The Costa Rican zebra tarantula is a beautiful spider that typically requires an experienced tarantula owner. Also called the striped-knee tarantula, it features a black body, deep red hairs, white stripes on its legs, and orange spinnerets. As a pet, it doesn't require much maintenance outside of feedings each week and periodic habitat cleanings. But, due to its skittish nature and ability to move quickly, handling can be difficult.
Common Names: Costa Rican zebra tarantula, striped-knee tarantula
Scientific Name: Aphonopelma seemanni
Adult Size: Leg span of 4 to 5 inches
Lifespan: 15 to 20 years (females), 5 years (males)
Costa Rican Zebra Tarantula Behavior and Temperament
Costa Rican zebra tarantulas can move very fast, making them a poor candidate for those who like to handle their pet spiders. While they are generally docile in demeanor, they can dart quickly when startled and be very difficult to catch and contain. Trying to capture—or even just pick up—this type of spider can lead to injury. However, some experienced owners are able to gently handle their Costa Rican zebra tarantulas.
These tarantulas are not prone to biting but sometimes will if they feel threatened. And it’s important to note that they do have toxic venom. Plus, they are able to flick barbed hairs off their abdomen at perceived threats, which can irritate skin and damage eyes. So always wash your hands after touching your spider or anything in its environment, and be careful not to rub your eyes.
While their speed and defense mechanisms do complicate their care, these spiders still are relatively easy to maintain. Plan to spend a few hours per week on feedings and cleaning. Plus, they are quiet and solitary animals that don’t need you for socialization. In fact, they prefer to be housed alone and should not be exposed to other household pets to avoid stress and injury.
Costa Rican zebra tarantulas have a venomous bite that can cause irritation similar to a bee sting in most people. However, some people might have more serious reactions and should seek prompt medical attention.
The Costa Rican zebra tarantula has a leg span of between 4 and 5 inches on average, though the leg span can stretch up to 6 inches.
A 5- to 10-gallon aquarium is suitable for Costa Rican zebra tarantulas. The length of the tank should be roughly three times the spider’s leg span, and the width should be two to three times the leg span. A height of about a foot should be fine. There also are spider terrariums available that are specifically designed for the tarantula’s safety and easy access to the enclosure for you.
In the habitat, add a hollow log, cork bark, half of a small clay flowerpot on its side, or a store-bought spider house for shelter. Various climbing supports, such as fake plants and vines, should also be situated throughout the enclosure.
The temperature of your spider's habitat should hover around 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 30 degrees Celsius) with a humidity level of 75 to 80 percent. Supplemental heat is usually not necessary unless you keep your house cool. In this case, place a specially designed heating pad underneath only one side of your spider's habitat. This allows your pet to move to a cooler location should it need to escape the warmth. Evaporation from your spider's water dish should provide enough relative humidity. But if the humidity measures too low on a hydrometer, you can mist the enclosure.
Specific Substrate Needs
The substrate on the tank's bottom should be at least 4 inches thick and consist of a mix of peat moss, chemical-free soil, or vermiculite. Plan to change the substrate every four to six months.
What Do Costa Rican Zebra Tarantulas Eat & Drink?
Like most tarantulas, this carnivore prefers eating live prey; it has a strong affinity for crickets. It can also eat other insects as long as they are smaller than the spider's body. Plus, you can offer the occasional pinky mouse for added protein.
Consult with your vet for the right feeding schedule for your particular spider, as this can vary slightly based on age and size. Adult Costa Rican zebra tarantulas typically eat once or twice a week, and juveniles eat every one to two days. To feed, drop the live prey in near your spider. Remove any unwanted prey after 24 hours, or it can begin to stress your spider. Also, remove any leftover remains to keep the habitat sanitary.
Provide an accessible shallow water dish as both a drinking and humidity source for your tarantula. Make sure your spider can easily get in and out of the dish to prevent drowning. Change the water daily. Also, scoop out any substrate that gets wet to prevent bacterial and fungal growth.
Common Health Problems
Pet tarantulas are usually hardy animals that seldom fall ill if they are kept in the right environment and properly fed and hydrated. However, damaging or deadly falls are a threat, especially for the fast-moving Costa Rican zebra tarantula. So it’s critical to make sure your tarantula’s enclosure is secure and you do any handling with extreme care—preferably sitting in a secure spot over a carpeted floor.
If your spider refuses to eat, acts listless, and is lying on its back with its legs in the air, you generally don't have to worry. These are signs of imminent molting—an natural occurrence in which a spider sheds its old exoskeleton and forms a new one. Don't handle your pet or feed live prey during a molt, as this can damage the fragile new exoskeleton. The whole process typically takes a few weeks.
While tarantulas are generally restful animals, they do still need physical activity to remain in good body condition. As long as you provide a large enough enclosure, your pet tarantula should be able to get the exercise it needs.
Tarantulas generally don’t need any help from you in the grooming department. Molting is essentially how they groom themselves. And as long as you minimize stress and keep their environment at the proper temperature and humidity during this time, they should be able to molt without issue.
The tarantula’s diet will be your primary cost. On a monthly basis, expect to spend around $5 to $10, though you can diminish this by raising crickets yourself instead of buying them at a pet store. For periodic substrate changes and replacing worn items in the tank, plan to spend around $10 to $20. Furthermore, don’t forget to budget for routine and emergency vet care.
Pros & Cons of Keeping a Costa Rican Zebra Tarantula as a Pet
Costa Rican zebra tarantulas make for unusual and interesting pets. They are quiet and don’t take up a lot of space. And they don’t require much of your time. However, you do have to be careful of their defense mechanisms when keeping them. And they can be fast-moving, which can make handling difficult.
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Purchasing or Adopting Your Costa Rican Zebra Tarantula
It is possible to find Costa Rican zebra tarantulas at some pet stores, but it’s best to purchase one from a reputable breeder or rescue organization. That way, you’ll be more likely to get accurate information about the animal’s health and history. Plan to spend between $20 and $40 on average, though this can vary based on the animal’s age and other factors. Also, females typically cost more because they have a longer lifespan.
You can typically contact some local exotic animal veterinarians to point you in the right direction of a reputable breeder. The main perk of going to breeders is they often have a wider selection of younger animals. And some even handle their animals from a young age, which can make them calmer around people.
It’s best to visit with the animals in person before picking which tarantula you want to bring home. Look at the spider’s body condition and movement. And ask to see it eat if possible, as a good appetite is often a sign of health. If you’ll be taking home multiple tarantulas, keep them housed individually to prevent the chance of accidental breeding.
Does the Costa Rican zebra tarantula make a good pet for kids?
The Costa Rican zebra tarantula can be a good pet for older children who are able to practice safe handling and respect the animal's boundaries. Children also must be comfortable with feeding live prey.
Are Costa Rican zebra tarantulas hard to take care of?
Costa Rican zebra tarantulas are fairly low-maintenance pets, requiring weekly feedings and periodic cleanings.
Does the Costa Rican zebra tarantula like to be held?
Some Costa Rican zebra tarantulas can be comfortable with gentle handling. However, because they move quickly, handling can be dangerous if you're not experienced with the spider.