Harpactira pulchripes (Golden Blue Leg Baboon) Care Sheet

The 19th of May 2019 was a very special day for me.

It was the day I collected not just one – but four different specimens – of Harpactira pulchripes.

Also known by the common name of the Golden Blue Legged Baboon, this is a tarantula that I’ve had my eye on for years.

Finally, thanks to some successful breedings of other tarantulas recently, I had the cash to invest.

Harpactira pulchripes is one of the most expensive – and desirable – tarantulas currently available in the hobby.

Even now, some years after they were established in the hobby, specimens can sell for eye-watering prices. As an example, it is not unusual for spiderlings to cost more than adults of some more commonly-available species.

Harpactira pulchripes - the golden blue leg baboon.

In other words, Harpactira pulchripes really isn’t a beginner’s spider.

Not only are you going to have to stump up a fair amount of cash to get started, but as baboon spiders their venom is considered rather “spicier” than, for example, a Mexican Red Knee or Greenbottle Blue.

Despite these difficulties it’s easy to see why Harpactira pulchripes maintains such a mythical reputation among hobbyists. The color combination is unlike anything else available, with those bright metallic blue legs contrasted against the orange body.

A freshly-molted specimen is, quite simply, one of the one attractive tarantulas known to science.

If you really want something very special in your collection then read on for my detailed Harpactira pulchripes care sheet. After all, when you’ve shelled out that amount of money you’ll want to make sure that you’re doing everything right to keep them in the very best of health.

Wild Habitat

Harpactira pulchripes has been known to science for a surprisingly long period of time. It was originally described by Pocock in 1901, but has only recently started to enter the hobby in any kind of numbers.

The Golden Blue Legged Baboon is found naturally in South Africa. Here, like many other baboon spiders of the region, they dig burrows to avoid predators and the worst of the scorching sun.

While they’re not considered to be quite as aggressive as many other baboon spiders (I’m looking at you OBT!) thought should be put into how best to maintain a potentially highly venomous spider in your home.

Cages & Housing

Harpactira pulchripes isn’t a particularly large tarantula as an adult. Unlike giants such as the Salmon Pink or Goliath Birdeater adults tend to reach a more manageable 5” legspan.

This means that an overly large cage isn’t strictly necessary,

That said, scientists describe Harpactira pulchripes as “fossorial” meaning that it is a burrow-dweller. It is a smart idea to incorporate this knowledge into whatever cage you choose, so that your Harpactira pulchripes can hide away from view during the daylight hours.

This means that a decent depth of substrate is advisable for larger specimens.

While I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a fan of Exo Terra and ReptiZoo glass vivariums for many of my tarantulas, these cages often don’t allow for a suitable depth of substrate. One option is to gently slope the substrate up towards the back of the cage to permit at least a degree of burrowing.

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Arguably an equally good option is to make use of a plastic tub designed for home storage. Here in the UK an assortment of clear plastic containers are available, and they’re both a cheap and practical source of housing for Harpactira pulchripes. That said, I will admit that they’re hardly the most attractive of solution.

Right now I’m using Kritter Keepers with good results.

Lee's Kritter Keeper, X-Large Rectangle w/Lid(Assorted colors)
  • Rectangular Kritter Keepers have self-locking lids with hinged viewer/ feeder windows
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A small number of suppliers are also now offering custom-built glass tanks suitable for the Golden Blue Leg Baboon – offering the ideal combination of visibility and depth of substrate.

Whatever you choose there are some broad guidelines that you should bear in mind:

Close-fitting Lid 

Firstly you’ll want to make sure that your Harpactira pulchripes can’t go walkabout. Losing such an expensive and fast-moving species is unlikely to end well.

If you’re using a plastic storage box for your spider then be sure the lid fits onto the top securely – some leave annoying gaps that aren’t noticed until it is too late.

Ventilation 

Hobbyists currently disagree about the humidity requirements of Harpactira pulchripes.

One thing we can all agree on, however, is that stale, stagnant air is a bad thing. It can lead to the growth of mold, bacteria or mites, so ensure there is sufficient ventilation in your tarantula tank at all times.

If you opt for an Exo Terra then this will hardly be an issue.

If, on the other hand, you choose to repurpose a storage box then consider using an electric drill or soldering iron to add some air holes around the top of the container.  

Substrate Depth 

Your Harpactira pulchripes should be able to easily and fully conceal itself below ground level.

A good minimum substrate depth is therefore at least the legspan of your tarantula. Of course, if you can provide more then all the better.

What I have found is that some specimens seem less tempted to burrow. My largest female is often out and about in her cage and only retreats away if startled.  

Dimensions 

For an adult specimen I would suggest a tank of at least 10” (25cm) square, with enough height to provide suitable substrate.

Smaller specimens can of course be kept in comparatively smaller tubs, tanks and cages.

Heating & Temperature

Coming from South Africa it should be no surprise that Harpactira pulchripes seems to do best in a warm environment. That said, with the protection of their burrow, they aren’t typically exposed to the most extreme temperatures.

My own spider room is maintained at around 22-24’C all year round, and this seems to be working well for my Harpactira pulchripes specimens.

For species that appreciate higher temperatures some supplementary heating is provided, but this seems unnecessary for this species.

Other hobbyists have successfully kept their specimens at up to 26’C.

As with other tarantulas, it’s likely that the warmer you keep them and the more they are fed, the faster they will grow.

If you’re looking to keep Harpactira pulchripes then you’re almost certainly a seasoned tarantula keeper who will know about the various heating options. If not, however, here’s a quick rundown…

If your home (or at least your critter room) stays nice and toasty year round then additional heating probably won’t be necessary for your Harpactira pulchripes – or any other tarantula species.

If the temperature drops, however, some additional heating is likely to be beneficial.

Popular options can include a heat mat attached to the side of your tarantula cage, or a heating cable capable of warming a number of vivariums together.

Lastly, if you’re rearing a number of smaller specimens these can be placed into a reptile vivarium, with a single heater providing warmth for all your specimens.

Note that as Harpactira pulchripes is a burrowing species, you should try to avoid providing heat from beneath the cage. It is natural for a tarantula to burrow deeper to avoid excessive heat, so providing warmth from below can create issues for thermoregulation.

Better is to attach the heater to the side or back walls of the tank.

Whatever the case, try to keep temperatures for your Harpactira pulchripes between 22’C and 26’C at all times, and be sure to use a reliable thermostat if you’re using a heater to achieve that.

As a nerdy sidenote, I strongly suggest that all exotic pet keepers should have a separate digital thermometer to monitor temperatures on a regular basis.

Water & Humidity

All tarantulas should have access to fresh water, even if you never see them drink. A shallow water bowl is ideal, and it should be regularly cleaned and topped up to prevent the build-up of bacteria.

Generally speaking Harpactira pulchripes seems to do quite well on a reasonably dry substrate, but I choose to gently spray their tanks once every week or two.

Tarantulas hate to be sprayed directly, so be sure to direct the spray away from any spider you might be able to see.

Tank Decor

Once you’ve chosen a suitable cage for your Harpactira pulchripes the next step is to furnish it correctly. Here are the basics I suggest…

Substrate

There are a range of different substrates suitable for tarantulas including the Golden Blue Leg Baboon.

Popular options include coir fibre, topsoil or multipurpose compost.

Josh's Frogs Coco Cradle (10 liters)
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Personally I tend to rely on substrates sold in the reptile trade, as I can feel confident that they are chemical free.

As stated earlier, it is a good idea to provide a generous depth of substrate if you can for your Harpactira pulchripes. Pack the substrate down firmly so that it holds it’s shape if and when your tarantula tries to build a burrow.

Some keepers also like to create a “starter burrow” as a hint to the spider, typically in one corner of the cage.

Many burrowing tarantulas will use this as a head-start and expand this burrow to suit their needs over time.

Hide

While your Harpactira pulchripes is likely to spend much of it’s time out of sight in it’s burrow, not all specimens actually bother to build a burrow. I believe it is a good idea to provide all tarantulas with one or more hides, where they can feel safe during daylight hours.

There are a range of suitable options available, with the primary concern being that your tarantula can entirely conceal itself within.

Popular options include plastic plant pots laid on their side or, my preference, a curved piece of cork bark.

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This is available from most good exotic pet stores very cheaply indeed.

Water Bowl

As mentioned earlier, all tarantulas of juvenile size or larger should have regular access to fresh water so they can drink when it suits them.

Thermometer

I use a handheld infrared thermometer to take regular temperature readings in all my invertebrate cages, ensuring that they are all suitable.

As temperature can have such a significant effect on the life of your tarantula I advise everyone to do the same.

The last thing you want is your spider overheating, or getting so cold that they stop eating.

Food & Feeding

Like many other baboon spiders, Harpactira pulchripes has a healthy appetite and will take down almost any prey item they can subdue.

Roaches and crickets are probably two of the most popular prey items among tarantula keepers. That said, I personally avoid these as any escapees can be very annoying indeed. Crickets can also damage your tarantula if they’re left in the tank during a moult.

My go-to food source is locusts which I buy online. They’re shipped to my door each week in a range of different sizes.

Of course, other live invertebrates can also be considered, including mealworms, morio worms and waxworms.

My specimens are fed twice a week at present (none are quite adult size) and very rarely refuse, unless they’re coming up to moult. Check your spider shortly after feeding and remove any uneaten insects, lest they cause stress or damage to your spider.

Handling & Temperament

Handling any tarantula poses risks both to you and to your spider. For this reason I advise against any unnecessary handling. This is particularly applicable for Harpactira pulchripes, which is expensive and potentially has quite strong venom.

That said, I have found that Harpactira pulchripes is generally much less defensive or aggressive than many other African tarantulas.

Related:  Why Do Tarantulas Lose Their Legs?

While I do get the odd threat posture, my specimens are more likely to run away and hide than to try and attack.

They can therefore be reasonably easy to maintain in captivity.

Richard Adams

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