Psalmopoeus victori is a New World arboreal (tree-dwelling) tarantula.
Hailing originally from Mexico, this species is known under two different common names; the Darth Maul tarantula or the Mexican Half-and-Half. Both these names do a good job of describing the appearance of this species.
The Darth Maul name springs from the fact that this is a red and black tarantula that matches the color scheme of the Star Wars villain.
The Half-and-Half name arises from the way these two colors are arranged; it’s essentially black at the front end (both legs and carapace) and then half way back becomes orange/red. The intensity of this orange/red (best described as “fiery”) and the contrast against the black, are what make this tarantula so visually appealing.
Indeed, in my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful tarantulas available in the hobby and certainly one of the more exciting species to enter the trade in recent years.
Sadly, as with other recent, colorful introductions, this has made for strong demand and higher-than-average prices.
They’re certainly not the most expensive tarantulas in the hobby, but they tend to be priced well above the average specimen. Inevitably, though, these prices will drop over time. So if you can’t afford one right now, just remember that patience is a virtue.
Housing Psalmopoeus victori
One of the really nice things about Psalmopoeus victori is that genus name – Psalmopoeus. It’s a genus that is well-established in many collections, and many tarantula keepers therefore have experience with similar species.
Think specifically of Psalmopoeus cambridgei, Psalmopoeus irminia, Psalmopoeus reduncus and Psalmopoeus pulcher. Most of these will be familiar to moderately-experienced tarantula keepers. Pleasantly, I’ve found that Psalmopoeus victori responds well to a near-identical housing and care routine.
As a result, and in contrast to some other recent introductions, that makes this quite a simple tarantula to care for. The only fly-in-the-ointment of course being that it’s reasonably fast-moving so care should be taken when the cage is open.
At the time of writing I have ten specimens of Psalmopoeus victori in my collection, ranging in size from mid-sized juveniles to adults. All of my specimens have been raised from the tiniest of spiderlings, so have been reared by me through their entire growth phase.
Spiderlings are quite sturdy in my experience. I start them off in tall 5oz (150ml) clear plastic pots. These measure about 6cm tall, being slightly narrower. Holes are drilled all round the top of the pot to permit air flow. Substrate of potting compost or coir was added to the floor of the pots, while a small piece of cork bark was laid at an angle to provide an anchor point.
Like other Psalmopoeus species the spiderlings soon combine webbing with the substrate, building intricate structures within the pots that connect to and fit around the cork bark. This gives them somewhere dark and cozy to hide away from view during the day.
When my Psalmopoeus victori outgrow these tubs (which is reasonably quick) they are moved into far larger containers. My preference is for 500ml clear plastic containers (roughly 17oz). The setup is identical, just on a larger scale (deeper substrate, larger piece of cork bark).
Lastly once they outgrow these tubs they’re ready to move up to their final housing. Psalmopoeus victori is an average-sized tarantula, attaining a leg span of 5-6”. This means a standard arboreal tarantula set-up works well for them.
At a minimum I would suggest a 20cm x 20cm x 30cm (tall) cage. Plastic or glass will both work fine. And with a reasonably fast-moving species like this a little extra space can be welcome, giving you a precious few extra seconds of your Psalmopoeus victori bolts when you open the container.
Food, Feeding & Growth Rate
Like other members of the genus, Psalmopoeus victori is a relatively fast-growing species. This is why I’m so confident that prices will go down in time; there are going to be lots of adults maturing in the next year or two, and therefore likely plenty of egg sacs.
Supply and demand means that prices will drop (as they have already started to do). Psalmopoeus are also known to be capable of multi-clutching – that is producing two or more egg sacs from a single mating. Which will see supplies of this species increase even further in the future.
Anyway, back to food and feeding. As you’d expect from a fast-growing New World tarantula, they have healthy appetites. I maintain mine somewhere between 20-25’C (68-77’F) and they willingly eat every single week. The only times my specimens refuse food is when they’re in premoult. This is a benefit; none of the frustrations of fussy Grammastolas or Brachypelmas that sometimes randomly go off their food for weeks or months on end.
All my specimens are fed once a week, though I think they’d probably eat more often if it was offered. Indeed, as my smaller specimens are sexed I may try to increase feeding on the females, in the hope that they’re ready for mating when the males of the group mature.
Black crickets are my go-to source of food for all my tarantulas and Psalmopoeus victori is no different. The hatchling slings get hatchling / 1st instar black crickets, with the cricket size increasing as the spiders grow. By a leg span of 2-3” they’re easily tackling adult crickets, which makes feeding nice and simple.
As always, try to avoid uneaten crickets being left in the cage. I check all my spiders the morning after feeding, removing anything that hasn’t been munched. I also mark the cage so I can remember which specimens didn’t eat.
After a tarantula refuses food for two weeks in a row they are then not fed again until they have molted. This simple process has worked well so far – protecting the tarantulas from danger but also minimizing my effort on trying to fish unwanted crickets out of cages.
Water bowls are given to larger specimens, where space within the cage allows it. For spiderlings and smaller juveniles I simply spray a little water against one side of the cage once a week. In this way there are water droplets to drink from if required, but thanks to the temperature and ventilation the tub soon dries out to prevent stagnant, damp conditions.
Attitude & Temperament
Psalmopoeus victori is a relatively skittish species and seems adverse to bright light. If I flick the light on in my spider room they’re virtually guaranteed to scurry off to their hide. As an arboreal species they’re also quite quick. This isn’t therefore a species you’ll want to try and handle.
However with a little experience they’re easily manageable. While I treat my spider with respect, I have yet to have a Psalmopoeus victori throw up a threat posture, even during rehouses.
The one proviso before purchasing a Psalmopoeus victori will therefore be to ensure you’re comfortable dealing with a reasonably skittish, fast-moving tarantula on occasion. Bring on the catch cup!
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