Psalmopoeus pulcher, often known by its common name of the Panama Blonde, is an arboreal tarantula from Central America.
Growing to around 5-6” in overall legspan as an adult, this is an elegant and beautiful tarantula – at least if spiders are your thing!
As the common name would suggest Psalmopoeus pulcher is clothed in stunning blonde hairs that can give it an almost “fluffy” appearance. This base color is further complemented by orange tips to the legs and subtle chevron markings on the abdomen. The overall effect is mesmerising.
In many ways tarantulas from the Psalmopoeus genus are “classic” pet tarantulas. Even when I first started keeping tarantulas in the mid 1990’s their cousin the Trinidad Chevron (Psalmopoeus cambridgei) was one of the most common pet spiders.
Then a few years later Psalmopoeus irminia started to make an appearance, with their stunning black-and-red coloration.
Now, of course, the number of Psalmopoeus tarantula species in the hobby has grown yet further, with Psalmopoeus pulcher being one of the more exciting additions.
If you’re looking to extend your collection of arboreal tarantulas past these two “classics” then Psalmopoeus pulcher is sure to impress. Read on for my Psalmopoeus pulcher care sheet…
Cages & Housing
As an arboreal (tree-dwelling) species Psalmopoeus pulcher benefits from a tall cage where it can clamber about on pieces of cork bark. Once your Psalmopoeus pulcher has explored their cage, and has adopted a piece of cork bark as their home, they’re a relatively undemanding species.
Be aware, however, that Psalmopoeus pulcher is a fast-moving species. This is especially so for spiderlings and juveniles, where the speed really is something else! My juveniles run loops around their deli cups if disturbed. Fortunately, once they’ve chosen a hide they’re far more likely to retreat there if startled as opposed to dashing up the sides of the cage.
As with so many other arboreal tarantulas, therefore, it makes sense to consider these practicalities. While some people use plastic storage containers like old sweet jars or pasta jars this is a species where a specialist glass or plastic vivarium can make sense. These can often be accessed from the front, rather than requiring you to lift the entire lid off the container.
Many keepers consider Psalmopoeus pulcher to be a good “display” specimen. Larger individuals will often be seen resting outside their cork bark hide, so it is often worth investing in an attractively-landscaped tank if you are to enjoy your Psalmopoeus pulcher to full effect.
I would suggest a tank no smaller than 20cm wide, 20cm deep and 30cm tall for this species. If you opt to offer impressive landscaping and/or a bioactive setup then you might want to consider larger options, such as a 30cm cube.
- Front opening door with locking latch for easy cleaning or feeding your reptile
- Compact design mini tank with escape-proof door locks to prevent escape
- The full screen top ventilation allows UVB and infrared penetration
To offer some specifics, I’m currently rearing small juveniles in 32oz clear plastic deli cups with numerous holes added for ventilation. Their speed means that slightly larger rearing containers than usual make sense, when compared to more sluggish species. This minimises disturbance of the spider itself when opening the lid for feeding and watering.
Larger juveniles are in 6 liter plastic storage containers measuring roughly 20cm in all dimensions.
Glass vivariums are an ideal solution for subadults and adults, as they look awesome (especially with some artificial lighting) and they offer front-opening doors which helps with security.
Heating & Temperature
My experience so far with Psalmopoeus pulcher is that they’re not overly fussy about temperatures. The shelf on which most of my Psalmopoeus pulcher reside sits at around 22-24 degrees Celsius (72-75 degrees Fahrenheit) for most of the year, though it may raise a few degrees warmer at the peak of summer.
I would suggest that anything above 20’C/68’F and below 28’C/82’F could be considered optimal.
Water & Humidity
As with many other tarantulas, Psalmopoeus pulcher can be sensitive to poor ventilation in their cage. You should never keep any tarantula in a tightly-sealed container lacking any air exchange, but this is especially so for Psalmopoeus pulcher. A wet cage with no air holes is likely to end in disaster.
In other words, be sure to select a cage that either offers excellent ventilation (such as an Exo Terra) or add your own ventilation holes manually. For deli cups I use a needle, while for thicker plastic containers an electric drill is the perfect tool.
Coming from Panama, this is a species that has evolved in quite a humid environment, and many keepers have suggested that Psalmopoeus pulcher seems to thrive with slightly moist substrate. This is in contrast to many other species where the substrate should be kept very dry indeed.
My own experience supports this view. As a result, I gently trickle a little lukewarm water into one corner of the cage to moisten one section of the substrate. This water is then allowed to evaporate as the substrate dries out, before further water is added.
Please note that the aim is to make one part of the substrate slightly moist – we’re not flooding the container with water, nor making all the substrate sopping wet. Just one slightly moist corner is sufficient. And it goes without saying that you’ll want decent ventilation to allow this drying out.
Juveniles and adults should have access to fresh drinking water at all times, in the form of a water bowl. Of course this is impractical for spiderlings, so gently mist the walls of their container once or twice a week, so they can drink from the droplets.
When it comes to tank decor for your Psalmopoeus pulcher there are two key considerations.
Firstly, as Psalmopoeus pulcher can make a fantastic display specimen it can make sense to invest extra time and money into creating a really attractive display. From plants (artificial or live) to leaf litter to live moss let your imagination run wild.
Secondly, your Psalmopoeus pulcher should have plenty of opportunities to build their silken retreat behind pieces of cork bark or within cork bark tubes.
Not only will the provision of cork bark make your spider feel more confident in their cage, but it offers protection when your pet is coming up to moult.
- Create a naturalistic forest look in your terrarium
- Great for use as natural hiding places or shelters
- Safe for all reptiles, amphibians and arachnids
While uneaten feeder insects should always be removed from the cage, this can be challenging with such an easily-spooked and fast-moving species. With a proper silken retreat your spider will be able to web itself inside to moult, offering extra protection against any feeder insects you haven’t noticed.
Food & Feeding
Psalmopoeus pulcher follows the same feeding pattern seen in the closely-related Venezuelan Suntiger and the Trinidad Chevron. That is to say that Psalmopoeus pulcher has a healthy appetite and will grow rapidly when given the right conditions.
I feed my spiderlings and juveniles roughly twice a week, while larger specimens are fed weekly.
Adults will easily take down decent-sized prey such as large locusts or roaches.
As these are arboreal spiders the best feeder insects tend to be those that will climb up the cage. That means that morio (super) worms and mealworms are probably only suitable if tong-fed.
Handling & Temperament
There is a lot of disagreement over the temperament of Psalmopoeus pulcher. On the one hand, there are photos and videos of people handling their Panama Blonde, describing them as “laid back”. Other keepers say their specimen could be best described as reasonably defensive.
Personally, while I wouldn’t suggest handling this species due to their speed, I haven’t seen any really aggressive behaviour from my specimens.
It is this speed, however, that requires respect when moving your spider from one container to another.
If you’re smart about this – using all the right equipment such as catch cups and long forceps – then I see now reason why Psalmopoeus pulcher wouldn’t be suited to all levels of experience.
Just be sure you’re confident about dealing with a very fast-moving tarantula before you bring one home.
Photo by Döw (hun)
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