Possessing a subtle beauty, the Trinidad Chevron (Latin name Psalmopoeus cambridgei) is one of the “original” pet tarantulas, having been kept and bred for decades.
Unlike many other tarantula species that we’ve covered recently this is an arboreal (tree-dwelling) spider, being mainly olive green in color with bright orange markings on the legs.
Originally described by well-known arachnologist Pocock as early as 1895, these are fast-moving, medium-sized tarantulas that tend to achieve a legspan of around 5″, though some specimens may be slightly larger.
This might not be a “showy” tarantula species, but its one that every keeper should try sooner or later…
As the name suggests, this species hails from the balmy island of Trinidad, where it is to be found hiding in tree holes and behind loose bark.
As with so much of the Caribbean, the seasons are marked more by differences in rainfall than by severe temperature fluctuations. The island tends to rest comfortably between 25-30’C throughout the year, though temperatures may fall slightly in hillier areas.
In terms of rainfall – and therefore humidity – the year is evenly split into a wet season between June and December, and a dry season running from January to May.
These elements of course impact the cage of these spiders in captivity. Firstly, a warm and humid environment is required consistently.
Secondly, consideration should be given to their arboreal nature, allowing opportunities to climb on vertical objects and hide away from bright sunlight.
Arboreal tarantulas like Psalmopoeus cambridgei are generally best kept in cages which offer considerable height. A healthy height is around 18″ tall for an adult specimen, though of course youngsters may be kept in correspondingly smaller cages.
A footprint of 8-12″ in length and depth tends to work well, and provides enough space for your Trinidad Chevron to move around and hunt.
When selecting a suitable cage, thought needs to be given to the aspect of humidity.
While a humid environment is recommended for this species, stale or stagnant air should always be avoided for tarantulas. This is because such an atmosphere tends to encourage the growth of bacteria or fungi, which can be detrimental to the health of your spider. In extreme cases an overly moist cage can be fatal for spiders.
In light of this, a cage with decent ventilation should be considered essential. It is better to choose a cage with too much ventilation, which can then be reduced if necessary by covering parts of the grill, than it is to choose a solid tank that prevents air movement.
Any glass or plastic container of suitable dimensions and ventilation will work. For smaller specimens tupperware containers and sweet jars may be used, so long as ventilation holes have been added.
Typically the easiest way to achieve this is with a soldering iron, used in a well-ventilated area, to gently melt holes. Alternatively an electric drill can accomplish the same task, or alternatively a section may be cut out with a saw, and mesh glued over the gap. Ensure that the container is dry and has been aired before setting it up for your spider.
Adults do well in cages such as the Exo Terra, which comes complete with a metal grill in the lid for ventilation.
Exo Terras offer a range of practical benefits, such as the front-opening doors which make routine maintenance and feeding simple, and excellent all-round visibility of your spider. They also come with built-in (yet closeable) holes for wires, which can make adding digital thermometers and hygrometers simplicity itself.
As with all spiders, your Trinidad Chevron cage should be placed out of direct sunlight, which could otherwise rapidly increase the internal temperature of the cage to uncomfortable levels. Placing the cage away from draughts such as windows or outside doors is also wise. A shady corner of a room tends to work well.
The floor of your Trinidad Chevron cage should be lined with a suitable substrate. This not only creates a more natural-looking environment, but also helps to moderate moisture in the cage (see “Water & Humidity” below).
A range of different tarantula substrates are available, though for tropical species like this two of the best are coconut fibre or peat-free potting compost. As Psalmopoeus cambridgei tends not to dig burrows, but instead rests off the ground, there is no need to provide a large depth of substrate. Just a couple of centimetres should be sufficient.
For larger specimens it can be wise to add an open water dish. This does not need to be large, but should be regularly cleaned, and the water replenished, so that your spider has fresh drinking water at all times.
For arboreal tarantulas like the Trinidad Chevron arguably the most important element of tank decor is the provision of vertical hides. These mimic the tress that Psalmopoeus cambridgei would naturally rest on, and hide within.
Possibly the best option here are chunks of cork bark. This is a lightweight and sustainable material, which can be bought by weight. Simply try to select pieces of a suitable length to match the overall height of your cage. If necessary these can easily be trimmed down using a handsaw.
These hides can then be placed vertically in the cage, giving your spider somewhere off the ground to rest. Note that it is wise to offer at least two hide if there is space in your cage, so that your Trinidad Chevron can choose the area they find most agreeable.
Furthermore, give consideration to hiding places. Inserting rolls of cork bark that are slightly shorter than the cage is all allows the spider to clamber to the top and down into the middle of the hide.
Here they may spin a web, and rest in darkness during the day before coming out to hunt or explore at night.
Heating & Temperature
A temperature of around 25’C (plus or minus a few degrees) tends to work well for Psalmopoeus cambridgei.
There are a range of ways this can be provided in captivity, depending on your current setup. For experienced tarantula keepers with a range of existing specimens a heating cable or heat strip may be used, so that a group of tanks can be heated using the same device.
If this is your first tarantula then the best option is likely to be a low-wattage heat mat. These cost just pennies per day to run, and provide a comfortable gentle heat.
Whichever heater you choose, it is wise to create a “heat gradient” so that some parts of the cage are warmer than others. In this way your cold-blooded tarantula will be able to move around and find the temperature that suits them best.
If you opt to place the heater under your tarantula cage, therefore, only 1/3 to 1/2 of the floor space should be heated. Alternatively the heater may be attached to the back or one of the walls. Many new heat mats now come with an adhesive side, which makes this process simpler. Just peel off the protective cover and firmly attach it to the outside of the cage.
Especially when setting up a new tank, or using a new heater, it makes sense to carefully monitor the temperature to ensure that it meets the recommended guidelines. Here a range of options exist, including low-cost dial thermometers, or my personal preference of a digital thermometer.
Lastly, it is recommended that any heater for exotic pets should be used in conjunction with a thermostat. As most cheaper heaters do not come with a thermostat built in, adding one to your setup affords you extra control over the tank.
You can then be certain that the tarantula cage remains as warm as possible during winter, but as spring approaches the temperature is gently dialled back.
The same can be said for houses where the heating turns on and off during the day, presenting temperature fluctuations. A well-built thermostat will help to even out these fluctuations, ensuring a comfortable temperature at all times.
Water & Humidity
Humidity in Trinidad tends to sit at around 80% throughout the year. Depending on where you live it can therefore make sense to monitor the humidity in your Psalmopoeus cambridgei cage.
If the humidity gets too low this can be easily increased in one of two ways. Firstly, a small amount of water can be gently tipped onto the substrate. Here it will be rapidly absorbed. The warmth of the cage environment will cause it to gently evaporate, thus increasing the humidity in the cage.
The second option is to mist the tank every few days with a houseplant spray gun. The smaller water droplets can mean more rapid evaporation – and hence changes to the relative humidity. That said, try to avoid your spider when misting, as a sudden shower of water can send spiders running.
Humidity can easily be monitored using a hygrometer, and many modern units allow you to measure both temperature and humidity in one device.
Note that the most dangerous time in a tarantulas life is moulting. A tarantula that cannot get out of its old skin is often doomed; they either end up malformed or due trying to escape the old skin.
As a result, when your tarantula approaches a moult it can be smart to increase the humidity to ensure a smooth transition.
As with so many tarantulas from more tropical areas of the world, Trinidad Chevrons tend to have a healthy appetite, and to grow rapidly in response to that. They very rarely go off their food (except before a moult) so can be fed liberally.
That said, as with other tarantula species, uneaten livefood should not be left in the cage for long periods of time or the insects may stress your pet. It is better to feed smaller amounts more regularly, ensuring that any uneaten feeder insects are removed the following morning.
Psalmopoeus cambridgei will eat almost anything it can catch, no doubt including small lizards in the wild. In captivity a broad range of insects may be fed, including crickets and locusts. As these are tree-dwelling spiders they often prefer to hunt from a height, rather than coming down to the floor.
Insects that don’t climb, such as mealworms and waxworms, are therefore best avoided.
It can be wise to offer a range of insects over time, cycling through different types, to maximize the range of nutrients your pet is receiving. For adults, a routine of feeding once or twice a week tends to work well, though you will soon set your own pace.
A spider that always seems hungry can be fed more frequently, while those who pay little interest to your offerings can be fed less often.
The Trinidad Chevron is not the most aggressive tarantula available, but it is also not considered a docile species.
Into the bargain, it is important to remember that this is a very fast-moving spider, capable of astonishing bursts of speed especially when surprised. It is therefore not really a tarantula to be recommended for handling.
Like the Poecilotherias, this is really more of a spider to observe than to handle.