Nhandu chromatus is a stunning ground-dwelling tarantula from Brazil and Paraguay. It grows to a good size, is brightly colored, easily cared for and is typically very reasonably priced. For these reasons it has become a very popular pet tarantula over the years.
Back when I first started keeping tarantulas in the mid 1990’s there were no tarantulas from the Nhandu genus in the hobby. Over the years, however, a number of different species have entered the market, and have established a strong following. To my eyes, at least, Nhandu chromatus is the most visually-appealing of these species.
While Nhandu chromatus is sometimes described as a “beginner” species, there are some aspects you should be aware of before parting with your hard-earned cash. I’m going to try my best to cover these in this Nhandu chromatus care sheet.
A recently-moulted Nhandu chromatus is an incredibly striking tarantula.
The two common names sometimes used give you a hint of their appearance. This species is variously known as the “Brazilian Red & White Tarantula” or the “White Striped Birdeater”.
While most serious tarantula keepers will slap your wrists for using common names at all, these are at least reasonably accurate descriptions.
The legs of this spider have a glossy black base color, over which are overlaid bright white stripes. The abdomen is somewhat reminiscent of that perennial favorite the Mexican Red Rump (T. vagans), with bright red hairs sitting on a black background.
Somewhat unusually, the carapace is pale in comparison to the rest of the spider. This can help with identification, with some keepers (apparently) getting this species mixed up with the equally popular Acanthoscurria geniculata. Fortunately A geniculata not only lacks the pale carapace, but also the red hairs on the abdomen. Differentiating the two species is therefore quite simple.
Nhandu chromatus grows to a rather larger size than many of the more “common” tarantula species, with some older females reaching a diagonal legspan of around 6” (sometimes a little more). Nhandu chromatus will therefore require a decent-sized cage if it is to have enough room.
Nhandu chromatus was officially named as recently as 2004, by arachnologist Schmidt. This is roughly a decade after I started to keep tarantulas; if only this species was available in those early days!
The Brazilian Red & White hails from Brazil and Paraguay and seems to show similar behaviour to many other popular Brazilian species like the Salmon Pink Birdeater (Lasiodora parahybana). Nhandu chromatus is quite a fast-growing tarantula with a healthy appetite. It will burrow when the opportunity arises, but may simply choose to hide away beneath cork bark in captivity.
Nhandu chromatus is quite easily bred in captivity and produces vast numbers of tiny spiderlings in a single eggsac. Indeed, the number of spiderlings produced by even a single breeding helps to explain why these tarantulas are so reasonably priced, despite their incredible appearance.
Cages & Housing
The jury is out as to whether Nhandu chromatus will burrow in captivity, with keepers on both sides of the argument. It is generally described as an “opportunistic burrower” meaning that it may dig a burrow if the opportunity presents itself, or may otherwise hide away beneath rocks or logs in the wild.
In practice this means that the perfect Nhandu chromatus cage will offer both the opportunity to burrow and a suitably-sized piece of cork bark. In this way your pet spider can choose the option that suits them best. At the same time, don’t be surprised if your Nhandu chromatus doesn’t waste its energy digging a burrow.
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If you go down this route then you’ll want to provide a decent depth of burrowing material, such as coconut fibre or peat-free potting compost. Be sure whatever substrate you choose is free from any chemicals. The safest solution is normally to use only substrates sold specifically for reptiles and other exotic pets.
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Note that there are tarantula owners successfully keeping this species without a burrow, in which case you may be more likely to see your specimen.
In terms of cage size, I would suggest a cage no smaller than 12 inches x 12 inches with a healthy depth of substrate for a large adult female Nhandu chromatus. Of course, the larger the cage the better.
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Heating & Temperature
Nhandu chromatus is a pretty sturdy tarantula and will do well in a variety of conditions.
I’m personally keeping this species at temperatures of between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius (68-77 degrees Fahrenheit) depending on the season and they all seem to be doing well.
For many people this represents standard room temperature, though make sure the temperature doesn’t drop too much at night or when you’re out at work and the heating is off.
Water & Humidity
As this is a Brazilian species I like to mist the tank from time-to-time, always taking care to avoid spraying directly onto the tarantula itself. The substrate is then allowed to dry out between applications, while excellent ventilation is provided to avoid “wet” conditions that can attract mites.
All larger tarantulas, from juveniles to adults, should have an open water source – whether that’s a hamster water bowl, a deli cup or an upturned bottle cap.
For the slings I try to keep the substrate a little damper than I do for larger specimens, and when I mist the container I ensure that droplets remain on the side that can be drunk from.
Food & Feeding
Like so many other South American tarantula species Nhandu chromatus has an excellent feeding response and rarely if ever fasts, apart from when it is coming up to moult.
One thing to be aware of is just how tiny the slings of Nhandu chromatus can be. This can make them challenging for less-experienced keepers to feed.
Hatchling crickets, live fruitflies, or pre-killed insects are the order of the day here. This can make things a little challenging, though far from impossible. Fortunately slings are very fast growing so will soon move on to larger prey items.
If you’re considering purchasing a Nhandu chromatus and you’re reasonably new to the hobby you may want to consider a juvenile specimen that will eat “normal” feeder insects. This will make your life so much easier when it comes to feeding. Furthermore, juveniles tend to be a lot hardier than tiny spiderlings, greatly increasing your chances of success.
I feed my spiderlings and juveniles every 4-5 days, and they very rarely refuse food. My larger tarantulas get fed less regularly; closer to every 7-10 days. That said, I think this species could eat even more regularly, helping it to grow very quickly indeed.
Handling & Temperament
Nhandu chromatus grows to quite a healthy size and is considered to be quite a nervous species. It will readily kick off urticating hairs if it feels threatened, so keepers should take suitable precautions to prevent irritation to the eyes and nose.
Furthermore this species can be quite defensive and may throw up a threat posture if disturbed. As a result Nhandu chromatus is not the best species for handling. The readiness to kick off hairs means it also might not be the most suitable species for children or less-experienced keepers.
I would strongly advise you to treat your Nhandu chromatus with caution, to avoid it kicking off hairs unnecessarily. Keep your face well away from this spider when the cage is open.
If you do need to move your tarantula, such as for a rehousing, then it will likely be most effective to use a plastic container to gently transport them, or even coax them gently from one container to the other using a long paintbrush or pair of forceps.
Photo by B a y L e e ‘ s 8 Legged Art