The curly hair tarantula has a round body that's covered with long bristles that have a slight curl—hence the spider's common name. Most of the bristles are a dark brown to black, but some are golden. This gives the spider an overall bronze sheen. Curly hair tarantulas are ground-dwelling, burrowing spiders native to Central America. And many are bred in captivity for the pet trade. These spiders are generally calm, hardy, and easy to care for, making them ideal for those who are new to raising tarantulas as pets. They require housing that mimics their natural habitat, along with live prey. And while some people do handle their tarantulas, they are mostly hands-off pets.
Common Names: Curly hair tarantula, wooly tarantula
Scientific Names: Brachypelma albopilosum, Tliltocatl albopilosus
Adult Size: 5.5 inches long (including its leg span)
Life Expectancy: Females live eight to 10 years on average in captivity while males live an average of four years.
Curly Hair Tarantula Behavior and Temperament
These tarantulas make extraordinarily mellow and quiet pets. You might even find them boring if you expected a lively animal. A curly hair tarantula will move around its enclosure and might even rearrange some of the items you provide, such as pieces of bark. But for the most part, your spider will sit in a restful state unless it is hunting its prey.
Moreover, curly hair tarantulas are easily spooked, so you should keep any handling to a minimum. Some spiders won't mind sitting on your hand or arm, as long as you handle them very calmly and gently. It's best to sit on the floor when handling these animals in case they do get scared and try to flee. A fall from even a few feet can seriously injure or kill them.
If they feel threatened, curly hair tarantulas also might use their defense mechanisms. They can kick hairs off their abdomens that can irritate a person's skin and cause damage if they get in your eyes. That's why it's very important to wash your hands well (and don't rub your eyes) after handling a tarantula or anything in its enclosure. And while they're generally docile, curly hair tarantulas also might bite to defend themselves. Their bite contains a mild venom that can cause local pain, redness, and swelling in most people—similar to a bee sting. But some people can have more serious allergic reactions, such as trouble breathing.
Keep pet tarantulas away from any other animals in the house, as well as young children who might inappropriately handle them. Curly hair tarantulas are solitary animals and shouldn't even be housed with other spiders of their own species. Expect to spend a few hours per week on feedings and cleaning. And then simply enjoy observing this interesting creature.
Housing the Curly Hair Tarantula
A 5- to 10-gallon tank is suitable for curly hair tarantulas. These tarantulas aren't big climbers, so ground space is more important than height. The width of the tank should be at least two to three times more than the leg span of the spider.
Add a layer of at least 3 inches of peat moss, chemical-free potting soil, or vermiculite to the bottom of the tank. Another option is coconut husk bedding, which is available at many pet stores. Then, add pieces of cork bark, a hollow log, or even half of a small clay flower pot to serve as a hiding spot for your spider.
Keep the tank between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a heating pad under the tank to maintain the appropriate temperature, which you should monitor regularly with a thermometer. Keep the tank out of direct sunlight. Moreover, this tarantula needs a humidity level in its tank that's around 65 to 70 percent, which you can measure with a hygrometer. If you need to raise the humidity, mist the tank with clean water in a spray bottle.
Remove any uneaten prey after 24 hours to keep the enclosure clean. Also, monitor for mold growth, which can occur due to the humidity. If you notice any mold starting to grow on the bedding, remove that portion immediately. Expect to do a full change of the bedding every four to six months.
Food and Water
Curly hair tarantulas eat live crickets, roaches, waxworms, and other insects. The insects should be no larger than the size of your tarantula's body. You also can give adult tarantulas the occasional pinky mouse. Young tarantulas generally will need feedings every two to five days while adults eat roughly once a week. Consult your veterinarian for the appropriate variety and quantity of food to give to your particular animal.
Simply drop the prey into the enclosure near your spider. It’s recommended to do the feedings in the evening when the spider is more active and ready to eat. Just be sure to remove unwanted prey within 24 hours, or it actually can stress your spider.
Curly hair tarantulas get most of their hydration from their food. But you still should provide a shallow dish of water in the enclosure. Make sure the spider can easily climb in and out of the dish.
Common Health Problems
Tarantulas typically don’t face many health problems when kept in the appropriate environment and fed the right diet. But if your spider has become lethargic or isn’t eating, consult your veterinarian to help you figure out the root cause.
More often than not, those behaviors are a sign that your spider is getting ready to molt. During a molt, a tarantula sheds its exoskeleton and forms a new one. And many spiders molt while lying on their backs with their legs curled up, which some owners who aren’t familiar with the process can mistake for a spider dying. The actual molt is complete in a few hours, but the entire process can take weeks. The new exoskeleton must harden to become protective for the spider. However, if you think your spider’s molt is taking longer than it should or otherwise seems abnormal, discuss this with your vet.
Purchasing Your Curly Hair Tarantula
Pet curly hair tarantulas are legal to keep in most areas, though certain local laws and landlords might restrict them. You sometimes can find this species at pet stores. But it’s often easier to go through a reputable breeder or exotic pet rescue group. A local exotic animal veterinarian might be able to direct you to a good seller. Expect to pay between $20 and $50 on average.
The seller should be able to give you information on the animal’s origin and health. It’s best to observe the spider in person before committing. Make sure it’s active with shiny hairs and a round belly. A dull or shriveled appearance often indicates disease. If possible, ask to see the spider eat.
Similar Pets to the Curly Hair Tarantula
If you’re interested in similar pets, check out:
Otherwise, check out these other exotic animals to find your next pet.
Langley, Liz. Tarantulas, Killer Caterpillars and the Most Misunderstood Bugs. National Geographic Magazine. National Geographic Society.