Tarantulas are simply big, hairy spiders—members of the Theraphosidae family. The curly hair tarantula (also called a wooly tarantula) is one of 900 members of the Theraphosidae family and only one of those that has become popular in the pet trade. The curly hair tarantula has a round body that's covered with short dark bristles and longer golden bristles that give it a golden shine. It is relatively hardy and sedate, which makes it ideal for those who are new to raising tarantulas as pets. This slower moving but faster-growing cousin to the Mexican red knee tarantula can fascinate adults and children for hours on end.
Common Name: Curly Hair Tarantula
Scientific Name: Brachypelma albopilosum
Adult Size: The curly hair tarantula's body reaches 5.5 inches including its legs.
Life Expectancy: Females can live on average between 8 to 10 years, while males live an average of 4 years in captivity.
Difficulty of Care: Beginner to intermediate. Curly hair tarantulas are tolerant pets, but they dislike being held and are not a good choice for children to own.
Curly Hair Tarantula Behavior and Temperament
These tarantulas make extraordinarily mellow pets. In fact, some owners may find them a bit boring. Curly hair tarantulas do move around their cages, and may even rearrange the layout of objects you provide for them, but they are easily spooked and dislike being held. Be very careful when handling these animals; if they squirm and fall to the ground, they can be killed.
Like most South American tarantulas, this breed has “urticating hairs.” These are hairs that can actually be flung toward predators or other threats; while these hairs are not poisonous they can cause an allergic reaction and can be dangerous if they land in your eye. Curly hair tarantulas are able to bite; if they do, you may experience a reaction to their very mild venom.
Housing the Curly Hair Tarantula
A small (5 to 10 gallon) tank is suitable for curly hair tarantulas. The width of the tank should be two to three times wider than the leg span of the spider—about 5 to 5 1/2 inches, so your tank should be at least 11 inches wide and only as tall as the spider's leg span. Curly hair tarantulas are not big climbers, so ground space is more important than height.
Add a minimum 3 inches of peat moss, soil, or vermiculite to the bottom of the tank for use as a substrate. Another good option is coconut husk substrate, which is usually available in pet stores. Then put in wood, cork bark, or half of a small clay flower pot so your curly hair tarantula has his own shelter or a retreat.
Put the entire tank setup in a warm room—the temperature should be between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If you keep your own house cooler, place a heating pad under your curly hair tarantula's tank. As an option, change the lightbulb in the nearest table lamp to a red bulb (you don't need to light the tarantula's tank). The humidity in the room should be about 65 to 70 percent; if it's hard to maintain that level of humidity, simply keep water in your pet's cage. Misting is not necessary.
When cleaning the tank, be sure to place your tarantula in a safe location. It will not react well to being displaced, and may squirm and fall if dropped.
Food and Water
Curly hair tarantulas get much of their hydration from their food source, which must be live prey. It's difficult to overfeed a young curly hair tarantula, and an adult will sometimes eat only once or twice a month.
Your pet loves live crickets and other large insects. For a young tarantula, make sure the insects are at least 3/4 the size of your pet. Larger curly hair tarantulas eat insects their same size. Drop one or two crickets into your pet's environment once a week or so. Check the next day to make sure there's nothing left of the insect, and if there is any residue, alive or dead, remove it from your tarantula's den. For a treat, add a pinky mouse, which you can buy online or from a full-service pet store.
Do provide your pet tarantula with fresh water. Put it in a shallow dish, no deeper than the lid you'd find on a jar of mayonnaise or pickles, for example. Any larger and you run the risk of your curly hair tarantula or its food drowning.
Common Health Problems
There are no vets who will treat a sick tarantula, so you will have to tend to your pet's health needs. Most concerns will result from nutrition issues. To ensure your pet wooly tarantula is getting the proper nutrition, examine its abdomen. If it's shriveled or becoming grape-shaped, your pet needs more food. If the abdomen is distended, cut back.
Purchasing Your Curly Hair Tarantula
It's easy to find curly hair tarantulas; they are often available in pet stores but are also available through breeders which offer a range of different tarantula breeds. If you are buying your pet in person, do check to be sure the tarantula you buy is active, with shiny hairs and a round belly. If you are buying through a breeder, check the reviews to be sure the one you choose is reputable and will provide ongoing support if you have questions or concerns.
Tarantulas are not good pets for young children. Not only can a tarantula cause a child some pain, but tarantulas simply can't hold up to being squeezed, poked, or dropped.
While tarantulas are venomous, their venom is very mild. Unless you are allergic, a bite from your pet curly hair tarantula will feel a bit like a bee sting. More dangerous are the urticating hairs, tiny bristles that they send shooting out. They can be seriously irritating if they embed themselves in your eyes. The best advice is to rinse your hands after handling your pet, and if you do get hairs in your eyes, see a doctor.
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