size; females may reach 7-8” in overall legspan, rivalling many of the “bigger” species on the market. This is an important consideration when it comes to selecting a cage; ultimately it’ll need to accommodate quite a sizeable tarantula, though of course smaller specimens will thrive in more modest enclosures. 

As a terrestrial tarantula, cage height is less of a concern, unless your specimen opts to dig a burrow. My specimens are roughly 50/50 in terms of whether they bother to dig a burrow; I therefore believe it’s a good idea to not only provide a suitable hide but also enough substrate depth to facilitate such activities.  

At the bare minimum I would suggest a tank of around 30cm x 30cm (floor area) for an adult specimen, though of course a larger cage not only gives more space to roam, but can also make for a more attractive display. 

Any of the usual suspects are potentially suitable; special spider tanks or modified containers made from glass or perspex, assuming they offer suitable ventilation. Exo Terra terrariums can work well if your specimen is loathe to burrow.

For my spiderlings I start off with clear plastic deli cups of around 3” in diameter and height, moving them up into square plastic cages measuring around 9” in all directions. Enough substrate is provided for burrowing, should the spider opt to do so, while numerous ventilation holes are added to facilitate proper air movement. Whatever option you choose, be mindful that a stale, stagnant, overly wet tank can be fatal to tarantulas.  

Heating & Temperature

My Grammostola pulchripes are currently thriving at temperatures of 20 – 25 degrees Celsius / 68 – 77 degrees Fahrenheit. I have turned a spare room into my own private “spider room” and the ambient temperature is maintained using an oil-filled radiator.

Of course, I know how lucky I am to have such a facility available to me. 

For most keepers you’ll need to consider ambient temperatures within your home. If they match my spider room then you won’t go far wrong. If, however, your home does on occasion get too cold (anything much below 20 degrees Celsius / 68 degrees Fahrenheit in my book) then it might be wise to consider some artificial heating for your Grammostola pulchripes cage.

The easiest solution is to fit a low-wattage undertank heater or heat pad. These should be fitted outside the cage (not inside) to prevent the risk of burns. They should also be placed on the back or side of the cage, rather than underneath, and a suitable thermostat should carefully control the temperature within. If using an artificial tank heater then it is a good idea to create a “thermal gradient” where one section of the tank is warmer than the other; the tarantula can then move around to the area that suits it best at the time.    

Water & Humidity

I keep my Grammostola pulchripes in relatively dry conditions and they seem to thrive. Once every few weeks I trickle a little tepid water down the side of the cage to moisten just one corner of their substrate. 

Other than this, an open water dish is provided at all times to my larger specimens. Due to the number of spiders now in my collection I tend to use tiny deli cups as they’re so cheap to buy. Bottle lids or small rodent bowls may also be used. The water should be replenished regularly to keep it fresh.

It is not always practical to provide a water dish for truly tiny specimens like spiderlings, in which case I gently mist one wall of the cage once a week. In these circumstances the spiderling can drink water droplets before they evaporate away. As with larger specimens, ensure suitable ventilation is present, and allow the cage to dry out between mistings. 

Tank Decor

Grammostola pulchripes is a reasonably undemanding tarantula in captivity. As it’s most basic they should be provided with some substrate to line the base of the cage and somewhere to hide away. 

Substrate-wise coconut fibre, potting compost or topsoil are all possible options, while a curved piece of cork bark or plant pot laid on its side should provide somewhere to hide away.

That said, as Grammostola pulchripes is often seen sitting out in plain sight in their cage you may want to consider putting extra focus on creating a visually-appealing cage design. Consider live moss, plants and other decor items to create a cage that really draws the eye.

Food & Feeding

If there is one downside to Grammostola pulchripes it is that, like many of their cousins, they grow quite slowly. This species may go off its food for periods of time; so long as your tarantula appears plump and healthy this shouldn’t be of concern. 

Grammostola pulchripes will generally take any feeder insect small enough to be caught. This normally means anything up to roughly the same body length as your spider. A once-a-week feeding is perfectly acceptable for this species. 

For tiny spiderlings my food of choice is hatchling black crickets (not brown). Black crickets are more easily handled, slower moving and don’t make as much noise as brown crickets. 

As spiderlings grow into juveniles I then progress to small locusts and, more recently, roaches. Any of the commonly-kept cockroach species will be suitable; I currently culture both Dubia roaches and Madagascan Giant Hissing cockroaches as food sources for my tarantulas which gives me a huge range of different sized prey items at any one time.  

Super worms and large crickets can also be suitable for larger specimens. 

Be sure that any live insects are removed if they are not eaten by your spider; there have been cases of tarantulas getting attacked, particularly by crickets, when attempting to moult. 

Handling & Temperament

While I personally advise against the handling of any tarantula, Grammostola pulchripes is surely one of the most docile and slow-moving of all commonly-available species. This makes it ideal for beginners or more cautious tarantula keepers who aren’t quite ready to level up to one of the more “challenging” species like the appropriately-named Orange Bitey Thing

In reality, it’s very unlikely that your Grammostola pulchripes is going to bolt out of their cage when you open it, and they will plod slowly and calmly over your hand should you allow them. 

If you’re a reasonably new tarantula keeper be aware that smaller/younger specimens of Grammostola pulchripes can be a little more flighty than older specimens. They tend to slow down with age. Therefore if you’re looking specifically for a slow and docile tarantula then paying a little more for a bigger specimen might be a worthy investment. 

Richard Adams

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